Tag Archives: glass jars

More improvements to my small, organized kitchen

It’s been two years since I posted about how I organize my small kitchen. In the past week or so I’ve been working on the kitchen to make it even better and I’d love to show you! While I definitely have a good bit of leeway, I am a renter (and don’t live alone) so  I’m not in a position to start ripping out cabinets and installing new fixtures. Still, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and want it to be as attractive and useful as possible.

Here’s the view from outside the kitchen. I made the tall shallow cabinet seen on the left of the kitchen entryway. It serves as a pantry. It’s shallow, about 9″ so it doesn’t take up much space and yet holds a lot.

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This summer I added the “stone wall” paper, leftover from another project, to the half-wall. I loved how it made it look more substantial.  This week I thought to add another piece to the wall holding the clock. Someone threw out that fabulous orangey-red chair and I added an orange cushion given to me by another person (she gave me two). It is super comfy and a very solid piece of furniture.

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Here’s a different view from outside the kitchen.

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Many years back I found the wood for the cabinet to the left of the stove, where else but, tossed out by the side of the road. It’s a peculiar manufactured wood that I hadn’t encountered before. The outside looks like the real thing, attractive finished lumber, but the inner core is hollow. Initially I made a long, low two-shelf that was in the living area. When I found something better I was able to eliminate my need for it there and sawed it down and made a higher, narrower unit. I was using it in its current space next to the stove but I had incorporated both an unmatched top board and shutter-type doors. Basically it was Frankenstein furniture, cobbled together with various pieces. It was also a tad too wide for the space. I got tired of looking at it and yesterday I completely took it apart and remade it into the 24″ wide cabinet you see here.

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The bottom piece looks like a decorative flat front, one I covered with the same wall paper seen in above photos. However, it’s actually a door I added to hide 6 full size paint cans stored behind it on the floor. (I discovered the hard way that paint should be stored at room temperature.)

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Here’s a long view. I guess you’d call this a galley kitchen? Not sure how narrow a space has to be to earn that title but as you see, it’s a relatively small space. Those are my pasta boxes over the window – I take my pasta seriously! (And there’s more stored elsewhere.) To the left of the window are open shelves I made for holding laundry products as the washing machine is right there.

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There is little counter space so the washer has to do its part as it did one day last week when I made pancakes in “peg leg” skillet”. (Note the front right leg is actually a long screw as is one other leg.)

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Previously I had introduced the color red into the kitchen and while I liked it, I ultimately decided I’d gone too far with it and should tone it down. A little red goes a long way – I see that now! I made the cup and spice racks a long time ago and painted them fire-engine red some years ago. Last week I put a coat of primer over them as well as the dowel for hanging kitchen tools. I am much happier with this white; it’s just more polished especially with the blue back splash I made from glass tiles I got from Freecycle. I had too many colors going on even for a cheerful, busy kitchen. While it’s still busy it’s cleaner-looking. (A side note: the stove is 20″ wide to give you an idea of size.)

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I also put primer on the narrow strips at the top and bottom of all the white cabinets, which had previously been brown. The underside of the cabinets, which are made of some sort of manufactured wood, were also that brown shade. It’s not attractive and I realized, especially after I saw how even eliminating the red cup and spice racks made the space look brighter, that it was likely absorbing light. I put on a coat of primer and will likely either add another or a coat of regular white.

The cabinets initially had no door pulls and I added my own, red wood knobs. I took those off and finally used door pulls I found almost two years ago. They’re so pretty but I just hadn’t figured out the best way to use them before now. I only had the four so I’ve put white knobs on the other cabinets.

I made a place for a dish cloth by screwing in hooks and adding a plastic chopstick to the bottom of the spice rack. I made a similar towel rack on the cabinet door below the sink with hooks and a dowel. I did have a regular towel rack there but it had started to rust so I recycled it. This new version doesn’t stick out quite as far and I like that, especially given how much time I spend at that sink (um, A LOT).

In the fall I tackled the clutter that resides, as it does for many people, under the kitchen sink. I was tired of bending over and rooting around in the dark space trying to find a particular item. Using scrap wood I made narrow, shallow open shelves on the opposite wall (under the wall lamp) to hold the products used most often. This allowed me to tidy up what remains under the sink. I figure eventually I will remake the unit with nicer wood and maybe even add a door but for now, this has been very handy.

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The very tall red-door cabinet next the small open shelves was one of the first things I ever added to the kitchen (what else but…ROADSIDE FIND!). It didn’t have a door so I added one (it too could stand to be replaced but it’s not pressing). The cabinet almost reaches the ceiling and holds a lot of stuff (such as more pasta!)

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Beyond it, next to the window are high, open shelves I made for food stored in glass containers. The top row houses my glass Mr. Peanut Planters jars. Hoo boy, am I glad I hung onto them! Glass jars are a thing of the past for peanuts and they’re such a great size for storage.

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Speaking of glass jars… I have previously admitted to being a bit of a glass jar hoarder. (I get nervous that food will eventually not be sold in glass at all.) It’s difficult for me to toss glass jars; they seem like they’ll be useful but I had more jars than I had room to keep them. I have made a new commitment to only save what I can fit into this plastic bin (which is stored on top of the main cabinets).

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Below the glass jar shelves I made very rudimentary shelves to hold the microwave, a small toaster oven, the trash can and a container for recyclable cans, jars, plastic, etc. This isn’t very pretty but it’s serviceable and not in a highly visible area. Also- I’ve made a new commitment not to leave any  junk on the wood counter (as I previously committed to with the dining table), so any miscellaneous stuff I have hanging around because I intend to use it soon – recipes, jars that need refilling, etc – will go here.

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I also removed the clutter from the top of the cabinets and found other places to store those items (string lights, plastic to go over windows in winter, holiday decorations). In their place I added a few decorative pieces. This is a panoramic shot which is why part of it looks scrunched together.

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The lion has found a spot by the pots & pans to hold rubber bands.

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I had a shelf holding two large cooking pots in the space over the kitchen “pass-through” and I have to admit I whacked my head on it by leaning too far into the space more than once. That wasn’t why I decided it should go but I found another spot for the pots (on the top of the cabinet above the washing machine) and eliminated the shelf. I really like how open it now looks. On the opposite side of the wood counter I have low shelves for dishes and simple curtains to cover the area and keep dust out.

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Making all these little improvements has made my life better and I walk into the kitchen and look around with pleasure, ready to start cooking.

EDIT: After I posted this I got one more good idea. As there are no – no – closets, it can be tricky to find storage spaces. One end of the kitchen houses a large, squat water heater that isn’t very attractive. That’s where I store brooms, mops, buckets, and a vacuum cleaner. My idea was to put a curtain in front of it to hide the area, but still leave it easily accessible. Much better!

NOTE: Please forgive a delay in responding to comments. I love to hear them but am having internet issues and won’t see them right away.

My “stuff” isn’t getting the better of me any more

Probably like (too) many things, we first learn about “stuff” [tilts head toward the late George Carlin] from our parents. My parents hung onto their stuff. There were two generations between us – they could have been my grandparents age-wise and had lived through the U.S. Great Depression – and I have to think that affected how they approached their belongings. They weren’t of the same exact mindset and that was but one of the things which caused friction between them. (Note to self: Only cohabitate with people who share your attitudes about stuff.)

I grew up believing that a person could have one nice thing of a type for “special” (that was almost never allowed to be used be it shoes, a piece of jewelry, a dish, a dress), and the rest had to be kinda crappy or run-of-the-mill. I learned to hang onto things, because you just never know. And: don’t be wasteful. Contrary to increasingly popular attitudes about scaling back and getting rid of things you don’t need, when I was coming up, the message (from what I heard and read in articles & books) was about how to keep things. But there’s only so many pencil holders made from tricked out tin cans a gal can use.

Over the course of my life, I’ve moved a lot. I don’t mean around the country, but the way a typical renter moves a lot. And I hauled all my sh*t with me. It just didn’t occur to me that I could let things go. I felt an obligation to keep every stuffed animal given to me by old boyfriends, friends or relatives (even though I didn’t really like having them, or so darn many of them past the age of 20 or so); every greeting card, everything I’d made, every knick-knack, almost every present received. It wasn’t as if I was toting around heirlooms, antiques, and things that would appreciate in value. (As I told a cousin who expressed regret over possibly having tossed out too many things, if they were gold bricks you would have saved them.) I’ve kept house plants that were ailing and/or I didn’t like. It’s a plant, a living thing: you can’t throw that out! I kept broken or substandard things: you might be able to fix it one day. Or it’s good enough (and here’s the uncomfortable, then-unconscious part: …for you.)

I never lived in squalor. I always cleaned. But I couldn’t always lay my hands on things I was looking for; my shelves were stacked with books and knick-knacks, my closets were full, my paper files plentiful. Every time I saw certain items – things from the past, broken stuff, things that were once nice, jewelry I no longer wore, things I’d hauled home with the thought of one day making something with them, magazines and books I hadn’t read (yet) – I felt twinges of guilt or unease. Those were familiar sensations, part of the diet I was fed from a very young age, and had been toting around for years. Applying them to my belongings was largely my own doing. (Feelings are always in need of outlets are they not?! We just look around for what’s at hand.)

As I started to look at myself differently – from reading, from thinking, from growing up – I started to look at the stuff differently too. Part of what motivated me was being involved in dismantling the households and possessions of a few people who had died. There is nothing like seeing what another person has held onto to shock you into action. Looks like THEY never found a use for 20 old glass jars. As I mentioned in one of my earliest posts, I saw a garage belonging to a woman I know that was almost empty. It housed a car and almost nothing else. I was so impressed! I watched public personalities like the quirky, common-sensical Peter Walsh, clutter master, and too cute designer Nate Berkus, on TV. I couldn’t relate to the shopping habits and hording I saw in many of the people profiled, but the basic principals I could. I read books from the library: Throw Out 50 Things, Peter Walsh’s books, and others.

What these people said made sense. It’s like they gave me the permission I’d been seeking. I remember one author mentioning that a shelf didn’t have to be filled. Maybe it’s terribly obvious, but that had never occurred to me before. I felt huge relief in letting things go. It became a game and a challenge (and I love both!). What else can I get rid of? I wanted to look around and only see things that pleased me. It wasn’t about money. It didn’t require a bunch of spending, so much as getting creative. Raising my standards. I stopped accepting substandard stuff from other people, both tangible and not. And not to get too metaphaphysical on you, but as I did this, better stuff came along when I needed it.

Don’t imagine I now live in a museum, stark and bare, the kitchen stocked with a simple bowl and a single spoon, the shelves stripped, no knick-knacks or houseplants in evidence. Not at all. I like having pictures on the wall, plants in every room, knick-knacks on shelves, and a couple time-saving devices in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be pricey or high-end. Comfortable, organized, and attractive is the goal. I need a place that makes me feel cozy and safe and at ease. I need pretty. But I’m mindful and careful now. The whole kit and caboodle requires maintenance, needs me to be vigilant and keep my eyes on the prize.