Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Pantry

It has been two years since I retired, and I am finally getting myself a schedule. Okay, it is true, I have been on an exercise schedule of sorts, one day at the Y and one day walking, but I have been meaning to develop a housework schedule so my poor husband doesn’t wind up doing most of it, and to find some volunteer work to do.

So for the past several weeks I have used Wednesday (which has long been my laundry day) for dusting, cleaning mirrors, and cleaning the bathrooms. Alternate Fridays continue to be used for changing and laundering the bedding, and Thursdays are now special projects day. Special projects so far have included dusting all the ceiling fans, decluttering (for the 95th time) my office space, and just this past week, cleaning and reorganizing my pantry.

The pantry is actually the half of the laundry room opposite the washer and dryer. When I bought the house, half of that wall contained a closet and next to it was a niche that I suspect was meant for an upright freezer. I find closets inconvenient as pantries because the space to the sides of the door is hard to reach. So when we remodeled the kitchen, John tore out the closet and refinished the wall and ceiling. We had a base cabinet made to match the new kitchen cabinets, and topped it with a stock formica counter from the Home Depot. Above the base cabinet, which has two cabinets with pull-out trays and four drawers, are three stainless steel restaurant style shelves. Hanging from some sections of shelving are three wire baskets. 

My husband and I have different ideas about organization. My ideal pantry (freezer, refrigerator, desk drawer) contains enough empty space to allow me to see what I’m looking for and reach for it without knocking 6 other cans or jars to the floor. My husband sees empty space as a sign that something is missing. A large chunk of the history of our married life consists of my donating old books, knickknacks and clutter, admiring the now decluttered and decorative looking shelves for about ten minutes, and then finding my husband unpacking a box of books he had somewhere onto the newly freed up space. What can I say? He lives here, too.

Besides, it’s not as if I am a naturally neat person. While I can arrange my pantry or bookcase or desk to conform somewhat with my ideal, I have a bad habit of putting things down rather than away “until I get around to it”, and then having to do another major decluttering down the road. So it would be hypocritical of me to treat my husband as if he is the one responsible for all the clutter in our lives.

At any rate, since last Thursday was taken up with some other appointments, I tackled the pantry on Friday. I expected it to take me an hour. It took two and a half. On the other hand, I made more of an impact than I expected. For one thing, I went through the old cooking equipment and other unused cookware (like a fish mold I had been given for a gift) that had lived unmolested on the top shelf for a decade and either found new locations for it or put it in a donate pile. That freed up space for things we are willing to climb on the stepladder (conveniently located next to the dryer) to get: my Cephalon Dutch oven which I mostly use for soups and spaghetti sauce, large unopened jars of things like mayonnaise and ketchup, and extra cans of whatever we bought packed 12 cans at a time at Sam’s Club. I also put an unopened bottle of fish sauce and some cans of coconut milk, remnants of John’s days of Thai cooking, up there as well.

So now the countertop, which had been completely covered with bags, boxes, and my Dutch oven, is maybe only half covered. The cans of food are organized like with like. The pasta is all in one wire basket and the tea and Jello in another. I spent a lot of Friday afternoon standing in there, gazing.

My much used Dutch oven is the paprika colored thing at the top. Next to it is a spare box of coffee K-cups. On the second shelf down, the pancake syrups are on a large plate to catch drips.

Small jars go in the basket on the left, so they don't get lost behind large jars.

The wire basket holds snacks. The covered plastic containers hold crackers (top) and  the remaining Christmas snack items a nephew sent us (bottom). To the right of them, the bottles of oil and corn syrup are now on a tray to catch drips.

I'd be happier if that whole counter was clear, but at least there is now some space to drop groceries needing unpacking, to pack goods to donate, or to use that knife sharpener.

Yesterday I woke up with DOMS. The first time I saw that term I googled it and finally figured out that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness was the meaning I wanted, but I learned a lot about . . . other things. I expected all the climbing up and down the step ladder to empty, scrub, and restock the shelves to make my legs sore, but I didn’t expect the scrubbing to leave me with a dull pain between my shoulder blades, which is still there today.

This is how you know you are out of shape: when less than three hours of housework leaves you feeling like you have done extended sets of overhead presses.
I think next week I’m just going to quietly sort through the linens. Sitting down.

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