Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kitchen Clutter Busters

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home. And ya know what? I think they're right.

It's where we entertain, gather for family dinners and grab snacks and drinks throughout the day. In most houses, it's the central hub of activity - yet many kitchens are neglected in the organization department. This doesn't make any sense to me.

Why wouln't everyone want to run their kitchen like a restaurant kitchen, with everything labeled, inventoried and in its correct place? We should all take a cue from our favorite eateries and get with the program. Everything should have a designated place, preferably inside of a labeled storage container, so there is no confusion as to where something's "home" is.

I'm still in the process of getting my kitchen up to par, because unlike a restaurant, I'm not making any kind of profit by whipping up my meals. So I'm taking it piece by piece, but I've come up with some pretty good (and cheap) solutions so far.

My freezer is my secret weapon. Here's a peek inside:

All I did was purchase eight of these baskets at the dollar store, and print out "labels" on the computer. It's just a Word document I printed out with all of my food categories, and I cut and taped them to each basket.

I can go two baskets deep on the middle shelves, and one deep on the top and bottom shelves, for a total of eight.

The categories I included are:
  • Smoothie packs (I make pre-made baggies of frozen fruit for smoothies)
  • Desserts (Ice cream, popsicles, etc.)
  • Snacks & meals (for Hot Pockets, TV dinners, etc.)
  • Veggies
  • Sides
  • Meat
  • And another "Meat"
  • I have an empty basket at the bottom for miscellaneous stuff

One tip when freezing things: Always freeze FLAT. See how nicely these Ziploc baggies of fruit fit into this basket? Even if you don't use baskets, you'll maximize your frozen real estate when you freeze ground meats, soups, sauces or anything else while laying flat. Then you can stack them, or slide them into a basket like so.
The main reason I did this freezer organization was to organize my frozen meats. We always buy in bulk and separate things into meal-sized portions, to pull out when we cook certain meals. It's so important to me to avoid wasting food as much as possible, so it's essential that I have a clear inventory of what we've got in stock! And it's really as easy as bundling all our meats into these two baskets, so I can easily pull them out and find what I need.
Now, onto some more clutter-busting organizational goodness around my kitchen:
Here's a look at how I organize my measuring cups and spoons. They were taking up too much room in the drawer, so I used these Command Hooks to hang them up nice and neat.
This really isn't that original, but an over-the-door spice rack is a must for every kitchen. I may venture into the magnetic spice tin zone at some point, but for now, this works just fine. Again, I used Command Hooks to hold this baby up. Using cabinet doors for storage is essential! Always look at your cabinet doors for possibilities, when your cabinets are getting a little too cluttered.
I love these stackable storage bins for our medicine cabinet! I bought four, and labeled them with four different categories:
  • Pain relief & cough/cold
  • Vitamins (I have a lot of prenatals!)
  • First Aid
  • Prescriptions/Misc.
This way, we can grab what we need, or pull out the bin we need and look through it. Before, it was a nightmare rifling through the mess of bottles and packets. Now it's so incredibly easy to find exactly what we need!

I hope to add more to this Kitchen Clutter Busters post, as soon as I finish more projects. My next goals are to get some nice containers for my pantry items and dry goods, to cut down on the store boxed items cluttering up my space.

Until next time!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

$60 Hall Closet Revamp

To put it nicely, our house is very cozy. (r.e. - small, at least downstairs).

I've already posted about my open floor plan, which I adore, but we do have some space constraints that force me to get creative when it comes to storage. We have one small coat closet downstairs and no pantry or storage closets, so I've had to use this closet to house all of our stuff that compiles and compounds over the years.

Not to mention, I'm bracing for much more stuff to pile up once the baby arrives (any day now!). The ugly, mis-matched state of affairs was pretty sad to look at so I needed to identify what purpose this space needs to serve.

Before I shock you with the ugly "before" picture, here is my pretty hall closet now:

But here it what it looked like before:

Pretty ugly, right?

So I broke things down into several main storage needs that must be filled:
  • My husband's work accessories (he's got a lot of gear, and always comes home with paperwork and notebooks that I cannot throw away! Argghhhh!)
  • My hudband's hockey stuff (same idea here - just a bunch of crap I can't throw away, and must be at the ready when he takes off for a game)
  • Games (these include board games, party games and accessories for our PS3, xBox, and that motion-sensor game thingey, including all cords and cables. Obviously I'm not a huge gamer.)
  • Batteries/Camera/Camera accessories. (no more searching through the house for the USB cable to upload pics, or for those AAA batteries you need in a pinch)
  • Toys! (we hardly have any yet, but I know we'll need a place to stash them downstairs when I want to do a quick tidy-up without running upstairs to the baby's room)
A quick trip to Target and a peek through the clearance, and I came up with this:

Now, think back to kindergarten when everyone had their own little cubby. That wasn't such a bad idea!

I bought nine of these canvas storage cubes for $6 each, and simply filled them up with our stuff.

To brighten things up a little more, I found these vibrant cards in the clearance end-cap of the greeting card section:

Then I just wrote with Sharpie on some sticky labels, slapped them on these cards (which I glued shut with a gluestick), and hot-glued the finished product to the front of my bins, like this:

Of course, I measured the width and depth of my shelves before buying these cubes. They happened to be 10x10, which fit my 30-inch shevles perfectly! And I love how the bright colors make this a much more cheerful space.

I needed bigger storage on the bottom shelf, so I re-used some old plastic bins we had and slapped some labels on those too.

I just love that everything has it's own little place!

My next goal is to remove the hanging DVD rack on the door, get some media file bins from The Container Store, and trash the bulky containers altogether. Once we start building up a movie collection for the little one, we will keep those in their cases so she can pick and choose what she wants to watch. But for our DVD collection, it's just too bulky and taking up valuable real estate on the inside of the closet door.

Down the road, I'm thinking we'll use another kind of over-the-door storage rack to corral kid stuff or other odds and ends. Oh, and I have a shoe rack and coat/purse hooks in the entry way, making the need for coats in my "coat closet" obsolete. Here's a pic:

And here's one more look at my cheap, quick and easy, $60 hall closet revamp:

Now it's on to the next project!