spices to me are by far the most important component when it comes to cooking. in fact, the first thing i do when moving into a new place or cleaning out my cabinets is run to a spice store or market and buy almost one of each of everything, simply just to have on hand. there is nothing worse than preparing a recipe and realizing you don't have a certain spice. and, yes, that has happened to me more times than i can count!
while many people simply substitute with something more common, i.e. salt and pepper, some recipes will utterly fail without the spices they call for. and considering i am a vegetarian, i really rely on those spices to achieve the complex tastes that i like.
having a variety of spices is also very inspiring, and encourages to try new things. of course i have the must-haves, but i also have all kinds of obscure spices and i am constantly exploring new cuisines at home.
the shelf life for ground spices is 6 months to a year , so make sure you toss anything that has been sitting in your pantry for years. the flavor components have probably dissipated, and it will do you no good when using them. when in doubt about a spice, just smell it, and if it smells strong and spicy, use it.
so since my cabinets are completely cluttered with spice bottles, i simply fell in love with this idea of placing the spices right in my face, as an everyday reminder to use them. and the best part is, i found the rack at ikea for $6.00. it only holds a fraction of my spices, but hey, at least it gives me some more room in my cabinets.