Wednesday, December 15, 2010

7 Whitney's Wonderous Update

You all really amaze me and inspire me from week to week with your creativity, your ability to think outside the box, your craftiness and frugality and motivation...

Every week I am spoiled, and I get to share the love with you via Reader Spaces.

This week is no different.  In fact, it comes with a cherry on top.  That cherry, is in the form of a video!  I know, I couldn't believe it either.  Love!  Not to mention the success story that comes along with it!

Whitney wrote:

Hi Jen!

First of all, I love your blog and am always turning to it for creative ideas. In fact, this weekend I did an organization project inspired by all of the fabulous pantry and cabinet makeovers you've shown!

I live in NYC and space is tight. However, I have two female roommates and the three of us all love to cook. Our kitchen, however, is pretty small and we are very disorganized in knowing what ingredients/spices/baking goods we have at any given time.

SO, we basically turned a very disorganized coat closet into a fully functioning pantry for NO MONEY. All it took was getting rid of what we didn't use in the coat closet and making room for the majority of our kitchen needs.

I've attached befores and afters of the coat closet turned pantry, as well as a blog link to my post about the makeover and a YouTube link to a quick little video I did, documenting the transformation.

I hope I can be in your featured Reader Space! I can't wait to share with your readers how amazing it feels to live in a small apartment but still be able to whip up first class knowing where everything is. :)

All the best!

And because she explained it all so well on her blog, I am bringing it over to share here:

Whitney blogged:

Have I mentioned that over the past two years, I've had seven different roommates?


In my two years living in the Chi-O house, I didn't even rack up seven roommates.

I've lived with my roommate Katie for the past two years in the same apartment, but, long story short, we have third bedroom that seems to always have a perpetually changing third roommate. We like to think of it as the "transition room" (though it is currently being occupied by the roommate of our dreams, hopefully the ever-changing-third-roommate buck stops here...Emma, this is my not-so-subtle plea for you to live with us forever).

In any case, over two years and nine residents total (including Katie and me) we've accumulated a lot of stuff. Random hardware, totally weird kitchen supplies, forgotten fleeces, blankets, picture frames, etc.

Now, all of this clutter definitely adds up. Our kitchen cabinets have gotten so piled up, we've gotten to the point where we don't even know what we have anymore. And, after discovering one night recently that we owned four (count, 'em...FOUR) jars of oregano, I decided it was time for a serious kitchen reorganization.

For those of you who don't know the layout of our apartment, when you walk in our front door, our galley style kitchen is immediately on the left. One step past the kitchen on the left is our coat closet.

Oh, the coat closet. How I hate opening that closet door. Not only is it slightly dangerous to open it too fast (a gallon of primer teeters perilously on the top shelf), if you do manage to open the door unscathed, once you're there, you have no idea where anything is you're looking for.

See what I mean? I'm not sure our exposed Christmas lights make a good support system for the primer.

And whose coats are these?? Answer: NONE of ours - they are the belongings of roommates past
And so I decided, why not give the coat closet a major clean out and see if it could be a home for any of our kitchen stuff?

Of course, in New York City, residents are definitely challenged to get creative with their space. It's not like I have a garage or basement where I can throw all of this crud. Basically, in order to clear out the contents of this closet, I had to abide by the following rules:
  1. If thou hath not ever seen/used object before now in two years, thou shalt not keep.
  2. If thou is unsure of the object's rightful owner, thou must keep (until officially unclaimed by current roommates).
  3. If thou finds an object that is disgusting, empty, unhygienic or broken, thou must throw away without question.
And you'd be shocked all of the irrelevant randomness we've kept. It took me only about 10 minutes to go through everything in the entire closet and decide we didn't need to keep 90% of it.

With the closet clear, I noticed it was definitely not a sanitary place to be putting anything food-related. And so I scrubbed and then repainted the closet and shelves a charming yellow and white (though this picture was taken mid-paint).

Then the fun began.

Slowly but surely, our coat closet actually turned into a pantry. It took one full day to reorganize, but I am delighted to share the finished product with you.

What a change, right? Hello, spices, I can finally SEE all of you! (And now I know we are fully stocked up on oregano, cinnamon and, randomly, paprika). Instead of purchasing those spice bleacher-things, I actually just found a random scrap of wood that happened to be narrower than the shelf itself, so I was able to stagger the spices at different levels using that.

As you can see, I decided to put the bulk of our basic dry goods above the spices and, for ease and baking convenience, grouped all of the usual baking stuff in a basket together. That way, we can just pull out the basket when we decide to go crazy with Christmas cookies and - voila! A one-stop-shop.

 Now, you may be wondering - What are these red handles I see? Well, my friends, this is my solution for items we use a lot, but don't want to house on the kitchen counter. I used Trader Joe's six-pack/wine holders  to hang from a bar (hey, this used to be a closet...gotta milk it for all it's worth) and hang our balsamic vinegars, olive oils, honey, and these types of items.

In fact, I even found them useful for holding our boxes of angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, name it. Our noodles now live safely (and are free of spilling) in these Trader Joe's holders. The best part is we already owned these bags, but never used them until now! And you can get them at your own TJ's for less than a buck each.

Of course, we still needed to find a place for some of the basics we've always kept in the closet...our grocery cart....vacuum...beach get it. Well, we happened to have a randomly empty set of plastic drawers that were, in my opinion, really looking for a purpose in life. So I happily transferred all of our  hardware materials into these drawers, and a lot of the Christmas stuff, too.

See? Now there's a home for everything. Shall we do a little before and after?



The best part?  We now have palatial amounts of space for our plates and glasses in our cabinets. I can't believe that the majority of the stuff in our new pantry used to somehow fit in these cupboards. Imagining the state of things before, are you even surprised we didn't know we owned four oregano's?

Ahhhhhhh! For a more in-depth view, check out the minute long video below, showing more detail of the before and after. Narrated by yours truly.

This just melts my heart.  I adore that she didn't just leave her coat closet, a malfunctioning coat closet, because it would be easier and that's what it's original intention was.  Instead she chose to put it to better function and created the perfect place to expand their kitchen storage!  AND I have never thought to hang bags like that for more storage!  Love it!  Think of the storage expansion created using what she had, vs. installing more shelving!  Perfect option.  And it could easily be transformed back to a coat closet someday if necessary.  So many win's here!

In fact, here is what Whitney had to say a month later, "Just so you know, the pantry is still running very functionally and has made our kitchen look CLEAN and ORGANIZED on a consistent basis. My roommates and I are thrilled."

And that's what it's all about!

P.S.  Have an awesome story to share?  How about some organizing tips and tricks?  Maybe a project completed from an inspiration found?  Please send your story and photos to and I would heart to feature them right here, on the blog!!  Oh, and no worries my friends, we will NEVER judge "before" pictures because that just wouldn't be nice!  Only love goes on at this blog!


  1. REally great use of space! I have friends who are living in rotating roommate situations like that, and I can not believe how much clutter is in their storage spaces - and none of them know where it came from. I would be giving it all away. Stat. :)

    I especially love the use of Trader Joe's bags!!

  2. I LOVE the hanging bags. Such a great idea! And it looks so organized!

  3. What a great transformation. I have a closet that I am working on, will let you know when I'm done.

  4. That looks wonderful! I linked up two of my closets. They are not nearly as drastic of a transformation, but they are improvements :)

  5. Thank you so much, Jen, for featuring my space!!!! I love it! I want readers to know that we've now had it organized for a month or so and it is a HUGE success.

    And all of my inspiration comes from you and your readers, right here at IHO :)


    a toast.

  6. Great post! I love seeing a NYC apartment where making efficient use of space is a necessity... I love urban living. :)

  7. Fabulous! Great idea to use the bags!!!!!!!!!


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