Tag Archives: procrastination

Slaying the Dreaded Pantry Beast

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

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

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!

DSC_6946

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.

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!

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!

xx Rowena

Wickedly Sweet…my cupcake awakening!

You want me! I know you want me! I know just how much you want me! Take me! I’m yours!

Those damn cupcakes were calling me. Whispering sweet nothings at me and I was quite powerless to resist. The temptation…all that temptation was all too much. I succumbed. Not just once but twice. A greedy little glutton without any willpower whatsoever, I had two cupcakes and I didn’t even care if someone else missed out. I needed my fix! I was a woman possessed!!

Eating two little cupcakes is hardly a crime but that all depends on the context.

You see, I was at a business lunch.  Just before lunch, I’d shot my mouth off to a colleague about all my great health goals and objectives. I’ve lost ten kilos this year. You can achieve a lot of things but losing weight is almost the Holy Grail. Then, as everybody knows, there’s the battle to keep it off…to somehow maintain the rage. That’s where I’m struggling at the moment.  So far, I’ve been able to sneak in a few treats and get away with it but I could always lose more. Also, horror of horrors, I could always put the weight back on!

Whatever else happens, I certainly don’t want to go backwards. I’ve even thrown out all my old fat clothes and have drawn a very determined line in the sand.

I am a new woman.

Yet, there I was stuffing my face full of cupcakes. With my all-important credibility and self-respect hanging around my ankles like a pair of saggy, baggy undies with broken elastic, I had well and truly shifted gears from winner to loser and I knew it. But did that stop me? No, I still went ahead and ate that second cupcake.

Why did I do it? Why was I so weak-willed…especially in such a public situation?

I don’t know. I’m not a bad person. I don’t smoke. I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t do illegal drugs. I’ve never shoplifted and I’ve certainly never left my kids in the car while I’ve gone to the casino. I don’t really pig out either but those little things I’d given up are sneaking back in. They’re only small but it’s a bit like joining up the dots. They all add up, creating something big and rather scary in the end.

But you’d think that when my health is so precarious, I could stop at one cupcake. I have such a huge incentive for staying on track. You’d think that I’d be able to give up cake, chocolate and sweets without a second thought. Eating junk food when you’re battling a health issue is so ridiculously stupid like smoking in front of your obstetrician when you’re pregnant. It’s a no brainer and yet, I persistently persist.  “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence!!”  I just wish I could harness this persistence for good instead of evil!

After all, I’ve had the wake up call. It’s now time to get out of bed. Burst out of my cocoon. Get moving! But who hasn’t pressed the snooze button, ignored the alarm and gone back to sleep? Who hasn’t heard the alarm beeping again and again and again but left it to the very last minute to get up?  I’m only human but this sort of thinking isn’t going to help. Instead, I need to find some seriously superhuman willpower… tough love even!

So if I know all of this why can’t I just go ahead and do it?

I would like to blame the devil or even the cupcakes for leading me astray but the bottom line is that it’s me. I am my own worst enemy. I am constantly shooting myself in the foot. Indeed, my feet are so riddled with bullet holes, they look like Swiss cheese. I could even eat them on toast.

This was a bit of a revelation because I certainly like to think of myself as a “good person” and my enemies as being external not an insider and certainly not myself!

We have a really horrible neighbour who is probably my only “enemy”. He is what I describe as a nasty piece of work, specialising in intimidation. I just see him and feel horrible. Yet, as much as he drives me crazy, I have to admit that I’ve done more to hurt myself than he has ever done. He isn’t the one making me self-destruct. That’s me. I am doing that to myself and bringing myself down. I can’t tell you how creepy and uncomfortable this makes me feel.  I don’t like it. I really don’t like it at all!  This new perspective could actually be the thing that changes me once and for all!

But how is this all going to change? How can I convert good intentions into lasting, meaningful results?

The first step, of course, is just to get started and so far, I’m cruising. You see, the morning after the cupcake incident, I caught a very nasty gastro bug from the kids and was sick for about four days. I was very, very ill and feverish and obviously couldn’t eat. As bad as it sounds, I couldn’t help thinking that this terrible bug might be just the thing to get me back on track. Yet, when it comes to developing more willpower, being too sick to eat doesn’t count! I need to work at it.  So in a sense I’m ahead but the reality is that I’m still just as behind as ever.

Lasting change is going to take some serious effort.I also need to plan. Be strategic. Identify my strengths and weaknesses and be prepared.

Alternatively, I could just say “no”. That would be a novel concept.

The trouble is that I’ve now spent most of my available time blogging instead of doing. This could be interpreted as a more sophisticated form of procrastination or perhaps a terminal case of paralysis through analysis. Yet, even though I’ve missed my walk and managed to do nothing, I’m looking on the bright side. I’ve been too busy typing to eat and surely all of  this typing and thinking have burnt off something?!!

Stay tuned… the battle plans are coming. In the meantime…

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

 Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

Hmm… I wonder if blogging about it counts?

In the meantime, at least I now know who to watch out for.

It’s Me, Myself and I!

xx Rowena