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How to Organize Your Spice Cabinet or Drawer

I love, love, love spices . . . which means I have tons of them. This is how I finally organized them all.

I love how organized my spices are now!

I love how organized my spices are now!

This is what my spice cabinet looked like before I organized it.

This is what my spice cabinet looked like before I organized it.

Time to Organize My Spices

I love, love, love spices. And because I make everything from scratch for my son, who is on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I have a ton of spices. I buy them in bulk and save a small fortune, but I end up with a bunch of little re-sealable bags of spices—31 to be exact. Plus, I had others in a variety of spice containers (see the embarrassing "before" photo, above). Several times a week, the entire stock of spices would be scattered over a countertop as I searched for a specific one.

Last summer, two dear friends stayed at our house while we were on vacation. About a month after we returned, one of them was over visiting and cautiously mentioned that she thought I could use my spice cabinet a little more efficiently. Ha! That was the understatement of the year. Consequently, I commissioned her help in finding a solution for my spices. She scoured Pinterest and came up with several great options.

First, I’ll take you through what worked for us. And I love it! At the bottom of the article are the other options from Pinterest—as well as the reasons they did not work for us. But those options may work better for you.

What Worked for Me: Baby Food Jars!

My cousin and another friend gave me more baby food jars than I could ever use. With a little Goof Off, the paper labels and sticky stuff came right off. (Don’t settle for Goo Gone. It doesn’t compare to Goof Off, which can be purchased at your hardware store and probably other places, too. I do recommend using it in an open space, however; it has an incredibly strong smell.)

My cousin also had a three-tiered lazy Susan that held the baby food jars. She was glad to get rid of it, and I didn’t even know such treasures existed. They cost about $8 at Target and Walmart. As you can see from the top photo, I ended up buying a second one, too. There are smaller ones that hold 12 jars; mine holds 24 jars each. Also, the upper trays can be adjusted either higher or lower to accommodate the different heights of your jars.

How I Labeled the Jars

Because I am too cheap to go buy supplies, I used what I already had—a full-sized sheet of self-adhesive paper to print out my labels. I made an Excel worksheet to type in all the names of my spices, printed them, and cut them with a paper cutter. But yours would be more uniform if you had a blank sheet of return address labels. Then you could just use the corresponding Microsoft Word template to get your sizing right, type in the names of your spices, print, and stick them on your jars.

When my husband saw the completed project, he reminded me that we have an actual label maker. Oh, well. That would have been too easy.

After I put the spices in each of their jars, I alphabetized them as I put them on the lazy Susans. That was a tad bit OCD for me, but it makes me smile to see them.

I made an Excel worksheet to type in all the names of my spices, printed them, and cut them with a paper cutter.

I made an Excel worksheet to type in all the names of my spices, printed them, and cut them with a paper cutter.

Some Spices Didn't Quite Fit

Sometimes, form and function cannot co-exist...

Some spices are simply not practical to put in baby food jars. In our house, black pepper, grilling seasonings, and red pepper flakes need to be in the shaker-type bottles. My family is too practical to choose a perfectly organized shelf over a fully functional one, so I ended up with a few renegade shaker bottles.

And now for the Pinterest projects and why they didn’t work for me...

Baby food jars in a drawer

Baby food jars in a drawer

Baby Food Jars in a Drawer

I did attempt to put all the baby food jars in a drawer. Think of how much space that would save. I could have put all my cookbooks in the current spice cabinet! But I had way too many spices to fit in even my biggest drawer. I wish that option had worked.

Magnetized spice jars

Magnetized spice jars

Magnetized Spice Jars

Ikea has some great containers for holding spices. The bottom has a magnet on it, and the top is clear so you can label it, or just enjoy looking at all the different textures of your spices. If you like this idea and don't want to mess with finding baby food jars and Goof Off, Ikea had several options/sizes/shapes of spice containers to choose from. You could stick them on your refrigerator or buy a metal strip and mount it to any cabinet. They were about $1 each, and that was out of my price range.

The photo with the silver jars hanging from the cabinets is my favorite spice storage solution. Unfortunately, there is not a good spot in my kitchen for it. If I were going to spend money on organizing my spices, I would have figured out a way to make this one work.

Other notes on magnets: If you choose to put the magnets on jars as your own DIY project, it takes a pretty strong magnet to hold up a jar with spices in it. Those can get pricey. I read one post where the lady ended up putting two magnets on each jar so it would hold the weight of the jars. And then she had to worry about glueing the magnets on the jar flush with each other.

Square spice jars from Amazon

Square spice jars from Amazon

Square Jars From Amazon

I am just too cheap to spend money on jars when I could get them for free, but I’m including them because they are cute (and because I wrote earlier that I would include other ideas I found on Pinterest). And maybe you like to spend money!

Spice jars organized on stairs

Spice jars organized on stairs

Spice Jars Organized on Stairs

I think it’s officially called a “spice stepper,” and my handy husband would have gladly whipped one up for us. But my spice cabinet is really tall, and it seemed like a waste of the height to just have one level of spices.

Chalkboard label jars

Chalkboard label jars

Chalkboard Label Jars

I’m not sure when chalkboard paint became all the rage, but I am on the bandwagon. We even have a wall in our house painted in it—my children’s favorite wall.

So when I saw the posts about painting spice labels with chalkboard paint and then writing on them, I did it. Do the people who posted all these articles actually use their spices? The chalk smudges every time you open up the jar. You can still read the label, but it is fainter, and I’m guessing it would continue to disappear the more the jar is opened. Plus, you end up with chalk on your hand. I wanted this one to work, but I can’t recommend it.

Bin organizers

Bin organizers

Bin Organizers

This idea is really doable. However, I think it would work best in a cupboard with short shelves. You just put your spices (in their respective containers) in bins or baskets, label the tops of the spice containers and stick the bins on your shelves. My cupboard is tall and deep, so I didn’t even consider this.

Mop holders mounted on the inside of a cupboard door

Mop holders mounted on the inside of a cupboard door

Mop Holders or Shoe Racks

Isn’t this cute? If you are the person who only buys spices in the bottles with the red lids, and you have a cupboard door available, this is a great option. For the people who have their spices out on a wall or on a counter-top, don’t they get dusty? And since I'm asking questions: Does anyone really just buy one brand of spices? If you are that person, this idea could work well. The spice containers need to be relatively skinny in order to fit into the holders.

Another DIYer had a shoe rack hung over her pantry door. It was one of those with 24 clear pockets, and she just put her spices in the pockets. The pockets are large enough for several spice containers.

Maybe your spices are all in order. I hope they are! But if they aren't, you have plenty of options.


Haseena from India on April 08, 2019:

Thank you so much for your informative ideas.

Lisa Bean from Nevada on January 08, 2019:

You have a lot of really great ideas here! I'm with you, I wanted to make the in a drawer spice rack work for me but it really didn't. I do still use a rotating circular thing in a cabinet and but I do use several shelves so that things don't get too overcrowded and I can keep them organized. I love spices too!

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on February 27, 2015:

Thanks Claudia! Hope your cabinets are all in order :)

Claudia Mathews on February 26, 2015:

Very interesting and informative article.

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on June 01, 2013:

IslandBites, Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found some good ideas!

IslandBites from Puerto Rico on May 31, 2013:

Great ideas!

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on April 15, 2013:

Willameanmoon, my friend IS awesome! I think you would like her :) Thanks for reading!

willameanamoon1 from Peoria, Illinois on April 15, 2013:

You're friend must be really awesome ;)

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on March 04, 2013:

OldRoses, I do like the lazy susan idea! I had one in my "before" photo. I think my mistake was making it too big, so the spices ended up getting lost in the middle of the lazy susan and stacked on top of each other.

And regarding buying spices in bulk: at our stores it just means that the stores sell spices from large containers. The stores provide little ziploc baggies for us to use to get as much of each spice as we need, and we pay per ounce. It works great for us; I don't need to purchase containers anyway since I have my baby food jars, and I can buy just the right amount for my needs. I do agree with you about spices losing their flavor. When I did this organization project, I found several huge almost-full containers that I hadn't used in years. Those went straight into the trash :)

Caren White on March 03, 2013:

I buy cheapo plastic lazy susans for my spices. If I can't find something by spinning, I just take the whole thing out of the cabinet and look. I use two small ones so they are light and easy to lift if I need to.

A word of caution about buying spices in bulk. Unless you are running a restaurant, you are wasting your money. Spices lose their flavor over time. They should be replaced every year. This was recommended in a cooking class that I took from a professional chef. I can't afford to replace all my spices en masse at once, so I keep a spread sheet of when I bought each one. Before I cook, I consult my spreadsheet and if any spice I need to use is older than one year, I replace it. This spreads out the cost and ensures that I have the freshest flavors.

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on March 01, 2013:

SimoniniKid - I can't wait to hear how you do it!

SimoniniKid from Beautiful Glen Ellyn, IL on February 26, 2013:

not sure how I missed this one. I am super duper inspired to do this!!! Great job in giving many options.

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on February 26, 2013:

DDE - I hope you enjoy every minute of getting organized! Thank you for reading.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 26, 2013:

I have many spices you have such a well-organised idea, must get organised thanks

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on February 10, 2013:

Oh Jane! I seriously doubt if I would be horrified at your cupboard :). I love getting organized, but remaining organized is still a struggle for me. I hope you find an idea that you love. Thank you for your comment and encouragement.

Jane Holmes on February 10, 2013:

What a great article. If you could see my spice cupboard you'd be horrified. We keep talking about organizing it and your article will be very helpful! Thanks for your ideas!

Keep up the good work!

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on January 22, 2013:

Thank you for making me feel better Vespawoolf! I'm glad to know I'm not alone in the spice department. It's good to know that the mop holder method worked. I'd love to know what you end up doing.

Lol KMom! I obviously didn't think about the chalk smearing either, or I wouldn't have tried it! Thank you for reading and commenting :)

ksmithmom7 on January 21, 2013:

Very clever solution. I love that you gave us the pros and cons of other options. I never would have thought about the chalkboard paint smearing...duh! I love that you saved a bunch of money with your solution. Good job!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on January 21, 2013:

Unfortunately, my spices look more like your before picture! Actually, we just moved so I'm looking for a better way to organize them. I used "mop holder" method for a while with the holders stuck on the inside of the pantry door. But the holders have stretched out over the years and were falling off the door. So I think your baby jar method might just work for me. I'll have to see if magnets are an option, depending on their price here in Peru. Thanks for giving us the pros/cons of each method. I certainly won't try the chalkboard paint method! : )

ExpectGreatThings (author) from Illinois on January 20, 2013:

Oh I can't wait until my children are old enough to organize my messes!! Thanks for reading and the votes. I hope you find something that works for your spices!

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on January 20, 2013:

You have definitely inspired me to clean my spice cabinet. It's a mess. I used to pay my children a dollar or two periodically and they would happily remove all the spices (mostly tipped over like your before pic), vacuum out the cabinet and organize the jars. Unfortunately my children are grown and mostly out of the house so it's time for real organization like yours. Thanks for the inspiration. Voted up and definitely useful.

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