Category Archives: January Cure

The Uncluttered Life: Pantry Overhaul

This pantry project has been a long time coming. It has been a jumbled disaster for several months, but I didn’t bother to reorganize it because I wanted to do a complete overhaul on the pantry closet while I was at it.


The problem with ‘overhauls’ at our house is that the rest of the house then becomes a complete disaster. Also, I usually have a lot of help.  This week, we finally tackled the pantry, and I am excited about the results.

To begin, I brought in a garbage bag and a donation box. I got rid of a toaster oven that burned everything, a Salad Shooter, a manual food processor and the Magic Bullet. I recently bought one nice food processor that does everything except burn toast. It was such a relief to finally send those appliances to the donation box! I tossed opened bags that were stale or that no one was going to eat. I took every item out of the pantry and washed the entire thing. IMG_6572

Then, I found some ceiling paint and a half gallon of paint left over from our bedroom closet makeover and painted walls, floors and ceiling. I decided to stain the shelves instead of painting them. I used a water-based Minwax stain in Pecan. I chose to use water-based stain because I was working in an enclosed space and it is less toxic and smelly.

Dark phone photo, but it feels fresh!

One thing about our pantry is that it is the closet over the stairs to the basement. In the 1950s, they often made these closets with deep steps all the way to the back. I have been researching solutions for making our closet more user-friendly, but haven’t found any help. So, Jer and I decided to put horizontally adjustable shelves across the shelves we put in a few years ago. They can be pushed back if needed, but we pulled them forward so everything is reachable from the first step. I found that things would just get lost and piled in the deep cave, so the shallower adjustable shelves are nicer for us. (We can access the back, so I put a few very infrequently used items back there, like the dehydrator and angel food cake pan).

A pantry works best with multiple shallow shelves. When Jer and I added shelves to our closet, we made the ones on the sides 6 inches deep and the ones on the back 11 inches deep. This keeps items from getting lost in the black hole that often happens when shelves are too deep. If you happen to have deep shelves, consider installing pull-out bins or drawers.


I also wanted to add a little fun to the steps, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on it. Jer suggested using half a grapefruit. The ones we had were pretty large, but I spotted some Cuties and decided they would be perfect! I found some orange and yellow craft paint and two paper plates. After practicing on a piece of paper, I started randomly stamping the Cuties on the steps. The final look is not for everyone, but I like the 70s retro look and think it will be fun for awhile. When I get tired of it, it will take 10 minutes to paint it again.


After the pantry is clean (and the paint is dry!) it is time to put things back. I arrange items according to use and size. Most frequently used things go at eye level. For us, that means canned goods and cereals are readily available for easy grabbing. Multiple cans of the same food are stacked together.


I prefer to take things out of larger packages so I know when it needs to be restocked.  At lower levels are individually wrapped snacks and things that are ok for our kids to grab. The highest shelves are reserved for empty glass bottles, extra spices and lesser used appliances.


As far as other organization tools, I use plastic half gallon and gallon containers with labels for things like rice and granola. I also decant extra flour and sugar, etc into labeled containers to keep random bags from leaking everywhere.  I wish they were clear, but they are recycled ( so I like them. Clear containers of any kind are nice because you can see the contents inside and know when it needs replacing. There are many container options for sale, but make sure it fits the food and fits into your space before you buy. I am using baskets to corral picnic supplies, extra Kurig cups and bags of chips. I tried a few different baskets before I remembered this orange one that goes better with the ‘citrus’ theme.

We mounted a broom holder on the inside door of our pantry to keep them from falling out every time we open the door. I also have a grocery bag holder mounted to the inside of the door. Other options for the inside of doors are over the door racks, spice shelves and shoe holders. Painting the inside of the door is an upcoming project.

Now that the pantry is stocked and organized, the food will just cook itself, right?


The January Cure, Assignments 13-19

Whew!  Last week flew by, and this one seems to be going even faster.  Which is good, because I don’t know how much longer I can keep from adding cream to my coffee on the Whole 30!  I can do it.  We are out of coffee filters, so I might just skip the coffee altogether for the last few days.

Anyway, we have been doing an okay job keeping up with the assignments from Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. My kids are still little messers, but at least I know in my heart that at some point in the last month, each space in our upstairs has been thoroughly cleaned and organized.

Assignment 13 was to get papers and files in order.  That one is still being worked on, but all of the paper piles in the kitchen and on my desk area have been dealt with.  It feels good. I also rearranged the living room a bit so the file cabinet (which we use as an end table) is much closer to my desk.  Before, it was clear across the room and blocked by a box.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple solution.  I also have a small filing system on my desk for things like bills, tear sheets from magazines, and kid’s art.

Assignment 14 was to deal with cords.  Jer was a trooper on this one and spent the evening cleaning his ‘office’ corner in our living room.  It was past due for a cleaning, so that was a giant bonus to this assignment. We finally brought our printer upstairs so that it could be used. Jer brought in the base of an old tool box that was given to us by a friend for some storage and spot for the printer. It is not perfect, but it works for us for now. Jer likes having a drawer to put all of his ‘toys’ that the kids often got into before.  I like not having to fish the ear buds out of little mouths.

Daddy and his Helpers, fixing the tool chest/printer cabinet.

Freshly cleaned and organized space.

Assignment 15 was to clean out medicine cabinets and drawers in the bathroom.  The medicine cabinet went quickly and I loved the result so much that I tackled the hall linen closet also.  I added some baskets there to corral some of Jer’s stuff and some of my extra decorating things.  I also use lots of little baskets for things like medicines and extra bathroom products.  It feels so much better now, even though it would probably look better if the baskets all lined up and matched. Ha!  I didn’t get to the drawers below the hall closet. Another day.

Linen closet.  Could still use some work, but SO much better than it was.

Assignment 16 was to declutter books and media.  This is the day I started on my livingroom/office shelves. They have been bothering me for a LONG time, but it was a daunting task.  I started by analyzing it and deciding where the problem spots were.  Mostly, it was just the two larger open shelves that were the biggest trouble.  That was where we put piled everything that needed to be out of reach of little hands.  It had become overwhelming and precarious, to say the least.  I started by emptying those shelves into a laundry basket (which I will soon have to deal with) and wiping them down.  I decided that to solve the problem of them becoming a junk receptacle, I would fill them completely with books.  I have all my design and art books upstairs by my desk for easy reference, and most of them are nice colors.  I like to organize these books by color, because it just makes sense and looks the best to me.  I filled those two shelves and called it a night.

Over the past few days, I have been working on my shelves (among other things, don’t worry), and I finally have them under control.  I have a serious magazine collection problem, but I went through and got rid of 10 magazines last night.  I plan to do a few each night, until my problem is handled.  The bottom four shelves on each side of my desk are pretty much filled with my kid’s books and games/puzzles/toys.  It works for us, except the littlest one loves to just pull books off the shelf.  He does look at them sometimes.  So, this picture was taken this morning after I put him down for a nap and before it gets messy again. Not kidding.

So.much.better.  You may notice that I moved the orange art and craft tubs from the top of the fridge to the upper right of the shelves. Working well so far.

Assignment 17 was called Weekend Chores: Flowers, Outbox, Living Room and Lighting.  Whew! Didn’t even think about the lighting yet.  Jer picked up a little bunch of purple flowers, I took one load (more to come) to the thrift store to donate, and I am still working on the living room. It has been vacuumed and dusted.  It is just not completely rearranged and sporting its new rug yet.  As I sit here writing this post, I am amazed at how much more relaxed I feel when these shelves are organized and my desk is cleaned off.  SO refreshing and positive that I might not even miss my coffee for the next few days. Maybe.


January Cure: Assignments 8-12

We have made it almost half way through January, and I am still pretty on track with the assignments in Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, and I am still on track with my Whole 30 eating reset!  I am feeling pretty good about things, and my house is starting to look better all around.

Last Monday’s assignment was to plan a party for the end of the month, and send out invitations.  Hmmm.  Jer and I have talked about having a Chinese New Year party to celebrate the end of the month, but we had overnight company on Thursday week and I start teaching evening classes soon, so I am just going to get through this month and see where we are with that.  The purpose of the party is to keep you motivated, but I feel like I am very motivated to get this figured out anyway.

Tuesday’s assignment was to create a landing strip near your entry door.  This is something I have been working on for awhile now.  When we moved in to our home, we quickly realized the existing exits were not realistic for our needs.  My awesome parents had a sliding door installed in our kitchen where a window once was.  This created direct access to the back yard and a straight shot to the garage where I park my car.  It also meant that we now used the tiny dining room/kitchen for our main entry.

Before: Dining/Kitchen with window.

Before: Dining/Kitchen with table and window.

After: With door and new paint. Pretty similar to how it looks right now.

I also created a coat hook in the dining area, which is working really well at keeping coats off the floor and chairs.  It needs a good paring down, but overall I think it serves its purpose. Now, the boots and shoes are another story.  This weekend I spotted one of those old dowel cd storage racks at the thrift store, and thought it might make a good shoe rack for right by the door.  Unfortunately, someone must still have cds that need storing, because when I went back to get it today it was gone. Back to the drawing board for now.

After: Coat hook wall. Located right beside the fridge. Table is directly to right in this photo. Sliding door is to my back.

We have also been using the counter right inside the door as a nice landing strip for keys, garage door opener, and mail.  I love having my keys right there ready to go.  Jer is learning that it is easier to just drop his there when he comes in rather that having to search the house for them every morning.

Wednesday’s assignment was a media fast, which worked well since our internet went down Wednesday and we didn’t get it working again until Friday night.

Thursday’s assignment was to work on your goal project.  Mine was to get rid of the piles in the kitchen, and I succeeded!  I am also working on the second coat of paint on the trim in the kitchen, so I will wait to take photos until that is all done.  I love being able to use my counters for cooking!  Now I just have to keep them clutter-free, which I know is a constant effort.

Friday’s assignment was also for the weekend: flowers, bedroom organization and cleaning.  Jer picked up an inexpensive bouquet of flowers on his way home from work, and I spent Friday cleaning and rearranging the kid’s room.  It feels so much better and they are enjoying the new arrangement. We still have a lot in there for such a little room, but the crib and rocking chair are still necessities at this point.  Our room was already cleaned to the core when I painted and did the floors, so it just needs a little touching up.  I say ‘needs’ because it didn’t get done this weekend.  We were pretty much gone all weekend, so our room is still on my list.  I would like to get some artwork hung and the too big rug out of there.  It is still rolled up on the floor at the foot of the bed. Yes, I trip over it all the time.  It is a hazard.  The rug has a future home in the living room.

I realize this post is pretty text-heavy.  I apologize and promise more pictures this week.  It is just so crazy hard to get photos before the kids mess it up again!! All for now…today’s assignment is to get papers and files in order.  This may take awhile.


January Cure: Assignment 2

After an eye-opening experience coming up with my project/problem list for Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, the next assignment involved a lot more elbow grease.  Assignment 2 was entitled Flowers and Floors, and consisted of buying flowers for your home and deep cleaning all of your floors.  No problem, I thought to myself.  I have all weekend to do this…

I got a great start on Friday.  My littlest one took an unprecedented 3 hour(!!) nap and I scrubbed my kitchen floors until they gleamed as much as cracking vinyl floor tiles can gleam.  Then I got a little sidetracked and started painting the cabinet toe kicks and some of the trim.  But it looks awesome, and was on my list, so I am okay, right?

My awesome hubby had finished tearing out the carpet in our bedroom to reveal hardwood floors in passable shape.  On Saturday, I convinced him to help me move everything out of our room so I could clean and shine up the floors and paint the walls.  I ended up painting the walls and scraping paint off the floor Saturday night after the kids were in bed.

Closet Before. Maybe those light areas were stripped previously?  I should have tried to stain them first.

View from closet.  Lots of scratches and dull spots.

Sunday night after the kids were in bed, I scrubbed the floor and used a floor restorer called Rejuvinate on it.  I used the high gloss formula to bring some shine back.  I was very happy with how it looked, for the most part.  There were parts of the floor that had possibly been stripped at one point, so they are lighter in color.  Most of that is in the closet and covered with shoes anyway, so I think we are just feeling fortunate that there weren’t pieces ripped out and replaced with plywood.

Closet After.  We might put in some FLOR tiles or a rug during the closet overhaul.

Before the kids woke up Monday morning, I put on a second coat of the floor restorer and let it dry for the day.  After the kids were in bed for the night, I put a second coat of paint on the walls.  I was bummed that I had to do a second coat, but there was a lot of white showing through.  I was painting over white walls with Valspar’s Signature Paint + Primer from Lowe’s, but it just wasn’t quite cutting it for this project.  I am super happy with the finished results though, and am glad I decided to do the second coat.

View from closet.  Scratches are much less noticeable and it is shiny, shiny!

Tuesday was a day for drying and off-gassing fumes with the window open (and it is COLD here, people!).  The kids loved running into the open space, so it was hard to keep them out.  I brought some of the light furniture back in, and tried out an awesome rug from Jer’s grandpa in the space.  I loved the rug, but unfortunately it was just too big for the room.  I don’t want to cover up all the cool hardwood that we just uncovered!  The rug will be reappearing soon in another room, another post.

Phone photo of the rug.  It went end to end and almost edge to edge!

On Wednesday, I convinced Jer that I could not stand another day with our bed and dresser taking up the e.n.t.i.r.e living room, so we moved back in!  I am so excited to put the room back together, without the piles of crap, of course.  The piles are still in the living room, waiting for me to deal with them.  And unfortunately they are patient little buggers and don’t go away when I ignore them.  A lot like my kids.

As for the assignment, I bought a $3 poinsettia at Home Depot when I was there getting my floor restorer.  The floor in my kitchen is now needing another scrubbing as it is covered in food remnants and Play-doh.  The other floors were neglected.  But, WOW does our bedroom floor look good!