Mommy, what can we label?

So my 3 year old came up to me holding my labeler today and said “Mommy, what can we label?” A kid after my own heart, I tell ya.

Labeling (1)

Well, mini-me organizer, I’ll tell you what we can label…everything!

Here are just a few things I label around here:

Bathroom organizers:

Labeling (2)File Folders:

Labeling (3)Spice Jars:

Labeling (4)Fridge organizers:

labeling (5)

Jars for pantry items:

Pantry Jars (3)

Labeling obviously helps me keep things organized. But it has a few added benefits:

-It keeps my family organized. When we are all on the same page about what goes where, it makes it easier for us to put thing where they belong.

-The labels help my older son learn to read. He loves typing out the word and hitting the ‘print’ button on the labeler. And he loves being able to put his own belonging where they go. As my younger son grows, I have no doubt he will love to read and learn just as much!

-It helps house guests keep your house the way you want it. I have to admit, I sometimes stealthily follow guests around making sure things are in their right places. I try not to, but I can’t help it! When things are labeled, I tend to ease up a little because my systems tend to stay in place.

-It helps to unclutter my mind. When I don’t have to think about where things go, I don’t spend time worrying about it nearly as much. I just put things where the labels tell me to put them!

-It takes less time to clean a room when everything has a designated space. It also takes less time to put away groceries, do laundry, file papers, pay bills and countless other tasks. And who doesn’t want more time???

~Erin

 

Pantry Clean Out

Just because I was traveling for most of December and January, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t organizing! I managed to find a couple of projects at my in-laws house. This is great because it allowed me to do something I love doing (for some reason!) and it also kicks me up a notch in the daughter in law department, I think!

My first project was the pantry. This was something my mother in law asked me to help her with just to make things a little easier to navigate. Like most pantries, everything was already grouped by category and the actual placement of things made sense. However, a few bins and a couple of organizational tweaks made it a lot easier to actually access all of the food. Here is the before photo:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - Before (1)

You can see that it is a large cabinet with 2 doors and the cabinet is fairly deep. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s great because you can fit more in there. It’s difficult because you can’t get to the stuff in the back easily. One great feature is that each door has built in spice holders so that helps to rounds up all those pesky little jars, bottles and boxes.

Steps I took to organize:

1) Take EVERYTHING out.

Stuff was everywhere. I was a little overwhelmed because I knew I couldn’t leave someone else’s house in that kind of disarray for long, so I had to move fast! And of course I had my usual assistants helping me out with this part of the project:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - Before (5)

As everything came out of the pantry, it went into its’ category on the counter or into the trash. We actually threw away a good amount of stuff. It’s a good idea to go through the pantry every few months and get rid of anything that is expired (bean dip from 2007 anyone?) or that you know won’t be used (I scored an unopened box of Crepe mix from this cleanout!).

2) Evaluate the current storage options.

-There were several shelf organizers already in there so I decided to work these into the plan. Shelf OrganizerThere were also those great built in spice racks on the doors so obviously those would come into play. On the bottom shelf of the pantry, there were about 8 clear plastic canisters for storing things such as flour, sugar, etc. There were actually a couple that could be combined from 2 into 1 canister and 1 was empty, which gave me another storage option for something else.

 

canisters

3) Divide the pantry into zones.

Like I said, it was pretty much divided up before I started, but there were a few things that needed adjusting. For example, the top shelf had already been drink mixes and spice packets so that stayed. But I made sure it was JUST drink mixes and spices packets. The other zones included canned goods, pasta and rice, cereal/breakfast items, baking items and desserts. The bottom shelf was for bulky items and misc things.

4) Decide what storage containers to buy.

Because of the shelves, spice racks and existing storage, I didn’t really have to buy much, but there were a few things that needed to be put into bins to make them easier to access. So I went to my favorite store in the world, Target, and bought 7 plastic bins and a plastic Lazy Susan.

Storage box

lazy susanThe picture of the bin above shows the clear version, but I actually bought the green ones and I got 3 different sizes. The bins were between $4-$5 each and the Lazy Susan was $8 so the entire cost was only about $37. This was probably my fastest trip to Target ever….seriously a record breaker because I can spend hours in there.

5) Put everything back in the pantry. Here are just a few ways I organized everything on its way back in:

-I used the Lazy Susan for drink mixes on the top shelf so that you could access what was up there.

-I used a couple bins for loose items, such as bags of rice, popcorn and a few other drink mix packets.

-I also used a couple bins to separate larger items such as cake mixes and pasta boxes.

-We grabbed an empty bin from the basement to hold extra salad dressing, peanut butter, ketchup, salsa and a few other items on the bottom shelf.

-The clear plastic canisters were reorganized to hold all of the baking items (such as flour) and a few misc items such as an open bag of popcorn kernels.

Here is what it looks like now:

Pantry - Nan and Gary - After (1)

Here’s the thing about pantry’s. Even when they are completely organized, they can tend to look cluttered because of the variety of colors, boxes, sizes, and types of containers. There are a ton of pictures on blogs and Pinterest right now with these unbelievably gorgeous pantries. I hope to have one someday. But the thing to remember is that it’s not if your pantry can make a great Pinterest photo. It’s that it’s organization works well for your life, makes it easy to find things and make grocery lists, and that you’re happy with the final product.

Now get started and throw away that 6 year old bottle of salad dressing in your pantry! 🙂

~Erin

Grocery Shopping Tips

Lately, I have been trying to streamline my grocery shopping experience, from making the list to putting the food away. I have written before that I am notorious for going ‘off the list’ at the store. So my first goal is to make my lists as short as possible. This will serve a couple of purposes:

-The less time that I am in the store, the less chance I have to go ‘off the list’!

-If I have shorter lists, that means I’m making good use of the food I already have. If I am using up all of the food I have, then I am throwing less food away, thus saving money.

Ultimately I plan to have one of those cute pre-printed grocery lists which separates the food by category and makes it easier to shop. However, right now I’m working to use up some of the five thousand little notepads I have somehow managed to acquire. Seriously, the other day I found a stack of index cards, and I probably haven’t actually purchased this type of thing since making flash cards in high school. Yet, there are still stacks of them around my house. So I am using up all of those misc pieces of paper to make my lists for groceries, to-do, etc.

I also have a couple cute notepads with magnets on the back, so that is what I am currently working my way through. One is stuck to my fridge right now so it’s super easy to add items to a grocery list as I think of them. And it’s right above my Cleaning Schedule, so I’m looking at both items everyday! (please ignore the picture quality, this was a last minute photo for the post!)

My meal planning leaves something to be desired (as do my eating habits), but I’m working on it. Hopefully soon I will have posts of amazingly creative menu boards and cookbooks, filled with recipes that are at once delicious and healthy. Um…yeah….

So when I’m at the store, I use some pretty standard tricks:

-Start at the back. Get the cold stuff last. Pretty simple.

One other trick that works for me is taking my 9 month old. I put his car seat thing in the back of the grocery cart so I can’t really overdo on the purchasing, there’s just no room!

Truth be told, I love grocery shopping, I could actually stay in the store for 3 hours just looking at everything. It’s funny since I absolutely HATE to shop for pretty much anything else. It’s also funny because I’m not a great cook and don’t have a ton of recipes. Anyways, try as I might to stay on list and get through quick, it just doesn’t happen very often.

So most of my grocery organizing is actually done after I get home. I spend a decent amount of time putting away the groceries. Here’s the system:

-Take everything out of the bags and put all of the bags away.

-As I take the items out, I group them on the counter by : Fridge, Freezer, Pantry or other. This makes actually putting the food away go a little more quickly. Also, if the food is grouped, I only have to open the fridge and freezer one time instead of opening and closing the doors. It just makes life easier.

-Then I put away the freezer items first because….that makes sense. Also, we live 1/2 hour from the closest grocery store of any decent size and things are melting into piles of goop by the time I get home.

-Then I do the fridge items. Here is where I probably spend the most time. I try to buy a decent number of fruits and veggies, but if they are shoved away in that glorious little crisper drawer, they get forgotten until they crisp away into their expiration date. So I try to wash everything and if I can, give it a front and center place in the fridge. Here are two examples:

Grapes and carrots….love them! The kids love them! The husband loves them! But if they are in the drawer, they might as well have stayed at the store. So I wash them and put them in Tupperware. For the grapes, I also pull each and every grape off of the stem. This makes them easy to grab for snacks. So here is how we store them:

As I put stuff in the fridge, I try to wipe down each shelf a little. It’s the best time to do it because the fridge is most empty right before I fill it with groceries. It also ensures our fridge stays pretty cleaned out.

When it comes to the pantry items, they are pretty easy to put away because of the bins in my pantry. Everything has a designated spot so there’s no question as to where it goes. I do have several things I do to make things easier for when I’m actually using the food.

-We buy the 4 packs of the fruit cups for our oldest son so I take them out of the package so they are easy to grab.

-If I buy something like granola bars, I open the package and either fold in or tear off the top. So my son’s snacks go from this:

to this:

I find that when the groceries are organized, it so much easier to prepare food, find what you’re looking for and see what you are running out of. Also, my kids have inherited the gene from me that tells your body if you are hungry, you must go immediately from a super sweet angel into a crazy, screaming, get-me food-now-or-my-head-will-explode kind of tantrum. So it benefits me to be able to get them food quick and keep them looking like this:

So for now I will be content with my post-grocery shopping organizing techniques while I work on the meal planning. I will keep you posted!

~Erin

15 Minutes more

A couple months ago, I did a post called 15 Minutes, which you can read here. The concept was to either tackle small projects that would take 15 minutes or less or break down a bigger project into 15 minute segments so it was more easy to handle. This also increased the likelihood of a bigger project actually reaching completion at some point! Here are a couple more 15 minute accomplishments:

1) Big Project – Clean out the kitchen.    15 Minute Project – Clean out the Tupperware drawer.

Whose Tupperware drawer looks like this?

Well mine did before 15 minutes of organizing magic. Here’s the thing, the drawer doesn’t technically look a lot better now. However, some major things changed:

First I took out the extra stuff. In the before photo, you can see things like a Slap Chop (which, by they way, is one of the greatest inventions ever). That did NOT belong in there, so I found it a new home in the pantry.

I also had a box of Tupperware in the pantry which I hadn’t even opened yet, so it was taking up space and going unused. So I washed and dried all of the stuff in the box so I could put it in it’s rightful place.

Here’s the ‘After’ photo:

Now it’s not what I would call pretty. However, it is soooo much more functional and I actually have about 3 times as many containers in there as I did before. Also, when I want to use the Slap Chop, I just pull it off the pantry shelf,..no more digging through lids to get to it! Speaking of lids, I was also able to throw away several mystery lids (their only purpose was to frustrate me!).

2) Big Project – Clean out the linen closets.    15 Minute Project – Go through pillows and pillowcases.

Let me set the scene: picture me tossing and turning, night after night, constantly fluffing and rearranging my pillows, secretly switching mine with my husbands before he came to bed.

Scene 2: We have guests come into town and I pull the extra pillow out of the linen closet. The thought that comes to my mind is “Wow, this pillow feels extremely fluffy and comforting, I should use this in my room instead”. What actually happens is our guest uses it, I put it back and go back to tossing and turning.

Sooooo, I took 15 minutes and gathered every single pillow and pillowcase in the house. Several pillow cases went straight in the ‘Donate’ bag. Several pillows went straight in the trash for the crime of being closer to place mat thickness than pillow thickness.

I laid on every single pillow and had my husband do the same. We chose what pillow should go where and honestly, I have been a much more peaceful sleeper for the last few nights. How easy was that!

I did not take a picture of my ridiculous amount of pillows (let me also mention that I had 5 king size pillows and 21 king size pillowcases. Are you serious??!!!!). However, I did take a picture of our guest room bedspread for no particular reason. Love it!

I will continue with the kitchen and linen closet cleanouts soon, but for now, I’m satisfied with the progress and it didn’t take long at all!

~Erin

What’s in a Name?

So here is a secret obsession of mine just waiting to burst forth into the world…labeling. I love labels! They make things so much more organized, easy to find and easy to store. For years I have had an automatic label machine that I could use to print labels for all kinds of things. However, the look of them was a little sterile, boring, blah. I have recently jumped into the world of customizing my labels and am starting with my pantry. I have been working on organizing the pantry for a while because it bothers me. It’s one of the few places that even when it’s actually organized, it can look cluttered. So I have been shifting things around, buying bins, baskets and shelves and rearranging like a crazy woman.

I am nowhere near finished, but I have it to a manageable state now. Someday in the future, when the pantry is pretty as a picture, I’ll do a post on the total transformation. For now, let’s focus on the labels…

So far I have 12 bins and canisters which I have organized and labeled. I used the 2″ round labels from Avery (whose products I love, but that’s a different story). These are print to the edge labels and you can use one of their existing designs on the Avery website or you can design your own from scratch. I don’t pride myself on my graphic design capabilities so I used an existing template. Here are my canisters before the labels:

Pantry Storage Jars: Before

And here are the canisters after I added the labels:

Pantry Storage Jars: After

 

Pantry Storage Jar: Close up

I LOVE THEM! I also added labels to 8 storage bins to help keep things organized.

Pantry Bin Labels

Now I know what your thinking, why in the world do you need to label food when you can already see what it is? Good question!!! Here’s why:

-It helps the whole family ensure that everything has a proper place

-It makes groceries easy to put away and ingredients easy to find

-It looks so darn pretty

Ooh! A quick tip for the canisters…since the packaging for these items is thrown away, I write the expiration date on a small piece of paper and tape it to the bottom of the canisters so I never have to worry about things expiring.

I can’t wait to expand on my ever increasing obsession with labels! (I can hear the universal groans of you all who think I’m crazy for being so excited about labels). But…it’s the little things in life people. 🙂

Happy Labeling!

~Erin