The Pantry Project :: The Payoff

This morning I sat editing the photos for today’s post, and my five year old son asked what I was doing. “Working,” I said while he cuddled up next to me. “Doesn’t look like work to me,” he replied. And I thought about it, this strange place in the world that allows me to take pictures of my pantry—my pantry—and have other people look at it; a place where organizing a pantry is newsworthy. I wonder what my Gram would have thought about this, whether she would shake her head and chuckle about the crazy world we live in, or whether she would find any value in the activity at all. I suspect, as the master of the practical that she was, the idea would be so foreign to her that she might even be slightly appalled at how much time I was spending writing posts and editing photos about such a task when there were more important chores waiting to be done such as the never-ending and thankless laundry. I know she would be absolutely stunned that I would sit here and write in the virtual world while actual dust bunnies gathered on the real world stairs.

The Right Side

Yes, it is a strange thing, this blog-land we participate in, yet I find it comforting even as I wonder if it’s too large a time sink in my life.  It’s not that pantry organizing is such an interesting topic, really, at all. I think posting about it and reading about other organization projects on the web is more about recognizing a connection with others, experiencing a piece of our everyday, mostly boring lives, through the lens of another’s perspective. It’s a highlight reel of the mundane, an instant capture of the the unremarkable and normal, the things we all struggle with and that aren’t a normal topic of conversation when we still down with loved ones but that does fill up the most space in our day. I can’t imagine an article about a mother of four’s struggle with her pantry on the front page of the New York Times—well, not without a more interesting existential byline—but really, when I look back ten years from now, I’m sure I’ll wonder how I managed to find the time and con my dear friends into organizing a space that is immensely practical and useful and finding some way to make it pleasing.

The Left Side

Yes, there was the purchase of the organizing racks, the lazy susans, the can stackers, and the chalkboard labels, and yes, we cut up little circles and tied them with ribbon on the front of brightly colored paper baskets I bought on clearance two years ago at Lowes.

Behind The Door

And we finally found a place for the step ladder that’s been hiding in the garage while I used the wobbly chair to reach the top shelves. It’s probably not in the best place though, because I still use the chair.

My Precious Platters

And there are pictures that show things that are precious to me and hold interesting bits of family history; the platters made when I had three, then four kids, my gram’s recipe box, a few pieces from my depression glass collection that is still packed up in the basement waiting for the time when it can once again see the light of day.

One Small Stand

Visible Stacks

Really… why is it interesting? Why do I feel compelled to write about it?

Airtight Jars

And although I thank you for following along—I really really do—is it really interesting enough to hold your attention? Rows of “airtight” jars that need to be replaced because they’re not actually airtight? Cans aligned, side-by-side. Ziploc bags, scales, bakeware?

Bakeware I Use

Maybe another reason we read about these things—trust me, I read and love them too—is not just about the connection we feel, but also the payoff. Who doesn’t love a great reveal, the feeling that something somewhere was accomplished by someone, maybe even someone ordinary enough to have piles of dust in her pictures and coffee splatters on her machine (erHEM).

Small Appliances

Maybe that payoff gives us some hope that really, it can be done. We can take that step to make something useful to us better in some fashion. There is evidence in the world that not only do we all share some of the same struggles, but we can each of us appreciate a good resolution; good even if it’s not perfect, or perfectly staged, or exactly finished.

Chalkboard Labels

And I know that a few months from now I might look back at these pictures and be thankful that I took them because I know that if it looked like this once, it can look like this again.

Baking Ingredients

And maybe some other day, many years in the future, I’ll look back at these and not necessarily wonder about the curiosity that is the subjects we chose to write about, but marvel at the ephemera I captured—dog dishes, maple syrup, paper plates, lentils, beans—a visual representation of a moment in time that was so ordinary that it was never given another thought, yet ends up invoking a network of emotions about a life and time that was anything but ordinary or unremarkable, because none of our lives are.

Doggie Bowl

All of this because of a pantry.

Gram might have thought blogging is a silly venture, but surely I would have loved to see these tiny snippets of her life, from her perspective… a different type of payoff, a treasure of small, nondescript moments from a life that is gone, moments in time that end up being more meaningful than the perfect posed Christmas snapshots and portraits in a studio. An important portrait of a life rich, and full, and anything but insignificant to those who loved the life they represent.

12 thoughts on “The Pantry Project :: The Payoff

  1. I think you are right in noting that blogging about everyday experiences in life tend to tie us all together. Now, I only wish I had a pantry along with two friends to help organize! Lucky you!

    • Thanks Laura!! You can come and use my pantry whenever you like, although I won’t guarantee it will look like this in two to three months!

    • Thank Ms. K, although you really shouldn’t be jealous… just think of all the laundry I get to do that you no longer have to deal with! 😉

    • I hope she would… although I suspect she wouldn’t notice the nice pantry since the rest of the first floor is all ripped up and disorganized right now! Can’t win them all I suppose!

  2. I can’t imagine an article about a mother of four’s struggle with her pantry on the front page of the “New York Times” HA! I get it. I do. I look at your pantry and all I think is how badly I need a pantry. But it’s the common theme we all share, that we all have messy rooms that we need to organize and it’s a nice peek into the lives of other real people who tackle things and go through them first so that when it’s our turn, we’ll know what to do.

    • Sigh… yeah… I really REALLY need a pantry. In our four homes, two of them had pantries, and it makes such a difference. Especially now that we have the four kids and we spend so much time at Costco buying bulk. Not only did the last house we lived in not have a pantry, but the kitchen barely had any storage and it was not a small kitchen. Drove me crazy! In the end we converted the hall closet into the pantry which helped a little, but then of course, we had no space to put our coats. It was such a strange house…

      But you know, you could put a pantry in your basement… that where our first pantry was. Sure, it’s a bit further from the kitchen, but for us it was still so very helpful. How’s your basement coming along anyway?

  3. Good God I love what you’ve done here and I love what you’ve written about making the mundane fascinating and revealing in a way that our previous generations usually didn’t do. Every sociologist or anthropologist that studies home making and stay at home moms claim that house chores have hit the roof with the creation of more house help machines. I think this kind of blog adds a whole new dimension to why that is and why it’s not just more work, it’s actually therapy! Quick question: where did you get that rack on top holding the bakeware, muffin plates etc?

    • Quick Answer ::

      That is such an interesting idea that there are now more chores with the advent of household machines. I think that ties in perfectly with laundry (my arch nemesis). I wonder if one of the reason we Americans have so many clothes is not only because it is so cheap and abundant, but because it is so easy (harf) to clean. I would certainly wear more things more times before washing them (you know, after they actually get dirty) if I had to wash each of them by hand. So instead we wear them for shorter periods of time, buy specialized clothing for particular activities, buy more of them, and increase the number of laundy chores we need to accomplish.

      Sigh… so sad and cyclic. Yet another reason to consider becoming nudists.

      • Yep I certainly think there’s some truth to that. Here in India people seem to be washing their clothes practically everyday – have to .. coz of the heat and sweat I hear. But in general going to the gym or working out is a very new concept here to begin with 🙂 a majority of the adults really didn’t indulge in too many activities beyond work and home care till recently. Specialized clothing wasn’t really necessary until recently. Plus you have house help all the time. But I’m already seeing a huge change in how people dress and buy clothes here. And trust me – clothing is two or three times the price of most clothes in the US but salary is about 1/3 or 1/4 for even the high wage earning folks. God knows how everyone is wearing branded clothes here!! or for that matter letting these horrible washing machines or their house help (anything or anyone other than themselves) wash these expensive things!

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