The Loft

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Pantry Makeover

An organising expert explains how to bring order to a busy working space


When it comes to getting things in order around the home, not everyone is good at organising but everyone benefits from orderly spaces.

Many people – from mothers with young children to busy professionals – find it difficult to keep on top of domestic tasks such as planning meals or keeping the pantry tidy.

Enter, Michelle White.

A corporate junkie in her former life, Michelle is only too aware of the pressures many modern families and couples face bringing order to their homes and lives. And so when it was time for her to step away from her hectic career, she could think of nothing more rewarding than putting her impressive organisational skills to good use.

The City Beach mum now spends her days getting excited about helping other people to live a better life, working her way through one pantry at a time.

Why did you decide to get into organisation?

I worked in a high-pressure corporate sales environment for more than 20 years as a trainer and a sales production manager. So I have pretty much been organising my whole life. In addition, I worked full time whilst raising a family and had to be organised and structured to manage a busy schedule.

Ask anyone who knows me and they all seem to think I “was just born that way”. I have a passion for food and making mealtime a happy, catch-up family occasion has always been important to me.

The idea of starting The Pantry Organiser came from this as I realised that calmness in a kitchen could only be achieved by being organised, having a pantry to support your preparation and a meal plan – something that I have done for many years. I saw a need for a pantry-to-plate offering that clients could tailor to make their lives easier. There are so many tips, hacks and how-to-do’s out there – what clients need are hands and time.

I get to meet the most amazing women – every single person has a story, funny situation, moving memories and incredible attitudes towards life. I feel a huge sense of satisfaction that stimulates my desire to order but also most importantly to help.

Do you think every space can be organised or are there some projects that cannot be managed?

Every pantry can definitely be organised – irrespective of the space available. Like anything, you just need a good system to support it.

How do you start?

You start by taking everything out of the space and decluttering or editing all items. Items that do not go back into a pantry would include expired goods, food items that you know you will never use, one-off items that you bought for a specific recipe that you will not use again, items that you no longer use due to dietary changes.

It is one thing to get someone like you to come and organise but what advice do you have for people who are desperate to learn to keep their space orderly?

Work with me when I organise your pantry. I will go through my process and system with you and give you practical ideas on how to manage your space going forward. I explain as I go and we discuss the logic and functionality. If you do not have time, I am happy to talk you through it afterwards.

All the information out there is overwhelming and not necessarily the right solution for your home. There is no such thing as the perfect pantry, rather a perfect pantry for YOU.

We can narrow it down to a few things that you can do to maintain your space. A pantry is a working space – not merely a display space – and the trick is to get the balance right. Practicality is number one, followed by pretty.

What benefits are there to being organised, particularly in the pantry but other areas of the home too?

To be organised makes you feel in control – not many of us function well in clutter. Organised also means that the home feels calm and systems that work well ensure effectiveness.

Taking this into your kitchen, it would be ideal for us to create a happy space where kids participate in cooking and have fun spending time with us, where as a family we can sit down and focus on what matters and enjoy some downtime.

The kitchen is after all the heart of the home, right? When you know what meal you are preparing and make sure that you have what you need, there is definitely less stress and frantic energy. It really brings the enjoyment into cooking back.

Why do you think some people are good at organising and others are terrible? Is there hope for everyone?

Of course! Good organisers had good teachers who taught them how to be organised. You don’t know what you don’t know – as the saying goes. I wholeheartedly believe it is a trainable life skill – and that you only learn it when you need it.

When you live in a home where these details are managed for you, you don’t have to think about it. When you move into your own space, I think pride, gratitude and logic each play a part, so a combination of wanting to be surrounded by a beautiful space and necessity will get the ball rolling.

How long does it take you to organise a pantry? Have you organised whole houses?

It is hard to give a set timeframe but roughly 3-6 hours (I’m quick!). Time spent depends on: the size of the space; how complicated the space is i.e. when last the pantry was edited; the amount of items as you have to look at each product when editing; if you are introducing storage solutions (would need decanting, labelling, sourcing of products) and often repositioning/rethinking the placement of items if the current pantry is not practical or fully utilised.

I only specialise in pantries and I do not do other areas of a home except the kitchen. I have been involved in quite a few “pack-up and edit current pantries – move to new home and set up pantries” for people moving homes.

Top Tips:

  • Commit – you cannot start and not finish this project as you cannot close the door and walk away from it.
  • Give yourself 4-6 hours depending on the size of your space.
  • Plan what you want it to look like and how it could better function for you. Use the space that you have but do not overstock the space as it will not stay tidy.
  • Store likes with likes.
  • Make sure you can see everything.
  • Meal planning is your best stock control mechanism.

Instagram: @thepantryorganiser