Tag Archives: organization

American Excess & Balance

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I’ve often contemplated this seeming disease that plagues us.  I love to organize and clean things and have since I was a kid.  Definitely a “Type A” here.  Just for fun, I enjoy watching YouTube videos on organizing or cleaning, and I’m amazed by the glutton of household items average people possess!

I will preface any further observations and opinions by saying – we have moved many times in our twenty year marriage, which forces evaluation of one’s “stuff”.  That said, after our recent move back to sunny Florida a year ago, it was incredible the stuff I’d deemed so valuable that we paid money to move it 1,000 miles.  Since our move and settling into our home, we have had Salvation Army come out twice with their big truck to haul away many boxes, Christmas train sets, set it and forget rotisserie oven, faux ficus trees, brick-a-brack, clothing, china, etc.  In addition to that, we’ve taken bag after bag to Goodwill almost weekly for the past year as we continue to sort through boxes.  Incredible the volume one collects over the years!

So, I’ve been forced to handle every item and evaluate.  I can only imagine the challenge for those who’ve lived in the same house for twenty plus years and how quickly things can get out of control.  Tastes in decor and furnishings change, fads come and go, the kids outgrow toys and clothes, hobbies move on, etc.  And if you have an issue with excessive shopping, especially as a means of therapy; well, then, all bets are off!

What is one to do when our “stuff” overwhelms us?

I think it’s easy to become completely overwhelmed if the chaos fills your entire home.  I would strongly suggest enlisting the help of a good friend or family member who can help you evaluate things and offer perspective.

When sorting through a room/box/dresser, I always ask myself three questions:

1.) Have I used it in the last year?

2.) Am I currently using it?

3.) Will I likely use it in the next year?

The task of letting things go can be so difficult.  Even a “Type A” like myself has found it hard putting some items in the donation box because it may have sentimental value or because it once cost a good bit of money.  The consequence of holding onto these items that we are no longer using and serve no purpose is that they seem to multiply and therefore occupy mental space as well.  They bog us down and we are hindered from letting our creative juices flow and general happiness from a tidy room.  They are “non-value added items”.  Now, I am not suggesting in any way, getting rid of all sentimental things or counting your household goods, etc.  But, I am offering a method to consider applying to our excess, which seems to be an epidemic.

I recently read a statistic that said 10% of Americans rent a storage unit outside their home!  Wow!  That’s staggering and in my humble opinion, a huge waste of money.  If we do not have room to house said item, then maybe we don’t need it.  I understand there are causes for short term leasing, such as military personnel, etc.  But, we’re talking long term here.  Why do we have so much stuff?

I often tell my kids that when I was their age, we didn’t have Walmart to run to for whatever item we thought we needed at that split second. There were grocery stores, hardware stores, department stores, etc.  And things were pretty expensive so we did not often get new things outside of Christmas, birthdays and the beginning of a new school year.  This must be a foreign concept to them as now we even have the all-too-tempting Amazon and internet shopping in general.

The stuff is so entirely accessible.  Add to that the “in your face” marketing that envelopes our society and there seems to be no escape!

On the flip side of consumerism, we have this new trend of minimalism.  Interesting.  While I think there are merits to this idea, I personally do not think it is for me.  But, I do wholeheartedly agree with keeping our “stuff” to a minimum but in a more balanced way.  For instance, I don’t feel like our family needs seven bottles of shampoo and conditioner, nor do I feel the need to count our toiletries.  I don’t believe we need three sets of everyday dishes, nor do I feel like we should count our plates and bowls.  To every area of life, there should be balance.  So how do we achieve this balance with our stuff?

I would say that we have to nip it in the bud.  Deeply evaluate items before we purchase them.  Do I really need this?  Do I already have something that could work just as well? Do I need “another” one?  Will it add value to my life?

It seems that once an item enters our homes, it takes up permanent residence and eventually reaches the point of excess.  I like the “one in – one out” idea.  If you purchase one item.  You put one in the donation box.  Simple idea but effective.

And now to address our current glut of stuff…

I love the old adage – “How do we eat an elephant?”

One bite at a time, right?

That is my suggestion in this regard as well.  Forget that the entire house may look like a tornado came through last night.  Forget that it’s been years since you’ve done anything with the basement or storage room.  Forget the cobwebs, the dust bunnies, the space invaders that have taken over your house!  Forget them all.

Today is a new day, my friend!

Writing things down has always proven effective for me when tackling tasks, especially undesirable tasks.  Make a list.

I would start your war plan with the rooms your family utilizes the most frequently.  This would be the kitchen, the family room, the living room, etc.

Outline the major tasks that require attention in each room.  Checking tasks off a list yields tremendous satisfaction and is very rewarding.  It propels us naturally to the next item.

Enlist the help of all the troops!  Even the smallest of soldiers can lend a hand.

One of the most common reasons for accumulation of things is that they do not have a home … OR … the soldiers did not take the extra steps necessary to take said item to its trusty home.

“A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Taking a room by room approach will inspire you to continue your war path to the other affected areas.  It doesn’t matter how long this takes.  The point is that progress is being made.

“Begun is half done.”

I think the greatest purging/organizing/cleaning tool is your attitude, frankly.

“Attitude determines altitude.”

If you have a sloppy, couldn’t care less attitude, then your home will reflect that.  If you are disciplined and focused, your home will reflect that also.

“Input yields output.”

Put on some happy music.  Whatever that is to you.  Sometimes I prefer classical, sometimes contemporary Christian music, sometimes easy listening.  Depends on my mood, I guess.  Whatever will inspire you and bring happy feelings, put it on.  Music has an amazing ability to carry us away from our present tasks (mundane as they may be) and take us to a joyful place in our soul.

Give yourself a pat on the back during each step of your progress.  You deserve it.  As long as your feet keep moving in a positive direction, you are one step closer to the environment that you desire.

Just think of the joy you could bring to someone less fortunate as you place unwanted items in the donation box.  And, next time you feel the urge to place that Amazon order or hit the mall, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a war plan to develop regarding the glut in our garage.

 

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Sorting & Organizing Ideas

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Salvation Army donations

As I’ve been unpacking and sorting boxes, I have come to realize that I hold onto things far beyond their usefulness.  My mother grew up in the years following the Great Depression and was certainly trained to reuse things and not to waste anything.  This translated in saving YEARS worth of magazines that ‘One Day’ she would reread.  That day never came.  And now, I wonder if I don’t have some of the same ‘Great Depression’ tendencies, on a much smaller scale albeit.  So, I question the usefulness of each item as I unpack and try to find new homes for things as we settle into our new house.  I, too, detest wasting anything that still has life remaining.  We are consistent contributors to Salvation Army and Goodwill, for sure.  I always have a current box of donation items waiting in the wings until it is full enough to drop off.

These are the questions I must continually ask myself –

“Is this currently serving a purpose in my home?”

“Will I likely use it in the next year?”

“Could someone else use this more often than I do?”

“Would I miss it if it were gone?”

Last December we moved 1,000 miles so I am very familiar with having to make these tough choices.  And sometimes they are difficult because we cling to our possessions so tightly, it seems.  I’ve grilled myself as to why this is lately and have only come up with the notion that I love deeply, but perhaps that love and affection is often misplaced on things or memories.

Take, for instance, a recent sorting of cards, letters and kids’ artwork … Some of the cards and letters are so special to me, especially since some of the senders have passed on.  Those will be placed in the scrapbook, however, some of the senders I had to pause even to recall WHO they were!  But, I saved every card from select years apparently.  Fortunately, most I tossed.

I have a solution to coral all these fond memories.  I am making a scrapbook for each child that will contain all of their precious artwork.  This way, we can look back on their treasures easily, instead of them getting buried in an old file, where no one will see them.  (Eventually, these albums will be theirs to keep.)

I’m making scrapbooks for old letters and cards as well.  For years I have struggled with what to do with these sentimental artifacts, so I am very excited about getting these organized in a format we all can enjoy!  As I sat on the floor rereading old letters I sent to my husband over a decade ago, I realized what treasures these will be to look back on.  They were personal, of course, but yield a glimpse of the stage our relationship was in at the time and document our deep and enduring love for one another.  Those are the treasures to keep!  I think our children will even enjoy reading them after we’re gone.

Some decisions as we sift and sort are easy ones to make!  (such as the iridescent marbles I saved in a gallon size ziploc!)  That’s an easy one!  I don’t need them.  In fact, those may be the very marbles I am losing on a daily basis!  Maybe it’s time to donate those to charity!  Haha!  As much as we have parted with over the last year in preparation for our move and then facing the harsh reality that not nearly everything we thought would fit in our 26 foot Uhaul with a trailer attached!  We left a lot behind with our neighbor!  (Bow Flex, antique table, and the list is nearly endless)  In the end, there is not a single item that I can say we miss!  As painful as the process of organizing may be, the end result will be far more rewarding!

The above picture is not even all of what we’ve donated post-move!  I counted 25 boxes for the first home pick up and this was the second pick up, which also included an artificial tree and two toy Christmas trains.  (My younger two are 16 and 17.)  The Salvation Army worker asked if the trains were operational.  To which I acknowledged they were.  He smiled and said, “Oh, wow, these are going to make some children very happy!”  🙂  The satisfaction in knowing that something that would have been collecting dust in our storage room would provide enjoyment to others is very rewarding.

I can think more clearly without clutter.  As a full time homemaker, fewer items in our house means less work for me to keep up with those things!  Please do not think we are minimalists because we are far from that.  My ‘Girl Scout mentality’ (Be prepared!) does not allow for sparse living.  However, I am quick to toss items in the donation box if I have no use for them.

The flip side to organizing is being extremely selective about what we bring into our home!  I have been asking myself ‘Do I really need this?  Where will I use it?’ more and more.  And then most times I find myself placing it back on the store shelf.  Just because it’s cute or may be useful does not mean it needs to come home with you.  That is a lesson for us all.  Americans are great consumers, but maybe we should consume a little less.

For some reason, my husband and son love bringing home fliers, business cards, little newspapers.  This is needless clutter!  Unless you’re actually going to use this information, don’t let it stay.  And certainly, don’t allow it to accumulate in piles around the house.  This is why I open the mail over top of the trash can.  I toss or shred it and only keep what I must.  Paper clutter multiplies while we’re sleeping.  We must be watchful and vigilant!  🙂

Happy Organizing and may your home be a place of rest and peace always!

~Amber

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Projects of late

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Painted front steps last July

 

Just thought I’d make a quick post of what I’ve been up to the last couple weeks.  Of course, physical therapy remains part of our regular routine, so we work our lives around it.  The kids and I continue to go three days a week.  We definitely can see progress as it’s been five weeks now since our auto accident.  But, we’re looking forward with great anticipation to the day when we can say we are without pain!  And, so, we press on …

And now to the projects …

Our house was built in 1977, thus projects abound!  So much of our house has received cosmetic updates, however I think with an older house, projects will continue until kingdom come!

We renovated the kitchen last month and are still waiting for one last cabinet to be installed above the refrigerator.  They ordered the wrong size initially, so once that’s done, the installation will be complete.  We plan on painting at some point down the road when our shoulders and backs no longer hurt.  We want to paint a taupe color.  The sickly salmon color that adorns the walls now is awful.

In the spring, we replaced 3 of the 4 – 1977 colored toilets.  Who knew such a menial update could mean so much?!

Last week our A/C decided to flare up and had to have some maintenance and repairs done.  Thankfully, it wasn’t huge.

Over the weekend, my dear husband scraped up all the old caulk in the upstairs master bath and applied fresh caulk.  What a transformation!  Why is it that we delay such routine tasks?  I don’t know, but I like the finished product!  He also fixed my daughter’s closet door knob, which has been broken for nearly four years!  He fixed my son’s closet door knobs last month.  It’s the little things in life that mean so much!  I cannot stand things that don’t function properly, so these little things are significant!!

Dear husband and I made a “Projects To Do List” over the weekend and we plan to divide and conquer.  Some of the smaller tasks, the kids and I can handle; whereas some things only my husband can do … Such as: re-grout our bathroom tile, caulk the crown molding and repair the porch door screen.

The kids and I cleaned up the back porch and replaced the pillows (we’d stored away until post-pollen season) on the wicker furniture.  We’ve enjoyed eating dinner out there the last two nights under the ceiling fans.  Very peaceful.

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Back porch – I’ve updated pillows since this pic but you get the idea.

 

Yesterday the kids and I organized the garage!  Whew, what a lot of work!  How I thank God for the kids’ help and, in particular, my son’s strong muscles and height to lift things and reach the high shelves! (My right elbow is still hurting so that limits my movement, which is challenging because I want to do so much!)  We loaded up donations for the Salvation Army, donations for a family of eight and filled a large trash can!  After playing Tetris with boxes and the garage shelves, my son used the blower to clean out the garage floor.  I watched this YouTube video on applying an epoxy coating to the garage floor and was so tempted to do that here!  Dear husband and I have talked about it in years’ past, but one day we might just do it …  It would be so much easier to keep clean, thus minimizing dirt and dust getting tracked in the house.  There are definite benefits.  That’s one idea for the back burner…

We have this huge outdoor Rubbermaid bin that was completely filled with balls of every sport, most of which the kids no longer play with.  So, we filled a large black trash bag last Friday with an assortment of balls and outdoor toys and donated to another large family we’re good friends with.  Their kids were overjoyed!  That makes cleaning up so worth it right there!  My son even gave them a couple Nerf dart guns he doesn’t need.  Happiness all around!

While Operation Organize Garage is complete for now, there is further room for improvement.  Phase II will be in progress soon…

Today’s mission is to spray weed killer and power wash the front porch and brick paver sidewalk.  The back patio will be for another day.  I painted the front steps last July so I think power washing them will brighten them up a bit.  They were a drab color before we moved in and I painted them a taupe color, which looks really nice.  The two pots of red geraniums on either side of the front steps are thriving nicely.  They must be hearty!  I haven’t killed them yet!  😉

Does anyone else have four, large artificial trees in their home?  We have three Ficus and one banana tree!  That’s a lot to contend with!  They’re spread out in different rooms but dusting them seems to be a task I’d rather postpone.  That’s one of our next projects…to take them outside and dust thoroughly!  Dusting the blinds in each room is also on our list… Oh, how I do not like to dust!  Haha!  Divide and conquer …

Speaking of which, I better get to conquering!

 

Past projects:

 

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Painted 2 sets of back steps last July

 

And, to see the before and after pictures of our recent kitchen renovation, check them out here:

 

https://englishrose2014.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/our-kitchen-remodeling/

 

 

 

 

 

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Spring Cleaning – Garage Style

It’s been a long, brutal winter!  A winter where we practically ran from the car through the garage and into the house and vice versa.  After Christmas, the artificial trees, bins of ornaments, wreaths and whatever else was put wherever we could find a vacant spot.  So, things have been accumulating for a number of months now.

I loaded up a couple more bags in the SUV for the Salvation Army as we uncovered each layer of “stuff” in the garage today.  (And I just made a run to drop off a bunch of things yesterday!  Oh well!)  I keep threatening the kids that I’m going to donate the two scooters we still have for some strange reason.  I think their days are numbered.  The kids are older now and have really outgrown them.  I think they want to hold onto them for nostalgia’s sake, I guess.  One day, they may “mysteriously” vanish to a better home, though.  We have a whole Rubbermaid oversized bin full of outdoor sports equipment and they rarely, if ever, use any of it!  That may disappear too soon.  It’s a year of purging and simplifying!  For goodness sake, before long, my daughter will be driving and my younger son not far behind her!  Bigger wheels that rotate much faster will hold their interest then.

The truth of the matter is, we just have too much stuff!!  If it were up to me, we’d part with more than we already have.  It’s a two car garage, but please tell me how one really fits two cars?!  Maybe two Yugos or Smart Cars?  Our convertible shares the space with a riding lawn mower and a Bow Flex contraption (poor dusty thing!), along with a snow blower that we’ve never used, lots of boxes and paraphernalia.   Over the course of nearly two decades of marriage, it is amazing how much accumulates!

My husband had more pressing matters to attend to today, but, thankfully, he came out and helped me clear a bunch of things.  I think he was worried I’d hurt myself as I’m recovering from a sprained elbow.  He knows what happens when mom’s out of commission.  Copious amounts of carry-out dinners… He even got the blower out and cleaned up a bit.  We’ll have to finish up another day, but today was a great start!  

We put the Christmas wreaths away and hung the spring wreath on our front door.  We tossed some things and have a few of my dad’s things to take to him.  One snow shovel bit the dust this season.  Why they make plastic parts, I’ll never know.  We have a myriad of garden tools, extension cords, etc. that need to be put in their proper places.  So, lots of sifting and sorting!  And, there is a work bench underneath all the stuff.  I know it’s in there.  I’ve seen it.  It’s just been a while…

My main objective today was fueled by the fact that our HVAC guy will need to access the heating and A/C unit this week to perform the spring maintenance.  Beyond that, it has been on my “mental to do list” for months, so I felt very accomplished chipping away at this chore.    

I’m delighted that spring has finally sprung!  If, for no other reason, the garage walls were beginning to close in!  🙂  Of course, it’s a lovely thing when a gentle breeze sends the sweet perfume of the colorful hyacinths my way!  Ah, spring, how I adore thee!

Here’s to Super Spring Cleaning!  What’s on your cleaning/organizing list for the spring?

 

 

 

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Updating Home Files/Sorting Paperwork

Filing is not anywhere near the top of my list of fun things to do.  Frankly, I’d been putting it off for a while.  But because it was lingering on my master list of things to do, I wanted to tackle this unglamorous task.  So, I jumped right in…

I recently removed all utility bills and some other paperwork over a year old from my files.  I just don’t have room to store too much, nor do I need to.  So I shredded the old files and was able to easily file the stack I’d been accumulating.  I had to update a couple file folders with fresh labels as we’ve changed car insurance and trash companies.  With all the paperwork in the proper file folders, I can quickly lay my hands on a recent bill or policy information.  Proper organization will save you loads of time!

I also wound up with a handful of cards from various occasions that I will store in a “Memory box”.  I sorted through birthday cards I received and only kept the special ones.  There was also a handwritten note on a 3×5 card from my oldest that he sent along with some pictures last fall.  I should frame that actually.  He’s a man of few words.  😉  One day these cards and notes will be neat to look back on.

As I was sorting through this pile of paperwork, I came across several letters dated 1964 and 1965 (before my birth) that my maternal Grandmother had written to my mother.  The stamp was of George Washington and was only five cents!  She spoke of missing my two siblings that had visited recently and how she and my Grandfather (who I never met) felt “lost” without the children around.  They really enjoyed them apparently, which is sweet to think about.  They lived almost four hours apart, so visits weren’t that often, I suppose.  My Grandmother talked about them putting in a garden, Grandfather milking the cow and visiting relatives and friends.  She even called the mail carrier by name.  She said, “Well, I better get this letter in the mail as it’s just about time for Harry to come.”  They lived in a rural area and times were much slower then.  Hard to imagine.

I’ll write more about my maternal Grandmother in another post.  She was a special, special lady indeed.

So, my filing journey took all sorts of twists and turns.  It made me miss my Grandmother, my mother and my great aunt dearly.  But, it also made me thankful for these little treasures that I can cherish to remind me of the sweet souls they are, until we meet again.  I placed those letters in a plastic sheet protector and will file in my genealogy binder.

I was able to whittle away at several stacks of paperwork and it feels good knowing that everything is in its proper place.  Loose paperwork can very quickly get out of hand and that’s why it’s wise to have a holding place until you can get around to filing.  If you file it right away, even better!  I like to use these wooden in/out trays we bought (along with some furniture) from an attorney’s office that was relocating several years ago.  We have three of them, two deep and one shallow.  My husband uses one of the deep ones for his work related papers, and I use the other deep one as my filing “holding” place.  It is easily stored on a shelf in the office closet and out of sight.

One of the best tips I read some time ago was to open your mail near the trash can.  I toss envelopes and unnecessary junk mail, etc., holding onto only the important pieces of mail.  I schedule our bills to be paid right away online and we’re never late.  It’s taken care of and I don’t have to think about it anymore.  It’s so important to find a system to corral the chaos of your papers that works for you.  We’re all unique individuals and have various preferences.  Find something that works for you.  That said, an indication that your “system” is not working is having to move piles and piles of paperwork in order to eat at the dining room table!  Might want to revisit that.

I’m amazed at how quickly things accumulate.  In my cleaning up the office, I also came across a handful of note pads that my Dad had passed on to me.  He gets goo gobs from charities and likes to spread the wealth.  I moved those to the kitchen junk drawer where we always need something to write on.

The key to maintaining order in any room is to have a set location to store things and regularly putting things away.  Here’s to happy home organization!

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Sock Drawer Overhaul

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I was putting away laundry today and decided to dump all the socks out of our drawers and organize.  I keep the athletic socks in one drawer and casual, trouser socks in another for both my husband and I, so a total of four drawers.  Clearly we have too many socks!  And I purged these drawers not all that long ago… As I was matching the socks up, I had this brilliant idea.  No, I’m quite sure it came from God!  But, here it is, folks:

For a $0 investment Sock Organizer:

  • Cut a cereal box in half vertically & tape ends so it forms a tray, of sorts.
  • Depending on the size of your drawer, you may have to modify the length of the box.  Fortunately, mine fit perfectly.
  • I went around the middle of the “tray” once with tape for extra reinforcement.
  • If you wanted to really get creative, you could cover the “tray” with decorative contact paper.
  • Smile! You just saved yourself about $20!  That’s $20 per drawer.  I revamped 4 drawers, which would be $80!  That would be insane to spend that much and my dresser drawers are odd sized, so there would be no guarantee of the fit.

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These are my casual, trouser socks.  One benefit of storing my socks this way: The dark green socks that I sometimes confuse with black are stored in the front, far away from the black socks, never to be confused again!  Anyone else ever do that?  I’m not color blind.  It tends to be dark in our bedroom.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  😉

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These are my husband’s work socks.  He can easily grab a pair this way.

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See how our drawer is angled a bit.  My homemade organizer fit just fine, thankfully!  They even have bamboo drawer organizers out there.  I’m sorry, but no one else is going to see my sock drawer but me.  I am just not that high maintenance!  Bigger fish to fry here.  I’m all about finding creative solutions to avoid spending money needlessly.  Spend it where it counts!

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Yes, I had too many socks!  I still have about 20 pairs of athletic socks and 24 pairs of casual socks!  Is that not crazy?!  I can’t say I’ve ever counted my socks before, but as I loaded them into the trays I did and was amazed!  I can only wear one pair at a time after all, and I do laundry at least once a week, so parting with the above seems only reasonable.

* I also overhauled my “unmentionables” drawer, turning them all vertically and into two rows.  I have seen this done and wasn’t sure I would care for it.  Yes, I’m a creature of habit.  So, I thought that I would turn them all vertically and see how I liked it.  If I didn’t, then I would just stack them like I usually do.  I absolutely love the new system!  I can tell at a glance where a particular color/style is and it’s just easier than rifling through a stack.  Try it!  You might like it too.

So … What do you all think about my sock drawer overhaul??  Does it sound like something that may work for you?

The price is right!  🙂

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Spice Cabinet Organizing

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The above is the “Before” picture of my spice cabinet.  As you can see, it wasn’t terrible, however, being the neatnik that I am, I fine tuned it a bit.  I like knowing where things are at a glance.

 

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Okay, this is the “After” picture.  I removed everything from the shelves, placed the ones I don’t often use in the back of the cabinet and refilled my Tupperware spice containers, which I bought at my local thrift store about three years ago.  I think I paid $4.00 for all of them.  Highly recommend.  (They retail for approx. $60 on ebay.)

I took a couple things out and put on the big lazy Susan instead.  Grouping spices together according to brand is pleasing to the eye, so I put all the McCormick’s together.  I also buy a fair amount of store brands…they’re in the back.

While it would be ideal to have another spice lazy Susan, I just worked with what I had for now.  By taking a mental inventory of our stock, I know what we are running low on.  I also found a new jar of chicken bouillon nestled inside one of the orange, Fiestaware bowls.  I just bought a new jar yesterday because I thought we were out!  This is where periodic organizing comes in handy, to avoid buying duplicates.  😉  I also tossed two containers of cupcake sprinkles as I don’t foresee any use and they’ve overstayed their time in my cabinet.

How do you like to organize your spices and seasonings?

The Tupperware cabinet is next …

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