The Before/Step 1: Inventory
It sounds counter-intuitive, but one of the most effective ways we keep our house clean and organized is by entertaining. If we have friends coming for dinner, we give the living room and kitchen a good sorting and tidying-up, we wipe down all major surfaces, and we definitely clean the guest/Kaspar bathroom. When we have guests coming for a Sunday dinner, as we did last night, and last week (new tradition? I'm all for it!), we can chip away at the cleaning-up over the weekend, too, so it's not a rush job, or stressful. In fact, yesterday was a little dark and drizzly -- my very favorite weather, and a rare treat in Texas -- and, after running around in the wet grass, Kaspar settled down to sing himself a book (yes, that's right), and Aaron and I kind of got into the domestic puttering, Radiohead on the iPod and our minds free from work commitments and other concerns. 

Now, using entertaining as housecleaning motivation can backfire; without proper down-time in advance -- and with a toddler at home, a two-day weekend is just about right -- the whole thing heads South. In the event of mid-week guests or working weekends (even just fun-busy weekends), the mess tends to simply move, rush-job style, to our closed-door office, walk-in bedroom closet or kitchen pantry. And once a mess moves in to a new space, it rarely moves back out in a timely fashion. 

Over the last few weeks, our pantry's general state of mess has started to get... a little out of hand. Most of what we eat is fresh, so bulk items and non-perishables -- many of which exist in only small amounts, left over from recipes-past -- languish for long periods in the pantry without our really noticing. And, after several rush-job kitchen cleanings, the space had also accumulated a few stacks of randoms lacking proper, obvious homes (New Yorkers, quarter-full bubbles containers, a plastic-handled trick-or-treat pumpkin). A few of our regular, daily dry items (sugar, coffee, tortilla chips) also live in the pantry, however, so while we weren't exactly missing the half-cup baggy of barley that lay buried under bay leaves in its dark recesses, we were experiencing its mess with some element of deliberate denial. Because honestly, we have bigger fish to fry, pretty much every minute of the day (and night), than cleaning our pantry. I mean, aren't organized pantries the stuff of 1952, Real Simple magazines, and/or distraction for the deeply unfulfilled? 

Maybe. Or maybe not. Something came over me in the midst of yesterday's cozy cleaning circumstances. I removed everything from our pantry, did a bit of consolidating, some throwing-out, and a general inventory. Then I put everything back in. I re-organized. Bulk grains and legumes in one corner, pastas in another, snacks within easy reach. Cookbooks, coconut milk cans-- everything seemed to have its place before I even put it down, and it all felt very right from beginning to end. Especially end... Aaron and I both stood back and marveled at the minor miracle for several minutes before agreeing it was much better than before. Whatever this says about us, admiring our organized pantry was vaguely fulfilling. It definitely felt less chaotic. Calming, even. So I'm hereby adding, as a fiishing tip for the Alt-Mama crash course in Kitchen Ayurveda 101: Organize Your Shit. It's worth it. (Especially for those who seldom sleep; pulling Kaspar's cereal from its newly re-orged shelf, at 5:30 this morning, made me smile... and I was not in a good-morning kind of mood just yet). 

Aaron and I felt such a sense of accomplishment and progress that, just under a month shy of our third anniversary, we finally busted out our wedding china for our little evening fete; it had been living on the pantry's top shelf, still in its boxes and bubble wrap. Eating off of it, later, even in a casual setting (and while using flatware from Ikea), reminded me of the directives we'd received along with the china, from our elders: "Use these plates -- and not just for special occasions." Beautiful things, and spaces, have their most meaningful place in our everyday lives. As do (and as per) organized pantries. 

And with that, the After:

07/13/2012 01:42

You certainly done a great job in cleaning and arranging the whole thing. It looks great and all settled down with stuff at its proper place. Nice post.


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