I reached into the spice cabinet to get something and for the bazillionth time, stuff slid all over the place. I stopped, looked, and then proceeded to completely empty it. It was an act of necessity – the cabinet had gotten completely out of hand.

Spice Cabinet

I really wish I had taken a before picture, but I wasn’t thinking of chronicling this project at the time – just getting the damned cabinet organized. It wasn’t until I had everything out and on the counters that I thought to take a picture to show how ludicrous our spices have become.

The cabinet is really great – it’s three shelves with lazy susans on each. Perfect for massive amounts of little jars and containers. The problem is having so many that they’re stacked – and then go flying when the turntable is turned.

This was the top shelf – vinegars, oils, and sauces – plus extracts.

Spice Cabinet

The middle shelf was all spices, salts, and seeds – things needed for baking.

Spice Cabinet

And finally, the bottom – and most problematic – shelf. Herbs and blends. It’s also the most used shelf.

Spice Cabinet

It was reasonably under control for quite a while. I would buy in bulk from Atlantic Spice, repackage into 16oz containers, and the tall, slender jars fit just fine. There was always the odd smaller container, but not all that many. And then I started getting more and more smaller containers of different herbs and spices. Some I bought, but a lot of others were gifts from friends. Over time, one whole section of the turntable became stacked jars – a recipe for disaster. Or, at least, annoyance.

It was time to make sense of it all, again.

I went through and tossed a few. I’m not a stickler about throwing out spices after a year – yes, things will lose intensity over time – but for the most part, I’ll add a pinch more. No big deal. However, even I have my standards when it comes to things marked best by June 2008. There were a few things that needed to go away. Other things were repackaged into smaller jars. All of a sudden, there was room!

I was able to bring extracts back down the the spice and baking shelf and expand the top shelf so everything I needed was right in front – so I wouldn’t need a step stool to get anything. The bottom shelf miraculously fit everything in almost a single layer.

Spice Cabinet

There’s only a couple of things stacked – and they’re of a shape that won’t go flying when it’s turned.

Over the years, we’ve been fortunate to be able stock our larder with every conceivable herb and spice and cook just about any recipe or nationality without having to think about not having an ingredient. I think the days of bulk spice-buying are waning, though. Smaller quantities purchased more often will probably be the plan for the new year and beyond.

And resisting buying more because there’s now more room…