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.



LAST: 50 Days Happier: Day 6 – The Next Frontier >>
NEXT: 50 Days Happier: Day 8 – Dreaming for a Fermentation Studio >>

50 Days Happier: Day 4 – Wardrobe Accomplished

So excited.

I’ve finished my wardrobe reduction.  While I wasn’t keeping count, I am pretty positive that my wardrobe is about 30% – 40% of what it used to be.  More importantly, it’s better organized and composed only of things I will actually wear.  After getting started and setting some clear rules and guidelines, this really wasn’t difficult at all.  I’m glad I started the challenge with something so “doable”.  Now I have some momentum for what comes next.

Here’s what I learned from going through this process.

Now if something falls off the hanger, it’ll hit the floor.
  • I still have a lot of clothing. When I look at the huge piles of clothes I will be throwing away and donating, I feel as though my drawers and closet should be nearly empty.  This isn’t really the case.  I still have plenty of clothes. Obviously, I didn’t really have a sense of just how much weathered and unworn fabric was cluttering my dresser and closet.
  • I now have room to maneuver.   You are going to think I am a little nutty, but after the clear out, I just kept pushing my clothes back and forth on the rack…because I could.  I opened and closed my drawers over and over to see neatly folded piles with space around them.  Being able to actually SEE and reach my clothes is more satisfying than I realized it would be.
  • I gained some storage. A wonderful bi-product of going through this process has been the opening up of some storage space.  I’m now able to store my hand weights, foam roller, and resistance bands in the closet.  Previously they were conspicuously propped up in the corner of the living room.  Both spaces are happier now.
  • I might make a little money.  During my sorting, I found that I was able to add a fourth pile to the throw away, thrift, and gift piles. The added sell pile, while small, ended up being a larger than I expected.  Making even a few bucks would be some sweet icing on this cake.
  • I’ll have to change my laundry habits.  One thing a big wardrobe lets you do is put off doing laundry.  I’ve only been at this for a couple of days, but it’s clear that I am going to have wash my laundry more often to keep things in rotation. The upside is that I wont be doing as much laundry at a time.
  • I may keep going. Though I am really happy with the results of the clear out, there are still a number of things I kept because I was unable to make a decision.  Once I live with my newly trim wardrobe for a while, I will reassess and see if it makes sense to hold on to those things.
  • It’s one-in one-out from here on.  I plan to run my closet and dresser like a packed bar from this day forward. If something new comes in, something old’s gotta leave.


LAST: 50 Days Happier: Day 3 – Back to the Wardrobe >>
NEXT: 50 Days Happier: Day 5 – Pre-Vacation Clear Out >>

50 Days Happier: Day 3 – Back to the Wardrobe

Today I made some headway on the things I started on Day 1 (the wardrobe reduction) and Day 2 (the doggy sofa).

With my t-shirts and hoodies done, I moved onto my loungewear.  This, I am told, is the fancy term for “drawer full of sweatpants and athletic shorts”.  If you read the Day 1 post, then you know I have a bit of a problem with holding on to grubby stuff.  The problem was twice as bad when it came to my sweats and shorts.  Using essentially the same set of rules, I virtually emptied the drawer in just a minute or two.

Since I had already undertaken the project of throwing away partnerless socks, sad undies, and bras whose unwires succumbed to the mighty bulk of my breasts a few weeks ago, the dresser was complete!

I was time to tackle THE CLOSET.

I really wanted to post a “before” picture of my closet. I really, really did. But I could not.  Because it was THAT embarrassing.  I will paint a mental picture for you though.  The floor of the closet is covered by two duffle bags and some old boots.  The duffles are stuffed with clothing, though I honestly have no clue what’s in there.  There is a shelf in the top of the closet where I store my luggage and all of my pants.  The pants are “folded” and look something like a cresting wave, frozen in time right before it crashes.  When I open the door, I gently push the pile back so stave off the avalanche for one more day. Hanging on the left side are two of those hanging canvas shoe racks.  These appear to be full of shoes, though I do not really remember the last time I put shoes in or took shoes out of these devices.  Finally, my clothes are tightly packed into the remaining space. I mean TIGHTLY.  As in, there are several garments that have come off of their hangers, but haven’t made any progress toward the floor.

I decided to tackle the pants and the hanging clothing today and leave the duffle bags and shoes for tomorrow. To be honest, this wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be and I even think I’ve found some things I can sell.  My wife, who has a side-business selling vintage clothing, tells me that 20 years old is the cut off for “vintage.”  I will just fess up and say that there are some vintage items I removed from my closest that were not vintage when they went in.

Three piles are growing. From front to back: throw away, thrift, give to someone you know.

After wrapping up the wardrobe work for the day, I got back to working on the doggy couch.  I was sure that I had some leftover cans of spray paint in some basic colors–maybe white or black or gray.  I did have leftover spray paint, but the only options were chalkboard, metallic copper, hammered metal copper, and a brushed metallic color called “champagne nouveau”.  Yeah…I don’t know what happened there either. I grabbed two colors that I thought might work, but ended up going with the copper.

Though the “champagne nouveau” sounded alluring, I went with the copper.

The sofa required a little bit of taping and masking.  Didn’t take too long.  I dragged it out to the front yard and hit it with a coat of paint.

Ready for paint.

With the copper done, I turned my attention to white accents.  I grabbed a big tube of white project paint and way too small of a brush and started on the back of the sofa and the trim long the tops of the arms and the front edges. This will definitely take some more time to finish, but things are getting close. Tomorrow, I’ll finish the painting, make the monster some blankets and cushions, and post some photos!


LAST: 50 Days Happier: Day 2 – Reuse it Already! >>
NEXT: 50 Days Happier: Day 4 – Wardrobe Accomplished >>