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.

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.