How to Organize Deep Shelves

Question:
“My pantry and my hall closet (linens, medications/heating pad/etc stuff) are both the same, weird, hard to use shape! They are floor to ceiling, about the width of a standard size door, and a freakish 2 feet deep!! They each have three shelves, which leaves me with four giant, deep squares to organize our stuff in. We are going to eventually install more shelves and add drawer hardware so we can pull the shelves out to get to the stuff in the back, but what do I do in the meantime?
Do I just not put anything in the back half of the cupboard? Do I put things in baskets that I can take out to get behind them? Do I just put appliances I hardly ever use back there? ack!”

Answer:
Fortunately (and unfortunately) I have the same problem in my house, I guess that’s the joy of buying an older home.  I decided to take this question on as a challenge to myself to see if I could really come up with a good solution.

#1 The Linen closet
In my linen closet I have one shelf for blankets, a shelf for bedding, a shelf for towels/washcloths, and then a shelf where I keep all of our medical stuff: band-aids, medicines, etc.  Every shelf has a front and back section of towels and linens.  The only shelf that is empty in the back is the lower shelf which has a pullout plastic drawer for easy access to all of our medical needs.

It’s making me crazy that the green blanket is hanging down like that but I don’t have the energy to go take another picture.  Oh well, now you know I don’t have a perfect linen closet. :)

To see a more recent post of my organized linen closet click here.

#2 The Pantry

My pantry: before.
2-foot deep shelves.  Who comes up with this nonsense?
Definitely the most embarrassing picture.
Doesn’t this look like it’s just waiting to fall over?

Obviously my pantry needed a little help.  The funny thing is that I thought it was pretty organized until I got this question and started evaluating how I could help someone else with their pantry!

Step 1: Buy some baskets.  This morning, inspired by this question, Malea and I trekked out and bought some baskets at the Dollar Store and Shopko.  If you are wanting to get some Shopko has them all on sale until tomorrow!  My total pantry makeover was under $10!

Step 2: Start taking stuff out.  I didn’t take everything out at once, but for some that might be what you need to do.  If your pantry is really cluttered, and you have no idea what’s in there, I highly recommend taking everything out and I tossing the things you know you shouldn’t keep.  I started from the bottom and worked my way up each shelf, but of course in the end what was on the bottom ended up on the top and vice versa. :)

I found a lot of boxes that I was able to empty out and consolidate into 1 basket that would fit everything.  And no I didn’t find my cat in the pantry!
My best find: a cup of coins in the back of the pantry–Malea’s piggy bank will be happy! :)

Step 3: Organize.  Figure out what works best for you, for me I organized things into categories: pasta/rice, canned goods, Malea’s snacks, Matt’s breakfast stuff, etc.

This is my treats basket.

If you have really deep shelves it’s a good idea to layer them if you have larger items that you don’t need to access that often (“layer them” meaning something in the back and something in the front).  For me I store things like vases, the bulk bag of napkins, paper plates, etc.  I think it’s important for like things to be together on the same shelves.  Here is how I have my shelves laid out:

Shelf #1
Front: Bags of cereal (I shop at Costco), Oatmeal, Matt’s coffee, French press and bagels
Back:  Vases, larger bottles of alcohol that we don’t use that often, such as Vermouth (it’s a tall shelf so I have all the tall things on the top)

Shelf #2
Front: Malea’s snacks, crackers, granola bars
Back: Large bag of napkins that I only access when I need to refill my napkin holder, paper plates

Shelf #3
Front: Pasta, rice, canned goods
Back: Boxes of foods I only use for special occasions, like grits and cornbread.  I also have a “sick” basket that has Saltines and chicken noodle soup in it.

Shelf #4:  A couple more vases, platters, chargers, place mats, table runners and my cake stand.

Shelves 1, 2, and 3
Shelf 4: SO much more accessible than before!  Now I will actually use my chargers more often!

Above my pantry I also have a storage cabinet which is where I moved our flour, sugar, etc., along with my bread maker, my Kitchen Aid mixer, and cookbooks that I don’t use that often.

Before
 After

I also store my grocery list forms up in this cabinet so, instead of having them leaning against something waiting to fall, down I did a simple little trick and hung them on the door.

I added a little piece of sticky tape to an old paper blinds clip and…
Voila!  Now they hang on the door and won’t fall down every time I move something!

In this process I also ended up cleaning up the cupboard above my microwave, so that I could move my favorite cookbooks up there for easy access.

Before
 
 
 After

Over all I’m extremely happy with the transformation.  I think it will make our lives so much easier having everything so easily accessible!

Before
 
After
 
To see a more recent post of my organized and painted pantry click here.
 
About the Author

"Hi I'm Anna! Welcome to Ask Anna where I love to answer your household questions! I have always loved to clean, organize and decorate and this blog is a fun way for me to help you love it too! I am a busy mom of a beautiful little girl and I'm married to the love of my life. Together we fill our days with projects , laughter and love. I serve an incredible God and overall I'd say I'm truly blessed!"

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Discussion

  1. 1

    Looks great Anna! When we move (hopefully soon) I will definitely start off our new place with an organized pantry and closets. Thanks!

  2. 2

    I bought my baskets at Shopko today, so I'm ready for my own pantry transformation! :) I also typed up a similar grocery list (all the different stores on one sheet) months ago, and never printed it out—yours reminded me what a great idea it is! Thanks for all the help, Anna, it's awesome! –Kayla

  3. 3

    Found your blog at I <3 Naptime and LOVE it! We are about to buy a house and I can't wait to use your ideas (esp. these pantry baskets– brilliant!!) to get organized and stay that way!! I'll be following along now.

  4. 4

    I think the baskets are a great solution to the deep shelves. Thanks for linking to We're Organized Wednesday.

  5. 5

    I love the America's Test Kitchen cookbook too!

  6. 6
    Marianne Fiedler says:

    Love the idea of putting booze bottles in the back of the deep shelves. I’m in the process of reorganizing my pantries – one in the kitchen that has pull out shelves below and two deep ones on top, as well as a coat closet that we put shelves and door racks in. We had the booze on the top shelf of the coat closet pantry. By purging bottles that has just a little left in, or that hadn’t been touched in a long time I was able to reduce the number of bottle significantly. I put the ones used most often back in the coat closet pantry, and the seldom-used ones in the back of the deep kitchen pantry shelves. I had room on the old booze shelf for the hot pot as well as several bottles of cooking oils and vinegar. I’ve about got the deep kitchen pantry shelves organized with baking supplies and will be tackling the rest as time and energy permit. Thanks for that awesome idea!