When it comes to getting the upper hand on clutter in the home, the experts say, it's best to have a plan.
You don't go about the process willy nilly. You think first. You make notes. You talk it out. You decide where you're going to start.
"Let's start with the pantry," I suggested to the husband.
The husband nodded. We were in the middle of the "talking-it-out" stage of de-cluttering, which typically precedes the "rollingup-your-sleeves-and-getting-going" stage.
"Let's do it," said the husband. "But you know what they say: you need to know what you're doing."
"Indeed," I said. "They do say that."
They, of course, are the folks who fill every other page of home-dÃ©cor magazines with their organizational tips. They make the job look easy.
The pantry, however, did not like anything resembling easy.
The pantry was a jumble. Boxes of linguine bumped up against boxes of Rice Krispies and tins of tomato soup and artichokes. Bottles of soy sauce and pickles were crammed in beside candles and garbage bags and packages of tin foil.
"It's a gong show," the husband announced, looking at the shelves.
"It is," I agreed. "Do you want to talk it out some more?"
"No," he said. "The time for talking is done."
We removed everything from the pantry - the crackers and the olive oils and the cereals and the rice and the 2.6 million other things - and placed them on the counter, which we could no longer see.
We tossed out everything that was past its best-before date, filled a bin for the food bank and then put everything else back. Only this time, we did what the experts told us to do. We made sure everything had its place. Pasta with pasta. Tuna with tuna. Rice with rice.
"It looks awesome," I said when we were done, surveying the organized shelves.
"Not so fast," said the husband. "We can do better. We don't just put pasta with pasta. We put boxed pasta with boxed pasta, and bagged pasta with bagged pasta. We put curly pasta with curly pasta, and so on."
"It looks amazing," I said.
"Again," said the husband. "Why do we have jam over there and peanut butter over here and honey way down here?"
"They should be together?" I asked.
"Of course," he said. "They're all toast toppers."
We stood back and admired.
At least, I did.
"There's something amiss with the bottled sauces," said the husband. "Look: we have the ketchup and the soy sauce and pancake syrup all grouped together."
I studied him carefully. "Breakfast toppings, one group," he said. "Stir-fry sauces, a second group.
Sandwich spreads, a third."
We fine-tined some more. And with that, it was done.
The husband crossed his arms, and beamed at the new-look pantry.
I considered suggesting we might have a drink, then opted against the idea.
That would lead us, of course, to the fridge.
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