Cleaning House

After the overindulgences of the holiday season, I want to clean the clutter of the house, the kitchen, my mind- a general purge of the excess “fat” from our lives. The house felt so clean without the dying Christmas tree and garlands that it motivated me to tackle the entire house. Once the kids were back in school I was ready to take on the task project-by-project. I kept a notebook on hand during the process, so whenever an idea popped into my head or I thought of something we needed, or a measurement to remember, I could write it down in order to replenish and refresh the essentials.

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My first task was to give away old toys to make room for the new. Along with Christmas, we have winter birthdays to contend with- one in December and one in January-which translates into an abundance of new “stuff” all at once. I attacked the girls’ closets and organized shelves bulging with books, tutus, rogue game pieces and petrified princess toile. I gathered the small paperback books into neat canvas boxes to easily flip thru, emptied out shelves and drawers to make room for new board games and used pretty hat boxes to store the cache of Barbies and the accessories her dream life requires. As for the clothes, I boxed up and gave away everything that they just don’t wear- clothes and shoes that were the wrong size, fit or just never made it into the preschool fashion rotation. I curse my habit of buying for the kids online and then fooling myself when it arrives that it’s a great purchase…and in my defense, Darryl the UPS man is so nice!

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My next project was the garage. I demand a lot from this space –it is set-up to hold vases, candles, garden equipment, baskets, golf and exercise gear, fabric and party supplies, recycling containers, the list goes on! A few years back, I had California Closets come in and create closet scenarios for my specific purposes. But you know how it goes, you start to accumulate and collect more things and inevitably things get messy. I courageously pulled everything out and started over. Adding wire shelves within the fixed shelving, helped to create smaller areas to corral tiny vases and votives. Gardening tools, moss, wire, rubber bands, flower buckets and anything else used for arranging flowers and gardening were all put together in one section, that stuff seemed to be scattered all over the place! We put the smaller items in clear pull out drawers so that I can easily see what I have- I made a new commitment to put things back where they belong, so the next time I am in a pre-dinner party frenzy I can easily access what I need to make the table look just right.
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My mission continued in my kitchen and pantry. Thankfully, my kitchen manages to stay organized, when we remodeled it a few years back, I obsessively planned out a place for everything. The pantry is another story- after a frenzy of holiday entertaining it was totally out of control! I began by clearing everything out and grouped it all on the counters by category- baking, pastas, beans, crackers and snacks, cereal, oils, etc. (my entire kitchen was covered with pantry items…how does all that fit in there?)  I tossed anything stale or expired from crackers and spices to nuts and never-to-be-used sauces.  Next, I cleaned the whole thing with warm soapy water and a sponge (full disclosure-my lovely and talented house keeper did that part) and we shelved everything in groups, using baskets and shallow bins to corral smaller items. I like to put healthy snacks on the low shelves so the kids can grab what they need. Our candy stash was shoved way up top so I can’t reach it unless I haul out the stepladder.

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After all of this purging and organization I finally had gathered the confidence to tackle the scariest spot in the house- my office! Which, for this moment is finally clean and organized. We set up a desk system of files organized by subjects that I deal with most often and an “in-basket” for new mail. Before, all the mail, school handouts, etc. were dropped on my desk chair, which inevitably ended up as stacks, lots of stacks, all over my desk. I have a large wall in my office that is a huge cork board for tacking up photos, invites, artwork from the girls, inspiration from magazines. A couple times a year I like to remove some of the older stuff, making way for new memories.

It is great how satisfying it is to care and nurture your home. Organizing and caring for all your “stuff” is really about taking care of the ones you love most. As I was cleaning out the girls’ closets, I was flooded with memories of bedtime stories and twirling dresses. The pantry was filled with mental snapshots of meals and parties for my favorite people. My desk chair was the spot where I finally sat down this past year and begin to write, to create this site where my passion for food, wine, my garden, people and living became a reality. Here’s to a fresh new year- thanks for joining me on the journey!

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