Cool It

Naples organizational guru dishes on fridge and pantry space

Cool ItThrough her company Organize Create Decorate, Neapolitan Christine Talaba makes people’s organizational dreams come true. Talaba left a legal career after she discovered that when her home was organized, she felt better mentally. She brings her passion for creating beautifully put-together spaces to clients in Southwest Florida looking to improve their homes, workspaces, and lives. Below, she shares her best strategies for boosting the efficiency of your pantry and fridge. 

NI: How does your organizational process start?

Talaba: I first ask clients to envision the space how they want it and describe their desires. From there, I ask about specialty items/zones that they may need. Diet and lifestyle play a large role in deciding how to lay out an area. For instance, if a client makes smoothies every day, I will designate an area specifically for that purpose. I customize the space to the individual needs of the client and other household members.

Why and how should you separate food into categories? 

In both the fridge and the pantry, I create an “Eat First” bin/zone that allows you to see what will expire soon and will assist you with grabbing those items first. Additionally, I organize by type (i.e., greens, fruits, veggies, deli, cheese) using customized products to ensure that you see the items, which leads to using them.

Should you adhere to the manufacturer-created zones your fridge has?

Many fridges come with designations. However, if you have a drawer for produce that you don’t need, I say designating it as the kids’ zone (or something else) will be more beneficial to your daily life.

What is a favorite strategy you employ in your fridge organization projects?

Stacking bins. There is a lot of unused vertical space in a fridge. Make sure that you capitalize on it.

What is a common mistake people make in their fridge organization?

Trying to make it picture-perfect. Make sure it is functional first. Things do not need to go in the traditional spots if it works better for you another way.

A fridge comes with shelves and drawers, but what other elements can maximize effectiveness?

I love a good drawer liner. Fridge Coaster ( makes amazing ones. Turntables are great for condiments and jars. Stacking bins, including produce and fruit bins, are a No. 1 item.

What items take up unnecessary space in the fridge?

Always decant and take things out of the packages. Typically, most packaging takes up space and makes it visually cluttered.

What’s your overall approach to the layout of a pantry?

I look at the items that the client purchases, ask them what they always use, and try to establish their habits. I will then break the space down into sections like cans, dry goods, pastas, and snacks.

Fridge-OrganizationWhat organizational accessories do you recommend in a pantry?

Jars and containers for decanting. Lazy Susans are always a must, whether they are in the pantry or under your sink. I always use a stacking shelf, which allows the items to be seen and more easily accessible.

What types of food should be put into transparent containers and what can be left in its original packaging?

This really depends on the budget. I recommend decanting your everyday items: cereal, coffee, flour, sugar, and other dry goods. Then if you have the budget, pasta, chips, and snacks. If you have young children, I recommend BPA-free plastic containers for the children’s items, that way the contents stay fresh and the containers will not break.

What about kids’ snacks?

I first ask the client whether they want the snacks accessible for the children. If so, I will put the items lower in the pantry or fridge with open bins for easy access. I will label it, making it easy for the kids to see and read what they are grabbing.

What are your thoughts on labeling?

For the bins, I keep the labels more generic, that way the bins can grow and change as the contents do. For jars, containers, and other specific items, I label them specifically. I write or label the expiration date on anything I decant.

What are a few favorite strategies you use in pantry organization?

Using the back of the door for additional storage (like Command Hooks for lunch boxes) and designating
zones for each family member or lifestyle are always things I do.

What’s the best way to ensure that items in the back of your shelves don’t get forgotten?

Usually, if you are using bins, they are specific to the measurements and are easily pulled out. I place the items expiring first in the front and group like with like products, which allows them to be seen and used.

What is a common mistake people make in pantry organization?

Not planning the full space out. It needs to be looked at overall, then you must place the products to make sure it works. I always bring a multitude of products with me. That way, if something isn’t working, I can switch it out and adapt to the items.

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