It started with a conversation with a friend in the early days of lockdown. She was telling me that her husband was at such a loose end that he had alphabetised their spices. Their spices! Not his vast collection of vinyl, or their shelves of contemporary fiction - their SPICE RACK. This is next level boredom.
I've never been one for organising in alphabetical order. I have a library of cookery books but they are arranged randomly on shelves and I must admit that I do enjoy the challenge of trying to find what I'm looking for by its spine alone. A rainbow approach to organisation, albeit aesthetically pleasing, also just isn't me.
But I do live my life by the principle, 'Don't buy anything until you've checked that you don't already own it' - and it was this concept that piqued my interest. My collection of spices is pretty extensive but also disorganised. The disorganisation makes it hard to know what I have and so I'm almost certainly buying things that I already own. I'm sure you know what's coming next ... I went for it; I embraced the alphabet approach to organisation and at the same time came up with two additional easy ideas to better organise your spices. Want to know more?
Step 1 - Do the alphabet part
In the style of Marie Kondo (well, roughly anyway), take all of your spices out of their home and collect them on the table or the worktop. In my opinion, the next part is the most challenging: arrange them in one long, alphabetical line. It feels a little like a primary school English quiz, 'Jane had 7 jars of spices - cumin, coriander, chilli, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cardamom and Chinese Five Spice. If she arranged the jars in alphabetical order which one would be in the centre position?' It might be just me, but I do find alphabetical ordering a bit tricky, even though (and you maybe didn't know this about me) I can confidently recite the alphabet backwards. Call it my party piece.
This is your opportunity to consolidate duplicates (I'm looking at you, Mild Curry Powder), to retire the hideously out-of-date (I had a couple of 2015 vintages) and to reflect on the fact that you probably only regularly use 20% of your herbs and spices.
Step 2 - Label the top of the jar/container.
Next, I got a black Sharpie (other fine, permanent markers are also available) and labelled the top of each jar/container. I used a gold pen for those with a black or dark lid. Some of the jars were already labelled in my own (very, very small) writing - obviously, this was done before my eyesight decided to fall off a cliff. Note to self - it would be a good idea to replace these labels with bigger, clearer versions one day, rather than squinting and struggling. Now, at least from the top, I could see what spices I had in stock. I used a couple of shallow plastic boxes to store the jars/containers - still in alphabetical order (although I'm not concerned about alphabetical precision here). A couple of trays would also have worked instead of boxes here.
Step 3 - Store the spices where the top of the lids can easily be seen.
For me, storing the spices where I could easily see the top of the lids meant moving them to a lower shelf so that I could 'look down on them'. A drawer would also have worked.
And it was as simple as that.
Here are a few other reasons why I like this approach to better organise your spices -
- In all likelihood, you won't need to buy any special equipment or containers. Worst case you might need a Sharpie or two, but every home needs those in my opinion.
- This is quick and practical.
- In the long run, I think I will end up buying fewer duplicates and so that will save money.
- I will need to have everyone briefed that spices should 'be returned to the place from which they came' to maintain the alphabetical ordering but I will add that to the list of day-to-day gentle reminders. We will all improve the speed of our alphabetical recall as a result, I guess.
This is not the kind of 'before and after' that is at all ooh and ahhh and Instagram worthy but I do like it for its simplicity. Now I need to come up with some ideas to use the 80% of my spice rack that never sees the light of day ...