In between his full time job, volunteering in the community, and taking care of his two young sons, Mike McCleod, Jr. had little time for himself or for organizing his small, but cozy home. As a result, the kitchen, where the family spent the most time, was overrun with food, appliances, and the debris of daily living. His kitchen table was literally on its last leg and in such poor condition that it could no longer be used for meals. When Mike reached out to my friends at Hooplaha, @onlygood.tv for help, I was happy to spearhead his kitchen makeover.
When I first met the McCleod trio, they were excited about the project on hand. Kiing and Hova, Mike’s sons, greeted me at the door, and as they showed me around the apartment, I could see that the kitchen was not functioning at all; instead it was weighed down with clutter. Yet, I was also pleasantly surprised to see several areas where overflow from the kitchen could be stored.
After Adam Keller’s flash mob proposal to Jared Marinelli at Joy Ride Studio (viewed by 14 million people), life changed dramatically for these fitness instructors. In addition to cohosting an online series called “Joy Story” for Hooplaha – Only Good News, they moved to a new home, and basked in an outpouring of affection from the LGBT community. When our mutual friends from Hooplaha told me “the boys” where struggling with a small kitchen, I was happy to pay them a visit in New Jersey to help them manage the space.
While their new home had an extensive yard for them to walk their dogs, the kitchen was a fraction of the size of the one they had left behind. Since this space was limited, they were using the counters to compensate for the lack of a pantry, and the kitchen was overrun by clutter. When organizing the space, I followed my typical approach:
Take everything out of the cabinets
Group like items together
Separate duplicates and purge
Put everything back in an organized fashion
As I cleared everything out of the cabinets, I could see that inside and under the cabinets were not being used properly. To maximize space, I outfitted drawers with inserts to organize utensils, flatware, and utility items (tools and batteries). Items on high shelves were placed in bins, so that they would be accessible, and the surfaces were cleared. Accents in orange were placed throughout, resulting in a charming, cozy kitchen Jared and Adam can enjoy. See a video of the makeover here.
With her easy smile, charismatic personality, and colorful content, it’s no wonder that Lisa Schechter’s venture, “Lis on Life” has taken off in just a few months. For years, Lisa has nurtured her passion for finding or creating the best of everything – food, flowers, fashion, vacation venues, wellness plans, and gifts and sharing her finds. With Lis on Life, her recommendations are now being shared beyond her many friends to reach thousands of followers on Instagram.
Lisa is known for her beautiful food displays and delicious meals. Her challah is famous, not only for its soft texture, but for the innovative shapes and toppings she devises. Her fruit boards are art, and her meal planning is impeccable. Since she’s not only preparing food, but also arranging and photographing her projects, her kitchen needs to be functional and fully stocked at all times.
Over the past several months, I’ve worked with Lisa organizing her office, children’s rooms, linen closets, game closets, sentimental items, basement, and her digital space. The only area we never touched was her kitchen…until now.
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
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.