I’m on a simplifying kick. Over the last year or two I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of stuff in my life. It seems that over the past 100 years we have created new technologies and new standards of living that allow us more opportunities in almost every area. While I’m all for opportunity, too many choices or too much stuff can make me feel overwhelmed. There’s something very freeing about trying to curate my possessions to the things that are very useful or very sentimental. If it’s not very useful or very sentimental, it’s out. This is not as easy as it sounds, but I love how it feels when I’m done with an area of my life.

The latest target of simplification: the spice cupboard.

simplify spices

To simplify spices I emptied out the whole spice cupboard onto the counter. There were things in there purchased from Costco in California over ten years ago. There were spices we used only once for a never-repeated recipe. There were jars of all shapes and sizes, some glass, some plastic, some metal. It was a huge mish-mash of disorganization. Here’s the list I used to simplify:

1. Check all the dates and throw out everything that has expired. I realize that spices can be expensive, but I also realize that if I hadn’t used up a container of spices in over ten years, I could probably do without that particular jar. I might as well season our food with something that still has flavor. So the old stuff was pitched.

2. Sort by jar size. I want the cupboard to look neat and organized, so uniform jars are my goal. Since I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to by a whole set of matching jars, I chose the jar that I like best, which is the tall glass jar. I already have several spices that come in that jar, so that’s my new goal for buying spices, to buy the ones that come in those jars until I have collected enough jars to store all my spices in them. There were a couple of expired spices that were being pitched that were in those jars, so I emptied them and moved spices from non-matching jars into the ones I like better. Once I have all matching jars, I will be able to buy more of my spices in bulk and save lots of money. I spent a whopping 26 cents on oregano for one of those jars the other day. I can’t believe I didn’t start doing this sooner.

3. Use a tiered shelf inside the cupboard to display the spices so they can be easily retrieved. I put the short containers in front, but eventually I hope all my containers will be the same.

4. Miscellaneous or specialty spices get their own space. Mine are on their own shelf.

5. For things that aren’t used often, and don’t display neatly, use a plastic bin. Mine has birthday candles and plastic bags of bulk spices that I will use to replenish the jars, including the paprika our daughter brought home from Spain last fall. I put the bin on the top shelf behind some more used items. If I need to refill something, it’s easy enough to pull out the plastic bin.

It’s hard to put into words how happy this project made me. Every time I open up the cupboard to get a spice, it’s right there in front of me, easy to see. The cupboard has about half the amount of jars it had before, and I have no more duplicates! I cringe to think that I was so disorganized that I bought more spices when really all I had to do was look harder to see that I already had them. When I told my mother-in-law about my latest clean-out project, she knowingly asked if I have been opening the cupboard for no reason other than to look at it’s organized beauty. I have. Several times. This is most certainly a case of less is more: less time looking for spices and more time thinking about other things, less clutter and more open space, less stress and more enjoyment in the kitchen, and hopefully less waste and more flavorful food (from fresher spices.)

spice cupboard

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