Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Apr 10, 2013 04:31 PM

Pantry Organization Help - Outgrown Pantry

Hi fellow hounds,

I'm hoping you can help me out. I currently rent so there aren't many options for me in terms of storage. I've outgrown my pantry and have absolutely no space to put anything. I've tried organizing it multiple ways to maximize space, and have currently settled on a plastic handled pull-out bin system. But, I need suggestions on how I can either reorganize the space or retool it so that I can fit more than one or two extra cans of goods. I also would like to start canning in the summer and need space.

The door to the pantry is only 8 inches wide, with actual shelf space of 12.5 inches wide. So I can't do rolling shelf inserts because it won't fit through the 8 inch door. The pantry itself is 18 inches deep, but the shelves are only 13 inches deep (previous tenants installed the system and I kept it).

My other cabinets are used by all my cookware, dishware, bakeware, storageware. I've pared down as much as possible; I can't sacrifice any of that space for a pantry. I don't have wall space so I can't install shelving. I don't have much space at all. My counter space to prep food is only 18 inches wide. I don't have space for a rolling/portable island.

Any suggestions as to how I might be able to maximize space for my pantry?

The only solutions I can think of are:

1. Increase the size of the shelves to 16-17 inches deep (providing there are brackets that length) which would give me 3-4 extra inches depth on each shelf

2. Buy an external metal standalone shelving unit that won't fit in the kitchen area, but I'll place in the dining area. It might look a bit messy and out of place.

I'm attaching pictures so you can get an idea of the limitations. Any and all suggestions are welcome. I'm just so fed up with the pantry's small size that I'm willing to try anything.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Definitely increase the depth of your shelves as much as you can. Instead of brackets, you could use blocks screwed into studs on the side walls to rest the shelves on. Do you have anywhere you could use a slide-out shelf tower like this: My DH built a 2-tier one, about 10" wide, as tall as the refrigerator and installed between the refrigerator and the wall. It is amazing how much stuff it holds.

    5 Replies
    1. re: MrsJonesey

      Thanks so much for the suggestion regarding the rolling shelf tower. I really like the idea because it looks very neat and tucked in. I just measured the only space it might fit. I have a sliver of space between the fridge and built in cabinet and it measures a tiny 1.5 inches.

      Increasing the depth of shelves might be the only viable solution that will give me a bit more space

      1. re: daeira

        Sorry that won't work for you. If either your stove or refrigerator has a free side, is it possible to move it away from the cabinet enough to make room for the shelf tower?

        The only other thing I can think of is using a pot rack to free up some cabinet space. Good luck. I know it's frustrating.

        1. re: MrsJonesey

          I was thinking about this last night, in terms of moving the fridge towards the left to create space between a cabinet and the fridge. The only drawback would be that the fridge would then be in the "dining room" (and I use this loosely).

          The other option would be to find a one-sided shelf tower and wheel that on the left side of the fridge so you'd see a solid piece of wood but then roll it out and access the goods. The shelf tower would still be in the dining area, but might be better than having a fridge in the dining area

          1. re: daeira

            If I am following you correctly, you may get away with using a bookshelf-type unit, short in depth, and either use it open with its back to the side of the refrigerator, or put casters on the bottom, with its back facing out. Hope that makes sense.

            I believe you said you're renting, but if you plan to stay there for years and finances permit, you might consider having a carpenter build you a unit.

            As far as your home canned goods, they can be quite pretty displayed.

            1. re: MrsJonesey

              MrsJonesey, exactly what I was thinking from your initial idea. A thin bookcase or even DVD/CD unit might be enough space to hold the canned goods. That way, it would still be narrow in depth, but fill my needs. I attached a photo way up in the thread of my kitchen all drawn up that has your idea there.

              So I'm considering either placing the rolling rack/bookcase there or the standalone pantry on an opposite wall

    2. This may not be a possibility for you, but thought I'd suggest just in case. We have a similar sized pantry in our tiny kitchen - my husband and I rent a house.

      We turned the coat closet by the front door into a pantry. It's very close to the kitchen. We put in a plastic cabinet with shelving, storage baskets, and hung a shoe organizer over the door, which is great for storing jars of condiments and such. If you have a closet that you could convert near the kitchen, it could be an option for you as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jw615

        Shoe organizer on a door was also one of my first thoughts, but here I can just "second" it. Holds a lot of stuff.

        1. re: jw615

          Great suggestion, but unfortunately not a possibility. I only have 2 real closets in my entire apartment. There's the closet in the bedroom, and the closet in the front hall which currently holds all my jackets, shoes, vacuum and anything else I can cram in there.

          The apartment is so small that I'm seriously lacking for storage, despite my decluttering tendencies. I like the hung shoe organizer idea, but since the closet doors are folding doors, I'm not sure I can do it. Maybe I could attach the hanging shoe organizer to the other side of the fridge with very strong magnets

        2. Do you have any room between the cabinets and ceiling? Sometimes "going up" is a good solution. Years ago, I needed storage for extra towels in a cabinet-less bathroom. Using corbels and a piece of glass, I made a shelf that ran over top of the sink area, wall-to-wall.

          Are there any walls available? A 1 can deep shelf does not take much room and will fit behind a door. Running it floor-to-ceiling will provide room for your canning successes.

          The other thing I remember from rentals is a tall, narrow wall unit that held every kind of small jar - spices, condiments, etc. I put it inside a closet on the door.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sherri

            There's 6 inches above the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. I considered going upwards, but the only downfall would be that it's not that accessible for me. I would have to pull out a very tall step stool to access anything up there. Plus, I'm a bit worried about the weight of extra things on the cabinet. As my cabinets are already bursting with cookware and bakeware, I wonder if the added weight might cause a collapse.

            I might be able to put a small shelf above the sink area. There's roughly 12 inches between the sink area and the bottom of the cabinets over the sink.

            Other than that, there are no walls available. It's such a tiny space that the landlords have already crammed in as much as possible.

            Since the door to the pantry is so small (8 inches), I can't put one of those over the door hanging systems since usually the smallest is still too big. The only other closets in my space are my front closet with folding doors and my closet in the bedroom, also folding doors.


            Would a pullout pantry insert work? Revashelf has one that is 8" wide. You can order it from most cabinet shops.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jmcarthur8

              Great idea and I really like it. Unfortunately, the smallest Revashelf is at 5 inches, but the depth is 22. My pantry is only 18 inches deep.

              I really like the rolling idea as another poster suggested it. I suspect I could cram a lot of canned goods in there.

              It looks like I might have to increasingly go with a stand alone unit

            2. You might clear out a pots/pans cupboard by looking around for a place to hang frequently used ones.


              8 Replies
              1. re: Bada Bing

                This might be an option. I do have a window with a very small ledge. If I run a curtain extender across I could quite possibly hang something there. Or maybe I could put a small rolling can holder on the ledge itself. It wouldn't be pretty, but it would at least allow me to store some things in the window itself

                1. re: Bada Bing

                  Beeeg +1 on hanging as much as you use frequently. OP, what's under your stove? If you don't use your oven much, that can be good pan storage space, too. What's on top of the reefer?

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    kaleokahu, I have a pull out shelf under my stove which is filled with bakeware. I store all of my cast iron pans in the stove when not in use already. Admittedly, I have a lot of kitchenware, cookware; but I love cooking. I've already pared down and donated quite a bit and can probably donate a bit more.

                    I'm not sure what a reefer is, but if you mean exhaust, I don't have one. Immediately above the stove are cabinets

                    1. re: daeira

                      Maybe a reefer is a fridge? The only reefer I know about is illegal in this state ;)

                      1. re: melpy


                        Yes, a reefer is a refrigerator.

                        1. re: JayL

                          How interesting! Where do they use that term?

                      2. re: daeira

                        Well who knew a reefer was a fridge. I just assumed that reefer was the exhaust since reefer madness, reefer usually has smoke. LOL

                        1. re: daeira

                          Fridges are reefers in SoCal, at least they were among my set growing up there.