Before and After: This Pro Organizer Uses the “S4 Method” to Transform a Crowded Pantry

published Mar 14, 2023
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Messy and  disorganized pantry before reorganization.

The spaces in your home aren’t just places you inhabit or store things in. Often, if not always, in one way or another they reflect your inner landscape. This can be as true of the more strictly utilitarian storage spaces (closets and pantries, for instance) as it is about the state of bedrooms or offices. This was the case, poignantly, in this pantry organized by Laura Bostrom of Everyday Order. The condition of the pantry was a window into what was going on in the client’s life. 

“Our client was struggling with pantry organization after losing her mom who happened to be from a long line of German bakers,” says Laura. “Needless to say, the pantry brought back a lot of memories, and they couldn’t bear the thought of changing anything.” Because of this, the pantry was, in effect, frozen in time. “The pantry was full of expired foods, childhood baking memories, cookware, appliances, and current food. It was crowded and time for a change!”

The impetus for change came as the client began a journey toward changing their eating patterns. “[She was] making some healthier food choices and was struggling to keep her food in a spot where she wasn’t tempted by all of the sweets,” says Laura. “She also wanted to move forward with her life while still preserving the memory of her mother.”

Laura’s goals for the project were in line with these reasons. Specifically, she set out to “highlight certain items that brought joy to [the] client, namely the stand mixer.” Laura adds that “we also wanted to create more white space and reduce visual clutter so our client could easily see what food she had to make healthier eating a priority.”

With a budget of $2,000 for labor and products and two expert organizers tackling the job, the transformation was completed in one day. However, Laura points out that they did “a lot of prep work ahead of time to ensure we had the right products on hand for the job.” 

Laura and her team use what they call the “S4 method” for their organizing projects. The method involves these steps: sort, select, strategize, and set up. Here’s how they were implemented for this project.

“First, we empty the space and group items into like categories. For this pantry, a few of the categories were baking, appliances, sweets, oils, canned goods, jars, snacks, and cake decorating,” shares Laura. “Next, we checked expiration dates, and with our client’s OK we removed anything that was expired. We also took off the contact paper and wiped the space clean.”

Then they moved on to strategically placing the bins and containers, ensuring that everything was functional and had a good flow. “We wanted to make the most-used items accessible and easy to reach,” says Laura. Everything is categorized with their signature label attached and set up.

Diving a bit deeper into the strategies Laura and her team used, she details that they organized by type and zone. “All of the baking ingredients are near each other, all of the dinner prep foods are together, as well as the healthy snacks, drinks, and small appliances.”

The effect of this type of organization becomes apparent when the pantry is being used. “[It] makes navigating the space much easier,” says Laura. “Let’s say you’re making cookies. You know everything you need to bake them will be in the ‘cooking ingredients’ section. You can use this same process in your garage, kitchen, and storage spaces.”

For anyone who wishes to undergo a similar pantry transformation, Laura offers this advice: “Understand that it’s a process and you’ll need time because you’ll need to go through every single item and evaluate whether it’s serving you or not. It is tempting to skip this step, but it will be the difference between decluttering and starting fresh and just moving piles around!”

Laura shares her favorite part of the project, which has the result not only of an organized, functional pantry, but also the payoff of how it supports the client’s road to health and healing. “Our favorite part was seeing all of the space we created and feeling the difference we made in our client’s life!” she enthuses and adds that this project is one of her “favorite transformations to date.” 

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