52 Week Home Organization Challenge-Week 4 Refrigerator and Freezer

The challenge this week is organizing refrigerator and freezer food areas in your home.

These appliances are generally some of the most often and constantly used in your kitchen, and can easily get disorganized and out of control if you don’t keep the organization you’ve set up in place.

Therefore, we’re going to focus this week not only on getting things organized, but also on building some simple habits we can begin (or keep doing) to keep our freezers andrefrigerators organized from now on.

Step 1: Equipment To Gather Before Beginning The Challenge

Before beginning the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge I suggest gathering some basic equipment, including:

  • Big trash bag for throwing away old or expired food
  • Sink full of hot soapy water
  • Empty dishwasher ready to receive newly emptied plastic food storage containers, and empty jars you want to save
  • Permanent marker and food storage labels
  • Cleaning supplies for cleaning up fridge and freezer
  • Ice chest or cooler to hold any food that cannot temporarily sit out while you’re working on the organization of your refrigerator or freezer

In addition, you can do the Organizing Refrigerator And Freezer Challenge whenever you want during the week, but it may be easiest to do it right before going on your next grocery run. That way you’re fridge is already on the emptier side and hasn’t yet been refilled for the week.

Are you new here? The Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge is part of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

Step 2: Declutter The Front & Top Of Your Refrigerator

Most of this Organizing Refrigerator And Freezer Challenge deals with the food storage areas of these appliances, but before we begin with the main part it is worth taking a couple of minutes to declutter the outside of your refrigerator.

Make sure you put excess art from your kids away after a certain period of time.

In addition, you need to have a better system in place for all those papers from school. Place most of the dates on your family calendar and then toss the forms. Anything that needs to be saved should be somewhere else, such as in a file. The front of your refrigerator should not be used as a file cabinet.

Finally, you may need to winnow down your magnet collection, especially of multiple cheap magnets you received from the pizza place, or wherever. Winnow it down where you have a cute and usable collection, but it is not overpowering.

Having less clutter on the outside of your refrigerator will really complement the rest of your kitchen, especially now that you’ve got all that clear kitchen counter space for the first part of the kitchen organization challenge.

Step 3: Declutter The Contents Of The Refrigerator (And Then Freezer) Of Old Or Expired Items

The Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge is about organizing refrigerator and freezer areas in your home. While I’ve written these steps to discuss both appliances at the same time, it most likely will work better for you to deal with the refrigerator completely first, and then circle around and do all the steps again, this time dealing with the freezer (or freezers) in your home.

In addition, when referring to your freezer I am referring to the small freezer attached to your refrigerator, along with any chest or upright freezers you also own.

So, like I said, this step in the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge is to get rid of all the stuff in these appliancesthat is past its prime, you’re never going to eat, or is just a plain disgusting science experiment now.

To do this part of the challenge you’ll need to take everything out of your refrigerator (and then freezer), and evaluate each item to decide if you’ll keep it or not. Don’t forget about all those condiments on the door of the refrigerator. Really look at the dates on these jars and bottles, and think about how long they’ve been sitting in there (perhaps years, or even decades?)

Step 4: Clean Your Refrigerator And Freezer Quickly While Everything Is Emptied From Them

The fourth step in the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge is to clean the inside of these appliances up, quickly, while everything is already out of them. You should quickly clean up any spills, sticky messes and other dirt and odors.

I suggest using a paste of baking soda and water to clean your fridge and freezer, since it both cleans and remove odors. If you have any meat juice spills, you will need to use a disinfectant. In addition, you can wash drawers and shelves in the hot soapy water you’ve got in your sink.

Here are two safety items to note while doing this step. First, unplug your refrigerator before cleaning it, since it is, after all an electrical appliance. Second, if you’ve got glass shelves or drawers be careful of sudden temperature changes while you clean, such as plunging the cold glass item into hot water which could cause breakage.

In addition, if you don’t have a freezer which automatically defrosts this may also be a good opportunity to defrost your freezer.

Step 5: Put Everything Back In Your Refrigerator And Freezer According To Zones

refrigerator and freezer storage bins 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Refrigerator and freezer storage bins [Available on Amazon.com]

The next step in the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge is where you actually begin organizing the items you’ve got left, and thinking about how to best use the space in these appliances.

Categorize the items you’ll place in your refrigerator and freezer, and then try to organize and designate areas, or zones, to place the categorized items in.

You may want some of the items in your categories to stay loose, or you may decide to containerize them to keep them together within the refrigerator or freezer.

 

Organizing Refrigerator Shelves, Drawers, And The Door

Keep in mind for your refrigerator, you don’t want it packed to the gills with items. Instead, there has to be enough free space for air to circulate freely, for it to cool efficiently and effectively.

Here are some of the possible categories or zones to consider for your refrigerator. Which ones you’ll choose depend on how you use your fridge, how much and what types of things you cook, etc.

  • Leftovers (typically a designated shelf or portion of a shelf)
  • Place to thaw things from freezer or marinate food (typically place to hold lipped pan or bowl)
  • Milk and other beverages (typically on a designed shelf)
  • Fresh produce (typically in the fruit or vegetable bins)
  • Other dairy (typically on a designed shelf)
  • Meats and cheeses (meats may go in their own drawer, and should be kept in the coldest part of the fridge, while lunch meats and cheeses may go in a lunch making zone container)
  • Eggs (although the door of your refrigerator may have a space for them, it is best to keep eggs in their carton on a shelf, and not on the door because the door has more temperature fluctuations
  • Condiments (typically on the door of the fridge)
  • Lunch making zone (mentioned above, holds refrigerated ingredients for making lunches for school or home)
  • Snacks (typically in a container on a shelf for easy access by kids)

Consider designating certain shelves, or portions of shelves, drawers, or door shelves for certain items so you can find what you want quickly and easily, and replace it back too, when you’re finished using it. You may also consider labeling the shelves or the containers on the shelves with certain zones to make it easy for all family members to stick things in the correct places.

Please keep in mind while doing the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge that where you place an item may be dictated, to a certain degree, by its size and shape, and where it will fit. To the extent possible try to group other like items around it, to keep like items together.

If you have adjustable shelves in your refrigerator, take the time to adjust them to fit the size of the various categories and zones you’ve created during the Organizing Refrigerator Challenge while doing this step.

Freezer Organization Tips And Ideas

While your refrigerator needs some air space for good air circulation, your freezer actually works better when it is full. However, you’ve still got to have everything organized in it, so you can find things.

Just like with your refrigerator, you should categorize the items in your freezer too, as part of the Organizing Refrigerator and Freezer Challenge.

Here are some suggested categories to consider for your freezer organization project:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Baked goods
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Freezer meals

As you place everything back in your freezer, make a freezer inventory form, listing what you’re putting in there. It will help you keep track of the items you’ve got in your freezer at any given time, so you know what you’ve got to eat, and when you need to eat it by for it to taste its best.

The best way to keep your freezer organized is to containerize it, with uniform size containers that stack or sit close together (so typically square or rectangular in shape, not circular). Label these containers with the general category of item you’re placing in it for easy identification later.

The most common storage containers for your freezer are freezer baskets. They can work well in both chest freezers, or upright freezers. If you’ve got an upright freezer, pull out drawers can also be very useful.

Be sure to choose containers that can withstand the cold of your freezer, so they don’t crack or break on you too easily. You can read more about storage solutions I suggest for your freezer below.

Further, if you’ve got a chest freezer whatever baskets or containers you choose will have to stack on top of each other.

To then find what you are looking for later, I suggest you make a “map” of the baskets, and post it next to your freezer inventory, to remind yourself where the meat basket, or frozen vegetable basket is located in the stack to make it easier to find what you want without moving every single basket.

Step 6: Consider These Refrigerator And Freezer Storage Solutions While Organizing These Appliances

You don’t have to buy any fancy equipment or items for organizing refrigerator and freezer shelves and drawers, but some types of items can be useful, so consider these for now or in the future while doing your refrigerator and freezer organization project.

Suggested Refrigerator Storage Solutions

  • Pull out drawers, trays or bins – these allow you to group certain items together, and also easily reach items in the back of the bin when you pull it out (see suggestions above)
  • Refrigerator lazy susans or turntables
  • Refrigerator caddy – a narrow bag that holds condiments on refrigerator door shelf, and allows you to pick up all the condiments for use at the table and then return them easily back to the shelf when done
  • Food storage labels (see my suggestion below in step 7)
  • Soda can dispenser (see suggestion to the right)

Suggested Freezer Storage Solutions

  • Freezer labels (see my suggestion below in step 7)
  • Freezer grade plastic storage bags (get them at any grocery store)
  • Freezer baskets (especially useful in a chest freezer)
  • Food Saver vacuum sealer
  • Freezer alarm (lets you know if the temperature starts to get too warm in your freezer before there is spoilage from a power outage or freezer malfunction – these can save you lots of money and grief if you really stock up in your freezer, especially on expensive meats) (see suggested product to the right)

Step 7: Simple Habits To Maintain The Refrigerator And Freezer Organization You’ve Acheived

Finally, after you’ve gotten everything organized as part of the Organizing Refrigerator And Freezer Challenge you don’t want that organization to slip away again. However, without some simple habits in place I can guarantee your refrigerator and freezer will turn into chaos again, quickly.

Fortunately, when I say simple habits, I really do mean simple ones, that don’t take up much of your time at all. Here’s a list of things I suggest you begin doing (if you’re not already) to maintain your refrigerator and freezer organization.

Be Mindful Of Your Leftovers

If you won’t actually eat the leftovers later, don’t save them! To save money, just cook less so you don’t have the leftovers to begin with if you or your family don’t like them.

If you do intend to eat the leftovers though, make sure you incorporate them into your meal plan for the week, by instituting a leftovers night, or planning to eat them for lunch the following day.

Having a designated area in your refrigerator for leftovers will also help you be mindful of what you’ve got. Once your family is trained to look in a certain spot, and only that spot for leftovers, then they’ll quickly be able to spot what they want and eat it so it doesn’t go to waste.

Further, try to place all leftovers in see through containers, so your family knows what it is, without having to open the container. Further, you may want to consider using erasable labels (such as the ones shown on the right) on the leftovers containers, to label the date or contents to help people make an informed choice about what they want to eat.

Clear Out Leftovers And Old Food Weekly

Soon before you go to the grocery store each week, perhaps while making your grocery list for the week and planning your weekly menu, you should clean out your refrigerator of all old leftovers and other food that is past its prime and will no longer be eaten.

This allows you to take a quick mental inventory of what you’ve got in your fridge, so you can hopefully use it up soon (and incorporate it into your menu for the next week) or make room for the new food that will be coming soon after your grocery trip.

Follow The Last In Last Out Rule

Last week, in the Organize Pantry Challenge, I discussed the last in, last out rule. The same principle applies here. Use up the older milk before drinking the newer milk, or the older frozen vegetables before using the newer ones. This helps ensure you don’t wait so long to eat something that it goes bad before you get to it.

When stocking your refrigerator and freezer make it easy for yourself to follow the rule by placing newer items in the back, or bottom of the freezer, with older items up front or on top so they’re easy to grab when you need them.

Periodically Have An Eat Out Of Your Freezer And Pantry Week

You’ve got to eat what’s in your freezer and pantry periodically, especially if you are a person that likes to buy in bulk or stock up when there are sales. Otherwise those bargains that just get thrown away when they expire or get too old aren’t really a bargain, are they?

One of the things my family does periodically is try to make as many meals as possible from our pantry and freezer during a couple of day to week span, and not spend too much at the grocery that week. We tend to do this right before holidays, when we’re going out of town, since it will be a short grocery shopping week anyway. We’ll just pick up a couple fresh items, and mainly eat what we’ve already got at home.

It saves money (which we then generally spend on gas for the trip) and also uses up some stuff from our food stores to keep us from wasting it later.

It is also a good idea to have a week or so of eating out of your freezer and pantry right before you need to defrost your chest freezer, for instance, since this has to be done periodically anyway to keep it running at its optimum performance.

Update Your Freezer Inventory As You Use And Add Food

I’ve already discussed the freezer inventory above. This is a tool, when actually used consistently, that helps you make the best use out of your frozen food assets.

Consistently Label Everything That Goes Into Your Freezer

For both commercial and homemade frozen food you must develop the habit of labeling everything that goes into your freezer, so you can figure out what it is later, and whether it is something you actually want to eat, without having to open up the package and guess.

Here is a list of the information you should write on your freezer labels:

  • Type of food
  • Approximate servings of food in the container; and
  • Date you placed it in the freezer

You can just use a permanent marker to write on many containers, or you can use some freezer labels (such as the ones shown on the right) for this task.

Thank you for joining me for Week 4 of the 52 week home organization challenge! I hope you are enjoying it and seeing how easy it can be to organize your home when we break it into smaller steps. I’ll be back next week to give you more organization tips!

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52 Week Home Organization Challenge- Week 3 Pantry and Spices

This week’s challenge is to organize pantry, spices, and other food storage areas so you can easily find what you need, and keep things fresh and safe from pests.

You will need to do this challenge whether your home has a dedicated pantry space or not, because although I’m using the term “pantry” the challenge is really about organizing food storage areas, and everyone stores some food in their home.

If you’re lucky enough to have a space dedicated for this function great. If not, you just have to be more creative with your cabinet and other space in your kitchen or other areas of your house to store things for your family to eat.

Are you new here? The Organize Pantry, Spices & Food Challenge is part of the  52 Week Home Organization Challenge. (Click the link to learn how to join us for free for future and past challenges if you aren’t already a regular reader).

Step 1: Declutter And Get Rid Of Expired Food Items

The first step in the Organize Pantry Challenge is to declutter your food storage areas, getting rid of things that don’t belong in them and also getting rid of expired or old food, or food you know you and your family will not eat.

I did this recently, and was embarrassed to find some really old stuff lurking in the back of my pantry. After I cleared out all the old stuff though I had so much more room, and it was very freeing.

To do this step take everything out of the pantry or other food storage areas (and if you’ve got multiple places you’ve been storing stuff this is even more important) and look at each item, making a decision of whether to toss it or keep it. (If the item is unopened and not expired, but you know you’ll never eat it please donate it to a food pantry.)

Optional And Mandatory Cleaning Up While Shelves Are Empty

While everything is off the shelves it may also be a good time to sweep or vacuum up in the pantry, reline shelves, or otherwise clean up spills and messes that may have occurred in your food storage areas.

Spills and drips will attract pests, so make sure to clean these up, so this is mandatory. On the other hand, prettying up your shelves is not necessary so only do it if you’ve got time and energy, so that part is optional.

Step 2: Categorize What You’ve Got Left

The next step in the Organize Pantry challenge is to categorize the food that you’ve got left. Here are some common major categories, but you should categorize things the way they make sense to you, and also depending on what your family likes to cook and eat.

  • Dry goods, such as flour, sugar, etc.
  • Canned goods, and jars
  • Dried food, such as pasta, rice, beans and grains
  • Boxed items, such as cereal and crackers, and also mixes
  • Spices
  • Beverages (not yet in the refrigerator)
  • Root vegetables, such as potatoes and onions which are not stored in the refrigerator or freezer
  • Pet food and treats

Once you categorize everything and place like items together you may realize you have several duplicates of certain items. That is fine if you will use them before they go bad, but you may also realize you’ve got way too much of a particular item and can get rid of even more.

Step 3: Make A Pantry Inventory So You Know What You’ve Got From Now On

If you’ve kept the food and haven’t gotten rid of it in one of the steps above, then I am presuming that you actually plan to eat this food at some point before it goes bad. To make sure you do that create an inventory system so you can plan meals to use these ingredients.

In addition, using a list  from now on will keep you organized in the future because you will not run out of staple items anymore. If you use an item regularly, and it has a long shelf life, your goal should be to have at least two of them at all times in your home. The one in use and the one ready to be used as soon as you finish the other. When you get the spare make sure to write down on your grocery list to pick up another at the store. You’ll never run out of staples this way!

Obviously, not everything is a good candidate for this system, such as things which go bad quickly. However, it is a wonderful system for certain non-perishables, and not only food but also for items like toiletries and paper supplies, such as paper towels and toilet paper.

Please note I don’t want you to get too caught up on the inventory, and making a very meticulous list. Instead, go with broad categories and provide only as much detail as necessary to make it useful and functional, instead of getting bogged down counting grains of rice. Your goal is to organize pantry space, so don’t lose sight of that.

Step 4: Organize And Containerize Your Food

Now that you’ve got everything categorized and inventoried, now is the time in the Organize Pantry Challenge where you put everything back away in your pantry or other food storage space(s).

If you can put everything together in one space that’s great, such as if yoy’ve got a walk-in pantry, but if you’ve got to spread things out throughout the house because of lack of large amounts of central storage space in your kitchen that’s fine too. Just make sure you choose cool dry areas, and not those which have wide temperature variations since this will cause food to spoil much more quickly.

Group Items By Category Within Your Pantry

Just like with the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge last week, when we considered the “zones” in our kitchens, we need to consider that same issue this week during the Organize Pantry Challenge.

expandable shelf 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
If you’ve got tall pantry shelves use expandable shelves to make more room for storage [Available on Amazon.com]
Think about the zones in your pantry, and what can go where. I suggest grouping items in your pantry, to the extent possible, in the same way you categorized them earlier in the challenge. This will generally keep like items together, making things easy to find and get to when needed.

Try to place bulky items at mid-height for ease of getting them off the shelves. Place lighter items up high, where they are easy to get off shelves without fear of falling and hurting anything, and cans and jars at a mid to lower level. Obviously, the things you use most frequently need to be given the easiest access.

If you’ve got extra space in your pantry after placing all your food in there, you can use some of the extra room to hold seldom used appliances, pots and pans, etc., such as on high shelves to clear counter and cabinet space.

Location Of Snacks In Homes With Kids

The one thing I recommend being in a category by itself are snacks, especially if you’ve got kids. Where you place your snacks in your pantry, as part of the Organize Pantry Challenge, really depends on your family situation. If you’ve got young kids you may want to place snacks up high where they can’t reach them.

On the other hand, perhaps you have older, trustworthy kids. In that case you may want a bin of healthy snacks within easy reach to encourage healthy snacking, and only have the occasional less-healthy treats in a more out of the way location. This allows you to let them help themselves without you having to assist every single time they want something. You decide what works best for your family.

Containerize Much Of Your Food For Beauty, Function And Controlling Pests

Oxo food containers 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Oxo Good Grips 10 piece POP food container set [Purchase on Amazon.com]
The reason you don’t want open food containers in your pantry is because they attract pests, such as insects and rodents. Trust me, I live a stone’s throw from corn fields — mice love open food containers, or even closed boxes and packages that aren’t sealed up.

Because of the “mouse incident” in our house a few years ago I’m probably more of a stickler for this than some, but we keep all the food we can in plastic bins, with lids on them, to deter pests. I just group things into categories and it keeps things organized and safe at the same time. If you aren’t as concerned about pests in your area you still may want to consider storage baskets for grouping like items together as part of the Organize Pantry Challenge just to keep things together and easily accessible.

I will note, however, that root vegetables, such as potatoes and onions need to “breathe” so you can’t put them in a closed container.

Labels Are Your Friends

Epson label maker 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
A label maker can help you neatly organize many areas of your home [Click here to purchase on Amazon.com]
Whether you containerize or not in your pantry, labels are your friend. Part of the Organize Pantry Challenge, therefore, is to label either the containers or the shelves of your pantry to help with storage and organization. You can use either a label maker, such as the one shown on the right, a permanent marker, or get crafty with it, whatever you have time and desire to do.

First, labels are important if you take things out of the package so there is no doubt what you’ve got in there. You don’t want to mistake salt for sugar, or baking soda for baking powder, for instance.

Please note if you take things out of their package for storage you may want to note somewhere the expiration or use by date for the food product too, so you use it before it goes bad, or know when to throw it out.

Second, labeling shelves or containers holding a category of items is an excellent way to make sure it is easy for you (and other family members) to put things away in the right place, or find something again easily. After thr Organize Pantry Challenge is completed the goal is for you to be able to have any family member unload the groceries into the pantry without assistance, because the labels will tell them where to put things.

Follow The Last In, Last Out Rule

can rack 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
A can rack is a simple way to easily follow the last in, last out rule [Available on Amazon.com]

Make sure when you’re doing the Organize Pantry Challenge that you place things in your pantry in such a way that you’re following the last in, last out rule. This is important for all foods, but especially is a good rule for canned and jarred foods.

The best way to explain this rule is with an example. When putting away jarred spaghetti sauce from the grocery store place the newly purchased jars at the back of the section of pasta sauces, moving the older jars closer to the front. Then, when you’re ready to use one just grab the one up front.

This method makes sure you always use up the older food first, and don’t leave one jar of sauce lingering so long in the back of the pantry that it expires before you ever use it.

Please note that if you use a lot of canned goods, a can organizer (such as the one shown to the left) will naturally help you use this rule by the way it is designed to load cans.

Spice Storage And Organization

stainless steel spice rack 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Stainless steel spice rack [Purchase on Amazon.com]

Lots of people get a bit carried away, in my opinion, with organzing their spices. There are many cute and awesome looking spice racks and organizers available that can make us feel like we’re Alton Brown or another gourmet cook, but they shouldn’t be a high priority if you’ve got lots of other organizing to do first, unless you use your spices all the time.

The important thing, whether you splurge on a spice organizer now or not, is to keep your spices in well labeled airtight jars or tins, and keep them where they’re handy (but not too close to the heat). Further, unless you use a lot of a particular spice quickly, then it is best to buy your spices in small amounts, even if the cost per unit is higher, since they tend to lose flavor quickly and need to be replaced often.

A simple spice rack (such as the one shown to the left) or a drawer for your spices may be all you really need. Truly consider how many spices you have, and don’t buy or use something either too big or too small for the amount of spice containers you truly use, on a regular basis.

Step 5: Consider These Pantry, Spice And Food Storage Solutions

When you’re doing step 4 of the Organize Pantry Challenge consider some of these pantry storage solutions to help you get the job done. Which ones will work best for you depend on your kitchen’s layout, your personal preferences, and what your family eats and cooks on a regular basis.

    • Plastic or glass caninsters with locking lids, and seals to keep in freshness (ideally clear to see contents inside)
stainless steel lazy Susan 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Stainless steel lazy Susan [Available on Amazon.com]
  • Storage baskets or tubs, with or without lids
  • Can organizers (such as the one suggested above)
  • Lazy susans or turntables (see to the right)
  • Plastic bins to group like items (nice if they are pull out, but not necessary)
  • Spice racks or organizers (many varieties, such as for the wall, over the door, cabinet, shelves, magnetic, etc.)
  • Over the door rack, to increase storage space on the inside of your pantry door
  • Shelf expanders or organizers, to stack more things and increase shelf space

Please let me know how you liked this week’s portion of the 52 week home organization challenge! And make sure to share it with your friends!!! I’ll be seeing you all soon!

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52 Week Home Organization Challenge- Week Two KITCHEN Drawers and Cabinets!

Welcome to Week Two of the 52 Week Home Organization Challenge! This week’s challenge is all about kitchen drawer and kitchen cabinet organization, where you will both declutter and organize things in a way where you can easily access what you need, when and where you need it.

The key to this challenge is to break it up into smaller chunks if you begin to feel overwhelmed, so I’ve tried to do this in the action steps below.

It also helps to keep in mind the overall purpose of organizing your kitchen cabinets and drawers. It is not to make them beautiful, and ready for a magazine cover although if they are afterward that is great. Instead, the purpose of organizing this area of your home is to allow you to easily access what you need for cooking or other kitchen activities when you need those items. With that in mind you can make good decisions about functionality and organization to suit your family’s needs without making more work for yourself than you need to.

Also, I know many of you have joined this challenge as part of a New Year’s Resolution to “get organized.” Around this time is when you may begin to lose some enthusiasm for these resolutions, because you get discouraged or lose steam. I’ve (tried) to make this easy for you, with just one task per week, so that you can feel this is doable, and keep motivated. However, if you’re beginning to feel unmotivated skip down to see suggestions for keeping the momentum going, if you need some encouragement.

Before you begin, keep the following guidelines and overall ideas in mind when doing the Kitchen Drawers and Cabinet Organization Challenge:

First, as great as it can feel to tackle the whole kitchen at once don’t get more out at one time than you can deal with, including the time needed to put stuff away. You don’t want to start the process, pull EVERYTHING out, and then run out of time to deal with and then have piles of clutter everywhere. That’s why I want you to only work on one or two cabinets or drawers at a time.

Second, as you pull stuff out from little used drawers or cabinets you will most likely see some really dusty stuff during this Challenge. If you want, fill your sink with some warm soapy water so you can give things a quick clean up as you go along. (This is not mandatory, but I know some people can’t stand dusty stuff once they see it.)

Third, as you completely empty a drawer or cabinet it is the perfect time to vacuum or sweep out the dust from inside the cabinet, or line (or reline) the shelves or drawers, if you wish. Again, this is not mandatory and if it will slow you down too much, don’t do it. However, it is a great opportunity if you have the time and desire to do this task.

Step 1: Recall The Functions Of Your Kitchen From Last Week

The first step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to recall what you determined were the functions of your kitchen as part of last week’s kitchen organization challenge. If you don’t know or recall what I’m talking about, take a minute and re-read that portion of last week’s challenge.

Keeping these functions in mind as you work on the subsequent steps below will help you know what to declutter completely, what to store in a different area of the house, and how to arrange the stuff you keep in your kitchen cabinets and drawers.

Step 2: Declutter Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers

The second step in the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is removing the excess stuff from your cabinets and drawers, so there is actually room in them for what you want to store.

The goal for your kitchen drawers should be to allow them to open and close smoothly, and for you to be able to retrieve what you need from them quickly without having to search around too long.

The goal for your kitchen cabinets and cupboards should be to retrieve things without having to unstack and restack too much, especially for those things used on a daily basis, and for nothing to fall out on us as we open the doors.

You may need to be ruthless, and remove more and more stuff until you can meet these goals. That might mean doing a couple rounds of purging, until you pare it down enough.

Declutter The Stuff You Shouldn’t Have In Your House Anymore At All

The first part of the kitchen cabinet organization challenge’s decluttering phase is to remove all the stuff from your kitchen drawers and cabinets that should not be in your house anymore. These items should be thrown away or donated to charity.

Here are examples of these types of items:

  • Broken items
  • Duplicates
  • Excess items (like too many coffee mugs, or plastic drinking glasses)
  • Oprhaned lids or containers with missing lids
  • Things you never use (because they are ugly, don’t work well, you don’t really like them, etc.)
  • Things you haven’t used in the last year, at least

Remove Stuff From Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers That Should Go Somewhere Else In Your Home Instead

The next step in the decluttering process of kitchen cabinet organization can also be be difficult, and that is removing things that should really go somewhere else in your home.

First, remove and put in a better place all the stuff that doesn’t serve the functions of your kitchen. For example, if you’ve got lots of medicine in your kitchen cabinets, but you’ve decided that should go elsewhere instead, move it now. (We’ll organize medicines in the 19th week of the challenge.)

Then, everything that you have left, and that is related to a kitchen function, should be sorted in the next step.

Step 3: Sort What Is Left According To How Often You Use It

The third step in the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is to sort the items you’ve decided to keep in your home, and will most likely stay in the kitchen, into one of three types.

  • Items used everyday
  • Items used often (once every couple of days to every couple of weeks)
  • Items seldom used

Your kitchen drawers and cabinets only have so much “real estate,” or space to place items. Some of that real estate is very easy to get to, such as a drawer right by the sink, and some may be difficult to get to, such as the cabinets requiring you to stand on a step stool to access them.

shelf organizer 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Gain more space in your cabinets by using shelf organizers for dishes [Purchase on Amazon.com]
The rule for kitchen drawer and kitchen cabinet organization is that the more often you use something, the easier it should be to get to.

If you’re still concerned that you don’t have enough space in your cabinets and drawers for what you’ve got left after decluttering, take a hard look at the seldom used items and maybe do another round of purging. In addition, consider putting some of these items elsewhere if you are going to keep them, in another storage area in the house, so you aren’t taking up prime real estate with the roasting pan you only use at Thanksgiving, for example.

Anything used seldomly, but that will stay in the kitchen, should go in the least accessible places. Be careful, however, with high storage areas. Only large things which are light should go up high, and not things which are very heavy, or need to be stacked or nested. Things that are heavy or need stacking, but are used seldomly, should go in the far back of the inaccessible lower cabinet, for example.

Now, in the next step you’ll begin placing all the stuff you use daily or often in the rest of your kitchen drawers and cabinets. In that step of the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you’ll be giving priority first to the items you use every day, and then the often used items, giving stuff used often the most “prime” real estate in your kitchen.

Step 4: Strategically Place Everything In Your Kitchen Cabinets And Drawers According To Their Zones

This final step in the Kitchen Drawer And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is where you actually organize the stuff you have left. The key to this step is to place stuff where it would most logically go, to make it easy for you to grab when you need it.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to think of your kitchen in terms of “zones” or areas of use. Then, make sure you keep the stuff close to where you’ll use it. For example, pots and pans should be close to the stove, and the paring knife should be close to the kitchen sink and cutting board.

Here are some common kitchen zones you should consider using, and the items that should be in them. (Please note that there will be some overlap between zones so don’t get too caught up in splitting zones up, versus what works for you. Further, your kitchen layout may not be ideal, so just do the best you can with what you’ve got. Just thinking it through can improve the space you’ve got to work in dramatically, even if it isn’t “perfect” or doesn’t exactly follow the rules below.)

bakeware organizer 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Don’t stack cutting boards and cooking sheets for easier access [Get on Amazon.com]

Food Preparation Zone

The food prep zone is the area where you cut, chop, clean, mix, stir, etc. the food you are preparing. This area needs some open counterspace, and most likely will be close to the sink.

You should keep items such as your knives, cutting board, mixing bowls, mixers and blenders, measuring cups and spoons in this zone.

Cooking Zone

The cooking zone is where you do your cooking, either on the stove or in the oven (or microwave). It should therefore be close to these appliances.

You should keep items such as pots and pans,cooking utensils, potholders and bakeware in this zone.

Dishes And Dishwashing Zone

Simple Human sink caddy 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Simple Human sink caddy is an example of keeping dishwashing zone organized [Purchase on Amazon.com]

The dishes and dishwashing zone is the area where you keep your everyday dishes and eating utensils.

(Your good china and silver should most likely be stored elsewhere. Check out other portions of the 52 Weeks to an Organized Home Challenge for hints on storage for china, glassware and crystal and storing silver.)

This area should be close to the dishwasher and/or sink for ease of cleaning up and putting everything back away after use. You should also keep dishwashing supplies in this area, or in a sub-zone of this area, such as dish soap, sponges, dish cloths, etc.

Please note that if you’ve got children it is a good idea to have a special section, within their reach, for certain types of dishes, such as non-breakable cups or bowls so they can get themselves a drink or water or a bowl of cereal for breakfast without your assistance. Trust me, it will save your sanity to have this easy access area for them, and will be worth the time invested in the whole Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge!

In addition, if you want your kids to set the table or put away dishes from the dishwasher, make sure they can reach these items without difficulty or you won’t be able to assign them these chores.

Eating Zone

The eating zone should contain things you use on a regular basis for eating meals, such as tablecloths, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, serving bowls or platters, etc. It could also contain bibs for the baby.

Please note that the serving bowls and platters I’m referring to for this zone should be things you use regularly, not the ones you use only on special or holiday occasions.

Ideally the items for this zone should be stored close to the kitchen table, or dining room table, whichever you normally eat your meals at.

Food Storage Zone

We will focus on the food storage zone in the next couple of weeks of the challenge, so don’t start tackling it just yet during the Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge this week. However, if you don’t have a dedicated pantry, you may need to save some space in your cabinets or cupboards for some food storage so I mention it now just so you can keep it in mind.

Further, a non-food item that does belong near the food storage zone are the supplies you use for saving leftovers, such as aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and kitchen wrap, and you may wish to organize those types of items this week as well.

That concludes the main zones in the kitchen. Really think through where stuff should ideally go in your kitchen based on those zones and shift things around until they make sense, and fit in the space allotted. This step of the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge is what will make your kitchen feel functional, and end up saving you a lot of time, since things will be easier for you to use when needed.

I also thought I would give special attention to three common areas in our kitchens that can be organizational challenges, so you can think through how you’ll handle them as part of the Kitchen Drawers And Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge.

Kitchen Junk Drawer

kitchen drawer organizer 52 week home organization challenge
Separate items in kitchen drawers with dividers [Available on Amazon.com]

Every home seems to have a junk drawer, and most likely it’s in the kitchen. There is nothing wrong with a junk drawer — if it actually gets used to retrieve miscellaneous items often, like twist ties, rubber bands, etc.

If it is a waste land where stuff goes in, and never comes out though, get rid of that stuff and put it in a more permanent place or the trash can.

The key to a functional junk drawer is to clean it out periodically, such as once a month. That way it keeps its handy functions without being overrun and cluttered to the point that it’s no longer useful.

Plastic Food Storage Containers

The most important step in dealing with this area of kitchen cabinet organization is to make sure you aren’t trying to save too many of these containers. Do you really need that many water bottles, or plastic containers? You should start by paring down what you have.

Next, consider square containers that nest instead of round containers which take up lots of room. In addition, keep the lids of the containers in a separate drawer or basket, so they don’t fall out when you open the cabinet door.

There are so many great ways to organize these containers, so I would love for you to share in the comments what works for you, to give other people ideas and suggestions.

Under The Kitchen Sink Storage

under sink shelf organizer 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
Under sink shelf organizer to keep items within easy reach [Purchase on Amazon.com]
Finally, under the sink can become a wasteland for cleaning supplies, sponges, etc. and become a mess quite quickly, so I wanted to address it as part of this week’s Challenge.

Again, the key is really to declutter the area and think about how you want to use it, instead of it being a catch all area where you throw stuff. You can also use some of the kitchen storage solutions ideas below to containerize the area, and make it more functional.

Please remember too, that if you do keep anything toxic or dangerous to children or pets under your sink to childproof the area to make sure that no one in your family gets harmed, since this is an easily accessible area.

Step 5: Consider Kitchen Storage Solutions For Your Drawers And Cabinets To Maximize The Use Of Your Available Space

When doing the Kitchen Drawers and Kitchen Cabinet Organization Challenge you may realize you need more storage space in your kitchen, to make it more functional. Here are some ideas for ways to maximize the space you have, to easily find what you need in your kitchen quickly.

    • Turntables or lazy susans, for pots and pans or other items
    • Decorative baskets to hold seldom used items on top of kitchen cabinets
    • Shelving to display cookbooks, or other pretty bowls or dishes
kitchen cabinet organizer set 52 Week Home Organization Challenge
6 piece kitchen cabinet organizer set [Available on Amazon.com]
  • Utilize wall or ceiling storage space by hanging things from them, such as pots and pans, or installing a magnetic strip on the wall to store knives, spices or cooking utensils
  • Similarly, utilize hanging space on the inside of kitchen cabinet doors to hang towels, or create more storage space
  • Create more cabinet space with a rolling kitchen cart or making your own kitchen island with storage spaces
  • Add extra shelves within cabinets to reduce “air” space and lessen need for stacking items too high
  • Add shelf dividers or roll out shelves within your kitchen cabinets
  • Add hooks or racks within the shelves of the cabinets
  • Silverware caddy or drawer tray
  • Drawer dividers or small storage baskets for insider drawers to containerize your drawers (especially useful for organizing cooking utensils or junk drawers)
  • Pot lid organizer
  • Vertical racks to divide and organize your cooking and baking sheets, and cutting boards

I can’t wait to see you all next week for week three of the 52 week home organization challenge! I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am so far… I am LOVING my kitchen now!

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52 Week Money Challenge- Week Two

52 Week Money Challenge-Week Two

So, we’re only on week two of the 52 week money challenge, but at least we’re on our way!

Today, we’re putting $2 in our jar (or savings account) for a grand total of $3. I know it’s not a lot, but it’s a start!

What do you have planned for your money at the end of the year? Are you just going to leave it in savings and let it draw interest? Is it for Christmas gifts? A down payment for a car? Down payment for a house? Or are you paying off debt?

Me… I’ll either be paying off my consolidation loan (it should be close to paid off by the end of the year anyhow) or putting it towards a down payment on mine and Steven’s dream home, or maybe I’ll be getting some things off my Amazon wish list.

I’ve added to my savings plan… On top of my few dollars a week, I am putting any spare change I find into my savings jar. I’m hoping that this gets me at least a few extra dollars a week.

If you’re just now joining us for the 52 week money challenge, here’s the chart so that you can start! Don’t worry, it’s not too late!

52 week money challenge

 

I can’t wait to hear from all of you and find out what you’re saving for during our 52 week money challenge!!!

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2015 Recipe Bucket List

Everyone needs a bucket list of some sort for the year… I have a 2015 Recipe Bucket List, and I’ll share it with you now!

As many of you know, I am not a housewife. I have said many times, I am not a cook. I’m not good at keeping a neat and tidy house, and while I can cook, the gene that makes me like being in the kitchen and makes me like to cook (note: I LOVE to bake!) skipped by me, which is okay because Steven LOVES to cook. However, since I got fired, and since Steven and I started co-habitating (is that the right word?), and since I pretty much work from home, I have started attempting to get better about all of this. I keep a schedule for myself, and I do things when I see that they need to be done. I have started an attempt to cook more, and for the most part I’m pretty good at it. However, since I never cooked before, it’s hard for me to come up with things off the top of my head, which leads me to research all kinds of awesome (and sometimes impractical) things to cook. I have TONS of cook books, and of course I pin all kinds of things to my Pinterest that I want to try in order to never have “too much” of the same thing all the time… Plus, I ABHOR hamburger helper and hope that it never finds it’s way into my house again. Since I have done all of this research into different recipes, I have started a bucket list of sorts… All the recipes that I want to try this year. Without further ado, I present to you my 2015 Recipe Bucket List!

Some of these are relatively simple, while others aren’t… I’ll probably start with the simpler ones first, and of course I’ll keep you updated on them. :)

  • Alfredo Pizza
  • Cheeseburger Pasta
  • Chicken Pepper Kabobs
  • Barbecue Pizza
  • Philly Cheese Steak Pizza
  • Pasta with Sausage and Spinach
  • Chicken Stuffed Zucchini
  • Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Marinara Sauce
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Chicken-Broccoli Salad
  • Chicken-Vegetable Stir Fry
  • Pesto Pasta Toss
  • Butternut Squash Lasagna
  • Easy Fried Rice
  • Roast Tarragon Chicken
  • Pork Chops with Cranberry Relish
  • Saucy Cheeseburger Sandwiches
  • Lemon-Sauced Chicken and Vegetables
  • Cheesy Mock Shepherd’s Pie
  • Creamy Chicken Fettuccine
  • Spicy Skillet Pork Chops
  • Pesto Chicken with Zucchini
  • Salmon with Roasted Vegetables
  • Baked Penne with Meat Sauce
  • Barbecue Pulled Pork
  • Zucchini-Sausage Casserole
  • Brunswick-Style Stew
  • Cheesy Tex-Mex Soup
  • Vegetable Primavera Casserole
  • Spicy Beef Stew
  • Mexican Rice and Black Bean Casserole
  • Cincinnati-Style Chili
  • Hearty Potato-Sausage Casserole
  • Quick Chili Pasta Skillet
  • Alfredo Meatball Sandwiches
  • Cheesy Beef Enchilada Casserole
  • Chicken Alfredo (Crockpot)
  • Burger N Fries Combo Casserole
  • Santa Fe Soup with Melted Cheese
  • Judy’s Beef Stew
  • Chicken and Rice (Crockpot)
  • Cheeseburger Casserole
  • Another Chicken in A Pot (Crockpot)
  • Easy Pot Roast & Veggies
  • Pizza Rice
  • Hamburger, Potato, and Bean Casserole
  • Cheesy Corn
  • Chili and Cheese on Rice
  • Beef Roast with Mushrooms and Barley
  • Beef Tortellini Soup
  • Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
  • Cheesy Ham and Broccoli
  • Smothered Steak
  • Teriyaki Chicken
  • Crockpot Meatloaf
  • Creamy Swiss Steak
  • Beef BBQ Sandwiches
  • Chicken and Sausage Cacciatore
  • Steak Stroganoff
  • Easy Meatballs
  • Spanish Stuffed Peppers
  • Teriyaki-Pineapple Pork Chops
  • Melt-In-Your-Mouth Sausages
  • Orange-Glazed Chicken Breasts
  • Three-Pepper Steak
  • Slow-Cooker Turkey and Dressing
  • Easy Vegetable Pot Pie
  • Three-Cheese Ziti
  • Stuffed Flank Steak
  • Spinach-Artichoke Bread Pudding
  • Black Bean Enchilada Casserole
  • Taco Soup with Corn
  • Slow-Cooker Bean Soup
  • Vegetable-Pork Soup
  • Easy Pizza Burgers
  • Santa Fe Chicken Soup
  • Spanish Chicken and Rice
  • Baked Potato Soup
  • Black Bean Chorizo Soup
  • Easy Cheese Soup
  • Chicken Marsala Sandwiches
  • Tomato-Crab Bisque
  • Beefy Bean and Corn Chili
  • Grilled Stuffed Pizza Burgers
  • Creamy Ham and Potato Soup
  • Seafood Lasagna
  • Baked Chicken Nugget Spaghetti
  • Warm Grilled Veggie Sandwiches
  • Zucchini and Hamburger Casserole
  • Speedy Ravioli
  • Smothered Beef Sandwiches
  • Make-Ahead Pizza Casserole
  • Cheesy Pork Quesadillas
  • Lasagna Roll-Ups
  • Cheesy Spinach Manicotti
  • Sassy Southwestern Burgers
  • Greek Shrimp and Pasta Bake
  • Quick Italian Chicken and Rice
  •  Turkey Joe Calzones
  • Skillet Pizza Potatoes
  • Cheeseburger Lasagna
  • Honey BBQ Meatball Sandwiches
  • Turkey Stroganoff
  • Pizza Biscuit Wreath
  • Sweet N Sour Ham Steak
  • Cheesy Tomato-Chicken skillet
  • Mile High Mexican Torta
  • Pineapple Shrimp Stir-Fry
  • Pizza Lasagna
  • Sweet and Sour Pork and Veggies
  • Biscuit and Sloppy Joe Casserole
  • Provencal Chicken and Tomatoes
  • Mom’s Skillet Goulash
  • Garlic-Basil Chicken
  • Meatball Sandwich Casserole
  • BBQ Pork Cheesy Potato Bake

I’m sure I will be adding more to the 2015 Recipe Bucket List throughout the year, but as I promised, I will be updating with my results. :)

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