Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Spring Cleaning - Kitchen

After my first ever spring cleaning burst, I have been seriously enjoying how clean my bathroom is. It made me happy every single time I walked in there, and I wanted the rest of the house to feel the same. But I knew that on my own, I would fizzle out and stop cleaning pretty quickly, so I went looking for some help.

I found the amazing blog A Bowl Full of Lemons and they are here to save the day! The whole blog is all about cleaning, organizing, planning and prepping. It's a beautiful, beautiful place. At first, I was a little overwhelmed, but at the top of the page is a lovely little button titled Where to Begin. She says before you start organizing, you need a clean house, and she gives you a one week plan to a cleaner home. Each task is small, simple and quick, but if you do them all every day, your house will stay cleaner.

M was a little concerned that I was going to try to clean the whole house in a week, but these are all surface tasks, like cleaning off the kitchen counters, doing a load of laundry, and wiping down the bathroom sink. If you keep up with them, you don't have to do a major overhaul of cleaning, and you have a clean house. So my goal is to keep up with these for as long as possible.

The next step is 14 weeks to a completely organized house. It's a little intense, I know, but I'm really excited to start. Each week is a different room, and the blog walks you through steps to completely clean and organize each room. At the end of 14 week (3 months!) your entire house will be organized! How rewarding is that?


Week 1 is the kitchen, which is daunting, but necessary. Also, I find that when my kitchen is clean, I feel better and want other rooms to be clean. So I'm glad to start here, in the hub of the home.

I started on Saturday, because I worked 52 hours from Monday to Friday, so Saturday was my first opportunity to start. Even though I've been keeping my kitchen clean this week, here is what it looked like first thing Saturday morning:

Besides the back corner, it's clean. That back corner and I have been locked in battle since we moved here. When we don't know what to do with a dish, it goes there. Got a brand new set of wine glasses, but there's no room in the cupboard? Back corner. Coffee maker we don't use, but we need to keep in the house? Back corner. Christmas themed tins that need a home until next Christmas? Back corner. And so on and s on. But besides that, the kitchen is clean! The rest of the counters are fairly clear, the stove is clean, the sink is empty.

The cupboards and drawers weren't terribly bad, but they did have a few problems:

Problem #1: I haven't done a deep clean since going gluten-free. There could be (and were) bread crumbs in a lot of the cupboards.

Problem #2: I collected a bunch of mason jars and glass bottles with big plans to be one of those crunchy mamas who makes everything at home. Never got around to most of it, and they are taking up most of a cupboard.

Problem #3: We've lived here for two years, and there are items we've never used.

Problem #4: As we have collected more items, any organization system has gone to the dogs, and I need to start all over.

So step one of this program was to remove everything from all cupboards, drawers and clutter and sort it into categories on the kitchen table. I woke up early Saturday morning to get started on this. By mid-afternoon on Saturday, my dining room looked like this:

Yes, I have three dining tables. And this is the second time I've been very grateful for this. The center table (the white one) is all stuff I want to get rid of. The far right table (the black one) are all "common dishes" that I knew needed to go right back in the cupboard once I cleaned it, and then the brown table and the floor is everything else. How do I have this much stuff?? At the same time, though...

 Wow. Right? Walking into this room felt like a big sigh. Ah. It felt so good. I could have just left it like this for awhile, except that my dining room was getting hard to navigate.

I spent a couple hours scrubbing everything. There was not a dirty surface in my kitchen by dinner time. Well, except the couple areas I pretended didn't exist while I did this project (under the sink, the fridge, my laundry closet).

Once everything was clean, I dug out my contact paper. Over a year ago, I bought a whole bunch of self-adhesive shelf liner, with big plans to line every shelf and drawer. Ah, good intentions. Any of the shelves that could be removed or were often empty got lined, but I never had the time, drive or energy to remove everything and line every shelf. So I got that done. I lined most of the drawers too. I managed to use up all of the contact paper too, so that's one less thing in storage.

I also removed every label from my kitchen. When we moved in two years ago, I laboured over these labels, and I loved them so much. I loved that everything was organized into named categories, and I loved that the three men I lived with (we had two male renters at the time) could find everything and put everything away again. I loved that friends could come over and find anything in my kitchen with ease. One time, I let a couple friends borrow my oven while I was at work and I came home to find they had washed all my dishes and put them away, because everything was labelled. But after two years, the labels were realistically obsolete. In a little while, I might put new ones up, but I also decided that it looks a little nicer without all the blue strips of tape on everything.

So sad...
At the point that everything was lined and cleaned, I slowly started putting things back in the kitchen.

Honestly, this probably took the most time. I thought carefully about how much we use certain items, how we use our kitchen, how easy it is to access certain areas, and how big our items are. I put cupboards together, and then rearranged everything somewhere else. I took a lot of breaks at this point, partly because I was running out of steam, and partly because I wanted so badly for everything to be perfect, so I let myself take a lot of time.

This is our "common dishes" cupboard, right above the dishwasher (and the microwave). It stayed virtually the same, because it works really well for us, both in location, and in how things are organized. I did get rid of most of the mason jars from the top shelf (previously half the shelf - now there are two jars in there) and several of our large plates, which we hardly ever use. And of course, I cleared off the microwave (the silver surface in the bottom of the photo).

I didn't take a before picture of either of these drawers, but they didn't really change much either. The silverware drawer needed to be cleaned - there were crumbs in there. It bothered me for awhile, but I was too lazy/unmotivated. So I washed every utensil and the tray, and lined the drawer underneath. The utensil drawer (on the left) just got cleaned and put back together. The measuring cups and measuring spoons had slowly escaped their collections, so I gathered everything back together again.

This one was labelled Drinks, Snacks & Sandwiches, but now it is just snacks. Once upon a time, it housed our peanut butter, honey, jam and a loaf of bread, but I don't eat sandwiches anymore, so somehow that shelf turned into all of my gluten-free flours, which were just piled on top of each other. Awful, isn't it? The juice crystals are still on the top shelf, and the other shelves will hold chips, crackers, pretzels and whatever other snacks we have on hand.

The tea, spices and baking cupboard was the biggest one for me. One of the cupboard doors broke off this one awhile back, while I was baking, and our landlords haven't fixed it yet. Yes, we could, but we haven't. Oh well. The problem is that this cupboard has always been one of those "let's shove everything in and close the door" places. Without a door, it makes my kitchen look really messy. Every now and then, I try to organize everything (notice all the labeled jars?), but it never lasts. So everything came out of this cupboard and totally different stuff went in. Since the cupboard is near my KitchenAid, I wanted my mixing bowls and measuring cups and food processors. The first aid/medication place has always been the middle shelf (on the left, behind some spices), so I bought a couple green bins at the dollar store and created a better medical area. I have a bin of vitamins, a bin of first aid, a bin of cough/cold and allergy medication, a bin of prescription meds, and a misc bin. I don't know how long it will last, but I love it now! I chose to keep my mixing bowls here, because something has to show, and my pretty coloured glass bowls are one of the better options.

This is my other door-less cupboard. This one has never had a door, and that means it always collects the extras. It's got the alcohol, because we didn't know where else to put it when we first had alcohol on hand. It has bag clips, toothpicks, and empty jars. The big slow cooker found a home there because it was the only place it could fit. Then I collected the other three there for a sense of solidarity. They all stayed put because I like how easy it is to get them out (when I'm making dinner in a slow cooker, I'm going for speed and ease) and the big one fits! My Griddler has always been a problem as well. It's always had a home, but the cupboard door never quite closed. I solved that by moving it to a cupboard that doesn't have doors. Oh, and the same goes for the metal mixing bowls! Not only does my new giant metal bowl fit, but now they're right over top of my KitchenAid. Win-win.

You know how I said that the baking and spice shelves never seem to be under control? Yeah. Still aren't. The before photo almost looks better. I wanted to buy a couple extra jars for the rest of my gluten-free flours, but I couldn't find the kind I already have, so that'll wait. I did buy a little basket and the spices are now contained, but the baking supplies always look like an explosion, even though the new cupboard is bigger. At least I got the baking and the flours in the same one now! The top shelf is mostly empty, and may accumulate miscellaneous baking things over time.

This was probably the most dire cupboard in the kitchen. The only time I've opened it lately is to fish out an ice cube tray, or shove one back in there. It housed my ridiculous collection of mason jars, to-be-upcycled containers, and appliances I never used (I had a yogurt maker!). I got rid of everything except my ice cube trays, which moved to the top shelf. I found it hard to decide what to do with this cupboard, because of the shape. It's very big, but things tend to end up in the back where no one can find them. So the middle shelf is travel mugs and water bottles, and the bottom shelf is Rubbermaid containers, both on the theory that we don't need the ones in the back until the front ones are gone. :)

This cupboard used to house my small appliances, but the Griddler kept the door a little bit open, I have never used the George Foreman beside it, the big blender hasn't been used since we got a bullet-style blender, and the yellow ice crusher has never been used either. Since I found a new home for my Griddler and my food processor, that left this cupboard completely empty. I decided it would house my coffee! I set up my coffee machine and kettle on the counter below it, and the moved all my coffee (filters, favourite mugs and sugar included) and tea to this one. It still looks a little cluttered. I need a better system for our tea collection, and maybe I should get rid of a pitcher. Oh! And the top shelf now houses all the alcohol.

There's no before picture for this one, but this little drawer used to have our pots in it, but we bought new pots and they no longer fit. I put my baking dishes in there instead, and without the moustache pan, everything fits perfect, but there is no way I'm getting rid of my moustache pan!

These pans and cuttings boards used to live with the above baking dishes in an awkward cupboard that had a pipe going up the middle of it. Now they are conveniently in a large drawer. I want some tension rods to keep all the pans separate and easier to grab, but I couldn't find any. Someday.

These are the pots that used to "fit" in that tiny drawer. Now they're all in a big drawer, right next to the stove. Our kitchen has two large drawers like this, so they've always been our tenants space to keep whatever they want. Since one of the tenants moved out, and we decided not to try to rent out that bedroom, I commandeered the drawer back. I'm worried that if we find someone to live there, I'll have to relocate my pots and strainers, but for now, it works.

The last cupboard in the house is the one above the stove. When we moved in, the previous tenant had left a collection of wine glasses in here. We didn't have much for wine glasses, so we kept them and didn't move them. As we collected more wine, martini and shot glasses, this poor cupboard became quite full, and our latest set of wine glasses just sat on the counter! We went through it and agreed to get rid of everything we didn't buy. Suddenly, everything fit perfectly! Funny how that happens.

So that's all of the spaces. There are a few places you didn't get to see. I have two large cupboards under the counter, which together make up our pantry, which will be another week's project. I also didn't clean under the sink, or the fridge, which I will try to get around to. And the far edge of my kitchen is our laundry space, which is also another week's project. Since I don't have a full-sized pantry or a real laundry room, maybe I'll combine these projects into one week.

Once everything was back in the cupboards and drawers, the counter-top items went back in too.

My coffee machine and kettle have a new home and I switched which side the drainboard goes on (and I do keep my drainboard on the counter. When I hide it under the sink, dishes don't get washed as often). I wiped down the toaster and cleaned it as well as I can. The paranoid celiac inside of me wants to throw it out, but I know other people who live here like toasting bread. I also want to buy a new toaster to dedicate gluten-free, but I buy GF bread so infrequently that I can just toast my bread in the oven.

The other corner has my paper towel, fruit bowl and KitchenAid. And beside the stove, I now have a little metal tray to hold my oils, salt and pepper. Hopefully a little tray will keep them together. I still have my knife block, utensil carousal  and spice rack on the counter as well.

So, all in all, this whole project took me a day and a half. I started Saturday morning and committed my whole day Saturday to it. I finished off on Sunday, in between shopping (for things to organize with) and a few other errands. By Sunday night, everything was done. Hopefully, I can work on the next 13 weeks of the program at the same speed!

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