Some days play out like the first half of an infomercial: Dramatic black-and-white scenes, filmed with a hand-held camera, slowed down for effect when the spaghetti sauce splats against the wall, or the blender explodes with green glop. A woman — mild-mannered, but desperate — struggles to get dinner on the table, amidst of a landscape of dirty dishes. The wild-haired children shriek for food. The husband repeatedly stabs at his watch with an irate index finger as if to say, “Woman, I’m gonna be late for my important after-dinner business meeting!”
Yet again, dinner is ruined. Social services are called. Divorce papers are filed. Country club memberships are quietly revoked.
All because the kitchen counter was over-run with bowls of fruit.
Are you, too, feeling overwhelmed with the amount of precious space your family’s fruit bowls are taking up on the kitchen counter? Are you constantly misplacing your fruit? Are you embarrassed that you have less counter space than your friends? Do you need that counter for half-used bottles of sunblock, unpaid bills, bike lube and cell phone chargers?
Then you need a Vertically Integrated Produce Storage System (VIPSS), also known as a Hanging Fruit Basket.
Sure, you could just hop on over to your nearest BloodBath & Beyond and buy a new fruit basket, but where’s the fun in that? Making one out of junk and spray paint will take way longer, but leave you much more fulfilled.
Two to four thrift store baskets, any color and shape
Plant hanger, plus screws for hanging
Pliers and drill
STEP ONE: Go to the thrift store and gather up any kind of wire basket. Don’t be afraid to explore a variety of shapes and sizes. I recommend bringing along a helper. At my local Village Discount Outlet, a fellow shopper WILL steal your cart if you leave it alone for more than a few minutes. Luckily, the same does not apply to my 4-year-old, or her basket collection.
STEP TWO: Cut off the tags and give your baskets a long soak in some hot, soapy water. This will dissolve any dirt or dust and also eliminate the thrift store cooties (real or perceived).
STEP THREE: Let the baskets dry and take them outside. Apply several thin, even coats of spray paint in the color of your choice, and let dry for at least 24 hours before the next step. I chose white because it is safe, and matches the fridge. Also, you can’t buy spray paint in Chicago, and the hardware store we visited in the suburbs caused the part of my brain that controls risk taking in color choices to backfire.(Much later you may realize that it’s the 21st Century and you could have just ordered the damn paint online.)
PRO TIP: If you let your bowls dry overnight in the dining room, you may wake up to find they have been re-purposed by other family members for crayon storage and stuffed animal beds.
STEP FOUR: While the paint dries, visit your local hardware store and grab about six feet of metal chain, preferably the lightest, most pliable chain they have, and one with open loops. You’ll need to open those links easily with a pliers.
STEP FIVE: Line up your baskets in the proper order, with the smallest on top and largest on bottom. Calculate how much room you want between the baskets. At this point, chain links are your new measure of length. For example, I used 12 links between the bottom basket and the second-to-bottom basket. Keep notes on how many links you use for each basket to achieve balance between the sides and prevent unsightly fruit tipping. Hook the chains onto two sides of the basket, using the pliers to open and close chain links as necessary.
STEP SIX: Carefully evaluate your kitchen real estate for a hanging location, noting sources of heat and light. For example, my first choice location gets blasted by heat from a radiator in the winter, and from the east/south facing window in the summer. So, we settled on this dark, overlooked corner, just north of the recycling bin and west of the Art Bulletin Board.
STEP SEVEN: Before you drill, decide which family members should have access to the fruit. In my house, there is a certain short individual that is addicted to bananas. In a move that now seems akin to torture, we put the bananas just inches out of his reach.
STEP EIGHT: Perhaps you have recently suffered a rib contusion and been told by your doctor to avoid lifting or reaching. Ask your handsome husband to drill the hanger for you, and listen to him complain about how badly-placed the drill holes are.