The Pursuit of Tidy ~ No. 2: The Dark Side of the Kitchen

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A new year often brings with it the urge to conquer clutter – to renew and refresh one’s space.  For many,  clean and uncluttered surroundings help to ease and open the mind, something that acts as both a foundation and motivation for the pursuit of other goals.

Like Starbucks, who every year returns to their fresh, white cups after the holidays, I too feel the urge to clarify.  I should probably also reflect on why I take life cues from a coffee shop.  Every January, I gather my ‘tidy’ reference materials, which include a few old favourites like Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook or Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  I then scour my local bookstores and my favourite organizing blogs in search of new ways to organize the spaces in my life.

One of my favourite organizing/homekeeping blogs is A Bowl Full of Lemons, created by the lovely and talented Toni Hammersley.  Toni is truly my guru for everything organizing/cleaning/decor-related.  She creates such inspiring content and has the most drool-worthy home.  Toni is currently hosting the 2016 Home Organization 101 Challenge, a 14-week series on her blog, where she provides guides on how to declutter every space both in (and outside) of the home.  If that wasn’t enough, she has just released her first book entitled The Complete Book of Home OrganizationIf you don’t have this book, we can’t be friends.  If you don’t have this book, you need it in your life.  In this publication, Toni offers over 150 ways to improve both the look and function of your home and does so with the help of stunning photography that would inspire even the untidiest of souls.

The first room in Toni’s home organization challenge is the kitchen, which got me thinking about this room in my home.  As mentioned in my October 2015 post, entitled the Pursuit of Tidy ~ No. 1, I noted that for many, the kitchen is the heart of the home.  This room sees quite a lot of traffic on any given day and when left unattended, can easily become a nightmare.

While many of us do our best to keep those “high traffic” areas clean and organized (i.e. countertops, frequently-accessed cupboards), what about those spaces that tend to be forgotten? I’m talking about that abyss under your sink, or the dark side of your refrigerator or pantry.  The places where only the bravest of souls venture.  While you may not think so, there is a silver-lining to tackling these spaces – because they are often tragic looking, any change is a massive improvement!  Who doesn’t love a quick win?

In a continuation of my series, and with the help of Toni’s new book, I suggest three scary areas of your kitchen that you can take back in your pursuit of tidy:

Under the Sink (No. 30 in The Complete Book of Home Organization)

At one time or another, has this area in your home resembled a post-apocalyptic wasteland?  If so, you are not alone.  Often awkward, this space tends to attract stuff that doesn’t  seem to belong anywhere else.  It is so easy to toss things into this space, but when it comes to finding something (or even opening the cupboard door), bon chance!  I challenge you to conquer this spot in your kitchen.  Here’s how:

First, grab a garbage bag (or two) and a damp cloth.  Pull everything out of the space and give the interior of the cupboard a good wipe down.  Next, take a moment to assess the contents of this space and toss anything that has dried up, worn out or looks downright disgusting.  Then group the remaining like items together and decide, based on how you use this space, what you want to reintroduce.  If all of your remaining items are cleaning-related, like mine (shocking), then further divide them based on those you access daily versus products that you access less often.  This will help to determine what should reside at the front of the cupboard and what can sit in the rear.  From here, you can make it as simple or as involved as you want.  You can neatly return the items back into this space, or you can invest a little extra time and money and go one step further.

With some inspiration from Toni, I took my space further by visiting my happy place local organizing store, Solutions (though you can find great organizing products at your local dollar store too) where I picked up:

A Lazy Susan (similar item)
Two clear, stackable drawers (similar item)
A large bin (similar item)
A glass jar with a tightly-sealed lid (similar item)

I placed the items that I reach for everyday (i.e. fruit wash, dish soap, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner) on the Lazy Susan and placed it at the front of the cupboard.  Next, I took the other items, that I use less frequently, and placed them in the larger bin.  I then took my microfibre cleaning cloths as well as other items like Swiffer Duster refills, and placed them in the clear drawers.  These drawers are great because you can instantly see what inside.  For those who have a dishwasher like me, I used the glass jar to store my dishwasher pucks.  The tight seal keeps them from becoming moist and deteriorating.  Finally, I mounted two small 3M hooks on the inside of the cupboard door and hung my rubber gloves using cute clips found at my local Dollar Tree.

In a relatively short time, and with a few extra dollars, I transformed this space into something both functional and pleasing to the eye.

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For more inspiration, check these out:

10 Super-Smart Ways to Organize the Space Under Your Sink – Good Housekeeping 
Stylish Storage: 10 Ways to Organize Under Your Sink – Apartment Therapy 

In the Refrigerator (No. 19 in The Complete Book of Home Organization)

Have you ever seen the terrifying sequence in the movie Ghostbusters, where Sigourney Weaver hears growling coming from her refrigerator and opens it to find Zuul and the Temple of Gozer are where her eggs and mayonnaise should be? She lets out a bloodcurdling scream and slams the door.  Well, I had a similar reaction last week when I opened my refrigerator door to find that my husband had left a bag of salami open at the back and it had leaked onto the shelf.  Needless to say, refrigerators can be a scary place, but when well-organized, make a noticeable improvement to your kitchen.

My instructions for tackling this space are similar to the above, but I would recommend carving out an hour (or more, depending on the state of affairs), of uninterrupted time, as you will have to remove products from the refrigerator that may spoil if left out for more than two hours.  You’ll want to get in and get out as soon as possible.

Again, grab a few garbage bags, and this time also grab a cloth and a bucket with some water and mild detergent.  Remove the contents of the refrigerator and toss anything that has dried up, expired or looks downright disgusting.  Take that soapy water and give the inside of your refrigerator a good scrub, then wipe down with a clean cloth or paper towel and give it a few minutes to dry.  Next, gather all the items you plan to keep and organize them in a way that works for you and your family (i.e. frequently accessed items like milk or juice on the top shelf at the front versus condiments that are only accessed every so often at the back).

As with any space, the organizing systems in your refrigerator can be as simple or as involved as you wish.  You can return the items back neatly in the refrigerator, but I would suggest adding some organizational components.  Lazy Susans are great additions to your refrigerator as they corral smaller items and make them easily accessible.  Bins of varying sizes are also a great idea when organizing things like snacks.  If you are looking for more inspiration to organize this space, here are a couple of resources:

How to Organize Your Refrigerator Drawers and Shelves – Real Simple
Before and After: A Refrigerator Makeover – Real Simple 
Organizing your Refrigerator – Martha Stewart

In the Pantry (No. 41 in The Complete Book of Home Organization) 

Depending on the size and layout of your home, the pantry may be limited to a few shelves in a cupboard or may be an entire room.  Regardless of the size, pantries are notorious for being difficult spaces to maintain.  So much money and time is lost repurchasing items you didn’t know you had, or tossing things that have expired because again, you didn’t know you had them.

While the topic of organizing a pantry (and the all the possibilities) could be a blog post on its own, I will speak to the basics for organizing this space and then offer additional resources should you wish to go further.

Again, the same rules apply in all organizing attempts.  Grab your garbage bags, your damp cloth and remove all the items from your pantry.  Like a broken record, toss anything that has dried up, expired or is downright disgusting and gather all the items you intend to keep.  Next, I would suggest organizing your items into categories that make sense to you.  In The Complete Book of Home Organization, Toni suggests organizing the contents of a pantry into basic categories like:

  • Baking supplies (flour, sugar etc.)
  • Bulk items (rice, beans, nuts or other dry goods)
  • Canned food
  • Pasta and sauces
  • Chocolate and deserts
  • Prepackaged food
  • Snacks

Again, depending on your time and resources, the way in which you return the items to this space can be as simple or as involved as you want.  When doing so, keep in mind that frequently used items should be easily accessible and all items should be at least somewhat visible so that you can quickly determine what you have on hand.  Again, using bins and other organizational products can enhance this space by making it not only more efficient but also nice to look at.

For more pantry inspiration, check out these resources below:

Organize Your Pantry by Zones – Better Homes and Gardens
Organize Your Pantry – Woman’s Day
How to Organize Your Kitchen Pantry – Martha Stewart 

Whether you decide to tackle one cupboard this week, or commit to reorganizing your entire kitchen, remember that even the smallest attempt is a step forward in your pursuit of tidy!  A few minutes a day goes a long way!

Finally, a special congratulations to Toni on her new book!  Toni, you have such a talent and I’m so glad you decided to share that talent with the world!  Don’t forget to check out Toni’s blog – A Bowl Full of Lemons – and pick up her new book The Complete Book of Home Organization today!

 Happy Tidying!
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