The quantum effects of pantry organization on marriage, and vice versa

Himself is spending a week in Sacramento with his family, so naturally I have been spring-cleaning. (It’s spring in South Africa. That’s good enough for me.)

So this evening, after a leisurely day of procrastination, snoozing and reading a most excellent book (which I will tell you about in more detail just as soon as I finish reading it so watch this space), I am now tackling the most dreaded task of all: The Pantry.

To get this into context, when Himself and I launched our cozy barque upon the halcyon seas of matrimony, I simultaneously embarked on the great adventure of Keeping House. I mean, all by myself. No domestic assistance. Yeah, I know, but I grew up on the privileged side of life in South Africa, so I was pretty clueless.

Anyway, one of my first projects was to acquaint myself with the contents of my Beloved’s pantry, because this seemed a sensible way to learn what the man liked to eat. The kitchen was quite small, so the pantry cupboard was maybe 18 inches wide and six feet tall, and just a little deeper than the length of my arm … or maybe it connected with some kind of alternate universe, because you would not believe how much strange and terrifying stuff came out of there! I don’t actually remember all of it myself – this happened 16 years and many cupboard reorganizations ago – but I do remember finding an enormous quantity of Top Ramen, and four open but apparently full containers of oatmeal.

I tossed the Top Ramen, of course, and I lined the three older containers of oatmeal up on the kitchen counter, and I packed everything else away in an orderly, logical sort of way – you know, jam and peanut butter together; canned beans, tomatoes, soup and tuna all in their individual stacks; rice and pasta on the same shelf; and so on.

And when he came home from work I said, in tones of wifely inquiry, “So … do you like oatmeal, or don’t you? Because you buy it a lot, but you don’t seem to eat it.” And he explained that he usually disliked oatmeal but that every now and then he felt the urge to eat a bowlful, and he could never find it when he wanted it, so he would go out and buy some and have it the next morning for breakfast and that would be his oatmeal urge satisfied for the next few months.

I believe (although it was a long time ago) that I trilled a wifely sort of adoring giggle at his manly helplessness (yeah, that’s how long ago it was) and tossed out the old oatmeal. Because, you see, I just knew that from that day forward our pantry cupboard would be a model of orderly perfection, containing everything needed for delicious and healthful meal preparation by my sweet wifely hands. (Look, I was a late developer, okay? It just hadn’t occurred to me that acquiring wife status wouldn’t instantly transform me into Polly Homemaker, aka She Who Loves To Cook.)

What I did not know, but have since learned, is that Himself absolutely insists on Putting Things Away. Which, in husband-language around these parts, means opening the nearest cupboard door and shoving, with complete disregard for the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which clearly states that two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time. (I got a bit sidetracked looking this up and learned that this principle doesn’t apply to bosuns – a bosun apparently being something Schrodinger’s cat dragged in. So, granting Himself the benefit of the doubt, and also remembering that he spent many years aboard various ships and may in fact have known a few bosuns in his time, he may be onto something after all – except that I have now cleaned those pantry shelves most thoroughly, and I am very damn sure there are no bosuns in there.) Getting back to my original point, my far more logical and energy-efficient approach to keeping things where they should be is to put them down in a convenient, visible, horizontal location, and then pick them up and take them with me the next time I happen to pass by in the direction of wherever they actually belong.

Anyway, 16 blissful years of joyously learning about each other’s little quirks, and here we are. Darn, I wish it had occurred to me that I would absolutely have to blog about this, because I would have photographed the pantry before I unpacked it. Instead, here are some pictures of the work in progress.

This is what the mudroom looks like, after the pantry cupboard vomited all over it
This is what the mudroom looked like after the pantry cupboard vomited all over it
Pristine pantry shelves awaiting ... No bosuns or mouse shit here!
Pristine pantry shelves await. No bosuns here!

I would have sorted everything as I removed it, but honestly it was a lost cause. Empty storage containers, mouse traps (also blessedly empty), a diverse range of comestibles (including dog food), cleaning products and household hardware were all scrambled together, interspersed with a liberal scattering of mouse poop. Gah! This project is way overdue!

One hour later …

Aahhh! That feels better!
Aahhh! That feels better!

Okay … I’m not quite ready to share another picture of the whole mudroom, but this was a good evening’s work. I can sleep easy now!

So what mysteries and horrors have you uncovered in your pantry cupboard lately? Do you think your stuff behaves differently when you observe it? Talk to me!

Author: Belladonna Took

Well into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, perpetually at risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic.

15 thoughts on “The quantum effects of pantry organization on marriage, and vice versa”

    1. Having seen the photographs of the inside of your home, I’d be scared silly to have you visit! Which isn’t to say you won’t be welcome any time you happen to be passing through the top left corner of the Eww Ess of Aye, of course…:)


  1. Having lived for over 50 years with a woman who was taught in the art orderocracy I long since learned to bow to her higher intelligence in that field. Being just now in the process of returning order to our home after a wonderful 8 month absence in South East Asia, I am continually reminded be herself to stand in wonder at the state of priestine order she is working day and night to achieve. She was trained by the best, her mother. After thirty years of near total blindness this heroic lady learned to keep very strict order in her home, so that in her sightless state she was able to locate in seconds any item in her humble abode. She passed on the skill to her daughter who has, ever since, worked at passing on the skill to me, her dim-whitted spouse. Sadly my learning curve in the orderly department has been hardly discrernable. Men like me are definitely from a different planet, methinks, from a distant galaxy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 50 years! Wow, you guys are amazing. I wonder how many times during that half century she’s been tempted to trade you in for a packet of Dunhill? (Yes, I know she doesn’t smoke. Nor do I.) Yet she hung in there, and so did you, and … it would be such a cliche to call you an “inspiration”, so I won’t, but you do indeed inspire me not to start smoking. Of course, it probably helps that you’re cuddly…:)


    1. So … inquiring minds need to know. What does it taste like? Because presumably you took the next available opportunity to serve it to whoever bought it!

      And thank you for the kind words…:) Likes are allowed, even welcomed. It’s probably your phone – go dunk it in a mug of soup.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wandered on here at a day at work where the phones have been shut off. (Either by serendipity or by the snow plow nicking the cables outside yesterday.) I am in awe and am dreading my own ‘clean sweep’ process that is soon approaching. Must clean out life. Sigh.


    1. I completely empathize! When we built our present (and final!!!) home, I was determined to weed out all the unloved Stuff. Then we built a giant workshop, now better known as The Black Hole. Guess what happened … 😦

      On a more serious note, I’m not sure whether this will interest you, but I’ve been enormously helped by the FlyLady – see Among other things she has a full “How To Move House” plan. If you do in fact have clutter, you might find it worthwhile to check her out.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds interesting, but the thought of getting ten messages a day by email is more than daunting, it is terrifying. I have an overloaded in-box as it is. I think looking at the site, reading a few tips and sticking with the Facebook page will be enough for me. I appreciate the recommendation though. I am not naturally inclined to get things all neat and tidy. (I am of the creative, disorganized mind variety of human being.) So thank you for the helping hint.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I wish I could think of myself as being “the creative,disorganized mind variety”… Unfortunately I’m just a Big Messy, if left to my own devices, while Himself is of the “use it and dump it wherever variety” … and nothing kills my creativity faster than an accumulation of clutter. Still, I’m glad you found the suggestion helpful – and you can simply download her suggestions for preparing to move here:

          Good luck with that process. I hope with all my heart I don’t ever have to do it again!

          Liked by 1 person

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