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Too Many Cooks: Spick and Span

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You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

Today: Keepin' it clean.



Jovan: Those Ziploc vacuum bags saved us from our overwhelmingly bulky bedding collecting dust. We have a very small closet, so we store a lot under the bed or on top of the one armoire in the room. The bags make everything stackable and easily organized.

Leslie: I keep out only what I actually use every day. I somehow ended up with some extra bowls that I initially kept in a low cabinet along with my other dinnerware even though I only use them roughly once a week, so I recently moved them into one of the top cabinets that requires getting out a step stool to reach. It freed up a ton of space. I also believe in keeping counters and surfaces as clear as possible, so I store things like spatulas in my cabinets and only take them out when I'm cooking.


Lauren L.: I'm deep in the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up method. We still have the attic to do so I'd imagine I'll end up donating a total of 15 bags of our belongings—which is freeing and makes me examine my family's excess at the same. I'm also a big fan of going through purses and bags every week and emptying stuff out. We keep things mid-level minimal around the house, but have found that embracing a spot in our house where junk can pile up pre-declutter makes for a good balance. 


Haley S.: My biggest pain point? Food storage and Tupperware. I've got baskets to hold all the pieces now thanks to one too many glass containers ending up falling out of the cabinet, attacking me, and trying to break my toes. But my husband said just this week that we need an intervention, that there has to be a better way, that the current strategy of throwing things in and closing the door as quickly as possible can't be the best way. How do people store all the glasses of different sizes plus the tops? I'm desperate!

I purposefully don't have extra hangers in my closet. When I go to hang something up (maybe it's new or I realize I should be hanging it and not folding it), it forces me to do an edit of my closet. Stuff that I haven't worn in months and don't see myself wearing again immediately gets removed and given a new home. Plus nice hangers make me want to keep my closet organized.

Catherine: Ditto, Haley! Hanging items also forces me to keep them stored rather than lying on my floor waiting to be folded. I also started doing this: For those clothes that you love but don't get any use (i.e. jeans you'll "fit in" after your New Years resolution, specific event clothes, clothes that remind you of high school, etc.), 1. Put them in a plastic bag. 2. Put the bag in a garage, far away closet, or wayyy underneath your bed. 3. If you haven't felt the urge to wear or go get the plastic bag for a specific item after a year, donate it!


Victoria: Living with a roommate in a 398-square-foot, 2 bedroom apartment means you need to be creative and ruthless. Like Haley, I have a set of nice hangers. If I buy something new, something old goes out the door. Living in a small space makes you consider every item you purchase. My old roommate and I even decided on one shampoo, conditioner, and body wash to share to save space in the shower.

Jane W.: Earlier this summer I discovered Bag-all, and their little canvas pouches have really helped me transform my purse from "scary grab-bag/mobile trashcan" into, you know, an actual purse. 

Jackie: I put everything in containers, in containers. If it's popcorn kernels, they get a glass jar. If it's medicines like Benadryl or Advil, those go in jelly jars. If it's clothes or boots, they go in big plastic trunks that go under my bed or in my storage unit. If it's in my purse, I have pouches, inside pouches, inside pouches, inside my bag. It's like Russian nesting dolls for organization.


Riddley: My mom bought me a label maker for Christmas last year and it CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest thing I use it for is my spice shelf. All the spices are in clear, identical jars, labeled, and put in alphabetical order. It makes finding things a cinch.

Karl: I too am on the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up train. Giving away all the clothes we don't love eliminated the storage trick we used to use (putting off-season clothes in bins in the attic). All of our clothes from all seasons now fit in our closet and dresser! I also recently consolidated mixing bowls so they all stack (even though it's a mix of metal and ceramic).

Jennifer: I'm a minimalist—I want as few things on my shelves as possible. For example, I've tried to eliminate as many extra lotions/potions/bottles from my bathroom. One change I've made is to use an all-natural shampoo that comes in a bar. Now I have only three items in my shower. I also use dual-purpose items as often as possible—e.g. lotion that works for your body and face.

Photo of copper rack by Madelynn Hackwith Furlong; photo of pantry by Mark Weinberg; all others by James Ransom