Month: February 2015

Organizing the pantry

Organizing the pantry

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This post is a follow up to Operation: Declutteration, that is actually the brain-child of Abby from Just a Girl and Her Blog. I am excited to share that two evenings ago, Bradley and I made tangible progress on organizing our chaotic pantry. (I wish I had the good sense to take before and after photos, but I did not.)

First a little explanation. The house we are currently renting is lacking in proper storage space and the closet we are using as a pantry was originally a small coat closet. Somewhere between when the house was built and we began renting, it was kind of transformed into a small pantry. There are three wood shelves but above the top shelf was a lot of wasted space and the whole bottom half was a mess with bags and items thrown in haphazardly.

Last summer, I bought some white plastic bins from Dollar Tree and began using them to group like-items. For example, all of my gluten-free pasta go in one bin. All the bags of dried rice, beans, etc. go in another. Bradley’s snacks go in another. You get the idea. At the beginning of the school year, we found bought two locker shelves from Target to put on the top shelf so we could reclaim that wasted vertical space. We now put items that we do not use often way up there. (I actually cannot reach the shelves!)

So that brings me to two evenings ago. We bought a 3-Tiered black metal shelving unit. (We bought ours from Target but this is a similar piece from Amazon.) I love this style of shelving unit as they are very versatile and are pretty cost effective. We had bought one for our “garage” (aka the laundry closet that we are using as storage as we do not have a washer or dryer) quite awhile ago and it has made a huge difference. The best part is that they are very fast and easy to assemble.

Bradley was kind enough to pull everything out of the bottom of the pantry, and I then sorted it all. I could not believe the amount of paper bags we had kept nor the wide assortment of paper plates, cups, and plasticware we did not even know we had. I ended up recycling quite a bit of the unnecessary items and then used small plastic bins with lids (one was from Dollar Tree and the other from Wal-mart) to group like-items: all paper plates and bowls went in one bin and all plasticware in another. I will call these “party items” since we only use them when either we go for a picnic or we host a get-together at our house. I found all of our “missing” re-usable bags and folded them so they would take up less space. I put our camping set (plates, bowls, mugs, plasticware) in a re-usable bag.

The shelving unit fits into the pantry sideways and allows for a little bit of floor space to the side for bigger items like coolers. On the bottom shelf I put the camping set and some of our extra party items. The middle shelf had extra food containers for road trips and the rest of our party items. The top of the shelving unit is temporarily housing extra paper products (napkins, paper towels, etc.).

I need to re-arrange the food on the wood shelves above. I want to move the frequently used items to the lowest shelf and the rest higher. Also, the original metal accordion door was driving both Bradley and I crazy. It would not always close flush nor was it easy to open at times, jumping off the track. One day Bradley just took it off and now our pantry is visible to anyone who walks into our house. I would like to get a small tension rod and hang one of the beautiful brown curtains we are also using to hide the “garage” (laundry closet). Maybe after these little tweaks are done, I’ll post a few pictures.

Healthy Relationships Tips

Healthy Relationships Tips

5 keys to healthier relationships The university that I work for hosts a Farmer’s Market every second Tuesday during the spring and fall months. It is fun to walk by the various booths selling fruits, vegetables, honey, dates, specialty chocolates, homemade salsas, vegan and gluten-free foods, and much more. I especially enjoy the little email newsletters that are sent out the day before the Farmer’s Market. They are full of healthy lifestyle tips, lists of in-season produce, vendor highlights, and even healthy challenges.

This week’s newsletter included Five Tips for Five Years – Cultivate Healthy Relationships, and I wanted to share and add a few words of my own to each point.

1. Build strong friendships

It is important to meet new people and nurture existing relationships. PsychCentral has a fascinating article on the importance of friendship by Jane Collingwood. It discusses how research is now beginning to demonstrate what ancient wisdom already knew: “Friendships are vital for wellbeing”!

Yet strong, long-lasting friendships are not usually made overnight. They take time and energy to grow. So make a decision today to intentionally nurture the relationships you already have with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. And don’t be afraid to go out and meet new people. Whether you are extroverted or introverted, have dozens of friends or a few close ones, friendships are important and worth your time.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11, ESV

2. Spend quality time together.

Share favorite activities or try something new. As mentioned before, relationships require time and commitment, but there may not be enough hours in the day to give everyone in your life the same amount of your time. It is important to prioritize your relationships: God, immediate family, close friends, extended family, acquaintances, etc. Then choose to spend quality time. Perhaps it is going to church once a week, planning a biweekly volleyball game or hike with friends, or holding a monthly family get-together or picnic. Maybe it is sending out birthday and holiday cards, mailing hand-written letters, texting a friend, or calling your mom or dad just to chat for awhile. Do a favorite hobby with your kids or try something brand new.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, ESV

3. Communicate effectively

Communicate effectively with nonverbal communication, active listening and emotional awareness. Communication is not just about what or how much we say; how well we listen, observe non-verbal cues, and remember are also crucial for effective communication. MindTools has a nice article on active listening and how to become an active listener. It really all boils down to paying attention to the other person and treating them with the respect you would expect in return.

“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. – James 1:19, ESV

4. Use laughter and play

Use laughter and play to build and maintain successful relationships. Humor cannot fix everything, but it is a powerful tool in your relationship toolbox. It can help diffuse conflicts, smooth over differences or awkward moments, and strengthen bonds. You may have heard the old adage: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Happiness, laughter, and play can transform a relationship.

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” – Proverbs 15:13, ESV

5. Learn how to deal with conflict

Strive to understand differences, reduce stress in the moment and acknowledge emotions. Conflicts are never fun, often unexpected, and despite our best efforts, sometimes unavoidable. Whether a conflict arises in your marriage, family, close circle of friends, or co-workers, it is important to know how to handle it. There is all kind of advice out there on dealing with conflicts depending upon the type of relationship, but most tend to agree on these points: stay calm, try to understand the other person’s point-of-view (even if you do not agree), identify the problem and work out a solution together if possible, and sometimes (depending on the situation) choose to be the more mature person and let it go.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18, ESV

Ancient wisdom and modern science agree: Friendships are vital for wellbeing. Click To Tweet

In conclusion

Obviously, these five tips are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to building healthy relationships, but after evaluating my own relationships, I have to agree that these areas are fundamental. What are other ways you have strengthened your relationships?

Operation: Declutteration

Operation: Declutteration

In my feed today, I found a motivating article by Abby over at Just a Girl and Her Blog.


I’m planning on Fridays being “declutteration” days (for the most part), and each week I will tackle a different problem area or organizational system in our home, sharing what I’ve learned along the way.

I hope, though, that you won’t leave me decluttering all alone! If you have spaces in your home that could use a little help in the organization department, I invite you to join me, and let’s do this thing together! ~Abby

I’m in! Since Bradley and I married last April, we have done a pretty good job decluttering and organizaing the main living areas (living room, kitchen, and dining room are all open), the guest bedroom, half of the pantry, and the hall closet. Unfortunately, the house we are renting does not have much in the way of storage space so we began using our office as a temporary storage. Now that is out of control! We can barely use the desktop in that room or get to the book shelves we so carefully arranged. We have too much stuff! The master bedroom has also been neglected, as it is a room visitors never see, and the linen closet and the other half of the pantry definitely need more shelves.

So for the next few weeks, we will be selecting a day (maybe Thursdays, maybe Sundays) to de-clutter and organize these areas in our house. I’m thinking of it as an early, on-going spring cleaning project! Maybe I’ll even post before and after photos. Hmm…