It took days, but I finally organized my pantry. Sure, the baskets from the Dollar Tree that I used to hold canned goods and condiments had already been labeled, and there was contact paper on the shelves (but not attached to it), but it wasn't organized and it wasn't functional. Stuff I use regularly was up high, while stuff I use occasionally was within easy reach. Now it's organized and functional.
This may not be a big deal to you, Dear Reader, but it is to me. Organization is not my strong suit. Nor is maintaining it.
I've been living in my house for five years, but I can say that I'm just now really moving in. In order to organize my pantry, I had to unpack wedding gifts that I had not opened since I married ten years ago. To be honest, I think that when Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) and I moved in, we just put stuff where we could find it and kept stepping. We didn't value functional organization enough to create it or maintain it. This is despite the fact that BMNB is a self-proclaimed neat freak. I think I brought him down.
To be honest, I thought the ability to organize a space, to create order from chaos, was a gift reserved to a few. One of those few is my older sister. She can look at a space that's a hot mess and create the Taj Mahal of organization -- beautiful and functional. She makes it look easy because it comes easily to her. I don't think she realizes that her ability is indeed a gift because it is second nature to her. She's the kind of person who goes through her mail weekly, tosses and shreds, and balances her checkbook to the penny. Pit her against any hoarder, and that hoarder is going down, although she would not want to work with hoarders because she doesn't want to work with their emotional issues. When I tell her that people pay good money to have people do what she does instinctively and for free, she shakes her head and says she wouldn't want to be bothered trying to get clients and making a business of it.
Because I thought organization was beyond my reach, and because I accepted the brand I and others put on me as this flighty, disorganized person, I would literally look at my pantry, turn my head in denial, close the door and walk away. I didn't realize what a gift having order is.
I had to not only want order, but believe that I could achieve it on my own. Having to prepare my house for an inspection by an adoption social worker and to host Thanksgiving gave me the gentle nudge I needed.
I started in the garage. "Everything goes through the garage," I told BMNB. We had been dragging around the same crap since we were both in college, and despite moving across the country, we never pared down our stuff. We just packed it up and took it with us, storing it when we didn't have enough space. It's been freeing to let things go, donate them, or Freecycle them. I'm a huge fan of freecycling -- you post what you have on your local Freecycle listserv, people who want it let you know, and you leave it on your front porch for pickup. Easy peasy. We're not done with the garage yet, but with Thanksgiving coming, we had to shift focus to the interior of the house.
I decided to make it fun by rewarding myself. Although I had trepidation about organizing and creating order, I knew that I do have a gift for creating beauty out of ho-hum spaces. I thought about what I'd really like to have to decorate our living room and family room, and I bought those items on sale, online or at thrift stores: Slip covers (since we won't be buying sofas anytime soon); curtains and drapery rods; chairs for my mother's dining room table (solid wood for $5 each from a local thrift store -- I got ten of them); headboards for the guest beds (I got them at a thrift store and plan to paint them); and a rug for the family room. I bought as much as I could as inexpensively as possible. My reward was that when I finished organizing the living room, kitchen and family room, I would get to put up the curtains, roll out the rug, put on the slip covers, and paint the headboards. My penchant for decorating/interior design would be the motivation for organizing.
If I had known how much peace order brings, I would not have needed to reward myself. Order is its own reward. When I walk into the pantry, it gives me peace. Once I cleared away stuff that was old, cleaned the shelves and lined them (this time I committed -- I actually attached the contact paper to the shelves), and put up wire shelving to hold appliances, I could slowly see the pieces coming together. When it was done, after throwing out a lot of old canned goods, grains and the like, I could see what food I really had. I could find things. And although I did it on a budget, the order in itself is just plain beautiful. It gives me peace to know exactly what I have and to be able to find it. I open that pantry door, and it's like a choir of angels starts singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
Having order is a gift, and you don't really appreciate it until you have it. And you can have it if you choose to achieve it.
I don't have my sister's gift of being able to instinctively create order out of chaos. She would have finished that pantry in hours, not days. I'm still not done organizing the rest of the kitchen, the family room, and the living room. But now I realize how much peace I deprived myself of all these years by thinking that order and organization were for other people and not for me. Like anything else worth having, you have to commit to achieving it and maintaining it, especially if it doesn't come to you as naturally as it comes to my sister.
If my sister ever changes her mind and starts a professional organizer business, I'll let you know.
For more information about freecycling, visit Freecycle.org for a local freecycling group near you.