Saturday, April 23, 2005

Kitchen Drawers


This morning, as I had a lot of energy and not much else to do because of the rain, I decided to take apart one drawer in our kitchen just to get to the bottom of it. Our kitchen drawers have been a wreck since we redid the kitchen seven years ago: never "quite right" and never exactly in the place I wanted them to be. Some work well but most are a complete disaster. I might put clutter on the countertop or all over my desk with papers to file and mail to sort. However, I like an organized drawer or I go slowly mad...and I guess I've been doing just that for the past seven years.

So, drawer one came apart and was divided up easily into piles of unused cocktail napkins, coasters pinched from pubs and bars around the world, cocktail stirs and toothpicks. Out went crinkled paper napkins, old plastic straws and packets of ketchup, perhaps gathered from half-a-dozen fast food franchises in the past ten years.

Meanwhile, I realized that I didn't want to put everything back in the same drawer of whence stuff came. Within minutes several other drawers were torn apart...even the dreaded one where no one dares to go: my husband's "catch all" drawer. Incredibly, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Mostly lapsed batteries and odds and ends. I decided on second thought to leave that drawer well enough alone.

With the contents of 8 or 9 drawers spread across counter tops and tables I was able to group things into categories like birthday candles (50 or so boxes/half used) and regular candles; corks saved for well, cork; several million paperclips and rubber bands (half dried out and useless); a half-used package of "Sponge Bob" birthday plates and cups; fifty odd pieces of children's toys needing gluing; numerous packets of Splenda; matches with the Queen Mother on them (huh?); half-full containers of Tic-Tacs; 30 odd pens and markers. That is a brief picture of our kitchen ephemera (and we haven't even begun to touch the cake pan drawer or the Tupperware bins...). The rest was more easily pulled out and piled: vintage aprons and table cloths in need of ironing; old baby bibs, no longer needed; and about 1,000 cookie cutters of all shapes, sizes and epochs.

Once I started, I couldn't stop. Even my husband joined in and was especially useful at reaching things from high places and putting them in equally high places (you see, I am a dwarf--excuse me, short person). We found so much extra space in one cupboard that we decided it was high time we brought in the dozen embossed "cow" glasses and 18 painted red rooster juice glasses (both Crate & Barrel finds of a few years ago), as well as 6 additional dairy glasses that my brother Bob gave me several Christmases ago, to arrange in our "glass cupboard".

Phew...and I'm just beginning. I love being organized but I rarely am--the last time I felt 100% organized was in the six weeks before my daughter was born...and that unprecedented bout of tidying was seventeen years ago. I know it is likely borderline obsessive compulsive, but I feel more functional when I know where I can find the small tube of "Super Glue" or that all of my linen dinner napkins are washed, ironed and folded in their own little drawer.

We have accumulated way too much stuff and most of it is in our kitchen. I am at the point where I need to build another pantry (two dish pantries are already brimming) or rotate collections as in a museum. Or, in a fit of crazy desperation, sell a bunch of stuff on eBay to help support my eBay habit...but then, I would miss something. I'm not to that point yet. Hopefully, I will be by the time I am ready to downsize into a smaller house. (My husband and I often muse at how fun--or how cruel--it would be to just leave a houseful of stuff for our children to sort out and fight over.)

The fun is in the collecting, there is no doubt. At some point when I have every piece of "Country Fare" by Zanesville Pottery ever made--and I'm getting there--I will probably sigh deeply, look it all over, and say: "What else now? What possibly more can there be to life now that I have every single piece of 'Country Fare' pottery ever made?" No doubt this is how Barbra Streisand felt before she sold her Arts & Crafts and Mission pieces at auction. Been there, done that...on to the next passion.

After I plow through the kitchen cupboards and drawers (which is so much easier than filing paper or sorting through old letters, isn't it?), I will finish going through my office piles. All of this is to prepare me for larger chunks of writing time for my book and other projects--when I won't have to worry, while writing about pantries, where I put my Pyrex corn dishes last summer when we finished with them for the season. It's the unanswered voices of disheveled clutter and misplaced items that call to us, consuming our waking moments and sapping our productivity.

Who needs that kind of aggravation from a set of unorganized Pyrex?

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