Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fran: Spice of Life

Well, actually it's "How to clean the spice cupboard" but "Spice of Life" sounds a whole lot more exciting! ;) Warning; this is a little bit long but I wanted to do it in one post so you read it in order. Here goes:

Periodically I go through my cupboards to clean and organize them. I try to hit each cupboard at least twice a year when I’m ruthless about what stays and what goes in the trash. Recently I tackled my spice cupboard. For some reason I haven’t done this particular cupboard for a very long time (so you can imagine the condition it was in!)

Cleaning your cupboards may seem like a no brainer but I’m going to post some of my rules anyway. These are specific for my spice cupboard but they could easily be adapted for any other cupboard (pantry, fridge, etc).

1. Know you’re going to have a bigger mess than you started with but that it’s a temporary mess. Do not let yourself get overwhelmed by this!

2. One cupboard at a time! You are not allowed to even open another cupboard until the first one is done! (If you’re like me you’ll open the cupboard to put something away, see that the other cupboard is a mess, pull everything out of that one thinking you’ll get two done, see something else that needs to go in yet another cupboard and on and on and on…. Yes, I do have cleaning ADHD! If you’ve got something that goes somewhere else, put it on the table and deal with it later! A cupboard will probably take you between 10-20 minutes depending on how bad it is. If you take all the other cupboards apart too it’ll take you all day. You shouldn’t have to send the kids to grandma’s to get organized.)

3. Do one shelf at a time; take everything off that shelf, put what you don’t need in a discard spot (more on *discarding in a minute), wipe the shelf clean and replace what you’re keeping. Most used items in front, least in back. You shouldn’t have to go on an archaeological dig every time you need the cinnamon.

4. Do each shelf; leave all the things you’re getting rid of on the counter until you’re done with the cupboard and throw it all away at once. For some of you this part may be difficult because you’ll feel like you’re being wasteful. I have two reasons for doing it this way.

  1. So you can quickly (and I mean quickly!) glance at the throw away pile and make sure you’re not tossing something you use. (Don’t take your time on this! You’re not saying goodbye to a loved one, you’re cleaning the cupboards. Be ruthless! Do you really need that third bottle of whole cloves that you’ve had for ten years and never used?)

  2. I want you to see just how much junk you’re getting rid of. Seriously, you are unloading stuff you don’t need! Let yourself heave a sigh of relief and look at all the real estate you’re just opened up in your cupboard! Doesn’t that feel good?

5. Wipe down the outside of the cupboard and pat yourself on the back! (You are not allowed to get frustrated that you have ten more to do! You have completed the task in front of you and the next task is only one thing. )

*Guidelines on what to discard:

1. If it was once a spice but is now a solid brick, get rid of it! You should not need a chisel and hammer to get it out of the jar!

2. If you have more than one bottle of the same thing pare it down to one. (The exception being if it’s something you use a lot of. Not something you’ve carried around for the last 8 years because you got a 15 pack at Costco!)

3. If it’s more than six months old “they” say to replace it. Now, I use a lot of spices and I do go through some of them more quickly than others but I don’t keep this rule myself. (Spices are expensive!) That said; if you bought curry powder three years ago to try out one dish and haven’t used it since perhaps it’s time to let it go. Fresh really does taste better!

4. Stop keeping empty containers with the idea that you will refill them! I’m not sure if that was my intent or if I just didn’t know they were there but I had six (yes, six!) honey containers with one tablespoon of honey in each! I had a whole family of honey bears and they were still having babies! They have now been evicted. :)

5. Consolidate. I have a method for monthly menus that keeps me from having duplicates but if you should find three boxes of raisins in your cupboard, put them together. (This is assuming they’re fresh enough to eat without it ending in a trip to the dentist.)

I love, love, love using spices in my cooking. Cayenne, curry, Chinese five spice, sage, dill; I could go on and on! With as many as I use my cupboards can get overrun if I’m not keeping up with it. It may seem a tedious task but you’ll feel better when it’s done and if you need me to, I’d be happy to come over and help you! (But be warned, I will be ruthless. :) )


Kim said...

Awesome, Fran! :) Thank you for taking the time to post this. Hey, what's your "method for monthly menus that keeps me from having duplicates"?

Fran said...

I plan to post how I do that but it's not happening today! :) I'll get it up soon.

Kim said...

Cool! :)

suzzanne said...

Fran I love this. I try to do my cupboards and closets about twice a year, too, but I never realized that I neglect the spice cupboard. The pantry, no problem, but the spices. Hmmm... I will get on this. I was wondering what I am going to do next week when Korey goes back to school.

I too am waiting for your method for monthly meals! Woo Hoo! I am excited. The question at 4:00 almost every night is "What's for dinner?"