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Confessions of a Pantry Clean Out

Fair warning. This is not exactly a Pinterest-worthy blog post. But, I’m hoping that it’s helpful and inspires you to tackle that organization project in your house that you’ve been staring at and just need to do!

Last Saturday afternoon, this was the scene at my back door…

Outside pantry

Ridiculous right?  Who lives like this?!?  In all fairness, I’d be cleaning things out to make room for winter boots and this was the moment when you realize that there’s no turning back…that you have to make a huge mess in order to get to a point where there’s actually less mess. Follow me? So, the door on the right is our pantry and it didn’t look much better.

Pantry before

I went to make something for dinner, had a major freak out because I couldn’t find a damn thing, ordered pizza and told my husband I was going to the Container Store.

Pantry organization from Container Store

Normally when I have an organization project like this, I bring in the Amy reinforcements, but she was at a party (at least one of us was cool on Saturday night…) and I could take the mess no longer. By 11:45 PM Saturday night, this is what my pantry looked like…

Pantry After organizing

Ok, minus the crappy photography (did you see the scene in the first photograph? Today wasn’t much better so clear photography was not on the top of my list unfortunately!)

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  I literally got a few baskets and just corralled things into categories that make sense to me and my family. I also grabbed one of those tiered expandable pieces for cans so you can see what you have.

On the bottom shelf, we now have breakfast items. This allows my kids to grab cereal in the morning without having to ask me! They can just tie up the tops of the cereal bags and throw them in the basket.

Pantry Breakfast

Next shelf up is snacks–a basket for pretzels, crackers, etc. and a couple of open, stacking bins for those squeeze tube things, fruit snacks, etc.

Pantry Snacks 2

Pantry Snacks

Ok, another confession, this pantry is NOT STYLED at all (obviously)…it is literally all the junk that I had in there and just found a place for. Not exactly interior designery of me, but there you have it.

On the next shelf up is all the baby stuff. My freezer is full of food ice cubes, but I also keep some packaged baby food and snacks on hand since we’re on the go a lot.

Pantry Baby Basket

I love the little “blackboard” stickers that you write on with chalk pens…decide to switch what’s in the basket (like in a few months when Will is eating whatever we’re eating) and you can just change the label.  I always find it easier to stay organized if I label stuff.

I decided to just put all the pasta and rice and things that I don’t access more than once a week (once a month in the case of baking) on the very top shelf.

Pantry Upper Shelf

The top shelf also got the IKEA jars full of things I don’t access very much, are bulky, but not too heavy so easy to get down.

Pantry jars

So, this is a call out to all of you disorganized pantry people…just clean it! Don’t feel this immense pressure from gorgeous Pinterest shots of beautiful pantries, just make yours work better for you. I knew my family wouldn’t do more than throw things in a marked basket so that’s what I went with. Good luck!

Tessa Signature

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Throwback Thursday: Junk Drawer

Now that the kids are back in school, you might be finding yourself with a little more free time (or not!).   If you are finding the urge to get that “junk” drawer organized, here are a few simple steps in helping you.  

Let’s face it, we all have them…those drawers usually found in the kitchen that are shoved full of random items and gets stuck every time you try to open the drawer. Because it’s overwhelming,  you decide to do the most natural thing, just shut it quickly and forget about it.

What if you could change your junk drawer into a “daily needs drawer” where all the items you use on a daily basis are neatly stored away AND that drawer could actually close? I swear–just FIVE simple steps and you can make it happen.

A junk drawer has such a negative connotation and if you call it a junk drawer, it becomes just that. So, call it your “daily needs drawer”, your “at my fingertips drawer” or your “odds and ends drawer”, anything besides the junk drawer.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots of organized drawers.

 I LOVE bamboo trays–they’re probably my favorite way to organize drawers. They look nice and come in several shapes and sizes so you can separate objects of different sizes. This is a great photo to give you an idea of some items that you might want to consider storing in your drawer.

Real Simple

Real Simple

These clear, plastic containers come in many different sizes as well. It really just depends on which look you prefer. This is a smaller drawer so you can see what things are really essential if you don’t have a large drawer like the photo above.


And, here’s a shot of my own daily needs drawer

Amy’s Drawer

These are clear, plastic cases found at IKEA. I couldn’t find them online anymore but they don’t always have all of their products on their website. I found these in the office organizing section and they orginally came with a lid on top, which I took off.  I love these organizers because the dividers slide out so that you can create all different sizes of compartments.

And, really, anyone can do this–case in point: I was so happy when Tessa asked me to help her tackle her junk drawer. I had been eyeing this drawer for some time and have always wanted to help her organize. BUT, I have learned to control my OCD organizing habits when going to friends’ houses. So, as our husbands were out celebrating Father’s Day Eve, we met up for a quick organizing task.  Yeah, fun Saturday night!

Here is a shot of her drawer before…

Tessa’s Junk Drawer Before

As you can see it was filled with lots of potentially useful things, but Tessa didn’t really know because every time she pulled out the drawer it got stuck. So I introduced her to the five steps of organizing a drawer.

STEP ONE:  Empty out all contents of drawer

Tessa’s Junk Drawer

STEP TWO:  Sort items into like categories.


STEP THREE: Determine what your daily needs are and what you want from this drawer. For Tessa, she decided she needed paper, pens, charger, spot for her iPhone, place for change, flashlight, tape measure and a spot for her keys.  These categories are going to be different for everyone.  Think hard about what it is that you need at arms reach every day.

Just because it was in there, doesn’t mean it belongs in there. For instance, Tessa had coupons she stored in this drawer, but then never used them because they weren’t with her when she needed them. Instead of creating a spot for them in the junk drawer, we decided an envelope in the car would be a better place because then they would be with her and she wouldn’t have to try and remember the coupon before she walked out the door. Also, she had pair of binoculars in this drawer. While she did want to keep them, she realized that she only used them probably once a year. There was a better spot in her house for occasional use items.

We also got rid of her take-out menus in this drawer. She decided to throw them out completely because she tends to look online when ordering food. For those of you that still like to keep the paper menus, what about a clear file mounted on the inside of a kitchen cabinet to hold all of your menus?

Take-Out Menus

STEP FOUR:  Now that she had established her categories, Tessa decided to use bamboo trays for organizing the items.  When shopping for inserts, measure the length and width of your drawer and write down your items/categories that you are going to put in the drawers. Once you have this information head to any office supply store, or my favorite, Container Store, and do a layout in the store to see which organizers will best fit in your drawer.

Tessa’s Drawer

By the way, I should mention that we put down a backing so the drawers won’t slide around.

Tessa’s Drawer

STEP FIVE (my favorite):  Put items into their compartments.

Tessa’s Drawer After

And the best part of the evening….check out what her husband had to say.  A little early Father’s Day present to Tessa’s husband who has a bit of the organizing bug in him too.


Thanks Tessa for a fun (it was for me) Saturday evening!  I can’t wait to tackle another drawer in your house soon.



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Practicing What We Preach: Bookshelf Styling

For Throwback Thursday, thought I’d republish this post that revealed my styled bookshelves. We get asked a LOT about restyling of shelves so thought a little inspiration for a summer project was in order. You can also see the before and afters of my built-ins project here.

It’s all well and good to give advice, but the most important part is showing you that our advice is easily applied! As a follow up to yesterday’s post, we wanted to unveil my new, STYLED bookshelves (yippee!.) There was some serious bookshelf philosophizing going on as we tackled these yesterday while our four kids (collectively) wreaked havoc in the basement! LOVE how they turned out –the right balance and mix of art, books and accessories!

Before pic shows a start, but clearly not a good finish

Master Bedroom Built-in Bookcases Before Styling

And, the after:

Tessa’s Master Built-in Bookshelves After Styling

Full view of styled left side:

Master Bedroom Built-ins Styled Left Side

Full view of styled right side:

Right side of built-in after styling

As you can see, we also moved the chair to create a reading nook near the lamp. While totally functional, the chair also adds dimension and interest to the room. It also serves the purpose of keeping the focus on the left side of the room rather than the right side which houses the TV–never something to highlight in my opinion!

Amy applied the same amazing skills that she used on my junk drawer to the bookshelves. I brought her all my favorite things and we played around with layering, texture, size…and of course, functionality. The best part is that we didn’t buy one thing for this project–everything came from my house!

Here’s what we did:

  • We used different sized and colored frames, art, photographs and accessories and layered them on top of each other. We also used all hardcover books in different colors and pulled all the covers off.
  • With the books, we also stacked them horizontally and vertically, pulled some to the front and some to the back. We used them as a way to create height when needed–example using them to prop up the dark grey vase that, along with the new lamp and large print, fills the big shelf on the left and balances the TV on the right.
  • We used a lot of the room’s colors to create a cohesive feel–grey, black, brown and blue–but then added other pops of colors.
  • A little greenery and natural woven baskets for storage of extra blankets and remotes provide texture and an organic feel.
  • To keep things interesting by not having all the pictures leaning, we hung one of the prints on the back of the largest shelf on the left with Command Strips–that way we didn’t ruin the paint job.

Close up left side built-in bookcases

From the shot above, to the shot below, you can see we wrapped the cord and hid it behind the lamp so that when you enter the room you don’t see any cords–when I built the shelves I made sure to move all the electrical to the bottom edges of the big shelves to accommodate a lamp and the TV. If you recognize the lamp, it was moved from my entry console to the bedroom built-ins because the height and depth worked perfectly…now need to get something new for the entry…the hunt begins! (Side note, here’s the source for the lamp.)

Another angle

As we said yesterday, the most important thing is to make it personal–you’ll like it more that way. Above you’ll see on the left side of my bookcases I have a picture I took on my honeymoon in Bali behind a painting done by my Dad, Bill McCann. Below, the photograph of the feather was taken by my sister-in-law, Lacey Bediz, and on the upper shelf another painting by my Dad. The globe is just a cheap one from Target–I love globes and what they represent.

Master Built-in Bookcases Close Up Right Side

And here it is again, the final shot (well, before a bench cushion!)

Master Bedroom Built-in Bookcases After Styling

We hope you like them. (BTW, My husband told me tonight he likes the before better–but he would have been happy if I’d designed the room to have him sleeping in nothing but a cardboard box as long as he had his TV!) We wanted to show you ideas can really be applied. Let us know if you have any additional questions! And if you’re new to the blog and want to see pictures of the room before we put in the built-ins here’s where you can go.

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