50 Days Happier: Day 7 – So Many Jars

With the exception of our unfinished basement, the kitchen is the room in our house that makes me unhappiest.  More than any other space, the kitchen screams “cheep rental home amenities!”–from the vinyl sheet flooring (that I gather is supposed to look like ugly tile) to the laminate countertops (that are supposed to look like some sort of mossy green “granite”) to the out-of-the-box oak-ish Home Depot base and wall cabinets.  All together, the “infrastructure” of the kitchen creates the kind of space I would never choose to live in.

My efforts to try to rectify this situation combined with our over-abundance of belongings have birthed something truly insane. Case in point, the “pantry.” Though this eat-in kitchen is one of the largest we’ve lived in, it’s not the most well appointed space.  Conspicuously missing is anything that can be easily used as a pantry.  A few months after we moved in (almost two years ago), I got the bright idea to turn two old, broken down particle board bookcases on their sides, attach them to the wall (supported by a couple of random Ikea furniture legs I had laying around), and use some wooden boards to create a top surface and divided shelves.

Violà! Pantry.

I am more than a little bit embarrassed to admit that this project lingered in a state of half-completion for more than a year.  I got the bookcases mounted, the legs on, the exterior panted and the top surface placed.  But the painting of the interior, and the dividing shelfs remained undone month after neglected month.  It looked simply awful, was marginally functional, and did not produce a lot of happy feelings.

Just before I started the 50 Days Happier challenge, I got my act together and finished painting and dividing the shelves.  It’s still not the most amazing thing in the world. but with no real pantry, this gives us some much needed storage.

After more than a year of half-completion, the bottom half of the bookcase pantry is more or less complete.

Way back when I originally built this thing, I hung a couple of cheep shelves for dry goods and a shallow case that I intended to use as a spice rack above the bookshelves.  The actual use of these shelves has been all over the place.  The top shelf is filled with jars of dry goods.  The middle shelf is home to about 20 pint glasses, roughly half of my collection.  And the spice rack is mostly empty, save for some cast off spices we never use (mace, anyone?).

The upper half of the pantry. Used…sort of well.

Tackling this part of the kitchen also required me to empty out part of one of our wall cabinets.  We (okay, really just my spouse) are jar savers.  From salsa to tomato sauce, pickles to peanut butter,  our empty jars enter a kind of countertop doldrums where they float around, soaking in soapy water until they eventually make it into the cabinet or (sometimes) get recycled. A large amount of cabinet space has gone to housing these jars that seem to never get used and an entire drawer (we have few) has gone to a ragtag collection of lids.

All the lids.

Today’s Challenge: Jars

I started by pulling the pint glasses off the shelf and packing them up to take to the new fermentation studio. I definitely experienced a pang of loss while packing the glasses into a box, but I’ve made the decision (or rather been beat over the head with the stark reality) that the kitchen cannot effectively multitask.  If my beer and brewing equipment, accessories, and collections are going to remain an important part of my life, I need to treat them that way and give them their own space. Prioritize. Organize.

Next, I dumped the lid drawer, emptied the jar cabinet, and pulled most of the dry goods off the shelf.

So, so much crap.

While the DIY pantry solution isn’t making its way onto any HGTV specials, I would like it to look as “nice” as possible.  As such, I hope to cull down our collection of jars so that we have as many matching jars and lids as possible. The sorting took a while and I ended up transferring a lot of bulk grains, rices, nuts, lentils, and obscure flours into new jars.

Sorting the jars. So many different shapes and sizes!

Finally, I reloaded the shelves with sorted jars.  I even included several empties in a couple of sizes so that we have room to add more dry goods (in the event they come out with a new flavor of nutritional yeast or something).

To be 100% honest, the pantry doesn’t look noticeably “better,” but after recycling all the unused jars and lids, I gained half a wall cabinet and an entire drawer worth of kitchen storage.  THIS is a huge deal for me and quickly a number of random things that have been looking for homes found their new, and more organized, resting places.

All the jars, all in one place.

I plan to order a case of small spice jars to load the rack soon.  But for today, I am done and feeling at least a little bit happier about my kitchen.

Dear Amazon Prime fairy, please send these.



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