How I Organized My Kitchen on a Budget

“A place for everything and everything in its place” was the advice I was given as a child when I misplaced something, which I have to admit was often enough.

But whenever I had a chance to put things in order and to give things a designated spot (and I made sure to return the objects to their designated spot after use), it seemed that losing, misplacing and hunting for things became a rare occurrence. Mom and Dad’s advice was proven right, again and again.

I was working in the kitchen a few days ago when I realized that my kitchen was not following that mantra. I had teas scattered in three different cupboards. I had bags of bulk store products piled on top of one another and sliding off each other. Even my cat’s cupboard was becoming an avalanche-waiting-to-happen.

My spring cleaning instinct went into overdrive. It was time to tame these cupboards and get the kitchen organized once and for all!

It’s not like I’ve never done this before. A few years ago, I containerized the different kinds of gluten-free flour I needed, just to keep them clearly identified and organized. Gluten-free recipes were a breeze when I could tell my tapioca starch from the potato starch, and the white rice flour from the sweet rice flour. Every time I baked or brought back more flour from the store, I was so thankful that I had this section so neatly organized.

It was time to apply the same makeover technique to the rest of the kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen items, I see two main problems: shapeless objects and small objects.

The shapeless objects are those bagged items like chocolate chips or bulk store items that don’t stack well, creating a moving blob in the cabinet, consuming horizontal space and little vertical space. Small objects like the little bottles of flavour extracts (almond, orange and vanilla) stay in place nicely, but if I accidentally knock one over while reaching for something behind them, I knock them all over.

Another side issue is depth. If we can make use of the full depth of the cabinets, storage potential is multiplied. The problem is how to stay on top of what’s at the very back of the shelf.

To me, the answer is containers.

The first step was a quick edit of the contents of my cabinets and pantry. I tossed out anything that was in the process of going stale, that I honestly knew I wasn’t going to use, or that had expired. One garbage bag later, and with free space opening up, I was well on my way.

The next step was to measure those cabinets carefully (from the inside!) and to get a sense of how much free space I had to work with. I then went to a discount store to check out how their containers measured up and compared to my free space.

To maximize my use of space, I avoided looking at containers that were cylindrical. Those barrel-shaped containers lose too much space in the square angles of rectangular cupboards.

I then bought three different “prototype” containers (that seemed to fit within the boundaries of my cabinet measurements) to see how they might fit and stack up in my pantry and cupboard shelves. With those prototypes, I was able to see what fit the best and to imagine how many containers could fit in a row to best fill in the space.

I then returned to the store and started buying containers 3 or 4 at a time, just enough to fill up a row. I didn’t buy more than that as I wanted to reserve the right to change my mind and relocate them to another shelf later if needed.

Then I washed and thoroughly dried the containers and filled them with items that seemed to be within the same “category”. And then out came the label maker for the last finishing touch, to let me know what was in the container.

With one row finished, I’d take a step back, mentally high-five myself for what I had accomplished, and then start thinking about the next row to tackle a day or two later.

The time between rows allowed me to consider what other objects could logically be combined into a container, which size container was needed, and where to place it (is it something I use daily, weekly or just a few times per year?) Before I knew it, in my mind I had my kitchen already rearranged.

The best part is that discount stores have containers of so many different shapes, sizes and materials, it is pretty easy to reorganize a kitchen on a limited budget.

The first recipes I did after the kitchen cabinet makeover went so smoothly. I am certain I saved time and effort in not having to hunt for any of the ingredients or the tools I needed, because I had “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

Thanks again, Mom and Dad!

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under food, How to

How I Die a Little Each Time Someone Says “For Your Age”

I always appreciate the kindness and generosity of spirit when someone sends a compliment my way or I get a good news from a medical check-up. But there is no faster way to turn my smile upside down than to pause and conclude the statement with “… for a guy your age.”

“You look great… for a guy your age.”

“Your test results are great… for a guy your age.”

“Your eyesight is good… for a guy your age.”

What does “for your age” mean exactly? “For your age bracket you are doing well, but when compared to the overall population, you suck?” Well that’s certainly a feel-good moment, isn’t it?

When exactly did I get old enough to earn the qualifier “for your age” and why do I hear a roar of horror movie sound effects whenever someone says it?

I know that I will probably never have the same constitution as I did when I was 20. Back then, I burned up calories faster than I could consume them. I could work out every day and rarely feel the burn the next day. When I wasn’t so kind to my body, I could get by on 4 hours sleep, I smoked, and my diet rarely included leafy greens. Yet somehow, I still functioned reasonably well.

Things are different now for this quinquagenarian. One salty meal and I puff up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, and “feeling the burn” the next day is often the result of something as challenging as opening a jar with a tight lid. Significant adjustments were needed out of necessity.

The icing on the cake is that now, when I shop for sunscreen at my favourite skin care counter, each visit seems to conclude with, “Could I get you a free sample of eye cream?” to which I think to myself, “Do I look like I need eye cream?”

One time, when I was inadvertently channeling the spirit of Sophia Petrillo, those words actually escaped my mouth. The clerk suggested, “This cream helps refresh the eye area, just like you had a solid 8 hour sleep” to which I replied, “but I did have a solid 8 hour sleep!” I was on an argumentative roll that day.

In her eyes, I could see the gears turning in search of a suitable comeback. “Please, it’s a complimentary gift with purchase. You’ll love it!” she said as she handed me my bag of products with her arm stretched out in the direction of the doorway.

The sad part is they don’t even ask anymore. When I get home, I find eye cream samples lurking at the bottom of the bag just waiting to turn the dagger in my heart a few more times. But I digress…

I understand the validity of the qualifier “for your age” from a health perspective. The way my body behaves today is not the same as it used to (… corn and raw onions come to mind) and it probably never will be again. I can certainly help maintain youthfulness and vitality through exercise, healthy living and good eating habits, but reversing time completely is a tall order.

I accept each liver spot and wrinkle as a badge of honour for making it this far in life with still so much to look forward to. So what if my eyes look a little puffy even after 8 hours sleep? So what if grunting is part of my regular vocabulary in strenuous situations like tying shoes and opening heavy doors?

“For your age” seems appropriate in the health context, as it takes into consideration the many factors which contribute to the natural aging process.

But in casual conversation, that “for your age” statement just feels like it erases the kind and generous words preceding it. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but for the sake of everyone’s happiness, can we just stop at the adjective and leave out “for your age” or come up with some other fun ways to deliver compliments?

“I don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s working! You look great!”

“What’s your secret for looking so spry/youthful?”

“Have you been on vacation?”

No further qualification or comparison is necessary.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, Humour

When Your Feline Friend is Chatty Catty

When I first met Ivy, she was sitting in upper bunk of her cage, supervising the goings on at the pet store, like a queen on her throne overseeing her subjects.

She wasn’t terribly responsive to my first attempts at getting to know this beautiful rescue cat. She just looked at me and didn’t say a word, which seemed a little odd compared to the other recue cats who either sniffed me or stuck their paws out of the cage as if to say, “Take me home!”

The same thing happened on my second visit. I thought to myself that maybe she was a little shy or perhaps just calm, cool and collected. Either way, that was OK with me and perhaps what I needed in a cat.

After a couple of days of thinking about it, I called the pet store and asked if she was still available. She was. I asked if she was always this “chill”. They said she really was that mellow and, in their observation, didn’t seem nervous about anything, even other cats and dogs visiting the store. I told them that I thought she was “the one” and that I’d pick her up after dinner.

The minute she was in the car, everything changed. Continue reading

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Ruminating, Racing Thoughts and Overthinking

… or does “Overthinking, Racing Thoughts and Ruminating” sound better?

… or should I say, “Racing Thoughts, Ruminating and Overthinking”?

… or perhaps “Ruminating, Overthinking and Racing Thoughts?”

As someone who considers himself a proactive person, it is well within my nature to think things through before acting.

Not only do I want to avoid making mistakes, but when I make a decision, I’d like to think that I have been responsible, thoughtful, balanced, sensitive and kind.

I admit it, I don’t deal well with surprises. Getting blindsided sends steam shooting out of my ears. Getting pressed for quick decisions and reactions without the proper time to process the situation sends my blood pressure through the roof.

While I think others have more confidence in my handling of things than I do myself, perhaps it is a sense of not wanting to let people down by appearing unprepared, that I try to eradicate surprises before they happen.

But that’s exhausting. Anticipating every possible outcome is next to impossible and developing an action plan for every negative scenario is hard on the mind, body and spirit.
This is not to say I can’t be impulsive or spontaneous. I have a pretty good sense of what works for me and what doesn’t. Over 52 years, my gut has rarely steered me wrong. I just need to trust that instinct. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, mental health

Where Have All the TV Theme Songs Gone?

This season, the American television network “The CW” launched a reboot of the favourite 1980’s prime time soap “Dynasty”. In watching the very first episode, I was delighted to see several nods to its original series, including having kept its great orchestral theme song. The only thing was that it was a much shorter version of it.

Similarly, Netflix has recently rebooted “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Again, a really unique theme song, but chopped down to just a few bars of its original.

Have you noticed how the opening themes for many American TV shows have gotten shorter and shorter over the years? Now, some shows don’t even have them at all.

If I mentioned the names of program like “All in the Family“, “Golden Girls”, “Three’s Company”, “The Brady Bunch” or “Gilligan’s Island”, even if you weren’t a huge fan, I’m sure many of you would be able to recite a few words if not the whole theme song.

These theme songs became deeply entrenched in our pop culture, and some have become synonymous with the decades when the shows originally aired. In doing so, they also became entrenched in our hearts and minds.

As young kids, we couldn’t play “Batman” without singing few rounds of the famous “Na na na na na na na…” theme.

What would have become of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” with a theme song about a messy breakup instead of the inspiring words about making it after all? Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, music, TV

When Door-To-Door Sales Were Banned

On March 1st, a province-wide ban went into effect in Ontario, effectively putting a stop to high pressure sales of heating, air conditioning and water services at our front doors. What a relief!

While I feel bad for the folks who were trying to make an honest living in the business of door-to-door sales, the sad reality is that in recent years, a few rotten apples spoiled it for everyone. Some sales people were becoming pushy, confrontational and some were downright creepy.

I remember one young lady who looked like Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch, who was selling a locked-in price plan for natural gas. After I politely declined the offer and started gently shutting the door, she wrapped up the conversation saying “you’ll beeee soooorryyyyy” with the same tone and inflection as a dire warning from a horror movie. That was a little creepy!

I also remember an argumentative type that got my blood boiling when I innocently thought this might be a good time to ask questions and to get more information. As I started asking very genuine questions about the service he was offering, he kept asking me why I needed to know that, as his tone got increasingly defensive with every passing question. When he started raising his voice and I started feeling rattled, I decided it was time to end the conversation. He kept talking after I closed the door.

It was the pushy people who wanted to get into the house and check out my water heater that pushed me over the edge, when challenging my own authority to say “no, thank you”. Holy invasion of privacy, Batman! Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, Humour, mental health, Misc blogs

When Things Are Oversealed for Your Protection

A couple of months ago, I was home from work with a bad case of bronchitis. Not only was my breathing affected, but the body aches and the rapid swings between feeling hot and cold had me running through wardrobe changes faster than Cher at her Farewell Tour.

At one point, I was feeling so crummy, I was taking the maximum daily dosage of pain reliever. In doing so, I quickly depleted my supply and needed to open a new bottle. Little did I know the ordeal that was lying ahead:

The box was “sealed for my protection”. I understood why. I believe many of us can remember the events of 1982 that led to the reason why medication packages are designed and secured in the way that they are.
Check out this link for a refresher: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/tylenol-murders-1982

But despite the multiple attempts, with the “brute force” I was putting into it – maybe it was my weakened state – I just couldn’t tear through the simple plastic seal on the cardboard box, no matter how hard I tried. The packaging was visibly mangled, but I just couldn’t break in. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Humour, Misc blogs