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.

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.

Living With Less

Recently I wrote about an impending renovation project in my apartment (see Would You Keep This If You Were Moving?) Well, it’s no longer impending — it’s starting in a few days. Yikes!

In order to get things out of the way for the contractors who will be tearing up parts of my kitchen and bathroom, I’ve been reviewing and relocating stuff. Even though I do that fairly often, I can still find stuff that I don’t use and don’t need. Sometimes we keep something because we have the room for it. But when room becomes scarce, it has to go.

My daughter happened to visiting here a few days ago when I was taking everything out of the kitchen cabinets. She was giving me a needed dose of reality, saying things like, “You’ll never use that again. Get rid of it!” In most cases, she was right.

Everything that we use frequently found a place in the cabinets that didn’t need to emptied. The rest ended up in three piles: stuff that got donated, stuff that went into trash or recycling, and stuff that went home with my daughter. She was enthusiastic about some of my castoffs and I was happy they would get a new life with her.

Although I’m dreading the inconveniences that we’ll be dealing with over the next few months, I’m excited that we will be living with less.

Sometimes There Is A Better Way, Part 2

Last week I wrote about relocating my cashmere sweaters from my cardigans drawer to a shelf in my closet using the Cambridge Drop-Front Sweater Box. (If you missed it, you can read it here.) I’m still pleased as punch with the changes I made to everything on my closet shelves as a result of this move.

But what about my cardigans drawer itself? I wasn’t planning on doing anything further with the sweaters that remained in there. But removing the zipper bags of cashmere sweaters did not solve the ongoing problems with that drawer, and now I had the space to fix them.

Some of the issues I was having with that drawer may sound familiar to you, as you may be experiencing them with some of your drawers as well:

The shape of the drawer was not ideal for the shape of the folded sweaters.
My drawer, like my dresser, is rectangular. But cardigan sweaters don’t easily fold into rectangles. This makes it hard to neatly fit as many sweaters in the drawer as I would like.

I could only see the sweaters at the top of each pile.
I created three piles of sweaters but had to dig into each pile to find the specific color and print I wanted to wear.

It was hard to distinguish the solid black sweater from the navy blue.
I tried to remember to keep the navy sweater on top of the front pile and the black one on top of the back pile, but they sometimes got rearranged and then I found myself walking around mismatched all day.

I decided to take a cue from Marie Kondo and fold my sweaters another way:

While I kept the bulkier sweaters folded into a pile (on the right), I folded the lighter sweaters (on the left) so that they could stand up. Now I can easily see all of them. I put the navy blue in the front and the black in the back. They are easy to reach and easy to put away so I should have no trouble keeping them apart.

It was easy to get the sweaters to stand up. I just had to fold them one extra time and they were the perfect height for my drawer.

I’ve implemented the Marie Kondo folding method before (see To Fold or Not To Fold). I had already been showing my clients how to fold things that way. It makes the most sense for items that are very different from each other, because you’ll usually be looking for a specific item — like my patterned sweaters, or your decorative scarves. It makes less sense for items that are indistinguishable, like identical pairs of underwear.