Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Organizing Week 2: Kitchen Cabinets

Finally!!! It feels so good to finally finish this week of organizing. I am about a month behind but it is worth it. I really wanted to pinpoint the problem areas and find ways to fix them and I feel that for the most part, I have been able to do that. Since this is such a high traffic area, having an organized kitchen really helps things run a bit more least as smoothly as possible with two little ones underfoot ;). I'll take you through each drawer and cabinet and show you what I've done. I have to warn you that they are not all pretty but they are functional- and that should always be the main goal. I am happy with how things turned out. I have not included any of the cabinets that are for food storage since that organizing challenge comes next week.

Here goes!

This is the cabinet under the sink. I know for most people it is such a difficult spot to keep in order. My cabinet is not very large so just a couple of products really helped pull it together. All the way to the left I keep my drying mat for the dishes I need to hand wash. Next to that, I have a small pull-out drawer that houses sponges, my gloves, extra dishwasher tabs and dishwashing liquid. This was a great find from Ross for under $10. (I can't remember exactly how much :)) On the right side I put in a lazy susan to easily access our most used items: garbage bags, dishwasher tabs, dishwasher detergent and my homemade all-purpose cleaner.

This is the cabinet right above our dishwasher and coffeemaker so it made sense to store mugs and all coffee/tea related things. The bottom shelf houses all our mugs. I used an extra wire shelf (from Bed Bath and Beyond) to fit them all nicely. I got rid of a lot of mugs and was able to fit the rest on this shelf, with the exception of 3 seasonal ones I keep all the way at the top. The next shelf up has a little bin (from the dollar store) with filters for the coffeemaker. Behind that is our french press which we do not use very often so can be tucked in the back. Next to the bin is another lazy susan (you will see a few more before the end of this post). They are great for making things easily accessible and that is so important in a smooth running kitchen. On it is a travel mug, our small pitcher, sugar bowl and usually also the honey jar. Next to the lazy susan I was able to fit a couple things we don't access too often, an herbal coffee substitute I drink sometimes and some instant coffee my husband uses sometimes. The next shelf up has all our teas and hot chocolate. I'm actually thinking of getting one of those tea bag organizers to make everything more streamlined but haven't gotten to that since, for now, this system is working. The top shelf has an extra coffee grinder for spices and our christmas/winter mugs.

This cabinet is across from the previous one on the other side of the window and sink. On the first shelf I keep all of our drinking glasses. We have been using mason jars since we moved in and we really like them so I don't think we will actually buy any "real" drinking glasses anytime soon. I have used another small wire shelf to maximize space. This one I actually found at Dollar Tree. It is not very deep, but since I just store the small 8 oz jars, they fit fine....and it was only $1! Next to the small glasses I have a small bin (again from Dollar Tree) with the rings and lids from some of the mason jars because sometimes I use them to store leftovers. Gotta love double duty items! In the corner I have a jar that holds straws, because kids always need straws! The next shelf up has all the kids bowls, cups, and baby spoons. I utilized another Dollar Tree shelf  and a couple little bins from the dollar section at Target. The bin on the shelf holds all the lids for the cups. The next shelf up holds our travel water bottles and cups. Behind them is my fancy teapot that does not get accessed very often. The last shelf up holds some vintage tea cups and a box with extra baby bottle parts.

This cabinet is right next to the previous in the corner. Here we house all our dishes. This cabinet was quite a challenge to organize because what you see is only half the length of the shelves. The other half is tucked away to the left. You can't access the things placed deep inside very easily. What solution did I come up with? More lazy susans! Seriously people, I think these things solve 90% of organizing problems. On the bottom shelf I just put all our plates. I used an extra shelf to split the small and large plates so when you need a large one, you don't need to lift a stack of small ones to get to it. This time I used one from Bed Bath and Beyond that is larger and stronger to support the weight of the plates. Next to them is another stack of small dessert plates. These are my pretty plates that I use if some is coming over or I just feel like eating off a pretty plate :). Tucked away next to the plates I have some extra glass jars that I don't need very often. The next shelf up has bowls of various sizes. Here is where I used another lazy susan. I placed it just close enough that I can reach whatever is facing out. I have some smaller bowls on there and baby bottles. The next shelf up has a bread basket that is currently holding a bag of more mason jar lids and rings and next to that, my small ceramic bowls. Next to them I have the other lazy susan with some glass jars that I use more often to store leftovers. The very top shelf has some cake stands and fancy glasses that don't get accessed very often.

This is my corner cabinet next to the stove. It houses all my mixing bowls, a couple pitchers and on the bottom, my bread pans and glass measuring cups. (One is in the dishwasher). I also have my muffin pan in the back. I used to have other baking pans like cake pans and pie plates but I have not been baking with those much lately since having to go gluten-free and dairy-free for my daughter. I still use my muffin tin quite a bit since I've been searching for a great gluten-free, dairy-free muffin recipe.

This is the first drawer next to my stove and just holds some of the basic cooking utensils I need. I was able to free up some space by putting all my mixing spoons and spatulas in a pitcher by the stove. I bought the little containers from Bed Bath and Beyond to divide up the space and make it easier to find what I need.

Next drawer has our utensils. Again I bought a utensil holder from Bed Bath and Beyond to keep everything in its place. Above that I have another container with some other, lesser used utensils.

This drawer has the rest of our kitchen utensils. I put in a small bin from Dollar Tree to house our tea infusers. I love how everything fits so perfectly in this drawer. I've been debating getting something to hold everything down in its place but have not found the right product. The only things that really move much are the three below but so far it is working. Now if I could just get the Hubs to put everything where it belongs :).


This drawer holds my kitchen towels, mitts, placemats and baby bibs. I also used another small bin from the dollar section at Target to hold my chip clips.

This is one of my super deep drawers. It houses my colanders, cheese grater, funnel, twine and all plastic bags and wrap/foil/parchment. Again, everything just fits so well. It's not super pretty to look at but it functions very well.

This is another deep drawer where I store all food storage containers. On the left are all the regular containers (with a few in the dishwasher) and on the right, I used a shallow basket I found at Dollar Tree to corral all the baby/kid storage containers. Behind that are my ice cube trays that I use for making baby food.

This cabinet is one of the lower one for pots and pans. On the shelf inside, I put my glass baking pans and below are the large stock pot I use fairly often as well as my food processor which also gets used pretty often. Behind the stock pot is my slow cooker and behind the processor is my juicer, which may actually move to the basement since I rarely use it and I hope to purchase a large enameled cast iron pot to put in its place. The basket in the middle holds all processor and stand mixer attachments.

This cabinet is right next to the stove and houses the most used pots. The top shelf holds my nonstick and stainless skillet. Below, I used another heavy duty extra shelf to hold my cast iron skillet. Under that I have my baby food mill and my two smaller saucepans that I use pretty much daily and on the side I have my cookie sheet. I thought about this cabinet for quite some time trying to figure out the best placement so everything is in easy reach and this is working well. My stainless skillet usually sits on top of the nonstick on that top shelf which works since I very rarely use the nonstick anymore. (I'm trying to slowly replace all my cookware with safer ones but the shape of that nonstick works really well for some things so I will keep it until I can find/afford a replacement.)

This is the cabinet above the refridgerator and is not very easy for me to access since it's so high so I just have the things that only get used when company is coming. I actually moved quite a few things from this cabinet to the basement as I realized some of the things I was keeping were only used about once a year. These at least get used more often than that.

Lastly, I have a small drawer under my stove that I use to put some other baking pans that don't fit anywhere else.

That's it! I'm very happy to have this done and to keep moving forward organizing the rest of my home. It may take longer than 52 Weeks but the end result will still be worth it. Now on to next week's challenge, food storage areas!

Until next time!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mini Update and Organizing Encouragement

So it has been a bit crazy around here lately. I've been dealing with a fussy, teething baby and we've just recovered from all being I'm so thankful I was able to have my MIL and other family come by to help. Needless to say, organizing has been put on the back burner as we have all been working to get ourselves back to health.

Since I am still nursing, I have been trying many natural remedies to get better and I feel they have really helped. I'm not normally a fan of medication anyway, especially when a natural remedy can work just as well, or in many cases, better. Although, when I was sick a couple months ago and developed a terrible cough that kept me up all night, I did end up taking antibiotics. After the fifth sleepless night, I got pretty desperate. I was able to avoid the terrible cough this time around I really feel that resting was a big help. The first day I felt sick, my husband and I went to bed at 8:00 pm and each night after I went to bed between 8:30-9:00 until I felt better. I also tried to nap when possible, although the girls didn't always give me more than 10-20 minutes to do that but I still felt that just laying down for 10 minutes was better than trying to do any work. I drank lots of warm liquids (tea, homemade chicken broth) and cut out/down on carbs and sugar. It was hard not to have my dark chocolate and raisins at the end of the day so that only lasted a couple days :) but I still feel it helped. My mom also gave me a recipe for a syrup to help with the cough. It was very yummy, so I took that a few times a day. Its basically grated fresh ginger, raw honey, fresh lemon juice and chopped pieces of lemon. I don't have the measurements but I would start with equal parts each and adjust until it tastes yummy but still has some kick from the ginger. I don't know if this prevented me from developing a bad cough but all the ingredients are very good for you when your body is fighting sickness anyway.

We are all feeling better now, although my youngest is getting some teeth and has been extra fussy lately so hopefully that resolves itself soon. I have started to work on the second week of organizing so I hope to share all that I've done with you soon.

I also wanted to just give some encouragement in case anyone else is struggling to keep up with organizing. Sometimes, life gets a bit crazy and you need to take a break, that's ok! Just get back to it as soon as you can. It may take longer that 52 Weeks to finish organizing but the end result will still be so rewarding! There may also be weeks that don"t take very long because your space is small or just isn't as messy. So let's get back to it, shall we?

In the meantime, I have also been watching some organizing videos on youtube that have helped to motivate me. If you need some motivation as well, they may help!

Alejandra Costello

Do it on a Dime

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Organizing Week 1- The Kitchen Counters

Hello there friends! I am excited to start this organizing journey with you all. I found a great resource that breaks down the organizing process on a weekly basis so that at the end of one year, ideally, your whole house will be organized. Check it out here. There are many ways to go about getting organized but I really loved the method at Home Storage Solutions because it feels very doable. One task per week, I can do that. And it starts off so simply- just the counters and sink. Although it did take me a bit longer to get it done because as I evaluated what needed to stay and what needed to be put away, I realized things needed to be moved around a bit to accommodate some of those changes. But I am happy to say I have successfully completed organizing week one!

I feel that this is very functional for me right now. I know things in life keep changing and I will have to reevaluate  (I learned that from great organizing resource!) but today, I'm happy. Another thing I would like to mention is that it doesn't look perfect like a magazine because, frankly, I don't live that way. I think that was a big hurdle for me to overcome- learning that function is the most important aspect. It does not have to look picture-perfect to work.

Ok, so here are my counters!

I really tried to just leave out the most important pieces that get used daily. This is why next to the sink you will see my Boon drying rack for my pumping equipment and baby bottles. It's not my first choice of decor but it's necessary :). There are things that don't get used daily like my stand mixer but I love it so much and I think it really adds a nice pop of color in the kitchen and ties in with the curtain above the sink. I left out my oil, salt and pepper next to the stove because I need those many times throughout the day while cooking. I do a lot of cooking so that makes sense for me. I also have the coffee maker out and our burr grinder for my daily cup of coffee. I didn't stage anything. This is how the counters look normally...(well, when the kitchen is actually clean ;)). Now I just need to get better about leaving the kitchen like this at the end of the day!

Next week's challenge will deal with the kitchen cabinets and drawers. Looking forward to sharing the results!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

House Update

As promised, I have some after pictures of the house to share. I must first say that the house is not yet "finished". I still have quite a bit of decorating to do and there are many things that are just temporary placements- but for now, it works. One of the reasons things are not yet finished after living in the house for over a year is that I am decorating and furnishing slowly. We just couldn't buy everything we needed right away so some things I have just had to find ways to make do with what we had.

You may also notice there are no pictures of bedrooms or bathrooms. Those still have quite a bit of work. The bathrooms were actually left in their original state. I've used some simple decorations to try and make them feel "new" so I will show you those at a future date. For now, enjoy the rooms that are mostly done. I will definitely keep posting updates as I add to each room and switch things around to help them function better. Sometimes it seems our homes are never finished but I am working toward the goal of a simple, well-functioning space. Enjoy!

                                                             Living Room Before:


                                                           Living Room After:

Dining Room Before:

Dining Room After:

                                                                    Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year, New Start, New Blog...ger

Credit: Corbis

It's a cold day in Chicago as I sit in my sparsely decorated dining room, fleece pajamas on and iPad in hand. I'm reading over many of my favorite bloggers and feeling slightly giddy as I read of resolutions and planned posts- all with the intent of helping me achieve the many goals floating about in my head.

"Oh, this will be an exciting year indeed! I will get organized! I will finish decorating! I will be a patient mother! I will"

Oh yes, I have a blog that I haven't written in for over a year. (Enter dark cloud of shame over my head.) I will not bore you with excuses as to why no posts have been written (some of which may include moving into a new house and having baby #2) but instead will simply say that this year I plan to start fresh. I apologize to you who have checked back often hoping for some new content, only to be met with the same last post, month after month. I hope you will give me another chance and go on this journey with me as I attempt to make this a great new year filled with all things practical and lovely.

Some of the things I have planned:

  • Finally showing some before and after pictures of the house.
  • On the road to getting organized with a 52 Week Plan.
  • Simplifying life and wardrobe.
  • General craziness that comes with being a stay-at-home-mom to two adorable girls (ages 3 and 9 months).

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Paint Colors!

The paint has finally gone up on the walls. This does not mean we are done but I am definitely seeing the light. The rooms are still a disaster so I will just show you some paint swatches for now with real life pics to come.

For the kitchen, dining, sunroom and hallway, we went with a light grey color, Behr Sterling, to keep it clean and fresh looking.

For the living room, we went with a light aqua, Behr Balmy Seas, and had the color lightened 50%.

In the master bedroom, we went with a light greyish purple, Behr Tranquil Retreat.....yes, hubby was all on board. It was this or beige and he did not want beige.

In Audrey's room (which will later become an office) we went with a light grey again, Behr Subtle Touch. When I chose this, I thought it would be darker but it turned out to be very light. At first I was disappointed but have come to like the color now. It leaves a clean slate for me to add many colorful accessories.

As I mentioned before, we are not changing the bathrooms for now so I'm looking for easy and inexpensive ways to make it look updated. A nice paint color is a good start. Again, I went with the is such a great color for the home and makes everything look updated. I chose a bit of darker grey since the wall has white tile going up halfway, Behr Natural Gray.

I am very glad to finally have all the colors up. It was not an easy decision. I am almost done picking paint colors. I just have two more to pick out in the upstairs room but it feels good to have the majority done.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Working with what you have

Sometimes you need to work with what you have. Example- I've run into a slight snag in house design this week. You see, we had rented out our townhouse as an executive rental. This meant that we left all the furniture along with dishes and linens. This worked out well because we were able to move fairly painlessly. We figured when the lease was up we would take back the furniture if we couldn't rent it as an exec again. Then the renter said he would likely renew the lease and that meant we would buy all new things. Woohoo! Although it sounded a bit overwhelming at first, I had embraced the challenge fully and was already shopping for new furniture pieces. For instance, the grey couch in my Living Room board. Now it seems the renter no longer wants our furniture...sigh. So I need to find a way to work our existing couches into the living room. The problem, they are a baby blue color. Ok, it's not terrible. I may be able to work with them but I was really looking forward to the new couch. God likes to teach me lessons when I don't want to learn them. And I do realize that I am very blessed to be able to buy a house, let alone renovate. So as I try and learn this very important lesson I will brainstorm some ways to use what furniture we have in the existing design.

Some ideas-

Now I will have to hold a swatch of the paint color next to the couch but the blue color might work. Since the walls will be an aqua and there will likely be more than one shade in the room, it may even look intentional. I will just have to use more grey in the pillows and other accessories to tie that color in a bit more.

Another idea is to use a grey slipcover to continue with the original idea of a grey couch. The tricky thing with that is finding one that will fit well and not look sloppy.

The other snag is that we have a sofa and loveseat. I had originally planned to only have one couch on one wall and a pair of chairs opposite in front of the window. I think I could just use one of the couches and put the loveseat in the basement. I'd rather not put a couch in front of the window because it would block too much light. I'll have to play with the layout a bit.

We also have a dining room table I will need to work with. It's not terrible but we refinished it a few years back and stained it a dark cherry color. The look I am going for now is more along the lines of a rustic wood table with mismatched chairs. Something along these lines:

One idea would be to sand the table again and refinish it to look more rustic or.......just buy a new one, lol. The thing with this table is that we received it for free from the previous owner so it's not like we paid for it. Also, if I find a really cheap one at a garage sale or online, the hubby may be on board with this one. The other issue is that I was looking for a rectangle table and this one is round and can be made longer into an oval shape.

So I have some ideas, even though they may not be ideal. Sometimes you just have to work with what you have. It is unrealistic to think that we can get new furniture every time we want a change. This will be good practice to rethink things and refurbish to get a completely new look. Stay tuned for some re-purposing!