Some of us are more organized than others. Some alphabetize and color-code everything in their lives, while others live a bit more haphazardly. Those who like to keep their belongings neat and tidy view anything else as utter chaos. I know Real Women on both sides of this fence. Yet no matter our styles, we all have our systems. A place for everything, that for some reason, makes sense to us. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at our kitchens.
The biggest challenge for most of us is that we have a limited amount of space, and likely far too many tools, gadgets and appliances to store. There’s no reason for me to own at least half a dozen rubber spatulas, and yet, I do. My old blender, circa 1970’s, which no matter which button I push blends at the same speed and consistency now, is still in my cupboard. That giant roasting pan I’ve used only twice, which is too large to fit anywhere, could still come in handy some day. And so we often need to get a bit creative with our systems. We put things away in a manner that we think is utterly logical.
However, invite a friend over who wants to help prepare a meal or clean up after a party, and soon we see that our layout likely makes no sense to anyone else in the world. Something as simple as finding out which cupboard holds the glassware can turn into an episode of Indiana Jones in search of the golden idol. Have a seemingly helpful visitor, or really anyone else in your home, empty the dishwasher, and suddenly things disappear into a vortex of mystery. After all, we all have our own concepts of what is the most logical approach for storage. For example, the fact that our house the headache and pain medications are stored in the same cabinet as dog treats, seems reasonable to me. Just like I find it perfectly rational that my hand-mixer lives on top of my bread machine, yet the blades for it are on the other side of the room in a drawer. Common sense, no?
Some items are perennially misplaced. In my kitchen, we are regularly on the hunt for the “good” cheese knife. It can end up in any of four drawers, or in the dish-drainer, depending on who put it away. My son is regularly trying to find the ice cream scoop, another tricky little devil that likes to hide. We are so conditioned to go to the “right” place where “something is always kept” that if it is missing, we go into a moment of annoyed paralysis. “Where is it?! It was JUST here yesterday! I can’t possibly use something ELSE!” Followed by the useless shout to other inhabitants: “Does anyone know where the can opener is?!”
There seems to especially be a difference in the place-for-everything-systems between men and women. One of my R.W. friends was telling me recently about how her husband had been helpful in putting away the dishes. When she came home, she found a corncob holder on the counter near the basket of car keys. She took this to be a clue that something was amiss, and decided to try to think like her husband. Sure enough, she opened a drawer that holds tongs and long-handled utensils to see the other corncob holders wedged in alongside and in back of the drawer. Apparently the one on the counter was odd man out, no room at the new corncob inn. A woman would have stored them in a pre-planned location in a bottom drawer, where infrequently used items are categorized. A man, however, just seeks available space. Wherever that may be.
The other night while I was making dinner, my husband was in search of the lime press. I rationally opened the drawer which holds items like the peeler and grater and handed it to him. His reply: “oh. That’s where you put it. It is supposed to live over here, in the bar drawer.” I really couldn’t fight his logic this time. He uses the tool to make Mojitos.
Storage conflicts are not always an issue. We each have our own private spaces where we can organize and categorize to our hearts content with no interference. My husband never needs to try to find anything in my writing desk area, just as I never need to venture into his workshop. If he wants to put nails in a tin can along with duct tape and place it on a shelf next to owners manuals, go for it. If I want to stack inspirational notes next to my paper clips, no one else will care. But when it comes to common ground, we must be prepared for a certain level of frustration that can interrupt our smooth routines.
Once in a while, we can be forced into making a change. A few days ago, the shelf in one of my kitchen cabinets gave out. (I guess too many years of overloaded weight took its toll.) Until my husband can get to the hardware store to pick up the parts necessary for repair, I’ve had to pull out several of my baking dishes. I couldn’t stack them on my dining table, as I needed to use it for dinner with guests, so those baking dishes had to get temporarily stored in the basement. I’m quite sure I will forget they are down there when I reach in to the “usual place” to grab one. I will have that temporary angry paralysis and blame someone else for moving them until I remember it was me. Then, when the shelf is repaired, I will be forced to do a clean-out and re-org. Truth be told, it has been a long time in coming. My fear, of course, is this will lead to a domino effect of finding new places to put everything throughout the kitchen.
Then it could be months before we find that cheese knife.