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Kuzak's Closet: How to organize your space while sheltering in place

Pantry
Amanda Kuzak/ Special to the Town Crier
Organizing the pantry can help limit the number of trips to the market and take better advantage of food already on hand.

It’s day 4,125 of staying home, or at least it feels like it. At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, I happened upon a blog post written by a young woman in Wuhan sharing her tips for surviving in the new world of isolation. The tip that stood out to me was to create a daily schedule and stick to it.

I took her advice. My new routine consists of waking up early to watch the news with my coffee, working on Kuzak’s Closet administrative tasks, cooking for my husband, walking a 5-mile loop in the Country Club neighborhood where I live, and organizing something.

My organizing projects may be as small as tackling the utensil drawer or as big as a full closet or pantry overhaul. Regardless of the size of the project, the process is always the same:

  • Step 1. Pull everything out of the space.
  • Step 2. Deep clean the space.
  • Step 3. Sort items into like categories.
  • Step 4. Purge!
  • Step 5. Find a home for each item.
  • Step 6. Process unwanted items.
  • Step 7. Maintain.

I’ve tackled two projects in my own home while sheltering in place: my freezer and my pantry.

In an effort to limit my grocery store trips, I completed a major reorganization of my pantry and freezer early on.

We are spoiled with amazing markets and restaurants in our little town, so the thought of being stocked for at least 14 days of meals got me thinking. I needed to expand the footprint of my pantry and expand the storage space in my freezer.

Freezer

Our freezer is quite small, a simple two-tiered drawer at the bottom of our fridge. When extra space is needed in any zone, it’s typically critical to purge, but with this project, the idea of letting food go to waste wasn’t a good option.

That’s when the idea of removing items from their hefty cardboard packaging came to mind. I was actually in bed and it was keeping me up that night. If our house were bigger (it’s 900 square feet) and my husband wouldn’t have noticed that I was reorganizing the freezer in the middle of the night, I would have just gotten out of bed to test my idea.

Needless to say, I was out of bed extra early the next day to get started on my idea of taking frozen meals out of the box to save space. It was just as satisfying as I dreamed it would be. I applied painters tape with the directions to the outside plastic, and my theory was proven true – the cardboard packaging cut the storage space in half.

I set up a new system with convenient meals and appetizers on the top; protein and protein replacements on the bottom left (we do not eat meat); and frozen fruit, veggies and bread on the bottom right.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been heating up a frozen lunch for my husband here and there to start to use them up. They are useful for a quick lunch for me on the go, or dinner for one of us when the other is traveling, but they are not efficient to have around at the current moment.

Pantry

Before, our pantry typically had a basic stock of items that took up two shelves. I wanted to triple the space to make room for a larger array of items.

The new system has beverage and serving pieces overflow on top, canned goods and soups on the second shelf, grains and potatoes (in a basket) on the third, then breakfast and snacks on the fourth. The fifth shelf has snacks that you need to do a squat to reach. Literally, if I’m going to get out a bag of chips, I need to get some exercise while doing it. Below that on the sixth shelf is the baking zone.

The tiered shelf I stack my cans on is the best $12 you can spend in a pantry, hands down (available at Target and Amazon). If nothing else, it’s visually appealing, and that goes a long way when it comes to home organization and the reminder for maintenance. I consolidated products by scaling down the packaging and repurposing baskets and canisters I had on hand.

Our new normal has created challenges for all of us in one way or another. It’s good to remember that we are all in this together. Staying home isn’t a punishment – it’s an opportunity to tackle those lingering to-dos.

Follow the seven steps listed above and dig into a space of your own. Big and small, all of your efforts count.

Amanda Kuzak is owner of the Los Altos-based Kuzak’s Closet, a professional organizing, relocation and estate liquidation company. For more information, visit kuzakscloset.com.

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