When You Don’t Know What Product You Need

Last week, I wrote about a new lower cabinet in my kitchen that has replaced a utensil drawer. This week, I want to talk about the new upper cabinet.

I used to have a set of open shelves in that spot. Now, with the widened doorway, I have a narrow cabinet with three shelves and a door.

I used the open shelves for stuff that I liked to keep handy. I’m using the new cabinet for some of that same stuff. The bottom shelf — the most accessible — holds trivets, a box of crackers, and a food scale.

When I had the open shelves, I managed to stand up the food scale on its side perpendicular to the trivets so that the scale wouldn’t fall over. However, in the new cabinet, I couldn’t do that. Every time I took something out of the cabinet, the scale tipped over. So I decided that I needed a cabinet organizer that would hold everything upright.

I looked for cabinet organizers on-line but found that they were all too wide for this narrow cabinet. I knew that there was a product out there that would help me, but couldn’t figure out exactly what it was.

Shortly after, I went to the Container Store to get the utensil holders that I wrote about last time. I was browsing the aisles looking for ideas when I saw an adjustable-width napkin holder. I wondered if a napkin holder would be the right solution for the food scale conundrum.

When I got home, I measured the food scale and went on Amazon to search for napkin holders. I ended up buying a clear acrylic napkin holder that is exactly the right width and is also tall enough to support the weight of the food scale. You can see it in the photo above as well as in the close-up below.

Had I not stumbled upon the adjustable napkin holder at the Container Store, I wonder if I would have ever thought of this as a solution. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Rethinking My Utensil Drawer

My recent home renovation included replacing all of my kitchen appliances. This required a widening of the doorway (don’t ask). As a result, one of cabinets was replaced with a narrower cabinet.

The original cabinet had a drawer that I used for kitchen utensils. I was lucky to have multiple shallow drawers in different areas of my kitchen. I used one for silverware, one for utensils, and one for my wraps and baggies. Now I was down one drawer.

Even when I had a utensil drawer, I kept some of my utensils in a bin in a lower cabinet because the drawer would otherwise be too crowded. The ones I didn’t use often, but was reluctant to part with, went down below. The ones I used all the time went up top.

When I prepared my kitchen last fall for the impending renovation, I got rid of a lot of the infrequently used utensils. When my kitchen was completed, I got rid of even more. Now I was ready to figure out how to compensate for the loss of one drawer.

The narrow cabinet was outfitted with a Rev-A-Shelf pullout with three levels. With the help of some clear plastic drawer inserts from The Container Store, I created three levels of utensils:

  • The top level uses an iDESIGN Linus Deep Drawer Organizer to hold my most frequently used utensils, including the ones I use at the stove, which is right next to the cabinet. It holds two spatulas, a slotted plastic spoon, and a can opener. The drawer organizer is low enough (3-1/8″ high) that I can simply reach into it from the side to grab the utensil I need.
  • The bottom level uses the same iDESIGN drawer organizer and holds utensils for opening stubborn bottles and jars.
  • The middle level holds the less frequently used utensils and uses two iDESIGN Linus Narrow Pantry Bins. Those are taller (6″ high) so they hold a lot of utensils! The clear drawers allow me to see what’s in there so I can find what I need on the infrequent occasions that I use these utensils.

By rethinking how to store utensils and by making use of some organizing containers, I was able to overcome the loss of a drawer. And all of my utensils are reunited in one place instead of having the infrequently used ones in a separate cabinet. I plan to revisit that middle level in 6 months to see what more I can get rid of.

Making It Feel Like Home Again

Today is my birthday, and I’ve received a wonderful present — my home renovation is done! Well, it’s 99.95% done. We have one small item left (a kitchen threshold) and then we’ll be at 100%.

It was five months ago that we moved our bed and many of our clothes into our second bedroom so that contractors could turn our bedroom into Construction Central. A few weeks ago, we were able to move back into our bedroom, although there was still work to do in other areas of our home.

That first night back in our bedroom was surreal. I knew it was my bedroom, but it no longer felt like home. Over the last few weeks, we have reclaimed each of our rooms as work was finished, but everything still felt strange.

Over the past week, we have endeavored to make our home feel like home again. We started by rehanging pictures. Then we moved on to hanging curtains. And yesterday, we unrolled the living room rug, which had been safely stowed away since November.

Wow, what a difference all that has made! Having our artwork up on the walls eliminated that bare feeling that made the apartment seem so strange. And adding the curtains back to the windows has made it feel like a home. Not just a home, but our home.

We made some changes as we were rehanging the artwork, including hanging things in different rooms or in different groupings. But it still gives each room its personal touch. Most of what we have on our walls has significance to us. They are not just decor, they are conversation pieces with stories behind them.

There is still a lot of new stuff to get comfortable with — a washer and dryer (my first ever!), new kitchen appliances, a remodeled bathroom — but they are starting to feel a little more natural. We’ve also changed a bit of the decor, most notably in the second bedroom. But this experience has underscored for me the important things that make a house a home — the personalized touches that are meaningful to you.

Remembering Where You Put It

Yesterday, there was a solar eclipse. It wasn’t a total eclipse where we live, but it was still pretty spectacular to watch. We were also fortunate enough to watch the eclipse back in 2017. And we were able to watch yesterday’s eclipse safely because I saved the eclipse glasses from 2017, and I knew exactly where I had stored them!

Seven years ago, I knew that there would be another eclipse in 2024, and I didn’t want to face the uncertainty of not being able to find eclipse glasses. So I tucked each one into a Ziploc snack bag and put all three in an empty sunglasses case. I labeled it “ECLIPSE GLASSES” and put it in the bottom drawer of my desk.

Assiduous readers of my posts may remember that I gave my desk away during the pandemic (see “Transforming My Home Office“). I got rid of a lot of the contents, and what I kept I distributed among various places in my apartment, including living room end table drawers, closet shelves, and a new printer cabinet. It would have been very easy to lose track of the eclipse glasses at that point. However, I stood them up in the back of a closet shelf and they remained visible. I’m also in the habit of frequently reexamining my storage spots so that I can continually get rid of things I no longer need. It also reminds me of what I still have.

Last night, I received a text from a long-time client, who wrote: “Thanks to you, I had eclipse glasses — sat down to look for where we put them — I’d say it took me 2 seconds flat, first place I looked!” I was so gratified to read that her work with me had such a positive outcome and allowed her and her family to enjoy this momentous event.

When I work with clients digging through their stuff, they often say “Oh, I was looking for that!” This is so common that I wrote a post with that very title. As I explain in that post, the most logical place for you to put something isn’t necessarily the same place where someone else would put it. Our minds work differently, and we have different associations of what goes with what. The important thing is to be mindful about where you put things.

One of my favorite sayings is “Don’t put it down, put it away.” (I did not make that up, but I wish I did!) But don’t just put something out of sight. Put it in a place that makes sense to you. Keep with with other things that are like it, or in the place you are most likely to use it, or in a place will you will see it frequently so you remember that you have it.

The next eclipse will be in 2044. Who knows if we’ll even still be around. But if we are, I know where my eclipse glasses will be!

My family enjoying the eclipse of 2024

Do You Have Mystery Keys?

I recently wrote about mystery cables, which most of my clients have boxes of. But there’s another mystery item that seems to afflict most people, and that’s keys. Mystery keys collect in desk drawers, kitchen drawers, and receptacles of random stuff.

There are a lot of possibilities as to what those mystery keys might open:

  • Your old apartment or your old car.
  • Your mom or dad’s home — but they are no longer living.
  • Your best friend’s keys — but do they still live in that apartment?
  • Your work keys from your last job – or was it the job before that?

So many keys look alike. When we place a set of keys in a drawer, we think we will remember what they are. But time passes and we forget, especially if we end up throwing some other sets of keys into the same place.

One way to keep track of keys is to put them in a clearly-labeled envelope or add an identifier to the key ring. You can buy those inexpensively at a locksmith, or on Amazon (search for “key tags”). You know those fun key rings they sell in tourist shops with names on them? My spare keys have a little Texas license plate on them with the name “Sharon”, which is so helpful when I temporarily give them to people. Right now my contractor (of my still-ongoing renovation) has custody of those.

Despite all of my good habits, I recently found myself in possession of a set of mystery keys. Inside my entryway closet, I had four CommandTM hooks with keys on them. Above each hook was a label identifying the keys on it. (The ones with the “Sharon” license plate were labeled “Spare”). One of the hooks was labeled with my daughter’s name, but she never did get into the habit of hanging her house keys there, even when she lived here, so she put other keys on that hook.

I had to take those labels and hooks down a few weeks ago so that my contractor could paint the closet. The next time my daughter came over, I asked her about the two sets of keys on that hook. One set belonged to a neighbor whose pet she used to take care of. (We went down to the neighbor’s home and returned those keys.) But she had trouble identifying the second set. She thought they might be from the physical therapy job she had before she started graduate school. She left that job in late 2021 so she couldn’t be sure.

I happen to be under care at that same physical therapy location right now for lower back pain. The next time I went there, I brought those keys and asked my PT if they could possibly be from there. She wasn’t sure, but she tried one of them on a staff door and it worked, so that clinched that. I was glad that we could return those keys to their rightful home instead of simply tossing them into the metal recycling bin.

If you’ve got unlabeled keys lying around, label the ones that you can still identify. Do your best to identify the rest of them. If nothing comes to mind and you know you haven’t used them in a long time, the metal recycling bin beckons.