One of the most frequent questions I get is about how to maintain order in your home (as a matter of fact, a buyer’s agent showing our house recently asked our realtor if I was for hire – lol!).
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of living in an orderly home. A home that is tidy and inviting pushes back the chaos of the harried world just outside the door. It can invite peace.
So, how can we establish “order that invites peace”?
The answer will be different for every woman. I have a friend who has said to me, “I sometimes stop and think ‘What would Julia do?'”
My sweet friend is such a spontaneous and fun person. Her personality is one of light and freedom and playfulness. Yet she thinks and feels deeply – and has such wisdom and insight! There are a lot of times I ask myself, “What would she do?”
The trouble I have in asking this question is that it misdirects a true desire to do what will honor Jesus. Instead of comparing myself to him, I start looking at other women and thinking I should be like them. But I am only ever called to be an imitator of Christ – to become more and more Christlike.
In 2 Corinthians 10: 12, Paul writes, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” In context, Paul is defending his ministry against those who would discredit him based upon horizontal comparisons.
I do that!
I discredit my own calling and influence by comparing myself – my gifts, talents, personality, appearance, and even my calling – to others. Horizontal comparison robs me of faith, replacing it with feelings of failure. But when I focus on imitating Christ, I choose significance over shame. And I gain an understanding of what Christ can do in and through me because he created me for these good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Here’s the tricky part: I write about different ways to organize a home, relate to others, and to understand how God is working in our lives. Obviously, I think I’ve stumbled on some ideas worth imitating – and lots of folks who spend time with me or in my home agree.
So here’s my suggestion: look at what I do and ask yourself, “Will adopting this idea will direct me in a more God-ward direction?” If the answer is, “No,” please delete and move on with no feelings of guilt.
Still, some of you are asking, “What is your advice about maintaining order in the home?”
Here’s what I tell folks with whom I consult one-on-one: Start by understanding who you are uniquely created to be. Look honestly at the home in which you live, the people with whom you share it, and the resources with which you have to work. Until you embrace these things with contentment you’ll never find a system that works for you.
Under the category of posts called “Executing Grace” on this blog I offer ideas of what we are trying in our house in areas like household management, child training, functional organization, and practical advice for schedules, but I hope you’ll think of it as a buffet. Pick a little of this and a little of that until you get your plate full of just what suits you. Then pray over that plate before you dig in.
I chose the term “executing grace” because it has a twofold meaning:
- Done well, I am executing a plan and using organizational tools which allow me to express grace to those around me.
- Done poorly, I am executing – as in killing, chopping the head off of, shooting dead in the streets – grace.
Ultimately I must answer the question, “How will I execute grace today?”
Now that you’ve Found the Pantry You Didn’t Have and spent time deciding What to Put in the Pantry and Organizing it, how do you make sure none of that neatly organized food goes to waste? Isn’t that the ultimate problem with having staples on hand? Here are nine tips for actually using the food in your pantry.
1. Start by making an inventory. Post the list with check boxes for when people take items out of the pantry. (ProTip: if you hang a white board you can list your staples in permanent marker and use dry erase markers for the check marks, then you can simply erase the marks when you re-stock. Permanent marker will come off of a white board by tracing over the lines with a dry erase marker followed by Windex and a paper towel, if you ever need to change the list.)
When you shop, be sure to rotate your “stock” when you unload the new groceries. Oldest items should always be in the front, so they get used first. (No, you really won’t remember to grab a can from the back. Take the extra 30 seconds to do it right every time you put away groceries.)
Once per quarter, double check your inventory. It’s a great time to plan a week of use-up-the-food-on-hand meals, which does double duty of refreshing inventory and giving your grocery budget a break.
On a regular basis:
Make your shopping list
Shop from pantry first – marking things off list as you go
While you are “shopping” check pantry for items to replenish and add them to your list
Watch for sales and/or big box stores for bulk purchases of items you use regularly
Don’t buy specialty items in bulk unless they don’t ever expire AND you have room in the pantry (or if the sale/bulk price is lower than the price of a smaller amount, but then buy it and give away the excess)
Be sure everyone knows to let you know when they open/use the last of anything in the pantry. We have an electronic list and all of our children who cook plus my husband and I have access to the list to add things as needed. We always put the date added in parenthesis after adding it so the shopper knows it’s a recent addition. You can do this on paper, in a to-do app, in a shopping app, on the calendar – but make sure it’s someplace to which everyone has access.
So, you’ve found your pantry and decided what to put into it, now the real fun begins! Let’s organize it!
First, let’s take a page from the grocery store book. Stores arrange their shelves from top to bottom based upon what they want you to see. When it comes to your pantry, you want to be sure the middle shelves are filled with the things you use most often. There’s no need to bend down low or get a stool to reach up high for regularly used items.
1. Place rarely used items in the harder-to-reach places.
- On the top shelf of our pantry sit serving dishes (platters, punch bowls, large baskets, etc.), large vases for entertaining, roasting pans, and canning supplies – things I only use periodically. I also have a box up there of items we only use at Christmas which we may need to use before the Christmas bins come down from the attic.
- Use saran wrap, old t-shirts, or pillow cases to cover the tops of open dishes to keep dust off.
2. Use the floor for heavy items and/or things you want your kids to reach.
- Large baskets hold unopened bags of chips, boxes of crackers, and bags/boxes of cereal. (once we open a package, it has a home in the kitchen cabinets – no one wants to invite pests into the pantry!)
- Large bottles of juice, sodas for entertaining, and cases of bottled water.
- Rolls of paper towels.
- Milk Crates full of snack packs or drink pouches/boxes.
3. Group remaining items: Again, think grocery store.
- Baking items and spices usually make sense together. Flour, sugars, oils, pudding mixes, dressing mixes, dip mixes,
- Canned goods – veggies, tomato products, ingredient soups, soups you’ll eat, canned milk for recipes, canned juices. There are lots of organizers for canned goods which may help contain them. We just set them on the shelves like the grocery store – oldest cans to the front.
- Dried foods – rice, potato flakes, pasta, beans
- Breakfast foods – toaster pastries, smoothie mixes, protein bars, you get the idea
- Party supplies – paper plates, napkins, cups, plasticware
- Food storage items – plastic bags, extra rolls of plastic wrap, foil, wax paper, freezer paper, vacuum-sealer bags, disposable containers for delivering meals
- Trash bags of various sizes for all the cans in your home
4. Set your shelves and arrange contents. Remember to put frequently used items in prime locations.
- Canned goods are typically around the same height. Depending upon the width of your pantry, set a number of shelves at can height, with a little room to slide cans in and out easily.
- Baking items tend to be a little taller – so set that shelf with enough clearance to move bags and boxes easily.
- Dried foods are similarly sized to baking items, so maybe they share a shelf
- Party supplies are bulky, but generally light weight. Put them on a spacious, high shelf.
- If you have a lot of large bottles on the floor, perhaps part of the shelf above the bottles could contain other beverages – canned drinks, drink mixes, cocoa mix, coffee, chocolate syrup.
5. Get creative with storage. Don’t be afraid to look in other departments for storage solutions.
- Shoe bags with clear plastic pockets hold things like Pam, vinegar, oil, cooking wines, bulk spices
- hanging shelves contain paper products
- tool caddy for plastic silverware
- automotive cup holders to organize stacks of cups
- picnic basket for table linens
- soda sorters for canned goods
- milk crates for recycling grocery bags
- wire bin to contain canning jars (light weight, easy to see, carry, etc.)
- baskets to contain bags of rice, beans, etc.
- silverware trays for small boxes (pudding, jello, onion soup mix, icing)
- Lazy Susan for bottles of dressing, oil, spices
- A pamphlet organizer for seasoning envelopes (sloppy joe seasoning, french onion soup mix, italian dressing mix, etc.)
- A CD or cassette rack for small packets
6. Label. Label. Label. If it’s not labeled you’ve wasted your labor.
- Labels can be as simple as marker on painter’s tape (which is low-tack, making it easy to remove without residue later and to rearrange as needed)
- Label makers print crisp, easy-to-read labels. They can be applied directly to the shelf or to a card attached to the shelf.
- Print labels on card stock and cut apart and attach to the shelves with tape.
- As you empty shelves, you’ll forget what you stored there if you don’t have a label.
- Kids, husbands, even visitors can easily stock and/or find items in a well labeled pantry – which means it will stay organized.
- Labels help you maintain inventory – as you empty a spot, you know to add it to a shopping list.
All this organizing will leave you with a great looking, efficient space, but if you don’t have a good system for using this new space, you will have wasted your time. Tune in next week for tips on using your pantry well!
Okay! So now that you’ve found your pantry space, I’m sure you want to get it organized! Not so fast, though! We’ll start organizing next week, but first we need to figure out what should fill it. Once you know what you want in your pantry, you can adjust your shelves to accommodate the height of the items you will store. Then you can start filling the shelves!
So what should go in a pantry? Well, it really depends upon how much space you were able to find.
You might consider:
- Non-perishable foods – pasta, rice, beans, canned goods, chips, crackers, and snack foods, cereals, overstock of sugars, flour, salt, baking soda, unopened yeast, beverage mixes, coffee beans/grounds, oils, cooking spray, unopened bottles of salad dressing, seasonings and herbs, vinegars, sodas, mixers, bottled fruit juice… you get the idea. Pretty much anything that does not require refrigeration and has a long shelf life. We don’t store anything down there that has the seal broken, since our pantry is nowhere near the kitchen. We stock our kitchen food cupboards with open packages and the food we need for the given shopping week, and leave everything else in the pantry. By doing this, we have only one lower cabinet and one upper cabinet in the kitchen devoted to food – leaving lots of other cabinet space for dishes, appliances, etc.
- Large or infrequently used cookware – roasting pans, buckets for brining, baskets for berry/apple picking,
- Party sized platters, bowls, pitchers, and punch bowls
- Extra baggies and wraps – snack, sandwich, quart, gallon bags, and trash bags for each size trash can you have; plastic wrap, foil, parchment paper, wax paper, freezer paper… whatever you use
- A vacuum sealer and bags
- Paper products – napkins, paper towels, even toilet tissue and facial tissues could go here, if you have enough room
- Disposable dinnerware – plates, bowls, platters, plastic forks, knives, and spoons, styrofoam and plastic cups
- Disposable storage containers – I like to keep sour cream containers, margarine tubs, deli meat containers, and foil pans on hand for when we need to deliver a meal to someone else – then there are no dishes to return!
- Table linens – extra table cloths or placemats
- Canning jars and supplies, if you do any canning or preserving
- Cleaning supplies – especially if you buy in bulk
Once you know what you would like to keep in your pantry, you can adjust shelves to the right height and begin to think about what can contain and bring order to the items you want to put in there.
If it’s not organized and contained, you may end up discouraged by the clutter and wasting a lot of food because you simply cannot find it before it expires (yes, non-perishable foods do eventually “perish”).
Next week we’ll begin the task of bringing order to this space and thinking about how to make your pantry use efficient and cost effective.
I think it is time to stop hiding under the bed and move on to the pantry.
Before you close this post because you don’t have a pantry, STOP! Technically, I don’t either. This post is still for you.
The first myth of pantry-dom I’d like to bust is that the pantry has to be in (or near) the kitchen. Our Kitchen is on the main level of our house. We have a room downstairs, in the basement, next to the garage we use as a playroom that houses our hot water heater and air conditioner and heater. It’s a bit bigger than what is needed for these appliances, so we turned it into our extra food storage area.
In it we have a chest freezer, an extra refrigerator (we bought it eight years ago for $35 from govdeals.com), and a wall of open shelving for non-perishable items and paper goods. Well, we also keep infrequently used dishes/pans down there. And I installed a shelf over the freezer (high enough to open the lid – on the second try – lol) where we keep our coolers and buckets for brining turkeys at Thanksgiving.
We call this room “The Market.”
My kids love it when I ask them to run down to “The Market” to get a gallon of milk or a bag of chips. It’s kind of like living in a city over a little market and being allowed to run errands – without getting wet when it’s raining.
So, before we start organizing the pantry, let’s think about spaces where a pantry could exist, for those of us who don’t have one in the kitchen. We need to begin by finding the pantry you don’t have.
The one limit I’d probably place on creativity is bedrooms/bathrooms. I don’t think I’d plan a pantry in a bedroom or bathroom closet, but otherwise, anything is fair game!
- Obviously, a hot water heater closet, if there’s extra space.
- I have a friend who converted her coat closet into a pantry. It’s near the kitchen, but not in the kitchen. You may need to install hooks near the door for coats – yours and guests – but they’ll be easier to access and it gives you a great place to store food!
- A linen closet. You just have to find places to keep the linens. I have ideas for this, too, but those posts are still a few weeks away!
- The junk closet. You know that place where everything you don’t know what to do with, but don’t want to get rid of goes? Get rid of it! Then use the space for a pantry.
- A large armoire placed in the dining room, breakfast nook (we don’t have one of these either), entry way, or some other place near-ish to the kitchen. Just make sure it has solid doors, so you don’t have to look at soup cans and paper towels every time you walk into the house.
- Do you have 4+ inches between your cabinets and refrigerator? I’ve seen pull-out shelves made for that space.
- You could build shelves into the space between the studs in a wall behind the kitchen door. Simply remove the drywall covering the open area, install shelves right into the studs, frame the edges to make it all pretty, and you have floor-to-ceiling shelves that are just deep enough to hold canned goods and boxes of tea, cereal (facing out), pasta, etc.
- What about your laundry room? Is there room in there for open shelving or a tall cabinet with doors?
- Do you have a mudroom? A pantry cabinet in the mudroom is great when you are unloading groceries. And if there’s room for the extra refrigerator, you not only pick up space to store extra refrigerated foods, but can put drinks and snacks in there for the kids. Think about those summer days when they are playing in the sprinkler, get thirsty, and traipse through the house – muddy, grassy feet and all – to get a popsicle. If there is a refrigerator in the mudroom, the mud can stay where it’s expected.
- Don’t forget the garage. Often there is enough space in the garage for an extra refrigerator. Add some workshop shelves for an instant pantry.
- Unfinished basement? If there’s light, it could be a pantry.
- Do you have a covered or screened in porch on the back of the house? The large armoire I mentioned above or a tall closed cabinet could go out there to hold food. Or lockers! Lockers are a great semi-outdoor option. And again, if there’s space for an extra refrigerator, you gain easy access when dining outside, grilling, and for kids when they need a cold drink while playing in the yard.
- And if you want to get really extreme – attic space is always an option. You may not have enough height for a refrigerator up there, but if you are up for a little bit of construction, you could definitely finish a small part of the attic for food storage. Our boys have a play-space carved out of the attic over their room, and while I dreamed of a dumbwaiter to lift them in and out of the hole, we opted for a ladder – not the pull down variety, but solid wood with large, flat steps. We do have a basket on a pulley for lifting things (not people) in and out of that space.
If you’ve lived without a pantry for years, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Why have a pantry? The greatest benefit we experience in having a pantry is saving money. I can buy items in bulk for a discount or stock up when something we regularly use is on sale. Having a place to store it, where I can see what’s there, and begin my weekly “shopping trip” at home saves us hundreds of dollars per year. Really!
It also adds convenience. Having sufficient overstock on hand means I don’t usually have to run out at the last minute for a needed ingredient.
Next week we’ll start talking about how to organize a clutter-free pantry for ease of use and to make sure food doesn’t go to waste.
Okay, a few weeks ago we made the monsters leave the space under the bed to make room for welcome guests.
Today I’d like to look at a lot more ideas to make use of the space under the bed in a kid’s room.
If you aren’t already using it for a mattress for overnight guests, you might like to consider one of these ideas.
- Simple, large drawers on wheels are a great way to contain & store toys in a child’s room.
- Single-tower, cube-style shelves can be installed sideways the full length of the bed to house books – it’s easy to reach a book from bed, and blocks kids from stuffing stuff way in the back.
- If your child has a high bed, there may be space for a secret hide-out under the bed. A shoe shelf can be placed under the bed along the headboard for treasure maps, flashlights, books, games, and other treasures needed in a hide-out. You could install under-cabinet lighting or the little battery-operated touch disks to make it extra fun. Some throw pillows and a blanket will comfortably furnish it, too. And if you don’t like looking at the hide-out, you can use a cable-style curtain rod attached to the bed frame to hang a curtain that can close the whole thing off to the outside world. From a kid’s perspective, that only adds to the coolness factor.
- You can also do a take-off on my office/guest bedroom storage idea: Affix furniture glides to the underside of a large board. Also attach drawer pulls to the side of the board that will face out from the bed. Make sure you sand any rough edges, since this will be used by children. Cover the whole surface with felt, and you have a great pull-out play space for board games, puzzles, train tracks, or low-profile lego cities. The felt helps keep the noise down. 🙂
- You could use the under-bed board idea covered with Lego base plates for a great building surface. Or paint it with roads and buildings as a city or race track for boys who like to play with cars. You could paint farmland for the child who enjoys animals, a jungle for the dinosaur lover, or a pretty garden with walkways and buildings just the right size for her hand-held dolls and animals.
- By keeping it painted and not raised, it really can be used for anything. Throw on a table cloth and you are all set for playing restaurant or having a tea party.
Of course, no children’s room storage idea would be complete if we didn’t suggest a couple of options for clothes.
- Short, but spacious plastic bins really do pull out nicely from beneath a bed, making “drawers” without a dresser. They are all floor level, so even toddlers can safely reach the clothes. You could add pictures to the front of the bin so they can identify which clothes go in which bin, too. Then they can find what they need and help put clean clothes away.
- You could also store dirty clothes baskets beneath the bed.If they are going to stuff dirty clothes under there anyway, you could give them a way to do it that’s actually helpful! However you sort, you could have a different basket for each load (whether it’s whites/lights/darks or one for each person).
- And last, but not least, you could use the space for out-of-season or next-size up clothes. (I’d encourage you to just go ahead and get rid of the ones no one will be able to wear again.) Well labeled bins will keep you from missing clothes at the right size. Storing them in the kid’s room gives access so even the kids can get into the bins when they discover their pants no longer fit.