The aftermath of the holiday season has me worn out. Mind you, I happily threw parties and hosted dinners, but a couple of weeks ago I started getting a little slack about the cleanup; I cut a few corners. You see, when you gotta stash some laundry before the guests arrive, the pantry works in a pinch. Or how about all those leftover Christmas receipts sitting on your countertops just in case cousin Betty’s slippers come up defective? Shove ‘em in a drawer. I just know y’all have one special catchall “drawer of doom” filled with all the things you think you’ll need one day (you won’t). It’s the drawer you hope your guests never open, fearing it might eat them alive.
So with the new year comes my annual resolution to clean up my act, or rather, my drawers, cupboards, closets and pantry—all the places I tend to overlook since they’ve got doors to hide the mess. But when cans of chicken broth start falling from the shelves and I can’t find that tiny doggone box of cornbread mix, it’s time to do something about it. Problem is, I don’t much feel like it. Like I said, I’m tired.
Pregnant women and newlyweds nest. Sixty-some year old grandmommas are too tuckered out from years of cleaning and preening to bother. We have our ways, and they’re pretty much cemented in. That said, I know from experience that a little extra effort now will bring some much needed peace down the road.
Just think what life would be like knowing exactly where to find a pen when you need it, or the matching lids for your pans or your grandbaby (he was just here a second ago…). It’s not so much about cleaning as it is about prioritizing and organizing—keeping the things you use most close at hand, while stowing those special occasion items in a place where you won’t forget all about ‘em. I mean, let’s face it: the less time spent running around like a chicken with its head cut off means a cleaner and quieter home.
But where to begin? Because I spend so much time in my pantry, I think I’ll start there. And I’m not afraid to ask for help, especially from my creative design director, Brandon Branch, and food editor, Libbie Summers. They’re always coming up with new ways to organize—things I’d never think of, like:
*Dividing up your pantry into sections and organizing each section. In mine, we did six sections. Baking (this includes anything I use for baking like flour and sugar, as well as boxed baking mixes), canned goods, oils and vinegars (this section also includes all my condiments), pastas, cereals and snacks.
*Label! Libbie is a crazy labeler! If I don’t watch her, she will put a label on Lady Bird! I have to admit, it really does help a lot. Now everyone who comes into my pantry knows where things should go and knows where to find what they are looking for. Buy yourself a New Year’s present of a labeler.
*Using Baskets! Using baskets in pantries that have deep shelves (like mine) are a great frustration reliever. By using a basket, I can just pull out the basket and see everything on the shelf. We did this with all of my pastas and it works great. I also used this method with my “snack shelf”. Now all my sinful foods are just a basket pull away!
*Add a magnetic strip or cork board to the inside of your pantry doors! The magnetic strips are great for spice tins, but around my house, we use the cork board to pin up a calendar that will help us keep track of Sam, Otis and Bodeen’s medications.
*Hooks! Hooks inside your pantry doors are a great place to hang tea towels, pot holders or bags of onions.
*Grouping collections. By organizing and grouping my collections of old wooden bowls, vintage pyrex and milk glass in such a way, Brandon created a beautiful work of useable art. I love to use all of my dishes I have been collecting over the years, and when they are organized in such a beautiful way, it inspires me to have a party or make a recipe I know will look beautiful in them. Like, my Brown Sugar Chewies that I always love to cut into squares and serve in an old milk glass square vase. Or my Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup, a simple and hearty soup I like to make for Michael and I on a cold Savannah day and looks perfect served in one of the wooden bowls from my collection.
You see, sometimes it takes a fresh eye to point out that even Paula Deen does not need a boatload of chicken broth, but the extra cans would do plenty of good being donated to the food bank. Or that storing my favorite coffee mug on the top shelf may not be the most convenient, given that I’m no beanpole.
So this week my staff and I have gathered up some fresh and doable ideas to help you check off that first item on the list of resolutions and get you organized for 2010—one pantry drawer of doom at a time.