Like water-skiing, calculus, and poker, spice organization is a skill—an art—that simply eludes me.
The only space we had for spices in my childhood home was a deep, three-shelved cabinet; the spices extended all the way to the back wall. To need, say, dried oregano or a cinnamon stick or just a half-teaspoon of mace was to remove every jar from the cabinet, peering at the labels of each until the desired spice was located; then all of the removed spices had to be shoved back into the cabinet, and the door closed quickly so as to keep them from springing out. (Never mind the poor, unsuspecting soul who would open the cabinet next.)
As you might suspect, this was not a pleasant experience. My mother and I spent a lot of time devising new systems—none of which held.
The idea is to corral the spices I use the most—and the spices I want to use more of—and set them out in plain sight for easy access. I'll put homemade, mortar-and-pestle-ground spice blends there, too; keeping them where I can see them will make me actually use them, instead of getting all excited about them and then losing them to the depths of the spice cabinet.
To make, combine about 1 teaspoon flavoring for every 1/4 cup sugar or salt. Mash lightly in a mortar & pestle to release the flavors.
What are your best tips for organizing an ever-growing collection of spice jars? Please send help (via the comments.)