A Short Break from 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge

I wanted to apologize for my short break in the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge. The last couple of challenges as well as this week’s task are things that I have recently tackled anyway. That coupled with my frequent doctor’s appointments as I enter the last month of my pregnancy have kept me from blogging about the last few challenges. Hopefully I’ll be back on track in the next few weeks and if not then sometime after the new baby arrives. Those of you following my posts, please feel free to continue to tackle the challenges on your own and comment here about them.

 Week #5 Organized Home Challenge Organize Recipes And Cookbooks

 Week #6 Organized Home Challenge Trash And Home Recycling Center

 Week #7 Organized Home Challenge Organize Coupons

 

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52 Weeks to an Organized Home Week 4-Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer

While I felt like trying to organize my very full freezer was rather a lost cause I was willing to tackle this challenge anyway.

First challenge: clear the front of my fridge. This wasn’t exactly fully successful. While I do have a wall calendar where I make note of all of my appointments, I do obsessively keep my appointment cards. I also have some business cards that I like to keep close at hand. I plan to make or buy a French memo board to store these kinds of items in the near future, but so far I have to settle for keeping them in some organized way on the fridge. I’m also not a huge fan of picture cards on the fridge but I know that my husband and daughter really like them. Especially the pictures of relatives my daughter rarely sees. So again, I must settle for laying them out in an organized fashion. But I tried to make the front of the refrigerator look more presentable.

Organizing the inside of the fridge was difficult as well. I moved quickly, trying to avoid anything being left out too long. Fortunately we’d already disposed of most expired foods during the power outage we have last fall. But I quickly perused the leftovers collection to make sure there was nothing spoiled. I’m mostly trying to keep the bottom shelf as a leftovers zone, but I know it won’t always be that cut and dried. Again, I tried to clean quickly, but I know it isn’t as clean as it should be. Though at least it’s cleaner than it was. The refrigerator is about midway full as we are going grocery shopping at the end of the week and we only shop every two weeks.

My freezer was another challenge all together. I took out most the items and tried to find a way to arrange them better. Only major changes include putting all of the meat and all of the cheese together to make things easier to find. The box of Skinny Cow treats takes up quite a large space, but this is only temporary, as these are a special treat because they are compatible with my gestational diabetes diet. Mostly we already keep the frozen veggies in the door. I don’t like storing many things in the door at all, but it is easier to see what our stock of veggies is like when it can be seen so easily.

So now I have a reorganized fridge and freezer and we’ll see how long it will last. Sadly, I’m already finding counter clutter is coming back to haunt me and the dishes, compost and recycling are still prone to piling up. But I’m not ready to give up yet.

52 Weeks to an Organized Home Week 3-Organize Pantry Spices and Food Storage

This project is actually a natural segway for me, given that I tackled my Lazy Susan cabinet which is primarily used to storage can goods, as part of last week’s challenge. I usually sort through my pantry periodically but it seems to be in a continual state of chaos. This is especially unsightly because my pantry is completely open to the rest of kitchen (though I hope to remedy that eventually.)

I modified this challenge slightly. Since most of our pantry is visible and not more than one or two items deep I decided to dispense with the inventory. I know that I wouldn’t keep up with such a list so I’m focusing on keeping things organized. I threw out old food (mostly ancient granola my husband kept promising he was going to eat and some forgotten chocolate cookie crumbs). Then I organized items based on frequency of use and kind of item; putting frequently used items on lower shelves and grouping baking supplies together, etc.

My future action item regarding this portion of the challenge is to get large buckets to store my flour. I buy flour at Sam’s Club in 25 lb bags which I store on the bottom of my pantry. (You won’t see them in the picture because they are under the kitchen table, pushed up against the wall, along with infrequently used appliances like the ice cream maker.) I know that storing flour in bags is just asking for trouble, but I couldn’t find large enough buckets to store flour in. I have a few smaller containers that I use once the flour level has dropped below half in the bags, but nothing that will whole an entire 25 lb bag. The ones I find online are very expensive and that doesn’t even factor in the shipping costs. So for now I’ll have to continue with my ill advised methods, and keep looking for a long term solution. Fortunately, 25 lbs of flour doesn’t last a really long time at our house anyway.

I also organized the spice cupboard. I can’t reach the top shelf without a stool so I put rarely used items up there. Then I organized the two remaining shelves with the most frequently used items in the front, and trying to categorize a little bit. I also threw out any spices that hadn’t been used in several years or that we concluded we don’t like or give my husband indigestion. Now the trick is just keeping things as organized as they are at the moment. On we go to Week 4.

Pantry After

52 Weeks to an Organized Home Week 2-Kitchen Drawers & Kitchen Cabinet Organization

I could tell from the beginning that this was going to be a huge task. I have quite a few cabinets and drawers, most of them overflowing. I have reorganized these before, yet somehow it never seems to last long so this challenge was certainly going to it me where it hurt.

My most used cabinets are in a pretty organized state. But others, like the corner cabinet that stores plastic food storage gets pretty messy from time to time.  I decided to mark my cheap mark my cheap plastic food storage with permanent marker so that each container has a corresponding lid. Hopefully this will save a lot of time that I waste trying to find lids that match containers. This was also a good time to dispose of any containers that didn’t have lids. That cabinet has always been too full, so sorting it was a real challenge.  But I either recycled or donated things that don’t ever get used and rarely used items were relegated to the top shelf.

Before
Before

Under the kitchen sink. Now there is a wasteland of cleaning products. Dumping old cleaning products seems wasteful and unhealthy so as a result I have half empty bottles of so many different kinds of cleaners. Many are used for very few tasks (like Goo Gone) but crucial when needed so I can’t quite part with them. I’ve also developed a collection of reuseable cleaning rags. But now things are organized by frequency of use and either empty and mostly empty containers have been recycling. Plus my cleaning rags are nicely folded in the pile next to the appropriate cleaning products (dust rags in one pile, resuseable swiffer socks in another etc.)

 

After

 

After

Now you may not be able to tell from the picture, but I got rid of a lot of things in the corner cabinet so that mostly what you see is what is in there. That way there aren’t things stuffed way in the back that never get used and are completely forgotten.  As for the cabinet under the sink. Some of you may remember from a previous post that we strive to use very few paper towels. This roll under the sink currently represents the last roll in the house. We only use it for cooking bacon or other really unsanitary jobs where cleaning rags won’t do. I’m hoping to avoid replacing it for as long as possible. By having it under the counter, we aren’t tempted to grab a paper towel out of instinct when a rag will do and it gives me more space on my countertop.

While I didn’t have time to completely reorganize all of my cabinets (several of them were already fairly organized anyway), focusing on the worst offenders has made my kitchen more functional already.

52 Weeks to an Organized Home Week 1 – Kitchen Organization: Countertops and Sinks

Welcome to the results of Week 1 of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge

Step 1: Think about the function of your kitchen

Our kitchen doesn’t usually become a dumping ground for random items since it is at the back of the house. (The chaise lounge and/or dining room table are usually gifted that honor). It primarily serves as a place to prepare food, plan meals, serve meals and organize the family schedule. The biggest problem I have is dealing with my paper recycling. I know this sounds ridiculous but I find old sticky notes, envelopes and other loose paper throughout the day that usually forms a pile on the kitchen table. If my daughter doesn’t get to it first, eventually it is put in the recycling bin in the unfinished mudroom outside the backdoor. The problem is that in winter especially I am reluctant to open and close that door so many times, leading to serious heat loss. I have similar problems with our glass and plastic recycling which simply piles up on the kitchen counter until we finally deal with it.Our lack of counter space is a major problem as well. There are just far too many things on the counter and no other apparent place to put them. But I am willing to pursue alternate options as I head into this challenge.

Step 2: Create Usable Counter Space and Clear the Kitchen Table

In my kitchen this is easier said than done. It seems that as soon as a clear a space it is taken up with dirty dishes, items to recycle or other clutter. Things that don’t go in curbside recycling are the biggest culprit. Dark glass bottles and Styrofoam sit around for ages until we finally make a trip to the local recycling center.

Step 3: Consider Kitchen Storage Solutions to Help Clear Counter Space

I’m trying to take the articles advice and avoid giving valuable counter real estate to rarely used items. My big challenge right now: my cookbooks. I only have a few, but I also have loose recipes written on sticky notes and index cards that are simply filed in piles between larger cook books. I also have cooking magazines that I can’t quite part with even though I’ve already extracted any recipes that really interest me. In a perfect world all of my recipes would be in digital form, but I hesitate to use my laptop when my fingers are covered in flour or raw meat; assuming I could find a good location to use it in my kitchen anyway. I’m going to try to downsize my cookbooks and get a couple of folders to keep my loose recipes organized. That being said, I really don’t use most of them very often. Most of my favorite meals I prepare from memory. So the trick is to get them off of the counter but not entirely out of site.

Step 4: Create the Habit of Keeping Your Sink Clear of Dishes at Least Two Times Per Day

I am also trying to institute the new healthy habit of not leaving dishes in the sink over night. This is very hard for me, as I am usually exhausted by the time dinner is finished. But I figure that washing just a few dishes every night is better than devoting an hour or more to the task later in the week. Plus I don’t have to see the dirty dishes sitting there day after day. I’m hoping that by doing a quick clean up every night after dinner or before bed I can actually keep my kitchen clean for more than thirty seconds.

I’ll call this attempt a mixed success for multiple reasons. First, the budget does not allow for any addition storage solutions in kitchen, though I do plan to add a shade or curtain to my pantry once I find one I actually like that is within my budget. Second, upkeep will be my constant struggle. My kitchen gets messy really fast so constant vigilance is required. There are some long term solutions we are pursuing such replacing out microwave and toaster oven with under the cabinet mount models. But for now these are just goals we are saving for.

I’m using an old Clementine crate to store recycling that gets emptied every night. That way I have a place to put the items I come across throughout the day without going out back. I moved my cookbooks up to the ledge above the countertop and threw out the old cooking magazines since I had already pulled all my favorite recipes out of them. We do still keep a lot of fresh fruit out on the counter, but I can live with that as long as it looks decently organized. I moved the cloth napkins to the kitchen table and cleared off just about everything else. Now when we sit down to eat, we actually have the space to eat. Things can still get cluttered fast, but I’m hoping a few new innovations (such as the daily emptying of compost and recycling and doing dishes daily or every other day) will keep the clutter at bay. I have to say it’s already a great feeling to come downstairs in the morning with clean dishes and a clear countertop.

(My apologies for the lack of pictures in this post. In the future I will try to include before and after shots)

So far so good. It’s a challenge to keep up with the new anti-clutter habits, but already my kitchen looks better. On to Week 2: Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets

Inspired to Organize: Joining 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge

As this is the time of year we tend toward resolutions, I thought I would try for one of my own. Usually I am the type of person who has lots of plans for myself and within weeks I burn out. So the idea of tackling one project a week seemed attainable. Enter 52 Week to an Organized Home Challenge. Every Monday for the next 52 weeks I will receive and email challenging me to organize and area of my house. I know well I won’t complete all of these tasks. Partially because I don’t even have all the areas of the home this addresses (we live in small house) and we are expecting a baby in just 10 weeks. But sometimes it’s better to complete part of a great challenge like this than not to try at all. So stay tuned for news and hopefully pictures too about my attempt to organize my home because of and in spite of having a new baby coming in only 10 weeks.