September 2013 archive

The Fake Pantry

I can only drool over the shelter magazine tips and suggestions for kitting out and organizing one’s pantry. I can’t even imagine how lovely it must be to have an entire closet or specialized section of cabinets for a pantry.

I have a kitchen that is a good size, but was built with only half of it finished with cabinets, counters, etc.

The other side is pretty useless, but I’ve added a bookshelf to act as my pantry. It’s ugly, but it works for storage, sort of.

My main beef with it is that the shelves are just deep enough for things to get easily lost and overlooked.

I strive to minimize this irritation by grouping like things with like (cereals, crackers, pastas, type of canned goods) and by putting things that might spill or spoil quickly into see-through plastic containers.

I wish I could say that I rotate the contents of the shelves regularly, so that newer items are stored at the back and I never miss an expiration date, but I don’t always remember to do that.

If I ever got very inspired, I would put sturdy hanging shelves on the wall, measured to be the depth of whatever the largest item is to be stored on them, e.g., a spices shelf, a canned soup shelf, a cereal boxes shelf.

But for now… it’s the cheap laminate white bookshelf pantry for me.  ;   )

The Dust Gorillas Under the Bed

I used to live in some very small spaces, where the area under the bed was truly one of the only “extra” storage spaces in the house. And I know that a lot of organizing tips include ways to maximize this “hidden” storage space. Bed risers, plastic boxes, off-season items… you’ve probably read the tips, right?

But I hate using the area under the bed for storage. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, I much prefer to have this space empty.


Because it’s all too hard to access, all too easy to forget what I’ve got under there, and it’s all too difficult to clean, resulting in a breeding ground for dust gorillas.

The House Binder

I’ve found it helpful to use a big three-ring binder to keep track of household-related projects and information. We keep the binder on a shelf in our kitchen, centrally located and easy to find.

Our house binder has sections for:

  • The paint colors used in each room
  • Contact info for service companies we use (lawn, sprinkler, electrical, etc.)
  • Manuals for the small and large appliances in the house
  • Yearly schedules for trash pickup & recycling, as well as the scheduled extra large collection days and instructions on what can and cannot be picked up in the trash or recycling
  • To do lists of projects & dream ideas for various rooms
  • Take-out menus from nearby restaurants

The binder can be used to store quick information on anything you feel is related to your home. You could use it to keep track of neighbors’ contact information; store extra keys; information for house-sitters … whatever makes sense to you.

Quick Tips: Library Books

The library is a great resource for anyone who loves to read, or who has a voracious reader or two in their family. But it can sometimes be a challenge keeping track of all the books that have been checked out, to make sure that they all make it back to the library.

You can try limiting the number of books checked out at a time, if that helps. It’s also a good idea to have a single main location where the books that are not being read and/or that are ready to go back to the library are kept. A single shelf on a bookshelf, for example. Or a basket in a central location, where books that are ready to be returned can be put. It’s easy to grab the basket and take it to the library while out running errands. Just take care that the basket doesn’t become a catch-all for other items too!

I Love Labels

Labels… mmmm.

They really do help keep things organized, because they make it so easy for everyone to maintain a system. Use words or symbols or a combination of the two… the possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the size of the labels.

To get you started, Sarah Hearts has created some printable pantry labels and included tips on how to tackle organizing your kitchen pantry or cupboards.

If you don’t mind buying a specific brand of labels, Worldlabel has quite a selection of label designs.

Have fun!

Organizing Under the Kitchen Sink

I once read that when people tour houses for sale, it’s likely that a man will look under the kitchen sink, so it’s a good idea to have it in ship-shape condition.

Personally, I can’t stand to delve into the cupboard under our sink, but Organizing Made Fun has me considering giving it a go, with a really inspiring post with eleven different ways that folks have organized that area.

It seems to me that some of those ideas would translate well to a bathroom sink cabinet as well… I’m especially fond of the idea of a pull-out tray or drawer for these hard to reach into spaces.

The Language of Organizing ‘Zines

Got to love the forceful and militaristic, yet also reassuring, language used in some of these organizing magazines. I’ve put some examples at the end of this post.

The words make it seem that you will be going into battle against the clutter… but in an easy, quick, and foolproof way. Heh.

In my experience, organizing generally just takes time, energy, and a bit of dusty work. And the willingness to let go of items you don’t need or use. But it’s worth it in the end.

Take Charge – Maximize – Cut Clutter – Conquer – Foolproof – Easy – Quick


Excess Packaging

For years now I’ve been growing ever more annoyed with the amount of packaging that virtually everything comes in. It is truly a huge source of clutter and trash and recycling. This has been brought home to me even more as I begin my basement declutter project and find that a lot of what is down there is empty packaging! Boxes, folders, envelopes, styrofoam, bubble wrap, and the list goes on.

I don’t have a good solution for it, except to try avoid bringing so much into the house in the first place, which is really difficult in this individually-wrapped-three-times era. Of course, keeping on top of breaking down boxes and bags and getting them out of the house and into the recycling bin pronto would help, too!

Sometimes we’ve kept boxes in case of needing to return a product, or for the information printed on it. I like this idea from Organization Quest on cutting off just the portion of the box needed to provide information and carefully stowing these bits away. I’ve started doing it, too.

There are days when I think that taking a very drastic approach might be best, but I really don’t believe I’ll ever be able to come up to the Zero Waste Standard embodied by the family in this article from Sunset Magazine. But wow! I toss it out there as inspiration.

What an amazing result for all this family’s efforts. What absolute buy-in on the part of everyone involved. My hat’s off to them. I imagine, like all things, even if you have a strong commitment from all family members, forming the habit is the most difficult part of the process.

The family has its own blog about their Zero Waste Home. And there is a book… in the spirit of zero waste, if you buy it, consider passing it on when you are done. Or you could always try my favorite source… the public library!

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