Prompt Card Example from Declutter Deck™: Spices
Set your timer for 60 minutes and take a before photo.
This prompt may need to be completed in several sessions if you plan to organize all your spices into a set of similar jars with printed labels. We call this type of organizing, “decorganizing™.” Decorganzing™ is the combination of decor and organizing. It is a way to reduce visual clutter and keep things tidy and clean. It allows for hidden storage.
Step 1: Take Everything Out and Make the Pile
Make the pile of spices by lining them up on the kitchen counter. Remember that some spices stain and it’s a good idea to place a cloth or paper towel underneath the bottles as you pull them out of your cabinet. At the same time, why not look at your olive oil and vinegar, too?
Most extra virgin olive oil lasts between eighteen and twenty-four months because of the higher acid content. However, olive oil does start to degrade as soon as you open the bottle, so for optimal benefits and taste, it is best to use it within six months of opening. If you tend to buy in bulk and cannot get through olive oil that fast, decant a smaller portion into a bottle so you are not constantly opening the main container and exposing the oil to air and sunlight. If you do not cook that often, buying small olive oil bottles ensure that you can finish off the bottle before it turns rancid.
Should I Buy Larger Containers and Refill into Smaller Jars?
I had at one time purchased large containers of spices and refilled smaller jars as I used them up, but I no longer do that. When my household was larger, I cooked more. I stored the larger containers on a top shelf and the smaller jars stayed within reach on the lower shelves of my pantry.
I’ve seen our clients store spices in a variety of spots. The main places are the pantry, kitchen drawers close to the cooking area and the shelf next to the stove. Some place them on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen counter with olive oil and vinegar bottles. This display adds visual interest to any kitchen. All these storage options work; it is just a matter of personal preference.
Spice Expiration Dates
One thing to remember is that spices can expire, and many people keep spices way past their expiration date. You can tell if your spices are too old if they aren’t aromatic or fail to provide a flavor boost to food. Check the freshness date on the bottom or side of the bottle to keep track of when spices are past their prime. Make sure the spices have a vibrant color and strong aroma - if so, they are still good. Ground spices lose their freshness the quickest and typically don't last past six months. Whole spices, on the other hand, can be fine for up to five years.
Step 2: Group Your Spices
Making sure that nothing is leaking, check to see what you own. This is the grouping stage. The grouping stage is the time to put like items together. I do this by matching exact spices, since often I purchase excess in case one runs out. Or I rebuy by mistake. Check each spice bottle to see where the contents range on the spectrum from empty to full.
If you don’t have identical items, group like spices of different brands. For example, I may have oregano from Trader Joe’s and some from my local grocery store. Group those two together and use them so that you get down to just one jar. Check to see how fresh each bottle is by opening it and smelling the contents. Spices should smell fragrant. If they don’t, they may be past their prime. If unopened, the spices should be fresh. I have decluttered some spice cabinets where the spices are so old, they give off a rancid smell. The curry power that has been sitting in the cabinet for ten years is a no-brainer. Let it go.
One of the best tips going forward is to write the date of purchase and date opened on any bottles of spices you buy. Do this in permanent marker on an area that won’t cause it to rub off on your countertop if it gets wet from water or oil.
Step 3: Edit
Continue to go through your spices, one at a time, grouping by type and whether the bottle has seen better days. If I decide I will not use a spice anymore because it’s lost its taste, I discard it. Or I sprinkle it in my yard to discourage animals from digging. When I had raccoons at my home, I sprinkled cayenne pepper to keep them from foraging in my yard at night. It works if you are consistent.
Now that you have edited your collection, you are left with fewer spices to organize. Try your best to consolidate, if possible, so that you know exactly what you have. If you have a lot of one spice and don’t use it often, see if your neighbor or friend needs it. People use spices a lot, so giving spices to others is a good way to reduce, too. My friend is sending her daughter off to college with sandwich-sized plastic bags of her extra spices, which is a great idea. Finally, wipe down every bottle with a damp towel so you have clean bottles. Make sure the lids are screwed on well.
Step 4: Return Everything to its Place
Return everything to its place, paying attention to good organization. Good organization might include a storage system in this area. Now is a good time to look at that. Here are some of our suggestions that keep herbs and spices neat and tidy: spice bottles (square - so they fit next to each other and don’t roll around) with labels and a chalk marker. This is good if you like to write information on the label and are not particular if the handwriting is yours and not a preprinted label. Some spice jars have preprinted labels and look good when placed next to others with preprinted labels. Some have bamboo lids. Try these if you prefer a larger lid and more of a food storage container look. Whatever system makes sense to you is the one you should choose. If you prefer not to use identical bottles, and just want to gather them on a Lazy Susan and keep them on a shelf in the pantry, that’s a good idea, too. Just make sure that the Lazy Susan has a rubber mat, so the spices don’t slip off. I love a Lazy Susan and use them in a lot of pantry makeovers. They are inexpensive, simple, sturdy, and provide a lot of storage space. Bonus: my husband knows where to find everything and never asks me if we are out of oregano.
Once you have put everything back, you’re finished. Adjust as necessary.
Take an after photo. Then, you’re finished for the day.
(Instructions provided by professional organizers at The Uncluttered Life, Inc.).
About Life Hack Decks™ and Declutter Decks™
Life Hack Decks™ are powerful micro-prompt motivational cards to make your life easier while reducing stress in your day. These instructional decks simplify ineffective routines and help you go from stuck and overwhelmed to inspired and empowered. Life Hack Decks™ take the stress out of decision-making and motivate you to tackle things you’ve been putting off for years because they reduce decision fatigue.
Our Life Hack Decks™ of 52 cards allow you to focus on the things that bring you joy, happiness, and connection with others rather than lingering in the mundane, anxiety-producing ruts in which we often find ourselves.
Look for Our Entire Collection of Life Hack Decks™
Designed to improve your life through little “life hacks” that reduce decision fatigue, the collection of Hack Decks™ includes:
Date Deck™ to help you and a partner stop doing the “same old thing” and go exploring, learn more about each other, and have fun together.
Declutter Deck™ organizing prompts to help you get and stay organized at home. By breaking down decluttering into bite-sized pieces, you will eventually declutter and organize your entire home.
Dorm Deck to send along to school with your college student. This deck provides subtle reminders of things that will make their lives that much easier when it’s their first time away from home. Includes reminders to call home and text often.
New Mama Deck helps new mothers ease into the transition of parenthood, reduce isolation and manage the stress that comes along with having a newborn.
Random Acts of Kindness Deck to help you discover kind things to do for others who either play a significant part in your life, or with whom you’d love a deeper connection.
How Do Life Hack Decks™ Work?
Pull a card daily or in moments when you need some motivation or guidance. Pick a card. It’s that simple! Cards are typically motivational or instructional and reduce decision fatigue.
Order your Declutter Deck™ to get your spice drawer and storage in order. $19.95 plus shipping. And don’t forget to tag us and a friend at @lifehackdecks to show us your before-and-after photos.