Pantry Organization & Spring Cleaning with OXO #Sponsored

Last month I decided to tackle a huge organizational project—my home office. This month I'm at it again, but it's our kitchen and pantry I'm hoping to get back in order.

It's been a while since I've given any thought to organizing my pantry. Way back in 2014 (as you can see from the photo below) it was a disorganized mess. Very little had changed over the past few years until I discovered that my laziness had finally caught up with me. I pulled out a bag of flour to bake my son a cake and found it full of weevils. They're those annoying little bugs that you find when you've left your flour sit too long.

Whoops!

I guess that means I should bake more cakes... or remember to put bay leaves in the bags... or maybe clean my pantry a bit more frequently?

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Spring Cleaning & Organizing with OXO blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of pop containers and cleaning tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Spring Cleaning & Organizing with OXO blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of pop containers and cleaning tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

A not-so-quick cleanup got rid of them and fortunately they hadn't spread beyond my flour bin, but in the process I found a swarm of silverfish that had been making themselves right at home eating the glue that holds together my canning jar boxes.  I made it a priority to pull everything out, get rid any paper boxes, and put my bulk dry goods away properly. 

After that I ran out of steam...

By the time Spring rolled around you couldn't even tell I'd organized anything. I had tons bags hanging everywhere and no idea what was in them. When OXO reached out to me a few weeks ago about testing out their POP containers (and a few other goodies) I thought I'd give my pantry the proper cleaning it needed—starting with the bags of snacks and other one-off items I can never find a place for. Those are the things that tend to end up stuffed in grocery bags and hung from hooks, never to be heard from again.

Pantry Before

What I really like about the POP containers is the variety of options. Whether your shelves are large like mine or on the smaller side, you'll likely find one to suit your needs since they come in several different formats (square, rectangular, and round.) Since they can be stacked several high they'll accommodate a variety of shelf heights which is especially handy if you don't have adjustable height shelves in your pantry or kitchen cabinets. With the variety of shapes and sizes you'll be able to store your leftover bits and bobs just as easily as a 5lb package of flour.

Out of all the containers I've actually found the smaller sizes the most useful for reducing the clutter in my pantry. My half-eaten packages of nuts, chocolate, and granola fit in the 0.3 and 0.9qt containers perfectly, so I no longer have a bunch of open packages cluttering up my shelves. You can see from the photos how much of a difference moving my open packages of food to storage containers did to keep things more organized.

Where to Purchase

10-Piece POP Container Set: Find it on Amazon or purchase it directly from OXO

In addition to the POP containers I did add a few other items during my pantry reorganization to help make things more manageable. The first was a beverage organizer that holds 24 cans of soda. I decided this was necessary after I dropped a half-open case of soda during my pantry clean-out and had it explode all over everything.

Talk about a mess! 

I never want to clean that up again, so with the new organizer I know that my precious stash of Dr Pepper (that I use for making Dr Pepper Pulled Pork) isn't wasted when I have butter fingers.

The second addition was a set of command hooks running up both walls. These hold packages of tuna, spices, pre-made sauces, and other odd-sized items that have a hole punched in the top. This way they're easily accessible and I can quickly see what I need to restock without having to dig through the pantry.

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Now no organizational post would be complete without a little Spring cleaning thrown in for good measure. Fortunately OXO also sent me their new Microfiber Under Appliance Duster to help me get started. Let me just say that I've never had a kitchen tool terrify me as much as this one! It occurred to me recently that the last time I cleaned under my stove was when it was installed eight years ago. I'm pretty sure it's a disgusting wasteland under there, so I chickened out and have been using it to clean under our furniture instead.

The duster's long handle makes it perfect for fishing out all the toys and snacks that find their way under our couch. It's raised off the floor, so all sorts of things get lost under it. After the first pass I came away with a large collection of lost legos, balls, bits of play-doh, snacks, a few random socks, and a whole lot of salt, dirt, and cat hair. It's only been a month since I pulled the couch out to clean, so I can only imagine what I'll find when I work up the courage to clean under the stove. It's accumulated eight years of dirt and grime, so can you blame me for procrastinating?

On the plus side, the duster comes apart easily and cleans up with a quick wash in cold water, so once I'm brave enough to tackle the kitchen at least I won't have a lot of extra clean-up to do.

Where to Purchase

Microfiber Under Appliance Duster: Find it on Amazon or purchase it directly from OXO

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Last but not least is the OXO's Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set. It's a handy set of nylon brushes and scrapers that helps you reach the hard to clean spaces in your kitchen. It's especially great and cleaning off all the burned-on crud that builds up around the burners on your stove, but I've also found it useful for cleaning around the sink and backsplash, or scraping off stubborn stuck-on food from stainless steel pots and pans. 

It has a lot of uses, so it's one tool that would be a valuable addition to any kitchen.

Where to Purchase

Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set: Find it on Amazon or purchase it directly from OXO

Disclosure


This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Today's post was sponsored by OXO as part of the Spring Cleaning & Organizing with OXO blogger outreach campaign. They have provided me with a set of pop containers and cleaning tools for evaluation, but no other compensation was given for this post. 

Behind the Scenes at Not Starving Yet with the Anker SoundCore Mini #Sponsored

I think I've mentioned this before, but I do about 75% of my writing away from home. The rest is accomplished at my kitchen table, or it was until I decided that I really needed a more comfortable place to work. The trouble is that our house isn't large by anyone's standards, so carving out even a small space meant I had to really consider what was necessary for me to work efficiently.

I learned a lot during last years downsizing of my mobile office—I don't use half of what I had been carrying with me and the same was true of my home workspace. I really only need a small portion of what I keep on hand, so step one was a massive purge of old props, papers, and other whatnots. That was a painful process, let me tell you, because I hoard bits and bobs like nobody's business. I eventually got through everything, then set about designing my new workspace.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes.   As always, all opinions are my own.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

The most difficult part of the whole process was finding furniture that would fit in the small corner I carved out of out guest room. There isn't enough room for a desk, but EKBY Hemnes Shelf from IKEA is just wide enough for my laptop so it makes an excellent makeshift desk, plus it happens to match the bookcases I bought. Coupled with a super comfortable Slipper Chair from Target, it makes a nice little writing nook (I absolutely love these chairs, we have several and they're the perfect size for a vertically challenged person such as myself. Plus they've got some great fabric choices.)

Once I had the basics decided on it was time to find a way to organize everything—I have an obscene amount of props that are stacked in random places throughout our house. A handful of Wire Storage Bins, a dozen or so 10qt and 25qt Sterilite Storage Bins, and some Hanging File Desk Organizers (for keeping my poster tubes full of backdrops in check) helped keep most of my props out of sight and cut down on the clutter in the kitchen. 

Then it was time for the fun stuff; those little touches that give a workspace personality. The first thing to go on the wall was my Alfred Hitchcock poster from Apple's Think Different campaign. It has been in every office I've had since the late 90s because I find the message from the campaign inspirational.

After that I added a few odds and ends to my bookshelf: some Dip Bowls from Target to hold miscellaneous office supplies, a set of A - Z bookends that I found on etsy, some coffee mugs to store my favorite pens. I called it a day with decorating after that. My office will never be minimalist, but I am attempting to keep the random bits and bobs down to the bare necessities.
 

It really doesn't help that I like pretty, shiny things...

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Today's post was sponsored by Anker who has provided me with one of their nifty SoundCore mini for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Last but not least are the electronics: a macbook retina, a Drobo 5C (for photo and document backup), and the latest addition, the Anker SoundCore Mini. My standard workday includes a lot of singing along (very off-key and at the top of my lungs) to whatever music has caught my attention lately. Music is integral to both my writing and my cooking, so I've been looking for a pint-size speaker with good battery life that will act as a replacement for the Harmon Kardon Soundsticks that I've been using since college.

The compact size of the SoundCore Mini makes it perfect for a tiny workspace like mine. It's small enough that I can tuck it away in one of my decorative bowls to keep my desk unclutered or take it from room to room as I need to move throughout the day. I don't even need to track down my phone when I want to switch rooms—it can stay on the charging station in our back bedroom and still stream music in the kitchen without the speaker disconnecting.

The range on this speaker is impressive.

Now, as much as I love this speaker, it does have one huge downside—especially if you're looking to listen to the radio instead of streaming music from your phone. The volume control and FM tuner use the same button, so it's easy to accidentally switch radio stations when what you really meant to do was turn the volume up.

As long as it didn't affect the size of the speaker I'd love to see a separate button for the radio adjustment as well as a digital read-out so it's easier to figure out which station I have the device set to. I'd listen to the local radio stations a lot more if this feature was more intuitive, but considering how rarely I've listened to the radio in the last 10 years neither of these features are high up on my must-have list. If given the choice I'd pick a smaller form factor or longer battery life over more intuitive FM tuner—it just isn't a feature I'd use often at all, even with improvement.

Disclosure


In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that a sample was provided to me free of charge by Anker, for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

This post contains my Amazon affiliate links. I try to keep advertising unobtrusive and to a minimum in order to provide you with the best experience possible. Purchases made through these links provide me with a small income and ensure I can continue providing you with quality content.

Getting Ready for 2016 with the Panda Planner #Sponsored

Product Review: The Panda Planner

It takes a lot of reflection and self-introspection to accomplish everything I hope to in my life, which is why I always start my day the same way—reflecting on what went right the day before and what may need to be changed for today. If the goal is something I'll struggle with, I write it down in the notebook I carry to reinforce the fact it's something I need to work on. I tend to take the same approach when it comes to work goals, reflecting on what I accomplished yesterday and what I need to improve on or accomplish today. Since I open my notebook multiple times a day to jot down recipe notes, memos, and other important information my goals are always staring back at me waiting to be checked off. 

It's a system that has served me well over the years, but this year it failed. We've had three major family emergencies back-to-back, so my attention has be focused on spending time with my family during these difficult times, rather than concentrating on my goals. Unfortunately this has caused me to drop the ball on more than one major project and miss countless deadlines—some of which I'm still struggling to catch up with. I've also lost sight of many of the things I've wanted to work on and improve this year both on the blog and in my personal life. 

There are still a few days left in 2015, so I decided to buy a planner and make a list of everything I didn't accomplish this year. Those will be the projects I tackle first in the new year—I want to start of 2016 completely caught up! 

I looked at a number of popular planners including Spark Notebook and Passion Planner, both of which have launched very successful Kickstarter campaigns this year, before I decided on the Panda Planner. It's a non-dated planner that is broken up into monthly, weekly, and daily sections. I love the non-dated format because very little of my life is scheduled on an hourly or even a daily basis—the standard format for most planners. I tend to work better with a weekly and monthly list of goals, but I do have a few days each week where a daily breakdown is crucial. Since I don't need a daily outlook on a regular basis using a standard dated planner leaves me with a lot of empty space and wasted paper. 

This planner is set up in such a manner that there is very little wasted space. It's well designed for someone who needs to keep a schedule on occasion, but may not need a planner every day, or who keeps a schedule that is very fluid (like a blogging calendar.) If you fall in to these two groups, I'd highly recommend this planner—non dated planners are they way to go for the occasional user. If you need more structure in your life or prefer a day-to-day planner, this isn't going to be the best option for your planning needs—it's not nearly large enough.

There aren't enough pages to get through 6 months worth of scheduling. This is something I feel is absolutely essential, although a full 12 months would be ideal. I'd love to see the page count bumped up a little so there were 12 monthly, 26 weekly, and 122 daily pages. The additional 86 pages would make this planner much more user-friendly, yet still keep it small enough to be convenient to carry. If you prefer the post-it note method of planning, where you write everything on post-its before adding it to your planner, you would get a full years worth of use with the added pages as long as you remove start over half way through the year. These changes, plus the addition of a pen loop, would go a long way towards making this a more usable planner.

Would I Purchase This Again? Not without a few minor changes. It is organized almost exactly the way I prefer to work, but there aren't nearly enough pages to make it useful to me on a long term basis.
 

Where to Purchase

Amazon - Panda Planner

Monthly -  One of my goals for 2015 was learning how to say no more often so I didn't overextend myself.   Having a monthly overview lets me see if I have space for a new project or if I need to turn it down. I use a 3 color post-it note system for my monthly outlook (Green for Blog, Yellow for personal, and Pink for Goals.) The post-it notes can easily be moved to another day if I need to reschedule a project at the last minute.

Monthly - One of my goals for 2015 was learning how to say no more often so I didn't overextend myself.  Having a monthly overview lets me see if I have space for a new project or if I need to turn it down. I use a 3 color post-it note system for my monthly outlook (Green for Blog, Yellow for personal, and Pink for Goals.) The post-it notes can easily be moved to another day if I need to reschedule a project at the last minute.

Weekly Outlook -  This section has a breakdown for projects, goals, and plans for the upcoming week. It also includes ample room for reflecting on the accomplishments and shortcomings from the previous week. While most of these sections are very useful to me, I don't get any use out of the section dedicated to the upcoming week—I've been covering it with a post-it note dedicated to my weekly shopping list instead.

Weekly Outlook - This section has a breakdown for projects, goals, and plans for the upcoming week. It also includes ample room for reflecting on the accomplishments and shortcomings from the previous week. While most of these sections are very useful to me, I don't get any use out of the section dedicated to the upcoming week—I've been covering it with a post-it note dedicated to my weekly shopping list instead.

Daily Outlook -  The section dedicated to day-to-day planning has plenty of room for that day's priorities, schedule, and tasks—as well as an end of day review on things that went well or need improvement. It has plenty of room for check lists and goals, so it's perfect for my needs.

Daily Outlook - The section dedicated to day-to-day planning has plenty of room for that day's priorities, schedule, and tasks—as well as an end of day review on things that went well or need improvement. It has plenty of room for check lists and goals, so it's perfect for my needs.

Additional Information


Product Description

GET RID OF YOUR UNPRODUCTIVE WORK HABITS, ONCE AND FOR ALL!

Finally, there's a simple, easy-to-use system that practically cures procrastination and helps you get more done, in less time! Introducing the Panda Planner, born out of necessity by a once-struggling entrepreneur, the Panda Planner design is based on scientific studies that are proven to increase productivity and happiness over time.

With the Panda Planner, You Can:

- Create your ideal lifestyle and LIVE IT! 
- Increase Your Productivity! 
- Develop Better Time Management Skills! 
- Achieve Work / Life Balance! 
- Feel Happier, Everyday! 
- Life a More Fulfilled Life!

We are so confident that Panda Planner is the BEST planner you'll ever use that we offer a 1 Year, No-Hassle Guarantee! All the risk is on us, so try it now!

Disclosure


In an effort to be open with my readers I want to let you know that this sample was provided to me free of charge by Panda Planner. As always, all opinions are my own.

Kid Safe Multi-Purpose Kitchen Spray and Ant Deterrent

We had our last snow a few weeks ago and since then the temperatures have been hovering in the mid-sixties. That means it's time to shut off the heat, open the house up, and start on my annual spring cleaning. I'm not much of a housekeeper, so it's a bit of a dreaded chore and with a busy little boy running around nothing every stays clean long anyway. 

This year, instead of trying to do everything at once I've made up a room-by-room plan. I'll start with the easiest room first so I can ease my way into it, then tackle the most difficult room last. The first item on my list, before I can even start cleaning, is to make a huge batch of multi-purpose spray from vinegar and oranges. I usually stock up on the necessary supplies around Easter when vinegar is on sale, then buy a case of Cuties for my son's Easter basket. Every time I peel an orange for a snack I drop the leftover peel in my repurposed 1-gallon glass jug and top it off with vinegar. After a couple of weeks I have enough cleaning solution to last the better part of a year. The best part is that it only costs pennies to make— I don't have to spend $10 or more on so-called natural cleaning products. 

Kid Safe Multi-Purpose Kitchen Spray and Ant Deterrent

Multi-Purpose Kitchen Spray and Ant Deterrent
makes 32 ounces

Ingredients

32 ounces white vinegar
1 large orange (see notes)
spray bottle

Directions

  • Remove a ½ cup of vinegar from the bottle and reserve for later. Pack bottle with orange peels, top with reserved vinegar, then reseal the bottle.
  • Set aside for several weeks in a cool dark place, then transfer the infused vinegar to spray bottles.
  • You can use the mixture straight or dilute it with 50% water to make it last longer. 

Notes

Did you know that oranges are a natural ant deterrent? Just spray your floor or countertop along the trail where you see ants coming in. It will mask the scent trail left behind for other ants to follow.

You can use any type of citrus peel for this recipe, you don't need to limit yourself to orange (although other citrus fruits may not work as well as an ant deterrent.) 

If you have hard water you may want to consider using distilled water to dilute the spray, otherwise it may leave white spots on the areas you've cleaned.