Cleaning, Organizing, & Eco
Thanks for all of your thoughts and suggestions on the beginnings of our pantry project on Tuesday. We’re kind of swimming in ideas for what to do, but for starters we knew we wanted to take everything out (even the door off its hinges) to begin the process of priming and painting.
And, thanks to the conversation between Sherry and I that Tuesday’s post sparked, one thing that won’t be going back into the pantry is our trash can. Instead, it’s gonna go into this cabinet right here. This the cabinet on the end of our peninsula, facing in towards the prep area (as opposed to the eating area). Just ignore all of the pantry cast-offs on the counter.
Although we didn’t have any odor issues with our trash can in the pantry after a month or so of use that way (we initially worried about that and mentioned it here), our decision to move the garbage out of the pantry was three-fold.
- We knew that bottom space could be more functional for storing stuff if so much of it weren’t taken up by the trash can (and trash can lid-clearance).
- When we really thought about it, having a kick-step trash can wasn’t nearly as hands-free now that we had to open the pantry door and then get our foot in there to open it – so one of those moves (either pulling something open with our hand, or stepping on the can when it’s out in the open) would be more efficient than both.
- This cabinet wasn’t doing a whole lot except for housing a few vases. Hello missed opportunity. Nice to meet you.
Rather than just jam a trash bin in there, we decided to purchase a product that many of you recommended in the comments on Tuesday – one of these Rev-A-Shelf’s pull-out containers (which ran us $35 at Lowe’s). They did sell a larger version with two cans, but we didn’t have a cabinet that would easily accommodate that configuration – and we figure one small can will encourage us to empty it more regularly (we have a plan for our recyclables too, but we still need to flesh that out).
The somewhat frustrating thing about this cabinet was that it wasn’t a natural fit for the system, thanks to this barely visible half-shelf (it’s in all of our lower cabinets, and it prevented the can from sitting all the way back). That shelf doesn’t just slide in and out – it’s nailed in on all sides so it’s permanently built-in, as opposed to being removable or adjustable. Urgh.
But that didn’t stop me. I knew I’d just have some wood cutting in my near future. So I followed the instructions, lined up the paper template in my shelf, drilled some pilot holes, and then screwed the two tracks into the floor of the cabinet.
Then I snapped the other pieces into place, which took very little time. The entire conversion would’ve taken no more than ten minutes if I didn’t have my little half-shelf issue to deal with. But at least having the track in place meant that I could mark the shelf with where I needed to cut (note the green tape).
I only need to notch out a 3″ deep by 8″ space for the can to slide into, so I broke out my Dremel Sawmax to do my dirty work because it’s fairly small and good at plunge cuts (i.e. I can plunge the blade into the wood at any point). It was a fast cut to make, but sure was messy. It spewed sawdust everywhere, as you can sorta tell from my awesome iPhone pic. You’ll have to forgive me. I was actively being sprayed with sawdust.
With everything cleaned up, the can slid back into place, and even the vases put back – I could’ve called this project done… but I wasn’t satisfied.
Next to the pull-out cabinet converter, I saw that Rev-A-Shelf also sold a Door Mounting Kit for $18, which intrigued me because it meant that I could further make our old cabinet function like a newer one.
The installation of this was less straightforward – partly because the instructions were a bit vague. But the gist was that you had to install these two bracket “fins” to the sliding portion of the trash can tray.
This was easier said than done considering the nuts and screws were tiny and hard to hold in place. Made me wish I had tiny Kristen Wiig hands.
Once those were attached, you bolted on some larger brackets – which is where you’d eventually attach the cabinet door.
When I put everything back in place (except for the cabinet door, which I had removed) I immediately realized I had a problem. Although I followed the instructions, they didn’t account for old doors like mine, which sit half-recessed into the cabinet frame (they literally are half-sunk, so there’s a lip that rests on the frame and an inset area that slides into the opening for a tight seal). You can see from the picture below how the brackets were overhanging our frame, meaning this cabinet door wouldn’t sit flush like the rest of them.
So I improvised. I took the brackets off and switched them around so that they faced inward instead of out. Problem solved. Oh, and here’s the genius part. This whole time I was worried about attaching the cabinet door back in the right place. How would I keep it straight and lined up with the other door? With the double-stick tape they included, that’s how.
The tape wasn’t a permanent solution, but it allows you to hold your door up, get it right where it looks good and then press it against the tape.
Then you can gently pull the whole thing out – door still stuck in place – and screw it together more permanently from the back (just be sure you’re only putting screws into the thick frame of the cabinet, otherwise you might see some poking out the other side).
With the cabinet door secured to the brackets, things went back into place once more (can you tell there was lots of putting together and taking apart in this process?). But the end result was not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
Although I’m a little sad to give up the size of our old garbage can, I’m really impressed with how easy it was to install this new system. And how in some weird way it makes these old cabinets of ours feel a little newer. The nice thing about this is that we can reuse the system in our new kitchen, or even keep it in place in these old cabinets when we reuse them in the garage to make a little workshop down the line (won’t I be the fanciest man in town with a pull-out garage trash can?).
The only thing left to do is touch-up the screw holes where the hinges used to go on the right side. Although I’m secretly dreaming about a way to reinstall them as sort of “dummy hinges” so that both doors look symmetrical. But that’s a project for another day…
We picked up some other baskets, bins, and pantry organization gizmos on the same trip that yielded this trash can contraption, so once all of our priming and painting is done we’re excited to get stuff back in the pantry – hopefully in a much more organized manner. And considering all the snow that we’re getting, I think we’ll have plenty of time to futz around in there over the next few days. Then the pantry party is officially on.
And everyone’s invited. Although, it’s not really a party. And the pantry is far too small to host any sort of gathering. Hmmm. This invitation is going over just about as smoothly as Brick Tambland’s.
But back to the pantry. See it there, hiding in the back of the kitchen by the fridge?
This is the only “before” I could find of it with the door open. By all the wallpaper and brown trim I could’ve sworn this was from before we moved in, but something about it being stocked with our mess of food tells me this is post-move. #sherlocking
Regardless of when the photo was snapped, you can see that it was – how should I put it? – lacking in any sort of order and organization. Except for maybe the artfully jumbled pile of bags on the floor. I’ll wait while you pin it.
Our initial treatment of that space was not at all indicative of our excitement to finally have a legit pantry. In our first house we just stocked food in some upper cabinets, and in our last one we had a pretty intense pantry-cabinet contraption that was equally functional and frustrating. So having a standard pantry closet (like the ones we both had growing up) is a welcome change for us.
And thankfully, over the last eight months of living with it (and getting increasingly frustrated by our lack of function), we’ve come up with a few ideas to make it work a lot better for us. First off, we wanted to move our microwave in there. I know it’s not your usual placement for a microwave, but since removing our hulking over-the-range microwave, we wanted a better spot than on the counter – and we’ve had luck with a microwave that was hidden behind a cabinet door in our last kitchen (we don’t use it very often, and we really liked that setup).
So because we had a good experience concealing our last microwave, relocating this one to our nice deep pantry felt like the way to go. There would be ample room for ventilation on the sides and back of it – and we’d keep the door open while it’s in use. The only hitch was that there was no outlet in the pantry. Until recently…
We actually got this done about a month or so ago (you may have noticed that the microwave has been MIA for a little while). Right before Christmas we had our go-to electricians swing by one morning and add an outlet right where we wanted it, to the tune of $110. And with that, the microwave had a spot to plug-in, our counter was clearer, and the pantry felt one step closer to being more functional for us.
We’ve been using it that way for over a month now and it has worked out well. Except that to make room for the microwave, we had to lose one of the existing shelves. Simple solution: reposition the shelves to capitalize on that unused space. But sometimes the simplest solutions take weeks to make it to the top of our to-do list.
Yesterday we finally emptied the pantry (a fun task full of exciting discoveries like “I didn’t know we still had cookies back here!”) and went to work adjusting the shelves. Our original plan had been to lower the bottom shelf (with the microwave on it) so that the shelf above it could go back in the same spot. But we’ve since moved our trash can in there too, so we couldn’t go any lower without obstructing the can from opening.
Trash can sidenote: we moved that into the pantry over a month ago on a trial basis with the worry that it could stink up the whole space or otherwise annoy us, but sort of like how a trash can under the sink doesn’t seem to be an issue – especially when it has a lid to seal it – this one has been fine in there. Even with a pregnant wife who currently has a werewolf-like sense of smell.
Instead of lowering the microwave shelf to make room for another shelf above it, we opted to put the missing shelf back in above the microwave shelf. But by hanging that one a little higher, it would create sort of a half-shelf that’s perfect for cans and smaller pantry items. So I, very technically, used a pasta sauce jar to mark how much space we’d want.
The next part was really easy. I used my crowbar to pry off the existing braces (which were just nailed in) and marked level lines where they needed to be re-installed.
Then using my level to double-check myself, I screwed them back into place where we wanted them.
The whole thing took about an hour, and most of that was spent emptying the pantry, taking pictures for you guys, and eating back-of-the-pantry discoveries. Once it was completed we were inordinately excited to test out our new small-things shelf. It’s really nice to have a “bonus shelf” for those shorter items that used to get shoved to the back or clutter up the other shelves.
We didn’t bother to restock the whole pantry yet because (as you can probably tell) there’s still more to be done. Primarily: priming, painting, and further organizing those shelves. We’re planning to add a few more systems to keep things organized on those bigger shelves, and might even hang some added storage on the door. Sherry has also been thinking about using some cheery wipeable shelf paper or something, so this pantry party is best described as half-baked.
After we’re done painting and everything’s dry we can actually organize it so it looks a bit more appetizing and less like a grocery store mid-looting. And then we’ll be back with the end result.
Man, it looks so nice empty and clean like that. Then again, the rest of the kitchen looks like this, so I guess it’s not really a long term solution.
How do you guys have your pantry organized? Do you have certain bins and systems that you love? Have you drooled over those amazing room-like pantries on Pinterest? Sometimes I catch Sherry just gazing at them and muttering things like “magical unicorn pantry.”
Also, let me know if anyone is throwing a pantry party anytime soon. I’ll bring my friend Brick. He’s a hoot.