kitchen cabinet project.

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I don’t know if it’s the construction happening outside or the feel of spring in the air, but I’m in major Project Mode. Actually, when I’m stressed, one of the most calming things I know to do is to organize something.

The only way I know how to explain it is that when certain parts of my life feel big and somewhat out of control, here is this one small thing I can bring order to, be it the hall closet or the kitchen pantry or a bookcase. I manage stress much better with an organized house, it’s just the way I’m made. David laughs at me because even on vacation or on an overnight hotel stay I clean up and bring order to our little, temporary place.

Do you think I’m crazy yet? It can be an obsession of course — I have to remember my family shares my home and I can’t always impose my need for order onto them (although, come to think of it, I kind of try to). But by and large, we’ve all discovered that the key to living peaceably in a small house is staying organized, and they like it too.

As soon as the building project started, I raced around the living room, de-cluttering. I stowed all but one of our cute throw pillows in the attic and put away several knick-knacks, just to streamline things a little bit. Chaos reigns outside our front window, but inside there’s room to breathe.

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Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a couple of my projects from the last couple of weeks.

First, the kitchen cabinets.

I read this post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, who just moved with her family to a new house and talked about conquering the blank slate of a new space. She mentioned a few organizational tips she picked up during the unpacking process, including the idea of stacking sheets pans and cutting boards in a basket in the kitchen or dining room (see the post on Apartment Therapy here).

Something clicked right then for me, and I jumped up to inspect our kitchen. My kitchen looks cute, but it is often functionally a pain in the neck because it’s teeny-tiny. Two people can technically work in it at a time — but with much stumbling over one another.

I love baskets and I love the idea of having my sheet pans and cutting boards within easy reach!

Only problem?

I have zero space for said basket. And I mean zero.

Every available area of floor space in our kitchen and dining room is put to use.

However, the idea got me on a roll.

I hate my kitchen cabinets, I mean really hate them. They are white and cute on the outside but so very old; the paint and wood is crumbling on the inside, they are dark and awkward, and every single time I pull an item out from my lower cabinets, I have to rinse and dry it to remove peeling paint and wood shavings. Yuck.

So I thought to myself, Okay, I can’t have a cute basket for my pans, but what can I do to make this situation a little better?

(This is an extremely helpful question to ask when considering any problem area in your home)

And that launched a couple-hour project of purging my kitchen cabinets!

I’ve been pretty good at maintaining the upper cabinets because we removed the doors from most of them. You may think the plants on top of our refrigerator are decorative (and they are!), but they’re also a reminder to never, ever open the cabinet immediately over them. No amount of scrubbing when we first moved in could remove the smell in that cabinet.

I can’t even explain to you what it smells like, and actually I don’t want to think about it anymore.

I so wish I were better at “before” photos! I almost never think of taking pictures at the beginning of a project.

Oh well. Just imagine me on my hands and knees, removing every item from the lower cabinets, and literally sweeping them out with a broom. They were pretty bad.

I made three piles: a donate pile, a throw away pile, and a “wash me now please” pile.

I’m embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve completely organized and cleaned out those cabinets — reached into the furthest, darkest corners — in the three and a half years we’ve lived here. Sigh.

I’m baffled by the phenomenon that in a kitchen as small as mine, somehow those corner cabinets still turned into a scary black hole. I was thrilled to discover not one but TWO Pyrex dishes I’ve lost for at least a year. And all that time I thought I’d loaned them out!

So my biggest kitchen problem is accessing the pots and pans and cutting boards I use every single day, multiple times a day.

I looked around and decided that the place for them is on the bottom shelf of my island.

Of course it’s not as cute as a staged shelf with plants, cloth napkins and a mound of cookbooks. But who cares!?

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You guys, it’s a game-changer.

It’s been a week and I feel like I have a new kitchen! Chores that used to make me groan, like chopping onions for soup, now feel simple. I reach down to my open shelf — I do not have to root around in a dark space and then rinse wood-shavings off my cutting board — and I chop the onion!

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After sweeping and wiping everything out and washing pots and pans, I went with a greatly minimalized cabinet approach, shown above. The items are easy to reach and I don’t mind giving them a quick rinse because I don’t use them every day!

When you think about it, most of us have way more in our kitchen than we use or even need. I’ve hung on to a very few family heirlooms from each side of our family, and have purged what I just never use (it is helpful to consult parents and siblings before giving these things away!). Even items we received as gifts for our wedding, if we never ended up using them, have been donated.

It sounds harsh I know. But there are many things that make life stressful; clutter should not be one of them. It’s the simplest to remedy!

I didn’t solve all of my kitchen woes, but just tackling one of them is a big help.

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Finally, a windowsill lined with succulents always makes a room more cheerful.

I feel ten times better after this project and find our little kitchen a much happier place to be!

Next up: my composting project!

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