Our featured client this month is Samantha, the mother of three young children and the matriarch of a large extended family. This hostess extraordinaire often cooks for 30 family members and friends to celebrate Shabbat each weekend. In addition, Samantha maintains toys for every possible age group to ensure that even the youngest guest has appropriate entertainment. Over time, though, her home has become the self declared “weigh station” for toys, clothing, books, cookware, and furniture for relatives and friends with younger children, ones who have yet to have children, and even those who are not yet married.
Like many women who hire us, Samantha’s organizational skills are the envy of her friends (“why do you need an organizer,” is a popular refrain she hears). Yet, Samantha felt that she needed expert advise in how to streamline her life to entertain and function at a higher level. She knew it was time to take back her home – it could no longer be a proverbial ‘candy store’ for children and adults alike – and she needed our help.
Like most of my projects, this one started with a phone call. There was a townhouse and two dads, two kids, two dogs, and way too much stuff. Could we help? Of course.
At the first appointment, we met Bill and Alvarro, two busy dads at their home in Brooklyn Heights which was beautifully decorated yet warm and child friendly. From the basement to the office on the top floor, we could see the evidence of a well lived life. Gifts, souvenirs from travel, photos, school projects, and books could be found in boxes and piles throughout the house. Bill and Alvarro craved better organization so that they could live with less clutter and less stress. After a walk through of the house, we made a plan: we would meet once a week, and tackle one room at a time, starting in the kitchen.
In 2016, my friend and colleague, Nancy Lascher, became involved with Beautycounter, and I learned a startling fact: the United States is one of the few countries that doesn’t regulate the ingredients in skin care products, and Beautycounter is one of the few companies committed to making skin care products without any harmful ingredients.
As a professional organizer, I never paid much attention to the composition of the products I used to contain and corral my clients’ clutter. Yet, the cancer diagnoses of several friends and clients over the past two years has led me to take a closer look. This week, I cohosted an event with Lara Metz about healthy snacks and food storage containers.
While I don’t profess to being an expert on the chemical composition of organizing products, one of my team members (and cancer surviver), compiled this summary of chemicals to avoid in food storage containers and a list of some recommended products. As we learn more, this list will evolve, and we encourage you to share what you know, so we can provide the most up to date information.
Avoid the following chemicals in food storage containers:
BPA – Bisphenol A Plastic
– Increased risk of cancer
– Sexual and reproductive issues
– ADHD and other developmental disorders
– Endocrine disruption
Walking into Holly Merrin’s kitchen is a little like Dorothy seeing Oz for the first time. From the emerald green terrazzo floors to the bold green leather chairs and fabulous views of the Hudson River, this kitchen is long on the wow factor.
The mom of the moment is long on the wow factor too. Petite and pretty, Holly enjoys preparing meals and snacks for her family. A 2015 graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute, it’s more than a hobby, but not yet a career. Holly contacted Curated Kitchen to tackle both the physical organization of the kitchen and her need to address a wide range of food preferences in the most nutritious manner.
Registered Dietitian Lara Metz and Professional Organizer Barbara Reich are joining forces in their newest venture, Curated Kitchen. Their combined expertise gets to the core of how a curated kitchen will enable you to live a happier, more balanced life. Together, they will edit your kitchen, eliminate unhealthy food, unnecessary kitchen clutter and leave you with a newly stocked, better organized space to gather with family and friends. Not only will you receive recipes, nutrition, and organizing tips, but your whole family will enjoy a kitchen makeover that pleases every palate.
Is your pantry a disaster of stale cereal and junk food? Do you have multiple bags of half eaten chips left over from the super bowl party you hosted in January? Is there food that has been there for weeks, if not years?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. And, the prediction of 12-24 inches of snow makes today the perfect day to purge and create a pantry that’s well stocked, organized, and filled with nutritious food.
Over the past several months, I’ve organized several kitchens with my colleague, Lara Metz. One of the issues we’ve been seeing repeatedly is the duplication of items in the refrigerator and pantry. Here’s our advice on how to avoid this in your kitchen:
Start by purging all of the foods that have expired in both your refrigerator and pantry. This should be done on a weekly basis prior to going to the grocery store. Then, in an accessible area, store a pad or a white board to keep a running list of what needs to be replaced. Let your family know that this is everyone’s responsibility, not just yours, so even children are in the habit of adding to the list when they take the last bag of pretzels.
In order to maintain organization, group all similar items together. In both the kitchen and pantry, there should be zones for different food categories. In the refrigerator, take advantage of built in compartments. For example, put all fruit in the fruit drawer and produce in the produce drawer. Then, store your products in straight lines with like items one behind the other.
Use organizing products that will make your refrigerator and pantry functional and look great. Here are some of our favorites:
White taper bins can be used to corral individually wrapped products. For example, if you have multiple types of tea and tea bags, store these in a bin along with a jar of honey. Use another bin to store snacks like chips and pretzels.
Pantry bins are helpful to separate items and keep them them neat.
For storing dry goods like cereal, flour, and sugar, I recommend using canisters like these .
If there’s a hard to reach corner in your pantry, consider a Lazy Susan.
Studies suggest that people reach for what they see first, so to encourage wellness in your home, position fruit and healthy snacks at eye level.
Recently, I was asked to participate in a web series for Hooplaha, a fabulous network whose mission is to inspire, uplift and make people happy. In this series, I’ll be providing free organizational makeovers to those who can’t afford to pay for a professional organizer. In short, this is my opportunity to give back to the community and improve the quality of someone’s life. In the premiere episode I meet the McLeod family. Mike McLeod is a thirty-five year old single father of two young sons, Kiing and Hova. Not only does he work two jobs (finding housing for the homeless and acting as a basketball referee), but he’s also very involved in his community. His lack of time has made it difficult for him to get ahead; he was in desperate need of a kitchen organization makeover.
Upon arriving at the McLeod apartment, I noticed that the kitchen space, although extremely cluttered, was also the heart of the home. I learned that Mike loves to be in the kitchen cooking healthy meals for his sons, he has a penchant for buying too many spices, and he’s a saver of empty boxes and containers that take up unnecessary space. With the help of my team, we got to work using my four-step method of organization (purge, design, organize, and maintain).
First, we purged everything the family didn’t need or want. We sorted everything so that like items were together and we could see which appliances and kitchen tools were duplicates. Then, we used our organizing tools to design the space. We used OXO canisters for the dry goods such as flour and sugar, and we used Linus Pantry Binz to organize spices in the cabinet and excess toiletries. We also used drawer inserts to create organized spaces in the drawers. The next step was to organize everything that would remain in the McLeod’s kitchen. We were able to clear off the table and give the family a place to eat meals, do homework, and spend time together. To help Mike and the boys maintain order, we labeled everything using a Brother P Touch label maker.
It took us about 3 hours to transform this room from a cluttered mess to a functional organized space that was cozy and efficient. It was a great day and a lot of fun for everyone!
Click here to meet Mike and his boys and watch the McLeod kitchen makeover.
1. Use matching containers for separate foods and leftovers, so everything looks uniform. Preferably these containers should be clear, stackable, easy to open and close, and labelled! I love the Pyrex Easy Grab Bake ‘N Store food storage containers. They go from oven to microwave to refrigerator/freezer!
2. Establish a routine for cleaning out the refrigerator. Designate a day, like Sunday to throw away any expired foods and rotten fruits and vegetables.
3. Don’t buy too much food at once. While you may be inclined to “stock the fridge,” be aware of how quickly food can spoil. Also, if your refrigerator is too stuffed, you won’t have adequate room for cool air to circulate.
4. Group like things together and designate locations for standard items such as eggs, milk, and fruit that you always have on hand. This way, you always know where the basics are and whether and when you need more.
5. Beware of “jumbo” and “family size”. Unless you have a huge family, smaller sizes are easier to separate, stack, and store.
6. Keep it clean. Mop up spills and messes immediately, and toss anything that gets ruined. Keep baking soda in your refrigerator to keep it smelling fresh.
7. Use space wisely. Refrigerators have specific areas designed for specific items! Use tall shelves for tall bottles, and drawers for smaller items.
8. Implement the “Two Servings Rule”. Never experience that moment of horror when you realize there’s no more of the only peanut butter your child will eat. Once you have about two servings left of a given item (2 servings peanut butter, 2 apples, 2 yogurts), write it on your shopping list.
9. Stock healthy foods if you want to eat healthy! Chances are you’ll reach for a healthy snack when those snacks are front and ce
Losing weight and getting organized are two of the most common New Year’s Resolutions. Yet, until recently, I didn’t extend my organizational tendencies to the food I ate. Because I had been naturally thin for most of my life, this wasn’t an issue until I turned 41. Then, it seemed to me, I gained weight overnight. My immediate reaction was that I had developed a thyroid problem, one that could be easily fixed with medication. Who doesn’t fantasize about taking a pill and losing weight? Unfortunately (or fortunately), a visit to my doctor confirmed both the weight gain, and the absence of a thyroid condition. So, I turned to plan B.
Plan B consisted of doing nothing. Instead, I spent the next two years complaining about my weight. And, because I had given up to some extent, I also started eating more and exercising less. In denial, I told myself that recent photos were just taken at an unflattering angle, and my clothes were tight because they were supposed to be. It wasn’t until my annual check up, when I stepped on a scale and saw a number I never thought I’d see post pregnancy, that I faced the facts and moved on to plan C.
Plan C consisted of four appointments with nutritionist extraordinaire, Lara Metz (www.nutritiouslife.com). After keeping a food log for a week, Lara summed up my problem in one sentence. For someone so organized, I was completely disorganized about food. I ate whatever was in front of me. I rarely sat down to eat. Instead, I ate breakfast while taking my children to school, lunch on my lap in a taxi between appointments, and dinner standing at the island in my kitchen while checking email…not exactly a recipe for healthy living. In fact, I needed a complete reorganization of my kitchen, the food I ate, and when I ate. Now, thanks to Lara, I feel more energetic, have lost those stubborn pounds, and have gained control of how I eat. I call it “organized eating”.
Here are five of Lara’s basic tips that may help make your New Year’s diet resolution become a reality:
1. Plan (and prepare) meals in advance. You only need to conceptualize six or seven meals that you can rotate for your family. If you really want to simplify things, have the same chicken every Monday, the same meat every Tuesday, and the same pasta every Wednesday.
2. Plan (and prepare) snacks in advance. Make sure healthy snacks are available both at home and when you’re on the go. Like meals, snacks should be planned and prepared in advance.
3. Eat Frequently. Not only do you need to three meals a day, but don’t go more than two to three hours without eating. Have a snack between breakfast and lunch and again between lunch and dinner.
4. Drink lots of water. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, and drink as much as you can. If you get bored, spruce up your water with lemon or cucumber.
5. Have balanced meals that are satisfying. Not only do you need to have lean proteins and healthy fats, but meals need to taste good. Instead of an omelet with vegetables, add a piece of cheese. Instead of plain cottage cheese, add cinnamon and almonds. When food tastes better, you’ll enjoy it more and eat less.
In addition to following these tips from Lara, I also re-organized my kitchen to reflect my healthier lifestyle. Here are my five tips for organizing your kitchen to support organized eating:
1. Prominently display healthy snacks.If the first thing you see is delicious and healthy food, that’s what you’ll be likely to eat.
2. Hide temptations. Bread and bagels can be stored in a stainless steel bread box on the counter. It looks sleek, and corrals those unsightly plastic bags. http://www.containerstore.com/shop?productId=10000733&N=&Ntt=chrome+bread+box
3. Use uniform plastic containers in your refrigerator. Cut vegetables and fruit into bite size pieces and store the snacks in matching containers. Having all the same container makes your refrigerator look neat and visually appealing. Try the Modular Mates set from Tupperware: http://order.tupperware.com/coe/app/tup_show_item.show_item_detail?fv_item_category_code=20000&fv_item_number=P10058361000 4. Store like foods together. You need to know what you have in your refrigerator and pantry. For example, by lining up yogurts front to back in the refrigerator, I can see when I’m running low. You don’t want to eat something unhealthy because you didn’t realize you had run out of a diet staple.
5. Store dry goods in see through canisters. Cereal, nuts, and fiber bars look positively inviting when displayed this way. I like the Oxo POP canisters: http://www.oxo.com/p-436-pop-container-big-square-55-quart.aspx
What have you done to organize the food you eat? Let me know; I’d love to hear from you!