DIY, Story of my Life

Practically Organized

When my husband and I moved into our house 18 years ago we had been married two years and had a son who was a few days old. Since that time we have added four more children to our household as well as many items that are intended to make life run smoothly. 

Over the years, empty drawers have filled to overflowing, and cabinets have accumulated this and that. Bottles have transitioned to sippy cups which transitioned to plastic cups which then transitioned to glasses. The drawer that once held a huge telephone book had become empty when the phone book became extinct, then filled with aprons and dishtowels because the dish towel drawer next to it was too jam-packed to shut. The cabinet that held the dog’s treats gathered this and that when our daughter’s allergies caused the dog to transition to a new home. 

This kitchen is very busy. We don’t eat out very often, and my kids, 4 of them teenagers,  all eat A LOT. When they’re hungry for something, which is often, they cook it. Last night my son wanted brownies, so he made a batch of homemade brownies. The kitchen was functioning because everyone knew where things were even if it wasn’t the most convenient of arrangements. But with seven of us using the kitchen, it was making things harder on us than they needed to be.

Well, the other day I got fed up. I think the trigger was the whiteboard on the fridge which we use to write items that need to be brought on the next grocery shopping trip. I recommend this little item for every kitchen to jot a product down when you use the last of it, need it and don’t have it, or just want it. But ours for some reason had a nickel-sized hole straight through it; it had been used and abused beyond reasonable expectations. (Such is life with 5 kids.) So I went online to order a new one. I quickly found a nice black marker board that you can use neon dry erase markers with that I thought would look very nice on my black fridge. This overworked fridge also held a printed-out weekly calendar which I often didn’t get printed until the middle of the week, and a handmade, scribbled-on, scratch paper menu of who is cooking what for each day of the week. While shopping for the new black erase board, I saw a black magnetic menu board and a black magnetic calendar board. Wow! I could totally render the fridge presentable and make life easier in the process. Here is what my fridge looks like now. 

The glowing piece of paper to the right is a list of leftovers currently in the fridge, another organizational piece I highly recommend. The glowing piece to the left is a list of what our recycling company allows and prohibits, because we can never remember what numbers on plastic are allowed and which aren’t. 

But this got me to thinking, “what else could I do to the kitchen to make life more convenient and neater?” I started seeing opportunities all over the place. Unfortunately, I didn’t take “before” pictures, so you’ll have to trust me that it was a mess. 

The first place I went was my spices. 18 years ago I bought a small Lazy Susan to put in a cupboard and this is where my spices lived. They were supposed to be alphabetical, but they were seldom constrained by that rule. And some bottles were too big to really fit on the Lazy Susan, so they wandered over to their next-door cabinet. When I needed a spice, the hunt was on. I knew where most of them at least were supposed to be, but the kids were clueless, so when they wanted oregano or parsley or garlic salt they had to engage my help. And if I wasn’t available they just pulled out spices until they found what they wanted, then put them all back on the Lazy Susan in a haphazard manner, contributing to the non-alphabetical disaster that was my spice area. 

So I bought a couple of these spice racks to stick on the inside of my cabinet doors to hold the spices. And I bought some spice jars to put the spices currently held by huge containers into smaller jars they could be held on the new racks. The big jars now live in a more out of  the way place. 

Here is the finished product. As you can see, I realized that these little racks can also hold prescription medicine bottles, vitamin bottles, and some inhalers. 


This, plus the now-empty Lazy Susan, led me to empty out a very busy cabinet that had been holding medicines. The ones that wouldn’t fit in the spice rack I put on the Lazy Susan and in its next door cabinet. It looks like this.


Now I have an empty shelf to think about filling…as soon as I find a new place for my stovetop cleaner. 

This then made me think of the worst problem area of the whole kitchen: the dreaded spatula drawer. This deep drawer held all my ladles, spoons, scoops, a garlic press, an apple slicer, and a 1 million and 5 other miscellaneous but necessary kitchen items. This drawer wasn’t this way for lack of thought, I just didn’t know what to do with it or how to organize it. It really frustrated all of us more than any other thing in the kitchen. I searched online for suggestions, and finally decided to fill it with dish towels aprons and potholders. Those items had been crammed into two smaller drawers, also a source of constant frustration. I also cleared out a drawer that held unused recipes and manuals that came with various kitchen items, small appliances, etc. That bottom out-of-the-way drawer now holds utensils that don’t get used very much: grilling items, canning lids, cookie-cutters, and such like. 


It still looks a mess, but I have a divider coming in to break it up a bit, and by design I won’t need to rummage through it very often.

The other two drawers that used to hold dish towels now look like this.


One holds long items, the other one, smaller things. I still have a bit of tweaking to do (I probably should get those can openers out of there since I’ve used them maybe twice). I used these dividers to break up the drawers. 

I also bought these magnetic hooks to hang the most-commonly-used items over the stove. 

And here is what used to be the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink drawer, now contentedly holding its dish towels, aprons, and pot holders. 

The deep drawer works perfectly for these items which are best stored stacked up anyway. 

I still have a few works-in progress. I’ll edit this as I figure out new ways to keep things humming most effectively. Until then, as you can see, it’s not perfect, it’s not beautiful, but hey, it’s practically organized!