Tuesday Tip: Pantry Organization Step by Step

My hubby and I spent some time decluttering and reorganizing our pantry over the weekend. I love a good before and after, so here are a couple of very rough before photos taken straight from my Instagram stories.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_1598.jpg

Step 1: We unloaded each shelf, one or two shelves at a time. I didn’t empty the entire contents of the pantry all in one fell swoop. The goal of this project was to create more peace and organization. I knew that if I unloaded the entire pantry and covered every single space of my kitchen and dining room with the items from the pantry, I’d get overwhelmed. First, I took out all the cookbooks and went through them. I wiped down the cookbook shelves and put the cookbooks back. Next, I took all our paper plates, plastic cups, and basically any disposable product out of the pantry and organized them. I wiped down the shelves where they had been stored and put them back.

Step 2: We went through each group of items that we’d removed from the pantry. We dedicated one area of our kitchen as a space to put things that will be donated and placed unused items there. As we worked, Justin would bag things up from this area and take the bags to the garage to eventually donate. We were snowed in during this project. We would typically put the bags of items to donate directly in the back of my van so that I could donate them as soon as possible. That little trick actually helps me a ton. I really don’t like having random bags in the back of my van, which motivates me to take care of donations quickly.

Step 3: We wiped down the shelves and bins that were holding the items we’d gone through. I honestly didn’t think I’d do this at first. I like to think I’m a fairly clean person and felt that I was maybe a bit above needing to wipe out the shelves of my pantry. Pride comes before a fall…the shelves and bins needed to be cleaned out in a bad way!

Step 4: We put everything back in a way that functions well and looks good. This final step is key! To help your storage space make sense, it’s good to group similar items together. I try to keep canned goods, glass bottles and condiments all on one shelf, but in separate groupings. Storing all of my baking supplies in one space brings great efficiency to my pantry. I love these Sterlite bins for open storage, these Oxo containers for baking supplies and this set of chalk markers and labels to keep it all labeled. If you have some serving pieces that you’d like to see, put them on shelves that you can see when you open the door. I stored my cake plate, a vintage cake carrier, some family heirloom wine glasses and a glass trifle dish on my top shelf so that I can see them whenever the pantry door is open. What I don’t see every time I open the door, are two shelves stacked with not-so-pretty large storage containers that I use often. I like that they’re easily accessible, but they’re not in my direct line of sight. We also keep our microwave on one of the side shelves of our pantry. This is purely a personal preference, but it’s a big priority for me and I’ve had my microwave in the pantry of all our homes. I like being able to use it fairly easily, but I don’t want to lose counter space, or over the oven space to a microwave.

Finally, there are a few things that my husband and I do to help us stay on the path to productivity when taking on a big project like this. First, we really try to start early in the day so that we can finish the project by dinnertime, or even bedtime that night. I don’t know about you, but a cleaning project that takes multiple days is not my cup of tea. Secondly, we each take breaks as we go. Our kiddos were in the kitchen just a chitty-chatting with us during this entire process. We both needed to step away from time to time so that we could have patience with the kids and get back to work with renewed energy.

Another thing that really helps me to stay sane and productive when doing projects at home is to not compare my home to others. My home doesn’t need to look like the cover of a magazine. I do love the look of a perfectly appointed pantry, with every single thing decanted and in matching bougie bottles, but that’s just not my reality. I have four kids who are all learning to cook right now. I often cook three homemade, from scratch meals on the daily. I don’t have the time or energy to stop them and say, “oh honey, please empty that dried pasta into the breakable container that’s labeled in Italian, okay?” Maybe that will be my reality someday. When I’m an empty-nester, you can all come and look at my pantry and ask me how I made it so perfect. I’ll tell you that it’s because the kids moved out and quit needing all our money and emotional energy. And one final tip on how to get a big ole project like this done is to try to laugh and have a good time. I know that sounds so cheesy, but it’s true! There are plenty of stressful moments, just ask our kids, but we’ve found that if we can laugh at and with each other, we have more fun and are more productive. Here’s the final after shot of our pantry clean out. Drop me a comment below and share any tips that help you conquer the big projects in your home!

Monterey Spaghetti the Perfect Pandemic Meatless Meal

Almost 15 years ago, our oldest child was born. I was completely overwhelmed by motherhood and my adorably grumpy baby. My precious friend brought me Monterey Spaghetti and it made my new-Mommy angst disappear for at least fifteen glorious minutes. Fast forward to 2007. My baby was sleeping through the night like a champ and I was back to cooking up a storm. A few friends had been begging me to compile my fave recipes, so I compiled them and wrote my own cheesy little cookbook. I recently pulled out the cookbook to make one of the most simple, comforting meals; Monterey Spaghetti. I wrote this cookbook before I had my errrrr….”real food revolution”, so some of the meals are not exactly the most unprocessed meals ever eaten, but they’re still delish and this recipe is no exception!

The night that I made this dish, I needed to bake it in the toaster oven because I was using my everyday oven for baking bread. I have loved this toaster oven! My in-laws got it for us for Christmas and it’s a game changer. It will hold up to a 9’x13″ dish easily and bakes evenly. It’s fairly lightweight, so it’s easy to move around if you’re like me and don’t want to store it on the countertop. I keep mine on the bottom shelf of my pantry.

Here’s the recipe. Let me know if you try it!

Monterey Spaghetti

  • 4 ounces uncooked spaghetti, cooked and drained
  • 1 can french fried onions, divided (optional, or try these for a less-processed version of the normal french fried onions)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1-1/2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded (you can totes sub mozzarella)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the cooked spaghetti, half of the french friend onions, sour cream, spinach, cheeses and garlic powder and place in a buttered two quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, add the remaining french fried onions as a topping and bake for five more minutes. This is tried and true comfort food, y’all. My kiddos enjoyed it and I hope your fam likes it, too! Serves 4. I doubled the recipe for my family of 6 and we had leftovers.

Our Kitchen Renovation, Part Three and We’re Done!

Our Kitchen Renovation, Part Three and We’re Done!

We finished our kitchen renovation a few weeks ago and I’m finally ready to share an update and pictures. If you’d like to see the process, here’s a link to part one of our kitchen renovation and part two of our kitchen renovation. To finish up this stage of our renovation, we needed to:

  • Build and install open shelves to replace the bank of upper cabinets that were removed
  • Build and install shelves to replace an unused desk area directly behind the sink
  • Paint the ceiling…this little job was made necessary by an overzealous bottle of kombucha that exploded all over my kitchen. 
  • Paint the wall behind the open shelves

I’m happy to report that we got every bit of this done and we are loving the result! Here’s the before:

And some after shots:

Overall, we’ve been so pleased with how our renovation turned out. I’m enjoying our quartz counters from Traders Market. They were very reasonably priced and are holding up well. The open shelves make me smile on the daily because I love seeing all my china on display. I also love the lower open shelving. That little space is a power house of storage. One basket holds bread, one basket holds crackers and chips, one basket holds onions and potatoes and one basket holds lunch box snacks. I love the convenience of having each one of those things close by when I’m cooking.

It’s worth noting that my man is a beast who gets it done. He spent hours upon hours working in the kitchen to make my plans come to fruition and I’m so thankful. He even wore a mask before the coronavirus hit! Isn’t he the trend-setter??? It’s been so nice to hear feedback from you all about our kitchen renovation. I can’t thank you enough for following along on our journey.

Tween Room Makeover

Tween Room Makeover

My husband and I recently set aside a day to give our girls’ room a makeover. Our twins have shared a room their whole lives and I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to keep their room organized. Before I jump into how I spruced up their room, I’ll share a few tips on how to tackle your kid’s room.

First things first: toy cycling….if I want my girls’ room to stay neat, I can’t let them keep all their toys out all the time. What this means for our girls is that they have a few big bins of toys that take turns being stored in the top of their closet, or some lesser used toys are stored in the garage or attic. Each bin holds a different category of toys. For example, they have a bin full of dolls and doll accessories, another bin for stuffed animals and another bin for crafts. At some point, the girls will ask to switch out their toys or I’ll notice that they’ve not played with the toys that are in their room. We’ll get the bins down and swap out their toys. This has saved me so much time over the years and it definitely helps my girls keep their room neater.

Another way I’ve kept their room from getting overwhelming is by periodically going through their rooms and getting rid of things that they aren’t using. Sometimes I involve them in this process, and sometimes I don’t. Of course, I don’t get rid of anything that is particularly special to them if I can help it. If you are familiar with the Marie Kondo method, this is what I used when we organized the girls room recently. We brought everything in their room other than clothing and furniture and organized it in our dining room (see below). This process took hours and I really felt like I deserved some type of medal by the time it was done. My hubs and I started out with the girls helping us, but we eventually sent them to go play in another room so that we could really organize all this random stuff.

The girls also have a shelves in their closet where the bulk of their toys are stored. These bins came from Target over 10 years ago and, while they’ve seen better days, they’re still going strong. Quick tip on how I keep my sanity where a kid’s room is concerned: I don’t spend a ton of money on my kid’s rooms. If I want to really invest in a space in my home, it’s usually a main living area or the master bedroom. My kids play in their rooms a lot, so I find it’s best to keep the spaces fairly utilitarian. In the bins below my girls have stored makeup, crafts, hair bows, shopkins and who even knows what else? Note the bookshelf in the right of this picture. I intentionally left a good part of the shelf empty. I know this space will eventually be filled with something, be it library books or art projects. Keeping space open in our kiddo’s rooms gives them space to breathe and gives us the freedom to not feel like the room is packed to the gills.

Lastly, I highly recommend being very choosy about kid’s clothes. A child’s room can be overrun by clothes in a hurry. My kiddos each have a smallish chest of drawers and I try to keep their clothing limited to what will fit in their chests and what will hang loosely in their closets.

As for decorating their room, I bought them new curtains and rearranged their furniture just a bit. Before we spruced up their room, I had a chest of drawers on each side of the room, but their long, narrow room felt crowded. I moved the two chests together and hung a photo ledge that my husband made years ago above the chests. I styled the ledge with artwork that was already in their room. Hanging the ledge above the chests unifies the two pieces to make them look like one unit. This also helps the room to feel more open and airy.

For their bedding, we’ve had good luck with these soft sheets from Amazon. I made their quilts for them a couple years ago and my sister knitted beautiful afghans at the foot of their beds. Again, I keep their bedding very simple. We have duvets and duvet covers that they use in the winter, but for now they are folded and in the closet.

We bought the majority of their bedroom furniture at a local furniture store that is now out of business. The girls’ desk was made by a cabinet-maker several years ago and we got their desk chairs at TJ Maxx.

Revamping my girls’ room has been such a fun process. I mostly used what I already had on hand, with the exception of buying new curtains. They are enjoying having a freshened-up space and they’ve each thanked my husband and I multiple times for helping them get better organized.

Below is the design board that I created for this space. I had such a good time pulling all of these elements together in a simple, kid-friendly, inexpensive way. If you need me to help design your kiddo’s room, shoot me a message and we’ll work together to create a space that you and your kiddo will love.

Light and Airy Master Bedroom Redesign for The Thorpe Family

Light and Airy Master Bedroom Redesign for The Thorpe Family

When my dear friend, Catherine, came to me and asked me to help her with her master bedroom, I immediately said yes. Catherine’s home is absolutely lovely, but like most of us, she’d put off decorating her master bedroom in favor of taking care of other areas of the house. We worked together remotely for a couple months and I installed the final design just a few weeks ago. Here’s a before shot for reference.

Master Bedroom Before

Let’s take a minute to talk about the before picture. Catherine had already chosen some great pieces on her own. I love her bedside lamps and the super fun acrylic ceiling fan (because hello, this is Arkansas people, we gotta have ceiling fans). We’d picked the rug together but I didn’t see it in the room till the day of the install. This is a really great example of a rug being too small and not quite the right color for the room. Mixing warm beige carpet and a cool grey rug just did not work in this space. It made the room look cluttered and unfinished. Catherine had already decided she didn’t love the rug, so I took it out, with the help of my trusty assistant, my dear, sweet Nana. While we’re talking about rugs, it’s worth noting that placing a rug on top of existing carpet is not always an easy fix. Catherine plans to eventually replace the carpet in this room with hardwood flooring. The existing carpet, on it’s own, was a better fit for the room than trying to make a rug work. This is a great example of the less is more approach. Choosing to remove the rug actually made the room look more put together and feel more peaceful.

Master Bedroom After

Once the rug was out of the way, I added in some art that the Thorpe’s bought while traveling that I’d had framed at Hobby Lobby. I replaced their duvet cover with a simple white cotton duvet and replaced the Euro sham covers as well, both from Bed, Bath and Beyond. Catherine and I found the throw and the pink lumbar pillows, both from Homegoods, and the patterned lumbar pillows, from Hobby Lobby, on shopping trips together.

The Anthropologie drapes are one of my favorite finishes in the room and one of the first purchases we made during this project. The drapes set the tone for us as we chose the remaining finishes. Catherine chose the art between the windows on her own and it compliments the space well.

Opposite the bed is a fireplace and a cozy sitting area. Catherine had already done a great job choosing chairs and a coffee stand in the corner with it’s own Keurig, complete with all things morning coffee. Catherine and I found the pillows during a Homegoods trip. The Thorpes had several pieces of art that they’d purchased while traveling and I had most of it framed at Hobby Lobby with ready-made frames or with semi-custom frames during a big sale.

The Thorpes had recently had family pictures taken and I was able to frame several great pics of their crew. I used this frame from Target in several different sizes for a very custom look at a great price.

The dresser on the wall opposite the windows was a great place to style with more art from the Thorpe’s travels. Again, I used the Target frames linked above and I love the way they turned out.

While I was steaming the duvet and euro shams and doing all the things that come with sprucing up a bedroom, my Nana was carefully placing most of the pictures and pieces of artwork into frames. She helped me every step of the way and we had such a great time working together. When she was done helping with the pictures, I found her downstairs cleaning the Thorpe’s kitchen. This woman is gold and I hope to be more like her!

My Trusty Assistant and Me

The most rewarding part of this project was seeing the joy on Catherine’s face when she saw the completed room. She was and is so thrilled with her master bedroom. Catherine is a business owner, her sweet husband is a doctor and they have three kiddos. To say that these two hard-working people need a peaceful retreat is an understatement. I’m so thankful that my dear friends let me play a small role in creating a soft place to land in their home. Look for a blog post soon about how we brought some life and order into the Thorpe’s master bathroom.