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There isn’t one right way to organize your spice cabinet/drawer/closet. But there are some non-negotiables for making a collection that works for—not against—you. Here’s our list:
1. Keep it far away from your oven.
Heat causes spices to degrade faster. So if you’re storing your collection above your stove or near a radiator, it’s probably best to rearrange.
2. Toss anything you can’t remember using. You won’t miss it.
Even if your spices are in a cool, dark place, they’re not improving with age. So if you’re not sure where you bought that mustard powder or when you last used it, chances are it’s no longer fragrant anyway.
3. You don’t need a million spices.
Find the ones you love (check out some of these personal lists from test kitchen editors for some inspiration) and leave the others for the rest of us. If a recipe you’re following calls for a small amount of a spice that you can’t imagine ever using again, skip it.
4. Optimize the space you’ve got.
If you have a pull-out drawer, label the tops so you can keep track of your inventory, or invest in an in-drawer insert so the spices can lay on their sides. If you’re using a shelf, label the sides of the jars and buy a lazy Susan or tiered shelf for easiest access.
5. Any organization method is better than no organization method.
Some people like to arrange alphabetically, while others categorize by type (peppers, warm baking spices, aromatics, herbs, all the rest), area of the world, or frequency of use. Think about what makes the most sense for you, then make a system and strongly encourage anyone else sharing the drawer to put the jars back in their intended places, lest they lose their privileges.
6. Buy a set of standard jars.
Make sure they’re small to encourage turnover (we like 2-ouncers) and that you can fit a teaspoon inside. Glass is the material of choice—it does that best job of protecting your precious goods.
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