How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

How to organize your spices is part of our Healthy & Whole series to inspire a lifelong passion for home cooking and a sustainably healthy lifestyle. See the entire series here.

Back in January, we talked in our podcast episode Getting Minimalist in the Kitchen about our spice drawer. The episode focused on keeping only the essentials on hand, in order to stay organized and spend less energy worrying about too much stuff. After all, the minimalist mantra is “I am intentionally trying to live with only the things I really need.

In the episode, we admitted that much as we try to maintain an organized exterior (our kitchen, Exhibit A)…

Our kitchen

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

…inside those drawers it’s a different story (Exhibit B).

Before (January 2016)

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

Literally chaos (and not even the organized kind). Here we are in June, and the bad news is it’s taken us 6 months to take any action on our goal to have an organized “minimalist” spice drawer. But here’s the good news: we (read Alex) took the time to convert our chaos to an organized, minimalist spice drawer (Exhibit C)!

After (June 2016)

How to Organize Your Spices...the Minimalist Way | A Couple Cooks

Just how did we do it? Here are a few tips for how to organize your spices (and purge the ones you don’t need!):

  1. Get motivated! The first step is to decide it’s time. When finding chili powder adds an extra 5 to 7 minutes to a recipe (I know it’s in here somewhere), your spices might be in need of some TLC. Also, you may need a family member or friend to help motivate you, or agree to tackle the project together. I must admit this project wasn’t tops on my priority list, but after Alex completed the transformation, my life has been exponentially better.
  2. Take stock. What spices do you use on a regular basis? Which do you use occasionally but as a special treat, and which do you never use? If you bought a special spice for one recipe and haven’t used it in the last 6 months, chances are won’t in the next 6 months.
  3. Purge. The shelf life of most spices is 8 months to 1 year (see this graphic for more), after which they start to lose their flavor and potency. Along with some very ancient spices, you may have one-offs you’ve never used (as mentioned above), or duplicates or triplicates of the same spice. Trash everything but the newest essentials. Just do it: your kitchen will thank you.
  4. Organize the survivors. We removed almost all of our spices from their original containers and repacked them into glass containers with tight lids (we purchased spice bottles from the Container Store; small canning jars also work and are a cheaper option). The only spices we kept in their original jars were specialty spices: for example, a specific type of curry powder. Clearly label the jars with their contents (and make sure to put back the tops on the correct jars!).
  5. Repack the minimalist way. Place the new beautiful spices jars into your space in the organized fashion of your choice, making sure that the most used spices are as accessible as possible. We have a large drawer set aside for spices, and the new spices fit the space perfectly. If you’re using a cabinet, consider using a lazy susan or small trays for easy storage.

Wondering what the most used spices are in our drawer?

  1. Cumin
  2. Smoked Paprika
  3. Garlic Powder
  4. Chili Powder
  5. Oregano
  6. Coriander
  7. Cinnamon
  8. Cardamom
  9. Turmeric
  10. Paprika
  11. Black Pepper
  12. Ginger
  13. Thyme
  14. Basil
  15. Chipotle Powder

Are your spices in need of organization? Let us know if this helps give you the motivation you need! What are your favorite spices? We’d love to hear.

*Don’t forget to listen to Getting Minimalist in the Kitchenwhere we also speak fellow minimalist The Faux Martha to hear all her tips on minimalist cooking and living.

Looking for more kitchen & DIY projects?

If you’re looking for more kitchen or DIY projects outside of how to organize your spices, here are a few! Anything else you’d like to hear about? Let us know in the comments!

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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  1. Love this. Where we live now we have a built-in vertical spice rack/mini pantry just below the stove. It’s awesome. The Swiss are organized. ;-) We will not have this when we move, obvs. So I’ll need to use your tips to figure out a good solution.

  2. We buy most of our spices in bulk, so they come in tiny bags. I’ve found it easiest to alphabetize the bags and keep everything in a small drawer. It’s not very pretty, but it works.

  3. Hi:
    Very helpful!
    My spices are in definite need of attention, ASAP. ;-)
    I love all spices in your list, but #2 and #9 are the same – paprika ……
    What spice is missing?
    Looking forward to your book!
    Thank you!

    1. Great catch — haha! Just an accidental duplication. We’ve updated this accordingly…and added dried basil :) THANKS!

  4. where’s your clove spice? If you’re making home made ketchup, you need a pinch of that. And nutmeg? Essential for eggnog. Also for bechamel. 🤓

  5. Wow, no onion powder? No bay leaves or celery seed/salt?
    I recently reorganized my spices using small canning jars & found I do miss the shaker style tops of the original tins.

    1. Yes we use all of those! The ones we listed were just our “most used” at the time. I’d say onion powder makes that category now — and bay leaves and celery seed are in the second tier. Spice organization is always tricky and there’s no perfect method. Glad you found a way to do so!

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