The First Great Sorting happened in August, when our kitchens merged. Some parts were easy: it was clear which mugs we wanted to keep, which cutlery to use, which plates and bowls. Our pots and pans were not too numerous; her small appliances and mine didn’t overlap much; our serving pieces complimented each other’s; nearly all of the bakeware had logical uses. Still, we ended up with a too-well-stocked kitchen. The cabinets under the counter were full-to-bursting, and the ones above were just as bad. Nearly every time we cooked, we found ourselves taking some items out in order to get to the needed one behind or underneath–like one of those shift-the-tile puzzles I was never good at.
And thus began the second Sorting. Anything that wasn’t in daily use came out of the cabinets and took up residence on the dining table–a strategy designed to make sure we wouldn’t dawdle over deciding what to do with them. She proposed assembling a set of shelves in a closet under the stairs. They’d be out of the way but still accessible, and less apt to get dusty than they would if we built the shelves in the garage.
If we were going to put more things in that closet, though, we needed to organize the things that were currently in it. All the Christmas decorations–most of them unused this year–came out for examination. Keep it, probably keep it, definitely not keep it: these were our categories. Plenty went into the latter: even allowing for thrifty repurposing, how many partial rolls of ribbon and slightly-used bows can one house hold? Kitchy decor items that were gifts from students I don’t even remember? No, thank you. It was freeing to know that we were keeping things that are actually beautiful, actually useful, or happily memorable, and saying fond farewell to items that weren’t.
By early January, I am ready to think no more of holidays. I’m not really all that fond of the Nativity set I grew up with, but it is the one I grew up with! When there aren’t any parents left to visit, it might not be the worst thing to hold onto items that remind us of them. Hers is beautiful, and much smaller. Maybe we’ll alternate: her set in odd years, mine in even? We can decide later, over a cup of cider. Both sets are securely packed–along with tree ornaments we love, handsome stuffed bears who carry good memories, and a modest assortment of gift-wrapping supplies. What we need, what we want, and what we love.
Also in that closet now reside a well organized set of kitchen implements. Yes, for a while we will have to go downstairs to fetch the waffle iron when we want waffles. The same when we want the food processor for making hummus, the 12-cup coffee maker for company, and the muffin tins. Maybe we’ll realize we want the box grater closer than a flight of stairs away; if so, something else will take its downstairs place. Perhaps one of my mom’s mixing bowls or a piece of Corningware she rescued from her mom’s kitchen. It’s a work in progress.
One thing that will definitely be absent from the kitchen at the Country House: the cursing that comes when I can’t reach the measuring cup!