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What Everyone Should Know About Decanting

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Decanting dry goods

Decanting can be tricky business. Social media floods our feeds with images of beautiful homes where everything is decanted and labeled, as if that is the ideal to aspire to. I’m here to tell you that decanting can be a really good thing. It can make your life easier and your home prettier. It can also be a bad thing, making more work for you and ultimately contributing to clutter in your home.  So should you or shouldn’t you decant? Let’s get into it.

The Case for Decanting

Keep things like coffee, tea and sugar handy by decanting them

When done right, decanting removes friction from the process of using something AND reduces visual clutter in your home. Take flour for instance. Almost every household uses flour in some capacity. Bags of flour are not particularly nice to look at and absolutely not fun to access. The bag doesn’t fasten shut and every time to open it flour gets everywhere. It sits like a lump on the pantry shelf next to its friend sugar. Decanting your flour and sugar makes it easier to use them and more fun to look at them when you open the pantry door. Depending on what containers you use to decant they can help as a visual reminder of when it’s time to replenish your flour and sugar supply.

It sounds like a no brainer, right? Makes life easier, check. Makes house prettier, check. Keeps me informed, check. You’re now so excited that you immediately set out to transform all of your mundane household products into a beautiful landscape of canisters, jars and fancy labels. Not so fast folks, there’s more to consider!

The Tricky Part

Decant too much and it's hard to keep up with
This setup is beautiful but not realistic to maintain if you have a busy life

Before that itchy trigger finger starts adding containers to your cart, here are the not-so-great things that come with decanting. Like, you have to actually decant the stuff every time you buy it. That ugly, awkward bag of flour needs to be ‘unpacked’ when you get home from the grocery store vs. just easily placed on the shelf. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal but if you decant everything in your pantry that’s a lot of time you are committing to unloading your groceries.  Many people get excited about decanting to start but it’s so much to manage so they let it lapse over time. Which means that now there are the mostly-empty decanting containers sitting next to the stuff that’s supposed to be decanted. Also, the pantry looks terrible and it’s hard to get to anything because there is too much clutter!

Decanting products should replace original packaging, not exist as an additional container. The number of things you decide to decant should correlate to how much time you have to manage them; remember one of the reasons to do it in the first place is to make your life eaiser, not harder.  The more you decant, the more you have to manage and the harder it is to keep up with it. So what’s the right balance? If you are in the ‘raising kids’ season of life you I’m guessing you don’t have a lot of extra time, so maybe start small. If your kids are grown and flown (and not wreaking havoc in your house!) you may have more room in your life for decanting. Here are some considerations if you want to do some decanting but don’t want to get in over your head.

Decanting Candidates

You can even decant vitamins and medications

Start with items that are true, consistent staples in your household, flour is a great example. Another is whatever you use for laundry detergent. You probably aren’t switching types of flour or detergent often and it’s a safe bet you will stick to whatever brand you like for years to come Contrast that with cereal. If you have lots of different kinds of cereal and your kids change their mind every other month about which kind they are eating then cereal won’t set you up for decanting success.

Another good candidate is products whose packaging is awkward or hard to access. I use dishwasher pods and hate the bulky container that is a pain to open. So I’ve decanted my pods into a handy cabinet-door-mounted container that removes friction from the process of starting the dishwasher. Plus I can see when I’m getting low and need to pick up more pods.

Things that you keep on the counter are also good candidates. A pretty decanter for your olive oil that sits right by the stove is handy and beautiful to look at. I need to remember to take my blood pressure meds & supplements daily so they need to be visible in my kitchen.  But the bottles are unsightly so I’ve decanted them and placed them on a tray. They are now nice to look at while also providing a visual reminder for me.

One important thing to remember is to get the right sized container for whatever it is you are decanting. Avoid smaller containers that require you to also keep the original packaging on hand – that is a recipe for clutter!

What You’ll Need

decant oil and vinegar
Cruets for oil and vinegar add elegance to your stovetop area

Now you know everything and are ready to come up with your decanting plan! I’ve assembled some of my favorite Amazon products here. Measurements are on the product pages – make sure you check them against original packaging! One note, beware of value packs of canisters that are all different sizes. There will likely be many that you will never use! It’s better to buy single or smaller packs and get exactly what you need. And if you’d like to label (not necessary for many things but essential for flour and sugar!) this is my favorite label maker that I use in my own home and for clients as well. 

If decanting is part of a larger kitchen organization project I have blogs on the subject for you to check out: Spring Cleaning Method: Kitchens, Anatomy of a Functional Kitchen and Home Reset: Pantry Edition. Happy decanting folks!

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