Pantry organization. With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, there’s no time to waste. Thanksgiving is the best time to concentrate on kitchen and pantry organization.

When working with clients, one of my biggest pet peeves is seeing (or in this case, not seeing) the client’s pantry floor, as it’s cluttered with 6-packs of cans and bottles, used trash bags, dust bunnies, bugs (yes, bugs) and whatever else gets carelessly tossed in. On the other end of the spectrum (literally), I’ve seen top shelves piled so high that I’m afraid to enter for fear of being bombarded by unidentified falling objects.

I challenge you to keep the floors and top shelves clear. If you can accomplish this simple task, you’re halfway toward having an organized pantry and organized kitchen. As I’ve said before: Thanksgiving is the best time to get started on your kitchen and pantry organization projects.

To help you get started, here are five easy-to-accomplish kitchen projects, which are designed to take no longer than 20 minutes each. Let’s start with pantry organization.

  • Spices: Organizing your spices can be accomplished in no time flat. Start by removing every single jar from the cabinet or shelf and lining them up, grouping multiples together, in a row, with the labels facing toward you. Then start sniffing. Spices that have lost their aroma or that haven’t been used in more than a year should be jettisoned. You can also “marry” duplicates, as long as they’re fresh. If you’re left with a smidgen after combining the duplicates, use it or lose it.
  • Dry foods: An opened box of dry goods, such as flour, pasta, sugar or rice, may look okay at first glance, but check carefully for weevils and other small insects (yummy). Once opened, chips, crackers, cereals and nuts have a tendency to go stale. Any foods that fall into either of these categories, should be tossed out.
  • Canned foods: With the exception of infant formula and some baby foods, product dates, such as, sell by, best if used before, expiration and use by primarily relate to the quality of the food or, in some cases, the “life of the can,” and not to the actual safety of the canned foods. With or without an expiration date, canned foods will eventually go bad. If a can is rusted, swollen or dented, it should be thrown away immediately.
  • Ergonomics: When putting things away, think in terms of ergonomics and avoid putting heavy items in hard-to-reach areas. My suggestion is that heavy items, such as large blenders, KitchenAid mixers and pressure cookers, for example, be placed waist-high to avoid too much bending or lifting.
  • Freezer & refrigerator: While you probably won’t die from eating a rotten egg, drinking spoiled milk or chowing down on a freezer-burned, shriveled-up, older-than-the-hills rib-eye steak, why would you? While cleaning out your perishable items, you need to carefully inspect previously opened containers using the “four senses”: smell, taste, sight and, most importantly, common sense. If something looks or smells rancid or funky, don’t think twice before throwing it away.

When organizing and decluttering your kitchen, it’s important to remember that it’s more about the consequences of eating something that may be unsafe than it is about the clutter and overall appearance of your pantry, freezer and fridge.