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Divide and conquer

On our first day in the big world of college, our instructor told us, “The secret of success in every profession is passion, dedication and organizational skills.”

This was, I thought, the most simplistic thing I had ever heard, but it turned out to be genius.

Interior design and decorating is more than space design, furniture and art placement, color and paint selection, and custom blinds and draperies. Interior designers are practitioners of tremendous organizational skills, as well as artisans with a passion for color, warmth, texture and fabric, and possess an over-all sense of rightness.



They are dedicated to perfecting the skill of both right and left-brain thinking and decorating. They are also stagers, color experts and organizers.

Today, the decorator will teach you how to become a prima pantry organizer, or a divide-and-conquer Queen. Organizing your pantry enables you to see what you have and what you need at a glance. Everyone knows where your groceries belong, so it’s easier to find helpers… well maybe!




Here’s the how-to (or honey-do) list:

• Purchase six to 12 large, see-through, wire mesh or clear plastic bins; four to five large rectangular baskets with handles; a packet of 3-by-5-inch index cards for labeling; and metal binder clips to attach the labels to the baskets and bins.

Identify food and cooking categories that suit your lifestyle, such as weeknight dinners, breakfast, lunches, entertaining and baking. Designate an area for each, with the items most-often used in easiest reach. Label these areas on the index cards.

Entertaining items might be in a basket, since it’s a stock selection of fast-fix appetizers, napkins, picks and trays. These baskets might be kept on a higher shelf (unless you’re Martha Stewart!). Don’t forget to label your baskets and bins.

Weeknight meals items would be in wire mesh containers, with several evening meals, each evening in its own bin. Plan and shop for several meals at once, then sort the nonperishable ingredients for each, including side dishes. Keep these bins on a comfortable level, front and center.

Keep the lunch and breakfast bins close by.

Baking areas should allow enough space to keep ingredients in clear, airtight containers that stack neatly and show when stock is low. Transferring flour, sugar and pasta to airtight containers keeps the critters out. Use small labels on each, so you don’t have to open the top to see what’s inside.

For general food storage, group food by type, such as soups, veggies, tomato sauce and fruit. Stair-step the cans for instant shelves, putting the back cans in view, or purchase double-decker, portable shelving.

Breads fit in an under-shelf basket, and a double-decker turntable makes the most of a corner. Hang bulky utensils from hooks mounted on the wall, saving precious space in kitchen drawers. Store appliances in the pantry to keep countertops clear.

Down-to-earth decorating and organizational skills: They go hand-in-hand – or is it basket-to-basket?

A Shade Above Interiors, by Sandi and Paul Bernstein, was voted Best Interior Designer by The Union readers from 2002 through 2007. Contact them at 272-6161.


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