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baking season adI saw them setting up the Christmas isle in Target yesterday. Holy smokes! Yes, the holidays are just around the corner. Baking, parties, family gatherings and big dinners are a part of the fabric of many families during the holiday season. Ask yourself-

Is my kitchen ready for baking?

Would I feel comfortable having holiday guests?

There is plenty of time to schedule a free consultation with Vacaville Organizer before the “holiday hustle” begins.

Why not give yourself a little help this year? 

Most of us juggle work, sport schedules, demanding careers, family obligations, children, church responsibilities and community work. There is a lot on your plate. Vacaville Organizer would be honored to set up your pantry, get those counters cleared, find a home for all your paperwork, get your laundry room functioning better, clear out the toys to make way for Santa’s offerings and shrink your personal “to do” list. You work hard and deserve a bit of help too.

We hire other professionals in our life to support us. An organizer is simply another member of the team.

Gardeners, accountants, piano teachers, repair people, house keepers, dog groomers, hair stylists and the list goes on of people who are our “helpers”. Many people don’t realize how a professional organizer can help. Some of my recent projects included:

  • setting up a baking center
  • organizing two decades of back-logged business paperwork
  • creating gorgeous pantries (our specialty)
  • a linen closet over-haul
  • making a laundry room function
  • creating a drop-zone for a busy family

There is never any judgement. I often work independently, after the client has given instructions, so you do not even have to be present for the entire work day. Your identity can remain closely guarded. Some of the clients I work for never want a photo taken or others to know that I was there…working behind the scenes. I love making others look good!

An “organizational boost” can make all the difference.

Sometimes my work with a client is just the little “organizational boost” they need to feel better about their space. Once we complete one area together, I often hear back from them and they have gone on to complete other areas on their own with great success. They are excited, energized and full of hope.

Families are busier than ever. My clients are accomplished mothers/fathers, business owners and professionals. An organizer’s support simply gives them more time to devote to the more important areas of life, while I quickly catch them up on the clutter back-log that occurs when families are busy.

Professional organizing services are more affordable than you may think.

Local consultations are free. From there, a few hours of support may be all you need to take a deep breath and cross off a big area on your to-do list.

Vacaville Organizer’s services make a great gift.

This season we have beautiful, new gift certificates that are ready for gift-giving. This is the one gift that won’t end up at the back of that cluttered closet! I would love to talk with you about your ideas for business client, friend and family gifts.

It really is that easy. I know that this holiday season can be one that you can enjoy, free from stress. Vacaville Organizer can assist you with your mental list that is already beginning to grow. I would love to talk with you today through my Facebook Page, text/telephone at (530)902-5960, company website or this blog. Let’s chat about my favorite topic….your organizational projects and ideas!

Happy “almost” holidays and happy organizing!

-Lorinda, owner of Vacaville Organizer

 

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Food Storage Containers…You Need LESS

Food storage containers

I promise you that you need less food storage containers than you think.

Open your food storage cabinet and take a peek for yourself. I can give a pretty good guess what it will contain:

  • A huge stack of disposable containers
  • A pile of mis-matched Rubbermaid bowls. You have about half of the matching lids
  • A few good TupperWare pieces. You only have one or two of these lids. You know where each of these came from.
  • Most of the contents are stained.
  • Over half of the storage containers have dishwasher spots and very visible wear.

You will insist that you need ALL of them for various reasons. 

I can attest that you do not need all the food storage containers in your cupboard. Perhaps you will argue that you do. Here’s a few points to consider.

How many left-overs do you have, at one time, in your refrigerator?

If you are like most of my clients, you have about two meals worth of left-overs that are fit to consume in your refrigerator. You would need just a handful of food storage containers to accommodate this many meals.

Letting go of excess food containers frees up valuable kitchen space.

When I help clients evaluate spacial concerns in the kitchen, I like to gravitate to the food storage cabinet. Inevitable, there is lost space to claim if careful editing and organizing is done here. Very often, food storage frustrates the client and the containers get tossed “willy nilly” in frustration and end up taking up a lot of space. That space could be used for so many other things that would benefit the client more in terms of kitchen storage and meal preparation.

How often do you do the dishes?

Most of us do the dishes every day or pretty close to that. There is no need to keep a month’s worth of food storage containers in reserve, just in case the ones we are using are dirty. In fact, since food storage containers are so much easier (and more pleasant) to clean right after they are used, keep the bare minimum and wash out what you used if you need to refill them. Once again, this helps with storage as well.

I need to keep a huge stash for my family to use for packing lunches. In fact, I have two sets of everything…the old, disgusting set that goes to work/school and my “real” food storage pieces.

Do you realize how many pieces were are talking about? This mindset will fill your cabinets and drawers in a hot second! A few, inexpensive plastic pieces are reasonable to keep for this purpose. Consider having enough for each member of your household to pack one lunch…no more. Additionally, this “disposable” mindset conveys to the family members that you don’t care about the food storage pieces because there are so many. Who cares if they empty their lunch boxes when there are 100 more containers in the cupboard? Who would even notice if they lost your nasty, old CoolWhip container?

What if (gulp…) I don’t have enough storage pieces after I purge?

I can see the look of terror in your eyes. Firstly, this will enable you to know what sizes you truly are missing. Are you running low on a piece to put extra salad in? Is it a larger container for a side dish you are missing? Maybe you need a container to take a left-over to work. Instead of purchasing large sets with many sizes you will never use, consider purchasing the sizes you truly need. There is very little difference in cost because you are only investing in the food storage pieces you use most. Additionally, if you really get in a pinch and the panic begins to set in, you can:

  • use disposable storage bags as a temporary solution for many items. This actually can conserve refrigerator space if you need to store a lot of leftovers.
  • clean your fridge and reclaim storage containers by dumping unused left-overs. We all have them.
  • Canning jars make wonderful storage containers for many items. Don’t be afraid to get creative when you are in a pinch.
  • Cover a plate/dish with wrap or foil until the proper container can be acquired.

I don’t want to spend a lot of money.

I hear you. Food storage doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t have to buy everything you need at once. Once you have determined what you use and need, I would advise you to also consider five important points:

  1. Buy square or rectangular pieces. They maximize the space in your fridge and lunch boxes. They also stack much better in your refrigerator and cupboard.
  2. Purchase glass storage containers for left-overs. They are a little more expensive up front, but will not stain or get that “container funkiness” that plastic often does. Glass is dishwasher friendly, doesn’t leach chemicals when you warm it up and will last exponentially longer than plastic.
  3. Research before you buy a big set of anything. Check on Amazon reviews or with friends. What sets wear well and avoid leaking? If you really won’t use all the pieces in a larger set, consider gifting the extras to someone else or purchase the pieces you need individually.
  4. Ensure that your food storage containers are easy to clean and store. You want a type of container that is easy to maintain. Consider where you will be storing these new containers and make sure there is room to spare. A few dollar store baskets to contain lids or small, lunch containers is often helpful.
  5. If you have difficulty using your hands or small children will be using the containers, make sure that the latches are easy to open and close.

With the holidays approaching, I will need to be prepared for baking and large gatherings with reserve containers.

I advise my clients to purchase disposable containers for each event and not to store extras. Who wants to have Holiday themed GladWare set stuffed in their cupboards for the other 11 months of the year–just to be sure you have enough on hand in December? With the exception of clients who live in remote areas, far from shopping resources, consider purchasing disposable storage containers with your specific event in mind. This will enable you to also get the exact sizes and patterns you will need and not “make do” with whatever you discover in the back of your TupperWare cabinet.

Place more value on what you have and you need to own less. Toss those food storage pieces.

Here are some resources for left-over storage solutions. (Plastic may be preferable for packing lunches/child use.)

These are not affiliate links.

Amazon 20 Piece Snapware set

Amazon PopIt 12 Piece Storage Set

Amazon Glasslock 4-Piece Rectangle Set

Happy Organizing!

-Lorinda with Vacaville Organizer

Darling Dollar Store Pantry

Is the biggest obstacle standing between you and organizing your pantry money? Perusing Pinterest would give you the impression that it can be expensive to give the heart of the kitchen-the pantry-a facelift. Take heart..today’s post features a darling pantry done on a dime. What I like most about this pantry is the cute client’s sunny personality shining through. Let’s take a quick peek:

Robertsoncover#1

Like every good project, there is a beginning and happy ending to the organizing story. I share with you the beginning to let you know that you are not alone in your efforts to keep your pantry organized. This organized client’s pantry has to serve a busy family and gets used on a daily basis. Considering the function of a pantry is foremost.

Robertsonbeforenafter

After a client assessment, this on-the-ball client didn’t wait for me to get started. She emptied the entire pantry out, cleaned it, purged and had in painted in a matter of days. I was so impressed. Being able to do the ground work independently truly helps your budget and often allows the organizer just to come in to do the finishing/spacial work. This client saved a great of of her budget with this step alone. The bright,white paint provided the perfect clean canvas for this organizing project.

Another way we stayed within a small budget was to take advantage of what storage the client already owned. We re-thought her existing containers and moved all her staples into the Rubbermaid containers she already owned. The dollar store provided the three needed remaining containers for things like cornstarch, baking powder and cornmeal. Consider all of the containers you presently own and ways that you can use them differently. Sometimes the client already owns the perfect solution.

robertsondollarbins

Our big spurge (still only $26 dollars each) were the rolling can organizer racks which the client purchased from Amazon for the project (link here). Having the cans function better and finding a long-term solution to inventory issues was a priority for this on-the-go mommy. When making a budget for any organizing project, decide what items you can splurge on and what items you can save on. In this case, the ultra-narrow shelves were perfectly designed for bins found at our local dollar store. If your project centers around dollar store finds, consider allowing extra time in your timeline to acquire all the needed items. In this case, many trips to several different store locations over a few weeks enabled us to have the right combination of sizes/colors to complete the project. A little work on your part can save you plenty of money in your bottom line. Find out when your local dollar store receives shipments and don’t be afraid to ask the employees to help you find the items you are searching for. I have found that they are more than willing to help on days that the store isn’t too busy. (Asking sweetly helps too!)

robertsoncanrack

Choosing a cohesive color theme with labels and bins can tie a project together. In this case, the inspiration was this cute palette of blue and yellow against a crispy, white pantry backdrop.

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Finally, add a touch of yourself to your space. Not only does it give your newly organized space personality, but cognitively is encourages you to keep the space organized and tidy. I often refer to it as “putting your moon flag” on the new space. You are claiming it for your own!

robertsonpersonal

I encourage you to look at your space with fresh eyes if budget has been a deterrent. Find ways to recycle what you have, rethink the space, pay a visit to the dollar store and personalize your pantry with your own, special touch.

Robertsoncover#1Vacaville Organizer would be happy to help you with a budget pantry facelift. Local consultations are always free.

Happy Organizing!-Lorinda Childs, owner of Vacaville Organizer

Pretty Pantry Organized

HappyPantry#1It is pantry season this spring with lots of inspiration to share! Most families face the challenge of managing food. An organized and functional pantry is at the top of the spring cleaning list. There are many ways to maximize storage, regardless of your pantry size and configuration.

I had the privilege of partnering with a wonderful client with her pantry organization project recently. Her pantry was absolutely typical for a busy family who cooks daily. It is full of healthy food that this busy mama uses to prepare meals. She kindly allowed me to photograph her pantry on a very busy day to demonstrate that even the neatest homes can benefit from a little boost in function.

prettypantrybefore

I appreciate gracious clients who allow me to see their spaces without tidying before I come. As a organizer, I use the clues left in this photo to develop a system that will solve problems and work long-term based on “organizational tracks.” By studying the photo, I realized that following areas/items needed to be addressed in our pantry organization design:

  1. Ability to assess shopping needs more readily
  2. Categories of food placed together for ease in meal preparation
  3. Small items corralled so they aren’t lost on shelves
  4. Baking items contained and easily accessible
  5. Access to daily snacks for the children
  6. Use of space under the lower cabinet
  7. Bag storage
  8. Art supply storage relocated for easier access
  9. Sweets put out of the reach of children

happypantry#3

We used rolling crates to contain shopping bags and vegetables such as potatoes. This was a great storage choice to maximize the space under the bottom shelf and works with the angled wall. This darling client doesn’t use many canned vegetables, so we placed them (by category) on a rolling can rack under the shelves. Adjacent to the cans is a light-weight grey and white basket. This basket easily slides out, adds texture and holds paper supplies for easy access.

Woven plastic baskets were used to organize the various categories of food. These basket are HEAVY DUTY, easy to clean and add the pop of “happy”this busy mom wanted.

happypantry#8

We further addressed storage on the shelves by adding striped baskets for snacks which the children can help themselves to. The baskets are at a level her children can reach and hide the ugly, big bags (i.e. beloved Pirate Booty) that were making her “crazy”.  We also contained all of her cereals in uniform containers to allow the children to pour their own cereal and to make shopping inventory a snap.

happy pantry #5

Lazy Susans are used to maximize the shelf’s width and accessibility.

  1. The oils are contained here
  2. The various vinegars are contained here
  3. The spreads are housed here
  4. Baking staples are also housed in the pantry in this home. We placed them near the door-at the optimal level for the homeowner-so she could easily reach in and grab what she needed to bake. The airtight containers ensure that the shelves will remain flour/sugar free and that the ingredients will remain fresh between uses.

happypantry#10

As I said, this mama can COOK and she has the cookbooks and recipes to prove it! We used magazine holders to contain the lightweight cookbooks and odd-sized recipe books. This configuration allows the homeowners to pull out the books/recipes they need and the books won’t topple over. Tidy success is built-in to this system.

Designing a system that fits the routines, shopping habits, cooking patterns and invidiual family is paramount in pantry organization. Vacaville Organizer would love to partner with you in your own pantry “spring tidy-up”.

Happy Organizing!-Lorinda, owner of Vacaville Organizer

HappyPantry#1

Cupboard organized for $12


Organization does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. This quick kitchen cupboard update’s cost was less than $13 dollars and took less than an hour. Take a little peek inside of a darling client’s cupboard I had the privilege of giving a “quick update” to recently.

This is a very typical kitchen cupboard and my client had great components already in place. Often, there isn’t a need to purchase very much to make a space function better. They key lies in thinking about function. The client needed access to her spices on the bottom shelf; she wanted to be able to see them clearly. The cupboard’s plan was built around the need for proper spice storage. Here are some of the key components to this fun update:

1. Command hook: ($1): Install a command hook to keep measuring spoons at your fingertips. No more hunting in various drawers to try to find a way to measure!

Gall #6

2.  Dollar Store bins: ($2) and Shop your home ($0): These simple dollar store bins were all that was needed to store extra baking supplies for re-stocking purposes. Shop your home first! We found the bin on the left in another room and it was the perfect finishing touch to store her decorating sprinkles.

white gall bins

3. Lazy Susan ($0): We were able to repurpose the turn table on another shelf in the cabinet and define its purpose. The benefit of the Lazy Susan is that it allows items that would normally be out of reach to be available through the rotating design. We were able to utilize the space on the higher shelf that would normally largely be “out of reach”.

4. Mason Jar ($1): This idea is all over Pinterest and is a fabulous storage option. I hate when my cupcake/muffin liners get wrinkled and ruined. The tall jar’s design allows you to stack multiple sets of liners in a small footprint. The blog, Table For Two, (click over here to read more) featured this inspirational photo which was a snap to recreate.

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5. Expandable Stair Organizer ($7.99): My client already owned one expanding stair organizer, so we decided to extend the multi-level concept across the entire bottom shelf. I love the flexibility of the risers and the fact that it enabled her to see all of her spices at a glance. We further categorized her spices, to fit the way her family uses them. The spices on the far left are “blended” the spices in the middle are sweet (i.e. nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) and the spices/rubs on the far right are all “grilling”. Some quick labels on the necks of the containers toward the back ensured that all the spice names were visible for her and is a system that will be easy to maintain. Organize your cupboard items to fit the way you cook and use them.

Cupboard Before and After

I can assure you that your cupboards are absolutely normal and probably need just a little “organizing love”to get them to function a lot better for you. Vacaville Organizer would love to give your kitchen cupboards organization with creative, custom ideas to fit your lifestyle. 

Happy Organizing!

-Lorinda, owner of Vacaville Organizer

Organized Pantry Reveal

pantry after

Organized Pantry Reveal

I had the privilege of working with wonderful clients recently with their new build pantry. In California, a spacious walk-in pantry is a rarity! My clients wanted to maximize this new space with a thoughtful plan. I considered what a wonderful opportunity this process would be to share for those interested in over-hauling their pantry.

Organized Pantry=Healthier Eating Opportunities

How motivated are you to cook a healthy meal when the pantry is a “hot mess”? Are you much more likely to eat convenience foods when your kitchen is not set up for cooking? I know that having a mess of expired, unappetizing food stuffed in my own pantry has me thinking about take-out in a New York minute!

In a fascinating book I love entitled Life at Home in The Twenty-First Century, in-depth studies have been conducted by ethnoarchaeologists. Traditional archeologists excavate houses and cities of ancient civilizations. In this book, archaeologists use these same methods to record and analyze modern domestic households.

In this interesting study and book, only about 1/4 of the studies’ families cook a weeknight dinner from scratch. However, studies conducted by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families at UCLA, point to the startling statistic that, on average, it takes just 12 minutes longer to cook from scratch each night.

Cooking from scratch time for dinner: average of 38 minutes

Cooking from pre-packaged/convenience foods: average of 26 minutes

A well-stocked, healthy pantry makes cooking from scratch a possibility for families. Having food organized by categories that make sense for your family and meal preparation encourages cooking. My clients are a terrific example of how having the right ingredients- organized-can lead to a healthier lifestyle.

This is the pantry after just a few items were moved into the space on moving day.pantry before

The clients wanted to take advantage of the opportunity of their recent move to organize and mirror their healthy lifestyle.

Steps for an existing or new pantry organization project:

  1. Empty the contents of the pantry.
  2. Purge any items that are expired or compromised.
  3. Separate food into categories (i.e. pasta, beans, breakfast foods, sweets, baking, snacks, etc.).
  4. Decide on the zones* for the kitchen cupboard area (*more on the kitchen zones in an upcoming post). Relocate these items to the correct “zone”.
  5. Ask yourself a few questions: What is the desired goal for your pantry? Are aesthetics important? Do you have small children to consider when placing items such as glass? Are there those with disabilities that could not reach certain shelves? What are the present trouble spots in your pantry? Actually write these answers down and refer back to them throughout the organizing process.
  6. Use PostIts to begin thinking about food placement. Place the PostIts where the appropriate food will be stored. Move around as necessary.
  7. Inventory the storage pieces you may already own and add to them if necessary.
  8. Place the food, by category and frequency of use, back in the pantry.

Now…wait a few days and try things out.

Inevitably, as a professional organizer, I end up making small adjustments to high-use, important areas such a pantries after the install. The families use the space, go shopping and make important observations post-organization. I then come back in and get feedback from the client. Changes are made to maximize their space.

In this particular pantry, my darling clients wanted an “organically tidy” look (no overt plastic, minimal clutter and no bright colors). We opted for more natural materials. One of my favorite products for a variety of spaces are these glass storage jars from World Market. They have a one gallon capacity are very affordable at $6.99 each. I love their tight-fitting lid, large size, they don not leach scents/colors like plastic and they are dishwasher safe. These jars are a great investment.

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I also adore using canning jars for organization. My favorite size for pantries is the pint and half. We put legumes, dried fruit, nuts, specialty rice and other dry goods in this type of jar. We did our shopping at a local grocery store and were able to get a dozen for less than $12.00. (The online price in the hyper-link is considerably more, so shop smart locally if you use this option.)

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The client and I scoured our local TJ Max stores, Homegoods, World Market, Ross and Marshall stores over the course of a week to gather the baskets required. Baskets are useful not only for aesthetics, but they also set limits on each category. You know instantly that if “pasta” is full, that you need to use what you have before purchasing any more. This simple idea is really helpful for pantry maintenance. The baskets don’t have to match exactly, but having similar hues/styles is helpful.

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Now, comes the labeling. We labeled the top of each glass jar’s lid, just in case the client decided to change the contents. In addition, labeling only the lid kept the integrity of the glass. The textures and colors of dried fruit, pasta, nuts and legumes is art in itself and we didn’t want a label obscuring the beauty of the food.

Organized Staples

Chalkboard tags with a sturdy grommet were added to each basket to indicate its contents. These tags can easily be changed out if the client’s needs and food categories change as well.

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What a difference an organized pantry can make!

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Happy Organizing-Lorinda with Vacaville Organizer

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