The Pantry Kanban Saved

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Kanban not in effect

This week I’m excited to share the results of my latest organizational project. During the month of August I’ve been motivated to tackle various home org projects. The goal is to spend this time purging and organizing so as to make room for my life to be filled up with experiences (of my choosing!). My desire is to have freedom from “things” that result in time consuming tasks (dusting, dishwashing, laundry, household shopping, etc…) that are not super enjoyable. Instead I wish to spend time with my family, travel, write more, and volunteer. An awesome by-product of tackling these projects is that I’ve solidified some process improvement and efficiency skills.

The latest space to receive attention was my kitchen pantry. As you can see from these before photos, it was a bit precarious to step inside and select a snack. Not only cluttered, but also a real health hazard risk. Keep reading to learn why!

Pantryy Before Kanban

Pantry Chaos

Pantry Before Kanban

Forget dinner- let’s just play games!

I started this project by browsing for inspiration of organized pantries on Pinterest. I located a few images that seemed doable with my space and resources. Next, I started clearing everything out. Everything. As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, things often look worse before they look better when making improvements. I established one firm rule for myself. Anything past expiration would be tossed out.

As I pulled items from the shelf I naturally found myself grouping them into “like” or similar products. All the oils, baking supplies, breads, pastas, canned goods, vitamins, cereals… each broad category found in the grocery store aisles started to emerge. This gave me a flash of inspiration. What if I created a bin for each of these broad categories, and then also made a master grocery list based off these categories and products? I’m boring and eat the same types of foods all the time anyway, yet somehow when it is time to grocery shop I’m agonizing over what I’m going to buy! Grocery trips take longer than they should because I’m never quite sure what staples I have on hand. I also end up making multiple trips when I think I have something to complete a recipe, but actually don’t.

Heidi, the owner of Avant Synergy, had asked me last week if I’d consider writing a piece on the Kanban method of organizing sometime. I agreed without fully knowing what it was. Out of curiosity I took a three minute break from pantry cleaning to search the term. One statement about Kanban found on Wikipedia said it all, “Kanban aligns inventory levels with actual consumption.” Perfect!! During my panty organizational process I was certainly discovering ways in which I was wasting resources by being out of alignment with this principle. Clearly illustrated by the fact that I uncovered 19 jars of vitamins and supplements. Several were expired, containers half full, pushed to the back, and new ones purchased to replace. Now wasted as I adhered to my expiration date rule.

Going forward I vow to have only one bottle per type of supplement, on hand. When I am down to my last 10 days’ worth of supply, I will go to my newly created master grocery list and remind myself to buy on the next trip. There’s really no savings in buying in bulk if I’m not consuming at a pace to keep up with the bulk. In effect I’m wasting money when I throw out all the unused, expired items. I’m liking this “just in time” concept.

So, here is a couple of after pics to show the final results of my pantry org project.


After Kanban

What a difference!

Pantry After Kanban

These baskets make everything look so tidy! Dry Erase labels for ease of relabeling.

Kanban requires I have lots of paper towels.

Everything has a space, everything in it’s place.

Also, a photo of my most egregious expiration date…

Kanban Fail

Expired! Kanban fail.


Have any of our readers taken on a project like this and learned some valuable organizational or process improvement lessons? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Or, if you’d prefer for Avant Synergy to take on your org projects and apply the Kanban and other organizational lessons learned, we’d be happy to hear about that too!

-Angela, Content Manager

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