When I was growing up my Papa called me his princess. My husband and son treat me like one to this day. Yet, for the longest time I was a pauper to the clutter in my every day life in my home and my finances. Then one day I decided it was time to stop living like a pauper and to be the princess everyone thought of me as. This is the journey I took to de-clutter all aspects of my life and become a true PRINCESS!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


We’ve all been there.  A family member opens the cupboard or pantry door and gazes in at the overstocked shelves then announces one of two things “Mom where’s the…” or even worse “There’s nothing to eat!” The urge to “Gibbs smack” (those of you who watch NCIS will catch this reference) that person is strong at that point, but you refrain and help them look.

This is a result of the pantry being so unorganized you cannot see where things are.  As a result you end up spending more money, so perhaps this article should have gone in MindYour Pennies, but then it’s about organizing your food in your pantry, so maybe it should have gone into Patterson’sPantry. 

I choose to put it here with links over to it from those blogs because the Princess Plan is about decluttering and organizing my family’s entire life.  So here goes. 

The pantry has been a source of frustration for me as long as I can remember. I purchase groceries and household use items in bulk, on sale and with coupons whenever I can.

 Every six to nine months I find I need to completely empty the pantry, wipe down the shelves, throw out food and re-organize it.  Since I purchase groceries in bulk this can be a major under taking.  The reason for this need is because we don’t keep it organized after I organize it.  It’s no one person’s fault, all three of us is each as guilty as the other about not putting things where they belong.

A lot of that is at the time I usually do the “pitch and destroy” mission on the pantry, which is usually at low inventory and I tend to put things back in the pantry based on what is on hand.  Then as I restock I find I’ve not allowed enough space and have to stack on top of the existing cans and products that are already in there, often mixing products and thus covering up foods we previously have on hand. 

This also creates a problem about proper food storage rotation.  While I do normally try and remember to write the expiration date on the front of the can with a permanent marker as I stock I’m not always real good about it, and the men seldom do.  The result is unmarked cans being assumed as newest and left in the pantry when they are actually older than the can I pull out. 

Even worse is the fact that we, as normal human beings, tend to take out the item that is the easiest to grab.  Which means the item on top and if groceries were put up in a hurry and the person doing it was tired the stacks are not shifted to where the oldest is on top.  The result is food that has to be thrown out later.  This is very wasteful.  It is something that drives me nuts.

There is also the problem of I open a can of dried food and need to put the vacuum sealed jars somewhere and those get shoved in.  The guys have no idea where something came from out of the pantry when helping with the nightly kitchen clean-up, so they put it where ever it fits and six to nine months later we have a pantry that looks like this:
  Pretty bad huh?  What’s bad is by this point I have no clue where anything is or how much we have and will often have the guys stop to purchase a “couple of things” to go with that night’s dinner even though I’m pretty certain I should still have some of the product.  I just can’t find it.  So extra money is spent because instead of using the foods I stock up on when on sale and I have a coupon for they are picking the item up at full price.  Even worse is if this happens too often the food item goes bad in the pantry. 

Worse yet, we often end up going out to eat and that takes money away from our gazelle feed.  So a pantry that is not only organized but stays organized is mandatory to stay on track with the Princess Plan for 2013.

The pantry actually wasn’t on my monthly schedule for a few months yet, but after thinking I had cracked bones in my feet from a half dozen cans collapsing on them last week I decided now was the time.  Luckily it was just bad bruises, but it definitely reminded me that it was time to grab hold of the horns of this bull of a pantry and tame it.

Another determining factor was Gary finding me what I consider to be an excellent grocery ap for my phone called “Grocery Tracker”.  It has all sorts of features that will help tame any grocery bill if you use them.  I’ve written a review about it for Mind YourPennies and if you follow the hyperlink by clicking on the highlighted words either Grocery Tracker or Mind Your Pennies it will take you right to it.

In order to fully utilize the Grocery Tracker I needed to do a complete inventory of our food stuffs.  What better time to organize the pantry.

Only this time I wanted to do it differently, I wanted to do it so it would stay organized and all my foods would be rotated properly.  Enter can rotators.  A cruising of utube will find many home made versions of this system made out of a variety of materials, or if you aren’t handy with making things there are numerous commercially versions available. 

We started out looking at all of the above and weeded out different types for different reasons.  The end result was the one my husband designed then he and my son built.   They are working on designs that we will eventually sell that anyone could adapt to fit their pantry. Thus began our long project of cleaning out and organizing the pantry.

Day #1. My husband and I spent hours looking at various styles of can rotators and shelf organizers on the web.  We cruised utube, followed links, and discussed the pros and cons of each style. 

The two men were in the middle of a project building an easel for the drafting board to be used by my son at his work station in the office, which is coming along nicely on its path to being completely decluttered.  In fact it is pretty well down to the pretty up stage, which I can work on during the week while the men are at work, now that we have some air conditioning in that room.

The two men finished up the easel and started discussing what materials we had on hand to make the items I wanted for the upstairs pantry shelves that evening.

Day #2.  More discussion was followed by action.  Gary took some basic measurements and then went upstairs to the office to draw out the designs for the can rotator.

I started this blog post and then went to the pantry to start making more of a mess than was already there.  I was intent upon emptying the pantry entirely of its contents, one item at a time.

I started by clearing the dining room table of its center piece and other items and then one can at a time started taking things out of the pantry.

One can of each type of item was measured for diameter and height.  This I recorded onto a piece of paper for my designer husband.  I kept track of how many different rotator slots I’d need for each size can as I went by making columns on my spiral.  Once the can was measured and entered I placed it on the dining room table.  I sorted the cans by what they were putting like items together, ie: vegetables on one end of the table, fruits on the other. 

I also put all of the same product together as I went.  So green beans were all put together, and so forth.  This would make putting the groceries back in the pantry easier when the rotators were installed.

I also used a permanent marker on each can as I withdrew it from the pantry to put the expiration date boldly on the front of each can.  This would make putting the inventory into grocery tracker faster in the future.

I don’t mind telling you it was slow going.  I quickly saw this was a project in itself that was going to spread over several days. 

The layout of my pantry is pretty much that of many pantries.  Originally it was a series of three deep shelves.  This we changed when we moved in to a system I had in my previous home to a series of four full shelves and a half shelf up near the nine foot ceiling.  We narrowed the depth of the shelves to help keep things from disappearing never to be seen again in the back .  The wood from these shelves we used to make a small narrow shelf on the wall at the end of each long shelf.  Thus forming a square “U” of shelving.

At that time we had planned on stacking cans four deep and three high, thus the height spacing on the shelves.  Later that turned out to be a mistake of sorts.  It allowed us to conveniently lay foods on top of other foods which created chaos in the pantry.  This was one of the things I wanted to remedy. 

Our plan, when we started this endeavor, was to put can rotators on three of the four shelves and a stair step tier system on the fourth shelf.  This was of course doomed to be changed when the reality of what storage I truly needed set in.

If my rough estimate had been right the height of the current shelves would work to make the rotators two segments high and there would be room on top of them to lay flat boxes, such as purchased on sale with coupons things like cake mixes, dried potato mixes and such, on their backs with the top facing out so it could be read easily.  While I prefer to cook from scratch sometimes it is far faster, and cheaper to use these items when purchased as stated above, so I usually have at least a few of each on hand.  Therefore I need to make allowances for them in my food storage.  Generally I place them in the grain pantry, but right now the grain pantries are subject for another post and these items are being stored in the house pantry.

By double layering the rotators and adding the boxes to the top I would basically be tripling my storage space on those shelves.  Even more wonderful is that space would be completely organized.  

Once the can rotators were actually designed it became apparent that there would only be one set of rotators per shelf due to height requirements to provide the needed slant to make the cans roll down the rotator properly.  Instead of flat boxes I opted to use the additional head space to put sealed large Ziploc rectangular storage bowls for things like pasta and small various shaped containers.  This not only took care of corralling these odd sized packets and cans, it took full advantage of the space.

The stair step tier shelf would be for my vacuum sealed jars of dried foods  and home canned foods to be stored on.  Stair stepping would not take any space from the storage, but if I placed my labels high on the half gallon jars it would allow me to see at a glance that the dried celery was directly behind the quart jar of another dried food in front of it.  Which had a home canned pint jar in front of it.  All became very visible.   When placing these jars I took this idea from my commercially purchased in cabinet spice rack shelves.   The half shelf was currently being used mainly for storing tubs of gelatin and other small packages that tend to get lost in the shuffle.  These are all in large plastic Glad square lidded bowls to keep them all together . Seldom used kitchen items were also on this shelf and on the small plastic shelves I had placed in the floor of the pantry previously. 

In addition the two liters of soda pop were also on those floor based small shelves.  In the remaining floor space under the shelves were plastic tubs to set cooking oils and chips in. 

Gary wanted to change the storage for the chips and oils to something more convenient and less cluttered looking.  I was all for that.

Because we planned on running the rotators and tiers from wall to wall that created a problem about what to do with the short shelves on the sides.  Anything we placed there would block the ends of the units.  Our decision was to place items least used, but needed in the upstairs pantry in the end units of each shelf.  Then on the short shelves place only a few items, such as cereal boxes.  These could easily be removed when we needed say a can of pumpkin to make muffins once every four to six weeks from the end rotator and quickly replaced.

One thing we both agreed on was each different food item would be assigned a permanent place in the pantry and that place would be LABELED.  That way no matter who was in the pantry looking for or putting up something they would know exactly where the item went. 

I have to admit this sounds a little bit uptight, but my feet were still bruised as we discussed this and I never wanted to suffer such an avalanche again.

As I worked sorting that first day it quickly became abundantly clear to me that I had many, many odd items that would not work in the can rotator.  Some things, I could see we actually didn’t need to have because the dates on the cans, jars and boxes were far past expiration date, which told me they had been either given to us or purchased on a whim and no space needed to be allowed for them.  They went to the proper trash bin. Others could be repackaged to canning jars for the tiered shelves.  But that still left items to deal with and allowances would need to be made for them as we designed the pantry.

The first shelf I emptied was the one we had decided would be the step tiered shelf.  Since making this shelf was a simple thing it was the logical one to start

That first weekend Gary cut scrap plywood to be wide enough to hold the half gallon jars and the length of the shelf.  This he placed on small blocks of 2 x 4 to raise it at the back of the chosen shelf.  It was secure, a free fix and as you can see  it served the purpose.  It is also a fix anyone can do for their pantry quickly.

When doing such a project it is easy to look in a pantry and go “Oh I just have a few basic vegetables, fruits and some soups” then to make all your rotators all the same size.  This could be a major mistake for three reasons.

1.   Wasted space

2.   Cans won’t roll down the rotator properly if the rotator is the wrong size.

3.   If you do make x amount of vegetable/fruit/soup size slots you may find you have too many of one type slot and not enough of others.

While measuring I found that we actually had fourteen  different size normal every day grocery store size cans in our pantry.  This did not include the #10 cans that I store in the basement.

Fourteen!  I simply could not believe it.  It definitely made how we divided the rotators a bit more of a challenge.  Take just tomato products that most of us have in our pantries.  You have tomato sauce in three different sizes, tomato paste and plain old  tomatoes in two different sizes. Soups, the number of sizes on those cans equal four.  Obviously I was going to need to rethink how much I kept in the upstairs pantry vs the downstairs food storage.  We simply did not have the space for that many dividers.  I also needed to re-evaluate whether or not I truly needed that many sizes of each product.  Seriously, how often do I need the really large can of tomato sauce these days?  Wouldn’t it be better to purchase extra small cans for a single slot in the rotator and use multiples of them.  OR purchase those larger cans when I truly need them and use them immediately.  OR store the larger sizes in the basement for the few times a year I do need them.

I made the executive decision to keep only those sizes I used the most often in my day to day cooking upstairs and move the other sizes to the basement.  It was the only logical thing to do.

That still left the problem of varieties.  I definitely did not want all my soups that were the same size in the same bin.  When I cook, I cook swiftly which means I don’t want to take out and feed ten cans of mixed soup out of the bin when I need tomato soup.  I want to go directly to the tomato soup bin and pull out the bottom can.  So allowances would have to be made there.  With only the used most often soups kept upstairs.

This meant, of course, that after the upstairs pantry rotators were made I was going to need another set on a much bigger scale for the downstairs pantry.  I can hear my husband moaning now.  It’s always that way, one project leads directly into another. Just as one blog post leads to another, and another….

Weeks Later: Anyone who reads my posts on a regular basis KNOWS no project ever gets done immediately in this household.  Right after we started the pantry project I came down with a cold that segued into bronchitis, from which I am still coughing.

The men ended up doing overtime and traveling for work on and off and then when they were home it was either too bitterly cold to work outside to build the rotators, or it was pouring down rain, which then gave away to extreme heat and humitidity—only in Oklahoma!  So the project that started in early February drug on with minor progress being made along the way.

It is now Memorial Day weekend, yes you read right, May.  I tell you this because I want you to know that just because you are decluttering your home and have a schedule you would ideally like to keep it doesn’t mean the world will end if you don’t get it done right on time.  Persistence is the key.

One rotator was installed in April and I love it.  We decided on using them on only two shelves for many reasons. 

My husband and son spent Saturday working on the second rotator and discovered they only had enough materials for one that was roughly half the size of the first one.

 I adapted, and I think the adaption is a good idea.  The remaining half of shelf will be another tiered area.  This solved the problem of several items I hadn’t been certain where they’d end up before.  Being adaptable as you organize your home is a very good thing.

In the interim of the beginning of this project and the end of it, as many of you know I did another Princess Plan Project and Corralledmy kitchen cupboards.  This happened as a direct result of needing to get all my spices in one location for daily cooking.   You can read all about how that was done by clicking this link.

The final steps in the pantry organization were minor ones.  I needed to create my location labels and we had plans to add a light for this dark closet.  Of course life got in the way and other projects had to be dealt with first.  Such as dealing with New Life on the Ranch, one must set priorities right.

So here it is mid June and the project that was started in February is FINALLY finished.  I have been working with it in this shape since Memorial weekend and it has been so convenient I can’t believe we didn’t do it earlier. It also now has the capacity to hold much more in an organized manner.  I've already brought many canned goods up from the basement to put in the rotators.

Sean was standing in front of the pantry last week and made a remark that made all three of us laugh.  He stated “I feel like I’m in the movie ‘Sleeping with the Enemy’” as he stood and looked at all the labels.

He then remarked how much easier it was to find things now and that when he finishes building his home it will include a similar set-up for his canned goods.

One drawback to it.  Now I want all my pantries done in the same manner—isn’t that always the way.

Jan who is loving the way the household organization is coming together even if it is moving slowly in OK



Friday, June 7, 2013


No, I’m not moving, hopefully never again in my lifetime.  In case you haven’t figured out moving is a LOT of hard work!  I’ve often joked if we ever moved again I’d list my home as for sale “One house fully loaded” and just start over with only what I truly need. 

Seriously, we all have so much junk, and thus my Princess Plan, to get down to the way the house was when we moved in is  with just what we truly needed.When I was thinking about that move earlier today and wanting to get back to that level it reminded me that this is generally the big moving season across the nation and now might a good time to post the best way I have found to move.  This is what worked for us, and I hope it will work for you.

After helping a friend move where she quite literally opened her car trunk and then carried the drawers out of her kitchen and DUMPED them in the trunk rather than pack them I decided that there had to a better way.  So when we moved a few years later I worked out this plan and have used it to move several people since then.

WARNING: this may sound a little like I over did the organization of it, but the people who helped us move have all sung praises of it and have since used this system for their own moves.  So here goes.

KNOW YOUR LOCATION:  99% of the time we all know when we move exactly where we will be moving and what space is available to us.  So take advantage of that knowledge and use it. 

If you can get into the apartment or house ahead of time go measure each room.  I like using graph paper for this.  Designate each main square on the graph paper to equal 1 ft.  Be as precise as possible.

Mark on that graph paper the location of windows , doors, air registers, closets, cupboards, outlets, switches  and any other architectural design that may need to be included in the placement of furniture as closely precise as you can get it.  Measure how high the windows are from the floor, also measuring their height and width (this is handy to know when you go to do window coverings).  Be sure and get the width measurements of the door openings too. This will take a little bit of time to do right then but the hours, frustration, and back strain it will save you later will be so worth it.

Don’t forget to measure the inside of the closets and cupboards as well.  Make note of how many shelves are in each, and the placement of the clothing rods were applicable. 

Do each room this way, don’t forget the garage, basement and storage rooms.   When at all possible I like to do this before I ever start to pack, but even if it’s the night before the move in it’s a thing I really try to get done and you are about to see why.

Once you get home measure all your furniture at its widest points.  Be sure and get the width, length and height.  Here is where the fun comes in.  Cut your furniture pieces out of the graph paper based on the width and length, using the same scale you did for the floor plans.  Write the height of that item on that square/rectangle/circle. 

Now arrange your furniture on your floor plan graph.  It’s amazing how much lighter those little pieces of paper are than moving a chest on chest bureau dozens of times. 

Once you have decided on an arrangement you like check for height.  Will that sideboard fit under that window and not block it?  Is there an outlet nearby for that lamp?  Ooops!  Did that bookcase just cover up the light switch?  Is the air register blocked?

Re-arrange as necessary.  Remember, faster and easier now than later.

Now that you have settled on your arrangement assign a colored hot dot to that room.  You knew if it was me writing this article color coding was going to come in somewhere.  We use those hot spot stickers you can pick up at all sorts of places, Wal-Mart,  Sam’s Club, grocery stores, office supply stores, $1 tree they are in the stationery department.  They come in usually five or six different colors in a package and about 100 or so per color per package.  They come in neon, primary, and pastels so you will have plenty of variety to work with.  If you can’t find a wide enough variety in your area consider using color combos or doubled dots for an assigned room.  Don’t think you will only need a few, we are color coding this whole move.  Each box is going to have one of these hot dots on all five sides (top included).   This is done on all five sides so no matter which side is toward a person they will KNOW which room it goes to and what is in the box. Trust me you will thank me later.

While you are in the stationery department pick up a package of black markers, a package of red markers, a package of black/blue ink pens, a tape gun, lots of package tape to fit that tape gun (much cheaper than duct tape), blank self adhesive labels of a decent readable size, a single box of string tags,  a box cutter or two, and some bubble wrap for the extremely fragile items you want to move.  Frugal hint here—most of this is cheapest at the big box stores.  I know Sam’s Club sells a large roll of bubble wrap for not much more than what you would pay elsewhere for a small package of it.

So as I said, assign a color for a room, one color one room, one room one color.  This is important.

 Once you have settled on your arrangement and assigned a color for that room make notes on the floor plan,  I mark it in color so it’s easy to spot, where you might need an extension cord or an air deflector.  Start a list of items to have in your “GET STARTED BOX  Put that extension cord or air deflector on that list. This is important because one of the very first things you are going to do at the new home is place the extension cords  and air deflectors BEFORE you place the furniture. So you need to know how many you need and what length of cord.  Go ahead and uncoil them to where they need to be, plus plug them in.  Check the outlet before setting furniture too to make certain it works.  Better to find out that the outlet needs repair before that fully loaded china hutch is in place.

Another important thing to note at this point is “Will it fit through the door?”  Not all doorways are created equal.  While the standard is around 36 inches wide and seven foot tall, not all doorways are that size.  Better to know that the antique harvest table won’t make it through the front door and that sharp left turn into the living room before someone hauls that beast up a flight of stairs ahead of time. Voice of experience, luckily we had an alternative route available.

When all the what if scenarios are worked out make certain each furniture piece is labeled clear enough that anyone can understand what that square/rectangle/ circle represents.  In other words don’t put s on a rectangle and expect everyone to know it’s the sofa.  Label it sofa.  If the room has more than one sofa, put another identifier too such as floral sofa, plaid sofa.

Once labeled clearly tape each furniture piece securely in the chosen place on the floor plan.

Once you have all your furniture organized on paper in all your rooms and every room has an assigned color make an overall floor plan showing the layout where each room is and place your corresponding colored dots on that.  You will need more than one copy of this floor plan on moving day.  One for each entrance into the house/apartment, and one for each packed vehicle.  More on this later.

PACKING: Start as soon as you possibly can gathering boxes.  One of the reasons my friend dumped all those drawers was she ran out of boxes and she was not ready the day of the move. 

I highly recommend getting friendly with your neighborhood liquor store.  Those boxes are all very much uniform in size, they are heavy duty, and generally have lids if you make prior arrangements with the liquor store.  Not to mention those dividers that are so handy for protecting your fragile items.

Most liquor stores get their deliveries on specific days.  Most will also say that if you will pick them up on those days they will keep the lids for intact for you.  Make certain you hold up your end of the bargain to pick them up on the day you agree on. 

As soon as you have boxes start packing.  Even if it’s going to be weeks before your actual move day start packing.  If you have that long of a lead time, so much the better.  Start with the things you are least likely to need until after the move and pack those.

Now is the time to THIN OUT your belongings. As you do this keep in mind your floor plan, and especially the measurements of your closets.  How many storage bins will really fit on those shelves?  If you can’t remember the last time you used something it’s history.  If you don’t have the time or the inclination for a garage sale, donate it, recycle it, trash it do anything you can to avoid moving it.  The people who help you move will sing your praises for culling out as much as you can.

Once you’ve decided you must keep an item and you are going to pack it, pack similar items together.  IE: Wall décor, all for each separate room goes together.  Don’t mix items from different rooms.  No hodge podge boxes.  One room only per box. Photos all go in another box, kids toys in another (be sure and put some of those in the GET STARTED BOX to keep the kids entertained on moving day if they aren’t staying with a sitter.

The only exception to this rule are your linens.  You are going to wrap the lesser fragile items in them.  Put hand towels between platters, wash cloths between breakable plates, wrap a lamp parts in a bed sheet. You get the idea. This accomplishes packing two things, cuts down on the use of newspaper and bubble wrap, and is a far better use of your space in your boxes.

As you pack on your label write what is in the box.  EXAMPLE:  Wall Décor would say things like “ fighting roosters, grandmother’s oil painting, musical notes.  Wrapped in bath towels.”

When the box is full you copy that label four more times so you have a total of five labels. 

Now using your tape gun seal the box, to not be opened again until it’s in the new home.  On each side of that box and the top place one label and one  colored dot for what room that wall décor is going in.  Be certain to match the color you are putting on the box with your floor plan.  This is important, it is probably the most important part of the plan.  Make certain you don’t mix the colors up.

With the black marker mark boldly on the box the general category of the box as in our example “Wall Décor” on all five sides. 

If the box contains fragile items in it use the red marker to boldly mark ‘FRAGILE” on all five sides.

Now choose a location to store these boxes stacked neatly together until moving day.  If at all possible put the items for each room together.  So all kitchen boxes would be stacked together, all master bath boxes would be together separate from the second bath boxes etc.  This will be very helpful on moving day.  Try to keep your boxes stacked as uniform in size and shape as possible.  If you do this then on moving day the “muscle” can simply slide a dolly under the stack and move all the same room together at once from the old home to the new home.

Work your way through your house in this manner.  Starting with the least needed items and working your way through each room until everything is packed. 

As you come across items you must disassemble put all screws, bolts, washers, etc in a zipper bag you have clearly labeled what they are the parts for.  Either put this bag in your GET STARTED BOX, or securely tape it to the item, wherever it is least likely to get lost. 

Put color coded stickers (even if it requires using a string tag with a sticker) on all the furniture as well.  Far better for juniors crib to end up in the nursery than in his teen sister’s room. 


THE GET STARTED BOX: This is the box you want there the minute you arrive.  It should contain everything you will need from the word go at the new home.  Here is a list of the basics. Everyone has different priorities, so this is a general list:

1.     Your floor plans, more on these in a bit.

2.     Box cutters

3.     Scissors

4.     All purpose cleaner

5.     Cleaning rags

6.     Toilet paper

7.     Paper towels, both to use as napkins and for each sink

8.     Paper plates

9.     Disposable silverware

10.                        Disposable glasses/cups

11.                        Vacuum bags

12.                        Toys for the kids where applicable

13.                        Your extension cords

14.                        Screwdrivers of various sizes and styles

15.                        Hammer

16.                        Hand soap for each sink

17.                         Trash bags of varying sizes

18.                          Pliers/wrenches

19.                        You zipper bags of nuts and bolts

20.                        Aspirin/pain reliever

21.                        A first aid kit

22.                         Outside the box but needed in the beginning

a.     A broom and dust pan

b.     A vacuum

c.      A mop

d.     Your preferred method of dusting.

e.     A step stool

23.                        Shelf paper—this is why you measured all those shelves days ago.  You know how much paper you will need when you get there.

24.                         Light bulbs

25.                        Rubber gloves

26.                         Blue painter’s tape

27.                        Air deflectors for floor registers if needed

28.                        Beverages

29.                        Snacks and other feeding of the work crew plans

30.                         If you have animals traveling with you that first day be sure and put treats food and water bowl in for them.

That’s the top ones, you will think of more as you pack.

MOVING DAY: As the moving truck, trailer, cars whatever are loaded try to keep rooms together as much as possible, this will make unloading much simpler if you do.

When you get to the new place the first thing you unload is your GET STARTED BOX. The first things you will want out of the box will be your floor plans and your blue painter’s tape.

At each packed vehicle tape a whole house floor plan with its colored dots where it is easily seen by those unloading that vehicle.  That could be the opened door side of a moving van or trailer, the inside of a car trunk lid, where ever it is easily seen and studied. 

By doing this you allow those actually moving the items to be able to see what room they are going to and to be able to figure out the shortest/most convenient route to that room based on the color coding.

Place a complete floor plan on each entrance to the house as well.  This will save a forgetful helper having to double back to the vehicle to see if they should have taken a left or right turn at the kitchen.

Next go through the house and put the individual color coded room floor plans on the entryway of each room. That way as the sofa is brought into the room it can be placed exactly where you want it as it comes in.

As you hang the individual floor plans for each room plug in each extension cord that will be needed for the outlets that will end up behind furniture so they will be in place when the furniture is set.

Also place any air register deflectors where they are needed to before the furniture comes in.

As the vehicles are unloaded if the help will stack the same colored dots together it will save time, walking and lifting as the day goes on. 

I have to say at this point when we moved out of our home of 20 years to the ranch one friend told me I was being a control freak by doing all the color coding at the beginning of the day.  At the end of the day he told me “That was the easiest moving day I’ve ever done.”  And he was right.

The unpacking went smoothly too, because everything was clearly labeled we were able to find everything we needed as it was needed to unpack in an orderly manner.

One more thing.  Feed your help, even if it’s only a bologna sandwich, feed them.  They deserve it. 

Jan who has moved more people than she cares to mention and has found this to be the most organized and simple way to do it in OK


Thursday, May 23, 2013


 As I slowly worked my way through all the decisions to get my food storage under control it became clear to me that just doing the pantry was not going to settle my overall kitchen condition.

A few years ago the men remodeled my lower cupboards to make the storage in them much more efficient and I love all they did replacing the standard two deep shelves with dead zones.  Now my lower cupboards are a series of drawers that roll out to let me easily see where all my mixing bowls and such are.

The dead corner now stores my seldom used big serving bowls on a special shelf that can be pulled out through an open area created when the shelves there swing out on piano hinges to make room for the hidden shelves.

Essentially these lower cupboards have stayed in excellent condition.  Periodically I may need to re-stack a bowl or two.  Or to wipe out a drawer on big clean-up days.  The swing out cupboard worked so well I’ve worn out the hinge, so the guys will soon be replacing that hinge.

The upper cupboards, however, up until now, had gone pretty much untouched and were becoming more and more a source of irritation and inconvenience for me. 

When I started this phase of the kitchen clean-up my plastic storage bowls were taking over one long shelf that ran behind five separate cabinet doors.    We had far too many glasses stacked dangerously. In another set of cabinets y spices blocked getting my mugs.

Then there were the spices themselves.  They were what got me started on this part of the pantry/kitchen cupboard re-do.  

I am, for the most part, a scratch cook.  While I do use convenience foods when I can get them on sale with a coupon 95% of my cooking is from scratch.  I make Master Mixes for all my baking, seasoning, and many of my condiments. As a result I have a LOT of spice and herbs I use on a daily basis.  This creates the question “Where and how to store them for easy use?”

When I started this cupboard corralling my spices were in two cupboards by the stove, in the pantry near the dining room and in two different grain pantries in the sunroom, besides the back ups in the main pantry downstairs.  I had both big and little containers of spices and we won’t even discuss the stash outside in the camper. 

As a result of this chaos cooking could be a challenge.  Since I do most of the cooking around here I pretty well knew where what was, but when the guys cooked it was often “Where’s the…?” Also when they helped with the nightly kitchen clean-up they didn’t always put things back where I normally store them.  I couldn’t complain, because they were helping, after all.  We needed an organized game plan with everything together which would allow any of us to find anything quickly and as conveniently as possible.

In the beginning my “little bottles” were for the most part on a tiered rack in a deep dark cupboard. While I had them alphabetized at one point that had long ago gone the way of the do-do bird.

Because my son does a lot of scratch cooking on his own when we travel he will often purchase a certain spice or herb rather than try to find it in the clutter when I’m not here to tell him if we have it and if so where it is.   This has created many duplicates in the cupboards, which of course adds to the chaos.

So as I mulled over the best place to store the spices, especially my big containers of them I first put them in the pantry.  Too inconvenient, they were much too far from the stove.  It simply was not going to work.  I needed them in my main cooking area to save time and steps.

The little bottles often got lost in the dark on the upper shelves, not to mention I’m only 5’1” on my tall days and often I couldn’t reach the seasonings on the second shelf without dragging out the stepstool, not to mention my mugs that were behind them.  So anytime I wanted a hot cuppa I had to get the step stool (or a tall person), move the spices and get the mug.  Then repeat when the mug was washed and ready to put back.  I needed a plan!

It was my husband that came up with the first suggestion.  He was watching something on HGTV and pointed out how the small bottles of spices were being kept in a drawer near the stove in the kitchen remodel that was being done.  That allowed the cook to spot any spice easily if they were alphabetical in the drawer.

Yes that was a good idea only my drawers closest to the stove were overflowing with unorganized junk.  Great another area to straighten.  I could feel the “but first” syndrome rising in me. It is a disease I have suffered from greatly all my life.

You know that syndrome.  For me this was happening with the pantry remodel and spilling over into the cupboard corralling. Here is how it was building up.

1.     I need to finish the pantry shelves, but first…

2.     I need to decide what is going on the fourth higher shelf, but first…

3.     I need to make a decision on the spices and herbs that are in the pantry, but first…

4.     To put the spices and herbs up the way I want I need to re-arrange the main spice cupboard, but first…

5.     I need to straighten up the glass and plastics cupboard so I could move the mugs, but first…

6.     I need to empty the two drawers closest to the stove, but first…

7.     I need to get that fourth shelf ready to store the things I’m moving from the kitchen, but first…

8.     See #2.

How often do all of us run into this syndrome?  So I made myself set down, take a deep breath and work out first in my head and then on paper where I wanted everything to end up.  This gave me a game plan.  I also knew I needed to make myself STICK TO that game plan.  So I chose a day I didn’t have to worry about cooking dinner because the men were going to an evening dinner meeting.  Then I got up early and got started.

Having a plan makes everything easier and saved me a lot of walking.  Here was the plan.

1.     Unload, reload the dishwasher as often as needed.  This was to be step one because I knew that as I moved things around I’d find things that were dusty, or sticky that would need cleaned. If it could safely be done in the dishwasher it was definitely going in there.  I’m not a big fan of hand dishes at all.

2.     Clear the cabinet tops.  This would allow me to have unfettered sorting areas.

3.     Clear off the top pantry shelf completely.  Wipe it down.  By doing this one first I could put the seldom used kitchen utensils I’d be moving to that storage shelf up as I came across them.  The plan for this shelf had become one that would place those utensils behind a front row of my gallon and half gallon jars of my flours, beans, grains and similar goods.

4.     Take a before photo of the dishes and plastics cupboard.  This is for not only my benefit but yours as well.  I have to admit posting the before photos is always hard for me, but it is my way of forcing myself to not only see how cluttered things have become this last 17 years, but to remind me to never let them get that way again.

5.     Using my cleared cabinet top sort all the plastics by size and shape for better storage.  Only keep one lid per storage bowl.  If I have a bowl/lid with no match up they will be removed to either go to recycling, charity donation or to use in gardening.

6.     Wipe down emptied shelves.

7.     Replace the now sorted/organized plastics in an orderly fashion in a more convenient order starting at the far right. 

8.     Pull out the plates, cereal bowls, saucers and organizer from the bottom shelf.  Wipe down the shelf and replace.

9.     Pull down the items from the top shelf of the far right cupboard sorting by where it will either be stored, or disposed of. Wipe down shelf.  Return the items that will remain on that shelf to the cupboard.  Put the items moving to the pantry storage shelf to the pantry.  Take to recycle items to the recycling area.

10.            Moving on to the middle cupboard.  Starting at the top, sort and cull as I did on the previous cupboard.  Wipe down the shelf, replace and put up the items.

11.            Middle shelf will be continuation of the plastics and would be dealt with in the same manner.

12.            Bottom shelf.  The men prefer plastic glasses, I prefer glass, thus the two separate glass cupboards.  However, there are items we seldom use in both glass shelves so those items will be culled as previously described.  Wipe down shelf and deal with the sorted items before moving to the next cupboard.

13.             Third dish cupboard.  Will be handled much the same way as the previous two.  By now my middle shelf in this cupboard should be empty or near empty.  This is where my mugs and glass measuring cups will now go.

14.            Take before photo of the drawer closest to the stove.

15.            Empty the drawer sorting the items as I go as previously described, however, I’ll be putting things like my salad shooter together instead of in parts to store as a unit in the upper cabinets.  I believe this will be a more efficient use of space. I only use that utensil about once every two months, so it will not be a big problem that it will be behind the large containers of spices, where I’ll only have to move 1-2 containers to retrieve it, fully assembled, when needed. Wipe out drawer.

16.            Repeat with second drawer.

17.            Put up things I’ve sorted in spaces created in the previous segments, in recycling/charitable donations or on the far cabinet temporarily out of the way.

18.            Take before photos of the two spice/herb cupboards.

19.            Starting with the top shelf and working my way down of the cupboard closest to the sink sort the items as has become the habit by this time.  Sorting the spices and herbs in rough alphabetical order as I go.  Culling old spices, combining newer ones, and washing any extra small bottles as they become available. I will be using these small balls for spices for the camper in the future.

20.            Repeat with second cupboard.

21.            Now the fun part.  In alphabetical order, starting at the drawer closest to the stove place the small spice bottles on their sides so the labels can easily be read.   I will be filling smaller bottles of the spices/herbs I use in small amounts regularly from my big bottles.  The bigger containers of these will be put in one of the grain pantries to do refills with as needed.

22.            If needed, fill part of the second drawer similarly.  The remaining space in the second drawer will be to hold my individual measuring cups, funnels and rolling pins.

23.             Starting with the upper cupboard nearest the stove.  Place the now assembled items like the salad shooter, popcorn popper etc to the back of the shelves in an organized manner.  A single row of large spice/herb containers of the items I use nearly daily in large amounts will be in front of those utensils, that are used maybe once per month.

24.            Take after photos of all the cupboards.

25.             Wipe down the outsides of all the cabinet and drawer fronts.

26.            Sweep and mop.

27.            Smile as I turn off the light and leave the kitchen to go collapse in exhaustion at the computer to put this blog post up.

Yep, that was the plan.  Now how did it really go?

As with any project around here it took longer than I thought it would.  On day one I managed to get most of the upper cabinets to the right of the sink finished.  There was far more in that cupboard than I thought there was.  By the time my son came home I was thrilled that he helped me move the mugs from the left side of the sink cabinet to the right side one.  He agreed that over by all the other dishes was a far better place for them. 

However, instead of putting the mugs in the larger middle shelf of the cabinet closest to the sink we found it was a much better use of space to put them on the same shelf in the middle cupboard and put my larger storage bowls in the large cupboard.  This was because the larger storage bowls would not fit well in the smaller middle cabinet.  We are, as always, flexible in our organization plans around here.

By the time I declared myself too tired to proceed further that day I still needed to sort the top shelf and the bottom shelf of the cabinet closest to the sink.   Everything left of the sink and near the stove remained pretty much untouched.

I did smile as I left the kitchen that night because the seven shelves we had completed were gorgeous in our eyes.

Day #2 only the minimal got done in the kitchen.  Instead I went with my men to see Star Trek:Into the Darkness.

Once home I wrote the blog review of the movie and then spent the evening with my guys. You can view the review by clicking on the link.

Day#3.  Was budget day.  So very little was done in the kitchen, I have certain days I work on the budget, pay bills, balance the checkbook or other things in my time budget and I try very hard to not skip that day to avoid financial chaos.  So day #3 was a sticking to schedule day for me.

Day #4.  I was in a cooking mood so as I worked on the kitchen in a normal fashion I made a large Sunday afternoon meal, followed by an evening of watching the weather extremely closely as massive tornadoes moved into my part of the state.  Why bother to sort it all out if it’s going to blow away right?

Day #5.  I did a “but first” and started on the cabinets on the left side of the sink rather than completing the right side because I needed those cabinets at least partially organized in order to finish the first set of cabinets. 

Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm to get started,  I forgot to take photos of those two cabinets for the before and didn’t remember until I had all the small spice bottles out of the cupboard and basically sorted.  I wasn’t about to put them back for the sake of a photo, after all I was already four days behind schedule on this project.

I alphabetized and sorted the small spices, filling the drawer closest to the stove as planned.  This is where I hit an emotional road block.  This is a drawer of medium depth and all that vacant space with a single layer of small spice bottles in it really bothered me.  Decisions needed to be made and I needed to consult with the two other cooks in the household before I went forward with the spices.  They wouldn’t be home for hours, so I went to work sorting out other items in that cupboard until…

Tornado warnings went off for the second day in a row.  Then I became glued to the tv, phone and computer all at once.  I watched in horror for nearly an hour the live video as fellow Oklahomans were in danger from the two mile wide tornado in Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma tore the ground up for over 17 miles, destroying everything in its path.  I prayed hard for all those folks as I kept track the path of that storm.  Fearing the worst for family members in Moore.  Thankfully they are physically okay, but their home is totaled.

As it veered toward my home I gathered my emergency supplies and hit the basement, for the second time in two days.   By the time we were all clear and had worked hard on checking on the family members in Moore it was too late to finish the kitchen.

However, I did confer with the two men on the drawer and ideas to avoid wasting that space.  Dh suggested I create a tray of some sort similar to the trays I have in other drawers in the kitchen that create two layers that are easy to move to get to the layers below.

I had purchase these drawer expanders at Garden Ridge years ago and have never regretted putting them in the drawers.  I had no idea if Garden Ridge still carried anything like that any longer, but I did know that the exact same ones wouldn’t work because of the way the compartments were made. So I closed the drawer and mulled it over during the night time hours.

Day #6: I woke up still with no idea what to use for a tray.  So on this day I started again on the upper shelves leaving some small spice jars, and the spices that were in tins unstored at this point. 

I had decided the day before to remove permanently as many of my small appliances as possible from the cabinet tops because I have very limited cabinet top space.  However, I still wanted them where they were convenient.  I had also decided I wanted my most used mixing bowls up where they were more convenient for me to use and more importantly put up as I empty the dishwasher.

This resulted in a completely different storage plan than I had originally decided on for the bottom left shelf closest to the sink.  I moved my expanding tiered spice shelf, also purchased at Garden Ridge years ago,  from the large section of this cabinet to the bottom shelf of the smaller section.  On it I placed all my food colorings, small cake decorating kit, cookie sprinkles, extracts and similar products in alphabetical order of each type of item.  In front of this tiered shelf I placed the large bottles of extracts and condiments that we use regularly. 

In the larger section on the bottom shelf I placed my mixing bowls, my ingredient cups (ramekins), my Oster Kitchen center base and my small hand mixer.  In front of the mixers.  This left some space in front of the mixers, but I wanted to wait and see what type of space I was going to need for my large containers of spices.

It was as I worked with this cabinet I had a thought for the spice drawer.  Storage bowls, Ziploc large rectangle to be exact.  Would they fit on top of those spices?  Why yes they easily would. 

This meant a slight re-arranging of the spices already alphabetized.  I decided to put all my tinned spices in one of those bowls, and the used daily or near daily spices, herbs and seasonings in another.  With all the remaining spices being alphabetized below so that we could get them quickly and easily as needed.

By using these bowls we could lift one or more bowl out to see what was below with no problem.  While not as attractive as a specially purchased spice drawer organizer might be, it works.  More importantly, I already had these bowls.  I also included a 2 cup size one to put my clothes pins we use to seal bags we have rolled the tops down on in. 

A side note here about clothes pins.  Whether you hang out laundry or not clothes pins have a multitude of uses, this should be another blog post over at “Mind Your Pennies” for the future, the one I just referred to here is a simple enough one.  One day I was in Wal-Mart and noticed they were selling “bag clips” for around $1 each.  I laughed when I saw them, because they were clothes pins that had been relabeled to sell as bag clips.  No special paint, no special design, just a single plain wooden clothes pin.

Out of curiosity I walked over to housewares and priced a package of 100 clothes pins.  For that same $1 I could get 100 “bag clips”.    Ever since then we have used them to seal everything from chip bags to the cereal box liners, for items we need to store only temporarily that would be too time consuming to use the vacuum sealer on or to place in a jar.

This is when I realized that by doing this I would use up all the currently stacked rectangular bowls, which I would eventually replace with others I had cleaned out from other places in the house.  So I went back to that right cupboard to finish it up and take the photo with those bowls in place so you could see the overall cabinet plan.

But first…to finish sorting that cabinet I needed to work some on the pantry top shelf, cheez this is really a circular project isn’t it?

While all of this was going on storms were raging outside again.  This time however, so far it was merely thunderstorms, not tornadoes, thankfully.

As I worked I realized I was going to have to give up certain guidelines I had set for myself.  Just as with the small bottles alphabetizing my large containers would not work for the allotted space in a single row either.  I was going to have to put some containers behind others, so it made more sense to put the most used where they were the easiest for me to obtain.  The ones I used on a less frequent schedule, but more than the ones in the grain pantry, would have to be in a second row between the front ones and the small appliances.  I wasn’t happy about this turn of events, because I don’t want to have to constantly move things around more than necessary.

However, I liked even less the idea of having them stored elsewhere away from my main cooking area.  So instead of totally alphabetizing these bottles I put them in “use” order, but sort of alphabetized.  So behind the beef and chicken bullion containers were the containers of the commercially made beef and chicken gravy powders (thinking beef with beef, chicken with chicken would be simpler to find in a hurry).  While I use Williams Chili seasoning more than once a week, I only use chili powder about once a week.  So the chili powder went behind the chili seasoning.  You get the general idea.  

My plan to put all the Oster Kitchen Center attachments that were scattered in several drawers, cabinets, closets all on one shelf would not work because of the size of them.  So parts of two shelves had to be used.  While the citrus, sausage maker, and pasta maker attachments were going to have to stay in the utility room storage they were already in.  At least this allowed me to have all the food processor parts together, which was a great improvement.

As I gave into these adaptations the upper cabinet to the left of the sink came together quickly, as did the spice drawer. 

That only left the drawer for the rolling pins, measuring cups and such.  As the rain continued to fall I took a rest break to type part of this.  Then hit at it again hard.  I wanted to finish the drawers and cabinets today, but knew there was no way the mopping of the kitchen was happening due to the fact it was nearly time to start dinner.  Jambalaya was on the menu for that night.

After dinner I did a small bit of general kitchen clean-up and then headed for bed.  I was tired.

Day #6.  This day was spent doing general kitchen clean-up, typing this blog report and snapping after photos. 

Day #7.  Today the final cabinet door wipe downs, sweeping and mopping finally occurred.  Along with a round of merchandising for the one company I still periodically help out when they are in a bind, proof reading and posting this blog post.

In summation.  It has already probably became clear to you that in this household, as in so many other households around the world, no project of any size beyond tiny gets done super fast. 

Life gets in the way, ideas come from nowhere.  Not only for that project, but for future projects and for future blog posts.  Ideas that must be written down before they flee from my mind forever. 

The Princess Plan is a good plan and ideally it could be done in a year for the number of things I want to accomplish.  But as you have already seen I suffer greatly from “but first syndrome” and from stopping to smell the roses along the way.  After all roses only bloom for a very short time each year, and who can guarantee we will be here for the next season of roses.

I keep records of ideas, an example is the 58 pages of the blog concepts outline for future blog posts for all my blogs including the new one that I will be starting soon called “Lingo” it will definitely be fun to do.  Stay tuned for the announcement. I will also be added to my blogs links to the right as soon as the first post goes up.

The main thing to remember is no matter how long a project takes, don’t give up.  You can do it and you will be so happy you did.  Just look at what a difference this last week has made in all my upper cupboards and the demise of two junk drawers that are now useful organized drawers.  Ahhhh, the value of before and after photos.

While all I did might not work exactly for you, maybe you’ll cull some good ideas for yourself.

Jan who is looking forward to working in her now orderly kitchen in OK