Sometimes when we make a decision to eat healthier and to look after our bodies better, it’s the little things that can make us come unstuck. For example, walking into the pantry and seeing shelves of unhealthy food is not going to help us maintain our commitment to a healthier life. This is definitely a case where we can use out of sight, out of mind, to our benefit. If those items are not in there tempting us, we need to use less willpower to achieve our goals. We need to declutter and organize the pantry to get the best results.
Now is the time to overhaul the pantry to get rid of all of the additives, preservatives and toxins residing in the products on the shelves. It’s also a good time to organise this area a little. When we have decided that we want to begin to prepare and eat healthier food, we need to make it easy to find all of the ingredients for that fantastic dish we’re about to whip up.
Now is a good time to throw away food that is past its used by date, get rid of anything that has no date stamp and you can’t remember when you purchased it and check those labels for chemical nasties. Ditch all of the unhealthy food you have decided you will no longer eat, free up some space on the shelves for healthier options and organise the items on those shelves into logical locations.
Now all of this is easy to say but it’s often much harder to do. Perhaps you are thinking, ‘How will I find the time to do all of that?’. Maybe it just all seems too overwhelming that you are struggling to even begin. That’s OK. Let’s break things down. It’s not necessary to spend a huge chunk of time cleaning out the pantry, although of course you are welcome to do so if you have the time to spend and the motivation to get it done. What I recommend is that you tackle a small part for a few minutes each day until the task is complete.
Declutter and Organize Step 1:
I like to begin with the floor and under the bottom shelves. Completely take everything out and give the floor a good sweep and wash. Allow to dry and then only put back in what is absolutely necessary. If you do need to keep it, consider if it truly belongs in the pantry. If not, relocate it now.
Declutter and Organize Step 2:
Then work your way slowly through the shelves. Empty one shelf at a time. Only take out what can be put back within 15 minutes. This is very important. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a task and running out of the time or the energy to complete it. Take the items out, wash and dry the shelves. Now throw out anything that is too old, has gone off or is no longer necessary. Once the 15 minutes are up, you can decide if you have the time and the energy to begin the next section. If so, great, get started, otherwise, save it for tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with pacing yourself on this.
Declutter and Organize Step 3:
I don’t usually advocate buying any new items to help with decluttering (see my 7 clutter-free rules here) but the pantry is one area in which I make an exception. You really do need to have a couple of things to keep smaller objects well managed. These don’t need to be expensive but a couple of trays or boxes to store herbs, spices etc. will stop them getting hidden behind or between other items. They also allow you to grab the whole tray and take it to the counter to prepare dinner so you don’t have to keep going backwards and forwards for ingredients.
I also like to have some inexpensive containers for dry goods to keep them bug free. These were bought years ago and are still going strong. Remember to completely empty them before refilling or you will end up with some very old product at the bottom and that won’t be good for your health. Have a look at some other ideas here.
If you are still struggling to get started, try these three mind tricks to give you a boost.
1) Pretend that it is urgent.
There is no greater motivation than a deadline with other people relying on you. What can you do however when one does not actually exist? You can set one for yourself and create your own sense of urgency to get the job completed. For example, you can tell yourself ‘I need to get this pantry cleaned out this morning because we have dinner guests tonight.’ Something like that.
2) Give yourself permission to stop by following the 15 minute rule.
I have already referred to this one but I am mentioning it again because I think it is very powerful. Sometimes it can be difficult to begin a task because we are put off by the complexity of the work or the time required to complete it. However, if you make an agreement with yourself that you will work on the task for 15 minutes (really such a short amount of time) and once that time is up you are allowed to stop, you will find it so much easier to start. A lovely side effect is that often you realise that the task was not as difficult as you thought, get on a roll and do not actually stop until the whole thing is completed.
3) Image the task completed.
This can be difficult to do but if you are able to project into the future and imagine how you will feel once the task is finished, you can talk yourself into getting started earlier rather than later. Imagine what it will feel like to have a neat, tidy pantry that only contains good, healthy food to nourish yourself and your family. Picture yourself whipping up a healthy treat with all of the ingredients easily at hand. Imagine the sense of relief knowing that you don’t have to think about it again and can fully relax and enjoy time with your family.
Make your pantry decluttering task as enjoyable a process as possible. Pop on some music, grab a glass of wine or even put the timer on and make it a race to see how much you can get done before the time runs out. Whatever you can do to build the motivation to get started and complete this important task in your journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
Download your free Pantry Decluttering Checklist to help you get started.