How I Found Joy In My Pantry…

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There is something so calming about looking at empty space.  Your eyes can find a place to focus instead of anxiously trying to figure out where to look.

I keep walking over to our pantry, opening the door and smiling.  I do this several times a day.  I don’t even wait to need something out of there.   I just walk over and grin at the pantry.

We’ve been in this house for five years and for five years that pantry has been a mess. We crammed the spices and paper napkins and boxes of this and that from our two homes into this one pantry and we didn’t take the time to throw out old stuff or duplicates. So I finally dragged it all out, scrubbed the shelves and floor, finding all sorts of weird and gross stuff in the corners and crevices.  I’m still wondering how a glob of peanut butter got onto an inside wall – I suspect a child rushing in with a spoon, flinging peanut butter willy nilly in an effort not to get caught double-dipping.

I made the kids check all the expiration dates and consequently lost half of my spices.  I made the kids do it because I knew that I would keep that jar of Chinese Five Spice, even if it is three years past its expiration date.  I knew that I would give the aging red lentils a pass because I will someday make that delicious sweet potato red lentil dal again and how bad can old lentils really be?  I knew that I would hold on to old food because it is so hard to let go of things you paid for.

I read an article about how we overvalue things we own.  What is an open packet of five year old garam masala worth if I were to try and sell it on Craigslist? Nothing.  But I know that I spent $7.99 for that precious, spilling over paper sack that I used a third of in a recipe and it is so, so hard to accept that it is time to let it go.

Cleaning out the pantry took hours and hours.  I had to fight my instinct to save and scrimp and not throw away food.  I had to look away while the garbage can filled with my hopes and dreams of eating more whole grains – expired bulgur wheat, sprouting lentils, Korean black rice that I don’t cook because it shoots geysers of purple water out of my rice cooker.  I had to accept that spices expire quickly and squeeze tubes of frosting do not, and that I do not want my family eating anything that DOESN’T have an expiration date- because ew – so they all get emptied and recycled.

But oh the joy of letting go!  Cleaning out the dust and sorting the spices left me with a sparkling pantry.  No, it’s not a trip to Hawaii or a pair of cute new shoes, but it is a joy to behold.  I want to find that Japanese de-cluttering lady and give her a hug.  I wander around my house looking for more things to get rid of.  The teenagers are getting nervous.

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