Use an organization scheme from inventory management: IDs or SKUs.
Number the spice jars 1 to 100, for example.
Then track them in a spreadsheet. Makes it very easy to find exactly what you need. "I need jar 5, 19, 20, and 41 for this recipe." (If you can't identify spices on sight, you might need to put the name on the jar too).
I use a 6-column spreadsheet, like so:
- ID. NAME. FORM. DATE. NOTES. REORDER. *
- ID 7. Chili. WHOLE. Jan 2012. Ancho (hot!). YES.
- ID 8. Chili. GROUND. Jan 2012. Aleppo (very hot!).
- ID 9. Cilantro. WHOLE SEED. Dec 2011.
- ID 12. Cinnamon. GROUND. Mar 2012.
- ID 15. Cinnamon. STICKS. Mar 2012. YES.
- ID 16. Cloves. GROUND. Apr 2011.
- ID 18. Cloves. WHOLE. Mar 2012. YES.
- ID 21. Cocoa. POWDERED, Mar 2010. Dutch-process; great for hot cocoa!
ID. Makes it easy to find the spice you need. "I need jar 10." It also means you can skip the alphabetizing and/or grouping of spices. Cinnamon right next to the onion flakes? No problem! Much easier to organize 5, 6, 7 than by spice name.
FORM. Helps me grab the "cinnamon sticks" not the "powdered cinnamon", the "whole cloves" not the "ground cloves".
DATE. Let's me know how old, as some spices lose much of their flavor after a few weeks/months. If it's old, I consider using more (or replacing it).
NOTES. Can contain just about anything, like "SAFFRON IS VERY EXPENSIVE. USE SPARINGLY!!!"
The spreadsheet helps with re-ordering too. I just copy/paste the name into Penzey's website (http://www.penzeys.com) and I easily find what I need to reorder.
You can add fields to the spreadsheet, like the product number at Penzey's for "Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Black Peppercorns". That definitely helps when it's time to reorder.