3 Ways I Gave My Messy Micro-Pantry a Budget-Friendly Makeover

published Jul 12, 2023
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Cups hanging on S hooks in pantry.
Credit: Heather O'Day

Writing about interiors for a living has taught me a bit of sage wisdom: every home has at least one cringe-worthy cupboard, closet, or corner. Maybe it’s a chair that’s pinned under a mountain of laundry (aka the clothes chair). It might be a closet stuffed with miscellaneous household misfits. If it’s neither of those, I can almost promise you that it’s a junk drawer

In the 700-square-foot ranch that I share with my husband and rescue pup in rural Maine, it was a pantry: an impossibly slim closet with two wire shelves mounted above a monstrous and ever-gurgling hot water boiler.

For a long time, I strategically ignored our pantry’s existence. I’d unbag groceries and haphazardly stack pasta boxes on top of cereal boxes on top of tubes of Quaker Oats, until one day, the entire thing came crashing down like a horrible game of Jenga. It wasn’t within our budget to knock down walls to fabricate the breezy, walk-in pantry of our dreams. 

Here are the three (mostly free) things I did instead.

Credit: Heather O'Day

Replace Original Dry Goods Packaging with Repurposed Glass Jars

I love glass containers. Every time I finish off a jar of jelly or pasta or pickles, I peel off the label, run the vessel and its cap through the dishwasher, and stow it away. By the time I realized that I needed to solve the problem of our pantry, I’d accumulated quite a collection. That’s when I decided to put those empty jars to good use. 

By transferring all of the dry packaged goods — things like cereals, oats, pasta, and legumes — into the empty (and, conveniently, slim) jars, I realized I’d freed up a lot of prime real estate. Plus, now I can quickly scan to see which items are running low (rather than opening up every awkward cardboard box) which is a huge time-saver when writing out the weekly grocery list.

Credit: Heather O'Day

Utilize Shower Curtain Hooks in Unexpected Ways

Although the wire shelves inside our pantry were an eyesore, the units were in perfect condition and I couldn’t justify tossing them for the sake of my personal aesthetic preferences. Instead, after stumbling upon a set of old shower curtain hooks, I put those unsightly shelves to work. By fixing the hooks to the upper unit, I was able to hang bulky items — like bananas, measuring cups, and, sometimes, armfuls of herbs from our garden to dry — and regain even more precious shelf space. A huge bonus in a tiny space.

Credit: Heather O'Day

Hide the Hot Water Boiler with an Easy, No-Sew Linen Curtain

With the pantry finally organized, the hot water boiler became even more of an eyesore. Rather than scowl at it every time I opened the pantry door, I decided to purchase a few yards of lovely, medium-weight European linen in a blue ticking pattern from Etsy to cover it up. I cut the fabric to length, secured it to the drywall on either side of the pantry with tacks, and created a series of pleats in the middle to introduce a bit of texture and whimsy. The cherry on top, if you ask me.