I've got kitchen cleaning and reorganization on my mind. That's because at this moment, I do not have a kitchen.
As I write, my husband is in remodel mode. Two months ago, everything that was in the pantry, drawers and cupboards was hastily thrown into boxes and moved out of the way of his wrecking ball. With precious little notice, I did a dumb thing: As fast as I could, I threw everything from boxes of cereal and pasta, to Christmas platters and salad tongs into myriad boxes, giving no thought to organization.
I just got notice that very soon it will be time to move everything back into my beautiful new kitchen. I receive this news with mixed emotions. I'm so excited I can barely sleep. But it's this sea of boxes filled with who knows what — not one of them labeled in any way — that may be keeping me awake.
Cynthia Townley Ewer, author of "Cut the Clutter," says the first thing I need to do is harden my heart. An efficient, convenient kitchen, she says, must be pared to the bone. To create a clean and organized kitchen, I must dare to dump anything and everything that is not absolutely necessary and useful.
Clear the decks. Ewer instructs me to prepare four boxes with these labels:
1. Put Away Kitchen
2. Put Away Elsewhere
3. Give Away or Sell
Next, I am to tackle one shelf, drawer and cupboard at a time, putting each item into its proper box.
Kitchen keepers. Once everything has found its box, send three of the boxes out of the kitchen. And now comes decision time. Ewer is ruthless in suggesting I need to just get rid of the electric french-fry fryer, that gelatin mold in the shape of Mount Rushmore and the odd collection of sports bottles each boasting a different walkathon. Ditto for pans I don't use, dishes I don't like and specialty cooking tools that are more trouble to clean than to use so I never use them anyway.
No more stalling. It's time to begin. And I'm going to follow the Organized Home website kitchen decluttering plan starting at the top: the top shelves that Ewer says resemble an unknown landscape at the back of the moon. (I keep wondering when she's been sneaking into my kitchen because she seems to know this place quite well.)
Here's Ewer's Rule: If you've used it in the last month, it's a candidate to stay. If you used it yesterday, it will be the backbone of your newly organized kitchen.
I am committed; I am determined. I will box and banish. I will show no mercy in my attempts to pawn off on my kids, friends and neighbors all the stuff too good to throw away but not worthy of a spot in my kitchen. Yes, I will. And I will not stop until every shelf, every cupboard, every nook and cranny of my kitchen is cleared, cleaned and organized.
Then I'm going to invite Cynthia Ewer over for coffee. I won't say a word. I'll just wait for her to write about the lovely time she had at my home, drinking coffee in my sparkling clean, highly organized, minimalist showcase of a kitchen.
Because I have a feeling I may not be alone in this need for kitchen organization, I hereby announce the Everyday Cheapskate Clean Kitchen Challenge. All who dare are invited to join me in this marathon event. Actually, I could use the company. Somehow knowing others are participating in the same task will keep me on track and moving forward.
The challenge — if you choose to participate — is to organize your kitchen from back to front and top to bottom, completing this task within the next 30 days. The only requirement to join is a willingness to get your kitchen organized and send me a message when you have finished so I can share your success.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.