Organization is the Spice of Life

labeled spice jars

I dislike spice racks–those awful powder-coated ornamental metal racks with pre-labeled, pre-packed spices and their counterparts in beechwood with Lazy Susans built into the base. They just don’t make sense for most cooks or most kitchens. They’re merely decorative at best but, as I remember the one mounted behind my grandmother’s range, more often covered in unsightly dust and grime.

At some point, though, I realized our own system of tumbling stacks of assorted jars wasn’t really working. It was hard to see what we had, what was running low, and in addition to the stuffed shelf of spices, we had several larger containers tucked away in another space. Inspired by an old Door Sixteen post from January ’09, I picked up a crop of RATIONELL VARIERA racks from IKEA on New Year’s Day.

getting ready to install spice racks in a cupboard with clamps

A note on the installation: IKEA’s instructions recommend removing the door to which you’ll be mounting the racks and doing the project on a flat surface. In theory, this seems very practical, and in a kitchen with IKEA’s own cabinets installed it might even be easy. But given the thick and many layers of paint covering every hinge in our kitchen, I determined pretty quickly that the door wasn’t coming down. Bar clamps to the rescue! I was able to secure the door with clamps to another door, giving enough stability to drill.

Knowing that we’d have to leave some spices in the existing cupboard, we chose those for the door by frequency of use and by grouping types of herbs and spices together. Herbs fit in the top rack, another holds seeds, baking spices fill the third row, and the most colorful group sits at the bottom: sumac, cumin, turmeric, coriander, cayenne, and paprika. We kept salts and peppers and Tom’s collection of Penzeys curries on the shelf along with saffron packages and bay leaves (the only flavoring that refused to fit through the smallish mouths of the IKEA jars).

jars of spices mounted to a cupboard door

For the labels, I bought a few sheets of adhesive-backed paper and used a Martha Stewart punch to make the shapes.

inside the spice cupboard before and after installing the racks on the door

Transferring the majority of the spices (above left) to the racks on the cupboard door created room for olive oil and prep bowls in this space (above right).

tops of spice jars

I finished this project on January 2, and a month later, it still brings me way too much happiness to see these neatly labeled groups of spices gracing the inside of our cabinet door every day. It’s so nice to have easy access to all our flavorings and enjoy their colors through clear glass. As a bonus, the easy-open lids make the jars great for cooking. And so far, there’s only a little bit of dust on top of the jars…


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11 comments on “Organization is the Spice of Life”

  1. Brian 6 February, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I envy your setup. Nice job!

  2. Amy 6 February, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Wow, Martha, I’m impressed. For such a small kitchen you’re looking very organized–expertly done!

  3. Formica Dinette 6 February, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    They look GREAT! So glad we went with the Martha Punch!

  4. Linda 7 February, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Oh, I do love your attention to detail. You were born with it. Congratulations!!

  5. juan 7 February, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Love your clamps, they are color coordinated with the level. Drilling must have been a joy too. I assume you used a stop to avoid going through the door.

  6. Martha 7 February, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Juan: I didn’t use a stop because I wasn’t actually drilling my pilot holes. The screws were so short I created starter holes with a nail. If only I had an awl! I did, however, enjoy having my drill to be able to quickly put in all of the screws.

  7. Martha 7 February, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Nicky, Linda, Amy & Brian: Thank you! This was a quick and easy project. If you have an IKEA near by, I definitely recommend it!

  8. Marcela 12 February, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    I love your spice rack. It looks great, and if I had one, I too would derive great enjoyment from contemplating it daily.

  9. Crystal 26 February, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    So fancy – I love it! Our spice organization isn’t photo worthy, but it works for us.

  10. Brandon Stone 6 January, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Where do I find a rack like this now? Ikea doesn’t make these anymore..