Monday, January 16, 2012

{Operation Simplicity: The Kitchen}

You can tell a lot about a person by going through their kitchen. When Jamie and I moved into his grandparents' home as newlyweds, it was an honor to sort through his grandmother's kitchen and learn more about her.

It was clear that she had grown up with a bit of the Depression Era mentality along with the 50s concept of plenty. As a result, she had put up jars and jars of beautiful peaches, and her pantry was well stocked with anything and everything a coupon could get. Like Jell-O. Lots and lots of Jell-O.

This month, as I'm going through my kitchen in an effort to purge and simplify, I'm wondering what a person might think about my own life. Based on the unusual hoarding patterns I've developed, I've compiled a list of assumptions that one might make:

1. She must be planning to open a daycare or have several more children. For some reason I never parted with the bibs and baby washcloths and sippy cups. I even found an old pacifier. My youngest is six. So clearly, I must be hoping for just one more baby or anticipating a new business venture in which dozens of toddlers suddenly arrive on my door step.

Now, it's true that I still have young nieces and nephews, and it has been convenient to entertain family and whip out a bib. But four bibs? Not necessary. Needless to say, I've significantly pared down my baby provisions.

2. She's a very crafty and resourceful person. This is not true. I don't like to sew and, as I've mentioned before, I only like projects that can be quickly and easily completed in an afternoon. With glue. But, based on the number of cracked china pieces that I've set aside, it looks as though I have great plans for transforming them into shabby chic mosaic flower pots or quaint little garden stones. I have yet to do such a thing. I probably never will. It was very liberating to toss those puppies.

3. She has an affinity for jars. Okay so this one is true. My sister and I discovered that the Trader Joe's peach and pear jars make perfect water bottles and storage containers. Raw sugar looks so pretty in a jar, and I love opening my baking cupboard to see the chocolate chips, sea salt and popcorn all lined up in a row.

And then there were the jam jars. Jam jars are perfect for mixing dressings and sauces. They also make great drinking glasses for kiddos.

The problem is that I just kept on saving jars. And lids. Because aside from sealing the jars, lids also come in handy for holding dip-dip. You know, ranch dressing or maple syrup for small little people who are dining with us. Which brings me back to #1.

I tossed a whole bunch of jars and lids. Goodbye, dip-dip.

4. She's planning on storing lots and lots of bread. It never occurs to me to throw away bread clips. I just toss the little clip in a container with the others, and before I know it my drawer is overflowing with bread clips and twist ties. This is ridiculous. I found a much smaller container than the one pictured here in order to keep just a small handful. Because it is nice to seal up a bag of frozen peas every now and then.

* * * * *

So now that I've successfully purged and rearranged several areas, a person might come into my kitchen and come up with a new set of assumptions. Such as:

1. She must really like to cook. Well, this isn't actually true. (Shocking.) But I do like to eat. I also find great pleasure in serving my family. The beauty of working in my newly-arranged kitchen is that my pieces are much more accessible.

I've thought through the appliances and dishes and gadgets I am most likely to reach for and have made sure that they're easy to grab. As a result, I enjoy working in there. Which means I'm more likely to cook and bake and whip up a little smackerel of something. Which in turn blesses my family. Which is the whole point.

2. She must be short. This is true. I'm just over 5' 2", so I can't reach the back of the top shelf without dragging over a chair (or my husband). So the things that I don't use very often are way up in the nose bleed section of the kitchen.

3. Yikes. Her food pantry needs a lot of help. Another truth. Hence this week's goal: tackle that pantry and make it a thing of beauty. (Or at least a thing of efficiency.)

Since I've managed to free up a bunch of cupboard space (adding shelves has really helped), I'm re-thinking the way I store the ol' provisions.

One thought that keeps coming to mind is how to deal with the flour and sugar containers. Should I store them neatly away in the cupboard in their current plastic containers or display them on the counter in pretty glass jars? I have the space on my counter, but will they look sad when they're not full?

Where do you keep your flour and sugar canisters? What would you recommend?

Thanks for following along, my friends. With love,

Petunia June (aka The Non-Crafty, Jar-Loving Short Girl with a Really Messy Pantry)
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  1. Just last year I "White Elephanted" a red plastic mold in the shape of the United States. It was either supposed to be for Jell-O or for Rice Krispy treats, and I kept it for 8 years because I wanted to use it for my most patriotic friend's 50th birthday (50 states...), but then I realized that it didn't include Alaska and Hawaii so there were only 48 states and my friend's 48th birthday had come and gone so it was sort of pointless...
    But you didn't ask about that. You asked about sugar and flour.
    I just keep those in the cupboards because my counters are crowded.

  2. That's funny! Reminds me of a brain mold (I kid you not) that my aunt found in a magazine when we were researching wedding reception ideas. Needless to say, we decided against it.

  3. OK, once again I apologize for being your mother. The bread wrapper clip-o-mania? Mine. Jars? Me. And bibs? Guilty again . . . BUT! If you keep them long enough, you'll use them when you're a Noni :D

  4. True, the apple doesn't fall far. But your bread clip cup is smaller, so you're okay. Would you be shocked if I told you I already have a Noni box in the garage? I'll be ready! (And it's also fun to pull out my "baby box" when little niecelets and nephewlets come for a visit and need something to play with :).)

  5. Julianna, I love glass jars too! I just can't throw them out. I also think it is sad when my flour and sugar containers are low and I feel like I need to refill them all the time. So instead I use metal/tin containers to solve that urge to keep refilling every time I use some. ;). Good luck with the pantry!

  6. Brain mold, huh? So many ways I could go with that...

  7. I agree on the canister issue, Anna. Right now I have my eye on a pretty white set. We'll see!

    In the mean time, I'm practicing by putting my current plastic set on the counter. Definitely very convenient while baking. I was in heaven whipping up biscuits tonight. So far I'm leaning in favor of "on the counter" storage :).

    Yes, G. Brain mold. Run with it at will. I think there might have been a salmon loaf involved, too, if you require further fodder. (Say that three times fast.)

  8. Well, I may have seen a house fly, but I have never seen a salmon loaf.

  9. But I'm guessing you just might have seen a brain loaf from time to time?

  10. I really love glass jars too. I use them in the kitchen for everything, in the bathroom for things like q-tips, and everywhere else for things like paintbrushes and flowers. And, I kind of like the look of a half to two-thirds full jar of flour best. (as long as it's gluten-free flour :-) ).

  11. I recently saw the idea of using a dainty tea cup as a flour scoop, so I'm now leaning toward the glass canister idea again. Wouldn't it be pretty to see a little teacup nestled in the (gluten-free) flour? :)



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