Organizing Your Herbs and Spices

lavender flowers dried

Dried Lavender

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions on last week’s Organize This post. I’m passionate about organizing and gardening, so writing a weekly feature should be fun.

Cathy, the fabulous cook, gardener and blogger at Words and Herbs is looking for a way to organize her extensive collection of herbs and spices in a ‘very small spice cupboard.’

Since I’ve not seen Cathy’s kitchen or her spice collection, the following ideas are generic in nature, and should apply to everyone.

Gather and Review:

While it’s tempting to skip this tedious step, it’s often the most fruitful. Haul out all your herbs and spices from cabinets, counter tops and drawers and spread them out in one place. If you love to cook, you probably have an extensive collection.

Spread a large table-cloth or newspaper on your table or counter so it’s easy to tidy up any spills. Set out your spice and herb jars and packets so you can see everything. If you have 50 jars or less, alphabetize into A – L and M – Z. If you have 100 or more, break it down even further. Alphabetizing serves two purposes: it allows you to search for duplicates and it makes it easier to keep your spices in order for regular use. Most markets and grocery stores display spices in alphabetical order so you can find what you’re looking for. It makes sense to do this at home as well.


If you have duplicates, see if you can consolidate them into one container. Before doing so, check the herbs or spices for potency and freshness.  According to Spices Inc., whole spices and dried herbs, leaves and flowers will keep 1 – 2 years, whereas ground spices and herbs will keep for about a year.


Painful, I know, but if your spices have gone off, or have lost potency or flavor, it’s time to let them go. Did you buy a special ingredient that you’ll never use it again? It’s okay to let that go too. You can’t recoup the cost and those spices are taking up valuable cupboard space. Finally, if you’re a fabulous cook, you may receive gifts of herbs and spices. After graciously thanking the giver, consider passing them on.


Yes! Now you can put your system in place.

Spices are best stored in glass containers with tight lids in a cool, dry place. Though you’ll want them close by when you prepare your dishes, you don’t want them close to the stove (too hot) or the dishwasher (too humid). Boy, those spices are temperamental!

Consider investing in a generically sized set of jars. When the jars are all one size, it makes it easier to see what you have and easier to put it back where you found it. It’s also helpful if you’re the cook, but someone else puts things away.

At home, we have the luxury of large kitchen drawers. Our spices are laid on their sides in a   drawer for easy access. In smaller spaces, I’ve helped clients organize spices in a drawer by relocating items like tea towels, or seldom used utensils to another location, freeing up drawer space.

If storing them in drawers is out of the question, consider storing your spices in bins you can easily remove from your cupboards. Spice jars are small and not really well suited for the average design of a cupboard. Lift out bins take care of two issues: they contain the smaller jars, keeping them from rolling to the back of the cupboard and they catch spills, making clean up a lot easier.

There are a number of gadgets on the market designed for organizing spices, but I’ve found that most of them are limiting, either in size or ease of use. Most cooks have far more spices than the average storage system allows. The simpler the better.

Finally, all kitchens are not created equally. A fabulous cook living in a small studio apartment will find it challenging to house everything. Consider rotating your meals in such a way that you can get by with less, or store your less frequently used herbs and spices in a shoe box in an out-of-the-way place.  Just be sure to keep an index card listing what you have and where with your other spices so you can retrieve what you need when you need it.

Bon appétit!


Do you organize or organise? I’m writing from North America so I organize with a ‘z’. Apologies to my readers outside of the US and Canada. You can read more about the origins of the word at Grammarist.