Although you might think I’m paranoid, for quite some time now a wild beast or monster has taken up residence in our kitchen pantry. The doors won’t shut and last week, a glass jar suddenly fell on my foot. The monster’s getting angry and quite frankly, I fear for my life!!
Moreover, I’m pretty sure this isn’t some cute, fluffy harmless monster of the cookie monster variety. Rather, it’s dark, sinister and very, very mean! The sort of monster that keeps you tossing and turning at night…all night!
I think there could even be drop bears inside. You see, the glass jar isn’t the only thing that’s fallen out of there and I often hear the sound of falling cans or jars. I’d always thought that drop bears lived deep in the Australian bush but I’d swear there’s an entire tribe of them living in my pantry and they’re all having a party….Boom! Crash! Bang!
There’s a lot of activity going on behind those almost closed doors!
Well, I’m no Shrinking Violet so I’ve decided to reclaim my pantry and get rid of that monster and its friends once and for all. Unlike David Attenborough who would quietly study the monster in its native habitat, I’m going to kill it. Exterminate! This is a time for decisive action!
It’s my pantry and I want it back! It’s mine! Mine! All mine!
Well, although it’s generally a good idea to prepare for battle and at least do a few push ups, I actually slept through most of last week. I’ve barely been able to get out of bed and actually enlisted help getting the kids to and from school. I came to an absolute grinding stop due to some kind of stomach bug or extreme stress. Either way, my stomach ached. I couldn’t really eat and then I ran out of ergs. I was like a ghost wafting through the house.
Not exactly the time to tackle pantry monsters perhaps but I needed to clear my head. I have way too many things on my to do list and they’re all swimming round inside my head. I need to clear my head…or have I mentioned that already?!!
I’ll say it again. I need to clear my head.
Anyway, I was feeling recharged today and was ready to slay the beast once and for all. It was going to die. Meet its maker. Moreover, it was going to happen today too! No more “tomorrows”!!
The monster inside my pantry is the familiar “clutterbeast”. Perhaps, you know it well. It doesn’t just settle with one of something but always goes for multiples. For example, I found three separate bags of polenta stashed in different parts of my pantry. There were also two packets of sponge finger biscuits. You see, I’ve been intending to make a decadent family dessert called Chocolate In-Betweens but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. We also won the school’s Christmas hamper and there are a few delicacies left from that as well. It’s quite an assortment really and everything tells a story.
As chaotic as it sounds, my pantry hasn’t been total anarchy. Rather than a place for everything and everything in its place, there are general areas or shelves dedicated to particular categories. All, or at least most, of the breakfast cereals are together for example. I have got something right!
It’s just that over time, things get shoved in gaps and any breathing space at all fills up and the whole place begins to suffocate (for some strange reason Cluttermonsters defy science and can still breathe in these difficult conditions and moths continue to breed as well).
Traditionally, I am not an ordered or structured type but I’ve come to appreciate that being able to find things quickly can save me a lot of time and stress.
I also hate waste with a passion…particularly food waste. We have a worm farm and I’ve also made a commitment not to use plastic packaging for the kids’ school lunches anymore. They do have plastic containers but that’s it. So while I could be doing more to save the planet, I am trying.
Throwing out unused food stuffs from the pantry, wastes both food and packaging. These are my two pet hates so it’s really something I want to avoid. Having a more organised pantry where I can see what’s actually there, will hopefully prevent such waste in future.
So my reasons for cleaning the pantry were as follows:
- Being more efficient. I want to find things straight away.
- Clearing my head. Get another task off my to-do list.
- Saving my feet from future glass jar attacks
- Keeping a better inventory of what’s in my pantry
- Preventing waste
- Saving money
- Having a happier family life. Peoples have been grumbling about the drop bears in particular.
I’m certainly not cleaning my pantry to win some Housewife of the Year Award! I absolutely detest the term “housewife”. Moreover, if I was a domestic goddess of any variety, my pantry wouldn’t be in such a mess. I’m just your garden variety dreamer. That’s all.
Anyway, I probably could have looked up a zillion web sites and blogs to find out how to clean out my pantry without reinventing the wheel. However, I just wanted to get on with it. I’d put it off for long enough!
So here’s a dreamer’s guide to sorting out your pantry, which I believe could be used to sort out just about any kind of mess in your life. It is surprisingly methodical and structured, probably because I find it so difficult to organise stuff. However, I’m starting to suspect this is somehow related to my lousy sense of direction and difficulties parking my car and isn’t some dreadful character flaw after all!
This is what I did:
1) Emptied the pantry.
I took everything out. That means everything. This process is not for the faint-hearted. You need to see this space with fresh eyes and not simply put everything back where it came from. Be extremely critical!
2) Stacked everything on the kitchen table.
You will obviously need a clear, flat surface. At this point, I felt completely overwhelmed. There was just a huge, amorphous blob…a veritable haystack… packets, jars, cans, bottles and quite a few moths flapping around. The monster had now materialised and boy was I scared!!
3) Wiped down pantry shelves.
4) Threw out things that were out-of-date.
This sort of felt good because I was getting rid of stuff and creating space but at the same time, I felt guilty about the waste. I threw out two bin bags worth of stuff. That was a lot of needless waste! That waste also cost money.
5) Merged things together.
I topped up containers and generally added like with like.
My labeling machine
6) Labelled everything.
I used my Dymo labelling machine to do the labelling. This may seem a bit anal but I am so naturally disorganised that I need to be super-organised (if that makes any sense). Some of the containers had been labelled on a previous cleanup.
My Pantry Mind Map
7) Made categories.
Everything needs to be grouped or classified before being put back in the cupboard. By putting like with like, it makes it easier to find things. At this point, I drew up a quick mind map to get some kind of structure in place. Again, this may seem a bit over the top but with that great big blob on my kitchen table, I needed to impose some external order. It was my way of trying to establish some boundaries and control…and subdue the beast!
8) A place for everything and everything in its place.
This was easier said than done. How do you find a place for everything and as all of us know, there’s always a handful of homeless stuff left over after every big clean up. Where does it all go? How do you work out where to put everything? I’m still working on this one. Most of this superfluous clutter usually sneaks its way back in there somehow.
A common rule of thumb with these declutter projects is to put the things you use most at the front where you can access them easily. That might work in some households. However, in my last stop-gap pantry clean-up, I put all my chocolate in one plastic container and I had my Tim Tams and other chocolate biscuits in another. I labelled the containers and stuck them at the top of the pantry. Before I knew it, the kids had spotted my stash and it was gone. It had all been a sitting duck just like the US fleet in Pearl Harbor.
I have put all the sweet contraband type stuff on the top shelf, which while it’s not out of reach of the kids, they’ll at least have to work harder to get it down. If I’m really lucky, they might also realise that the stuff on the top shelf isn’t for kids but somehow I doubt it!
Next I drew up a little diagram of the cupboard and wrote on the things that were easy to place first and slowly tackled the rest. Breaking down the space into more manageable blocks helped me feel less overwhelmed and that I could tackle the pantry one step at a time.
9) Give away food I won’t use.
I accidently bought a huge jar of olives with pips and I’m going to drop them down to a local food charity. I won’t need to feel guilty anymore. I’ll be generous instead.
10) Use what’s in the pantry.
It looks like we’ll be eating a lot of polenta!
11) Buy what we need in future.
Don’t be lured in by specials and supposed savings in future like buying two for less when we’ll only use one anyway. Maintain a shopping list.
My storage tubs.
Rowena’s top pantry storage tip:
I have some medium-sized lidded crates where I store like things such as packets of biscuits, dried fruit and baking “bits” (bicarb, patty papers etc). These all stack up almost neatly on each other. They manage all those really annoying bits and pieces and make it so much easier to find things.
The finished product. It isn’t perfect but at least the doors finally shut!
Well done Ro! I’d say that it probably took me almost five hours to clean out the pantry. I threw out two garbage bags worth of food and I’ll be taking that jar of olives down to our local food charity. I found quite a lot of what I would call “exotica” in the pantry. Ingredients I’d bought to make some kind of fancy or different meal which I’d never made. That felt a bit disappointing because there have been so many nights when I haven’t known what to cook and we’ve had the same old same old when we could have been eating polenta (all three bags of it) instead.
But now there are no more excuses. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday…we’ll all be having polenta! Ha!
Do you have any funny pantry or clutter stories? I’d love to read them!