Category Archives: Getting Organized

What To Cull?

It occurred to me that I need to do an experiment. I will. But the experiment is to answer this question:

How much/how often do I use the kitchen tools/implements in the “everyday zone”? How many of the items I store in premium, everyday usage space in my kitchen (and elsewhere) really need to be there?

It seems to me that there are these easy areas to cull excess tools:

  • Medium sized implement in a small, medium, large set.
  • Eliminating duplicates.
  • Eliminating items used for the same purpose.
  • The tools which take up space and are used because the tool of choice is already dirty.

We only run our dishwasher once daily. If I really want to reduce my kitchen stuff, I could get into the habit of immediately cleaning and replacing the tool. That isn’t all that much more practical. So, it’s a balancing act, like many things.


Medium Item Removal: Eliminating medium-sized items is something I did for the bookstore. I stopped buying medium size dust jacket protectors, paperback sleeves, and book mailers. If needed, you can fold down or cut the large ones. I eliminated 1/3 of the supplies I bought and stored by that simple strategy.

Duplicate Item Removal: We only run our dishwasher once daily. There aren’t enough dirty dishes to run it more often. This inevitably creates a need for duplicate dishes. An item is pulled from the clean pile, used, dirty, put in the dishwasher, is washed, removed, and returned to the clean pile to be used again. The time passed from the beginning to the end of that cycle and how much cooking/eating we do here will determine how many dishes we should have. Right now I have 4 large plates, 4 medium plates, 6 larger small plates and 6-8? very small plates. Also in regular usage 4 custard cups, 4 monkey dishes, 4 larger small bowls, 2 salad bowls, 2 pasta bowls. That’s the bottom shelf. The 2nd shelf contains 4 crocks and 2 cereal bowls, 2 casseroles, and insulated drinking glasses.

When I remove what I consider to be excess items from the cabinets, somehow DH uses less, reuses more, or washes plates, etc. between uses. Because he works at home and frequently only has a few minutes to grab a snack, he continually during the day will put some cereal in a custard cup say, to eat at his desk while working. At the end of the day, between the snacking, meal prep, and consumption, frequently all the little dishes have been used, and at least 4 plates have also been used. I keep thinking I should be able to eliminate some of the small dishes and I do periodically cut it back. Somehow, the quantity seems to increase, again after a while . . . .

Eliminating Items with Duplicate Functions: This is why there are no glasses (except DH’s insulated mugs/glasses) in our home. I got tired of buying glasses. We use mugs.

I also got tired of replacing china. At the time, we were buying new china sets about every 4 years from Conran’s (like Crate & Barrel or Target). This was about $40 at the time, not insanely expensive, but after a while I decided it was an unnecessary expense.

I had worked in a commercial kitchen during college and I knew that “dinerware,” commercial china, was more robust than what I was buying in sets, so I set out to find that for our every day. That’s what we’ve got. Mixed brands, mostly rolled rim, white or diner blue commercial china. When a plate breaks, I look for a replacement at thrift shops and antique stores and usually find one in a few months.

Rolled rim china is a classic commercial style. Easy to find asst. plates and bowls with it. Rolled rims break less often than flat or knife-edged rims, no surprise.

If I was set on decorated china, I’d use dinerware with 2 green lines, every commercial china manufacturer made a variation of that. I’ve had it and mixed and matched brands, looked fine. In one of my culling purges, I decided that I didn’t need a pattern at all, I already had 3 solid colors: green (stoneware and fine china) white (fine china and dinerware) and diner blow (dinerware). That was more than enough!

The fine china was mostly inherited, but yes, I did buy some years ago. I keep promising myself I will have a tea and cookies party or another party and use all the fawncy china and then sell it. Because I have no reason to keep it!

Eliminating the fancy china from here would probably get rid of about 2 shelves worth of stuff, but I’m not ready to do that just yet. There are people who advocate using the fine china as everyday, but the stuff I’ve got breaks in the dishwasher or at least the glazes craze and so what I’d be doing if I do that is literally trashing ? dollars of housewares Dad bought for my Mom. Somehow, that doesn’t seem sane.

My Stepmother broke most of the plates and bowls doing exactly that. It wasn’t her fine china, so they used it for everyday, mixed with plain white open stock china from Pier 1 and it all willy-nilly went in the dishwasher and the good stuff broke. Dad wouldn’t let me take it, but he let her break it.

Somehow, I’m not ready to do the same, or let go of what’s left. I should get rid of it, because it pokes that wound every time I think about it! I want to use it, at least once more, first.

Use Fewer Tools: My answer to this is I think trying to set up a place where we can put a bowl or plate when it has been used, but isn’t so filthy it can’t be used again, like the underplate I just had for my cereal. No food touched the plate, but it’s now “dirty.” There’s no particular reason it couldn’t be reused as an underplate or for something else. We don’t have such an area. I will talk to DH about this idea.

I have an experiment I will try to see what we actually do use in a given day or week. After that, I may do a major kitchen purge!

 

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The New Entry?

This morning I had an epiphany about an entry. Talked to DH about it. It will displace the ironing board and the pantry overflow.

  1. We bought, some time ago, a vintage ironing board cupboard. This houses the ironing board and iron and hangs on the wall, no legs. We had one of these in my childhood home, most efficient! My idea was always that it was on one side of the new broom closet. DH said, “We’ll see.” I’m not sure if DH has to make me an ironing board to go on the cast iron piece in the cupboard, or not. We’ll look into it. In any case, it needs to be sanded, repainted before it’s put into place. Definitely a summer job!
  2. We get the Dutch bench out of the attic and put it back beneath the window on that wall. (Expense = $0) Or, we can move the beautiful bench I bought and put it there. Since we already own both, whichever one we choose would cost us $0 as well.
  3. That we put up 2 coat hooks, one on each side of the window. (We don’t own these. Although Gawd knows, I have lots of hooks!) Unknown expense.
  4. That we move the stray sock basket next to the wall next to the washer.
  5. That we move the 3 round wire bread baskets next to the table where they’e used.
  6. I paint the mullions on the laundry window the same color we’re painting the baseboards. (We will already have the paint. Extra cost $0)
  7. That we move one of the closet doors to hide the washer and dryer part of the room, making it possible to hide that mess. (We maybe able to use what we have for this already too!) This probably won’t work, the dimensions aren’t the same on the closet door I measured. . . .

At the moment, our entry is by the front door and always a mess. There’s a coat/hat rack which was taken from an old fire department. I love the history of the piece, but I hate the fact that there’s always a row of messy coats, hats, mufflers, etc. It has a narrow shelf above it we added, but the shelf isn’t big enough to take anything of size. There’s a bench below, but because of where it is, jammed up to the stairs, between the base of the stairs and the front wall, you can’t sit there without fighting the jungle of coats.

We do have another coat closet, but it’s full of motorcycle jackets and DH’s hobby equipment, mostly. The last time I looked I think I had one coat in it. He’s also filled the upstairs equivalent of this with hobby equipment. His hobby takes a lot of space and for a while it looked as if the necessary equipment and supplies were no longer going to be available. He’s culling it down a little at a time, but it takes reminders from me and tolerance. He’s not the person who filled the living room with boxes, 8 high — I am. Filling two closets, etc. isn’t anywhere near the same amount of stuff! And I still have 2 corners of the house and the storage unit full o’ my stuff. I have less than last year, yes, but still ….


We bought a new to us dining room table last night. I thought DH was set on it, he thought I was. It was cheap, but not quite what either of us thought (it looked better in the pic than it does in real life). We may buy another table I found yesterday instead and donate this one to Habitat, where we got it. We don’t mind donating to Habitat, but usually do it with a check and without hauling furniture around.

We’ve been together for > 40 years now and we still miscomminicate this way every now and then. Fortunately, this wasn’t all that expensive. . . .

However, the jury is still  out. We haven’t actually decided to do one thing or the other, yet.


The table has been salvaged. How? DH sanded and then waxed it. It looks MUCH better! We’ve used it a couple of times. This weekend we looked at other tables in antique shops, but decided not to buy anything else unless we love it. We now have 2 tables which are good, but not terrific. Need to replace those with something we both really like, or not buy anything else anyway.

Getting Ready for Retirement: Food & Fuel

We have been, slowly, trying to change our eating habits and others, preparatory to DH’s retirement, at some unknown future date. We don’t want him to retire particularly, but it will happen, and because he works on contract 1 or contract 2, if the company loses the contracts, he’s likely to lose the job he has supporting them, then. It’s entirely out of our control.

To that end, I’ve been for years slowly but surely moving us along a pathway towards lower monthly expenses as much as possible, and of course the easiest, first way to do that is almost always food.

You can’t really control what the bank charges for a mortgage. You can’t control what the oil man wants for heating oil or propane. You can control the cost of the food you buy, so that’s almost always the first place people start to cut down, including us. The only problem with this is that for many people, food is only 10% of their total expenditures, so even cutting the cost in 1/2 isn’t a significant saving overall. Of course it counts, but don’t kid yourself you’ll suddenly be awash in available funds if you cut your food bill in 1/2.

For us, this is complicated by the fact that we’re food snobs, and like it that way. There are traditional cheap foods we could use.

  • MAC & CHEESE: I don’t like mac and cheese, even homemade. I’m fairly certain they gave it to me, with orange soda (which I also abhor) one time I had stomach flu. DH likes it. I like cheese on pasta, but not baked and BROWNED, and not cheese food.
  • BEETS: DH hates them on principle. They are an economical food to grow because you eat all of the plant: roots and leaves. I can take them or leave them. Yellow beets I can sneak into stews sometimes. The greens I can add to soups & stews, sometimes.
  • HAMBURGERS: Unfortunately, I grew up eating prime beef. I like beef that tastes like beef. Much of the “beef” out there doesn’t taste like anything! Form without substance. (Also see ground beef, below.)
  • STEAK: See above comment about prime beef. My reaction to the insane price of beef these days is to buy very small hunks of steak, when I can find them on sale at the co-op and freeze them. I only buy and keep one. Steaks this size aren’t very efficient foodstuffs, it’s an expensive piece o’ protein and usually only one meal. I try to use it as a condiment rather than as a plate filler when I serve it.
  • BREAD: We bake our own. When a decent loaf of bread is as much as about 2/3- 1 lb of beef? I’ll bake it. I also buy enough flour between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 to last until about April. Why? Staples are cheapest between the holiday sales, prethanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. Because of that, the prices go up the MOST they do all year after New Year’s and during the month February. They level off by the end of March. Staples, like flour, go on sale again for Easter.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/FISH: I stopped eating fish long ago, because I heard something which indicated to me that we were overfishing. As someone who grew up on the Pacific Coast and dearly loves fish, this wasn’t easy. And, yes, I admit, I slip about once or twice a year. DH isn’t fond of fish, which helps.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/CHICKEN: We use bulk pack chicken thighs from the co-op, approx. $2.50 a lb. I buy a 5 lb bag and divvy it up into 3 piece portions, approx. 1 lb each. That’s 2 meals worth, a dinner and lunch the next day. This works for us. I no longer buy whole chickens, chicken breast in any form, etc. Chicken thighs are mostly white meat, some bone and for our household each piece is about 1 portion. It works and it’s cheap.
  • OTHER PROTEIN/GROUND BEEF: I’ve been known to buy meat from a friend who raises cattle, but mostly I buy a pound or two at the local natural food market. The stuff tastes great (see hamburgers, above) but it’s expensive. I get 2 meals from a pound of meat. We have friends who add black beans to ground beef and although this was yummy, I never remember that when it might be useful!
  • OTHER PROTEIN/VEGETABLE: I’ve been known to make lentil burgers. They weren’t bad, but not the success I’d hoped for. Let’s say this is a work in progress. My long-term notion for these is to combine lentils, black beans and ground beef, but it is, as I said, not finished. . . .

Other ideas:

Switch to wood heat, almost entirely. Why? Because we live on just under an acre of land. I can grow some of our fuel. Not enough to keep us warm all winter, but some of it. I can’t grow propane, fuel oil or pellets.

Along this line, we have registers to install between rooms to distribute the wood heat more evenly. We also will maybe buy an ecofan or other fans to help distribute the heat. We have one big fan on our staircase that in summer is used to pull the hot air up to the ceiling and in the winter to push down the hot air.

We’ve been concentrating on things we can do to stay warm and fed. That base layer of Maslow’s, right?

anna-popovic-187219-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Anna Popović on Unsplash

Pantry Soups & Other Ideas

This was started in February, just so you know!

Twice now I’ve made what I call “Yellow Hand Soup.” The first time it was mostly carrots with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion. This time it was mostly sweet potatoes with a butternut squash and 1/2 a sweet onion, no carrots at all.

The first time we had it with grated cheese. This time we had it with carmelized pecans.

Both times I cooked the squash in the micro then scooped the cooked flesh into the pot with stock, the onion and other vegetables.

The first time I had a new bag of carrots from the CSA to deal with and a bag full in the fridge. This time, I’m in the same boat, but with sweet potatoes, which we use much less often. Both times, the idea was to use what we have the most of, before it goes bad.

As a part of the food planning for this spring, I’ve also been researching how long various veggies last. The idea is that I’ll arrange menus to use up the most fragile foods first. I don’t have anything really fragile still in stock, but I will next spring!

There’s a buzzfeed list of how to store your foods, and how long. You can find it here. I don’t agree with all their times, but if you get your food from a market in a city, they’re probably right. I don’t, I get much of our food fresh from the farms where they’re raised, so no time is spent in warehouses, on market loading docks, or in walk-ins.

YMMV!

It’s another way to cut down that 40% we all supposedly waste, right? Use the foods which will go bad the fastest before the others.

Other Stored Food Meal Ideas:

Things we eat regularly from canned foods:

  • corn cheese soup (creamed corn, some onion, cheddar cheese, s & p)
  • bean soup. (rinsed beans, onion, mush with food processor or fork, add seasoning, onion, bacon or sausage if you have it)
  • fried rice: rice, LO meat, onion, other fresh or frozen veggies, as available.

From fresh foods:

  • ____soup (some veggie, appropriate stock, onion, celery. Can be curried, creamed, or just veggie or you can add meat and make beef vegetable soup, etc.) Or, you can make it stew by adding cream sauce, or making gravy instead of stock.
  • ____ stir fry (usually baby spinach, onion, maybe LO meat
  • meatloaf (ground beef, onion, seasoning) or meat balls (same) or hamburgers. If meatballs, can be with pasta or served in Albondigas soup.
  • chicken ______ , recently I’ve made creamed chicken with dumplings, curried chicken, fried chicken, lemon chicken with rice, chicken salad.

From frozen foods:

  • Sausage soup (frozen sausage, onion, frozen greens).

I rarely use recipes. Do you have standards you make with whatever you have to hand? I’d be interested to know what food you make! Because I don’t follow recipes, the quality does vary, it’s almost never horrible, but sometimes it isn’t as good as it could be.

 

 

More

Email deletions. I’d been purging emails from my inbox, but it takes an extra step or 30 days before it gets actually removed. I did that. So I went from 3600+ emails in my trash can to 29xx just now.

It’s amazing how hard it is to purge things, even electronic things!

 

Today…

We got the last of the old dining room rug free (it was under a heavy wardrobe in one corner), which is the next step in the redo the kitchen/kitchen storage project. We talked about replacing the light we’d decided we were going to sell and the next steps of that:

  • Getting the “new” shade out of the attic. Got both of them out, decided which one we’d use and which one was being sold. 5/1/19
  • Figuring out its dimensions and buying/mounting an appropriate pendant lamp kit. Tried 2 different ones, neither do we like the looks of. More search and procurement needed, along with returning the unwanted lamp kits.
  • Remove the old light and replace it with the new.

We also talked about our potential new broom closet, cleaning supply closet, and other items which are likely to be stored in and around the kitchen area.

More progress! It’s not a lot, but it’s progress.

So, Wednesday, ‘eh?

Today my new dining room rugs came. This meant that I had to:

  • ✔️Take the table apart so it could be cleaned throughly.
  • ✔️Clean the chairs throughly.
  • ✔️ Move the rug which was under the table. (It fills the room, the other 1/2 of it has still to be moved.)
  • ✔️ Unpacked the rugs when they came. They are different lengths. One of my money-saving strategies is that I buy runners or smaller rugs and lay them side by side. This doesn’t work when the rugs aren’t the same size. (I called the company, they are shipping me 2 more rugs and return labels for the two which came today.)
  • Oh yeah. I also cleaned the oven. Or rather I had the oven clean the oven!
  • And I made sausage/veggie soup for dinner.

DH, bless him, loaded the dishwasher after dinner.

This doesn’t sound like all that much, but it was a lot. The dining room is one isolated spot in the part of the kitchen which is storage. Boxes stacked 4 or 5 high.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow, so I can get the old rug outta there? I have to go through the boxes, etc. still on it. Then remove it.

The plan is to then put the rug into the attic. Which, you might have guessed, is full of boxes — mostly boxes of books. (Surprised? Well, no.)