Creating a Smoothie Station

Smoothies have become so popular in the last couple of years.  It makes sense because we are all becoming more conscious of the ingredients that we consume and we want to avoid sugar-laden carbonated drinks.  We are also very busy and smoothies are portable, quick to make, and pack a lot of nutrition.

I think the healthiest smoothie that you can drink, is the one that you make yourself.  Why?  How many of you (like me) have gone into a smoothie chain, assuming you were getting a healthy drink, only to realize that they were using strawberries dunked in sugar syrup, or adding sugar and ice so that they could use less fruit.  Nope, I won’t pay 5.00 for that!  I prefer to spend the money buying quality ingredients and making my smoothies at home.

SMOOTHIE Organization

After buying all these awesome ingredients, I needed an equally awesome way to store them.

The cabinet where I kept all my smoothie supplies, was usually my “messy” cabinet.  It was not an absolute disaster, but it wasn’t practical either.  All the little packages of cocoa, flax-seed, chia seed, needed a new home.

Here is what the space used to look like.

Smoothie Organization

Packages everywhere.  Some of them were not even resealable.  I needed containers.

Smoothie Organization

I found these OXO containers at Target and I purchased them in two different sizes to accommodate the different products.  If you want to purchase them online, you can find them HERE, in my amazon store.

You may remember that they are the same containers that I used to create my Coffee Station.  You can read about that HERE.

Smoothie Organization

I also decided that I wanted to move the shelves around, to better fit the new containers.  I removed the cabinet door so that the shelves would slide out.

I also went ahead and gave the cabinet a good cleaning.

Smoothie Organization

I placed the shelves back after measuring the height that I needed.

Smoothie Station

I then emptied all the packages into the new containers and added labels.

Everything went back in the cabinet.

SMOOTHIE organization

Notice how narrow I made the shelf holding the mugs.   The coffee cabinet is right next to this one and I keep my mugs in here.  I like everything to match, except coffee mugs.  I like collecting different ones.

SMOOTHIE Station

In the very top, I placed the larger cans and containers.  Since I lowered that shelf, I can now reach up and grab whatever I need.  Before I did this, I could never reach the top shelf.

Smoothie Organization

I finished the project by hanging a clipboard to the cabinet.  I found this clipboard in the dollar section at Target.  I plan to keep smoothie recipes here.

SMOOTHIE Organization

Here is the finished product!

Smoothie Organization

It really is a pleasure to open up this cabinet now, considering how it looked before.

Please share with me if you make smoothies at home and what are your favorite types.  This week, I will share on Facebook a couple of my favorite smoothie recipes so stay tuned!

Shaking it up! (my corniness has no limits)

Maria

Organizing The “No Junk” Drawer

This week, let’s take 10 minutes to tackle the junk drawer.  Instead of just tidying up what is already in there, lets resolve to make it a NO JUNK drawer or at the very least, less junk.

Lets face it, a drawer with the prestigious name, “The Junk Drawer” is the most likely to receive the least amount of love.  This is also the reason that its one of the most cringe-worthy areas in the kitchen.

I have always tried to keep the items in this drawer to a minimum, but lately I have simplified it further.

Here is what my “no junk” drawer looks like now.

Junk Drawer Organization

 

I have already shared with you that I don’t have the most spacious kitchen, and I didn’t want to dedicate a whole drawer for miscellaneous items.  The way I look at it is, if I dedicate a whole drawer for this, I will find a way to fill it up.  I gave myself half a drawer to work with and it made me rethink what I would keep in this space.

Half of the drawer is taken up by a steak knife block.  It fits perfectly in the drawer, it doesn’t shift and keeps the baskets next to it, in place.

Every junk drawer will look different and I encourage you to only keep items that you frequently use.  In my case, I keep scissors, writing tools, tape, memo pads and chip clips.  (By the way, I used to have like 10 chip clips in there and we rarely buy chips.  I also have a ton of workout gear and…well…back to the drawer).

Junk Drawer Organization

I also keep a little plastic container to collect Box Tops for my son’s school.  Otherwise, I know I would just throw them in the drawer and they would get lost since they are so small.

Junk Drawer Organization

So what are the steps to creating a “no junk” drawer that works for you?

1. Empty the contents of the drawer onto a nearby surface.

2.  Categorize items into Keep / Discard / Relocate  (later, you can relocate items that don’t belong in this drawer).

3.  Clean the drawer.  If you will use clear containers, you may decide to place a pretty liner on the drawer after cleaning.

4.  Containerize this space according to the items you are keeping.  I chose not to use a drawer divider made for junk drawers because it would take up the whole drawer and I would feel compelled to fill the spaces, even if I didn’t need them.  Instead, I chose clear containers with a colorful non-skid backing that I found at Target.  They had different sizes and you can customize your space.

Taking 10-15 minutes to do this small task will not only make your drawer pretty, it will also make it easier to find and put away items.  This will keep your drawer organized for a long time (or until your husband loses his keys and turns every drawer upside-down.  This may or may not depict an actual event that may or may not have occurred in my life.)

What else do you keep in the junk drawer?

Until next time!

Maria

 

 

Pantry Makeover

 
Earlier this week, I posted on my cabinet pantry.  You can read about it HERE.

This week, let’s concentrate on making over our pantries, regardless of whether they are in a closet or within cabinets.

If you do have a closet pantry, you can also read HERE about how I organized my friends pantry last year.  It is pictured below.

Kitchen Organization

1. The first step to organizing the pantry is to get everything out of the pantry.  Yes, everything.  This will allow you to think fresh about new ways of storing your items.

2.  Secondly, create 4 piles.  One pile for expired (trash) items, another pile for unopened items that can be donated (like the 4 cans of cranberry sauce that you buy as a backup just in case your recipe for the fresh one fails), a pile of daily used items, and lastly, a pile of rarely used items.

3.  Clean your shelves and allow them to dry before placing items back inside.

4.  Look for baskets or containers around the house that you can use to unite like-items.  Below, I have a picture of one of my bins that holds asian condiments.

5.  Finally, re-stock your pantry.

PANTRY Organization

A pretty label never hurts.  If you decide to containerize items by type, add a label.

PANTRY Organization

Turntables are great because everything is viewable with a simple turn.  There are different sizes, so be sure to take measurements before purchasing.

In the picture below, I have a large one towards the back and a smaller one right in front.  This way I still have space to place the boys’ cereal beside the turntable.

Pantry Organization

Stackable bins are great to put towards the back of deep cabinet with large items such as canning jars.  I purchased these at Target.

Canning can take up a lot of room and you don’t do it everyday so it doesn’t need to be center stage.

PANTRY CANNING

Once you place them in the back of the cabinet, you can label the front of the cabinet so that you don’t forget that you have 20 cute mason jars waiting for fresh salsa!

PANTRY Organization

You can now place items that are used more frequently towards the front.

OXO Containers are my favorite for dry storage.  The containers holding the green snacks are from a brand called Sistema.

 

Pantry Organization

As you are re-stocking your pantry, create zones whenever possible.  Maybe you can have a baking zone, a breakfast zone, and a snack zone.

I have my baking station right on top of my refrigerator.  You can read about it HERE.

Baking Organization

I hope these ideas are helpful and can help you custom-organize your pantry to fit your space and lifestyle.

And don’t worry about keeping extra cans of cranberry sauce.  Fresh cranberry sauce always turns out and sometimes people don’t even touch it!  😉

Happy organizing!

Maria

 

Cabinet Pantry Organization

I don’t have a pantry per-se.  I have a set of deep cabinets that flank my refrigerator.  I use these kitchen cabinets as a pantry.

Perhaps you have a similar setup or are fortunate enough to have a large closet pantry or a walk-in pantry (swoon!).   Either way, we all need to maximize the space we have so that we can see what we have and need at-a-glance.

_MG_3891PANTRYBLOGCOVER2

Deep cabinets are awesome.  They also present the challenge that things get lost towards the back of the cabinet.  Basically, the good part is that a lot of stuff fits, the bad part is that a lot of stuff fits.

The pull-out shelf unit pictured below is awesome for deep cabinets!  I purchased it about nine years ago at Home Depot and it was so worth the money!

I store most of my cans and pasta in this rack and I love that it pulls out to reveal everything that is towards the back.

Pantry Organization

HERE is a similar (nicer, more expensive) version but you can probably find something similar to mine in a hardware store.  It is very sturdy and holds so much weight!

This is what it looks like when I pull it out of the cabinet.

PANTRY Organization

The very top is perfect for pasta and flat cans of tuna.

PANTRYOrganization

In the other side of the cabinet are the snacks.

My husband added a few narrow shelves to hold smaller items.

PANTRY Organization

One of those shelves holds this garment divider that I use as a snack divider.

We like KIND bars.  🙂

PANTRY Organization

Underneath, are the boys’ snacks.  These are the two bottom shelves and therefore the most accessible for them.

I also have a basket full of asian condiments.

Pantry Organization

Above the snacks, is another pull-out drawer (used to hold chips) that now holds my toddlers plates and lots of beans.

We like BEANS and KIND bars.

PANTRY Organization

Above the pull-out drawer is another narrow shelf that holds the kids’ pasta and sometimes a loaf of bread.

I could be making lobster thermidor for dinner and they would prefer one of these colorful boxes.  Go figure…

PANTRY Organization

Above the pasta, are three lazy suzans.  I am not tall and without the turntables, the top shelf is otherwise inaccessible to me.

The one towards the front has random condiments, and behind it is another turntable that holds vinegars.

In the slot next to the oils, I place the kids cereal dispenser (pictured below).

Pantry Organization

The very top shelf is full of oils.  The lazy suzan holds everyday oils, such as coconut and olive oils.

In the back are extra bottles of vegetable oil.  I rarely deep fry, but when I do, I use a whole bottle!

PANTRY Organization

That’s my cabinet pantry!  Do you also have this kind of pantry?  How do you maximize your space?

In a couple of days I will post a step-by-step pantry makeover that will benefit any pantry style!

Until then,

I will be making beans and eating chocolate-covered peanut bars (because I don’t actually know how to make lobster thermidor)!

Maria 

Organizing Grains

I shared this blog entry last year but decided to share it once more since it pertains to our kitchen series and it is a good tip for storing grains:

The rice that I purchase comes in these cute little plastic containers. I love the look. The problem is that I buy different kinds of rice, so I stack the containers and they end up falling out of the pantry. I keep the rice in the highest cabinet in my kitchen and I need the items up there to be sturdy so that I can grab them with no problem. I am 5’3″ on a really perfect and sunny day.

As a solution to my problem, I decided to move the rice into these “Lock-and-Lock” containers that I had purchased years ago and was no longer using. I purchased these on QVC but I couldn’t find the set to link here. Instead, I found similar containers (that even had a pour spout ) on Amazon and you can find them HERE.  Also, HERE is a link for the smaller ones.  I use smaller ones for the items that I don’t buy in bulk.

Of course, any set that is stackable will work.

Rice Storage

I can make white rice without a recipe but brown rice for example has a different recipe to follow. Have you noticed that based on the brand of brown rice they will give you different cooking times? I usually use the same brand and I printed these small labels (that I made on Microsoft Word) and typed the suggested recipe. I placed it on the outside of the container using double stick tape. If you have the patience you can laminate the label before sticking it on the container and that will make it water-resistant. I love and admire patient people. I really do.

Rice Organization

I did the same for quinoa. I could do a whole post on how much I love quinoa.

Rice Organization

I used the rest of the matching containers to put arborio rice, cracker meal and polenta. As you can see on the very side of the cabinet there is a label that says “oatmeal”. I did that to remind myself that there is a large container of oatmeal behind the rice. Only do this for items that don’t get used weekly. They can be stored in the very back of these deep cabinets and the label will remind you that it’s there. Otherwise, you will buy an item that you already have and you end up with enough granola to feed the church!

Rice Organization

That’s it! Another quick, easy project to make your life easier!

In a couple of days we will finish tacking the rest of the kitchen!

Happy Organizing!

Maria

Organizing Plates and Platters

Organizing Plates and Platters

I have shared with all of you how much I (we) enjoy cooking and entertaining family and friends.  I also love plating and food presentation, so over the years I have accumulated quite a few dishes.

It is always a challenge figuring out how to store so many dishes in a relatively small kitchen.  I don’t have many cabinets and I use most of them for pantry use (we do not have a stand alone pantry closet). I keep some dishes in the dining room hutch, but the majority reside in the kitchen cabinets.

Here is how I store and organize my dishes.

Organizing Plates

I have also collected quite a few glasses over the years.  I keep most of them in the dining room hutch.

Below are the ones we use daily.  The goblets are inexpensive and sturdy; they are Libbey brand and you can find them HERE.  I have also seen them at Marshalls and Homegoods.  The smaller tumblers are not as sturdy but they are inexpensive and I love the size.  They are from CB2 and you can find them HERE.

All the other white plates are from different stores that I have collected over years.

Organizing Plates

 

A pet peeve of mine is stacked plates. It’s not a big deal if they are plates that you seldom use, but your everyday plates should be easily accessible. You shouldn’t have to lift salad plates to get the dinner plates on a daily basis.

I have cabinet dividers and risers in almost every cabinet to maximize the space and to make my dishes easily accessible.

Organizing Plates

The metal divider/shelf below is from Target.  You can find some white ones “here”.  Walmart and Homegoods also have a good selection of cabinet organizers.

Organizing Plates

I do have some colorful dishes but 90% of them are white. I think that food looks better on white plates. I also love that I don’t have to worry about them matching. Plates that I bought last week match the ones that I purchased 15 years ago.

I love cool plates like these concave ones.  By sliding the shelf against the cabinet, I made space for these narrow plates.

Organizing Plates

Most of my drawers hold serving platters.  These are too big to fit in my cabinet.  They are perfect in the drawer.

Organizing Plates and Platters

In this drawer I keep the bowls that we use most often.

Organizing Plates and Platters

Organizing is an art!  This is a standard size drawer and I was able to fit quite a few serving dishes by playing around with placement.

I love opening a drawer where everything has it’s place and is not shifting all over the place.  Because all these plates fit in here so tight, there is no room to budge.  As Martha would say – “That’s a good thing.”

Organizing Plates and Platters

The bottom drawer is the deepest.  In here I keep all the clear baking dishes.

Organizing Plates and Platters

As you can see, I rarely buy dish “sets”. I prefer to buy them separately so that I get exactly what I want. I may love a plate but dislike the coffee cups that come with them in the set.

I want to leave you with some good tips for building your plate and platter collection:

  • Get rid of plates and cups that you no longer like or use.  We sometimes keep things in our cabinets that we don’t even like, instead of making space for something we truly enjoy.
  • If you only want or have one set of plates, make them accessible by placing them on a removable shelf riser.  This will double your space!
  • If you buy plates separately like me, it is best to buy 9 if you need 8. That way if one breaks, you still have a full set.  If two break…well…try not to break two!
  • Take your time buying dishes.  It is fun to collect things that you love over time, instead of buying things that are on sale to fill up a cabinet.

I hope you enjoyed these ideas because I really enjoyed sharing them with you!

Tell me –  do you collect plates too or is one set more than enough?

Always Organizing,

Maria

 

 

Gadget Drawer Organization

The gadget drawer can either be a pleasure to open or a pleasure to close.  Mine used to be the latter.

I was never really happy with my gadget drawer(s) before.  I would put the items into baskets within the drawer but the organization never lasted.  The items would shift around in the drawer and I was back to square one.

I found these organizers about a year ago and they are called DrawerDecor.  I only bought one at a time because they were not inexpensive and I wanted to make sure they were worth the investment.

They are so worth it, I loved them instantly!

It is basically a repositionable basemat which you can cut-to-size, so that it perfectly fits your drawer.   The mat includes dividers that are also repositionable; you can adjust both the mat and the dividers to fit your gadgets or utensils.  If you ever need to change the positioning, you simply lift the matt or the dividers and use them over and over.  Genius.

They have them in an assortment of colors and since I am such a crazy gal…I chose…drumroll…NATURAL.

I totally meant to choose red or something more fun but let’s face it, my idea of fun involves rocking chairs.    Natural was the color for me.

Organizing Gadgets

I had more gadgets than I had dividers, but the cool thing is that since the mats are non-skid, I was able to place large items (like my kitchen timer) and they didn’t shift.

After I fell in love with this organizer, I ordered another set for my other gadget drawer.  However, I used the repositionable dividers that came with it, for the drawer pictured above and simply used the mat to hold larger items.

I placed all my timers and miscellaneous bowls and brushes in this drawer and they don’t shift at all.  I have had these organizers in place for over a year and they work great for me.

Organizing Gadgets

Of course, there are other ways to organize your drawer that don’t involve buying these mats.  This is just what worked for me.  I wonder if any other silicone mat will have a similar effect.  You wouldn’t have the dividers but it may hold the larger items.  Also, acrylic dividers that come in different shapes are a good option.

So lets get to work.

1.  The first step in organizing your gadget drawer is to take out all the utensils and gadgets.  This is very important because once the items are out of the drawer, you will be pickier with what you allow back in.

2.  Get rid of doubles.  Unless we are talking about timers.  In that case you need 14.  I am kidding, but I do collect them and around the holidays I actually use quite a few of them, at once.

3.  Lastly, get rid of gadgets that you don’t ever use.  Sometimes we have the best of intentions when we buy something and it just ends up taking up space.  I usually give items away so that I don’t feel guilty about not keeping them.

You will be left with your favorite tools — the ones that make cooking more fun.  Your drawer will now be a pleasure to open!

You can find the organizers that I mentioned in my amazon store HERE
.  I only recommend products that I love and have made my life easier or prettier.  This one checks off both boxes.

How do you organize your gadgets?  A crock, in the drawers like me?

Baking Station Organization

We are back in the kitchen!  This week we will focus on creating or organizing a baking station.

Designate an area in your kitchen to hold all of your baking supplies.  It is so much more fun to bake when everything is within reach!

You may remember that last year, I organized my baking drawer.  You can find that post HERE.

Baking Organization

Today, I want to show you more of my baking station.  I can’t keep everything in that one drawer, so I keep all of my dry baking supplies in the cabinet above the refrigerator.

Although I can reach this cabinet, it isn’t easy for me to do so.  Therefore, it is the perfect spot for large, clear containers, that allow me to see their contents from where I stand.

Here is a picture of the cabinet.  This cabinet is not always used to its fullest potential in some kitchens, but it is a great space and probably one of your widest cabinets.  Let’s put it to work!

Baking Organization

The containers that hold the flour and sugar are from a brand called Lock & Lock.  The ones that rest above them, are disposable Ziploc containers that I use to put away cookie cutters and baking chocolate.    Right next to them, is a bin full of more cookie cutters.

Baking Organization

On the other side, I have Tupperware brand containers that hold items such as, coconut, powdered sugar, sprinkles and brown sugar.

Baking Organization

My baking drawer, which I shared with you last year, holds smaller items that I use for cake and cupcake decorating.

Baking Organization

And measuring cups and spoons.  I have multiple sets of those, considering most recipes call for dry and wet ingredients (and because I like collecting them).

Baking Organization

I like these containers because the lid stays open and I can easily fit up to a 1 Cup measuring cup inside.  I also use the top of the opening to level the cup.  Love that!

I purchased them about 5 years ago on QVC but you can still find them HERE.

Baking Organization

Lastly, in the cabinet right below the baking cabinet, next to the refrigerator, I have a small turntable full of baking spices.

Towards the back, I keep tea that is not used on a daily basis.  They are also on a turntable.

Baking Organization

Since I cannot keep all my baking supplies in one drawer, or cabinet, I do keep them all in the same area of the kitchen.  Everything is within hands reach.

Baking Organization

Above the baking spices is a ceramic box, full of my favorite teas.

Tea Station

Lastly, when you are done, wake up a little kid on a saturday morning and get them to help you in the kitchen, before they even have time to comb their hair.

Baking Organization

Everyone looks better with a little flour in their hair.  But that’s just my opinion.

Until Next Time,

Maria 

Organizing Spices

A new week of kitchen organization is here!

This week, we peek inside the kitchen cabinets and reveal the spices.  I think most of us have 30 spice jars and only regularly use about 5 of them.  It’s ok.  No one wants to drive to the grocery store just to pick up “old bay seasoning” for a special recipe.

The problem is having 3 jars of old bay seasoning because you keep buying it – since you can’t see the other 2 that you already purchased last year.  Unless, you have seafood boils on a weekly basis.  In that case, it’s ok.  It is also ok to invite me.  (I will organize your cabinets if you let me, as a trade-off).

I love the idea of having spices in the kitchen drawer, but I have such a limited amount of drawers in my kitchen, that I choose to keep my spices in my pantry cabinet.

My cabinets are really deep and narrow.  Initially, I purchased tiered spice shelves and placed them the traditional way.  That didn’t work since the cabinet was so narrow and I could only fit one set.  There were always spices behind the tier organizer that were not visible.  I tried placing the larger jars towards the back and labeling the very top of the lid since I could see the label and that helped.

Ultimately, I found the best way to organize my spices is by placing the tiers side-by-side against the cabinet wall.  I added a similar tiered divider to the amazon store and you can find it ” HERE “.  Of course, you can also find these almost anywhere else…Target, Walmart…

I try to buy the same brand of spices, not only because I like the brand, but it adds more of a uniform look.

I also organized the spices alphabetically.  It seems like a crazy thing to do at first and it will take you a little while the first time you do it, but it is worth it – I promise.

Finding spices is so much easier this way, especially when you lose a bit of the visibility of the spices towards the back of the cabinet.  On the other side of the tiers, I place larger, frequently used items like salt and pepper shakers.

I also left enough room for my hand to be able to reach back, without knocking things over.

Organizing Spices

On the wall of the cabinet, I placed an adhesive acrylic box for all the seasoning packets.  I usually only use a sprinkle or two, and then I’m wondering where to put the open packet.  This solves that problem.  I think I purchased it at Walmart.

Spice Organization

 

I do recognize that this method will not work for everyone, but I wanted to share this space with all of you just in case you had a similar-sized cabinet.

We still have a couple of things to touch on before we are done with the kitchen – so until next time,

Spice up your organizing!  (I had to!),

Maria  

Organizing Pots and Pans

Pots and pans…how many do you have?  How many do you need?

Organizing all your pots and pans

Well, I need a lot of them.  I cook almost everyday and I enjoy it.  I enjoy it even more when I have the right tools.

In this cabinet (albeit small) I have:

– 8 Skillets

– 4 Small Pots

– 2 Stock Pots

– 2 Medium Pots

– 1 Steamer Pot

That’s a total of 17 pots and pans!  Not including, 3 enamel dutch ovens (probably my favorite), that I store inside my oven.  One of the enamel pots sits on the stove at all times, since I use it often.  I also have cast iron pans which are my husband’s favorite, since they can go directly on the grill.

I am not a fan of purchasing full sets of pots and pans sold in a box, although it is a good way to figure out what you use most.  The box is usually a better value, but I end up giving away the pots that I don’t use…this negates the whole “better” value concept.  I prefer selecting quality pieces that I will use often and will last for many years.

This also means that I haven’t been able to buy all these pieces at once.  I purchase maybe one piece a year or my husband will give me one for my birthday or mother’s day.  I am one of those women that is REALLY excited to receive a stockpot as a gift.  Truly, it’s what I like.  Why should I ask for pearls when I really want something for the kitchen?

Not all of my cookware is expensive or that high of a quality.  I have yet to splurge on really good non-stick, so I have pans that do the job but won’t last for many years.  A good non-stick 12-14 inch pan is on my list though (honey, I know you don’t read all my posts, but I really hope you are reading this one!).  I get points for subtlety.

Back to how I organize the pans.  I get points for segues too.

I found a metal rack that could be used to store files or bakeware, and I placed it on its side.  It fit perfectly snug inside my cabinet, so each skillet rests safely in separate slots.

Organizing all your pots and pans

Next to the skillets, I have smaller sauce pots since the skillets take up a lot of room.  Behind the sauce pots, I have a large stockpot and a steamer pot.

Items that are rarely used are always towards the back.  The most used items get the best real estate.

Organizing all your pots and pans

In the top shelf, I place medium-sized pots.  I stack the ones that are alike.  Towards the back, I keep larger, less used deep skillets and pots.

Organizing all your pots and pans

This is the largest cabinet in my kitchen and that’s why I chose it for this purpose.  In some of the smaller corner cabinets, I keep specialty pots like pressure cookers, rice cookers and slow cookers.  I label the shelf to remind me of the item behind the front pot, since it’s not visible.

Organizing all your pots and pans

The labeled shelf…

Organizing all your pots and pans

I do suggest that before organizing all your pots, you take them out of your cabinets and make sure they deserve the space that they are taking up.  Obviously, I am not a minimalist when it comes to the kitchen, but I don’t keep things that I don’t use.

At this point, if I did get another non-stick skillet, I would have to get rid of a skillet.  Otherwise, this cabinet would turn into stainless steel mess.  It already does when I don’t put things back where they go.  And by “I”, I totally mean my husband.  Sorry Babe.

Do you enjoy cooking too?  Do you also get excited when kitchen catalogs arrive in the email?  Tell me that I’m not alone!

The Graceful Refrigerator

Let us begin our 2014 organizing series with the kitchen.  More specifically, the refrigerator.

Refrigerator Organization

I don’t know about you, but after the holidays my refrigerator is a mess.  During the holidays, I purchase food items that are either for Thanksgiving, Christmas breakfast and other holiday get togethers.  All these items, in addition to our regular shopping list, culminate in a messy refrigerator.

January is the perfect time to completely empty the refrigerator and start fresh!

The first thing you want to do is remove all sauces and dressings and place them on the counter.  This is a good opportunity to look at all the dates and toss out all the expired items.  Also, you may have opened a container of ricotta or sour cream, but you only needed half a cup…throw out what has since spoiled.

Refrigerator Organization

Once you have the bottles that you are keeping, wipe them clean and set aside.

Next, let’s remove the refrigerator shelves and bins (if they are removable) and soak them in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 1 quart of warm water.  You can use the same solution to wipe down the rest of the refrigerator.  Clean, dry and put all the bins back in place.

I use refrigerator coasters from “Fridge Coaster” and I had not changed them out in almost a year.  I used this opportunity to pick out a new set.  I love the pop of color that they add to the fridge!

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This is also a good time to reposition your shelves to better suit your needs.  I adjust them fairly often to fit the products I buy.

Start placing all the items back in the refrigerator.  Designate a spot for everything.

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And the side bins…

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I keep clear OXO containers (without the lids) inside the pull out bins so that all the garlic and onion skins that collect at the bottom, can be easily cleaned up.  Also, any vegetable that has gone bad doesn’t seep all over my clean bin.

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Lastly, the deli drawer.  My kids favorite and the only one that my toddler can reach.

I have clear bins in here as well to keep like-items in place.  Also, I have a bin for oily items like pesto and other spreads, that would otherwise leave oily circles inside the refrigerator.  I keep a larger clear bin in the top shelf for defrosting items.

You can find some bins in my amazon shop under “Refrigerator Bin” and Fridge Bin.  You can also find them at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Sometimes, even Homegoods will have a few.  Just make sure that you purchase bins that are refrigerator safe so that they don’t crack.

Refrigerator Organization

Having a clean and organized refrigerator has more advantages than just being visually appealing.  If you always put your butter in the same spot, then you know when you are out.  Even grocery shopping gets easier.

Stay tuned next week as we move on to the rest of the kitchen, and eventually the whole house!

Happy Organizing!

Maria 

Organizing under the Kitchen Sink

Everything but the kitchen sink.  That’s my motto for organizing under the kitchen sink.  As you already know, I do not keep any cleaning products under the sinks to avoid my curious toddler from spraying his face with a cleaner.  Although I am purchasing green cleaners, they aren’t exactly supposed to be gargled so I still try to keep them away from his reach.

So this is what my cabinet looks like.  In order to photograph the items that were tucked away, I took them out of the cabinet to give you a closer look.

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I am using every inch of space.  In the very back I have a ceramic crock that holds all my sieves and giant spatulas.  They used to be in my drawers taking up premium space but they were seldom used and so cumbersome!

I use all those sieves for different purposes, some for straining stock and others for sifting flour.  The point is, I need them all.  I just don’t need them often.  The crock was a good solution.

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All my cutting boards are placed inside a tiered file holder that is meant for office use.  I love how I can see them all and they are easy to pull out since they are separated by the built-in dividers.

You probably already have one of these that you are not using lying around the house.

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I tuck the boards into the very edge of the cabinet.

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On one side of the cabinet I have a pull-out plastic drawer that is full of kitchen towels, aprons, garbage bags and small zipper bags.

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On the other side of the cabinet (right under the garbage disposal) is a wire divider that I use to place all my glass food containers.  I switched to glass years ago to avoid having to worry about all the chemicals that were possibly inside some of the plastic ones.  I still don’t mind plastic for food items that don’t get heated up.

In the very back are really large bowls which I rarely use and in the front are all the frequently used containers.  The dishwasher is right next to this cabinet so they are easy to put away.

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On one door I have extra grocery bags.  I have 4 reusable grocery bags in the car.  I sometimes remember that I have them when I am in the store with a full cart on my way to checkout.  I’m pretty good about it but I still need to work on that habit.

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On the other door I have an organizer that holds foil, parchment, plastic wrap and large zipper bags.

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That’s it!  I couldn’t fit anything else under there!  I hope I gave you some ideas.

I look forward to you sharing with me what items are under your kitchen sink…

Until next time,

Happy Organizing! 

Kitchen Organizing – Before and After Photos

This is not my kitchen.  Unless I am sleeping and dreaming.  In that case, this is my kitchen.

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I have missed you all this week and I wanted to share what I have been up to.  A friend of mine recently moved into the home of her dreams (and everyone else’s dream for that matter) and she quickly unpacked like we all do.  She was yearning for some real organization in the home to make her life easier.  The home is beautifully decorated and completely uncluttered but she never got around to fixing the drawers, cabinets and pantry.  She has three little kids…you understand.

She recruited me for the job.  I concentrate on the blog but since my passion is organizing I decided it was a good opportunity for me to do what I love while taking pictures to later share with you…my fellow order seekers!

Don’t you love a good “before and after”?  I used to record the show Hoarders and I would completely fast forward through the middle just to see the after photos.  All the drama is in the middle and that stresses me out.  No matter how bad you think your house looks, you feel like a domestic goddess after watching the show.  Am I right?

Well this home is nothing like Hoarders, its more like a home featured on Better Homes and Garden.  It just needed a couple of baskets and some turntables and the results follow.

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The pantry is HUGE and from this picture you can’t even see the side shelves or the drawers on either side.  My friend is blessed.  Yes she is.

We emptied the pantry and made the kitchen look really bad before making it look really good.  We discarded anything that had expired and set aside items that they didn’t like or use.

I created stations for everything so that she could quickly find what she needed.  The items that were kid related I placed at the very bottom and without lids so the kids could easily access snacks and juice boxes.  The kids love cereal and they all have their favorite so we purchased matching cereal containers.  They serve a dual purpose since the cereal stays fresh and it looks so much better.  Here is the after {music please!}

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Many of the OXO containers pictured above she already had but wasn’t using them.  You can find the containers {here} in the amazon store and sometimes you can get lucky and find them at Homegoods and Marshalls.  OXO containers are awesome but undoubtedly expensive so if you can’t go out and purchase them, any other matching container will do.  If you don’t have matching containers you can make them look cohesive by adding the same label to all of them.  In this case we used chalkboard labels and the label maker (which at this point I wear around my neck).

They have a ton of nutritional smoothie ingredients so we purchased a very large turntable to make it easy to find what they need.  If you have the cabinet space to put such a large turntable (which I don’t), you can find it {here}.  Here is the before and after:

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I did the same thing for the oil and vinegar but in much smaller turntables.

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The sodas, the kids juices and snacks are at the very bottom where they can easily access them.  I purchased my favorite Target baskets for this.  I also wear them around my neck.

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Lunch Snacks:

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There were already built-in drawers in the pantry but I added some small baskets to corral items such as bars and packets.  All the small white baskets are from the big red circle as well (I get tired of writing the “T” word).

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I placed the cans in tiered shelves and by the end of the project, even the paper towel looked decorative!

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Here are a couple more shots of other areas in the kitchen that we tackled.  I forgot the before shot of the other drawer.

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After.  This is the first time I use this drawer organizer kit. L-O-V-E-D it!  I added it to the Amazon store and I am ordering one for myself.  You can find it {here} or possibly at a The Container Store (perhaps even Bed Bath and Beyond?).  I don’t recommend it for every drawer if you have a lot of utensils (like me) but I like having one drawer in which items are perfectly organized and accessible.

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Then we organized under the sink.  We took everything out, cleaned the cabinet and placed a pretty liner before placing any items back.

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On one side I placed a baking rack to hold all the cutting boards upright.  On the other side a cleaning caddy with essentials.  In the center dishwashing items.

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Then the spices:

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Using a tiered shelf and two turntables gave everything a home.  If you don’t do this you will end up with 5 bottles of pumpkin pie spice because you will buy one every year around thanksgiving when you can’t find it.  Here is the after:

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I will continue working on her home and I will keep posting pictures to keep you all updated on the progress.

When your pantry is organized you will find that so many things are easier.  It is easier to grocery shop because at-a-glance you can see what you are missing.  It is easier to put the groceries away because everything has it’s place.  It is easier to cook when you are not rummaging around trying to find an ingredient.  Mostly, it is visually pleasing to open a cabinet that looks so nice.  Organizing is definitely work but very gratifying.

Thank you for being patient with me this week and if anyone needs pumpkin pie spice, I have 4 bottles that I can part with!

Let me know what is the next project you are going to tackle.

Until next time,

Maria

Organizing your Vitamins

This is a quick post about organizing your vitamins.  Not much to say about it and not much to do but you will be glad you did it.

We used to store our vitamins out of sight to make the counters look cleaner.  We quickly realized that if we didn’t see the vitamins, we didn’t take the vitamins.  We needed to either completely change that system or supplement it with a more practical one.

{Did you catch the cheesy vitamin humor in the last line?  I couldn’t bring myself to edit it out.  My name is Maria…I’ll be here all night!}

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We found this plastic container that was tall enough to hide the bottles so that we could keep it on the countertop without being an eye sore.  It was perfect.

As you can see we have lots of supplements and vitamins.  We don’t take all of them daily; instead we alternate them.

Most of our vitamins are from the same company and of course the bottles are similar.  The problem is that we couldn’t distinguish one vitamin from the other.  We would pull out 4 different bottles before reaching for the right one.

I then labeled each one with either the name of the vitamin or its function.  Voila!  Problem solved.

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I use my label maker so often and I have no idea why it took me years to think of this.  Now it’s so easy in the morning to find what we need.

I tell ya…its always the little things!

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I hope you enjoyed this tip!  Please share with me if you will also be labeling your vitamins or am I the only person that has this “problem”?

Happy Organizing!

Maria

 

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Coffee Station Organization

We are coffee people.  Our days start with my husband doing a zombie-like walk to the coffee grinder that releases not only a noise that will jolt you out of REM sleep but also a delicious sweet coffee aroma.  It is this aroma that wakes me up everyday.  That or my toddlers foot in my face.  That is a different aroma.  Lucky for you, not part of todays post.

Having coffee with my husband before the house gets “hectic” is one of life’s simple pleasures for me.  I like to sit next to him, enjoy his company and chat with him while we sip away.  It’s usually me doing most of the chatting and him grinning at me while he listens.  He physically wakes up earlier than I do but the rest of him catches up a little later.  I’m sure he wonders how I can have so much to say so early in the morning.  I think he is listens so attentively because he loves me so much (and because he feels bad that for the rest of my day my conversations will only involve Elmo and Barney :-)). I took a picture of him this morning as he prepared the coffee.  He looked at me kinda strange…

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Back to the coffee.  Like with everything else in the house, I look to “containerize” my coffee.  I like having a coffee station where all-things-coffee can be found.  The coffee station is behind these doors because the coffee maker sits on this counter.

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We have a cappuccino maker, a cuban coffee maker and the regular american coffee machine.  The american coffee maker stays out.  It has earned its place on our counter.  In our lives.  In our hearts.  The rest go in the cabinet.  Normally large appliances are stored in cabinets under the counter but space is at such a premium around here that I just store the espresso maker with the rest of the coffee supplies.  Here is the cabinet opened up.

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I don’t store our coffee cups in this cabinet because there are too many of them and they don’t fit nicely.  I have them in the slender cabinet right next to this one.  I use any of the coffee cups in the cabinet but pictured below is my favorite coffee mug.  It is a substantial mug with a thin but not-too-thin rim.  Coffee tastes better in it.  Only a coffee lover could understand such madness.  I bought it in PINK because I thought that it would surely scare my husband into using one of the other 14 Starbucks coffee cups that we have in there.  It turns out my husband is one of those secure men that isn’t bothered by pink in the very least.  Needless to say, my ingenious plan failed miserably.  There are mornings that I walk into the kitchen and there he is sipping away in my pink mug.  Then he smiles at me and I smile back with a smile that says “you have just sucked the joy out of my morning BUT I love you and I am grateful for you anyway!”  Then I grab another “less-perfect” mug.  Kinda melodramatic but what can I say?  I like the pink mug.

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Back to the coffee station.  I use these OXO containers for the coffee beans and for the Cuban coffee.  I purchased them at Target and they are the perfect size to hold a full bag of coffee.

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I purchased this placemat at Target as well and I use it to line the area with the coffee.  It’s cute and it keeps the cabinet free from coffee granules.

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Behind the coffee containers is this white basket that holds extra coffee, frothing pitchers and coffee syrups.  It’s a nice, deep basket so that the cabinet still appears organized.

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I added a mug full of spoons for stirring the coffee.  We used to have to walk to the utensil drawer every morning to get a spoon.  I finally purchased a set of spoons just for the coffee cabinet.

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Since my husband prepares the coffee, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for him so I placed the sugar/stevia in a wide bowl instead of another container with a lid.  I like that it’s large enough not to require frequent re-filling.

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On the side are the cappuccino cups, tiny Cuban coffee cups and disposable travel cups.

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Lastly, next to the espresso machine is a set of dishes that we sometimes use for breakfast.

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So that’s it.  Having a coffee station avoids having to touch every corner of your kitchen just to make a simple cup of coffee.  Now I will head off to the kitchen to join my husband for breakfast.  Pray that he isn’t using my pink mug!

Happy Organizing!

Maria