Cleaning, Organizing, & Eco

There’s A Party In My Pantry

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.

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So Fresh & So Clean, Clean

Well, our new washer and dryer have arrived! And we promised to share how the installation went, what we did with the floors under them, and how we like them so far (that’s where things really get interesting). We realized a few days ago that we’ve had a whole bunch of different laundry situations. In our first house we had front loaders with a counter

In our second house we had stacked front loaders with cubbies next to them

… and in this house we’ve had top loaders with cabinetry above them. Here are the new guys sitting pretty (although not quite as pretty as the others since we haven’t tackled the rest of this nook yet).

Honestly, each of these setups have had pros and cons:

*Note: We got some questions on Friday’s post about why we don’t bring our appliances with us when we move. It seems to be one of those regional things. Here people tend to leave them, but it’s not like you leave nice ones without getting anything in return for them – it’s just factored into the listing price here (a seller can command a higher asking price by saying “there are new top of the line appliances” which obviously add a lot of appeal/value).

But now onto our new washer and dryer! When it came to delivery, the guys were really nice, although I did realize about half-way through it that I needed to lay down a dropcloth to protect the runner, even though they wore those nice little shoe-booties (the runner was getting dripped on by the old appliances as they came down – but it was thankfully nothing I couldn’t just wipe down to remove). With the booties/dropcloth combo it looks like a slip-n-slide situation (I begged them to take off their booties because I was afraid they’d fall) but thankfully they went slow and steady and all was fine. Turns out I’m just a worry wart.

You might remember that we couldn’t wait to get the old appliances up and out of there so we could finally replace the old pan under the washer and remove the remaining carpet scraps that were sitting under the dryer.

We decided that laying down some thick 3/4″ plywood (which is the same depth as our hardwoods) would be a nice way to give that particle-board subflooring a more finished look – especially since we could stain it to match the floors so well (we used one coat of Dark Walnut followed by three coats of SafeCoat Acrylacq to seal them). We actually added plywood under our last washer and dryer (more on that here) since we heard it was easier on them to have reinforced flooring (something about them lasting longer) so we’re hoping it gives these a leg-up.

As soon as the guys carried our old appliances downstairs we ran up into the laundry nook for a quick floor presto-change-o, which we did in a blind panic because we knew it would only take them a few minutes to get the old ones downstairs and the new ones upstairs. First we had to remove the old carpeting, which was more secure than we expected (John actually had to scrape up the staples in a mad-dash after we yanked up the carpet and underlayment). Look at him go:

Then we had to get the boards down. Here’s the first one going in. We had pre-measured them and stained/sealed them beforehand so they were all ready to slide into place when the appliances came up.

The second one went right in after the first, but there’s still a small gap that we have to fill where the molding jutted out too far for us to get a flush result. We hope it’ll look nice and complete once we slide that missing piece in (we’re just going to cut one more slice of plywood and stain it to match). Wish we had time to prime and paint that blue trim hiding in the nook while the old washers were out, but it might have to wait for a rainy day…

When you step a little further back, you can hardly tell it’s not the same hardwood flooring running under those appliances (we didn’t photoshop the crack out of this pic, it’s just barely noticeable from this distance). And we’re really happy with how well the color matches. We also plan to add some nice white folding doors (there were some blue ones hanging there originally) so that’s another reason we thought the subtle flooring change should work really well.

As for leak protection, since these guys are on the second floor (and we REALLY REALLY don’t want them to cause damage to anything below them, we were sure to place the washer in a plastic water-catching basin and also upgraded to those nicer reinforced steel water lines instead of the plastic ones.

The crazy thing is that during installation there was actually a small leak where it was attached to our water line, but we caught it while the installer was still here, and he ducked back there and fixed it by tightening things a little. The lesson? Check those lines!

So now onto the fun stuff: how we like our new washer and dryer! Well, we LOVE the dryer so far. It has been quieter, has a much larger capacity, doesn’t shrink things nearly as much as our older one did (that one practically “burned” things and this one has a heat sensor so it doesn’t over-dry). I also love the charming little chime sound it makes when it’s done (which can still be silenced, but it’s so much better than the loud buzz that our old one made).

We also really like the digital setup of the washer and the dryer. It’s easy to see things, like how long each cycle still has left.

The washer’s capacity is also really awesome. It fits a lot more than any of our previous models (especially the old one we were replacing).

And now for the womp-womp. Remember how I worried that bad things happen in threes? Well, our new washer is broken. I’ll pause for effect, as I quietly weep into my dirty laundry pile. The installation just included starting it to make sure there were no leaks when it filled up, but they didn’t stay to watch it run a full cycle (which is completely understandable… that would be close to an hour of washer-watching time).

So imagine our surprise when we ran our first real load of laundry well after they had pulled out of our driveway and heard a crazy-loud grinding sound during the wash cycle (whenever the agitator is moving, there’s this jarring metal-against-metal sound). We even captured it on video, which does no justice to how loud it is – you can hear it all the way from downstairs with the TV or radio blaring.

I woefully called Home Depot to tell them we already had a problem and they told us to call Maytag, who told us they could get a tech out in seven days. Ack! A full week without a working washer after buying a new one and expecting it to run without issue? I sweetly asked if they could get that service call moved up a bit since we were expecting a working machine upon delivery (our laundry had built-up a bunch already, so the prospect of another seven days of waiting stunk) and they said we could call Home Depot and see if they could do anything. I explained that I called them first, but would try one more time.

Well, when HD heard it was going to be a week until Maytag could make a service call (which might not even fix things, it might just diagnose that I needed a new machine, which then had to be ordered) – I could feel them trying to work something out for me, which I really appreciated. They had mercy on my sweet laundry-missing soul and agreed to take back the first one and deliver a new one on Thursday.

I’m really happy with Home Depot’s customer service (I’m sure it’s a lot easier for them to just say “call Maytag, it’s a mechanical issue that they’re supposed to handle) and I have to be honest that I wish Maytag had been able to come out for a service call within 48 hours or so, which is what I expected when my brain reached that “oh snap, our brand new washer is broken” moment.

So that’s where we are. Still sleepless in Seattle washerless in Richmond, but we love our dryer and the new flooring under it. And here’s hoping that by Thursday I’ll be whistling while I work that new washer. I’ve never looked forward to doing laundry this much in my life! Have you guys had any unexpected delivery or new-appliance issues? We’re happier than ever that ours have a one-year warranty given this little curve-ball, but we hope this third house snafu means we have all of our bad luck out of the way for a while…

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Sidenote: We’d love to see you guys this weekend at the Richmond Home & Garden Show! We’re speaking at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday (with a book signing following Saturday’s talk). You can get half-price tickets online right here. Oh and they gave us the shock of our life when we were driving down the highway and saw our giant faces on a billboard.

Seriously, we screamed so loud it probably scared other drivers. It’s exciting, unbelievable, and terrifying to see your own mug that big.

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