Thursday, March 29, 2012

30 Day Clutter Buster Challenge

Spring is here!  The flowers are blooming, albeit a little early for some of them, and the trees are budding.  And some of us get hit with the spring cleaning bug!

I don't know about you but last week when we had all that wonderful sunshine I threw open the curtains (and a few windows) and let the sun shine in.  It was wonderful to see the house illuminated with natural light.  That is until I noticed that hidden in the dark corners of the rooms were plenty of dust and cobwebs missed during my regular weekly cleaning.  It's time for spring cleaning!

Mr. P.'s grandmother once told me about how they spring cleaned back in Holland when she was a girl.  Everything was emptied from a room.  The room was then scrubbed from top to bottom and everything was thoroughly cleaned before being brought back in.  Even the mattresses were taken outside to air out!  But spring cleaning should not be this daunting!  Many of today's women not only take care of the house and children but they also hold down one or more jobs to help make ends meet.  This type of spring cleaning is simply not an option anymore, thank goodness!

One of the ways to make spring cleaning, and everyday cleaning for that matter, much easier is if you can conquer the clutter.  You cannot organize clutter. 

So here's the challenge.  Each day for the month of April I am going to take a photo of something that I am going to declutter from my home and post it here.  I welcome you to join me.  Declutter one item a day for 30 days and you and your home will both feel lighter.  I'll be asking questions along the way and give you ideas on how to conquer the control that clutter has over you. 

I would also like to know what you are decluttering.  You can post it in the comments here or wherever I have posted the link to this blog.  I promise you that I will celebrate each of your accomplishments right along with you! 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pantry Organization

Last week I showed you the closet under the front staircase.  It is a small closet that holds many of my kitchen appliances that are used regularly.  This closet is at the end of a long, narrow hall which I call my pantry.

When my home was built in 1902 it had a telephone.  Not like what we have today but something like this.

Because one had to talk quite loudly into the mouth piece it required it's own area for privacy.  My pantry was originally a phone booth!

My pantry is divided into areas.  The first area is where we store the dog food for my 3 adorable furbabies.

This is the before and the after.  Before we simply left the dog food in the bag but it was unsightly and dog food would fall out onto the floor.  I bought an inexpensive garbage pail with a press-button lid and everything looks so much cleaner and nicer.

At the other end of the hall are some shelves that were piled high.

Some of the things in the before photo went into the closet that I showed photos of last week.  I moved all the heavy items onto one shelf so that I am not reaching up high to access my espresso machine.  I contained all the attachments to the Kitchen Aid and the food processor in a 13 x 9 pan on the bottom shelf.  I also want to point out that we are not raging alcoholics!  Yes, there is a lot of booze on those shelves but it's because Mr. P. and I really don't drink much.  Really!  On a final note, the after photo was taken on a Friday because the blue boxes are missing.  They're outside waiting for the garbage man to pick them up but usually they stay on the floor in this area.

I have a set of 5 free-standing shelves in the centre of the hall.  Mr. P. installed them several years ago to give us some much needed storage.  I have to admit that these shelves kind of got away from me during the holidays.  I was buying so many things for Christmas baking and meals and the leftover bits were just shoved onto a shelf.  I had such a hard time finding anything!

I wasn't kidding when I said it got away from me!  But it really didn't take that long to whip it back into shape.

As with any organizing project it's best to group like items together.  I have all the salad dressings in one area next to all the vinegars and oils, soups in another.  My peanut butters are lined up and the pasta sauces are right next to the pasta making everything easier to find.

All of the jars are labeled with chalkboard labels that I bought at Staples.  They are from the Martha Stewart line.  I really like them because I can change what I put in the jars without making new labels.  They are also very forgiving.  When I stuck them on crooked I was able to peel them off and re-stick them.  I already had all the jars that hold the nuts and dried fruit (they were just hidden with all the other stuff!).  I used a jar that I had in the basement to pack all the various colours of sanding sugars, still in their bags, into in order to contain them.  The only containers I bought were the ones for the flours which I picked up at Home Sense for $12.00 each.  Although I wish they were square I still like them because they are tall taking up more vertical space.  A nice basket contains all the small packages that don't really need their own jars.  I also had these awesome scoops on hand.

They are collapsible measuring cups that Mr. P. and I got for free when we attended at Diabetes clinic.  Now each flour has it's own measuring cup right inside!

The bottom shelf holds my garbage bags and cleaning supplies.  I kept all the floor items such as swiffer cloths and floor polishes in one basket.  I stuck a chalkboard label onto some cardboard cut to shape, punched a couple of holes in it and tied it to the basket.  My furniture polishes are also contained in a nice basket.

Mr. P. added some hooks to either side of the shelving unit and I was able to hang my broom, mop, swiffer, etc. getting them up off the floor.

Overall I'm very happy with how things turned out.  The key to organizing the pantry is to make sure that everything is visible and that like items are grouped together.   Put pasta sauces together with the pasta making dinner preparation easier.   Do you like to bake?  Try putting your baking soda, baking powder, vanilla, etc. into a basket together.  Then you only have to grab that basket when you get urge to bake a fabulous cake or cupcakes.  Just don't forget to save me a piece!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bacon Cheeseburgers

Now you may be asking yourself what do bacon cheeseburgers have to do with home organization!  Well, today I invested some time and made up almost 100 bacon cheeseburger patties and froze them.  I par-cooked the bacon and added the shredded cheese right into the beef mixture.  Although they are bacon cheeseburgers they are still healthier and more tasty than the ones bought at the supermarket.  As a twist, instead of bread crumbs in the mixture, I ran some tortilla chips that were going stale through the food processor and added them.  I've done this before and everyone in my family loved them!  This killed two birds with one stone, as they say.  Not only will I have a delicious dinner in minutes, I got rid of a couple of half empty bags of tortilla chips out of my cupboard.

Now, after a day spent outside gardening or at the beach I only have to come home and throw some of these on the grill, still frozen, open up a bag of salad and dinner is prepared.

A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.  ~James Dent

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kitchen - Part One

As everyone knows the kitchen is the heart of the home.  If the kitchen is messy then so goes the rest of the house.  I try to make it a point to tidy my kitchen every night after dinner.  There is nothing worse than getting up in the morning and having to face last night's dirty dishes before your day has even begun.  It makes me want to go back to bed!

Having a tidy kitchen also helps when it comes to cooking.  No one wants to have to clean the kitchen before starting dinner.  And everyone has heard of the tip to fill the sink with hot, soapy water and clean as you go.  But there are a few other tips that can help get dinner on the table with much less fuss and stress.

This is my kitchen.

I love my kitchen but it is 29 feet long and only 9 feet wide.  All of my cooking is done in the far 1/3 that you see which makes counter space and cupboard space limited.  This area is what I call the high rent section of my kitchen.  Items in this area must earn their keep.

The dishwasher and the microwave are in a spot that previous owners had placed a refrigerator.  When we moved in we quickly realized that a fridge that small was not going to work for our family.  We placed a portable dishwasher and an over-the-stove mounted microwave in the space making dinner preparation and clean up much more convenient.  I also try to keep the counters clear.  It again makes getting dinner on the table much more stress free.

Yes, that is my stove!  I love my stove and it truly deserves a post all it's own.  Perhaps in a future blog post.  What I am trying to show on this side of the kitchen is that I have my cutting board in a convenient spot right next to the stove.  Because there is no space in this end of the kitchen for a good sized garbage pail I placed a small galvanized bucket under the stove to save me from having to walk to the pantry (where the large garbage pail is placed) for smaller things like empty Splenda packets or bread clips.

Now for the spice cupboard next to the stove.  This is the before photo.

My pet peeve are those yellow, No Name spice packages.  I had them everywhere!

I had them in containers in a lower cabinet but it was still difficult to find what I was looking for and there was so much in them that the contents did not fit into those little spice jars.  I was losing them into the dark recesses of this cabinet!

I thought very carefully about how to arrange the spice cabinet  to best utilize the space.  This is the after.

I used larger, square containers that I picked up a Dollarama to hold the spices that I use regularly.  In thinking about containers for the space that you wish to organize consider square or rectangular ones.  Round containers (which is what was originally in this space) have a lot of dead space between them.  They also didn't stack well so I lost the use of perfectly good vertical space.  I can now see everything clearly.  I moved the salt, pepper, butter and olive oil from other areas and placed them on the bottom shelf so that they are right next to the stove and easy to reach while cooking.  For the spices that I don't use as often, I emptied a junk drawer and placed them in there.

I am now down to only 4 of those dreaded spice bags!  You may have noticed that not all the containers in this drawer are square.  This was not by choice.  I cleaned two Dollarama's out of all their square containers!

For those of you wondering what the rest of the kitchen looks like, here it is.

This end contains our coat closet.  Some day it will become a pantry but not until we renovate our mudroom and add a couple of closets in there.  The door directly beside the fridge is the hallway where the pantry is but that's for another post.

In organizing your own kitchen really think about how you move in the space.  Keep everyday items at your fingertips.  Having a clean working space can help you clear your mind to create some culinary masterpieces!  And if a culinary masterpiece is not up your alley then at least you will know where your strainer is to drain the macaroni and cheese!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Organizing the Closet Under the Stairs

The home pictured at the top of my blog is where I live.  It was built in 1902.  There is a small closet that is under the front staircase that was used for coats until the late 1930's when it then had some wooden shelves added.  Since then nothing had been done to it.

I have to admit that it had been a while since I last organized this space.  I also have to admit that one of my favourite things to do is cook.  I have almost every kitchen gadget going and I find it very difficult to part with many of them.  But I have realized that I need to practice what I preach and so I have been ruthless in cleaning out this space.

These are a few before photos (cringe)

As you can see it was difficult finding what I needed.

While I do use a lot of these things, some are only used a few times a year.  Certainly they are not used enough to be taking up valuable real estate in my pantry.  So I purchased a large shelving unit that I had my dear husband install in the basement to store things such as my panini maker, some large serving platters, the fondue set and many other things.

I chose to use open wire, chrome shelves because I did not want to be dusting shelving in the basement.  I then proceeded to empty the closet and paint the shelves and walls.  For the shelf colour I chose a goldenrod colour that was leftover from an outside paint job.  Quite frankly, I'm pretty sure that this space has not been painted since 1902.  I think it looks great now!

I noticed that the linoleum on the floor was not attached so I decided to lift it up and see what was underneath.  To my pleasant surprise it was the original flooring and it matched the shelves perfectly!

Now to fancy it up a bit!

And then I put everything back.....well, not EVERYTHING!  Dear husband installed a light near the top on the left and we are back in business!

Now everything is easy to find and only the things that I use regularly are in there.  Don't let seldom used items take up valuable real estate in your home.  If you can store things elsewhere then do so and if not, then it's time to say goodbye to the ones that are rarely used.  If worse comes to worst you could always borrow a waffle maker from a friend for that Sunday brunch that you host once a year.  Or perhaps your sister has extra serving platters for when you host that 50th birthday party that happens once in a life time.  Just be sure she's invited to the party before you ask!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wow, I just started a blog! Now what?

Who knew I was so computer savvy?  Actually I'm not.

This is a test of the Power Home Solutions blog.  This is only a test.  If this had been an actual blog post there would have been pictures and witty sayings.  Again this is only a test.