Stuck Inside? Organize.

Stuck inside? Organize. This winter may bring weather that keeps you inside where it’s snuggly and warm. Once you’re tired of binge watching, it’s a great time to organize. I always like to start with the kitchen.

Pull-out drawer organizers

A few years ago on such a day, I installed pull-out cabinet drawers in two of my kitchen cabinets. It was a great decision! I can get to everything in the back of the cabinets and it makes cooking much more pleasant.

The drawers came pre-assembled and were easy to install. I needed a drill, but nothing more. You can choose from wood, chrome, or plastic in a variety of sizes and configurations. These can make old cabinets feel customized and modern.
drawer

Adding under-shelf storage to open kitchen shelves is another way to both organize and create additional space. If you have glass jars with metal lids available, fasten each lid to the bottom of your shelf with two screws, fill the jars, and then screw them into the lids.

The jars can be uniform or different depending on your style. Filled with colorful contents, they’re sure to add visual interest to any room. With these installed in the kitchen, you can have almonds, sunflower seeds, dried cherries, dried mango, trail mix, granola, coffee, tea, or candy at your fingertips.

Buy larger; store smaller

Jars are also great for storing items inside your cabinets. I buy spices in bags and then transfer small portions into glass spice jars that I place on a stair step organizer in a small cabinet by my stove.

Rather than buying jars, I save glass yogurt jars, jelly jars, pimento jars, pickle jars, etc. This means I have a variety of sizes and shapes to fit specific needs. When I feel like I have enough on hand, I add newly emptied (washed, of course) jars to my donation box.

Reimagine tools

I sometimes pick up display racks from stores that are going out of business and selling the fixtures. I don’t go crazy, but I’ll buy a couple of items here and there and then use them the next time I organize. My plastic lid organizer is a divided acrylic box that came from a defunct bookstore.

Tins that arrive at Christmas can be used to hold tea bags, sweetener packets, yeast packets, yogurt starter, or dried chile peppers. They’re also great for snacks you don’t want the kids to see in the pantry and picnic supplies you don’t use often. Stackability is a great reason to use tins in some spaces.

Somehow I ended up with too many mini loaf pans. Rather than get rid of half of them, I repurposed some to hold cupcake liners, spice bags, cheesecloth, and silicone bands. I’ve also used stoneware crocks in similar ways.

Safe for exploration

My most recent organizing projects have been to baby proof my kitchen for curious grandchildren. I removed cleaning products from the cabinet under the sink and placed a rubber band around the cabinet door knobs. The only other accessible cabinets contain cookware so I didn’t need to add hardware for safety.

There are two low drawers a toddler can reach. I use one for dish towels. I filled the other with measuring cups and spoons, a collapsible colander, a small rolling pin, and other child-safe items. Having a drawer the children are allowed to play in lessens the chance they’ll get into the cookware cabinets when I tell them no.

My two oldest grandchildren have spent hours playing with the items in that drawer. They turn measuring cups into pots for their miniature stove. They grab a variety of cups and stand on a stool at the sink pouring water from one to the other.

KB took each and every item out of that drawer and licked it one day. Of course I had to wash everything afterward, but it entertained him for a long time. Having these items accessible gives me an opportunity to introduce cooking tools and terms to the kids when they’re small. By the time they’re ready to cook, they’ll be familiar with the language and comfortable in the kitchen.

Convenient and efficient

Organization as a tool to improve efficiency makes sense to me. Organization as an end unto itself does not. I embrace the time it takes to make things easier to find and reach. Past that point, organizing feels like a waste of time. In fact, if I end up with too many levels of organization, I can’t remember where I put things.

The good news is, at the end of an organizing day I know where to find the ingredients for a cup of hot chocolate that I can drink when I go back to binge watching!

https://www.containerstore.com/s/kitchen/cabinet-organizers/lynk-chrome-pull-out-cabinet-drawers/12d?productId=10017298

https://www.homedepot.com/b/Kitchen-Kitchen-Storage-Organization-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Organizers-Pull-Out-Cabinet-Drawers/N-5yc1vZci43

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/make-the-kitchen-your-happy-place/

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Treasures Among the Trash

recipeYou never know what treasures you’ll find among the trash when you begin to clean out clutter. I’m sure the reason most of us have clutter is that we think too many things are treasures. Marie Kondo is making sure we know how to see the difference. But when we clean out an incapacitated or deceased relative’s home, we don’t have the luxury of choosing what is saved. We only have the opportunity to discover treasures among the trash.

Every month or two I spend a couple of days in my 98-year-old cousin’s house cleaning out the compilation of trash and treasure that includes: bank records from 1972, unopened mail from 1987, family photos from 1896, report cards from 1910, a wedding invitation from 1919, and a baby book from 1920. Because these items are mixed in with junk mail, decaying candy, promotional products, and wadded Kleenex, it is an arduous and sometimes icky process. I love it when I find some treasure that makes the effort worth it!

Recently, I’ve been working my way through the den toward the kitchen. Kitchens have the best variety of memorabilia. A few years ago, I discovered my grandmother’s ceramic green pepper spoon rest in my mom’s kitchen. I was thrilled. Now it’s on my counter by the stove. I love that visual reminder of my grandmother.
pepper
I also love finding old recipe cards. Not only do they give me a chance to prepare my favorite family dishes, there’s something charming about the varying shapes, sizes, and legibility of old recipes. Some assume you are extremely knowledgable about cooking techniques. Some have an ingredient list. Some do not. Many are spattered with remnants of food. Some are in handwriting I recognize. Some have clearly been handled more than others.

This look into the past seems more enticing to me than an old photograph or a tarnished silver service. Perhaps it’s because the recipes are a living memory. They can be created again and again. They can be shared with generation after generation along with stories of previous times they were enjoyed! If you think your kids don’t appreciate those stories, tell them to your grandkids.

At 2-and-a-half, JD loves any story about my experiences; he asks me to repeat them over and over. He never tires of hearing the details again and again. Adding food into the mix creates an indelible experience that he will no doubt share with his children and grandchildren. The recipe cards may not be preserved, but hopefully the recipes will find their way into his heart and his smart appliances or voice-activated replicator or whatever generates food in 2077.

Experimenting with unfamiliar flavor combinations is fun for me, but when I’m tired and hungry or it’s my birthday I’ll take my grandmother’s beef and noodles and a lemon meringue pie any day. Throw in some fresh green beans with new potatoes and I can smell the dirt from the garden when I helped my grandmother dig potatoes. These memories bring with them a sense of belonging to my family and to the earth. I had a place and a purpose.
pie
Such simple things can have a large and lasting effect. In this era of disconnection and short attention spans, we are often lacking a feeling of belonging and purpose. If you can provide that for your family by sharing the stories and food that you loved, is time spent in the garden or the kitchen worth it? I think so! I know time spent connecting is.

https://konmari.com/

https://ideas.ted.com/finding-our-way-to-true-belonging/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-1-the-food/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-2-the-fun-2/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/the-benefits-of-cooking-part-3-the-lessons/

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”