Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to Turn Your House Upside-Down - part 1

Part 1 - Dining Room/Kitchen/Pantry

I am convinced that there is no easier way to make your house a total and complete disaster, than to embark on an organization project.

Let's face it - you can't reorganize a craft cupboard without pulling every bit of ribbon, paper and ink out of the cupboard first. And where does it all sit for the duration of the project? Anywhere you can find floor/table space! You'll have piles of pens, stamps, beads, glitter and glue, which may then be further reduced into color-coordinated piles. Then you'll have all of your dainty little containers set out to help you visualize your organization. Your husband will come home, and if it's a good day he'll smile sweetly and say, "Good job honey," all the while thinking, "Why does she have all of this in the first place? I don't think I've even seen her use glitter! You want to organize it? Let's organize it into a garbage pail! This is ridiculous that she's making such a mess and such a fuss about things that staid in one closet anyway when the supper dishes from last night still aren't done!" (Bear in mind, that's a good day. A bad day involves some of those things being said allowed with abundant eye rolling.)

Now, let's look at this large-scale. We're not just organizing a single craft cupboard, we're reorganizing a whole house.

Matt and I embarked on this little project after spending nearly a week completely confined to the house after serious bout of food poisoning (fortunately the boys didn't much feel like eating Chinese food that night, so they lucked out and missed it!) I think we were both experiencing a bit of cabin fever, and had become too accustomed to our surroundings. Since it was smack-dab in the middle of Christmas celebrations, we were constantly receiving new things into our house and realizing very quickly that our 900 sq. ft house was going to burst at the seams if we tried to keep everything. But I think the real tipping point was when Matt went foraging through the pantry for anything that looked desirable and every time he'd open the stupid thing, more items would fall out. Being sick, tired, and a little bit grumpy, he came at me with a scheme of grandeur: we'd rip out my gorgeous china cabinet that was inset to a converted broom closet, we'd shell out hundreds of dollars on a new sideboard, plus get a new corner china cabinet, and we'd then convert the old broom closet into a second, larger pantry. We looked online at used sideboards, and 45 minutes later Matt was frustrated that I hadn't already committed to buying one of the $300 units we saw, as he said, "At some point we're going to have to stop talking about it and actually do something to make this change work!" (Yep, within 45 minutes of the idea's inception).

I realized my darling husband was at a breaking point. He'd spent 5 days in a messy house that kept getting messier, and he needed something to change.

The next day while Matt was at work I schemed endlessly over how we could afford to make those changes that he wanted to see. The answer was: we couldn't. There just simply wasn't money in the budget for two new pieces of furniture. I was wondering how on earth I could display all my pretty things, and getting anxious over the fact that I'd need two separate pieces for sure, instead of just a large sideboard, to be able to fit everything in. I had to admit that if I wanted to keep everything, that I'd have to have a separate china cabinet and sideboard, but I also had to admit that we just wouldn't be able to afford that. It was at this point that I realized that I didn't actually need to keep everything! It was a bit of an epiphany in fact. Just because some of the things I had were pretty, and occassionally even functional, did not mean that I needed to keep them. I started to rethink what needed to stay in my house, and I started in my kitchen and china cabinet.

I love pretty glasses. And I have quite the collection: slim, tall water glasses, short, round tumblers, two styles of martini glasses, stemless wine glasses, brandy snifters, sherry glasses, espresso cups and saucers, mason jar mugs, and even creme de menthe glasses. Have I ever served creme de menthe in my house? No, but that didn't mean I should part with those glasses, right?! Wrong. And once I realized that it was easier for me to decide which pieces to keep. I resolved to keep sets of glasses. I looked at our entertaining habits and figured that while it was fun to have a four-set of coke mugs, getting rid of them and keeping our eight-set of POM glasses was a better idea. I only had four of one style of martini glass, and 8 of another, so I parted with the four and kept the larger set. I also realized that once we had a second pantry I'd no longer need my spices to occupy a cupboard above our coffee maker. I moved our 4 sets of mugs over there after I shuffled most of our spices into their makeshift home (a big box that's still sitting on one of our dining room chairs). It didn't take long for me to realize that by getting rid of a few partial sets and never-used glasses, I could empty nearly all of the contents of our china cabinet into our cupboards in the kitchen. The bottom portion of the china cabinet holds some serving dishes and small appliances which I realized could go in the cupboard of our kitchen cart, which currently houses my flour selection (oat, potato, whole wheat, stone ground whole wheat, bread, cake, etc). Since the flour would move to the new pantry as well, the cart would be open real estate.

Can you imagine what my house looked like at this point??? I had boxes of spices and cups sitting all over my dining room, and since I needed Matt's help to move some of the shelves in the cupboards, my kitchen was pretty torn apart while I waited. It was more organized than it had been in a long time, with a more efficient plan that it had ever housed before, but my kitchen was truly upside-down. What is it that can carry us through to the end of an organizational project other than the anticipation that once we're done it will be worth all the mess and all the temporary insanity? I was afraid to put anything away temporarily because that felt too much like a step back, ergo the box of spices still sitting on a chair.

In any event, we ploughed through to near-completion. My mom happened to have a spare antique sideboard kicking around (not many people can say that, hey?) that she is lending us for as long as we need it. I got a HomeSense gift card for Christmas that I used to buy a gorgeous metal fruit bowl with leather handles, panels for our living room window and a runner for the side board. Our large IKEA bookcase has been relocated downstairs (it was right behind our table in the dining room) and the sideboard now houses our tea and hot drinks collection, my Sophie Conran dishes, and all of our table cloths/napkins/placemats, while our Tassimo is set up on top, ready to go for anyone who pops by for a cup of coffee. This cleared up a lot of counter and cupboard space in our kitchen, which is very near perfect at this point. In the next couple of weeks we will embark on the pantry reno, which will be made to meet my every whim (pull-out shelves, hanging baskets, labeled jars? The possibilities are endless!) And when that is all done, I will have a general baking/cooking pantry in the kitchen right next to the stove that will house all of my base ingredients, and all canned goods, boxed goods and generally bulky pantry staples will be housed in our pantry closet which will live between the kitchen and the dining room.

Original anticipated cost of pantry/china cabinet reorganization: $700 (new sideboard, new china cabinet, custom pantry construction)
Cost to date: $40 HomeSense giftcard

Not bad, if I do say so myself! I'll post pictures when the job is done and my house is right-side-up again!

Mrs. VanderLeek ;)

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