Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards last week. Again. I almost feel silly blogging about it because I have twice before been all proud of myself for organizing my cupboards. The cupboards with dishes and pots and whatnot seem to improve each time, but the cupboards with food just look more organized for a few days...and then dissolve back in to chaos.
What is the deal?
I think that previously I was falling into the trap of keeping things because I had room, and because I might want them someday. Sound familiar? Just like in the rest of my house, a lack of intention was leading to clutter. But it's harder with food, no one wants to throw food out, right? It's wasteful! On the other hand, if you're not using it...you're already wasting it. And I wasn't using a lot of the food because I simply forgot it was there in the mess. Sometimes I even bought things twice because I didn't remember that it was in there.
(I also have a drawer half full of spices and half utensils, and a cupboard above the stove with bottles, but really, how many shots of my cupboards do you want?)
So this time, I went through with a stricter eye, and divided my pantry goods five ways:
1) Garbage. Anything too old to eat (there were a few sketchy spices in there), and a couple things that I just wasn't going to ever use. I didn't need tapioca starch and arrowroot powder, I threw out half a box of tapioca starch. I felt bad. I got over it.
2) To Donate. Unopened goods that aren't expired, just not something you ended up using, can go to the food bank. And I had a big unopened bag of tapioca flour (why was I so obsessed with tapioca?) that I gave to my neighbour who makes those Brazilian cheese buns with it. Maybe I can steal some.
The price of the food I got rid of was very low. Maybe I "wasted" $30. If I ever need those ingredients again it's not going to break the bank to replace them, and in the meantime I need the space.
3) Things to use up. This was mostly grains and legumes. I have two kinds of barley, quinoa, bulgar, rolled oats, steel cut oats, split peas, and white beans. Mostly in small amounts left over from when I needed them in a recipe. Apparently I'm bad at estimating how much of things to buy. Now, for a lot of people this might not be too many things, but for my cupboard space it is. I've put all those items in one spot so that I can remember to plan meals around using them up. And in the future, I need to remind myself that I don't need so much variety in my cupboard. It's okay to use up all the quinoa before I go on a barley kick. We are so spoiled for choices, but I don't need to keep all the choices in my cupboard at once.
4) Foods I use regularly. The real staples: rice, raisins, baking soda, flour, whatever. These got reorganized and put back in.
5) Extra bits. Mostly spice refills that didn't fit in the jars yet. These went in a box above the stove. I was doing this already, but a bunch of other crap had found it's way into the box.
So, I cleaned it out again. Other than being a bit stricter than usual, what's to stop it from dissolving into chaos once more?
My mindset. I always thought that having a large variety of foods in my cupboard was a luxury. I love to cook fun foods and it's nice to think that I have all sorts of ingredients to play with. I was wrong though, this wasn't a luxury because I kept forgetting what I had, and I had to fight through clutter every time I tried to find things. A wide variety of ingredients is not nicer than being able to easily cook and plan meals. Making that switch in my head should stop me from making impulse purchases when grocery shopping for fun things that I don't have a plan for. Also, I'm going to start measuring better and buying what I need for my meal plan.
Now, obviously that doesn't go for things that get a lot of use. I just bought a huge bag of rice to keep in the basement (a whole 'nother story. My real pantry is in the basement and I'm still scared of it) to refill a jar up here, because we go through lots of rice. I do not, however, go through lots of split peas, or bulgar. Should have just bought what I needed. For some of you, this must all sound really obvious. And you probably have cleaner cupboards than me. But hopefully it's helpful to a few recovering hoarders like myself.
The other change to my kitchen is that I no longer keep things on my counter. The photo above is the last time I organized everything, just over a year ago. I had a nice set of glass canisters that we got as a wedding present and have lived on the counter ever since. I thought I liked the look of that. Then I cleared my counter off and realized I like the look of an empty counter a whole lot better! Clutter breeds clutter, but an empty counter is much easier to keep clear. And then I can, you know, use it for cooking. It's amazing, really. I replaced most of that storage with some 2 quart jars that I had on hand. They are lovely because they fit on the top shelf. And match. I love jars. I'm not falling into the trap of believing that I will be more organized just because I have matching jars, however, I've done that before.
I'm realizing with minimalism that intention is everything. I believe that I will be able to do a better job of keeping my cupboards organized by shopping and cooking with intention. A good idea for other reasons, such as budget and health! Harass me in 6 months and ask me how my cupboards are faring.