Kitchen Love, The Final Frontier

I know, I know, I started the Kitchn Cure over a month ago. It turns out – unsurprisingly, perhaps – that cleaning out the fridge, freezer, and all appliances were not the issue for me. The biggest and most overwhelming piece of this project was the reorganization and cleaning of the pantry, cupboards, and drawers. It was desperately needed. I had a cupboard that housed all sorts of Tupperware and miscellaneous items, in which everything would kind of fall out when I opened the door. I had a junk drawer that barely closed, I had a drawer that housed boxes of Ziploc bags, cling wrap, aluminum foil, and, apparently, one million elastic bands. I had cupboards in which I just sort of shoved coffee go-cups that I didn’t like and never used, a crazy full spice cupboard, and a mysterious cupboard over top the fridge which housed things that I rarely used and didn’t need.

But I procrastinated, because I had several weekends in a row that were busy: I attended two weddings, went out of town, hosted a baby shower, and celebrated Jake’s birthday. I couldn’t really get myself into that mental space that one really needs to be in, in order to tackle a large project. I reorganized the pantry one morning when the kids were at school – more on that later – but today was the big mammajamma, the drawers and cupboards.

Fueled by several cups of coffee and absolute disgust at my own slovenly behaviour, I set to. And people, the things you do find when you clean your long-neglected cupboards. THREE BAGS FULL. That is how much stuff I got rid of. I finally threw out the to-go mug that was used by my husband back in 2001 when he had strep throat, and we never used again. I found a box of baking chocolate that expired in 2011. I threw out old plastic water bottles that were full of BPA that I never could bring myself to use but couldn’t throw out either. A mysterious old neti pot (don’t think too much about that…), six menus from the same pizza place, a container of green sugar sprinkles that was taped together and used as a kitchen shake toy when Mark was a baby and I needed him to be distracted while I cooked. MARK IS NOW TEN AND A HALF. And look!


This is the drawer that contained one million elastic bands, six pizza menus, and a mysterious bag of googly eyes. Mark confiscated the googly eyes for his own use, and there are still one million elastic bands, but look how neat it is! I use the elastic bands for Book Fair, so I really cannot throw them out.


This may not look particularly neat, but this is the drawer that wouldn’t really close well. I found four half-used rolls of Scotch tape, highlighting my terrible habit of buying something because I thought I ran out of it, when I really had it all along.


This was home to the expired sprinkles and chocolate, and also two sippy cup lids.


This was the cupboard in which things would tumble out of whenever it was opened.


Spice cupboard. I found “Poultry Seasoning” that I think was my husband’s BEFORE we moved into this house. We have lived here for fourteen years.

Before pictures would have shown a better story, but I was afraid if I got out the camera I might get too overwhelmed and wouldn’t start the process. Look what else I found: little napkins from every birthday party ever, including dump truck ones from Mark’s third birthday, pirate ones for Jake’s third birthday, Go Diego Go and Backyardigans from – I’m guessing – even before that.


We are going to use these napkins until they are all gone.


Mark is in charge of table setting; he has been instructed that these napkins are to be used for the foreseeable future.


There is only one thing that should have been thrown out, but I just couldn’t.


I bought this tea in a corner store in Cairo in 2001. I loved it so much I had to bring it home.


Clearly, though, this was a case of “things being better on vacation” because it’s almost full. But I can’t throw it out! It’s a souvenir!

I also did the gross job of scrubbing out underneath the sink, although that is something I do fairly regularly. Why is it always so gross? I don’t know.

A few weeks ago I cleaned out the pantry, and that was a deeply satisfying job. I remember when we first transformed the spare room downstairs into a pantry, how life altering it was to have everything in one neat space. And now, the pantry had turned into an abyss that might get me onto a show about hoarding. I took things off the shelves, rearranging things so I could clearly see what I have and what I do not need to buy. This is very important to me; my canned goods cupboard contains enough beans, coconut milk, and crushed tomatoes to get me through the apocalypse. Note to self: do not buy any more coconut milk, even if it’s on sale. Anyway, I spent an hour happily listening to 80s music and reorganizing things, recycling unnecessary cardboard boxes and lining up things just so. I’m all out of love! What am I WITHOUT you? I sang as I piled six packages of rice stick noodles and 25 toothbrushes neatly so that I could see them clearly and not buy any more, for the love of god. On the bottom shelf was a light box; I moved it to see a box of candy canes. Candy canes? In September? I guessed I’d forgotten about them, and they seemed sticky so I assumed Barkley had licked them. I picked it up to throw it in the garbage and AIEEEEEEEEEEE. It was swarming with ants. ANTS, PEOPLE. I threw the whole thing in the trash, ran it to the black bin outside, and went on an ant killing spree. Fortunately – FORTUNATELY – the ants seemed contained to the licked candy canes. (Entrepreneurial idea: ant traps that are just dog-licked candy canes. GOLD.) I’ve been checking several times a day since then, and no more ants. But still. ANTS IN MY PANTRY. This is not as bad as last year’s Moustastrophe, but I am newly motivated to do two things: keep my pantry and cupboards spotlessly clean, and to not keep candy canes past January 1.


I showed this proudly to my mom, and she said “Why do you have so many vitamins?” MOM. Just admire the handiwork.


It’s all so neat! And ant-free!


  1. We have a great variety of leftover birthday party napkins, too. The other day June used one with ladybugs on it. It was from her first birthday party. She’s almost eight and a half.

  2. Your mum has a point, you do have a lot of vitamins. When my parents separated and were selling the family house, my brother ended up living there on his own for a few months. I went on a freezer purge to make space for a bunch of pre-cooked meals for him, so that he didn’t exist entirely on microwave pizza, and found frozen food that was almost a decade old. We threw out anything over 5 years out of date and ate the rest in chronological order. My dad is now strictly forbidden from ever buying Indian-style party snacks again.

  3. Pro tip: take a picture of your pantry shelves before you head out shopping. Instead of standing there dithering in the store aisle, I can usually zoom in enough to judge whether I already have a sufficient quantity of canned tomatoes. My memory is hole-y like a sieve, so, workarounds: I need them. This is of course assuming I can SEE the contents of the shelves from the front, as you now can, with your nice tidy shelves!

  4. I’m a huge organizer myself, so this post was like my own form of porn. Fabulous! All you need now is a bunch of labels on everything :).

    We are in the final stages of finishing the basement which means pretty much every place in the house except the kitchen needs to be sorted and filtered and moved to a new location. But reading this makes me realize the kitchen needs doing, too. Bring on the boom-chicka-boom music!

  5. Oh but Nicole, did you ASK the ants if you could build your house on top of theirs? My physio tech wants to know! JK, kill the little motherfuckers, obviously.
    The other day, I actually DIDN’T HAVE any black beans when I needed them. This is in direct opposition to my usual situation, which is …. well, yeah, coconut milk everywhere, although my can opener cannot open a can of coconut milk, what IS that? Maybe it has a sensitivity. Your cupboards are beautiful.

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