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15 Tips to a Happier Pantry

15 Tips to a Happier Pantry

Here are 15 tips for a happier pantry. These will help you increase the efficiency of your pantry space. You probably should consider these tips alongside more general aspects of kitchen planning. Please read 15 Less-Than-Exciting Kitchen Planning Considerations.

1. All Edibles In The Pantry

Space permitting, contain all edible items in your kitchen in the pantry. Kitchen cabinets are for kitchen equipment, dining, and serving items. Include in the pantry pet food and snacks. Use pet food containers to avoid having open pet food bags and spills. Use the smaller versions of these pet food containers for treats. If you mix treats together, snack time will always be a surprise for your furry friends. By mixing treats in a single container, you avoid having many bags and treat containers open at once.

2. Remove Cleaning Products

Avoid storing cleaning products in the pantry. Kitchen cleaning products should go in the cabinet space under the sink. All other cleaning tools and products have their place in the laundry room.

3. Use Floor Space Wisely

Fit your pantry floor with baskets or crates to store plastic and paper serving products, beverage bottles or cans, water gallons, water jugs, and other items like lunch boxes. The floor area is good storage space, but we need to make it appropriate for holding our stuff.

4. Zone the Pantry

Create zones in your pantry so that the various product groups are on their space/shelf. Creating areas for the different product groups makes the space more efficient.

5. Hook It Up

Include a hook behind the pantry door for aprons if you use them.

6. Contain Plastic Bags

Add a plastic bag dispenser behind the pantry door. Think Simply Human. Their Wall Mount Grocery Bag Dispenser offers a practical addition to your pantry space to contain those plastic bags and yet keep them accessible.

7. Got Bulk?

Dog food containers are ideal for storing dry bulk goods in your pantry. Utilize these containers, aligning them along the pantry floor or the highest shelf in the pantry.

8. Pizazz!

Consider adding lights to each shelf underside and watch the magic happen!

9. To Line Or Not To Line?

Some people consider lining their shelves and drawers a must; others don’t even think about it. If shelf lining is essential to you, consider a product like Zip-N-Fit Premium Liner. This liner is easy to cut to size by folding and tearing the pieces. It makes lining a breeze. There are great alternatives out there, but you should get a product that makes the job easy and makes you happy. Lining shelves (the right way) is a project and can be an investment. Whatever you decide, measure twice and cut correctly so your shelves look sharp and are appropriately protected.

10. What To Do About Cans?

Organize canned products using tiered can organizers. These organizers allow you to see all cans at a glance and save space on the shelves. Look for the expandable kind to maximize the use of space.

11. Pantry Corners — Do We Have To?

Using Lazy Susans on pantry corners is a good idea to maintain access to those awkward spaces.

12. Snacks, Anyone?

Consider baskets or bins to place individually packed snacks. Remove them from their original boxes or packaging first.

13. Dry Goods: The Pantry Defining Item

Dry goods will decide the defining question about your pantry: Do you want a Pinterest pantry or a more functional one?

The Pinterest look is a high maintenance alternative, as it requires the consistent transfer of all dry goods to containers each time you bring new products home.

The functional approach allows items to remain in their original packaging but clustered by bins or baskets.

The dry goods we refer to are cereals, rice, grains, dry fruit, crackers, cookies, pasta, flour, chips, and the like. In general, these items should not be exposed to moisture and should last fresh for some after we open the package.

Pro Tip: measure each shelf to determine the space available and count the different kinds of dry products in the dry goods category. Whether you go with the functional approach or the high-maintenance one, you will need to know what to buy and how much.

Pro Tip: Stay clear of round containers as they waste much space. Go with rectangular or square but stick to the same type of container to achieve a polished look.

14. Labeling Is Important

Labeling is not an unnecessary detail. On the contrary, labeling allows everyone to find what they need quickly. Labeling also reminds everyone where to put things back; thus, it is crucial to preserve the pantry order when many people share the space.

When using containers in your pantry, label these with a system that adapts to changes. Tastes and preferences of household members change over time. You want a labeling system that looks great, but that can be modified.

If you’d instead use the cluster method to keep items in your pantry, then label your bins or baskets with the category of product it contains.

But regardless of your preferred method, labeling also the shelves is a good idea. Label the shelf space where each item category should go.

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Where do spices go?

15. Where Do Spices Go?

Unless you keep your cooking spices next to the stove, these should go in the pantry. And as with any other pantry group, these should be together and have specific space on a shelf. A tiered spice rack on the shelf is ideal for placing all spices because it allows you to see them all at once.

When pantry shelf space is not an option, the Elfa Spice Rack comes to the rescue! This clever solution goes on your pantry door, on the inside. It is a lifesaver.

Hopefully, these tips will help transform your pantry into a happier, more efficient place for the benefit of everyone involved. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need some pantry help. We love pantries!

15 Less-Than-Exciting (But Important) Kitchen Planning Considerations

15 Less-Than-Exciting (But Important) Kitchen Planning Considerations

Despite the increase of families ordering take-out dinners, the kitchen is still the heart of the home. This space is central to the house and allows families to gather and share special moments. A well-appointed kitchen is always a joy.

And whether getting the kitchen of your dreams you’ve wanted for years or just reorganizing the space to add efficiency to your days, here are some essential considerations for your kitchen space. 

We don’t always pay real attention to these factors when thinking of a kitchen revamp, but they are critical and will make your life easier, your kitchen more appealing, and support your lifestyle and health.

1. Thoroughly Declutter

There’s not much you can do in a kitchen that is cluttered and unappealing. So, the first thing it needs is thorough decluttering. Remove everything from drawers, cupboards, and cabinets to start.

Then sort every single item and decide what goes and what stays. The more you let go, the simpler your life will be. For example, why keep kitchen utensils and gadgets in duplicate or that you do not use or want?

2. Establish Kitchen Work Zones

Kitchen efficiency depends on the proper designation of work zones. To get the most out of your kitchen, establish zones according to how you use the space. Think about how you move around the area and what you do there to understand better where to allocate everything. 

Here are some ideas for zoning your kitchen:

  • Establish a clear distinction between a cooking zone, a meal prep zone, and a baking zone. Establish these zones according to how you will use each one and what is most efficient.
  • Assign the drawer and cabinet closest to the dishwasher to flatware and dishes. It is easier to put these items away when emptying the dishwasher. 
  • Place all baking tools and accessories together to save time and effort when baking if you bake.
  • Keep most frequently used items within easy reach. Less frequently used appliances or seasonal serving dishes, for example, can occupy out-of-the-way places such as higher shelves or back sections of cabinets.
  • You want to place glasses and dishes in upper cabinets because that space is more accessible. But specifically, glasses probably should go on the upper cabinet closest to the fridge because the fridge is where beverages are. 
  • Dishes might go on an upper cabinet above or directly across from the dishwasher to facilitate putting them away. 
  • The counter area by the fridge is probably the ideal place for a coffee/tea station. Thus, the drawer immediately below that coffee station should have all coffee/tea accessories. 

 3. Create Extra Storage Options

Sometimes, a proper declutter won’t yield the kitchen space needed for optimal organization. In those instances, it becomes essential to create new storage space.

Over-the-door storage racks are good alternatives. These go on kitchen doors and inside cabinet doors. A formidable storage solution is the Elfa Spice Rack (sold at The Container Store). It goes inside the pantry door to accommodate all cooking spices and condiments, creating more space inside the pantry for other things.

Pull-out drawer or drawer inserts in cabinets solve the never-ending problem of things getting lost in the depths of cabinets. When the budget does not allow for a kitchen remodel, achieve the same result by using bins to organize the cabinet contents. You can pull out these bins to manage their contents, eliminating the need to bend over and reach inside the cabinet.

4. Evaluate Your Trash Situation

Few things are less exciting than trash. Whether you like to compost, recycle, sort your garbage some other way, or discard what you no longer need, you need a system that works for you. Nothing speaks of unhealthy habits like trash and perishing food accumulated in the kitchen for lack of a proper disposal system. To maintain a clean yet great-looking kitchen, we have to think about the trash situation. 

Investing in a large, functional trashcan for the kitchen is a must. Some kitchens have a pull-out drawer that contains a space for the trashcan. If this is your case, measure that space and divide that number by two. Then get two identical containers that will comfortably fit together in that area: one of trash and one for recycling. Think out of the box when looking for these containers, as these do not need to be actual trashcans. They just need to be light in weight and conform to the required measurements.

If your kitchen does not have cabinet space for trash, it is even more important to pay attention to the style of your trashcan. Consider getting a rectangular, double-sided trashcan. Rectangular ones are easier to disguise. Please avoid round trashcans, which waste space and make their presence unavoidable. Budget permitting, get a trashcan with a sensor lid for a hands-free experience, which keeps the bin cleaner.

5. Clean Up Your Food Container Act

Do yourself a favor and recycle all that mismatched, old plastic stuff that overflows your cabinets. Get a set of new, BPA-free, dishwasher-safe, microwave-safe, plastic, or glass containers with lids. You need them to store left-overs and organize your fridge and freezer (more on that in the following section about systems you should have in place).

You should probably also get an additional but less expensive set for sharing food with others (avoiding resenting them for stealing your best containers or growing old waiting for them to return them).

Select a specific cabinet, preferably a lower one, to neatly organize those containers in one single place in your kitchen.

6. Corral Cleaning Products

Store cleaning products that pertain to the kitchen under the kitchen sink. Install cabinet organization solutions in that space so you can easily access these products and equipment.

The under-sink cabinet is also an excellent place to store the various types of filters you might need in the kitchen (sink faucet, fridge/freezer, etc.), as well as your trash bags.

7. Know What That “Junk” Drawer Is and Is Not

It is handy to have a miscellaneous drawer in the kitchen but not a junk drawer. Junk drawer implies accepting everything we do not want to decide on — clutter. And it would be best if you did not wish for a clutter drawer. This miscellaneous drawer is not a substitute for the garage either. I have seen drills and all kinds of tools in the “junk drawer” of some kitchens.

The miscellaneous drawer should contain a few things that are often needed, such as a tape measure, a couple of pens, scissors, a note pad, some tape, maybe envelopes and stamps, a mini screwdriver, and the like.

Tools go in the garage. Lightbulbs and batteries should have their bins and belong in the laundry room area or utility closet. Get the idea?

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8. Determine Where the Spices Go

Where do spices go? The most convenient place for the spices is near the stove, given that this is where we frequently use them. Select an upper cabinet to the right or left of the stove area for the spices. Another great area is the drawer next to the stove.

Once you select the storage space for spices, choose among the many spice storage solutions available to make your life easier while cooking with them.

The pantry is the next best option in the absence of cabinet space or a drawer for spices. As with any other pantry group, herbs should be together on a shelf area. Use a tiered spice rack on the shelf to better see everything without much effort.

When a pantry shelf is not available, the Elfa Spice Rack comes to the rescue! This clever solution goes on your pantry door, on the inside. It is a lifesaver.

9. Light Up!

The kitchen should be well lit in various ways. Ideally, the kitchen will combine top light and task or functional illumination. Light sources are up to your style and budget. However, good, efficient lighting is crucial. In addition, lighting directly impacts your mood. For example, placing light under upper kitchen cabinets offers the functional task illumination needed on counters while preparing food, but it also does wonders for the ambiance of your kitchen.

10. Clear Counters

Sometimes people go overboard with décor on kitchen counters and islands. Although some décor items are important, do not overload flat surfaces with stuff. Counter space is not storage either. Keep counters as clear as possible. It makes the kitchen look much better and gives you the space needed to work.

11. Don’t Ignore The Pantry Pantry After 8 225x300 - 15 Less-Than-Exciting (But Important) Kitchen Planning Considerations

The process of organizing the kitchen needs to include the pantry. Organizing the pantry is an excellent opportunity to clean the space and, if warranted, line or reline the shelves.

You will be amazed at all the duplicates and expired products in your pantry when you see it all in front of you.

To keep an organized pantry, follow these simple steps.

  • Throw out any expired food.
  • Separate items you are keeping into categories and designate appropriate spaces in the pantry for these categories. Better yet, label the pantry areas accordingly to make it easier for everyone in the house to maintain the space organization achieved. Place products with a closer expiration date to the front to use these first.
  • Invest in pantry containers to store rice, cereals, flours, sugars, grains, chips, cookies, crackers, etc. Square and rectangular containers utilize the space best. Containers stand and stack better than the usually opened product bags with clips we keep in the pantry, right? With these containers, products stay fresh, and you can always see what you have and how much, thus knowing when to buy more. Additionally, your pantry will have that magazine look you admire while browsing social media. It takes some effort and discipline to keep the system as you need to transfer the products to the containers when coming home from the store, but it pays off immensely in the day-to-day kitchen operation. Oh, make sure you label these containers.
  • Remove pre-packed items from their primary packing — group snacks in clear containers for easier access.

12. Befriend Your Fridge

As a principle, it is best to limit your grocery shopping of produce and meats to smaller quantities that the family will consume weekly. This practice preserves the product’s freshness and nutritional value. It also helps organize your refrigerator space efficiently and enables remembering the items in your fridge so food does not get spoiled.

An organized fridge leads to a more straightforward cooking process, more in-home cooking, money savings, and better health.

An excellent routine to achieve an organized refrigerator and freezer is to wash, cut, and repack produce and meats when coming from the store. This process takes some time and effort but ensures that the refrigerator and freezer stay clean and organized. Opening the fridge to see plastic and paper bags, some halfway open, saluting you is not an inviting proposition.

The washing, cutting, and repacking of produce and meat before placing these in your fridge or freezer also saves significant time throughout the week during cooking.

Having the proper containers for your fridge and freezer is crucial. Invest in transparent or translucent containers that can be labeled and relabeled, BPA-free, and dishwasher safe.

Being disorganized can cost you. Think about all the food you throw away in an average month. Get organized to stop the waste.

By the way, your fridge and freezer need a thorough cleaning and disinfecting each month, on average. Use an open pack of baking soda to get rid of odors in your fridge safely, should this become a concern.

A well-kept kitchen is not a one-time process. Staying tidy requires lifestyle changes. If you’re ready for those changes and would like professional assistance with your kitchen adventure, don’t hesitate to contact us at My Space Reclaimed, LLC. We will be thrilled to partner with you.

13. Adopt A Meal Planning SystemProfessional Organizer My Space Reclaimed 18 300x225 - 15 Less-Than-Exciting (But Important) Kitchen Planning Considerations

If you don’t have a meal planning routine, you should see how it can make your life much easier. Of course, this requires some prep work, but it is just once. Then you’ll be gliding through your weekly planning, shopping, cooking.

It starts by going through all your clippings and books full of recipes. By the way, as a bonus for following this procedure, you get a streamlined kitchen book and recipe area.

Get all those recipes out and choose only those you truly like or want to try. Then, either clip them or make photocopies of those recipes, so you can individually place them in 4″ X 6″ index cards. Next, divide these cards into salads, main dishes, pasta, soups, desserts, beverages, protein shakes/smoothies, dressings, snacks, etc. Finally, get all your categories sorted into index card boxes (choose the style of boxes that makes your heart sing).

Select a day of the week to make your meal planning. On that day, each week, mix and match recipes to compose your weekly meals. For each meal, choose the main course and other dishes as desired. You’ll have all kinds of options, so choose the type and number of dishes needed per each meal you’ll be making. Then, group each day’s recipes and have them accessible for later cooking.

Since each recipe includes its ingredients and the amounts, you have your grocery list done! Add any other items like snacks and miscellaneous needed and go shopping to that list.

Coming back from the store, remove bags and packaging from every item. Wash all produce, meats, fish, etc. Store packaging helps you transport things home but is not appropriate for storing food items in your freezer or fridge. Peel, cut, divide, season all your items as needed and transfer them to your food storage containers.

If you still have some energy left and would like to save significant time during your week, batch-cook dishes shared by some of your recipes. Then use your containers to save those dishes until you need them throughout the week.

Did you notice that so far, you have gained not only a streamlined, great-looking, manageable, and helpful recipe system but also a great-looking fridge and freezer thanks to your new meal prep and container systems?

14. Follow A Dishwashing Procedure

Provided that your dishwasher is in working order, there is no need to see the accumulation of dirty dishes and things in the sink or counter.

Start every morning with a clean kitchen and an empty dishwasher. As kitchen stuff gets used, each person should rinse their items and place them inside the dishwasher instead of leaving them in the sink or the counter. After dinner, presumably the last meal of the day, all dirty stuff will be inside the dishwasher. The dishwasher runs, and at the end of the cycle or first thing in the morning, whoever is responsible for this task, puts items away.

The dishwasher is available for a new day every morning. However, if the day starts with a loaded dishwasher with clean stuff, there is no chance to accumulate used equipment inside it. Therefore, dirty stuff gets all over the kitchen. It’s as simple as starting the day with an empty dishwasher. Really!

15. Clean & Maintain Appliances

Get in the habit of cleaning the refrigerator and freezer, inside and out, at least once a month. It’s always a good idea to do a weekly fridge cleanout before shopping for groceries. That ensures no food gets forgotten and spoiled in the fridge, plus it makes space in the refrigerator and frees-up containers for that week’s fresh groceries.

Clean your microwave weekly, inside and out. It makes no sense to warm up meals in a crusty microwave featuring food remains from weeks ago.

The dishwasher needs cleaning as well. Do not neglect the dishwasher filter. The filter needs to be hand-cleaned about every other week for the dishwasher to do its job correctly.

So, there you have it — fifteen less-than-exciting considerations to make your kitchen space more efficient, whether renovating the area or just reorganizing. 

Hopefully, these steps will make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable and productive once into place.

But if you feel this is too much for you to handle alone, you don’t have to. Contact us! We’ll be thrilled to partner with you on your kitchen adventure.

What Happens After Grocery Shopping?

What Happens After Grocery Shopping?

What happens after you come home from grocery shopping? Do you place plastic bags in the fridge to avoid dealing with the groceries? You might find the lightbulbs and toilet paper you bought inside the fridge tomorrow morning.

I confess I don’t particularly appreciate going to the grocery store. And it is not necessarily the process of buying the stuff. Instead, what follows gets me – when all that stuff comes home. 

It takes me a lot longer to organize what I bring from the store than the errand. Yet, I manage the groceries every single time. An hour devoted to the process pays off in many ways during the week. It helps me save time while cooking, allows me to plan varied, healthy meals, looks delicious and inviting (so family members get interested in healthy cooking), and makes it joyful to cook when everything is organized, fresh, clean,, and accessible. 

Don’t you go insane when you hear the dreaded daily question: “What’s for dinner?” (at least admit you roll your eyes).

What if I told you that the horrendous hour after grocery shopping might be essential to spare you the feeling you get when you hear that question?

Here are eight steps to help you stay on top of your game.

1. Plan your menus for each day of the week

Schedule an hour to plan your menus for the entire week. Make this a commitment and calendar this hour on the same day, at the same time every week. Make the list of ingredients for each dish with specific quantities, according to the amount you plan to prepare. Having the particular amounts you need helps you save money by not overbuying and not wasting products.

 Planning your weekly menus can be a breeze if you follow the process described in my blog Systems Take Organizing To The Next Level to organize the kitchen cabinet. 

Pull out those index cards and mix and match your dishes to get complete meals. All the information you need to prepare your grocery list will be there. Leave those index cards out, group them by meal and date of the week, and you’ll be ready to go when you start cooking. 

2Calendar your shopping trip 

Plan your grocery shopping for the same day each week. If this is part of your routine, it will become a habit. As part of your grocery shopping process, block in your calendar the time needed to deal with the stuff when you bring the groceries home. 

3. Invest in the proper containers for your freezer and your refrigerator

Select containers that are similar in size and shape, so they stack nicely in the fridge and freezer. Avoid round containers because they don’t use the space efficiently. Stay with a line that serves both the refrigerator and freezer, so you only buy one type of container. Select a microwave-safe system, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free line of containers. I love the TellFresh line from The Container Store.

4. Wash and prepare your produce

Remove all packaging. Remove stems and other non-edible parts and cut up the fruits and vegetables. By washing and repacking in sealed containers, your produce will stay fresh for longer. Also, your fridge and pantry will look spectacular. Everything washed, cut, and ready to go will make meal prep straightforward and more pleasant. You’ll have your Mise en Place in a flash!  

Another great advantage of following this routine is having healthy snacks very accessible. When we are hungry, we eat what’s available. And if we have ready-made fruit packs or cut-up veggies available, we will probably make healthier snack choices.

5. Remove most of the packing from your frozen products

You save a lot of space in the freezer and fridge when you remove your frozen items from the packaging and re-group them in designated freezer containers or use your freezer door compartments. Frozen fruits and vegetables in bags, for example, don’t stack well, and once we open the bags, the product doesn’t preserve their freshness the same way. 

6. Maximize the space and organization of your fridge by including bins

Typically, the fridge comes equipped with a couple of drawers to keep some items at slightly different temperatures. But you can add some bins to the refrigerator to create compartments and separate products by categories. Your fridge will look fantastic, and items will be easier to find. In addition, it will be easier to monitor what’s there, what we need to buy, and what has expired. Some fridges’ design allows the drawers to be substituted with some bins to create even more space.

7. Label!

Don’t skip the labeling part. To maintain the freshness of your fridge and freezer products, you need to know their expiration date. I know labels can be problematic, and the process could be tedious. Labels in the freezer and fridge need to change quite often. Pick a flexible label system such as Label Once labels! Write on them with any sharpie or marker and erase with any eraser. These labels stay on the containers, even if you put them in the microwave or the dishwasher. It is simple to label and relabel with this product.

8. Treat your pantry with the same respect and care 

Use transparent or translucent air-tight containers for dry goods such as flour, sugar, rice, pasta, dry beans, chips, cookies, crackers, and cereal. This way, products stay fresh longer, and you’ll know how much product is left. These containers stack well and give your pantry that polished look we all want. Bags and opened boxes do not look appealing and do not stack well, they can spill, and the product inside can easily get contaminated.  

For all other products that don’t need decanting to containers, use baskets or bins to create product categories and separate food groups. 

Have a condiment system, whether a section inside the pantry or a designated cabinet next to the stove. Another alternative for condiments is to use the Elfa Spice Rack. This tool makes excellent use of the much-neglected vertical space of the pantry door.

An organized kitchen reduces food waste and promotes cleanliness, joyful cooking, and a healthier lifestyle. Get in the habit of managing your groceries after going to the store and see your productivity, efficiency, and joy in the kitchen exponentially grow. 

What’s for dinner?

Open Storage Space – An Organizing Challenge

Open Storage Space – An Organizing Challenge

Open Storage Space Can Be A Challenge

Achieving a functional storage space that looks great both inside and out is challenging. For example, what to do with an overload of things to organize when there is little to no closet, drawer, or cabinet space available?

That’s when people typically place everything anywhere, just as long as these things are on a flat surface. Well, that does not look organized or pretty (but no one said they were trying either).
Some places do have open storage space by design. And this is where the challenge is.

One of the most charming houses I’ve ever worked with was a custom-built home without any storage space! The few areas available to store things, even in the kitchen, were small and exposed (as in no cabinets, drawers, etc.). Furthermore, every storage area consisted of built-in niches, which made the use of storage furniture pieces an awkward proposition.

Consider This To Make It Work 

Some factors to consider when organizing an area with open storage are the style of the space, harmonious storage solutions, minimalism, and maintenance.

When things need to remain in plain sight due to lack of concealed storage space, arrange them stylishly- that is, those items that might look good enough to display by themselves.

However, when storing items that clearly can’t stand by themselves as they are, like food or cleaning products, consider using baskets or bins that share either color or style to create a homogeneous, harmonic look that complements the style of the space. Otherwise, the area will look disorganized and cluttered.

Maintenance is essential because, over time, we turn blind to the looks of a space we see daily. We forget that such storage space, due to its openness, is an integral part of the area’s decor and style. Therefore, visible space needs to be well-kept, not only in order but also in color, item arrangement, and balance with the rest of the space.

Consider the picture below.

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Open storage space is an organizing challenge

This kitchen would not look this appealing without attention to color balance, positioning, and item amount. Some kitchens rely on open shelves like these instead of upper cabinets. 

NOTE: The attention that open storage space requires does not excuse using cabinets and drawers carelessly (as in shoving everything inside in a messy pile) because these are concealed storage areas. These covered spaces still need to be organized to know what we have and easily access it. Otherwise, why keep any of it?

Please reach out to us if you find yourself in a difficult spot deciding about your own open storage space.


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