Do we have any garam masala??
It didn’t dawn on me until I attempted to make my first real curry dish: I had no idea whether we had the right spices. I couldn’t reach most of them. The other half were in unmarked baggies.
My spice cabinet was an organizing project in waiting.
Since this is a home office blog, my spice cabinet is a stand-in for just about any organizing project you might have in your office.
- You might be out of shelf space and have no room for all your books.
- The cords under your desk look like a pit of vipers.
- You’re planning to teach a number of classes this year and have nowhere to put all the related ideas and information.
They’re all spice cabinets of the mind.
When you have an organizing project ahead, it’s helpful to know the terrain. I chronicled the steps of my own organizing process in the hopes that you’d gain some tools for your own.
Here’s what my starting point looked like:
The 6 things any organizing project needs
Inspired by Darcy and the images of organized spice cabinets I found on Tea & Cookies, I imagined an ideal image of what our spices cupboard could look like. I fell in love with the idea of enjoying cooking because I could find all the ingredients without swearing or knocking something to the floor.
The more photos I looked at, the more excited I became. Consistent sizes! Easy to read labels! Alphabetized! Pretty spices in pretty jars!
2. Spending plan
Being averse to the word budget, I created a spending plan. We use our spices a lot and we had some gift money from Christmas, so I planned my spending. Even though I wasn’t sure it was possible, I decided to commit $50 for the spice cupboard project.
Money is one consideration. The spending plan is also about time. How much time are you willing to devote to a project? I counted the spices and figured that 45 spice jars would take me about 2 hours to complete. Heh. More on this at the end.
3. Research and Design
With a dollar number and a time frame in mind, the next step is to start figuring out the steps to implement your vision. Research and design have to hold hands to work well together. Do a little research, sketch a rough design. Do a little more research, edit the design. Repeat.
To start, take a look at what you currently have that might be helpful to your project. I took measurements of our cabinet, checked that the shelves were truly adjustable, and counted how many spices we had.
Research your options. After looking at all the jars on Tea & Cookies, I went to a couple of local stores to compare prices and couldn’t find any I liked. I decided to order these adorable square spice jars that are the right size and capacity and were $1.10 each including shipping.
When the jars arrived I thought about how to display them. I googled images of spice racks and ended up on another organizer’s site with this brilliant, inexpensive solution to creating “stairs” that could display the spice labels (the way I saw it in my vision).
Before heading to the hardware store, I drew a sketch — a design — of what I needed.
I didn’t end up with this exact plan, but drawing it helped me figure out a better solution. I bought three 1″x 2″x 8′ boards and a friendly helper-person cut them into 9″ lengths for me (props to Lowe’s for providing this service!).
All told, the supplies and materials cost $49.20. Woohoo for the spending plan!
4. Doing the plan
Note: I didn’t say, “Follow the plan.” If you’ve ever done a project like this, you’re probably aware that it’s not a linear, Point A –> Point B process. There are detours. There are discoveries. Ideally, you roll with them and make adjustments as you go. At least I tried to.
As I arranged the shelves and played with the label maker, things started to come together according to plan. I was so happy to see how well the shelves worked — it was like playing with blocks. Fun!
My new label-maker worked like a charm, although I did have a few labeling mishaps.
It definitely got messier as I worked. This is normal. Don’t be alarmed.
And then messier still…
As the plan came along, I started to feel really great. The first shelf of spices looked awesome — just like I envisioned.
When I got to the second shelf, I realized I had a problem.
Because of my height, I couldn’t see the spice labels on the second row. Or the third. Inspired Spouse is 5 inches shorter than me, so just tippy-toeing wouldn’t work. I figured this issue would be worse up on shelf #3, the highest one. It never dawned on me in the Research and Design phase to measure myself.
I tried redesigning the plan. I played with the configuration of blocks to give the jars a boost up. And then, just like that, I got stuck. Nothing worked. I wondered angrily, “What’s the point of labeling if you can’t read the labels?” I started to think the whole project was a bust.
Anxiously, I sought the ear of my devoted, patient Inspired Spouse who listened as I recounted everything I’d tried.
– Shit! It’s not working!
– It’s okay. No one’s going to die.
– (pause) (laughter) Oh, right. I’m taking this too seriously.
Sometimes a loving, level head is just the thing. In fact, the shelf issue got better from there and I found a decent solution. A re-re-re-re-re-re-design.
However, lots of people get to this stuck/angry/helpless point and don’t know it’s totally normal. Doing the plan includes getting stuck and taking detours. When it happens, take a little space or share it with someone who’s willing to listen. When you resolve the stuckness, you’ll get moving toward your vision again.
Before and afters — coming up next.
5. Clean up
This is the part of the creative process I usually put off. It’s no fun. I had all these glass and plastic jars left over, old spices to compost, unused wood blocks and new jars to find homes for. This is why I do Office Spa Days — we all have cleanup to do and encouraging support can help. It’s also helpful to build cleanup time into your spending plan since ideally the whole project includes the time it takes to truly complete it.
I did get it all cleaned up — partly because I knew I would be blogging about it and showing you my before-and-after photos. So, without further ado, here they are!
* The big reveal *
Before and after:
Look at what you’ve created. Really look at it — and partay! It’s so easy to rush to the next thing without pausing to enjoy it.
I called Inspired Spouse back into the kitchen for the nth time and we looked at my creation together. I held up the camera to compare it to the starting point. We marveled together.
It’s okay to feel proud of yourself and pause a while to recognize your accomplishment. In fact, we’re more likely to do something like this again if it feels good. So celebrate you! Celebrate your vision — even if it didn’t come out exactly the way you expected. You did it!
I did it! Yay!
How long did it take?
Good question. Most people under-guess how long a project takes to complete. It’s part of our natural optimism. One of the interesting and fun things we do in the 6-month clutter-clearing class is practice guessing (in advance) how long a project will take from start to finish.
Want to play?
Comment below how many hours and minutes you think it took me to do all the steps mentioned in this project. The first person to guess the exact duration before this Friday will receive a $25 gift certificate to Spice and Tea.com to add to your own seasonings collection! Everyone else will receive Jen’s Semi-Famous Fajita Seasoning recipe (it’s awesome!).
So that’s organizing projects in a nutshell!
Feel free to share your about your own organizing project experiences – past, present or future.