Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Airy Way Goes to Ikea, or I Am Not a Hoarder

My aunt Katee is one of the most inspiring people I know.  A graphic artist by profession, she's a magician with Photoshop and to her god bless her I owe my entire understanding of the use of Layers; she's a wonderful cook, she takes care of everyone around her in all kinds of ways, and everything she does she does with amazing artistry and style.  She also made me this cute little button bouquet in a pepper shaker.

Anyway, yesterday morning she, my other aunt Jane, my mom and I were over at my Grandma's.  Jane has just renovated the whole kitchen of her very old (but new to her) house, and we were looking at pictures of that, got into gardening (Jane and I are both planning to try square foot gardening this year), books, household organization in general, cooking and food of course (Katee ran out to her car to get some seasoned Korean nori she had just bought for us to try) and in general having a lovely time. 

Then Katee started describing how she had recently reorganized her freezer.  Katee can describe something like "cleaning out the freezer" and make it sound virally appealing.  Katee and I also have the same obsession outlook about buying food.  Like, why buy a package of seasoned nori when you can buy a box?  Like, really, that kale looks so good, how can you just pick up one?  Like, hey, that almond milk is on sale if you buy 12 cartons--so why not?  You like it, and it's vacuum packed, it'll last.  We shop at Costco.  We love ethnic food stores.  We both have that thing where you start out virtuously making just a little stew in a little pot and keep adding bits of this and that until you've changed pots three times and are somehow now making a whole lot of stew in a giant stockpot.  But it's really good stew ;-)

But back to freezers, I've been having increasingly negative experiences with mine.  It's a deep freezer and, um, too full.  I know what's in there, clean it out regularly, try to organize it, but after a pretty short time things get all mixed up until...

Agh!  This is pretty much maximum entropy, after a frustrating search for almonds that I never did find.  I love my freezer, but this is absurd.  So after the visit, all fired up with excitement and enthusiasm, Zoa and the Moon Goddess went to Ikea. 

Shopping at Ikea is like a happy dream until you want to leave, when it becomes a nightmare because the stores are all laid out so that you...can't...get...out...all the Exit signs are misleading...there is no exit...you go round and round, increasingly panicked, pushing your way through shoppers who have morphed into shuffling zombies, until....  But we'll focus on the fun part.  I bought all kinds of neat stuff, most of which will be showing up on this blog at one time or another. 

Among other things, I bought three medium sized plastic containers, one for nuts:

One for grains:

And one for seitan/tofu:

Then I took everything out of the freezer, and put it all back, and...

Dang!  Still too full.  But neater.  Much neater.

I bought another spice rack thingy, to store some of the new spices and spice mixes previously crammed into a cupboard.  Here's what my kitchen looks like now:

Kind of busy, I admit, but I needed the cupboard space and was tired of many tiny containers falling out all over every time I tried to find something in the spice cupboard.  A tip to the wise: when you make a spice mix, make sure to label it somehow.  Probably you think you'll never forget what's in that jar, but you will.  Learn from my mistakes:

All this industry was a little overwhelming, if not downright scary.  Wise cats watch from a safe distance:


While I was at it, I cleaned out the freezer part of the refrigerator:

The fridge freezer never ordinarily looks this neat

...the fridge itself:

Yeah, my fridge pretty much always looks like this
...the basement auxiliary food storage area:

...the basement itself...

Clearly, I can never move
When I talk about "the stacks," I mean this...

Yes, you can click for a view of some of the titles.  Go on, I know you want to ;-)

...and this.  Here's my little sub-fridge for sauces and the like (and the side of another stack):

Then we cleaned out some closets and drawers, tidied up the kitchen table centerpiece:

...and realized we were tired and parched and very, very ready for a drink:

It's a well known fact that cats become exhausted watching other people work.

And that's the story of my day.  A few disclaimers:

1.  On the non-vegan containers: members of my family and I swap food regularly, and tend to re-use disposable containers for this purpose, and these often get re-re-used here.  They're not vegan, but I am, honest!

2.  I never, ever, let the cat walk around on the counter.  It's unsanitary and disgusting.  Or the kitchen table.  Right, Cheeta?  Uh, right?

Sure.  Whatever.


  1. I love your kitchen with all those pretty glass containers- it definitely is not cluttered. :)

    Btw, we are twins, honestly. My fridge is packed with fresh veggies, my freezer filled to the brim with leftovers and other staples and my counters are packed with Mason jars displaying my bean and grain collection..

    I acctually don`t mind... however, there is a big problem.

    I AM moving.... in May!

    I should not be allowed to go to the grocery store. I might be able to last a few months with all the food I`ve stashed... and no, I don`t consider myself a hoarder... much. ;)

    (love your post!)

    1. Thanks, Janet. Here we are concurrently reading and commenting on each other's blogs. We *must* be twins. Basements and fridges are sort of personal, in my world, so I was a little shy about outing mine...May, hey? Wow, I'm always thinking, "Suppose the economy should be totally disrupted so no food was to be had in stores, I bet I could live for X [X being a factor of years] on what I've got stored up here..." So I wish you well in your move but better you than me!

  2. I love seeing other people's storage solutions! And I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who has a bit of the foodie-packrat issue. My fridges is stuffed full of jars and condiments and grains and crap, because I obviously need three types of mustard and two kinds of miso and lots and lots of leftovers! I will never understand how my SO always has an empty fridge. When we first started dating, he'd rarely have more than a jar of pickles, some condiments, and a couple bottles of beer in there. And it's not like he doesn't cook, either!

    Moving on - Ikea! I'm with you about the experience as a whole. I always love and hate going there. I also have some of the spice racks (the more ornate wiry ones) and jars, and they're fantastic. I currently still have an overflowing spice cupboard, but it's better than it used to be - your re-arrangement looks great! And yeah, labeling is key. Somehow my idiotic spice mnemonics for the unlabeled glass jars have served me well so far, but I know I'll forget one day. (Example: I have dried basil to the right of dried cilantro (which is kind of useless, by the by), and I remember it as (B)asil (R)utherford - (B)asil to the (R)ight, or an amusing British name.) Not the most sustainable mechanism, but it works... for now.

    1. Kelly, my spices are in alphabetical order...and those I think perhaps I might not remember (I'm getting older) I label. Never understood the thing about the fridge-full-o-condiments and beer...

  3. Your post really made me smile... but you have a great little kitchen, and I don't think it's really that cluttered. I know what you mean about outing basements and fridges, though. I'm too shy to post any pics of my kitchen at all :)

    1. Yogi, I've been shy too, but this is the kind of post I really do enjoy on others' blogs, so I thought I'd do one of my own, finally.

  4. Impressive — both the quantity of food you keep on hand for one person, and the wonderful job of organizing you've just completed. I only have a refrigerator freezer and it's stuffed to the gills. I've tried to assign different shelves to categories of food, but it's so hard to keep it straight. I used to use the plastic bin strategy in the cupboards at our old house, and it worked well. I liked having all the pasta, all the Asian foods, all the flours, etc., corralled where I could find them. Sometimes, though, I think the hardest part is finding the right size containers!

    I like your hanging spice racks. My spices are fighting it out in a drawer, because we have no wall space in the kitchen. The overflow is on the counter and in a cupboard.

    IKEA. I love to go there and I love to finally escape. They do keep you trapped and tempted for an awfully long time. Looks like you had a very successful visit and your life is well-organized ... for now.

    1. Andrea, as I say, should there ever be some kind of emergency situation, hey, I'll be a survivor! All my life I've suffered from a not entirely healthy anxiety that there might not be enough food for me...as a child/adolescent I used to sneak down at night and eat whatever was going. Now that I'm on my own, it's just nice to know I won't starve. Everybody has their own personal anxieties...this one is fairly harmless...I consider myself lucky...

  5. Aaaiiee! I love posts like this! I don't have a hoarding problem so much but I'm a big organization nerd. I love the spice rack situation..and seeing the inside peek into fridges and pantries. Now I can picture you conjuring up your beautiful meals!

    1. Thanks, Maud. A while back there was a whole sort of blog thread about people posting what was in their freezers. I was *gripped*. I love posts like this, too. When I was a kid I used to have a paper route, and one of the most absolutely fascinating experiences of my life was going around to collect--I was let into so many houses and got to see how so many different people lived. No question, this experience whetted my appetite for Indian food for life.

  6. Guess I'm in the minority. I don't care for seeing this 'human' side of you. I much prefer not peeking behind the curtain, so to speak.

    1. Well, hey, don't hold back. Though I'm fearfully curious...what was it that turned you off? Did you examine the photos in extra-macro mode and see spiders? My horrible unfinished basement? The fact that I'm human? The books?

  7. so many kind words, i am all puffed up!
    you really did an awesome job of organizing all your food and you bravely let us peek into your little corner of the world, even your basement! i love the fact that Zoa is "human".

  8. Well, as you know I am very "human"! I haven't seen your freezer yet, katee, so mine was just based on the ideas we were discussing. Otherwise I would just probably have copied you ;-)

  9. I am just back from a long vacation and catching up on my favorite blogs. This was a fantastic entry. I just about fell out of my chair when I read about the auxiliary sub fridge for sauces (i'm paraphrasing kind of). You are a true food lover!! :-) This entry especially made me smile as my latest sauerkraut and a small stash of winter squash, apples and taters from summer was ruined by rodents sneaking into my outdoor storage area while I was gone. Today has been a depressing clean up day. I was really irritated and sad about this invasion so your article having me grinning was a real gift! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Jamie, somehow I missed this comment until now. Yes, I'm a true food lover all right, and so I sympathize with your rodent issue. I had mice get into a bag of birdseed foolishly left in my garden shed over the winter one year, and it was just amazing what a mess they make. But all your lovely fruit and veggies!

  10. I have often thought that the only thing that could make this blog better was more cat pictures. :) This was a neat post. I've been wanting a stand-alone freezer but it seems like something a homeowner, not a renter, would buy so I've been trying to do without. Should I ever decide that buying a house is not super-scary, I shall remember your organizational tips when I buy the inevitable freezer. Love the stacks, too!

    1. Thanks, Renae. Definitely, do not buy a big standalone deep freezer if you're not planning to stay in one place a long time--though maybe one of those fridge-sized standup freezers might be just the thing for you. Buying a house is scary, but ultimately home ownership is a lovely thing, in my opinion: even though my house is a townhouse, it's mine, I love that. And the stacks are, well, stacks o' convenience made with old shelving, but it's nice to have the books someplace where I won't have to move them...ever again...