project simplify ~ shelves and drawers (and some tips for storing bulk foods in glass jars)

My last attempt at de-stuffifying, organizing, and cleaning our home began with good intentions, but stalled out a few months back.  With a baby who is finally sleeping through the night, I’m feeling re-energized less sleep deprived and ready to tackle the mess again. 

Tsh over at Simple Mom kicked off Project Simplify 2013 this week.  I love the format this year.  First, there’s no pressure—you do as much or as little as you want/need.  Second, there’s just four categories—one per week, which makes it really easy to focus.  This week is shelves and drawers, and I’ve already broken one of the few “rules”, which was to take before pictures. 
Yesterday I made it through all of the kitchen drawers and shelves, and today I almost finished the laundry room/pantry.  As is often the case with projects like these, I find it easy to get distracted.  For example, usually if I find a piece of paper that needs filed, it’s tempting to go file it right then.  But, thirty minutes later I’m still at the filing cabinet, off on a rabbit trail.  That’s the beauty of working on a specific type of space each week.  As I was sorting yesterday I simply put filing, etc., into piles and embraced the freedom of knowing that next week is the time to deal with piles.

My cleaning and organizing efforts a few months ago did make my job this time a bit easier.  It also helps that we now have a local thrift store with convenient drop off/donation hours.  So far I’ve dropped off five bags and thrown out several others.
As I worked in the kitchen I spent a good portion of my time transferring stored bulk foods from plastic bags into glass jars.  I thought this would be wise for a couple of reasons:

  1. We’ve slowly been working our way towards using as little plastic as possible for storing our food.  Coconut (insert random bulk food item here) should not taste like plastic.
  2. It’s easier to look through labeled glass jars for ingredients, rather than paw through mysterious bags of bulk items piled on top of each other.

Along the way I figured out a few ways to make the process of filling the jars less frustrating and more efficient.

I’d love to have my jars looking uniformly Martha Stewart-y, but I’m limited on time and funds, so I devised a plan.

  • Supplies: Sharpie and blue painter’s tape (peels off easily for washing or changing ingredients—thanks, Mom!)
  • Label only similar-looking items or ones that you need help remembering.  For example, I wanted to be sure of which jar holds powdered sugar and which one holds cornstarch.  I didn’t label things like chocolate chips, brown sugar, and garbanzos.
  • Cut first, then write.  I found it easiest to cut my tape, affix it to the jar, and then write my label.  If you have a scissor-wielding youngster around they can set you up with a supply of tape labels so that all you have to do is stick and write.
  • Top or side?  As Tsh alluded to in her post today, place your label where it’s easiest to see it.  On a shelf?—put your label on the side of the container.  In a drawer?—on the top of the lid.
  • Extra tip—When filling those plastic bags with bulk foods at the grocery store, if there’s a chance that you might forget or confuse ingredients when you get home, write its name on the twist tie beside the item number.

Contain the mess

Some bulk foods are harder than others to pour from the bag to the jar.  I definitely didn’t want to be cleaning up a huge mess after all the jars were full.  Since both of my funnels have disappeared to parts unknown via little hands I came up with plan B.

  • Cut corners—Instead of pouring from the top opening of the plastic bag, cut off one corner (a la cheap pastry bag) and you’ll have much more control of your ingredients as they flow from bag to jar.
  • Spills will still happen, but save your countertops and set up your pouring/filling station in the kitchen sink.  Any overflow can be washed easily down the drain or wiped up, and having the jar at a lower level reduces accidents.

Think ahead

  • Stagger the placement of your ingredients.  Many of my jars are stored in the wasted-space corners of the kitchen cupboards.  By keeping one jar of each ingredient towards the front, rather than massing say, the baking powder, at the back of the cupboard you’ll save yourself time and frustration.
  • Group like items together—For example, beans in one spot, baking items in another, grains in another.

So, what about you?  Are you participating in Project Simplify?  What tips do you have for storing food in glass jars?


2 thoughts on “project simplify ~ shelves and drawers (and some tips for storing bulk foods in glass jars)

  1. Make sure the opening is appropriate for the ingredients. If the ingredient is something you would use a big scoop to get out don't put it in a small mouth jar. Then you end up trying to pour it out, a accident waiting to happen. I have done that before :(I keep the items I buy in large amounts and use quite often like flour and sugar in ten gallon buckets with tight snap on lids. I also keep their scoops in the buckets with them. I use old coffee cups that hold 1 cup exactly, saves on getting the measure cup out and dirtying it. I am sure you thought of all this already, you are doing such a great job!

  2. Great tips that I hadn't thought of–thanks for adding them here. We keep some of our things like flour in the large plastic buckets, too, but I hadn't thought of the coffee cup trick–brilliant. I always truck my measuring cup out to the garage where we store the big containers, but no more! Thank you!

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