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Unchained Kitchen



I organized my pantry, and it changed my life

This is the story of how a set of cabinet drawers can change your life.

Ok, that's dramatic. But after my book/wine club read/didn't read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, we were on a roll to "add joy" to our lives by organizing our homes. In addition to getting my linen closet and dresser drawers into ship-shape, I partnered with ShelfGenie to tackle my pantry and dreaded tuperware shelf. You can see the chaos in my previous post. I had been trying for years to get by with baskets and such, but investing in a permanent solution is worth it in the long run for preserving your sanity.


Let's break it down shelf by shelf:

#1 - Things I don't use too often. I'm going to move the protein powders to a lower shelf, and put bulk items in their place.

#2 - Things we shouldn't eat, and are thus placed on a difficult-to-reach shelf. This level is pretty much 100% sugar.

#3 - Grains and snacks. Since this is at eye-level, it's the first shelf with a ShelfGenie drawer.

#4 - The hot-spot, i.e. items that are accessed multiple times per day. Here I've got my coffee, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

#5 - Cooking and baking ingredients. This is for vinegars, baking powder, specialty oils, etc.

#6 - Teas and canned goods

#7 - Potatoes, onions, and cookies. Ok, the cookies should probably go on the second shelf.




Want to take a closer look?

For the above shelf, we chose a slanted edge so that taller items could stay secure in the back, but items in front could be easily seen at eye level. For the shelf below, however, it made more sense to go with higher sides all around.

ShelfGenie drawers are made of 9-ply eco-friendly Baltic birch, melamine bottoms for easy maintenance, heavy duty steel rails, and pro grade hardware. They'll hold up to 100 pounds, but someone smack me if I ever hoard 100 pounds of tea.

We added a moveable divider for the lowest shelf. And yes, I see that my cookie-to-real-food ratio is questionable. It's Girl Scout cookie time, and I have my priorities.


Let's look at the tupperware situation. I have never, ever been able to come up with a good system for keeping this stress-free. 

DO YOU SEE HOW MARVELOUS THIS IS? People, for two months now, I have been able to locate a container and its matching lid in under 15 seconds. Again, we used a moveable shelf, this time running horizontal instead of vertical.

Excuse me while I fangirl over ShelfGenie's customer service: These glide-out shelves were personalized down to the millimeter. After the initial visit to design the space, an installer came out to take super-precise measurements, and then he came out again to do the installation. I was not looking forward to removing everything from the pantry, but the installer did that! He would have put everything back, but I wanted to choose the new locations #controlfreak

So that's the story of how I organized my pantry by finally investing in a system that works. ShelfGenie can also tackle tricky dead spaces like blind corner cabinets and cabinets housing sinks and drain pipes. Make this your spring cleaning goal! Call ShelfGenie and change your life. #dramaticbuttrue


This is a sponsored post, but as with all partnerships, my feedback is genuine.




Organizing your kitchen for the holidays

Is your kitchen ready to be the hub of holiday happenings? Mine...is in a questionable state of readiness. You know how it is when you move into a new place — things get placed into what you hope is a strategic area, but as the weeks wear into months, it's clear that you don't have a very good system in place.

In all fairness to me, the above organization is courtesy of my toddler sous chef.

"This goes here, this goes here, this goes wherever..."


STILL. Things could be greatly improved, so I am delighted to partner with ShelfGenie for the first in a two-part series of posts. ShelfGenie makes fabulous custom drawer systems for cabinets, and I am very excited for mine to arrive!

I sat down with one of their top organizers, Serena. She spent a little time talking about ShelfGenie, but more time analyzing how I use my kitchen.

In Serena's words, here's what I need to do to get my cabinets into ship-shape for the holidays:

1) Use shelving to its full potential. The depth of the shelves in the pantry make it difficult to keep track of what's stored in the back. By only using the front half of the shelves, I'm neglecting 50% of my storage capacity. Adding four Glide-Out shelves on the bottom, I could free up two shelves and create additional storage. Items from the top portion of my pantry can then be reorganzined to the bottom Glide-Out shelves.
2) Identify the kitchen "hot spot". The Glide-Out shelves on the bottom half of the pantry will free up crucial storage space in an often-utilized area of the kitchen. The top half of the pantry is the space I should be utilizing for items that often used items. The kitchen "hot spot" is the shelf that is filled with items used on a daily basis. The hot spot shelf should be at eye level, thus reducing the hunt for coffee beans, oil, salt, etc.
3) Customize storage based on your lifestyle. Because entertaining is important to me, we wanted to find a good alternate solution for items that are currently in the basement, and therefore hard to access. Having those items in the basement make it difficult to take inventory of what I have. As we talked, we realized there's a drywall pantry off to the side that currently isn't serving any real function, but would be ideal for entertaining items. Such a "why didn't I think of that earlier!" moment.

THIS is what my cabinets will look like after the system is installed. Call me hopelessly domestic if you want, but this seems like heaven:

More to come, but for now please check out ShelfGenie's Facebook and Twitter for more organizing tips. And remember these three steps to great organization:

1) Make an organization wish list
2) Identify what causes you the most frustration
3) Have a process — not a destination — and stick to it. And don't let your toddler reorganize.

This is a sponsored post, but as with all partnerships, my feedback is genuine.


Tattoos to Talbots: Moving from city to suburbs

We did it. We finally moved from one of the hippest neighborhoods in the country to an old house on a leafy street in a quiet community. I've been sitting on these thoughts for a while. They might be helpful to anyone else struggling with the decision to trade in your cool cache for the comfortable life. It's a hard choice to make.

In the city, there is MORE. More events, more restuarants, more crime, more invention, more dirt, more creativity, more poverty, more wonders, more, more, more. You want crispy Korean chicken delivered at 2am? You got it! Want to buy a rare book, get your brows threaded, and try a drink with liqueurs you've never heard of all within one block? Wish granted. And then there's the gorgeous view from our rooftop deck, a major selling point when we bought our condo on the fringe of Wicker Park.

A photo posted by Jen Luby (@jenniferluby) on Jun 13, 2013 at 6:27am PDT

^ Miss that.

But I do not miss:
  Lugging my daughter and all her accoutrement up three flights of stairs.
  Choosing between wasting money on parking and taxis OR wasting time using the CTA.
  Choosing between buying a crappy house in a decent public school district OR paying for private school.
  The guy on my corner who pretended he was homeless, but was actually a crack dealer (true story).
  Playing the "was that fireworks or gunshots?" game.
  Dog poop. So much dog poop.
  Traffic. So. Much. Traffic. 

A photo posted by Jen Luby (@jenniferluby) on Dec 10, 2013 at 1:50pm PST


In the suburbs, there is EASE. It's easy to run errands, easy to find a good school for your kids, easy to meet neighbors, easy to take a nap in your backyard, easy to breathe. We chose a town with a walkable core, a not-too-shabby-for-the-burbs collection of shops and restaurants, historic homes on tree-lined streets, and quick access to the city via Metra. Plus there's the peace, the quiet, the general tranquility. I need that in my life right now. And it's just so beautiful up here.


A photo posted by Jen Luby (@jenniferluby) on Oct 24, 2015 at 9:13am PDT

A photo posted by Jen Luby (@jenniferluby) on Oct 9, 2015 at 1:46am PDT


All told, we are now happier. I'm a little sad when I have to turn down a cool-sounding media invite because I can't juggle getting to/from the city with babysitter availability, or when my girlfriends and I find that the only place open for a 10pm cocktail is the P.F. Changs by the mall (another true story). But taking in the scenery while driving down Sheridan Road makes me smile, as does watching my daughter and dogs frolic in our backyard.

I mean, look at that happy pup! She found that stick in our backyard and apparently has big plans for it.

Speaking of plans, our house was move-in ready, but I'm currently putting our own touches on it. Lots of before/after posts to come. I'm back. Thanks for reading!


Randolph Street Market - Tastemakers Choice for CHARITY

UPDATE: Here are the five pieces that I chose.

I love antiques (seriously, I regularly dream about old silver found in dusty rooms...anyone want to analyze that?) but I do not like antique shopping. I'm less about the hunt and more about the finished product, which is why I DO like going to the Randolph Street Market. It's absolutely huge, with hundreds of vendors displaying high-quality wares from a wide range of eras. No tramping around in countless tiny shops necessary.

This weekend is the 4th annual Editors and Designers Choice for Charity, and I'm delighted to participate again. Early on Saturday morning I'll tour the market, choose five of my favorite items, and designate them with a blue ribbon. For every "blue ribbon" item that's purchased, the Randolph Street Market makes a donation to charity. I've again chosen the Junior League of Chicago as my charity, and many other wonderful organizations will benefit, as well. Won't you join us for a little bit of shopping this weekend?



MOVING! City to Suburbs, with home renovation ahead


UPDATE: Found lots of cool tile and flooring on my visit to Floor & Decor!

After much deliberation, driving around, and wistful sighing, we've decided to move out of the city.

I know! I can't believe it, either. Yes, our current place is great, but living on the third floor in a hipster enclave doesn't lend itself well to life with a toddler. We seriously considered several other city neighborhoods, but finally realized that for what we want, Mr. SCS could commute either 30 minutes on the L or 30 minutes on Metra, where we could have more space and less crime and— you know what? I can't even listen to myself anymore. I've sold out for a lawn and fresh air.

Anyway. While I'm decidedly torn about this major life decision, I am sort of excited/dreading the home renovation projects in our future. Excited because it's fun to be creative, dreading because there's always the debate about hiring a pro versus DIY. So, I'm really happy to be teaming up with ChicagonistaLIVE again, this time for a segment called "Creating an Atmosphere of Ease and Comfort in your Home" at the Floor & Decor showroom in Skokie.

sourceI wasn't previously familiar with Floor & Decor, but have since learned that they have an enormous selection of ceramic, stone, tile, wood, and laminate flooring, as well as various tools and accessories, sourced directly from manufacturers around the world. In addition to the Skokie location, they have stores in Aurora, Arlington Heights and Lombard, plus 40 more around the country.

Are you in need of some renovation tips, too? Follow #ChicagonistaLIVE this Tuesday September 14 from 2-3pm CDT. You can also watch live at http://www.ChicagonistaLIVE.com


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