I'm fairly organized when it comes to my life in general. I'm usually on time for things, I pay bills promptly and I can locate things when I need them. But I don't think I'm one of those people that others look at and think "wow, she's the most organized person on the planet". My apartment is tidy enough, but not obsessively clean, and there's a charming (I hope) aura of slight chaos about it.
But that said, I do have tiny oases of high level organization. My freezer is an example that comes to mind immediately, but as I was refilling my spice containers this weekend, I realized that my spice organization system is also quite anal. I share it here with you because I think it works extremely well for those who, like me, lack a giant kitchen with spice-specific storage options.
It all started with the watchmaker's cases from Lee Valley Tools:
I read about them five or so years ago in Real Simple magazine, and it occurred to me that they would be a great aid in organizing my burgeoning collection of spices. When I bought them they came in cardboard boxes. For a time, storing them in this way worked, but eventually the boxes began to disintegrate. So when I moved back to New York after grad school and was on an organization kick, and was going to the Container Store several times per week, I figured it was time to find a more permanent solution.
Luckily, because The Container Store is the greatest place on the planet, they had a most excellent solution to my problem:
A tiny chest of drawers that accommodated my spice containers perfectly (which sadly, they do not seem to have on their website)! Using my dry erase markers that were so successful in the freezer, I labeled those containers that I hadn't already adorned with sticky tags (prior to the discovery of the great dry erase markers' many applications in the kitchen), alphabetized the spices, and labeled the drawers accordingly. Anal, I realize...but I did warn you.
I keep a giant tupperware container full of the overflow spices, full of the bags from SOS Chefs and from the San Francisco Herb Company (my mom buys from them in bulk, and when she can't figure out what to do with 3 pounds of cumin, she sends some my way). Once a month or so, I pull everything out and spread it on the living room floor and refill what needs refilling, and make a list of what needs to be replenished.
I once saw a kitchen renovation show that showcased a series of drawers that were divided into individual wooden boxes with covers that were meant to store spices. That is pretty much my ideal. But unless the real estate market in New York completely collapses (not a totally impossiblity) it is a reality that is quite a few years off for me. So in the meantime, this is a solution that I've found to be quite a decent stand-in.