Oct 31, 2013

31 Day Challenge Wrap Up

We did it! Okay, so I missed one day. But I'm going to let it slide.

I never expected to do so much during this month. I thought I'd might post some tips on how to get and keep things organized, but it ended up being a near whole house organizational clean out.

I have never, ever felt so good about my house than I do right now. Seriously, ya'll. I can't get over it. We had some family over for dinner Monday night and I told Bryan that I was kind of disappointed that no one realized how good it looked. In truth, most of the looking good is not as visible to anyone but Bryan and I. No one would notice the little changes we've accomplished besides us.

This house just feels good. It has room to breathe.

The best part is that I know what we have and where. I feel ready to conquer the holidays.

What I found most interesting this month was how one little change often sparked more changes. Bryan was spurred on to do some cleaning up, and then one project would lead or encourage me to do another. Rooms that I thought were done have evolved so much during this time. My closet (now closet/office) and Bryan's office (former office/guest room - update on that coming soon) have changed the most. We worked on them both a good bit yesterday.

Here are a few key tips to remember when you tackle any organizational project:
- Clear the space. Whether it's a drawer, cabinet, or closet take everything out.
- Touch everything. As you are taking it out take a second to touch and think about each item you are removing. Do you use it? Do you love it? If no to both, you should probably toss or donate the item.
- It feels good to let go. Great Aunt Martha may have left you that blanket, but if you aren't using it and you don't really care for it, let it go. You'll feel really good once you do.
- Small changes can spark big changes. Bryan and I were both inspired to keep going. Positive change feeds more positive change.

I hope you enjoyed following along with me. Please come back to visit! I love to talk food, Memphis, and design here along with some family updates.

Oct 30, 2013

Mail Organization

Today's the last organizational post of the 31 Day Challenge, tomorrow I'll do a wrap up. This is sort of bittersweet!

"Mail! It was called mail!" Name that movie!

(You've Got Mail, it's my favorite.)

Mail and paperwork are an area that many people struggle with. My mom included. (Hi, Mom!) This is not an area in which I struggle, so I thought I'd pass on my process.

Our mail carrier usually puts our mail in a small box just outside our front door, which happens to be about two feet from our recycle bin. I stand there for a second flipping through the mail to see if anything needs to immediately go to recycling. I'm sure you all have mail like this. Grocery flyers, oil change postcards, and other direct mail rarely make it into our house.

I take in what wasn't tossed out inside. I typically process our mail by standing at the corner of our island. I'm one step from the trash can and just in front of our "junk drawer" where I keep our letter opener. (I always thought those things were silly until I started using them at work to open the copious amount of mail. Now it's one of my favorites. I open ALL THE MAIL! even if its not mine!)  I zip the little opener through all the envelopes and start making piles.

Pile 1 - Bills and things that need attention
Pile 2 - Bryan's mail
Pile 3 - trash

Once sorted the trash goes into the trash can and I deposit Bryan's mail on top of his dresser. If I don't have time to handle any paperwork at that moment I leave it on top of my dresser. We both take time about once a week to clear off these spaces.

This mail process takes maybe 2-3 minutes. Not long at all. It's so much easier to process the mail each day instead of letting it pile up and then taunt you.

How do you handle your mail?

Oct 29, 2013

Linen Storage

Most people probably have a linen closet. When you live in a house built in 1920 with three very small closets you don't have that luxury. So we have a linen trunk that lives at the foot of our bed.

Here's a peak inside:

We keep spare sheets and blankets in here. I took everything out to take inventory of what we have.

There were several old sets of sheets, blankets, and comforters that I don't use anymore and decided to just throw away. (They were not in donate-able shape!) I kept one or two flat sheets to use as drop clothes for paint projects or creating forts.

One the left hand side I put all our casual throw blankets, in the middle the drop clothes, and to the right I put our unused duvet for the down comforter (which is rarely used, but still in good shape), decorative pillows, extra pillow cases, and the winter blanket on top. We will need that in the next month or two so I left it easily accessible.

It didn't take long, but it was long overdue. How do you store your linens?

Oct 28, 2013

Hostess Organization

I didn't really know what to title this. What do you call the drawers/cabinets where you store all your table clothes, place mats, napkin rings, serving platters?  We have a demi-loom table in our dining room where I keep all this stuff. One drawer holds tissue paper and salt and pepper shakers, another holds platters of all shapes and sizes, and then the middle drawer holds placemats, table clothes, coasters, and napkin rings. It always gives me trouble

Recently I moved all the cloth napkins to our kitchen island and that has helped some. But still, it's kinda a mess.

Stuff is just jammed in there and it makes finding a specific item a hassle. It also makes me not want to change my place mats.

Confession: We are hosting a family dinner tonight so this is a two-for! I get to complete my challenge AND set the table. Winning!

First I pulled everything out and laid it on the table to see what I've got.

Hmm... why do I always feel like I don't have any place mats? Clearly I've got plenty.

I decided what I needed for my party tonight and put that to the side. Then I started putting in the placemats. I put in the off season ones first so they are at the bottom. Then I started stacking. On top of the place mats I laid out the table clothes.  On the sides I put the coasters and napkin rings.

Cat approved!

Here's my table so far. I think I need a few candles or vases or something. That shall be this afternoons project.

When was the last time you went through these types of items? I feel like I have a better grasp of what I own and will now be prepared for the upcoming holiday season.

Oct 27, 2013

Book Organization

Bryan and I are readers. We love books. Books in the physical form. While I'll occasionally read an e-book on my iPhone for convenience sake, we both prefer a hardback. No e-readers in this house. The only downside of being a book lover is the storage situation.

We are both pretty good about getting rid of books, Bryan more so than me. My rule of thumb is that I didn't love it and don't think I'll read it again, it goes.

A few months ago we re-organized our main bookcase. We got rid of two large boxes of books.

I've always struggled between the function vs. aesthetic quality of the bookcase. Since this is in one of our main living areas I wanted it to look nice, but I also wanted to find a book if I needed it. Little Green Notebook came to the rescue and suggested organizing first by genre and then by color.  So that's what we did.

Granted, I know it's not the most gorgeous or well-styled bookcase. But in the end, it looks decent and I can find a book in a matter of seconds if needed.

How do you organize your books? Do you prefer function over aesthetics?

Oct 26, 2013

Bar Organization

Since it's Saturday I thought I'd take a look at our bar.

This is in the corner of our living/entry room. While we like to drink, mostly beer and sometimes wine, we have accumulated quite the stock pile of liquor and other bar paraphernalia. We don't really even have the space to mix a drink here if we wanted to.

Here are the drawers of this piece:

Paraphernalia and growl towels. Hmm... okay.

I started going through the drawers first. The drawer on the left is mostly bar stuff: openers, stoppers, cocktail napkins, and other things (mustache straw anyone?).  I got rid of a few things that were duplicates or things we didn't use.

The right drawer had some tea lights, growl towels, and cocktail recipes. I pulled out all the cocktail recipes and books because we weren't referencing them. I also removed the growl towels... I'm not sure where we will put them, but they don't belong here. In the office I had several boxes of various sized candles and I decided this would be the best home for them.  I also left the coasters, a deck of cards, and a tape measure. (It's quite handy to have a tape measure in several parts of the house... you never know when you might need to measure something.)

Here's what they look liked after:

Much better.

I sorted through the liquor and didn't really get rid of anything. Mostly just dusted and re-organized. (We need to drink some rum apparently. What's your favorite rum drink?) But on top I decided it was time to pair down. We really don't make cocktails at home very often. So we got rid of one cocktail "set" and kept my grandparent's set that doesn't take up as much room. We also got rid of some of the wine glasses from the vineyards we visited last summer.

We actually have room to mix a drink here if we wanted to! (And yes, Mom, I know I need to polish the silver!)

It's funny because when I first started thinking about areas I wanted to organize for the 31 Day Challenge I didn't even consider this area. It's one area I considered just fine. But I've found through this project that sometimes you need to take a second look and really consider each item and each space. As I was thinking about working on this space Bryan mentioned that he'd like to mix a cocktail here sometime. I hadn't even thought about it. I'm glad we were able to sacrifice just a few things (can you call it sacrifice if you weren't even using the items?) to make it a more usable space.

Okay, so who wants a drink?

Oct 25, 2013

Office Organization: Part III

This morning I spent about twenty minutes going through one last problem area of our office: the corner by the printer and filing cabinet.

Bryan didn't really want to help this morning so I just asked him about every single item until I had cleared out the space. We have a problem with boxes in this room. Bryan reps for three different lines and we are always receiving boxes each week from one vendor or another of samples, giveaways, catalogs, or any other number of things. I cleared out five boxes from this one little area! 

We made a pile of items to take to our storage unit, added some things to our donate pile, and put like things together. Of the items that needed to stay in the office (spare hangers, electronic samples, and giveaways) we stacked in a logical manner against the wall.

It may not look like much but this is a huge improvement. Ignore the big lumps on the bed. Those are his current samples that need to be hung back up. He had an event last night and his rolling rack is currently out in the car.  I love how open the room feels right now! 

I still need to work on the other three filling drawers, but hey, at least that's shut away! 

Oct 24, 2013

Office Organization Part II

Day two of the office organization! This project has been much different than most organizational projects. I have total control/say over the rest of the house, but this is the one area where I have to defer. Since Bryan runs his sales rep business through this room I'm not even sure what most of this stuff is!

This morning, before starting our work day (or even finishing our coffee) I asked that we spend some time working on one of the problem areas. We spent about 30 minutes going through this one corner of the room.

Here are some takeaways from business organization I learned:
- Sometimes it's not as easy as toss/keep/donate. Most of the items we weren't sure about we have to follow up on. Is this item still current? Do we need to return it to the manufacturer?
- Clutter happens because there isn't a system. I love Bryan, but he does not have the best organizational skills. We talked about some ways we can implement new systems to keep clutter at bay.

I don't have any before/after pictures for you today, but the area is currently looking a little better. The room as a whole is not yet. In fact, if you looked at it as a whole, it might look worse. But we're making strides.

Oct 23, 2013

Office Organization: Part I

Yesterday I mentioned that we are starting to work on our office/guest room situation. Here's what we're working with: 

Yeah, it's not good. This isn't even the worst it's been. It's actually in decent shape! 

So for today's post I spent about 30 minutes clearing off the top of the filing cabinet (the picture above was actually taken after that portion), straightening up the organizer on top of the desk and going through four out of seven drawers. Three drawers are Bryan's and he wasn't at home during this organizational frenzy. I didn't want to go through his things without him. 

I also spent some time on the side table where we keep paper. 

I don't have an after picture for you because it doesn't even look that much better. But I know it's a little better. Hopefully this weekend Bryan and I can spend some time together really going through this room. Since it's primarily his space I feel like he needs to be involved. 

I hope to make this room function and look better eventually. We've talked about the possibility of not having the bed in here to give Bryan more space. I'd still like to have some sort of guest bedding option, probably a sleeper sofa, but until we can find a decent looking and affordable one, the bed stays. 

Oct 22, 2013

Paperwork Organization

In my original plan for this project I was going to be focusing on the living areas this week (magazines, DVD, and book storage) but that sounds boring to me right now and honestly, I need to be focusing on our office situation right now.

Since I started this project our working situation has changed and now we're both at home. Bryan part time, me full time. I'm loving this change, but being at home and working with Bryan in his business just highlights how badly our office needs help. So we'll be focusing in this room for a few days at least.

First up, our files! For the first few years of marriage I was pretty good about cleaning our the files at the beginning of each year. I'd put away the previous years bills and paperwork in the attic with the other years. But I sort of let it slide the last two years. Whoops!

So I took out all the files and started pulling out anything that wasn't 2013. Our financial and personal files are a bit more complicated than they were just a few years ago so I decided to come up with a new system.

Green files for financial information: bank accounts, 401k's, stock, etc
Yellow for bills - I decided to keep this close to the front as both green and yellow are the most often filed.
Red for important stuff: car information, 2013 tax information, etc
Blue for pay stubs
Orange in the back for miscellaneous stuff like a file on our house or for travel clippings.

Behind the files I keep an envelope for recipes for the year. Further in the back in our deep, deep filing cabinet is files for our neighborhood association (of which we are presidents), and files I keep of wedding and shower invitations.

It feels so much better to have the paperwork contained!

Oct 21, 2013

Cookbook Organization

We're moving towards the end of the 31 Day Challenge. It's kinda sad. This last week or so we'll be focusing on some more random areas. Today: Cookbooks!

I know, after all my recipe organization talk the other day, I have still more recipes! It's a sickness, really.

We started out with this bookcase in our kitchen when we first moved in. A few years ago it moved to the dinning room, just outside the kitchen, when we got the kegerator. It still holds most of our cookbooks.

Earlier this year we had an addition built onto our kitchen island which added some more cookbook storage.

I haven't really developed a system for this new space. Other than keeping my recipe binders and most used cookbooks here.

I started off by straightening up. Moving the cookbooks from the kitchen to where they belong and going through some odds and ends in the main shelf.

Here's what we're working with now:

Obviously I didn't do much here. My goal today was not to whittle through all the cookbooks, but just make it look a little nicer. My last cookbook organization I organized by type and then my state for many of my regional cookbooks.

We are trying to move away from using so many paper products (napkins, towels, etc) so I moved our cloth napkins to the kitchen island so it's more accessible. We often eat dinner at the island so it's easy to grab.

On the bottom shelf I've got my recipe binders, a cookbook I made of some of our favorite recipes, How to Cook Everything, and the cookbooks I've been cooking from the most lately. I love having this shelf here because it keeps the books handy, but still out of the way.

Thinking about: Wood Tablescapes

First of all, sorry for the lack of 31 Day Challenge post yesterday. It was one of those times where I should have been working ahead of schedule and had one in the hopper. But alas... we took a sick day and it was exactly what my body and soul needed. I'll have a post up this afternoon, but in the mean time...

Yesterday Eddie Ross posted the following photos on Instagram:

Do you follow Eddie? His work always leaves me inspired and thinking for days about how I can translate that into my home or table.

So for the last 12 hours I've pretty much thought of nothing but using wood scraps in a tablescape. Let me list the reasons this is silly for you:
1) We aren't even hosting a major holiday anytime soon. We'll even most likely be out of town for Thanksgiving
2) Where would we get this wood
3) Even if we got the wood we don't have the tools to cut it or burn in the cute designs

Never the less.... even if you didn't want to commit to the wood chargers, what about wood coasters? Or a center piece? Or napkin rings?

I could probably spend half a day looking at pictures on Pinterest and Houzz just on this theme alone. And for productivity sake, I won't. But its fun to think about.

What has been inspiring you lately? Does anyone else spend hours thinking about a tablescape you'll never put together?

Oct 19, 2013

Kitchen Organization: Meal Planning and Recipe organization

Today I thought I'd talk about how I organize my recipes and meal plans. It's not a big before/after organizational project, but I find it helpful and know that it's an area many people struggle with.

Meal Planning
A couple years ago I started meal planning on a regular basis. Before I'd have a general idea of what I might want to cook for the next day or two, but no real plan. I got tired of multiple trips to the grocery store a week and the constant wondering "what's for dinner?"

So over the weekend I come up with a plan. I start off by looking at the week ahead's schedule. What will we be working? Do we have any social engagements? Having an idea of what will be going on helps you plan in advance. We have regular Wednesday night activities so we decided that would be our night to get a quick cheap meal out. I generally plan on 4 meals for the week which gives us some leftovers for lunch and then room for spontaneous dinners out with friends or a date night.

Next Bryan and I think about what we are craving. He's not actively involved in the process, but I always like to ask him if there is something he wants in the coming week. Sometimes he has something he'd like and sometimes he doesn't. I also like to check the weather. Especially around this time of year when it can vary pretty drastically. Is a cool spell coming up this week? Maybe a stew would be nice.

Lastly to fill in the gaps I look at recently pinned or favorited recipes from my favorite food blogs. As a food lover it's usually not difficult for me to come up with a few ideas. I just try to make sure there is a balance of different types of meats, grains, and veggies. If we have a roast one night I'm not going to plan another beef dish for the week, unless its something different or several days later.

I like to grocery shop on the weekend. In the last year I've made it more of a point to go to the farmer's market. So I'll make my meal plan either Friday nights or Saturday morning over coffee. We hit up the farmer's market for what we can get there and what looks good. (Usually I'll have a meal or two where I've got a meat dish and I'll serve one or two seasonal veggies that look good at the market.)  Next I go to the local, small grocery. They sell fruits and veggies, some milk, and a few dried goods. I've found they are a lot cheaper and fresher than our grocery. I buy what I can there before finally going to the big chain grocery store. You don't have to make it as complicated as that, but that's what works for me.

I love starting off the week armed with a fridge and pantry full of groceries and a plan.

Recipe Organization
If you are anything like me you have a gazillion recipes saved in one form or another. When I first got married and had to start cooking, I printed off a bunch of recipes. I'd collect them from family members, friends, and websites. These quickly piled up and I needed a way to organize them.

I separated them into categories (appetizers, veggies, pasta, etc) and put them in binders. It was kind of amazing how quickly they grew out of control. So I decided to save a couple of trees and stop printing every recipe that looked halfway interesting.

Now I wrangle my recipes in a Google Doc. Organized in the same way I link to the recipe in the document. When I've tried a recipe I write a note about it beside the title and change the font color. That way I can tell what I've made and what I haven't at a glance.

There are other ways you can digitally organize your recipes, whether its saving it to a recipebox on recipe websites or pinning to your Pinterest board. I encourage you to find a way that works for you and stick with it.

So now that you've read more than you wanted to know about meal planning and recipe organization, how do you deal with these issues? Do you meal plan? Or do you have an interesting way to organize recipes? I'd love to hear about it!

Oct 18, 2013

Weekly Links

This was downright disturbing to me on so many levels. Mainly because it rang true with me. Given our recent change in circumstances we will be modifying our habits already. But some food for thought. Is our bigger houses and more stuff good for us?

"When you have a sharp mind you have everything." Alzinia. Let's get a group together to make a reservation next summer!

Ya'll! I just found out about The Bitter Southerner. How am I just now finding out about this?!

The Top 25 Food Memoirs ... I just added a few of these to my to-read list. I've read 5 of these so far.

Kitchen Organization: The Pantry

When we moved into our house one of the things I loved about the house was the pantry. In our previous apartment we had zero pantry storage. Yes, zero. We quickly managed to fill up our pantry. Here's a post from 2010, a little over a year after we moved into our house. I had totally forgotten how bad it had gotten. 

Since that organizational project I've tried to clean it out about once a year. The last time was just this past January so I knew it wouldn't be too bad this go around. 

Here's what it looked like when I started: 

And the after: 

Nothing too dramatic. I just straightened things up and got rid of expired items. Over the years I've developed "homes" for pantry staples so I didn't really revise that. 

When was the last time you cleaned out your pantry? 

Oct 17, 2013

Kitchen Organization: Under the Sink

Today we're tackling the area under the sink. I view it as sort of a black hole of cleaning products and other random household things.

Here's the space:

There are literally things in here from the previous home owner. We've lived here five years in December. It's shameful.

If I had money to spend I would have bought some new liner to line the bottom of the cabinet. Probably something fun and pretty. And possibly some nice containers or drawer or something.  But we are doing this on a $0 budget and just using what we have. Somewhere down the line though... I don't view this time as a waste though. Going through what we have and clearing out the space lets me become aware of what we have and what would work in the space for us.

Like all good organizational projects I cleared everything out first. Take this time to wipe down the surfaces and wonder in amazement how the inside of cabinets can get so filthy. Seriously... will someone please tell me how this happens?

Okay. So we're cleared out and wiped down. Time to load back in.

On the right hand side I have an organizing tool on the door for ziplock bags and aluminum foil and such. So I have to take that into consideration. I put very seldom used (if ever) items in the back here. Draino and bug stuff. It's there when we need it, but not taking up precious easy-to-reach space. I also put one of two fire extinguishers here - in case of a fire on that side of the room.  I keep a little dish of extra dish scrubby things down here so that it keeps them out of the sink.  I also keep a small watering can down here for houseplants.

On the left hand side I put the other fire extinguisher right up front - just in cases. Behind it is the seldom, but sometimes used stainless steel cleaner. Next to that I put our dishwasher pods. These are often used and it is right next to the dishwasher. Don't you just love when things are together that are used together? I do. Bryan recently requested a bin for his shower cleaning supplies. We loaded that up with what he likes to use and put it down here. Behind and around this are other housecleaning sprays. I'm trying to use up what we already have so that eventually we'll only have one or two. Behind the shower caddy is a small bowl with extra scrubbies that have not be used yet.

It doesn't look like much, but it's better than what we started with. The best part is that there are no longer any previous owner cleaning products lingering down there. It's only our junk now!

Oct 16, 2013

Kitchen Organization: The Fridge

I'm not going to lie, ya'll. I was dreading this day. Our fridge was nasty. It needed to be cleaned so badly. You know when things reach a certain point and you just want to give up? Yeah, I was past that point.

But for the sake of this challenge I powered through. Here's where we started:

From a distance it doesn't look too bad, just cluttered.

Here's the after:

Much better! What you can't see is how clean it is now. There were some pretty nasty spills and stuff going on in there.

Alright, so here's how I clean the fridge:
- Pick a place to start, either doors or interior
- Start at the top and work your way down
- Remove everything from each area.
- While you've got it in your hand check the best by date. If you are past that date, go ahead and toss (or recycle).
- Wipe down empty surface.
- Once the area is clean, start putting things back in a logical manner.

For me I like to put leftovers that need to be eaten first at the top and the more recent stuff at the bottom. We don't necessarily eat it in that order, but its like a mental clue to eat it up first.

I keep vegetables in one drawer and meat in another. Occasionally one will overflow into the other, but for the most part I like to keep them segregated.

For the record: those aren't our Natty Lites. They are my in-laws who like to keep a stash at our place. I'm kind enough to give them fridge space... sometimes.

So there you have it. Our clean fridge. I feel better now. When was the last time you cleaned your fridge? Any horror stories?

Oct 15, 2013

Kitchen Organization: The Freezer

Good afternoon! Today I tackled the freezer. I was sort of dreading this thinking it would take a lot of time, but I think it only ended up taking me about 20 minutes. Which is also exactly the amount of time it took before the freezer started beeping at me.

Here's the blurry before:

I started on the door and worked my way down. Looking at everything and deciding if it's a) still edible and b) something I'd enjoy if defrosted. Anything that didn't make the cut gets tossed.

Here's the after. It's really not much to look at! But here's how I organized it:

Top shelf: frozen herbs and citrus, pesto
Second shelf: vegetable scraps. Once this bin is full I make a stock!
Third shelf: bacon jam and frozen concentrates
Bottom shelf: ham hocks and pecans

Top shelf over ice: frozen basil and stocks
Second shelf: frozen veggies in the back, fancy ice, ice packs and ice cream up front
Third shelf: bolognese sauce and a lasagna
Small Drawer: soups
Middle drawer: rolls, meats, sauces, and grits
Bottom drawer: ice cream maker bowl, peas, and cooked meats

It may not look like much, but it's better than when I started. The best part is now I have an idea of what I actually have available. Which means that we can have a few meals out of the freezer soon!

I also took a few minutes to clean up the doors. They were looking like this:

And now they look like this:

So much better!

1/2 Way There - checking in on fall goals

Ya'll, did you know that it's October 15th and I consider that about halfway through fall! I don't consider December "fall" because that's the start of Christmas/Holiday season. So I thought I'd check in this morning on how I'm doing with my fall goals so far.  I'll have a 31 Day Challenge post up this afternoon.

- Find, buy, and read a book on prayer. I bought A Praying Life and have read about 100 pages. It has been great so far and I'm excited to work my way through it. 

- Finish the bible study book my mom gave me last fall. I've done one or two chapters. Definitely a week or so behind now. Will try to make time for it this afternoon if possible. 

- Don't buy anything new for myself - unless it's skinny jeans. Failed already. I bought a skirt from J. Crew and a cookbook. Given our new budget cuts, this shan't be happening again! 

- Buy/make/hang curtains in the dining room. Last week I met my mom and we bought curtain rods! We are almost there! Now just have to figure out fabric, make and hang them. Halfway there! 

- Finish reading my camera manual. No progress... whoops!

- Make a major dent in December gift shopping. Doing pretty good so far... Not done, but probably nearly halfway. 

- Work up to completing 1 1/2 hours of yoga per week. The last week or two has not been good. But I did do an hour and a half one of the first weeks. 

- Write somewhere (whether here or a journal or even a post it note) something to be thankful for each day in November. I feel like the 31 Day Challenge is setting me up for this one. After reorganizing most of the house, writing something I'm thankful for should be a piece of cake! 

- Food goal: No theme but I do want to make the following:
Banana bread - check! 
vegetable lasagna
one last sangria
chili - Check!

How are you doing with your goals? 

Oct 14, 2013

Kitchen Organization: Keeping it Spicy

I was going to do a bigger project today -either cleaning out the fridge or pantry- but seeing as my kitchen now looks worse than yesterday, I decided to keep it lighter. So we're organizing spices.

When we first moved in I decided to utilize this weird space behind the oven as spice storage. I bought glass spice jars from World Market and Ikea so that they'd all look the same and be pretty.

But over the last few years I've significantly added to the spice collection and it's gotten a bit out of hand.

(Sorry for the blurry photos... I have no excuse other than the idea of using a tripod makes me want to gag.)

So I took everything out in all my spice hiding areas. (Yeah, I keep another bin in the pantry too.)

I whipped down the areas that were incredibly gross. This is definitely an area I need to improve my cleaning skills in.

At first I was kind of stumped as to where to begin. So I put spice mixes together and then alphabetized the regular spices.  Before putting your spices away take a minute to whip down the bottles (if you are like me and don't dust your spices!) and then open and sniff them. Do they smell like the spice it once was? If not, time to toss.

Some cooking experts will tell you that spices only have a shelf life of 3-6 months. There is truth in that, but most of us can't afford to replace all their spices 2-4 times a year. So I go by the sniff test. There were several spices I totally tossed out.

I started putting up the single spices on the wooden rack as it holds more. I decided on alphabetically because it's just easier for me to find coriander that way. The button shelf of this little rack is a little shorter so I used some clean, empty glass jars for these spices.  I'd really love to get some cute washi tape for labels, but that's not in the cards right now. So I used some thin post it notes for now.

Behind the stove I put my staples (olive oil, salt, and pepper) along with the blends (herbs de Provence, Greek and Italian, etc). It doesn't look great, but hey, it's more accessible.

Through this process I was able to empty some of the glass jars and after they get washed I might transfer the mixes to pretty jars. We shall see.

How do you store your spices?

Oct 13, 2013

Kitchen Organization: Gotta Start Somewhere

Good morning! Welcome to my kitchen!

This week we are focusing our energy on the kitchen. I didn't have a post pre-written and scheduled this morning, so it was kind of perfect when I woke up and stumbled in to start making the coffee and it looked like this.

Yup, can definitely use some help. In my defense, it does not normally look this bad. Last night we had the in-laws over for dinner and after dinner I totally just zonked out so there was no clean up action.

So here's what's going on:
-dirty dishes in and around sink, on the counter top, on the stove top
- recycling bin overflowing
- drying herbs over the window have fallen and need to be put back up
- crackers left on the counter
- pets scurrying around my feet (unpictured) begging to be fed

Today I'm taking a few minutes to clean up, put up, and do some light tidying. Tomorrow we shall start tackling the big stuff!

Oct 12, 2013

Impromptu Organization

Sometimes an impromptu organization project just happens. Like yesterday afternoon. I should back up...

I love shopping estate sales and auctions. You can find some really cool stuff. A few years ago a local florist and gift shop closed and they had an auction to get rid of many of the remaining products and old equipment. One of the items I bid on and won was a box full of tissue paper and ribbon. I wasn't able to go to the inspection so I only saw a picture online when I bid. When I arrived to pick up my winnings I was surprised to find a really large box with more ribbon than I could possibly use.

That box has made several trips to/from the attic and has been residing in our guest room/office for the last 9 months. The other day Bryan mentioned something about doing something else with it and I had been pondering how to store all that ribbon every since. I want to be able to see the ribbon and easily identify what's available and what its appropriate for my need. Sitting in the box, I hadn't even attempted to go through it all the way. It just wasn't possible.

So yesterday afternoon I had some time and energy on my hands and decided to start digging. I took everything out of the box and created piles based on the colors: golds, silvers, whites, black, reds, and colors.

I decided the easiest and most low cost way to organize them for now would be on wire hangers. So I got out my needle nose pliers and started untwisting.

I put them on the hangers also by colors.  When this project is completed they will be stored in the guest bedroom closet.

I still have more ribbon than I can possibly use, but at least now that I can see what I have I will be able to use it. I'm also brainstorming ways that I can either sell or giveaway what I don't need.

Anyone need 3 rolls of black curling ribbon?