Tackled Together: The Kitchen Cabinets

We’re back to share how we fared when it came to our big cabinet clean-out which we announced late last week and tackled this weekend (hopefully along with a bunch of you guys at home). Remember our pathetic starting point? Of course you do. Those two chaotic double cabinets (where we store every single edible item in our kitchen, except for the stuff in the fridge) were pretty hard to forget:

But now we’ll reveal what they look like after a few hours of weekend weeding out and reworking:

First we followed the 100% empty rule and cleared out both cabinets and placed everything on the counter so we could evaluate what we had, pair like with like, toss anything that was past its prime, and see what we were dealing with.

Once we looked at it all en masse it was easy to see that we had just a few popular categories that kept popping up again and again. So if we could keep things grouped by these reoccurring descriptions we would always know where to put specific things (which practically makes our organization efforts automatic). For the first double cabinet, those categories were: cereal, pasta, sides, snacks, crackers, and cans & soups.

So we decided to hit up Michael’s for some cheap-o metal labels (found in the scrapbooking aisle by the way) that we could hang on each shelf to delineate each area. We especially love that unlike self adhering stickers (like those from a label maker), these metal frames look more polished, and they hold pieces of paper that can easily be switched out if we ever want to recategorize anything at a later date. And at a mere $2.19 for four labels, we came home with more than we needed for just six dollars and some change.

Oh and when it came to hanging them, first we measured to ensure they were all lined up, then we pre-drilled tiny little holes using the metal frame as a template for where the nails would go, and then we gently hammered those nails into the small pre-drilled holes we made. Worked like a charm. Note: for a less permanent hanging job, double stick tape or even velcro could have done the trick. We just knew we’d like having them around for the long haul.

In the photo above you can see that when it came to our “sides” category we had a bunch of slippery envelopes that we used to attempt to stack (yeah, not possible) but eventually we just ended up shoving them between two heavier objects to try to keep them somewhat together. Now thanks to a clear plastic caddy that I already had laying around, they’re much more controlled and easy to store.

And grouping our pasta with our sauce seems like a no brainer, but that idea never occurred to us before since we just mindlessly jammed everything into the cabinets and called it a day. Now we feel oh so elegant for having a little section for that stuff, and of course we love that we were able to swank things up even more with two lidded glass containers (just $5.29 a pop at Target) for our always-purchased-in-bulk snacks (almond biscotti and Wasa crackers). Hey, whatever floats your boat right? Plus they stay a lot fresher since they both come in not-very-easily-resealed packaging. Double bonus.

Oh and if you look on the bottom shelf you’ll see another added organizational item that we introduced: a little wire shelf (that we already had on hand). It really helps us gain more usable vertical space for smaller items that get all jumbled up and lost without some semblance of order. And I even had two green stationery boxes (leftover from a slew of Thank You notes that I sent off after my baby shower) which were perfectly sized for housing some random packets of oatmeal and a bunch of granola bars (sometimes finding a way to lose all that bulky packaging frees up way more space, plus it makes it even easier to grab something on the go).

We even paused to sort through our DIY in-cabinet cork boards full of recipes and nutritional articles to pare things down and eliminate the unnecessary visual clutter (see the original post about those cork boards and how we hung them here).

They cleaned up nice, right? 

Now we’ll move over to the other cabinet, which used to house everything from spaghetti and sauce to baking goods, oils, and spices. We immediately realized that it made more sense to dedicate one cabinet to snacks, sides, pasta, crackers, soup, etc- while the other cabinet was devoted to spices, cooking oil, sauces, and baking ingredients. Again, this should have been more intuitive to us, but we’ve lived with our new kitchen for years without reaching this obvious realization. So we looked at all the items that would be going back into this cabinet and arrived at a few more overarching categories that we could use to create a spot for everything. We landed on: powdered mixes, baking ingredients, sauces, baking accessories, spices and cooking oils.

Again we loved how the labels instantly created a system to keep like items together (and that the categories could easily be changed if we wanted to move things around in the future).

But when it came to storing some greasier bottomed items (like cooking spray, canola oil, etc) we had another challenge inside this cabinet. Namely, gross rings left behind.

But it was nothing a few $1.99 placemats from Target couldn’t fix.

We were able to cut one in half and create two different 100% wipeable (and even dishwasher safe) protective mats for under the sticky sauces and the cooking oils that can now be stored without fear that they’ll nastify our shelves.

And you might be wondering what sort of “baking accessories” are stored in that box. Well, we already had it laying around, and it totally works for keeping all of our sprinkles, icing nozzles, cookie cutters and cupcake liners together. And it’s super convenient to just whip out the entire box when it comes time to bake something (instead of losing nozzles and cupcake liners in the back of the cabinets, it’s now much easier to see what we have and get to the business of decorating).

And not to be overachievers, but there was one more kitchen cabinet that was a bit, er, lackluster. We store many of our skillets and pans in the drawer under the stove, but we have a few pots and lids that spill over into the base cabinet on the right.

And it’s not that it looked cluttered or messy per se, it just didn’t feel organized. And if you looked closely you could see that the lids and the bases of the pots were leaving tiny marks on the shelves as they were slid in and out.

Luckily those marks were easily removed with a sponge, and then all we needed to do was pick up a lid rack ($9.39 at Target) and two more of those $1.99 placemats (which we taped together to create one large wipeable protective surface under the pots on the bottom shelf). No more scrape marks- and it looks a lot more organized too.

So that’s how it all went down this weekend when we finally decided to tackle our dreaded kitchen cabinets. And we’re pleased to report that the whole project ran us less than $30 for all of our storage-friendly additions (from those metal label holders and the placemats to the pot lid organizer and the glass jars for keeping snacks fresh).

But enough about us- how’d you guys do? Did any of you tackle your kitchen cabinets and live to tell the tale? Any tips or tricks you implemented to keep things under control? Did anyone attempt an organizational task outside of the kitchen (in the garden, the garage or the basement for example)? Do tell.

Psst- Wondering how we stash and store nearly everything else in our house? Click here for all the dirty deets.



Something Free + Five Lifesavers

If you’re anything like us, patience is easier said than done, so we’ll get straight to the something free. After many (many) requests, we’re happy to announce that we’ve finally created a downloadable PDF or Word Doc (click here for print-ready PDF, here for editable Microsoft Word) of our “DIY Baby Book” that we revealed in our getting-ready-for-baby post a few weeks back. Just to jog your memory, here’s how we whipped it up:

The idea was actually John’s brain child (I’m telling you, he’s the sweet sentimental one and I’m the neurotic fool who worried about ruining our sofa if my water broke). He suggested that we get a fabric covered album and create our own little baby book of sorts, with fun patterned paper and printed prompts that you see in typical baby books like “The First Week Was….” and “My First Word…” I loved the idea of adding in keepsakes like Clara’s inked footprints from the hospital along with a ton of photos, so we headed over to Michael’s (with a 40% off coupon in hand) and snagged a sweet 8.5 x 8.5″ album covered in super fun Amy Butler fabric for just $9 after my coupon.

We also picked up a pad full of 8 x 8″ patterned paper to use as a backdrop in our keepsake album (to the tune of $6). So our entire DIY baby book project ran us $15 total. And after adding all the decorative paper and leaving room for notes about momentous occasions- along with photos and other memorabilia- we were left with a pretty sweet way to document many of Clara’s firsts (a few of which we’ve already written in!):

And since we made it ourselves we had fun sprinkling in a few quirky things, like this page of “Future Predictions” where John and I guessed everything from Clara’s hair and eye color to her first word, her favorite subject in school, and even her future profession – before her arrival of course. It should be fun for the beanette to look back at all of our goofy (and most likely completely wrong) guesses someday.

Plus the fact that it looks so cute in the nursery is the icing on the cake…

So now you can download the print-ready PDF or the editable (and then print-ready) Word Doc by following the links in the first paragraph. Then you just have to grab some pretty paper and an album and you’re ready to print out our little PDF/Doc, cut each caption out, and arrange them in your new homemade memory book.

And now on to those five lifesavers that we mentioned in the title. Much like the frequent requests for a version of our DIY baby book, we received a lot of questions about what household items have come in handy since Clara came along. And although this isn’t exactly home improvement related, it definitely falls under the “what makes your house more efficient” category so we figured we’d dedicate one post to this much asked question. Although at first we wondered if we’d even have any favorite items at just three weeks into parenting, but we’re happy to say that we most definitely have a small collection of items that we ABSOLUTELY LOVE. As in probably couldn’t have lived without. So although every baby is different and every parent has varying opinions, here’s what we’re so glad that we had on hand to help us adjust to life with Clara-Clara-Bo-Bara:

1. These Aden and Anias swaddle blankets are amazing. They’re made of thin stretchy (and breathable!) muslin and they’re giant (44″ x 44″)- which makes them perfect for giving Clara that back-in-the-womb feeling. Ever since we noticed how happy she was when she was swaddled by the all-knowing nurses at the hospital, we vowed to carry on that tradition at home. Have we mentioned that we actually have to set an alarm and wake her up to feed her at night when we swaddle her before putting her to bed? Note: be sure to securely swaddle your wee one before putting him or her to sleep since loose blankets can pose a suffocation hazard- just google “how to swaddle” for some great step by step tutorials.

2. This little clutch from Skip Hop can be slipped into any large purse to make it an instant diaper bag- which appeals to a deal hunter like me. See, I’ve noticed that bags billed as “diaper bags” can be over $150 for something that looks polished, while non-diaper bags of the same quality/size can be found for a lot less. In fact I grabbed a chic oversized black bag from The Gap for $25 (on clearance!) and just slipped the Skip Hop clutch right inside. Now I always have diapers, wipes, and an extra outfit on hand – I even have a clean mat to change her on while we’re on the go. Plus I can easily drop it the clutch into other purses and bags if I feel like changing up my look without buying another official diaper bag. Oh the versatility. We actually plan to pick up another one because the changing mat part (which can be detached) is great for dropping over our changing pad in the nursery. Clara LOVES to pee when she’s being changed- seriously the girl does it 8 out of 10 times. Thankfully, the slippery waterproof material makes those little impromptu pee-fests so much easier to clean up!

3. Our next must-have Clara item is actually a super handy iPhone app that we downloaded on the day that we returned home from the hospital. We were obsessed with trying to keep track of how many diapers she was wetting and dirtying (since the docs & nurses stressed that as a great way to monitor her health and the quality of my feedings). I also kept blanking out about which side I needed to start nursing her from every few hours. Enter Baby Brain stage right. It’s just $4.99 and it keeps track of all my feedings (it even has a ticker at the top to track how long it’s been since the last one) and it also tracks wet & dirty diapers. We love that we can push a button and see everything there is to know about Clara’s day (and even compare that day to others) . Especially since products like the ItzBeen Timer are sold for around $25 and this app does pretty much the same thing for $4.99. Plus we didn’t have to acquire yet another baby gadget. Score.

4. This mouthwatering lasagna photo represents all the amazing frozen meals that were dropped off by friends & family members after returning home with our little bundle of baby. John and I joke that we’ve never eaten better. Seriously, the kindness of our loved ones has been amazing, and if you’re not sure how many relatives and friends will show up with meals as you adjust to having a wee one around we would definitely recommend making (and freezing) a few meals before delivery day, just so you have them on hand. Anything that makes things like feeding yourself a no-brainer is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit when you’re so focused on providing for your babe that you forget to eat!

5. This last gadget is totally a personal preference thing. We know some moms who scoff at the idea, but personally it’s been the reason that we sleep at least 8 hours a night (interrupted by just one feeding!) so we’re eternally grateful. Basically, it’s a monitor that detects movement in your baby as he/she sleeps- even just their chest rising and falling as they breathe. And if there aren’t any movements/breathing in 20 seconds it sets off an alarm. John and I can’t tell you how much peace of mind this gives us. Plus it allows us to sleep more soundly and not do that hover-over-her-crib-to-make-sure-she’s-breathing thing. Seriously, I haven’t done that once. It has also helped us to get her into her crib from day one (as opposed to a moses basket in our room) which has done wonders for her sleep schedule since she isn’t disturbed by us moving or the dog bounding around the bed at night. Remember, we have to actually wake her up to feed her or she’d sleep right through the night! Oh it’s also a sound monitor so we get to hear her cooing… and if she were to wake up and cry someday, we’d hear that too.

So those are the five things that have been indispensable these first few weeks. And in case it’s not obvious without this little disclaimer, none of the makers of the items mentioned above have paid us or perked us in any way to call them out here, they’re just honestly the five things that have helped us out immensely so we thought we’d share ‘em (especially since we get so many emails from new parents or parents-to-be who want our opinion). We’re honestly kind of shocked that anyone cares about what we like, but there you go!

And now, since that’s an awful lot of words up above, let’s break things up with a few photos:

We’ve decided, like many other fellow bloggers, that we’ll be documenting Clara’s growth with a series of weekly photos. And we came up with the idea of using a white onesie (along with some Photoshop magic to add the week) and a colorful swatch of fabric for the background. We already had some great textiles laying around, but we also look forward to hunting down some cheap remnants to keep the project going (and using baby blankets and even our bedroom duvet if we ever get desperate). In fact the last photo was taken with Clara laying on the fun pillowcases I got for the hospital (mentioned in this post). By Clara’s first birthday we’ll have 52 weekly photos showing how much she’s changed on a slew of punchy graphic backgrounds to compile in a photo book (you know, one of those Snapfish or Kodak Gallery ones?). Should be fun. Oh and we’ll be adding all of our weekly beanette photos to this album in Flickr, just in case you’d like to follow along…

But back to the subject of those five favorite lifesavers, we’d love to hear your top five can’t-live-without-‘em baby picks. And if you’re not packing the parental card in your wallet just yet, we’re definitely interested in hearing the five must-have items that make your life easier. What’s frying your bacon these days?

Psst- Some of the links included above are Amazon Affiliate links.