Week 1 – In the Kitchen – THE FOOD
It’s Week 1 of the 2024 Clever Girl Organizing Challenge! I’m so excited to get started with you! (and yes, I do the Challenge, too!)
First, a warning: This first week’s note will be LONG, just because we’ll be doing some context-setting and introductions to different parts of the Challenge. Try to get through the end, and know they won’t all be this long; I promise!
Don’t forget the two guidelines I’d love for you to keep in mind before you get started:
1) Have the tools you need before you get started — trash bags, recycling, donate box, and “goes somewhere else” box (so you can set things aside and keep going, not be tempted to return things to a different space while you’re working).
2) Take BEFORE photos and, ideally, AFTER photos, and please consider sharing them in the Facebook group, so that everyone can benefit from the support and encouragement we all give each other. Even if you don’t want to share them, take the photos. Why?
(1) it helps you see the space a little differently. You’d be amazed and what you can see in a photo that you can’t see in person.
(2) it helps you witness your progress! Organizing can feel like an “it gets worse before it gets better” project, and having these photo moments can help you see how much you’ve done after!
Use the hashtag #banda for your before pictures and after pictures in the Facebook Group so we can keep track of them as we go. Include the hashtags for the week we’re on – for example #banda #week1)
An added incentive: Participants who share Before and After pictures in 9 of 11 weeks of the Challenge this year, even if they’re for a #scaryspace project, will get a free 1:1 one-hour virtual session with me after we’re done!
3) And be sure to try to find time to check out the Facebook Live each week inside the Facebook Group, even if you catch it as a “replay” at your convenience later (previous week’s video is always posted in the “Next Live with Kathy” section below) I’ll discuss some of the issues that the weekly topic might create, or talk about some strategies for going through this category or for letting go, in general. For a lot of people, it may be where the “a-ha” moments come from!
THIS WEEK’S ASSIGNMENT
We’re starting where I love starting the annual Challenge, because, in my experience, it’s a space where we could ALL use a clean slate (or, clean plate) as we start off the new year: the Kitchen!
I encourage you to approach all of these Weekly Plans with the eyes of a new person to your space, a detective, someone who is wondering about who lives in your space NOW, not what life USED to be like that room. Life and lives change, but the stuff often stays behind. Always think about what your life is like TODAY and what you imagine in the near future. You’re here because you know you want and need to let go of things so that you can have the life you know you want and deserve. We’re going to need fresh eyes if we’re going to get through your space with a different perspective than you have every other day. Clutter gets invisible, and we’re going to shake that up!
Weekly Plan: Food – Pantries, Fridge, and Freezer
So what are the categories and spaces you might consider this week to tackle? Remember, you don’t need to do ALL of this! I want to give you ideas of where your time might be best spent, based on YOUR needs in YOUR space.
First and foremost, we’re doing an Edit of your food. You should be going through these spaces to do a deep cleaning out of what you should let go. Some of it is going to be obvious: leftovers that are waaay leftover, the lime that looks and feels like a golf ball, frozen items that are full of freezer-burn and unrecognizable, that opened package of flour that says “Best Buy” 2014.
But some of the items may not be such an obvious decision and need a little thought. This is where the idea of being ORGANIZED comes in, and helping you decide the difference between an item of worth TO YOU (not just inherent worth) and clutter. We’re looking for items like:
- “my kids tried these, hated them, and are never going to eat them,”
- “I bought this ingredient for a recipe I tried, and probably won’t be making again any time soon, so why am I keeping it now?”
- Then there’s the aspirational purchase: “These look healthy and I’m trying to get healthy” or “I was totally going to make this fancy recipe sometime” or “I bought this dip mix thinking it would be fun for entertaining” but really, they’ve never been used, and they’re less likely every day that they’ll ever be used. The aspiration has passed, or if it’s been renewed, this item just doesn’t inspire you.
A note for or First Timers: Starting in the kitchen *tends* to be less of a challenge of *sentimental* items, and we often need to work up to those. It does, however, have a fair amount of *future fear* or the “But I might need it some day” concerns that come with these items, food an otherwise.
We can blame the pandemic for some of sense scarcity and our panic that led to some behaviors of how we buy and keep food. PS – if you still have 2020-era food that you bought because of the pandemic, this year is a good year to let that go. Having emergency supplies is a great idea, but keep them maintained.
We can also point to the pandemic for some other habits that drove acquisition: maybe you tried bread baking or some other at-home creations, and bought a ton of ingredients or equipment to support this new activity.
The fact is, you’re looking at your cupboards or your freezer and it’s time to reflect what your real needs now might be. So this week, in addition to the editing, we’re reflecting: do you have a *system* to help you manage what you have, make sure you’re cycling through food, and preventing you from overbuying out of a combination of fear and forgetfulness? This is a reminder: Your kitchen and food storage is a SYSTEM, and systems work best when they’re thoughtfully designed and maintained.
Because we’re in a decluttering and organizing Challenge here, we’re looking at all of your items with a little more scrutiny now. You’re bringing in decision-making based on the value the items play to you in your current and foreseeable future and recognizing that anything else is probably clutter, and clutter is getting in your way of using your home the way you want to. The cost of clutter can include lost time looking for things, money wasted (“I had to buy a new one because I lost where the old one was“), stress and arguing with family members, and fatigue from trying to keep up with it all. Remember: this is why we’re doing this work; to cut down on the cost of clutter in our lives.
So, start going through all the spaces to hunt for the items you can let go of, understanding that some might be trash, some might be food-pantry-worthy, but things that aren’t serving you should make their way out the door. You might take everything out and go shelf by shelf and cabinet by cabinet, or you might just hunt to find what can go. You can make a decision based on your time and space available. You might do the fridge and freezer one day, the pantry goods another day if you’re managing your time.
1) Clean out and Edit – Do what you can with your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer. You’re inspecting things, tossing things, and maybe relocating things. Start one shelf at a time, one cabinet at a time. Pace yourself!
2) Wipe Down or wash out surfaces as necessary – We all get spills, stickyness, and random surprises when we’re dealing with food. A good time to clear it out and clean it up!
3) Consider the Organization of Keepers – Where things go doesn’t have to be where things have been! Are there different ways to set up your system that better serve who you are today? A good example: if you have little kids and they’re now a lot more independent, but your system reflects the needs you had when they were younger, maybe now is a time to make some changes. Or if you used to bake a lot but don’t much anymore, are there ways to “demote” things that have a prime location that you aren’t using?
4) Create Exits for what’s going – some will be obviously trash, recycling, composting. Some might be donation. Whatever your #exitstrategy is make it happen and get it out.
And let us know what you path you’re on each week with the hashtag #tackleit and then the week we’re on, for example: #tackleit #week1
MINI-CHALLENGE THIS WEEK:
Can’t quite take on this week’s full assignment? You might not have the time, energy, or need. That’s okay! Try to set up at least two 30-minute sessions where you can focus on a critical area in this space or category. Set a timer, stay focused, and see what you can accomplish in less time than it would take to watch a sitcom!
PICK AT LEAST ONE:
– Clean out the fridge by hunting for things you know you don’t need any more (don’t have to do a full clean out). Wipe down any spills or messes.
– Go through your freezer to make sure you know what everything is and that you’ll still use it.
– Go through your pantry – at least the most-used or most-needing-attention cabinet area to edit it For a lot of people, this is the area with snacks, but it may be your baking supplies or your canned goods. Go through to edit what you just don’t need anymore, what was opened and went stale, etc.
– Clean off your kitchen counter. For reals.
– Clean out your bar/alcohol stash.
RETURNING CHALLENGERS FOCUS:
If you’re a Returning Challenger, you know how this process goes, and it’s likely that this week’s activities for you are a “reset” — clean out the fridge and pantry, do some wipe downs of surfaces, etc. If you’re ready for a deeper exploration, think about a few different areas maybe you haven’t explored before:
– Your alcohol and bar area. Random bottles, opened or unopened, can tend to appear and gather, then collect dust. And, again, this was a pandemic-era focus for a lot of people, so maybe it plateaued in 2021 and you haven’t looked at it much since then. Take a good inventory of these bottles and supplies you have and see if it reflects your current lifestyle — what you enjoy, how you entertain, and the space it takes up.
– Give your kitchen counter a good clean up and clean off.
– Think ahead to next week – you know we’re about to get into that area of those kitchen and dining items (how we prep, cook, serve, eat, and store food). Start to think about what was easy last year and what was harder. What’s some tougher decisions you might want to start thinking about?
– Think about the design and flow of your kitchen and dining spaces. What is driving you nuts? What might you want to focus on next week that would include not just decluttering but rearranging and reorganizing?
– And of course, if you’re in #scaryspace mode, check out the notes below.
STUFF TO KNOW:
Speaking of those “Best By” days — yes, there are a lot of confusing dates out there, and no, you don’t have to throw everything away. It often comes down to your personal preference about quality. But always keep in mind: “If I haven’t used it in this long, am I likely to? If not, why am I fighting to keep it?”
- A “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will be of best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
- A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. It is not a safety date.
- A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. It is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula as described below.
- A “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
As you consider letting go of pantry/shelf-stable food that don’t tempt the dates above, look into your local food pantry for donations. Now more than ever, people would love to have your generosity as you let go of items you just won’t use.
If you’re in the Melrose area, I want to make sure you know about The Food Drive. The Food Drive is an amazing nonprofit that works to promote food access and reduce food waste in Melrose and surrounding communities by distributing rescued, surplus, and donated food. They collect unopened, non-perishable, shelf-stable food products, even if the products are past their “best by” date, providing there is no evidence of damage or spoiling. (I’m thrilled that the founder of this group, Jana, is in The Challenge again this year.)
Some Challengers (usually Returners) have their own priorities about what they’re working on during some or all of this Challenge. If this phrase is new to you, I’m going to encourage you to read the GUIDE in the Facebook Group for more info if you’re looking to tackle a #ScarySpace and don’t know how, but here’s a quick summary.
Project #ScarySpace plan probably involves a few things:
– It’s a space or category that isn’t *clearly* fitting into the categories in the “SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE” below
– It’s a space or category that probably needs a few weeks or more of focused effort.
– The Project needs a plan, has multiple stages, may need help from others
– Most importantly, it’s something you KNOW that needs to be done, and the process of incorporating it into this Challenge means you’ll have some structure, accountability, and support around tackling it!
Some examples: basement, garage, attic, spare room, digital organizing, photo organizing, or downsizing sizable collections like craft supplies or books. It’s also for people who have very specific goals around a life or home transition for our time together and are hoping that this Challenge gives you structure, like downsizing, preparing for a move or a renovation.
If you’re working on a Project #ScarySpace, I encourage you to share your intentions for the week #tackleit Tuesday and post in the Group, take before and after photos to share, so we can all encourage each other, no matter what we’re doing. Use the hashtag #scaryspace on your posts, too!
WHY IS THIS SO HARD?
Each week, in this space, I’m going to raise some thoughts about the psychological and emotional side of our relationship with stuff, systems, and habits. I’ll talk about it on the weekly video, too. It’s meant to give you some food for thought and reflection about your own situation, perhaps give you insight into your own relationship with stuff, or the relationship that other people in your home or life might have. You’re always invited to start or contribute to a post in the Facebook Group about this concept and tell us what the ideas doing to or for you.
This week, I want to talk about taking stock about where you are in life, and what that means for your stuff and your systems. And it’s not just about you; our family members are part of this consideration, too. The fact is, your home is filled with things that you’ve acquired over many chapters in your life, many chapters in your family’s life. But when those chapters pass on to the next one, we don’t always stop and think about the stuff that came into our lives and whether or not they should still be a part of our lives, whether they still provide value in our lives. But this is an important part of evaluating what we have and why we have it during this Challenge: Who am I (are we) today, and what do these things mean to my current and future life? In fact, sometimes, the question is a little more difficult: What does holding on to these things COST me, my space, my time, my life?
These chapters are sometimes obvious:
-Your children have grown and have grown out of toys, clothes, furnishings, interests, etc.
– Interests have changed, including hobbies, passions, and sports that all come with gear or supplies.
– Your wardrobe needs have changed — sizes, styles, make up of what kind of clothes you wear (athletic wear vs. formal business wear or party clothes?)
But sometimes, the shifts are more subtle:
– Your kitchen was redone, and the kinds of pots and pans and storage containers you use have evolved over time.
– Technology upgrades in our home make other items obsolete, but they still take up space or we stopped noticing them.
– Your children are older, and the systems you set up when they were younger have just stuck around, even though they don’t need to be that way anymore. (I was in a home that still had the baby-proof latches on their kitchen cabinets. Everyone was just used to using them, but their youngest child was in high school by now.)
– Jobs or schedules have changed, and you haven’t noticed that the time table you designed for different needs doesn’t work for you anymore, or doesn’t need to have some of the factors in it anymore.
And sometimes, it’s about preparing for the chapters to come:
– planning on moving or downsizing in the next few years
– preparing for a big renovation
– thinking about children leaving home in the next couple of years and the impact that will have on what the kitchen does for you and means to you
These are just a handful of examples of the way our lives change but we haven’t really stopped to take a look at our stuff or our systems to determine if what is in our lives really serves us now. They are often artifacts of our past, and without the need created by a problem that needed to be solved or the focus of shining a light on them and asking “why?”, they remain.
This Challenge is all about asking ourselves these questions and shining the spotlight on them. Why do I own this? What does it *really* mean to me now and for my future? If I don’t use it or love it, why am I resisting letting it go? What does holding onto things from my past, things that are just my “walk down memory lane” items, do for me? Are these things getting in the way of how I want to live my life, how I want my home to feel, how others in my house want my home to feel? If the items are someone else’s, do I know how they truly feel about them, what’s behind their attachment?
We’ll talk about a lot of different sources of attachment and reluctance during this Challenge, like “but what if I need it some day” and “but I paid good money for this/could get money for it” or “but this reminds me of when…” and so on. Be open to asking the questions and listening, really listening, for your answers.
Remember: You’re here because you made a choice to bring your head, heart, and body all in the same direction: to let go of things and have smoother systems in your home. If it was easy, you’d be done by now.
Okay, sheeuw! I know, I know! This one was a LOT! They won’t all be this long; I promise. If you haven’t already watched the Kick Off Facebook Live from Sunday night, be sure to check that out in the Videos section of the group, or click the link in the box “Next Livestream with Kathy” below. This box is where you’ll find the next scheduled video, too.
I’m excited you’re here, and if you have any questions or something you want to share but you’re hesitant to do it in the group, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me privately. Either send me a private message on Facebook or send me an email. Thanks, and see you in the Facebook Group!
Kathy (aka Clever Girl)
NEXT LIVESTREAM WITH KATHY
WEDNESDAY, JAN 10th – 7:00pm Eastern
SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
Week 1 – Jan 8: Kitchen: Food – Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
Week 2 – Jan 15: Kitchen/Dining: What we use to prep, cook, serve, eat, store & clean!
Week 3 – Jan 22: Bath and Bed: Medicines, Toiletries, Cosmetics, Personal Items, etc.
Week 4 – Jan 29: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
Week 5 – Feb 5: Clothes, shoes, accessories
Week 6 – Feb 12: Home Office/Papers
Week 7 – Feb 19: BREAK – take a break, catch up, or sneak ahead
Week 8 – Feb 26: Living / Family Room spaces
Week 9 – Mar 4: Memorabilia
Week 10 – Mar 11: Hobbies / Arts and Crafts / Sporting Goods
Week 11 – Mar 18: Kid stuff / Holiday Decor / Pet stuff / Other Clutter Traps!