Wednesday, June 28, 2017

5 Before & After: An Organized Client Pantry Project

I have been working with a friend on her kitchen over the past few months, and we are nearing the end of a multi-cabinet, drawer and closet overhaul. Installing and organizing a new pantry system was one of the biggest check boxes on our to-do list, and we are both thrilled with the end result.


But let's back up for a second. As I mentioned, this is part of an entire kitchen and mudroom organizational makeover, and we have been doing our best to design their highest traffic rooms into spaces that work hard for them (so they don't have to work hard to maintain them). I am working closely with this super sweet family of five who eat the majority of their meals at home 6-7 days of the week. Mom meal plans, but she also purchases quite a few items in bulk 1-2 times per month, with the exception of weekly produce and dairy. When I did my initial walk-through, the first thing that caught my attention was that they were storing food in a pantry closet as well as 3-4 miscellaneous cabinets throughout the kitchen.

Here is a look at the pantry during my initial visit.


A system had been installed to make room for some cleaning tools, but there was very little flexibility and the closet definitely wasn't being utilized to its full potential.

Our very first step was to empty every last cabinet and drawer in the kitchen and go through the sorting process. We paired things down, categorized, and put everything back in cabinets based on how the family uses the kitchen throughout the day. This was step one, and I asked for them to live with the ideas and changes for awhile before we got too wild and crazy with any storage purchases.

Being that I categorized all of their pantry/dry foods together, I recommended moving them all to the pantry closet. That would mean moving the cleaning tools to the adjoining mudroom and installing a pantry system that could offer flexibility combined with a plethora of fabulous food storage.

I brainstormed quite a few options, but the goal was to give them floor to ceiling shelving with dividers to offer some sorting/compartmentalizing. I also wanted to give them flexibility paired with open and concealed storage. I considered everything from DIY systems to pre-designed high-end closet options. Ultimately, the DIY route won so we could create our exact vision and on a pretty reasonable budget.


The entire closet is 43" wide and about 13" deep. The door is almost center, the right side has an inch or two of extra wall/trim more than the left. We had been sourcing a few food storage solutions online, and they already owned and utilized a wooden craft crate. The common width was 18" for both the crate and the woven baskets that we preferred. So it was set that the center of the closet would consist of 18" wide shelving, and the outer banks of shelves would be pegged to offer some height differentials. These smaller shelves would also be the ideal location for a few lazy susans, which are my number one way to make the most of an awkward nook.

Above you can see the original plan we came up with for the product placement. This was based on their existing inventory, and also considered many of the reoccurring purchases that are made each week. I drew out the plan and presented it to their family receiving a thumbs up to move forward.

Bryan and I removed the existing closet system and then scraped, patched and painted the walls. While the paint dried, we took a trip to our local Home Depot for the product. With the depth of the closet at 13", we were able to design the new system completely out of 12" melamine boards, a combination of both the pegged and smooth options.


To assemble the unit, we cut the four vertical pegged boards to the height of 75". We screwed through the boards into each 18" wide shelf to create the center tower and plugged/concealed the screws with these. We measured a large box of cereal and spaced the center shelves accordingly. The pegged side of the vertical boards faced the outside of the tower, and the remaining two pegged boards were screwed into the side walls of the closet. Lastly, smaller boards were cut to size and were added to the system with these pegs and we trimmed the floor with base molding.

Above you can see I painted the interior of the closet a stunning deep gray. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I always love a painted closet because something so simple instantly amplifies the project by 1000%. Especially when you can use a bold color and pair it with simple white shelving. You can check out how I used poster board in her nearby cabinets for a similar effect. Secondly, the deep gray was leftover paint from adjoining rooms, including her darling half bath (which also adorns this floral wallpaper that I am lusting over). Now everything ties together beautifully and looks intentional and custom.



There is something so ridiculously satisfying about the process of creating a plan and watching your vision come to life. It's a shame this closet has a door because the end result is too good to be concealed away.


A few favorite things in this project to point out. We planned ahead and made sure to measure every center cubby to fit bulk boxes and packaging, but also wanted to make sure to leave just enough room at the top to place a row of baskets to tuck away entertaining/party items. This includes paper napkins, banners, candles, etc.... Target has been selling the Y-Weave style basket for years and it sure is a popular choice and for good reason. They are versatile and pretty and lightweight and easy to clean. #supercrush And they truly conceal the assortment of items that live inside.


You will notice labels on the white baskets as well as down the center of the pantry. Another favorite of mine are these adhesive labels found at the Container Store. I pick up a couple of packs during every visit in fear they will someday stop selling them. For this project, I paired them with some copper spray paint to mesh with my client's style.


The labels hold pretty well, but we did need to reinforce them on the white baskets with a small dab of hot glue due to the basket's texture.


I am a long time fan of air-tight clear canisters in a pantry. They streamline things, give you a quick visual inventory and prolong freshness. In this situation, I provided two bins for spaghetti as they will purchase both regular and gluten-free noodles. Same story for the other pasta types. I am often asked about cooking instructions/details and those can always be taped to the back of the canister or under the lid if necessary. We decided that four regular pasta canisters and two spaghetti sized canisters would be a good fit for the pantry and their typical supply levels.

I went on a wild goose chase looking for something fairly reasonably priced, that all matched and fit the available space on the shelving. Store after store I was coming up short finding matches and sizes until I found these online (this size for spaghetti and this size for all other boxed pasta). They checked all of the criteria boxes and I must say that they are pretty dreamy. I love the flip-lock lid and the sizes offered and that they could be mixed and matched vs. purchased as an entire set. I labeled the canisters with some leftover Waterslide Decal Paper, which is how I also labeled our own spice jars a couple of years ago.


We contemplated adding some sort of drawer or pull out wire basket to the center column, but ultimately decided to just use woven baskets for a little additional space and flexibility. The shelves are only 12" deep so not much is lost in the back (which is always a win!), but the baskets allow the contents to be pulled out and accessed easily.


I added a few of these compartment organizers to provide a little extra division inside of the larger baskets. These organizers also fit nicely up in those white Target baskets as well!


The corner shelves are perfect for smaller packages, boxes, cans, and jars, and you just can't go wrong with a good turntable. We added a total of six and they can hold anything from canned fruits and veggies to pasta jars, dressings, salsas, and soups. Nothing lost and everything always at their finger tips! I definitely need to add a few more of these to our own cupboards.


We also wanted to get her produce corralled all together, as some types were living in the pantry and others were out on the counter and some were in a cupboard across the way. I have heard and read that storing onions near potatoes can cause them to go bad faster. That may be the case, but we have been storing ours in the same drawer for a few years now and we generally go through our veggies before they have time go bad. With some meal planning, it should be OK, but if you purchase veggies in bulk and want to prolong their life, you may want to store them in different locations. For this pantry, Bryan and I modified their existing wood crate to divide and hold all of the produce.


I will share the full tutorial for the crate soon, but there is a liner at the bottom which can easily be removed and cleaned, and the casters allow the crate to roll out like a smooth drawer. The floor worked out for also storing other bulk items such as water, boxes of sports drinks and juice.

Last but not least, we found a remote light that we were able to add just inside the pantry door to be sure it never gets too dark when looking for goodies.


The remote is tucked just inside the door like a light switch.


So what does the family think? They are all loving having everything in one easy-to-see-and-find place and it has already made a big difference in how they plan and shop for their meals. And better yet, it freed up a lot of other cabinets in the remainder of the kitchen and allowed us to better utilize the kitchen as a whole. I can't wait to finish up a few more of those areas and share the rest of the story with you soon.

As tradition goes, no good before and after makeover would be the same without a final side-by-side view of the changes.


OK, to recap quickly... Paint the interiors of your closets, it makes magic happen! When planning out the project, always consider your shopping habits, typical inventory, how you use the space and leave a little extra room for wiggling, change, and growth. Select items that are easy to maintain and won't add stress, but ultimately reduces it. Work with awkward nooks and the depth by adding turntables and pull out storage. And remember, those little details make a huge difference in the end result. #labelsforthewin




I will be back soon to share more details for the DIY divided rolling crate! Happy organizing friends!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

16 Mini Binder Coupon & Receipt Organization

Last week I mentioned that I spotted the prettiest blush mini-binder at The Container Store. I also mentioned that I love those fantastic mini-binders for organizing my coupons and receipts. And then I realized that I have been using the mini-binder organization for awhile now and I have yet to show you!



Between feeding a family of five and working on home organization and DIY projects around the clock, I run a lot of errands. Given my location, I try to consolidate my trips whenever possible. I live 20-60 minutes from the majority of my favorite shopping sources so I will typically hit up HomeGoods, Home Depot and a couple grocery stores all in a single outing.

Over the years I have attempted to organize my trips and handbag with a variety of checklists and pouches. Expandable files for coupons, envelopes for receipts, a small card holder for store cards and folded stacks of ideas and lists. Each individual attempt has been OK, but when combined it just created a jumbled mess inside of my purse. Or things would get misplaced, and transferring the items between totes would cause some to become separated from others. And sometimes the pouches and lists would get left in the car and then I would end up in our other vehicle. Not the end of the world, but I really wanted to find a way to keep everything together in one harder-to-lose organizer.

Maybe my situation is unique and not everyone will have the same needs as I do, I know many of you rely upon on your device when out and about, I am just not 100% there yet. That said, I did want to share because I sure do love my current setup and it really has helped to make my outings much easier to manage.

To assemble my shopping assistant, I began with a standard mini-binder from Container Store, which can also be found at Amazon, Target or any office supply store. Back when Staples offered a plethora of amazing Martha Stewart for Avery items, I picked up some secure-top page protectors and divider tabs. Although their offerings have since dwindled, Avery continues to offer a lot of similar options (again at Amazon, Target and office supply stores). I use page protectors/pockets to hold coupons and receipts, business card pages for store cards/gift cards, and added pages in the back for keeping track of my shopping lists. Let's take a closer look.

I continue to utilize my meal planning printables every week for coming up with our weekly meals and grocery shopping list. It typically lives inside of my pantry door throughout the week for the family to easily reference (in one of these clear sign holders), but when I leave for my shopping trip I use a clip to attach the list to the inside cover of the binder.


Although I use my phone for coupons every trip, I also receive a number of offers in the mail or print some from emails and websites or clip coupons from the newspaper and even the backs of receipts. I use one pouch to hold coupons for groceries and another for everything else (like haircuts, clothing, oil changes/auto maintenance, etc...).


Each pouch was labeled with my label maker and my favorite clear/gold tape.


When it comes to receipts, I generally only hold on to any that relate to my business and possible return items. I also like to keep my grocery receipts to check against our budget each month (and then they are recycled). I log my business expenses weekly and then permanently file away those specific receipts. Due to our location, I generally find myself over-purchasing for projects to be sure I have options and to prevent any last minute delays and trips. That also means I may have to manage quite a few returns and need to keep track of those receipts.


Business card sheet protectors were the ideal solution for all of my store loyalty cards and gift cards.


Because I may shop for project and home good materials at different times and locations than I will for our groceries, I keep those items on a separate list from our weekly meal planner. It is easier to utilize a separate printable to list the item and any specific details as a project progresses, or when multiple projects are taking place at once. And I love mini-tape measures because they are ridiculously helpful out on shopping trips to the hardware store or when measuring for bins and baskets (I find the small tape measures at craft stores, here is a similar one).


I have two free versions of this Shopping List printable for you, both designed to fit a mini binder! One to account for the center binder rings, and another that just allows the list to be centered on each page. The printable is designed to print on 5.5" x 8.5" paper, duplexed.


On occasion, I am out looking for an item that works with a specific paint color or I have inspiration pics clipped from catalogs/magazines. A small pocket on the back cover was added to organize those smaller items.


I also use a spare pocket to hold a calculator and pen as both come in handy at times.


All of these items tuck away nice and neat and the binder is still able to close flat without trouble. And best of all, I am able to carry this mini-binder in the majority of my handbags and totes. And if not, it is still portable on its own.







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