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Monday, November 5, 2012

A Stress Free Season ~ Where The Magic Happens

For our family so much of the magic of the season occurs in the kitchen. Holiday dinners, spiced cider, Christmas cookies and candy are all created in this one room. So in early November I tear it apart.

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I start at the top and dust the upper cabinets and go all the way to the bottom by wiping the baseboards. A deep clean. Because you know how wonderful it feels when everything just sparkles? Then it will only require weekly touchups throughout the busy holiday season.
Some of the cleaning is easy. I turn on the self cleaning oven, I run the dishwasher empty with a cup of vinegar added to remove hard water buildup…but there is one monster that requires a bit more elbow grease.
For the record, in houses with small children, I am not a fan of stainless steel refrigerators.

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Because most of the time they looks like this:

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But if the refrigerator is new and came with the house you bought, you work with what you have. As many of you know I am a fan of natural cleaning products. Tree hugger, yadda yadda… I wipe my stainless steel appliances down with lemon oil.
There is a slight film, yes. But if you have an in the door water/ice machine and hard water it is inevitable the water will splash onto the stainless steel. By using the lemon oil, instead of having hard water spots on your stainless steel, the water just beads off of the surface.

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Now for the inside of the refrigerator.

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My arch nemesis is the squeeze bottle.
Because after a certain point they become so low on content that you have to flip them over and well…lids are not always closed correctly by little hands. Or big hands for that matter.

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I was constantly having to take the door off and wipe out the sticky goo.  

So I picked up 8 inexpensive plastic place mats. You can find the mats at discount stores. This neutral basket weave pattern was at Target. My kitchen shears cut through the mat quite easily.  

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My bins and drawers had all sorts of twists and turns.

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So I just took them out and traced around the bottom to create a pattern.

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Now when a mess is made I just simply lift out my DIY refrigerator coaster for a quick wash.

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TIP: Take your individual serving food out of the bulk packaging. It makes it easier to stack and little hands are more apt to pick a healthy snack of applesauce or yogurt. Can you see the small portions of cheese in the Tupperware? By removing the packaging you can also pack lunches more quickly. 

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I also use turntables and other organizers to make the most of the space.

Yes, I have four types of mustard: English, Asian, French and German. I use each and every one to create sauces, dressings and marinades. While cleaning the fridge I noticed that the German mustard was almost empty so I added it onto my ever growing “must buy” list. I’d hate to find that I had run out 20 minutes before a holiday dinner party.

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I also had a wire shelf in my freezer that had a gap of space in the back.

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It was large enough that small boxes or bags of frozen produce would sometimes fall down and then the bin below wouldn’t close. ARGH!!!!
So it too received a customized placemat.

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I am happy to report I haven’t had a problem since! :)

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Ok, so all of the big appliances are clean. Don’t forget the small ones. Wipe down the blenders, coffee makers and toasters, etc. By doing this I remembered that my hand mixer is on the fritz and added one on to the “must buy” list.

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It is amazing the crud that can build up so quickly. Even though I cleaned our toaster out before we moved 4 months ago this was the bounty that was in the bottom tray. Ewwww! A feast for bugs waiting to happen.

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Now lets address the cupboards. My kitchen is tiny. I cook one meal (sometimes three) every single day. The key to a well organized kitchen is making it work for you instead of you working for your kitchen. 
For some reason the builder decided he would place what is supposed to be the pantry right next to the dishwasher.
Mr. Builder this is a bad idea because:
A. It interferes with the work triangle. Dishes should be placed in the cupboards next to the dishwasher so you aren’t walking yourself to death to put them away across the room.
B. The hot water temperatures caused by a dishwasher are not good for canned goods and plastic wrapped food. They could spoil, go stale faster or develop a plastic or metallic taste. 

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As an interior designer I see bad kitchen layouts ALL THE TIME. So what do you do if you can’t afford to rip things out and start over? Work with what you have.

Make your kitchen work for you! Think outside the cabinet box.

My “pantry” stores my dishes. In the upper cabinets I have my red antique transfer ware. I use portable wire shelving to make the most of the small space.

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In the lower cabinets I have our every day dishes, serving pieces, silverware and some baking pots that are only used occasionally.

Bonus: By placing the everyday dishes at child height my kids can set the table and unload the dishwasher.

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Glasses and cups are right above the dishwasher. This makes unloading clean dishes a much quicker and easy task.

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On the other side of the sink in the upper cabinet is our special crystal, Tupperware and measuring cups. Pots and pans are stored below. Right next to the stove where they are used.

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When we moved I lost three full sets of cabinets and the cabinets in this kitchen are also not as deep. I did a lot of purging and you know what? I have yet to miss the excess that I got rid off. The cabinets are packed for sure but organized in such a manner I can find things easily.

Right next to the stove in the upper left hand cabinet are my cookbooks and baking supplies. I found I was almost out of vanilla so that made the “must buy” list too.

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To the right of the stove are my vinegar's, cooking oils and spices.

I took the time to refill/top off all of my salt and pepper shakers. Better now that when I am rushing in mid December to get dinner on the table.

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So where did the pantry end up? Right next to the refrigerator. All of my food storage is together. It makes sense to me.

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The upper cabinet goes deep out of reach. To help offset the outta site/outta mind problem that can occur I use stacking shelves. Again everything is unpacked and ready to go.

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In the base cabinets I reused some existing plastic bins that hold more things for lunches and my baking supplies. (It’s time to stock up on sugar and flour! :) 

The skinny base cabinet can hold three boxes of cereal and three more can be stacked on top.

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Now my kitchen is ready for holiday magic all season long. By making note of what I am running low on (including light bulbs, batteries and aluminum foil) and stocking up now I won’t have the last minute panic that so often occurs, which means less stress during the holidays.

Time investment for cleaning and shopping: 8 hours. Peace of mind: priceless.


Auntie Em said...

Your kitchen organization makes perfect sense to me since I store my dishes in a cabinet beside my DW. Works great. It would be handy for you to put another shelf in the cereal cabinet. I looks like it was meant for cookie sheets but that is a great space for kids to be able to choose their cereal themselves.
Love your nice clean kitchen. I think I will wait and clean after the crackfilling is finished in mine! :D

openid said...

Our power is back on and we are picking up the pieces {literally}. I posted about it yesterday.
I haven't read about fridge coasters before but it's a brilliant idea and one I will be implementing.
Your Friend,

Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

I am loving the fridge coaster idea!!!!! These tips are fabulous Laura!!!!

♥ Sonny ♥ said...

I too love the fridge coaster idea.
I think I'll make a quick run to the everythings a dollar store and do mine today..

thanks for the inspiration and all the great detail photos.

Susan said...

Laura , your kitchen orgainization is awesome. I think the idea of storing all your food sources near each other is the best.

Susan said...

Wow! That was an amazing job you did, organizing in your kitchen. Love the idea of the placemats inside the refrigerator. Might have to try that one myself! Take care and hope you have a nice day. Susan

Pat@Life At Lydias House said...

Great ideas! A clean and organized space always makes life easier! I need to try the frig coasters. Also, I have been told but haven't yet tried it out, that a little squirt of WD 40 on a soft cloth works great to remove fingerprints from SS appliances. I got this info from a family with 6 small kids and they swear by it!

Sandy aka Doris the Great said...

Wow! What a lot of great ideas you have. I love turning the pantry cupboard into dish space. And the placemats idea is fantastic. Thanks.

Christine said...

Well, you spurred me on to take a closer look at my kitchen before the holidays!
Great tips!!!

What a wonderful world said...

Very clean,ready for Christmas baking :D

Kim@Chattafabulous said...

I really do want to be more like you. I am currently trying to make lemons of lemonade because the fan on my fridge went out and the repairman took the entire thing apart to repair it. Couldn't pass up the opportunity to clean and organize in there.

Blondie's Journal said...

I love organizational tips whenever I can get them. You have so many great ideas, Laura! I have to try the fridge coasters and remove grouped items from all that extra packaging. Thanks so much, sweet lady!


The Boston Lady said...

Laura, our new place has the stainless steel appliances and your tip about the lemon oil on the fridge is one I will try. It's a constant battle, and we have only big hands around here. The fridge coasters idea is brilliant. I always learn from you. Ann

Liz said...

Good idea on the stainless... and I think I'm going to get some of that shelf liner for the fridge! I just did my kitchen deep clean this weekend. :)


Elizabeth Eiffel said...

So much energy...........great ideas! Warm wishes.

Craftymoose Crafts said...

I love the place mat tip for the fridge!

Lorrie Orr said...

I had not heard of fridge coasters. A brilliant idea!

April said...

I found all this quite interesting--admittedly, I was eyeballing WHAT is IN your cabinets more than the beautiful job you did organizing it! :)
I love the new header, btw.
Happy FALL!(It's finally, finally HERE!)

Vel Criste said...

Awesome idea with the placemats Laura!!!! I was thinking of getting those coasters, glad I didn't. Thanks! You are so organized!


WOW, your kitchen is so clean! I'm stressed just thinking about giving mine a super cleaning like you did for yours...
Hmm...maybe I'll just read more blogs and then start cleaning...LOL

Lillibeth said...

So many good ideas! I'm looking forward to seeing what other tips you have for the holidays. I'm starting late this year (have to get a "spring" craft project finished in order to make room for Christmas!) so I'll need some!

Jill Flory of Sew a Fine Seam said...

Looks good Laura! I'd love to see what you would do with MY kitchen! There are NO cupboards beside the fridge or the dishwasher. There are hardly any cupboards period. You wear yourself out putting anything away and fixing any meal! I've rearranged a lot and still try to figure out a better system. Sigh. can you pop over someday this week??!! LOL!

Bobbie said...

You are a genius! I love your fridge organization! Cant wait to go to Walmart and get plastic mats. such a smart idea!

WendyBee said...

Sooo nice! My fridge is packed to the gills and needs to be cleaned out. I think I will try the coaster idea, but with clear vinyl. It is already so dark in my fridge (prolly cos it's packed to the gills!), that I don't want to impede the light as it passes through the glass shelves. I like the idea of turntables though. I had some in there once, but I can't remember why I took them out...
Won't you come help me do my fridge?
Thanks for the inspiration--it makes so much sense to get ready for holidays this way.

Teresa said...

Your beautiful placemats suggest that one of my kitchen problems has a solution. I don't need placemats for the shelves as I bought some rolls in IKEA that are very nice, very easy to clean up and are anti-derrapant. But my kitchen cabinets are from IKEA too and I noticed a while ago that where I store my dishes, on the back, where the dishes touch when being stored is getting damaged. I've been fretting with a solution... Until these mats. If I can find a nice patterned matt (I'll be looking to it twice, thress times a day) I'll glue it behind and voilá problem solved.

Great job tidying your kitchen. I like to think that you'll manage a stress free path to Holidays... just don't let stress pay you a trick like it did with me past Christmas - I had everything going so well that inside I was secreaming "I'm forgetting something" throughout it ahahahah

Take Care and Thank you for sharing with us.

Christie said...

Neat fridge coasters! Thanks for sharing that good idea.

Holly- Cutie Pie Cottage said...

Oh thanks for the fridge idea, Laura! I so hate sticking my head in one and cleaning it- like it makes me almost gag for some reason! Ugh! and yeah, the upside down squeeze bottle drive me crazy. ♥