Thursday, March 4, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Scary Spice

Janet here: At first glance, my spice rack does not seem to be a problem ... except this is not the only place I store spices, as this other photo will illustrate.

I'm not proud of my spice storage, and as I get more into uncluttering my life — thank you Erin Doland of Unclutterer — this spice issue is making me a little crazy. I remember walking into my friend Julia's home when she and John first moved it. It was a lovely home, but the thing that would have made me buy it without walking beyond the kitchen was this fabulous former fold-down ironing board in the wall that had been turned into a secret spice storage area. I would kill to have something like that.

In my day job as the editor of a home and lifestyle magazine (among others), I wander through people's homes and invariably lust after their kitchen storage space, in particular their spice areas. Secret storage areas by the sides of stoves that slide out and let you see the spices and/or food from both sides in particular make me drool.

Given that our kitchen is a set size and a renovation (other than new counters — ours are embarrassingly dated, but that's another story) are not in the budget cards, I'm going to have to become creative. A friend suggested turning my current utensil drawer into a spice spot. That, of course, would mean cleaning out some other drawers, which really means I'm talking about redoing all my kitchen storage. A few years ago, I became fed up with the invariable tumbling out of Tupperware and errant plastic storage bins minus covers etc. that happened every time I opened that cabinet to get something to store leftovers in. I pulled everything out, matched up the tops and bottoms, and threw out the rest. The new family rule is nothing goes in there without its top on.

Maybe it's time to tackle the rest of the kitchen. What are your storage solutions?

Rachel here: When we moved in January it was one of those moves where there were few things we were sorry to leave behind in our old apartment (besides the memories and our fabulous walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom). There was, however, a built-in spice rack over the stove that I find myself missing on the regular at our new place. Cooking in the old apartment meant not having to hunt for spices and, instead, while stirring your soup just reaching up for a pinch of cayenne or whatever you needed. Not so much in the new apartment. The spice rack,however, was really the only good thing about the old kitchen. In our new place, we have a walk-in pantry filled with shelves and cupboards and a massive kitchen (with original turn of the century hardwood floors) in which I appreciate the space to move and cook every time I'm making food. My solution so far has been to create a spice drawer. In addition to spices, I keep my cupcake/muffin liners, rolling pin (which has a metal core for freezing and I am in love with and a better baker for owning), toothpicks and cookie cutters. It's not a perfect system (though it will be as I accumulate spices, one of those inevitabilities in life it seems), but things don't shift around too much currently and, with the tops of the jars labeled and the drawer right by the stove and main prep area, it's pretty darn convenient.

A note here about my mother and me. I am somebody who (sadly?), for fun, will go through all of her cupboards/drawers/bookshelves/whatever and reorganize them. One time in high school my family left me home alone for a week and I cleaned out and organized my mother's entire pantry (what I found in there I will keep between her and me). Last summer when John and I were visiting I pulled everything out of her linen closet, refolded and re-stacked and reordered...for fun (it just crossed my mind that this might drive her insane). As you can see, my mom and I are not exactly birds of a feather when it comes to my (admittedly sort of sick) propensity for giving things a neat and precise place. I think our spice situations speak to this a bit. Someday I will bite the bullet and show you the inside of my cupboards (where everything is in a labeled mason jar) or my linen closet, but until then I think I'm going to spend a little time envying my mom's more, shall I say, relaxed approach to life. Where do you fall on this spectrum?


  1. labels on the tops! great idea!

  2. Hi Janet and Rachel. Try using a revolving spice rack. It is much better in terms of organizing your jars. Make sure your spice jars are well labeled and coordinated.