Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pantry: Full Reveal and Details

Okay, so it's been two weeks. This will actually prove that the new pantry is working for us. I didn't clean it AT ALL before shooting these detail pics. Everything has a home, and there's no question where items belong. The kids can figure it out. My husband can figure it out. It works. First, let me remind you what I started with:

It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't right for us. It was a lot of wasted space. Now, for the after. The full-length photos! The one on the left is of the main shelf. The one on the right is the second shelf section on the right side of the pantry.

By building an "L" using narrower shelving, we actually created a huge amount of usable and accessible space. I also feel I need to point out that the second shelf from the top on the right picture isn't actually crooked like that. My camera has a "panoramic" setting, and that was at the seam, so it looks kind of weird. :)

On the left wall of the pantry, I installed pegboard, which (of course!) I painted green!

The top has hooks where we hang cutting boards. In the middle are two small plastic baskets that hold seasoning packets, dry soup mixes, and dry dressing mixes. At the bottom are two seagrass baskets that hold onions and potatoes.  I love this! The pegboard was a cinch to install, and it's infinitely adaptable. 

One of my favorite things is finding new and unexpected uses for stuff. When I was contemplating can storage, I knew two things. 1) I hate stacking cans; 2) I want to be able to see at a quick glance what I have. I contemplated this issue for a long time. I visited the Container Store and looked at their Gravity Feed Can Rack, but it doesn't have very good reviews. Plus, the size wasn't quite right. I looked at some DIY options, like this Canned Food Dispenser, but they all seemed way bigger than what I need. Then, I was walking through Menards and saw this 33" Wide AkroBin, and I knew I'd found just what I needed!

You should have seen the funny looks I was getting from the men when I took this thing to the food section to see how many cans would fit in it!
It's just the right size to have 3-4 cans of each category, and I can fit 7 categories per bin. And, it fits perfectly across the back of the pantry! I actually contemplated spray painting them green, but decided the blue isn't so bad.

Another big problem I had with our old pantry was the unorganized floor. Particularly the cases of pop and beer that would accumulate, and we'd have this huge empty box with ONE beer in it, just taking up space.  We also had an issue with giant packages of individual snack bags. It just looked messy and gross.  Enter the Beer Basket and the Snack Basket. Yes, they are still on the floor, but at least they are contained, and we can easily see what we have.
You can also see that I've followed the lead of many a pantry makeover by putting rice, cereal, pasta, etc. in clear containers. I always thought people were nuts for doing this, but now I totally get it. I love how it looks, and I love that I can see at a quick glance what we're running low on.

I used a green plastic basket to corral peanut butter, honey and other spreads. Another identical basket holds Stove Top Stuffing and Rice-a-Roni. A wicker basket holds Ramen (which my kids love). Crackers and nuts are on a shelf together. Oils, vinegars and sauces are grouped together.

Oh! And the labels! I had so much fun creating the labels, laminating them, cutting them out. I totally got my label geek on.
Where I could, I attached them with double-stick tape. In other cases (like with the cereal containers), I used sticky-back velcro so the labels could be changed out easily. You know, because Aaron doesn't ALWAYS want Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Sometimes he wants Frosted Mini Wheats or Raisin Bran. So, I also made one blank label that can be written on with a dry-erase marker.

Overall, I'm thrilled to pieces with my pantry makeover. And I'm really proud of my family for being on board with keeping it tidy.

I've been working on some other organizing projects, a couple of art projects, and (of course) knitting! But I'll tell you more about those tomorrow. What have you been organizing lately?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pantry Preview

The pantry isn't quite finished yet. I still have a few more key things I'd like to do with it. However, I'll share what I've done so far. Here's the before:
It's not *that* bad, but certainly nothing amazing. You can sort of see the liquor shelf all the way at the top. What you can't see well is the floor: a case of beer, some large plastic food storage containers, napkins, a large wooden cutting board, and a shoe mat (because I come in through the kitchen door, and it doesn't make sense to take my shoes all the way to the front door). You can also see that we've put a "shoe organizer" on the back of the pantry door for small things that would easily get lost or fall through the cracks of the wire shelves.

I went into this project with several problems I wanted to solve:
  • The wire shelving sucks. Items in narrow boxes (like Rice-a-Roni and Stove Top Stuffing) fall over. Some things are small enough to fall through the wires. Yuck.
  • The shelves were too deep at 16 inches. Stuff would get pushed to the back and forgotten, and it wasn't easy to see, at a glance, what we had.
  • Too much wasted space! The pantry measures 27" deep X 36" wide, and none of it was being used wisely. Except maybe the liquor shelf. 
So, how do we solve these issues? Space planning! Several weeks ago, I went to the hardware store to seek out possible storage solutions. Here's what I knew for sure:
  • I need narrower shelves. And not just across the back of the pantry. The side is usable space too!
  • I want to store cans on their sides, but not in a gravity-feed can organizer. I can't imagine a world where I would have more than 2 or 3 cans of any one item (other than fruits and veggies), and most of those organizer are designed for more than that. 
  • I want to group like things together.
  • I need some hanging space for things like cutting boards, potatoes and onions.
  • I want to label everything! That way, even if I'm not home, the kids and hubby will know right where stuff can be found or put away.
Tomorrow (Lord willing and my evening goes as planned!), I will post detailed pics of how I filled each of these wishes. Until then, here's a quick pic of how it looked Sunday evening.
Giddy with delight is the only phrase I can think of to describe how I feel when I look in this pantry now! Once I got the old shelves out, it was obvious that the walls needed a fresh coat of paint. So, instead of the stark white that was in there before, I used a nice warm beige. See the blue things up toward the top? Those are the best! I promise full details tomorrow. See the door? We got rid of the awful shoe organizer, and now the door just holds our Ikea plastic bag dispenser, which is pink because they were out of white the day I was there. The step stool even fits in the pantry on the floor!

Like I said, I still have a few things to do. I need to address the desire for hanging storage (hint: Pegboard!), and I need to figure out where else to keep my shoes. But already, the improvement is so great that, I swear, I hear angels singing every time I open the door!!  I can't wait to get home this evening and work on it some more!

Monday, May 14, 2012

What a productive weekend!

I know it was Mother's Day weekend, which apparently means I was supposed to relax and put my feet up and let other people do the work. But, my to-do list was too long, and it was full of things I really and truly wanted to do! I started bright and early Saturday morning and didn't stop until about 10:15 on Sunday night. Today, I'm sore and exhausted. But I'm okay with that because it means I had a very productive weekend.

First, we finally completed assembly and placement of the new entertainment centers. First, the front room, where my son Aaron spends most of his time. Here's the "Before."
It's downright embarrassing. Toys, school supplies, video games, a saxophone....all strewn about, completely disorganized. This was a huge project. We moved everything out, vacuumed, shampooed the carpet, then moved the new furniture in. We also replaced the 32" tube HD tv with a 32" flat panel TV that was being underutilized in the spare bedroom. Here's the after:

What a HUGE improvement!!! That's the Expedit TV Storage Unit from Ikea. Pictures of the rest of the room will come later this summer when I replace the futon (which you can kind of see the corner of in the bottom picture). This weekend, I added some homemade art to the walls. First, I made "tape art" following the instructions from Davis: Day by Day. Here's my version:
I used 12" x 12" canvases, white craft paint, and green latex wall paint (which you'll see again in a moment). I love how they turned out. Perfect for above the TV.

Wall art #2 was created generally following these directions from Thankfully Thrifty. But, I used a 16" x 20" canvas and skipped the tissue paper part. I painted the canvas to evoke the idea of sunshine. This is a very special song to my family--my 10-year-old son still wants me to sing it to him every night at bedtime. So, it seems right to hang it in the room where he spends most of his time. Perfect for the space above the printer.

Now, on to the living room. Here's the before. I can't believe I ever thought this looked okay. Yes, that's Christmas wrapping paper in the corner. DVDs and video games on the floor. (Seriously, you never realize how bad something looks until you take a picture of it. You get so used to stuff being there that you just stop seeing it.)
Enter the Hemnes series from Ikea:

It's not completely accessorized yet. Once it was up, I realized I don't have a lot of tchotchkes. So, I'm slowly working on that. But, I LOVE this TV unit. Despite it's size and how dark it is, it makes the room look bigger! It nearly fills the 12' wall.

Once everything was up, I felt inspired to paint. The fireplace wall was painted a soft, grey-green. Very nice, very neutral, very boring. So, Saturday afternoon, that all changed.

You know that moment when you start painting, and you think, "Oh my God! What have I done?!?! This is a huge mistake!!!" Well, I felt that way too:

The new green looked so yellow and almost neon next to the old green. But, I didn't have any choice but to carry on. I didn't have any of the old green paint anymore. There was no changing my mind at this point. And good thing, too! Because once I was done and the paint dried,
I couldn't be happier! This shade has been dubbed "Amanda's Signature Green" by my family. Now I need to rethink the mantle, and I think some kind of vinyl lettering on the soffit above the TV unit might be nice.  I'm already working on a couple of canvases for either side of the fireplace, but we'll talk about that in another post.

Sunday, I tackled the daunting task of overhauling the kitchen pantry. We've lived in this house for 6 years, and every moment of those 6 years--all 189,341,556 seconds--I have HATED the wire shelving in my pantry. Stuff falls over and sometimes through the wires. Plus, it was so deep that it was nearly impossible to see everything and know exactly what was there. After all of the work I did yesterday, the change is amazing. But, I'm not quite finished yet! So, that will be tomorrow's post.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why it's Thursday and there are still no pictures...

My weekend started out great! I spent the day Friday at Ikea with my dear friend Elizabeth. I returned the broken pieces and received unbroken replacements. I also spent more money than I should have, but that's another story entirely.  When I got home Friday, late afternoon, I started putting furniture together, and by 9 or 10 o'clock, it was all done. So was I. Enter good night's sleep.

Saturday was very productive, but didn't result in much photo-worthy activity. We cleaned, vacuumed, and emptied the front room and shampooed the carpet. That took just about the whole day. Then we went to my parents' house for a bonfire/hotdog roast, where I was walking barefoot on the porch and stubbed my toe......

Yeah, it's broken. Both bones closest to the foot are broken. Needless to say, I didn't spend a lot of time on my feet Sunday. The weekend wasn't a total bust. I was able to sort through DVDs and other living room stuff. And Tim, bless his heart, did a lot to help put the furniture into place. But, it just didn't come together enough for me to feel ready to post pictures of the changes yet.

I'm hoping this weekend will result in LOTS of pictures I can share!

Friday, May 4, 2012


What a crazy couple of weeks it's been! I've been working 4am - noon every day because of 24-hour library. As a result, I'm seriously lacking in sleep, but today is the last day for me. We're open through tomorrow at 5pm, but once my shift is over today, I'm done. I'm very much looking forward to returning to my usual 8-5 schedule.

The good news: The shawl is done! I finished it Wednesday, 3 days ahead of schedule! No action shots yet. I just haven't been coherent enough to put together any kind of decent photo shoot. However, here it is, blocking on the floor of my bedroom:
And a close-up of the edging:
It's wonderful! I love it so much, there aren't even words. I wore it to work this morning, and it's just perfect for this kind of weather. The tencel in the yarn makes it almost cool to the touch. I'm in love. I'll try to get some action shots this weekend, but I'm not sure how much success I'll have. It's supposed to rain, and I have a fair number of projects planned for around the house.

I have some Ikea furniture to build and a couple of rooms to re-organize. I can't wait! Seriously. I'm so excited about this, I can hardly contain myself. My wonderful daughter and I made a spontaneous trip to Ikea on Sunday. Our closest Ikea is 2 hours away. We returned home with this Hemnes TV Storage Combination, but in black-brown, not grey-brown or white. The TV stand and Bridge came together easily. But, when I opened the bookshelves, my world came crashing down. All 4 side pieces (2 from each bookshelf) were cracked clear down the side right next to the trim.

This not only looked bad, but would clearly create structural problems. Needless to say, I was crushed. I was so excited about getting the living room organized during my afternoons this week, and now it wasn't going to happen. Instead, today, I'm making a return trip to Ikea to exchange the broken pieces.

We also decided to pick up the Expedit TV Storage Unit for the front room. That room is used almost exclusively by my 10-year-old son, Aaron, or by my husband when he wants to play the piano. It's one of those rooms that I've rearranged twenty-gazillion times and am never happy. I have some ideas for that room that, I hope, will come together this summer. Starting with the new TV storage unit. I think it will go a long way toward keeping the room tidy. At least I hope it will.

So, this weekend I will be assembling furniture and cleaning/organizing/decorating. I hope to have lots and lots of pictures to share on Monday! How are you going to spend your weekend?