A Kitchen Tale: Decluttering, Cleaning, Tidying

I discovered that the newest milk was sour and that mice had gotten into…

The Teaching Tale:
Several decades ago I was an insignificant in-law of a family gathered around its octogenarian matriarch. The old lady was refusing to eat, drink, or get out of bed. Drama, to say the least, was in progress. For hours.

It occurred to me that folks were going to need dinner sooner or later, especially her nonagenarian husband who did not, as a rule set foot in the kitchen. Nor did he tolerate well either drama or missing his dinner. I repaired to the pantry to consider our options.

I discovered that the newest milk was sour and that mice had gotten into the baby cereal purchased during her toddler years for their now college-student granddaughter.  Things went on from there. I tied on an apron, located trash bags, sponges, a can of cleanser and went to work …

Later, as folks continued to scream into telephones and rush about to pharmacies, the old gentleman wandered into the kitchen. Surprised to find any useful industry in progress, he asked what I was doing. VERY deferentially, deeply concerned not to appear in any way dramatic or disruptive of his home. I explained about the outdated food and the scrubbing.

A slow smile crept across his face. “Can you stay another week?” he asked….

That turned out not to be the only neglected kitchen I tackled in my lifetime. And maybe except for the mice, it wasn’t the worst, either.

The Lesson:
Decluttering, to my way of thinking, is the practice of discerning between the things you’ll never use and the things you will, or could – then discarding the first pile. Decluttering is a joyful time full of the sense of industry, purpose and reclaiming of one’s spaces for good use.

I find refrigerators and food cupboards to be the easiest places to practice decluttering. From there I, myself, move on to decluttering beauty products and bathroom paraphernalia as much of that stuff has similarly limited shelf life. It is easy for me to throw out five-year-old vitamins, stale cosmetics or solidified shoe polish. After that, the decisions of what to discard and what to keep can get trickier.

Cleaning is the scrubbing up of mouse droppings, spills, tarnish, cobwebs and so forth. Thorough cleaning is much easier to do after decluttering, because often not only the space but also the salvageable items need to be cleaned. I prefer not to dust something I’m planning to trash!

Tidying, in my lexicon, involves neatly stowing away tools, groceries, projects-in-progress, clothes, back stock paper products and so forth in some readily accessible place. Keeping things tidy: erasing the chalkboard, realigning the student desks, logging off the computer, and collecting one’s keys at the end of a lecture, say; is especially important when sharing space. Otherwise, if nobody is likely to sit on my banjo, I’ll probably leave it lying around.

The old lady improved once her meds were regulated.  She lived quite happily several more years.  Meanwhile the “featured images” is of a quite successful Yorkshire pudding I made that has nothing to do with this story.  Although I did make it in another kitchen I’ve (mostly) decluttered.


Author: American Declutterer

I've had three careers, moved among thirteen states, and cleared four houses after loved ones moved on. Sometimes you just have to look at all the stuff and laugh. Then get back to discarding.

3 thoughts on “A Kitchen Tale: Decluttering, Cleaning, Tidying”

  1. Emily, I look forward to each of you articles. I admire you for the ability to write (you must have inherited that from you parents)


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