Organization Ideas

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Whimsy Meets Function in This Pantry Redo

It’s a brand-new year — and a great time to reinvent your pantry. By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon on Houselogic.com

The redesigned pantry from 11 Magnolia LaneSince she moves often, Christy Black wanted her pantry to be functional, reversible, and whimsical. All images in this post: Christy at 11 Magnolia Lane

Our first pantry transformation comes from Christy Black, a military wife who moves every couple of years. It’s a mixed blessing that forces her to constantly edit her possessions and question each purchase with: Is this something I love, need, and want to unpack?

Frequent moves also guided the way the 11 Magnolia Lane blogger added kitchen storage by making over the pantry in the 1915 colonial revival her family recently called home. The pantry project had to be:

  • Reversible, for the next resident
  • Functional to accommodate her prized bread machine
  • Whimsical to provide little touches that makes each new rental feel like home

This is what Black’s “before” pantry looked like:

Pantry before

It was a two-door, built-in cabinet with adjustable shelves. The tallest items only halfway filled the tallest shelves (waste of space). Mounds of boxes and bags tumbled out when Black opened the doors.

“The pantry was the only storage I had for big boxes and small appliances, and nothing was deep enough or tall enough for them,” Black says. “And I hate things on the counters. I hate clutter.”

Pantry pare-down

Black started her pantry project by empting its contents onto floors and countertops.

Food on floor

Next, Black moved and removed shelves to customize the space to hold that bread machine and her favorite kitchen helper — a snacks rack her kids love and her friends covet. She snagged the rack on eBay, but you can buy one for about $37 online.

To corral half-filled pasta boxes and sloppy bags of beans, Black bought inexpensive glass canisters. She admits decanting everything into jars takes time, but jars look good, save space, and let her easily see what needs reordering. Of course, her glass canisters couldn’t hold a 25-pound of rice. So she stored bulk goods in the cellar, keeping the pantry for everyday items.

Pantry pizzazz

She glue-gunned a ½-inch wide, polka dot ribbon to the face of each shelf. If the next residents don’t like polka dots, she reasoned, they can easily remove the glue with a short blast from a hot hairdryer.

Polka dot ribbon

Black looked at the inside of the raised panel pantry doors and saw space that could answer her family’s perpetual question: What’s for dinner? She bought chalkboard contact paper ($7 for 18-in. by 6-ft. roll), and cut a panel for each door. On the left she wrote weekly menus; on the right she had a surface for her kids to doodle.

Chalkboard paint, which is easy to clean, would have worked better than paper, Black says. But paint isn’t reversible, which was a requirement for the pantry makeover.

Total cost: $50 (mostly for glass canisters)

Full height pantry

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Most refrigerators are designed for condiments to go in the door shelves, but you don't have to arrange your fridge that way if you don't want to. Image: Corbis Photography/Veer

How to Organize Your Refrigerator

Leftovers gobbling up space in your refrigerator? Here are some tips for keeping things organized, efficient, and tasty.

By: Courtney Craig

Dreaming of a clean refrigerator, but not sure how to organize? We’ve got some cool ideas.

Front and center

Give prime fridge space to priority items, says professional organizer Kathi Burns, founder of Add Space to Your Life.

“If you want leftovers to be eaten, keep them front and center on the middle rack, at eye level,” says Burns. “That goes for healthy snacks, too. If you have leftovers, don’t cram them in the back.”

For large food items, slice and store in several containers, says professional organizer Abbey Claire Keusch. If your refrigerator has adjustable shelves, you can move them around for specific items. Have a plan for the food you keep.

Not everything needs chillingDid you know that ketchup, vinegar, jam, and even mayonnaise and butter don’t need to be refrigerated? If you’re tight on fridge space, these items and more can go in the pantry instead.

And if you have backyard chickens, the eggs you get from them don’t need to be refrigerated, although store-bought eggs do (American regulations require eggs to be power-washed before selling, which strips eggshells of their protective coating, so store-bought eggs have to be refrigerated to stay fresh).

The only items that really need to go in the fridge are meats, dairy products, and certain vegetables (unless you’re going to eat them right away).

Items that should never go in the refrigerator include:

  • Tomatoes (they’ll get mushy faster if they’re cold).
  • Onions (they’ll soften, plus all your other food will smell like onions).
  • Honey (it’ll get too thick).
  • Potatoes (cold temperatures turn starches into sugars, giving your taters a sweet flavor when you cook them, and not in a good way).

Go against the flowToday’s refrigerators are designed to be organized a certain way — condiments in the door, vegetables in the crisper, gallon of milk on the center rack. But it doesn’t have to be that way, Burns says.

“For busy families, I recommend a ‘lunch bin’ that you can pull out,” she says. “Keep the mayo, mustard, pickles, meat, and cheese in there, so you can just pull it out and make a sandwich. It’s easy for kids. You can create a bin for healthy snacks, too, or a breakfast bin with bagels and cream cheese.”

Pulling out one bin instead of many individual items is faster, too, so your refrigerator door doesn’t stay open as long. For smaller refrigerators that don’t have drawers, long, rectangular bins can be used for easy organizing.

“Same goes for the freezer — just use a Tupperware bin for frozen veggies, so you can pull out all the bags of veggies in one fell swoop,” Burns says. “It works really well.”

Hip to be square

Refrigerators are more efficient when they’re fuller, but that doesn’t mean you should cram as much stuff in there as possible. Square or rectangular containers are the way to go for leftovers — they’re easily stackable and fit into corners neatly.

“Stay away from round containers,” says Burns. “That’s just wasted space.”

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