Why Re-Organizing Cupboards Has Been the High Point of My Week

If you read last week’s Write on Wednesday post, you know I’m on an organizing kick. Clutter control is my New Year tradition – some people join the gym or go on a diet, I clean closets and dresser drawers.

This year my efforts are more purposeful than usual.  I’ve got my eye on moving, and I’m trying to make a tiny dent in the collection of stuff that’s been growing here since 1976. In the process, I’m also re-organizing the way I store things, which might seem silly after all these years, but it’s helping me start to think about what works best in terms of cupboard and closet space, something I had no idea about when I moved in this house as a 20-year-old bride.

My biggest problem area is the kitchen. I’m short, and it’s hard for me to reach anything stored higher than the lowest cupboard shelf, a problem that’s been compounded by the fact that I’ve shrunk in height during the past five years. I have very little counter or wall space, and don’t have room for a spice rack, so for the past 35 years, my spice jars have all stood on the middle shelf of the cupboard. Invariably, three or four tip over while trying to find the one I want. They fall out, clattering to the floor and sending the dogs skittering out of the kitchen in fear.  I noticed that my daughter in law has this wonderful little tiered shelf in the cupboard for her spices. So I made a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond, and got not one, but two of these clever contraptions.

My newly organized kitchen cupboard

I was absurdly excited about arranging my spices on the rack. It fit perfectly onto that shelf, and all the spices looked so neat lined up on it. Problem was, I still couldn’t reach them on that middle shelf without tipping half of them over.

Wait a minute, I thought to myself in a flash of inspiration. Why not change the whole cupboard around and put the spices on the bottom shelf?

You’re probably rolling on the floor laughing by now. I know, it sounds ridiculous to live somewhere for 35 years and never change the way you organize your cupboards. But you get used to having things a certain way, and it simply never occurs to you to change them.

At least, it didn’t to me.

Until Wednesday, when I rearranged all six shelves in that cupboard.

Next hurdle – how long would it take before I “unlearned” where everything was kept? In other words, how many times would I open the wrong cupboard and reflexively reach in for the bread, or the napkins, or the Worcester sauce?

I’m happy to report that I’ve only done it wrong two or three times. I think I’ve already retrained my brain, an accomplishment that makes me feel quite pleased.

All this cupboard cleaning has provided a satisfying diversion from what has been an otherwise sad week. This week I learned that my father has had a recurrence of colon cancer, and that his kidney is failing. He also told me that his younger brother was just diagnosed with bone cancer and is already bedridden. My elderly neighbor, who has lived in the house beside me for 30 years, was taken to the hospital on Thursday and I learned she has a large, inoperable esophageal tumor.

Sadness and bad news all around.

Change is inevitable, and I readily admit I don’t accept or handle it well. So much of the change I see is related to the decline of places and people I care about, a consequence of living in a city with huge social and economic problems, and also of being involved with numerous elderly people. So if it seems I’m unusually proud of my kitchen rehab, you must realize that it was actually nice to make a small change in my kitchen and discover that it worked out so very well.

If only all changes could be so painless.



17 thoughts on “Why Re-Organizing Cupboards Has Been the High Point of My Week

  1. Oh Becca. I totally get it. It is when I’m weeding a patch of the garden or organizing a cupboard that I feel like I’m in Control of Something.
    And in a world where we’re actually in control of not-one-blessed-thing, it’s a nice feeling.
    Not sure if you’ve read The Brain that Changes Itself, but the doctor actually recommends changing your shelves and cupboards around so that you have to be more conscious and create new synpatic connections by having to think about where things are rather than mindlessly reaching for it.
    So look at that! You’ve just amped up your brain power…just by switching the spice shelf.
    Congrats on your reorganization and editing. I think I’ll go do the same!

    • I think I should move more stuff around – it is good for the brain, and I already feel smarter because of it 🙂 I can certainly use all of that I can get!

  2. What a cute story about how we organize our stuff, it is the same for the Lovely Miss TK and I. We have everything in the same place fore the last 12 years and it is pretty much just like the house before for 7 years.

    The only saving grace for me is that I only have to find a few things, the cereal and soup, the siverware and the stuff in the fridge. Oh yeah, sometimes I have to find a pan. Yes, I know I am just pitiful around the house, I do the chores I am told to do and thank goodness I don’t have to know too much.

    This all became rather amusingly apparent a couple of weeks ago when TK was gone on a Saturday morning and I had a couple of guys over for a few hours to work on some Rotary stuff. I drink my coffee black and both of these guys used cream and suger; thus, I was forced to find cream which was OK, I just substituted milk….see cereal above for knowledge awareness.

    Then I proceeded to try to find sugar somewhere in these unknown cabinet spaces. I looked all around and asked them if honey would do since it was next to the cereal and was within my comfort zone. Apparently honey is only good in tea so I continued to seek sugar for my friends who were now laughing hilariously at my kitchen ineptness. Finally found some and it was powdered sugar, which seemed to fill the bill.

    When the Lovely Miss TK returned home I inquired as to why we didn’t have sugar in the house and she took about two nano-seconds to show me where it was. Surprisingly, it was next to the powdered sugar…DUH.

    In any case, re-organization would be no problem for me since I am clueless as to where anything is anyway.

    Very sorry to hear about your Father and Uncle, folks our age face more and more of this every day and it never gets easier. Wishing you courage.

    • Lou, that is a really cute story. I have completely flummoxed my husband with this re-organizing stuff. He uses these cupboards with some regularity – his medications are in one of them, and the sugar is in the other! The change in the spice rack won’t bother him one iota, though!

  3. Becca, I’m so sorry to hear about your father and uncle – and your neighbor as well. My own father died of bone cancer – how sad that in the 30 years since his death we’ve progressed so little in curing the disease. Although, I must say, treatments and care have improved remarkably.

    As an apartment-dweller who’s lost count of the number of times I’ve moved, the thought of living next to someone for thirty years simply is astonishing. I checked it out – seven moves in the past 30 years. In the twenty before that – fourteen moves!
    Good grief. I think I’m going to go have a nap….

    ADD: Now that I think about it, maybe that’s how I’ve reorganized my cupboards. I just put a new apartment or house around them! It’s like balancing a checkbook by changing banks. (Yes, I did.)

    • My dad’s father had bone cancer too, 40 years ago. If only we could eradicate this disease for once and all.

      Yes, moving does force one to reorganize. Since I’ve never done it, I just stick with the status quo! Love the checkbook story. I’ve been tempted to do that a time or two myself!

  4. Yes, change can be both a wonderful and scary thing, for sure. Becca, I’m really sorry to hear about all this sadness. I don’t like to think of you (or anyone really) having to deal with this kind of news. I’ll be thinking about you and your loved ones.

    • Melissa, that is such a sweet comment. I have been dealing with elderly people and their “issues” for the last decade. I should be used to it, but I don’t think one ever gets accustomed to seeing people suffer.

      Your kind words really helped me today – thank you 🙂

  5. It’s this time of life, Becca. We can’t escape these sorrows that seem to come more frequently now. We are gifted with grandchildren on the one hand and loss on the other. I’m so sorry to hear your sad news.

    I completely get the attraction to reorganizing your space. We are doing the same and for the same reason. We hope to eventually sell this place and move to something more manageable. I have one of those spice shelf thingies, too. Mine is very old but it does the job. H hates my small pantry (pantry is a glorified name for a tiny closet with shelves). He went into a frenzy and reorganized the entire thing one day last year. It’s all a mess again. Maybe I will taunt him a little, and he will work his magic once again.

    • I know, we are definitely the meat in the sandwich generation, aren’t we? It gets hard sometimes.

      My husband keeps threatening to reorganize the “pantry” (which is nothing more than a glorified cupboard) but so far no luck 😉

  6. I read about your reorganizing with enthusiastic interest, as I just spent a minute of my life I’ll never get back searching for the oregano and tipping over spices stuffed in my cabinet in the process. I also think your story is a testament to the things we can do to soothe ourselves during upsetting times. I love this quote by Kathy Bates’ character in P.S. I love you: “The thing to remember is, if we’re all alone, then we’re all together in that too.”

    • I did find that activity soothing. And today I washed the bathroom walls, put up curtains, got a new rug and towels, put baby pictures in frames in every room, and have felt a bit better.

      It almost feels like nesting…maybe we have a similar reaction during sorrowful times?

  7. I get so distressed with the sadness of others, which becomes mine. It sticks harder when you are older. We know more, we know how fleeting life can be.

    I’m grinning at your spices because I never thought of that, and now that you mention it, may go down and do a little rearranging myself. I spent New Year’s Day cleaning (well, starting to clean and organize) the basement. Today I’m taking down Christmas. I know, I’m slow. Trying to get control of my space. Trying. Doesn’t happen so easily, but trying.

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