Kitchen Switchin’.

Last Friday was cold and rainy here, and both A and I were a little cranky.  So to make us both feel better I put her down for a long nap in her swing (her fave), and I decided to tackle something that has been on my to-organize list for a while.  Since the swing is in our “family room” (or rather, 100 square foot of living space where we frequently find ourselves gathering) which is next to our kitchen, it seemed perfect.  Except for the fact that I banged something loudly on the counter just as I was finishing, which woke her up about an hour before she would have gotten up on her own.  Needless to say more crankiness ensued.  For both of us.  I was going to use that last hour for my own nap time!  Oh well, at least I got my kitchen cabinets in order.

Here’s how it all went down.  I had 3 main problems.  First, the cupboards I was using as a main pantry were a disaster.  Cans stacked on cans, ketchup teetering on tuna, boxes on top of boxes, and things always just about to fall out.  See below.

Pantry - Before

Oh, and I apologize in advance for all of the dark shots.  Like I said it was a pretty dreary day and A was sleeping so most of the lights downstairs were off.  Also, I don’t really know how to use our camera.  I told myself I was going to learn while home on maternity leave, but that never panned out.

But let’s continue.  The area above our stove was also a mess.  The left side was storing tall pantry items; the right side had wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne glasses, and glass pitchers.  Why I have not cleared these out sooner I do not know.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a martini in my life, and we certainly aren’t popping bubbly on the reg over here.  I took this picture after I cleared all the glass items out but you can see everything I’m referring to in the subsequent shots.

Above Stove - Before

Glasses from Above Stove - Before

Glasses from Above Stove - Before #2

The last problem zone was double cupboard above our sink where we store our plates, bowls, and tupperware.  It wasn’t really a disaster, but I just knew I could really maximize the space if I rearranged a few things.  The before shot is below.

Plates, Bowls, Tupperware - Before

To get started, the first thing I did was take everything out of the cabinets.  My counters looked like this (can you believe all that stuff fit in there?!):

Pantry Items - During

Next, I wiped down all the empty cabinets.  Ahhhh, nice and clean:

Empty Cabinets

The pantry cabinet and the cabinets above the stove were now open for business.  Next, I grouped similar items together, and then put them back in the cabinets in a way that made sense.  Canned goods and snacks are in the top section of the pantry cabinet, oils and vinegars are below so they can be easily accessed while cooking.  A’s baby food and KP’s Omega 3 Oil (for her dry skin – she’s such a diva) are in the bottom right-hand side of this cabinet also for easy access.  Check out the improvement below.

Pantry - After

And a close up of the top and bottom, just because it’s so satisfying.

Close Up Pantry - After #1

Close Up Pantry - After #2

Breakfast items like cereal boxes and oatmeal are now on the left above the stove, with pasta, canned tomatoes, and sauce on the right.  Check it out.

Above Stove - After

Lastly, I was able to rearrange the plates, bowls, and tupperware above our sink, swap out coffee mugs, and bring in more drinking glasses.  This layout made a lot more sense.  The mugs were now directly over the Keurig in the cabinet nextdoor, and the glasses could all be in one spot together.  I also put all my tupperware on the same shelf and organized them a bit so the containers and their lids were easier to grab. So here is the last big reveal.

Plates, Bowls, Tupperware, Glasses - After

I’m pumped to have finally conquered these kitchen cabinets.  Even though no one would ever know since all this stuff hides behind our tacky faux-k (aka fake oak) wood cabinets, I can rest easy at night knowing that my kitchen items are happily in their proper places.  And I even learned a little something during this project:  it seems as though we buy way too much Kashi and tuna, and we have enough random oils to run a very eclectically scented massage parlor (sesame, garlic, lemon, safflower, vegetable, and olive).  New business idea?

Martha, Martha, Martha!

Martha Stewart Home Office OrganizationI’m all for DIY solutions and organizing on a budget, but sometimes it really does help to splurge a little on cute organization supplies to get yourself motivated.  There’s just something about looking at a stack of nice new bins and boxes and folders that just make me want to get my organizing on.  Well you can imagine my excitement when I learned earlier this month that Martha Stewart has come out with a line of Home Office Organization supplies, available at Staples!

Looking at the “collection”, there are so many things that would be fun to put to use.  A few items are pictured above.  Starting from top left and moving clockwise are: binders and accessories like zipper pouches, pockets and note tabs; kitchen organization labels; large bands for bundling documents or securing files; file pockets; fun journals; and colorful file folder labels.  I’m not exactly sure which items I could use yet, and I do not generally buy things without purpose, but I’ll look back at my master “to organize” list (yes, I have one, and I’ll share it soon in a future post) and see what could be helped along with some Martha magic.  But boy are they all so pretty!  I can’t wait to hit up Staples soon to see them in person.  I’ll admit that some of the items may be a little too crafty for me right now (I shouldn’t even pretend like I have the time to be crafting anything these days…), but I’m thinking the file pockets and binders could really help with some of the paper organization I need to get working on this year.  And hey, like I said last month, it’s time to get going on your 2011 tax return docs – maybe one of these fun folders or binders could help make the task less loathsome.  Maybe.

No Way, Duvet.

Duvet Cover Clips CollageHere is a tip for keeping your comforter snuggly in it’s place inside it’s duvet cover: use comforter clips.  We picked these puppies up on a whim a few years ago at Bed Bath & Beyond and they’ve been great.  Unlike the “Pedi-Paws” motorized nail file that we also picked up on a whim because B insisted we try it on KP.  That was significantly less successful, to say the least.  She barks and bolts from the room if you bring it near her.  But the comforter clips rock.  They cost around $5 and are worth every penny.  A balled-up comforter is no fun, especially in the middle of the night, and especially if the balled-up part ends up not on your side.  Then all you have is a scraggly section of loose duvet cover and no comforter meat.

The clips look like padded binder clips, and fasten to the inside corners of both the duvet cover and the comforter.  To use them, turn your duvet cover inside out and lay your comforter flat on top.  Fasten one clip to each corner (clipping both the comforter and cover together), flip the whole thing right-side out, and close up your duvet cover as you normally would.  The clips will hold the comforter nicely in it’s place, with no rearranging required until the next time you wash your duvet cover.  And that’s it.  Yep, it’s really that easy.

Side note, that’s obviously not our bed pictured above, but we are looking at this similar-looking headboard from Ikea (our bedroom is ridiculously boring and empty), and I’m thinking of getting the bedding above at West Elm on sale right now.  Thoughts?  I can’t decide if it’s too cartoon-y.

Questions Answered: DIY Home Office Organization.

Organized Home Office

I know, I know.  I’ve left you all hanging the past few days.  “My apologies.” (Inside joke with B).  But in all seriousness, my aforementioned cold, combined with several nights of early wake-up calls by A left me pretty beat.    Before the cold hit I did have some time to finally work on my answer to reader Kerri’s excellent question from a few weeks back, but I haven’t been able to post about it yet.  So here goes!

Question:

Hi Keep It Neat- I’d love to be able to buy everything that exists at the container store but that’s just not realistic. I have work papers and items that tend to messy up my work space at home. what is a good DIY Keep It Neat solution?

Answer:

I too would love to buy everything that exists at the container store.  It’s an amazing place.  I don’t let myself go there too often because it usually turns into a spendfest.  And there’s no possible way to leave there without picking up at least a basket full of gadgets that weren’t on your original list.  So yeah, I hear you on this one.  After reading your question I was able to come up with a few ideas for getting your home office organized on a budget.  I really wanted to test a few my suggestions before posting, and I even took a few pictures to give you the gist of it.  I wasn’t able to tackle all of my ideas but Google Images came to the rescue on that one.

1.  I love Mason jars.  Uses for these are just endless, and they are 100% free if you just re-use glass jars you already have (jams and jellies come in great sizes, so does mustard and also the “canned” peaches and pears from Trader Joe’s that M brought down 2 years ago when I had my wisdom teeth removed – I’ve been holding on to them for a special project ever since!).  I think that glass jars would be great in a home office to hold pens and pencils, and depending on the size, flowers on a desk, paper clips, stamps, etc.  They’re great naked, but if you did want to spruce them up there are probably a million ways to decorate them.  I decided I’d clear the dust off my glue gun and leftover ribbon pile to make mine a little more fun:

Glass Jars as DIY Office Organization

And here is a close-up on the paper clip holder, just because it was my favorite (the tapered shape of the former Grey Poupon mustard container on the right didn’t make it easy to get the ribbon to sit right, it’s driving me crazy in the shot above, but I don’t feel like re-doing and re-shooting!).

DIY Glass Jar Paper Clip Holder

Side note: it’s really easy to decorate things with ribbon, and I must give credit to our cousin Lisa for introducing me to this quick and inexpensive craft idea.  She is an expert.  You can get ribbon really cheaply at craft stores, or if you don’t want to spend any money at all, just do what I do – hang on to the ribbon scraps you get with gifts and save them somewhere with other craft supplies.  I’ve found that a glue gun works best for attaching ribbon to things, but I’m sure you would be fine using any type of glue.  It just may need touch-ups.

I also pinned this idea for using glass jars for office storage on Pinterest.  Also uses a glue gun, so I’m interested in trying it sometime soon.  I love me some glue gunning:

Office Supplies in Mason Jars

2. Egg Cartons.  These also have endless storage uses, and would be great for holding small office supplies – in a drawer or displayed out on a desk.  Unfortunately we were out of eggs so I had nothing to use as a sample.  But I managed to find this pic online; it should do the trick.  I suppose you could paint it or jazz it up if you like, but if that’s not your thing or you just don’t have the time, it really doesn’t require anything other than re-using a clean egg carton:

Egg Carton Storage

3. Shoe Boxes & Gift Boxes.  Depending on the size these could serve a few different purposes.  Shoe boxes would make great spots for mail, an alternative rolodex, and envelope/small notepad storage.  Shirt boxes are the perfect size for an inbox, or somewhere to store stacks of file folders.  Jewelry boxes are good for smaller items.

4. Paper towel rolls.  These can be cut and/or decorated and then used to keep cords organized, or to store items on your desk.  Found a picture online to illustrate:

DIY Cord Holder Paper Towel Roll

5. Bulletin boards & old gift bags.  This one is out there, but I had a lot of fun putting it together.  I was looking at my craft supplies (which is not a huge stash, it’s really just the leftovers from things we made for our wedding or things I’ve made for holiday decorating), and I thought this would be a fun idea using things I already had.  I started with a cheap bulletin board from Staples that we covered with navy fabric for our wedding for hanging place cards.  See pic below for a walk down memory lane.  This was the bulletin boards before they went up at the venue:

B&S Wedding - Placecards

I took one plain covered bulletin board and stapled four gift bags that I had leftover from Christmas to the bottom.  I then cut and decorated some card stock to use as labels for the bags.  Unfortunately I have no place to put this in our house so it’s just a sample (but if anyone would like it for their home with custom labels, I would be willing to host a giveaway…just email keepitneatblog@gmail.com), but I really think it could work as a fun filing system or inbox, as I’ve set it up here:

DIY Bulletin Board Inbox

And here is a close up:

Close up - DIY Bulletin Board Inbox

Hopefully these have been helpful ideas for organizing your home office space, without an expensive trip to the Container Store.  With a little creativity, a few odds and ends from your kitchen, and a little glue-gunning, it CAN be done!

Sick of It.

Sick with a cold - home remediesWell, I am now in the middle of cold #2 for this winter season, and it’s only the beginning of February.  So frustrating.  Don’t the cold gods know I’m sleep deprived?!  Shouldn’t I get a pass this year because I can’t really “sleep it off”, or “rest up”?  Guess not.  For years I’ve been prone to some nasty sinus infections, and when I was pregnant with A last winter it was no exception.  Not being into taking too much medicine while pregnant, I sought out to find the best home remedies for cold and sinus troubles.  And I sort of liked not relying on massive amounts of Nyquil to knock me out in hopes of being miraculously cured while in a medicinal coma.  So I’m sticking with it again this year as best I can.  Sort of like my decaf coffee kick.  It’s been over a year for me without coffee and I’m still loving the jolt-less-ness.

Below is a run-down of what I have found to be really helpful.  I’ve gotta warn you though, there is really nothing fancy or earth shattering here, mostly just some simple things people have suggested to me here or there that I poo-poo’ed in favor of Sudafed, Afrin, and Advil.  But if anyone out there is sick and looking for some home remedies, these are my top picks.  And I’d also like to note that I have no insight into the scientific logic behind any of these remedies, I’m sure Google can point you in the direction of that information if you were so inclined…

NeilMed Sinus Rinse - Home Remedy

Sinus Rinse – I try to keep my sinuses extra clean during the winter season.  I use the squeeze bottle NeilMed Sinus Rinse (as opposed to the also-popular Neti Pot) and really like it. Yes, it’s totally goofy to shoot water up your nose. And because I know someone out there is wondering, yes, sometimes the liquid can drip down and out of your nose several hours after you do it. So I stick to doing it before bed.  It does feel good to flush your sinus cavities out though, and besides (here is where I get a little gross…) watching what comes out is fascinating.

Ginger Tea – chop up about a quarter to a half of a cup of ginger root and put the slices in a saucepan with a cup or two of water (sorry to be so imprecise, but I just eyeball this when I do it).  Boil the ginger root until the water takes on a brownish tinge, or until it tastes pretty ginger-y.  Pour the liquid into a mug while straining out the ginger, and sweeten with honey as desired.  I’ve found drinking lots of this the minute I feel like I might be getting sick to be successful at lessening the effects of a cold, and sometimes avoiding one altogether. For some reason it doesn’t seem to do much after you are in full-on cold mode.

Apple Cider Vinegar – this stuff apparently cures just about everything, which you can read more about here.  I’ve heard a few times before that it is an excellent natural decongestant, which was right up my alley.  Once I get to the congested stage of a cold, I start to drink a mixture of 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar stirred into 8oz water a few times a day.  Make sure you have a lot of tissues on hand because I notice a big increase in “drainage” after drinking this.

Peppermint Oil - Home Remedies

Peppermint Oil – my colds are almost always accompanied by intense sinus pressure and headaches.  I’ve found putting a few drops of peppermint oil onto my temples and brow bone to be really soothing and helpful at releasing some of that tension.

Ayr Saline Nasal Spray – twice a day when I feel like I’m getting sick, and when I do actually get sick, I do two sprays of Saline into each nostril.  It keeps things nice and moisturized up there, which keeps the cold moving on through to run its course.

Vicks-Warm-Mist-Humidifier - Home Remedy

Humidifier – running a cool mist humidifier at night during the winter, and especially during a cold can also help keep your nose and sinuses nice and moisturized.

Glass of Water - Home Remedies

Hydration – lastly, don’t forget to keep drinking lots of fluids (I prefer water, OJ and Gatorade).  Your body is fighting off that cold which is hard work, so you’ll need to replenish with fluids.  I drink a TON when I have a cold.  I like to think of it as completely flushing the cold out of my system.  But be careful how much flushing you do during the work day if you have lots of meetings.  All that liquid’s gotta go somewhere!