The 5 W’s of Decanting

Feb 19, 2021

If you have been on social media lately or searched ‘organizing’ on Pinterest or maybe even watched one of the new organizing shows on Netflix, you have most likely seen pictures or videos of decanting. You know, those beautiful kitchens and pantries full of clear, matching containers/canisters – that my friends, is decanting, and we are going to lay out ALLLL of the details…

WHAT – Decanting Defined.
Ok, about to get a bit technical, so bear with us. Decanting is a term that is typically used when talking about liquids and it means to “gradually pour (liquid, typically wine or a solution) from one container into another, especially without disturbing the sediment.”  Most commonly, decanting is a word you used in chemistry class or when discussing wine, but in the organizing world it’s become a term used to describe the practice of removing foods from their original (disposable) packaging and placing them into more permanent, often clear, containers or canisters.

Let’s talk examples… if you buy a large bag of sugar and pour it into an airtight canister on your countertop, that’s decanting… if you transfer your spices from store-bought jars into your own matching jars, that’s decanting… if you empty a box of granola bars into a snack basket, that’s decanting!

WHY – The Perks of Decanting!
So you may be asking yourself… what’s the harm in just putting the box of granola bars, cereal, pasta, and baking soda directly out of your grocery bags and placing them right onto your pantry shelves? Nothing.

I will agree with you, it is certainly the quickest and easiest route to getting groceries put away. It also eliminates the need to purchase extra storage products just to place food within a pantry. HOWEVER, there are definitely perks to taking the extra step to remove the outer packaging (…and yes the perks go beyond just having a really pretty pantry).

  • A Healthier Pantry – Decanting dried goods can actually have health benefits. Food that is opened and then left in store-bought packaging is not usually sealed properly and can lead to contamination, staleness, and spoilage.
  • You Save Money – When decanted foods are properly stored and labeled, they have a longer shelf life. By decanting your food and keeping it fresh you are saving yourself from having to repeatedly buy those items… aka saving money!
  • You Save Time – A decanted pantry lets you clearly see what you have and makes creating your shopping list so much easier! You will save time by always knowing what you have on hand… making meal planning and prep so much easier and more efficient!

WHO – Is Decanting for Me?
Full-blown decanting is not for everyone, even I don’t do it! That version of decanting can become unmanageable or irritating when you’re trying to decant every. single. item. you bring into your home. Don’t get me wrong… if you LOVE to spend extra time decanting your items and have the space (and containers) to do it, then go for it!!

For most people, the decanting sweet spot is found using a hybrid model. With this balanced model you are only decanting the most frequently used (staple) items or items that are particularly messy when left in their original packaging (hello, flour!). The goal is to find a system that is easy to maintain! My biggest tip is to be realistic with your personality and time… personally, I am still trying to figure out how to add more hours to the day, so when it comes to decanting I am very particular about what I choose to decant. I found a manageable routine for our family which involves decanting staple items, balanced with the quick win of dumping pre-packaged snacks into open baskets 😬

At the end of the day, the ‘to decant or not to decant’ question comes down to personal preference. If you like to have a pantry full of clearly labeled containers, then you do you! If you’d only like to decant your pasta but nothing else, go for it! If you need a little inspiration, here is a list of what I normally decant:

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Pancake Mix
  • Baking ingredients (Sugar, Flour, etc.)
  • Pre-packed snacks

WHEN – How often should I be decanting my Items?

When deciding to decant you food, it is pretty crucial to ensure that you’re selecting the right sized container for the item you’re choosing to decant. You know you have chosen the right sized container by how it helps you save space (yay for maximizing vertical space) and saves you time by not having to fill it up as often!

When you are looking to purchase containers for decanting, you want to think through your consumption rate of specific item as well as the quantity and physical size you typically buy that item in. For example, If you prefer to buy the 5 lb bag of flour, then you are going to need a big enough container to store that amount – don’t get a container that is too small or you will end up making more work & clutter for yourself by have to store two things – the decanted container & the leftover bag! Additionally, if you consume a pound of black beans in a week and would rather not have to replenish that container every single week, then you should look for a food container that can hold at least 2 pounds. Many brands will provide sizing charts, like the one below to help you gauge which container is best for your needs!

My point… match your container to your usual shopping & consumption habits to eliminate the need for spillover storage. Personally, I usually work with the medium or large containers even if that means having a little leftover space in some of them. There are also so many different kinds of containers that you can use for decanting! I currently use and have found success with these OXO Good Grips POP Square & Rectangular canisters, but you can definitely mix and match or keep all of the containers the same – it’s all about what works best for you! Just remember to measure your space first to make sure the container will fit – and keep in mind that if your goal is to create a clean look, it is best to stick with the same style throughout.

WHERE – Decanting is fun! Where all can I do it?
The great thing about decanting is it can be done virtually anywhere in your home! It’s funny, once you start decanting it’s like it opens your eyes and all of sudden you see decanting opportunities all around you… Here are a few of my favorites:
  • Dried Goods
  • Snacks
  • Spices
  • Baking goods
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Art Supplies (Markers, Colored Pencils, Crayons)
  • Craft Supplies
  • Personal Health Supplies (Cotton balls, Cue Tips, Cleansing pads, Feminine care products)

Pro Tips:

  • Write the expiration date on bottom of the container – you can add a small piece of tape with the date on it or use a chalk or dry erase marker!
  • Check out my decanting trick to add adhesive pockets to your containers to hold food instructions or nutritional info!
  • When labeling your containers, don’t get too specific – keep the labels general so you don’t have to change them often!
  • Utilize a back stock bin… as much as we want to always have everything fit perfectly into our containers, sometimes you end up in that in between place where a food item is low enough to buy more, but the replacement doesn’t all fit. Throw that extra into a back stock bin – that way you will have all your refill items in one spot and you will know exactly where to check before buying more!

So are you ready to try decanting?! If you do, send us a picture of your finished products and don’t hesitate to comment below with any questions!

Happy Organizing!


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