Thursday, February 6, 2014

Organization Part One: The Kitchen

Warning: this is long, which is why it's taken so long to put together. Consider the photos to be dividers, if you're interested in a particular section.

Despite my petite abode, this current kitchen is probably one of the nicest and most practical that I've lived in over the years (except yours, Mum & Dad). Most of my other apartments had homemade cabinets, too few cabinets, shelves too far apart, no counter space; it was just never the right combination.
The kitchen at my old bachelor. Much larger and brighter, but homemade cabinets with very poorly utilized space inside. The cutlery drawer is that white ajar panel under the counter and was not a drawer so much as a wooden box inside of another wooden box. And yes, I chose that colour of yellow.

The only things I dislike about my current kitchen setup is that it could use a tiny bit more space, and that space would ideally house a dishwasher. I would give limbs for a dishwasher. Otherwise, there isn't any wasted space, there are cabinets everywhere there could be, and the shelves are many with just the right amount of space.

... and yet, of everywhere I've lived, I've never had enough storage space. I think kitchens might just be one of those things where you have to own one of everything ever made if you ever want to be able to have a useful kitchen. I've pared down as much as I can and yet I find I am left wanting.

I recently journeyed to the wonderful, magical land that is Solutions, where everything is made of wire and plastic and only wants to make your life easier.
If you're not hyper-organized, this place will turn you. From the moment I set foot in these stores, I wish for everything to have its own bin and every wall to be made only of shelves. It seems this store also sells good intentions, because I bought some sock organizers a year ago and only recently used them to organize my drawer... of utensils. The prices aren't bad either - about what you would expect for some wire shelving and plastic jewellery organizers  - but I admit there are probably a couple things here you could find at Wal-Mart if you're really looking to save (literally) a buck. The selection isn't even a battle though, so if you're actively trying to do an overhaul, why would you? I don't have a car and infinite amounts of patience to deal with the crowds at my local Wal-Mart, so I risk it.

There's also Kitchen Stuff Plus; another franchise armed with good intentions, this is more for gadgets and kitchen furnishings, but there are some great storage components too. Specializing in, uh, kitchens, there's also some crossover into living rooms, dining rooms, and bathrooms. About the same price structure as Solutions (by the way, they both stock Umbra), and they're great at having clearances and warehouse sales in places that urbanites can't access.

Shopping at Solutions provided for a very large, clumsy, and destructive trip home on the subway (and through a grocery store...) since I ended up buying large wire shelving. In the end, this was my shopping list for the kitchen:

The beauty of organizational stores is finding what you didn't know you needed. My first example was the wrap rack, which is specifically made to hold boxes of aluminium foil and sandwich bags. The idea of having one piece of hardware to specifically hold one kind of item seems ridiculous, so I bought it.
What? Up until this moment, foil and bags had been raining upon my head from the top shelf of the highest cabinet! They were those things that on moving day I kind of pushed to the side and realized I hadn't left room for once I unpacked all the cabinets, so they lived on top of a casserole dish. This was $5 well spent, honestly. 
Addie's tip for morons: Make sure to measure the boxes you'll be using it for before installing the rack. I initially drilled the holes an inch too high and the foil wouldn't fit. *grumble*

Second on the "didn't know you needed it" list (and a preview of my newly cleared counter) is the stemware holder! I'm a bit miffed - I planned on installing this in our pass-through liquor cabinet so the glasses could hang and look prettier, but it ended up being too wide to fit in there. With the recent revelation that I would never be needing that cement wall by the sink, I decided to fill in some of that empty space by hanging my glasses over the sink. I also take comfort in knowing that this location means I'll never have to fill my dish drainer with giant wine glasses again.
Addie's tip for morons: Empty the above cabinet before you start hammering into the bottom. Just as I was listening to my beer glass collection clink and thought to myself, "I should probably empty this", I heard the shatter of one of my favourite glasses.
I didn't know I needed it until I knew it it existed. Once I moved the stemware from this liquor cabinet, I saw the perfect opportunity to display my beer glass collection, but was acutely aware of how large my collection was. I would have been (and still would be) happy with some clear plastic shelves to stack, but that was not an option. When I first discovered these cabinet organizers (primarily used for spices) in clear plastic, I thought of this immediately and returned to Solutions for just that. Of course there isn't a perfect size (this one would ideally be 6" longer), but I've stacked what I can on the 3 levels so that you can see the glasses (not from my height, obviously). The ends are stacked in front and on two square vases that don't get used much. Ideal? No. Especially since I now can't open the front part of this cabinet since I don't know how much the glasses are leaning, but it's freed up more cabinet space than you could know.
This has been my favourite kitchen organization so far. I've cleaned out and organized this cabinet more times than I can count, but I would need one cleaning wipe and somehow it would trash the entire cupboard. I'm happy to say that since putting in these expanding shelves, I've used many items and everything is still where it was. As you can see, I fooled myself into thinking I was organized with a cleaning tote. It looked so stylish. It had a handle. How could I have gone wrong?
You'll notice the dish drainer is no longer present. This was initially an accident, but my folding dish drainer arrives tomorrow so who cares! Paper towels have jumped cupboards and now reside with the linens (more on that later).
Paper towel holder has re-located from the counter to the cupboard. One shelf is for laundry, one is for cleaning, middle section is everything Swiffer.
Yes, the spoon served a purpose. I have so many rolls of tape that I had them on the spoon wedged into the cleaning tote... okay, I'm making myself sad now.
I'm happy to say this also resembles the "after" photo! I added in the small shelf helpers to avoid the stacking scenario I had going on. You know what's stupid? 12 cabinets and only ONE contains food. My goal is to make so much room in the kitchen that maybe I can have one and a half, like the dreamer I really am.
I'll admit it's hard to initially find a system of what goes where, but it's been so much easier to navigate just knowing the different levels.

I don't have a "before" photo of the baking cupboard, but imagine those Rubbermaids just hanging out in the cupboard with stuff pouring out and stacked on top. It's not much different, of course, but at least now I'm able to keep things like the food scale and rolling pin in good company. Again, more shelves. Useful, but did create a problem when items were too tall (like the now orphaned flour). Will probably have to re-visit this in coming months.

It's not done yet, but there's significant progress. Obviously there's the knife block and the paper towels, but it also dawned on me that my cooking utensils bucket was designed to be hung on this rail. Duh. I also realized I had a smaller matching one that hadn't been used in years (all IKEA, by the way) so I tossed the plastic buckets for these. The baking trays are meant to be temporary, but for reasons I don't care to explain, they tend to spend a lot of time out of the oven drawer, so we'll see.
A change I made before I started this was those under-shelf baskets over the stove. Had them for years and they were a bit useless, but I re-purposed them as fruit & veggie baskets so that I could (you guessed it) clear up more counter space.
To come: dish drainer, new kettle, more shelf helpers for my larger shelves under the counter, possibly another storage rail for pots and pans.

I'm exhausted just reading this. If you've gotten this far, thank you for a) reading all of this, or b) skipping to the last sentence after skimming.

Any suggestions for further kitchen harmony?

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