Cleaning and Organizing the Kitchen and Pantry: Days 4 and 5

I have a confession to make. I got so into cleaning and organizing the kitchen, I just wanted to get it done. So I forgot to take “before” pictures. I can just show you the after pictures and tell you how it used to be. 
Before
The flour, coffee, and tea canisters were on the counter on the other side of the sink, where they weren’t noticeable. They are too cute to be hidden away, and besides, I do most of my cooking on the other side of the sink, so it just made sense to keep them there. 
On the other side of the sink where the canisters used to be, there also used to be a big pile of mail. When Brian comes in from the garage door when he comes home from work, he sets his lunch box and the mail down right there, and often it piles up. I try to always meet him at the door, so after we say hi and start talking about the day, I pick up the mail and sort it right there. It’s convenient because our recycling is right there too. 
After

Before
The bottle brush and scrubbing pads were scattered behind the sink in a pile, but when I was cleaning underneath the sink I found that little white caddy.

After

Instead of using chemicals to clean, I used a recipe from the index of Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. The cleaning solution consisted of vinegar, baking soda, and water. It was super easy to make, and it really worked. I was very glad I used it when Brian accidentally knocked over the bucket and spilled it all over the floor. Right away, the dog started lapping it up. Good thing it’s non-toxic, otherwise I don’t know what would have happened to him!

Before
Picture these counters with the coffee maker, utensil container, and knife block, along with a toaster, smoothie maker, and spice rack. I found other homes for three of those appliances, and now I have a lot more room!

After

The book says to take everything out of your cupboards and drawers, clean them all out, and then put it back in a way that works better for you. Well, I didn’t do that. I just wiped down the fronts and rearranged the ones that weren’t working for me.

Before
The pantry definitely wasn’t working for me. I took most of the stuff out, and thought through what I used most often. The top shelf was a catch all for all kinds of stuff, and the bottom shelf was a mess too. There was so much space going to waste, and after cleaning off the counters, I wanted to use some of it to store some of the appliances.

After
I threw out prescription information from prescriptions that had been used up, and removed objects that belong somewhere else.  Then I categorized the rest, and sectioned off areas for it. We needed to get groceries at the time, so there’s lots of free space still.

I put appliances and cookbooks on the top shelf because they’re big enough that I can see them from below without having to pull out the step-stool. I put cooking and baking ingredients on one side of second shelf and breakfast stuff on the other side. The next shelf is for snacks and beverages, the one under that is for spices, sauces, and pasta. On the bottom shelf that’s partly obscured by Kopek, canned food takes up half and plastic bags and the step-stool take up the other side.

A few days later, I bought a metal shelf stacker thing. It doubled the space! It was a great purchase. Here’s a similar one from Organize.com that has even more space:

Silver Mesh Pantry Organizers

I used silverware containers to corral seasonings that don’t go on the spice rack.

When’s the last time you cleaned out your pantry? Does your kitchen space work for you?

Day One: Organized Simplicity
Days 2 and 3: Redecorating and Decluttering the Living Room, Office, and Dining Room
Days 4 and 5: Cleaning and Organizing the Kitchen and Pantry
Day 6: Decluttering and Organizing the Bathrooms
Days 7 and 8: Redecorating and Organizing the Bedrooms
Day 9: Redecorating and Organizing the Master Bedroom
Day 10: Organizing the Linen Closet and Entry Way

Organized Simplicity Book Review

Overview
“Simplicity isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you gain.” Tsh Oxenreider encourages readers to rethink simplicity in her book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. Although simplifying has become a buzzword today, Tsh explains that true simplifying is more than living off the grid, riding bikes, eating only from our garden, or wearing organic clothes. It’s “living holistically with your life’s purpose.” Since we all have a different purpose in life, simple living will look different for each of us. 

In Organized Simplicity, you’ll learn what living holistically with your life’s purpose could look like for your family. You’ll define a purpose statement, and get motivated to lose the extra clutter in your schedule, finances, and home. The second part of the book takes you through a ten day organizing and simplifying cleanse of your home. In the appendices Tsh also provides recipes for homemade household cleaners and toiletries, home management notebook templates, and lots of resources.

The Good
I was very relieved to discover that simple living didn’t mean more work, and organizing didn’t mean spending hundreds at the Container Store. Tsh made simple living realistic and practical. Her research in the opening chapters was eye opening, it’s crazy how over time, in America people’s houses have gotten bigger but their work hours have gotten longer, so they work more to be able to buy more stuff that they then can’t enjoy because they have to work! It’s crazy how busy people’s schedules are, and how much more stressed we are in this generation. The first section of the book gets you motivated to simplify, and walks through the areas of making a family purpose statement, simplifying your time, finances, and routine. It encourages the reader to savor the little things and make time for the activities that are truly rewarding.

The recipes for homemade cleaners are easy, and they work! Making my own cleaners definitely will simplify my life, since I can use what I already have in my cupboards.

The way the book is bound, so that it stays open on any given page, and the fact that it’s small is really nice. It’s easy to carry it around with you from room to room while cleaning and organizing.

The Bad
The first section of the book is phenomenal, but the ten day cleaning section could have been better, in my opinion. We don’t have a big house or much stuff, and I took used ten days I had off of school and completely open, and I still didn’t get it all done in ten days. I can’t imagine that a family with children and more rooms could either.

Secondly, the way the cleaning part is written is really hard for me to follow. There’s one checklist in the front of each chapter for the things you’ll need, and then one vague checklist in the back of each chapter for the things you should declutter, clean, and disinfect. But the chapter itself is written in a parenthetical style that makes it really hard to follow step by step. Every couple minutes I had to re-read the paragraph to make sure I did it all. It would have been much easier to follow if it had been laid out in numbered steps.

Some of the stuff in our “give” and “sell” piles

Overall
If you’re interested in living life more intentionally as a family, I definitely recommend this book. I think just about all of us could make better use of our time and resources, and would love to have more time to enjoy the things that are truly enriching to us. Unlike most organizing books, this one tailors to you, your purpose, your goals, where you are in life right now. I suggest planning on more time for the ten day cleaning section, and I think you and your family will be encouraged and blessed by the changes that result when you define simple living and commit to it.

Get it: Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living $10.98 on Amazon.com for the spiral bound hardcover, and $8.99 for the Kindle edition.

What would make your life more simple?

Cleaning Out My Pantry

Simple Mom’s Project Simplify challenge this week came at just the right time for us. The challenge was to clean out and organize the pantry and refrigerator, but Tsh didn’t stop there. She encouraged us to think about what we were putting into our bodies, and take this as an opportunity to evaluate our eating choices.

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading “Made to Crave” by Lysa Terkeurst. I knew it was different from any other diet or exercise book when I read the chapter on finding your “want to” motivation for you to eat healthier and exercise. That’s what I’ve always struggled with, “being healthy” was never enough to motivate me for long.

 Lysa’s motivation to get back in shape was overcoming her craving for food, and learning to depend on God instead. I’m just a few chapters in, but I’m realizing that a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about self-discipline and good physical health, but about spiritual health: overcoming temptation, relying on God for strength and comfort, growing closer to God, and being fully satisfied in God alone.

I will write a review that does it justice after I’m finished reading it!

So right about this same time, Brian starts talking to me about making some lifestyle changes. He’s decided to get in shape, he tells me. It’s not the first time. But this time he said he wanted to eat healthier, including less processed foods and more natural and whole food. So instead of just nodding “Whatever you say, Dear,” and watching him work out for a couple days before giving up, this time I said, “Hey, I’ll join you!”

This was one of my new years resolutions, based on Proverbs 31:

1. Healthier Living
~Eat/fix healthier meals, using more whole, fresh, and nutritious foods. Verse 14, she seeks food from afar, gives me the idea that this isn’t just any old food, it’s the best for her family that she can find.
~Exercise three times a week. Verse 17, her arms are strong and she works vigorously.

I haven’t done so hot. I stuck with the exercise for awhile, but the pilates DVD was too hard. I could only do half of it, because my body just couldn’t bend in those ways. It was discouraging and overwhelming, so I decided to walk. But walking around without anyone to talk to or a mp3 player to listen to got boring, so I stopped doing anything besides walking to the mail box.

I never really made the change to fixing healthier meals. I found good recipes, but never seemed to remember to pick up the ingredients when grocery shopping. It was easier to grab the cheap boxed processed stuff, especially since that’s what I had coupons for.

As a result, this is what our pantry looked like.

Before
This is the food side. How much of this stuff is processed, non-natural, non whole foods, with minimal nutritional value? 
If you guessed all of it, you’re close: notice the water jug on the bottom shelf, next to the Propel. And I’m not really sure whether or not Propel Zero is actually good for you or not, but as Brian said, “It’s better than pop!”
Here’s the other side. We have a lot of dishes and appliances that we aren’t using yet, but will need should we have our own house or a family.
I tend to keep glass containers, they make cheap vases and pretty displays. We keep our extra toiletries in here too.
Here’s the lower shelves. Mostly stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else.Our church collects food and toiletry items and gives them to a family in need each month, so after every shopping trip, I set a few things aside in that box. But I always seem to forget to take them to the church! You can see the remnants of cleaning out my closet down there too, along with some old sheets don’t fit our bed. 
It took me a couple days, but here’s my…
After-Pantry
Here’s my top shelf. These are all empty boxes, which we are keeping because we will likely move sometime.
This is my new and improved snack shelf! I rearranged it so all the kinda healthy snacks are further into the corner, so they’re not the first thing you see. Instead, you see several kinds of nuts, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, and peanut butter, which can go on the crackers or on the fruit. 
I moved all the canned stuff lower, and added oatmeal with the cereals. I also took some baking stuff from the cupboard and moved it down there, because the cupboard needed to be organized too. 

I just need some clear empty jars for the fruit and nuts now. Notice that I labeled everything, and also notice that the labels aren’t sticking. Bummer. 

Instead of all those boxed hamburger helpers, cake mixes, and other processed stuff, now there’s this:

Fruits and veggies! These are right next to the healthy snacks. We used to keep fresh fruit on the counter next to the stove, but our refrigerator is way too full to accommodate these and I read online that the best way to store fruit is in a cool dark place away from sunlight and heat. So I think this will work out much better. 
Also, every day it’s a habit to wander over to the pantry when bored, or just getting home from work. It’s easy to mindlessly grab some chips, or when cooking dinner, reach for the pre-packaged stuff. Now, it will be just as easy to grab fresh fruit or vegetables. I also put iced tea with the Propel, and moved the Mt. Dew to the far side, so that the beverages are together and in order by healthiness.
The processed food isn’t completely gone, however. I kept some, but notice the label: 
Emergency Only
Because sometimes, I’m not going to have time to fix dinner. My plan is that these will no longer be a staple of our diet. After all, I can fix the exact same dish without much trouble, and I’ll know what I’m putting in it. 
Now on to the other side: 
 Most of this stuff just had to be rearranged and categorized.  I went through the donation box and put together bags with a good balance of food, paper products, and toiletries. I didn’t want to show up at church with a gigantic box. Now for the next four Sundays, I need to bring one bag with me! 

I moved all the camping and picnic stuff together.
I moved my cookbooks to the awkward corner. I was keeping them in a cupboard, but they didn’t fit very well. I like them here much better, and they’re about the only thing that fits well. 
After- Spice Cupboard
And then I moved on to my baking and spice cupboard. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a before picture. It’s really too bad, because you can’t get an idea of how cluttered and sticky it was. 
I really needed something to put my spices in so that they were easier to see. I didn’t have any little baskets or trays, but I happened to glance up and see these silverware holders that we weren’t using. They were perfect! 

This might be my favorite part of the whole project. Now I can find what I’m looking for with no problem!
The white baggy in the Italian holder is full of garlic cloves. I kept them wrapped up so the smell doesn’t get overpowering. 
After-Refrigerator 
Again, I don’t have a before picture. I can just tell you, it wasn’t this full before! I added two containers of strawberries, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, grapes, and bagels. Bagels are kinda healthy, right? 
I followed Tsh’s advice and put an open container of baking soda inside to neutralize odors. 
I don’t know why Blogger insists on posting this picture sideways, but here’s our salad drawer. It is packed to the max! The before picture would have shown just a bag of potatoes, but now there’s chilies, celery, carrots, cauliflower, red and green onions. 
So, our first week of a healthier lifestyle is coming to an end. We: 
  • Ate more protein than before
  • Ate less carbs, such as bread and pasta
  • Ate more whole fruits and vegetables
  • Exercised more. We went for a run/walk. I didn’t last more than a block running, and my legs are still aching several days later! 
  • Ate frozen pizza once. And a cupcake.
But it’s progress!

Follow along and be inspired by the other pantry makeovers at SimpleMom!

Is it important to you to eat fresh and whole foods, or organic foods, or range-free? Do you have food standards? Why or why not?

Cleaning Out My Closet

I looked at every article of clothing I owned this week. I was in for some surprises! I went through all of my drawers, my side of the closet, and my shoes, my accessories, and my jewelry. I didn’t think I had a lot of clothes, and I definitely didn’t think I was a hoarder, but going through them all changed my mind!

I’m joining several other ladies in Project: Simplify, hosted by Simple Mom. Using her book Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living as a guide, for five weeks, a new “hot spot” is revealed, and we have a challenge to get that spot organized. This last week the hot spot was our wardrobe.
It wasn’t the first place that came to my mind when I thought about de-cluttering. No one sees it really except me. Tsh Oxenreider, the writer at Simple Mom, had several good reasons for starting with our wardrobes:
  • Taking care of ourselves, since we as women often forget to do that.
  • Setting an example for our families, and 
  • Motivating ourselves for the rest of the challenges. 
It was really motivating to see the pile of clothes that didn’t fit anymore, were stained and holey, or that just weren’t my color that were leaving my drawers and hangers for good. Why did I hang on to them for so long?!

The steps were as follows:

  • Make sure your clothes are clean and in one place.
  • Mark two boxes (I used bags) one as “Give” and one as “Toss.”
  • Take out all the contents of the drawers and clean them. 
  • Try on your clothes, sorting them into piles: keep, maybe, give, and toss.
  • Re-assess your maybe pile and make some decisions. 
  • Do the same for your shoes, jewelry, and accessories. 

Shirt Drawer
I started with my shirt drawer. Here are all the shirts I have that are not hanging in the closet. It’s hard to tell from this angle, but this drawer is really full. I has all of my short sleeved, tanks, and long sleeved shirts inside since here in AZ, I never know which I’ll need on a given day.

I learned the rolling shirts trick a long time ago when I shared my room with my very fashion conscious little sister who took up a lot of drawer space. You really can fit a lot more in when you roll your clothes. 
Although I’d gone through all my clothes while packing them before we moved here, I realized that there were a lot of tops I hadn’t worn in a long, long time. Several didn’t fit me, but I hung on to them for sentimental reasons. Although I rarely ever wear tee-shirts, I kept my choir shirts, high school newspaper shirt, youth group shirt, and my fall play shirt. 
I used Tsh’s suggestion to take a picture of yourself wearing the outfit. For some reason, seeing the picture helps you look at it objectively.
I know it’s backwards in the mirror, but it says “State Fair.” Best high school musical EVER. I took the most pictures of my sentimental shirts, and ended up keeping the ones that meant most to me, fit best, and that I actually did wear on occasion. 
I put in the “Give” bag several of my shirts that I’ve had since I was a sophomore in high school. Now that I’m an old married woman, I need to dress the part!
I also got rid of tanks that were too small, shirts with holes, shirts that were uncomfortable, or didn’t look good on me. Here’s my finished drawer:
I know it looks just as full as before at this angle, but trust me, it’s got a lot more room and now holds only the clothes I actually like. 
My bags were close to full already when I started on my jean’s drawer. 
Jeans/Shorts Drawer
Here we have some of my pajamas, some of Brian’s shorts, my shorts, capris, and jeans, all mixed together. This was a hard drawer, mainly because hardly any of my jeans or shorts fit well. My jeans are generally ok after wearing them for a day to stretch them out, but when I first get them from the laundry, it’s painful to get them buttoned and zipped. It didn’t used to be that way. 
So, do I keep them or give them? If I got rid of all the jeans and shorts that were uncomfortable, I would have one pair of jeans and two pairs of shorts left. So I decided to keep the ones I know will stretch out, at least just for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to replace them with comfy ones soon. 
Photobucket
Sock/Underwear/Pajama Drawer
This has been a mess for a long time. I took everything out and refolded it, and counted it. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Guess how many pairs of underwear I had?
Fifty
Yes. Fifty pairs of underwear, all different styles and colors. I found two pairs with stickers still on them, never worn. I had no idea that I’d collected so many! I threw away all the pairs with holes, stretched out elastic, or didn’t fit right. 
I did the same for my socks and bras. I had several pairs of socks that I’d never worn, I guess I was saving them for a special occasion. I put several pairs in my give away pile and kept the ones I thought I’d actually wear. 
I sorted my pajamas and got rid of random pants or old tanks that didn’t go with anything, and kept five matching pairs. Some are for really cold nights, and others are for really hot nights, so I think it’s a good number.
I can’t bring myself to post pictures of this drawer, so you’ll have to trust me when I say that it is much, much improved! 

I haven’t bought these yet, but wouldn’t these be awesome to keep your underwear drawer organized? 
Drawer Organizer Combo Pack - Set of 6

My Closet 
Are those knee high nylons shoved down there?
Yes, yes it is. 
Here’s a close-up of my top shelf.
It’s not a pretty sight. My scarves are piled up there, along with a couple sweatshirts, blankets, and purses. My shoes are kind of a mess too, and my clothes aren’t arranged in any order.
I found several outfits that hadn’t fit me for years hiding back there. They went into the “Give” bag. Some I had to try on a few times to come to a decision. The shoes were especially hard, because I love all my shoes, even the ones that don’t fit or are out of style. I had to be ruthless, and it was hard.
I had a difficult time finding a solution to the scarf problem too. I wanted them to be contained, but still visible. I finally used a hanger, just like I had been doing for my belts. It would be nice to get some hangers like these in there someday. 
Walnut 10-Scarf Hanger
I had another problem: even after sorting through the clothes, they were really, really crowded. I solved this by putting all my lingerie in a VS bag on the top shelf, and folding my sweats and putting them on the floor. It’s not ideal, but it works for now. 
What would be ideal, would be something like this for my lingerie: 
Extendables Lingerie Box - Clear Drawer Organizer
Although maybe not something clear…ahem. 
This would be great for my sweats: 
Shelf Dividers - Set of 2 Tall in White

My shirts are kinda organized by length of sleeve and color. Kinda. I’m open to organizing suggestions! 
Here are my final “Give” and “Toss” bags after sorting through my maybes:
The bag on the left is “Toss,” The other three are “Give.” My little sister is coming next week, so she gets to go through the give piles first and anything left goes to Goodwill.
Do you have some spring cleaning to do? Get inspired by everyone else’s posts and join the weekly challenges at Simplemom.net! This is spring cleaning at its most fun!

When was the last time you sorted your wardrobe? How do you organize your closet?