Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning

The Surprising Baking Tool That's an Organizer's Dream

There's ways to use them in every room in the house.

November 24, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

Welcome to Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning, a month-long series that puts the fun (yep, for real!) back into cleaning. We’re talking spruce-ups that take less than five minutes, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that hacks, and hands-off cleaning tasks that basically…do themselves—plus our trustiest tools and helpers. The goal: clean less, go outside more.


Until recently, I believed that I was immune to the “Target spell”. The phenomenon of walking into a Target thinking you’re going to walk out with the dish soap you needed, and only the dish soap you needed, but walking out with a yoga mat, an impossibly fuzzy blanket, and a whole set of acrylic paints—because this quarantine hobby will pan out, right?

On a recent catharsis trip to said retail heaven, I thought I’d pick up some cleaning supplies and that’s pretty much it. To no one’s surprise at this point, I walked out with much more than that, including a couple of sturdy, lightweight baking sheets in the quarter- and eighth-sheet sizes (read: the cute ones).

I had visions of baking pint-size slab pies (because, at the moment, I don’t have 40 people to feed, but I love that shape), mini crumb cakes, individual Detroit-style pizzas, the list goes on.

Ultimately, and unexpectedly, I ended up using them in various rooms in the house outside of my kitchen. Because I repurposed them while new—and therefore shiny and not marked by the oven—I could use them for non-cooking purposes and they didn’t look or feel out of place. They began to serve as organizers, mess-catchers, and crafting tools, their sturdy build making them striking as they are dependable. I reach for them in a number of ways around the house—including more unexpected ways in the kitchen.

Here are just a handful of ways I truly think these little trays could be helpful around the house:

Crafting Stations

Admittedly, I am the above-mentioned acrylic paint-buyer and have tried my hand at various projects over quarantine. The eighth- or quarter-sheets could certainly be used as a perch for paints, as well as a drip-catcher, brush rest, and general art-making or kids’ crafting station (with all of the inevitable mess-making that comes with that). My next plan is to use mine as a home-base for collaging, to catch all of the little cut-outs that I otherwise just gather in a random pile or that fly off to random corners of my room (much more likely).

Household Organizers

I use my quarter-sheet to corral my miscellaneous candle collection, and plan to use an eighth sheet to organize all of the serums and skincare accoutrements that otherwise make a randomized mess of my bathroom. And yes, I’ve heard of vanity trays, but the brushed silver look, low price point, and easy-to-clean surface make these trays a great solution for collecting bits and bobs in one place (at least until I find the perfect vintage iteration on Etsy, after many rabbit-hole searches).

Photo by Celeste Scollan

Mess-Catchers

Both smaller sheet sizes can be used as little utility stations outside of crafting. The eighth-sheet could be used as a place to gather oils, vinegars, and seasonings to keep the items tidy (stove-side or in-cabinet), in the refrigerator to group leftovers, or for your condiment collection to avoid spillage. Personally, I’ve used it as a bottle-making station when babysitting my nine-month-old nephew. The sticky baby formula never makes it neatly into the bottle and I hate wiping it off the countertop, so it’s nice to have one spot for formula to hang out where it won’t make a sticky, smelly mess of everything else. Then, later, I can just throw it in the sink to clean.

Serving Trays

Personally, this is my favorite way to use my lil’ baking trays: eating dinner (and lunch and snack) in bed. I’m pretty sure no one actually owns one of those breakfast-in-bed trays that children bring to their mom on Mother’s Day in the movies and, turns out, we never needed them! My quarter sheet is the perfect size for a tray of sushi and glass of wine and very much enables my dinner-in-bed-with-TV habit (and I don’t mind one bit). Founder of Seemore Meats and Veggies Cara Nicoletti is a fan of this move, and makes way prettier displays of it than I ever could. As far as food goes, I also wouldn’t say no to using it as a charcuterie board or hors d’oeuvre tray, either.

Photo by Cara Nicoletti

And, in the end, if you do find a vintage vanity tray you’ve always wanted or give up your burgeoning painting hobby, you can always wash the trays and use them for what they were intended: baking off a single cookie every night before bed, or roasting veggies and the like, like you maybe normally would.

What things (besides cookies) would you put on a baking sheet? Tell us below!
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Celeste Scollan

Written by: Celeste Scollan

30 Comments

SuzanneETC February 18, 2021
These trays would also be great to use for puzzles if the size were right, just slide the tray away somewhere when you’re done and pull it out to start up again.
 
Lilly January 19, 2021
A Sheet pan lined with paper towels or dry cloths placed next to my sink hold washed vegetables, and fruits to drain and prevent water messes! Easy to move to cutting board or baking dish.
 
Celeste S. January 19, 2021
So SMART. I'm always making a mess with washing vegetables or dishes - def gonna give this one a shot!
 
Ayserose January 19, 2021
I am an artist working with pencils. Small baking sheets are fabulous for sorting and storing pencils and sharpeners and all the other bits!!
 
Celeste S. January 19, 2021
Yess. Love it :)
 
rose M. January 4, 2021
Instead of plastic plant trays which usually crack and start to leak
 
Celeste S. January 4, 2021
Toootally.
 
Bonniesue January 3, 2021
There are only two of us, and I have a large air fryer oven. A half sheet pan is the perfect fit, and I use it for everything!
 
Claudia K. January 3, 2021
I use cookie sheets to hold vacuum sealed food in flat packages until frozen. Then, they can be easily stacked in the freezer.
 
Celeste S. January 4, 2021
Yes! Love this.
 
Kristine December 24, 2020
Love this idea...about 40 years ago found enameled baking pieces at a flea market...been using them like this since...it was a great find!
 
SuzanneETC February 18, 2021
I’m going to keep an eye out for enameled trays,
 
K December 4, 2020
I use very old ice cube trays (minus dividing grid, not too different from your 1/8 pans) by the stove to corral my olive oil pourer, pepper grinder,etc.. They are always in use and always left a mess on the counter. Way easier to clean, and to slide out of the way when needed.
 
Celeste S. January 4, 2021
We lovee a clean countertop. And such a cool way to reuse old ice cub trays!
 
SuzanneETC February 18, 2021
Good reuse — those aluminum trays were such a pain to use!
 
Adrienne B. December 3, 2020
For anyone with a senior cat who is having problems getting in and out of the litter box and might be having accidents in unwanted places as a result, an old half-sheet pan is a Godsend. I had an 18-year-old cat that had arthritis and was going in strange places until I put a pad on an old half-sheet pan. I put it in front of the regular litter box and he walked up to it and did his business. He looked at me and I swear he was smiling. Sadly, we lost him two years ago.
 
Celeste S. January 4, 2021
This is so sweet (and ingenius), thanks for sharing Adrienne <3
 
SallyHuebscher December 3, 2020
I have been using cookie trays for years. I am 5'2" so a small cookie sheet in a cabinet lets me reach the things in back without climbing on a chair. I make a 1/8 tray for spices, one for baking, one for hot sauce so I pull them out all at once. The pans are especially great in the laundry room on the shelves over the washer dryer. I also use the little ones to bake cakes. Two boxes of vanilla cake mix colored with gel food coloring makes the very cutest stacked rainbow cake in 6 1/8 sheet pans. You can color the vanilla frosting too.
 
Celeste S. January 4, 2021
Omg genius r.e. using them to reach things! Love how much of a go-to tool they are in all ways :)
 
SuzanneETC February 18, 2021
Great idea!
 
Hazel M. November 25, 2020
For your non American readers who have no idea what size the quarter/half sheet tray you are refering to is would you please inc. actual measurements? You have many readers who are not American.
 
Arati M. November 28, 2020
Hi Hazel. Happy to help. A half-sheet pan measure 18-by-13 inches, with sides about one inch high—great for roasting veggies or for sheet-pan dinners, and in this case, so many other needs around the house :)
 
Hazel M. December 5, 2020
Thanks so much 😲
 
AntoniaJames November 24, 2020
I use them to organize multiple but related mises-en-place when cooking and baking numerous items during a single session in the kitchen. For example, it's not uncommon for me to prepare and bake cornbread and baked oatmeal with seasonal fruit at the same time that I'm making our dinner, along with various components for another night's dinner (such as a pan of roasted vegetables for a frittata or pizza later in the week), or even a second full soup or stew. I cook this way at least two evenings each workweek.

I corral the ingredients for each dish or group of related dishes on a quarter sheet pan. An added benefit is that if, for whatever reason, I decide not to make one of the baked goods, I can simply move the assembled dry ingredients and spices on the sheet pan to a shelf in my pantry, until I'm ready to use them - typically, the next evening.

Once I started doing this, I realized I could do the same thing for advance prep of pantry ingredients and spices for baking projects. I often have short blocks of time that are long enough to set up projects I'll be doing within the next few days. When I'm ready to turn on the oven and complete the project, I just bring the tray of pantry ingredients (including pre-measured and mixed dry ingredients) out of the pantry and onto my work surface.

I also use sheet pans for streamlining the process of canning jams, marmalades and pickles. I put the empty jars on a sheet pan to sterilize them in the oven while I'm making the jam on the top of the stove. The sheet pan then serves as a landing pad for the jars when I'm filling them and putting on the lids, after which I move the tray of filled jars from the island to the counter next to the stove for their hot water bath.

I also use sheet pans for organizing my hand tools, seeds, starter pots, etc., when planting starters from seeds, transplanting, etc.

Older sheet pans I put into service organizing items stored on the upper shelves of my kitchen cabinets - sort of like makeshift pullout drawers. It's a cinch just to slide the tray out to get items stored toward the back.

A second retired half sheet pan lives under my sink, for keeping tidy the cleaning products and containers with cleaning brushes. etc. stored there. As with my upper cabinets, this also makes it easier to get out the items stored in the back.

;o)
 
Arati M. November 24, 2020
Wow Antonia, I’m bookmarking every one of these ideas. Particularly love the use as makeshift pullout drawers on hard-to-reach upper shelves of cabinets. Brilliant.
 
SuzanneETC February 18, 2021
I have several reactions to your post, Antonia.
How neat that you and @salluHuebscher both use trays for high items. Makes me think of using high-sided containers for my vases which live on my highest shelves.

Also feel very inspired by the breadth of your home endeavors and your overall clarity of vision! Cooking ahead, jams, gardening and so on, Oh wow!

Lots of excellent ideas here.

And rather glad my kitchen and I are not on Zoom just now, definitely not ready for prime time tour.

Just about to start having lots of plants inside, as we have to be in so much anyway. Have you got any tips on that front to share ??
Thanks for being so generous with your ideas!
 
Kat November 24, 2020
I was gifted my grandmother’s baking sheets and just couldn’t put them in a cabinet. It was my mom who came up with the idea to hang them on the wall in my kitchen and use them as a message station. They are covered with special photos held on with magnets. They are my version of “refrigerator photos” and I think of my beautiful grandmother every day.
 
Caroline M. November 25, 2020
This is GENIUS
 
RobinPS November 24, 2020
We use them for corralling LEGO pieces and as a flat, sturdy building site when working on a LEGO project.
 
Arati M. November 24, 2020
Great idea, Robin! Must try that when my nephew comes around with his.