Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Art of Tidying Up

There is an article in the Wall Street Journal this week about a best selling book by Japanese author Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.   It’s a very interesting article, and I must say, a topic that always resonates with me.  I positively love to have everything organized and clean.  Our home is not small, but it’s not tidy either.   We have lots of stuff, and I’m constantly arranging and rearranging all the stuff for the three of us.  Unlike my brother (whom I love dearly) and a handful of others in my life who are Clean Surfaces kind of people, my parents and I can’t bear to part with let alone say no to any {new} stuff.  I have mentioned that our basement contains anything you might ever want; it’s a little Alibaba’s Cave full of sawed-off broom handles (the used broom end having been tossed) and cleaned and stored jars, and all kinds of interesting things.  Not exactly hoarder-quantity, but enough.   I thought I was doing well this week to get rid of a car-full of R’s books, which had been sitting in the garage, but there were certain ones I simply could not part with.  I mean, how can you say No to Shakespeare, Proust, Tolstoy and Twain? 


And after last week’s Paris Bistro lunch affair, I decided I had to have the 1900’s Dutch lustreware bowl my friend brought; it is the perfect size and color for Céleri Rémoulade, which I make often.   And being me, I liked it so much, I found a second one on ebay that I will bring to Beaune.  Like my china cupboard needs any more dishes…but it’s ok, it’s been Tidied recently and I made room.  


This past week, Jill and I did quite a bit of filming for French Food Camp and it was really lovely to pretend that the rest of my kitchen was as tidy as the screen shots.


Looks pretty good, right?


Clean and tidy, oui.


Until you open the top drawer below the stove.  Yikes~  Now, I swear I clean out this drawer every few 2-3 months.  The problem is that the kitchen is heavily used, and my Mom has the habit of throwing any small clean utensil in this drawer since she has no idea where else it might go.  As such, the drawer ends up being an I-Spy when I ask someone to open the drawer and find me an apple corer or herb scissors. Can you find those~?


Inspired by Marie, I took everything out of the drawer and began to organize.  Thankfully I have a second kitchen, and certain utensils can go there, and I did the major overhaul-clean-out-every-drawer-and-cabinet thing a while ago.  For the kitchen as well as the rest of the house, I pretty much know, if it comes into the house,  know I will be using it.  My friend Peggy in Connecticut has a rule that no new thing can come into the house unless something else goes out; I have used that as a guideline for a long time, hearing her voice say those words; it works sometimes for me but not always.


I know what I need and use, but for some reason I now have ten vegetable peelers in the drawer.  Some of these are from France, and some are from Williams Sonoma.  I got a two free peelers last week but they are made in {another country} and they can’t peel a potato worth anything.  Time to pare down the peeler collection….

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There are a few other things that are non-negotiable.  My niece Lauren made this little pipecleaner frog for me, and it’s always in this drawer.  It does not peel or core or chop anything, but it’s there because I think of her every time I open the drawer and it makes me smile. Non-negotiable no to declutter.  Marie’s mantra is “does it give you joy?”  Yes, I feel joy every time I see this frog and every other thing in my house.


I keep a stash of rubber bands and ties (which I use all the time to reseal foods), pastry cutters, various tools, Eiffel Tower scissors and vintage porcelain dish-towel markers in the drawer; one is for towels to dry your hands, and the other indicates a towel for glasses.  I have never used these tags, but they are always in the drawer.  Can someone use them??  $20 the pair.  I tied up the pile of rubber bands with a twistie, in the effort to be tidy.

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Various serving pieces were removed and relocated to their proper locations.

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The end result was a drawer that looks positively organized and contains all that I need that is not within arm’s reach on the countertop.  Everything here is important to me personally, or necessary to cook with.  I thought it looked quite good! For the time that it lasts, upon which time I will reorganize it yet again.


Not stopping there, Jill and I tidied up the silverware.  Or part of it.  The knives look great all in a row, but this will last for all of about a week.  Still, tidy is nice.  Cheese and butter spreaders are next, handy and organized.

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I feel like I’m on a roll and will keep going with all the tidying.  I will not be buying Marie’s book, though I’m sure it’s great, but will take it as great inspiration as a wanna-be-tidy person. 

Today we were busy with market shopping, lunch, a few phone calls to old friends and spending time together.  No time for tidy, it was time for food and flour and rolling pasta.  That is, it was time to make a mess.  And what pasta we had: hand-cut homemade papardelle with a pesto of basil and spinach from the market with garlic and lemon and the last of the winter walnuts.  All local; goodness it was good; I’m making this for friend again soon.  Making this pasta, I was happy to not be tidy.


Have a lovely weekend and hope you are eating and living well, whether you are making a mess or cleaning one up~


  1. Love this process and seeing your culinary treasures!
    And YES, I'll take the tags :)
    Miss you

  2. Such an enormous difference! I gave up and now use both bamboo and plastic utensil dividers in my drawers. It keeps things separated, easier to find, see what I've got and the drawers take longer to look messy.

  3. Such diligence! I have been working on a similar project throughout the house, and find that already, in the last two months I need to do it again! I applaud your efforts and understand the attachment to "things"....There are times when one wants to toss it all and begin again, but then the attachment to an item, whatever it may be, pulls heartstrings.

  4. Andrea, it is great to be able to find what you need when it is wanted! I have put cutlery trays in my drawers for this kind of organizing, and sometimes I am still looking for an apple corer or such! Love, love the Dutch Lustreware bowl!

    The Arts by Karena

  5. I have google chrome and it deletes and moves my blog around. I love homemade pasts.
    Just made some Basil pesto. Grated Romano, basil, pistachio, garlic, oil. How do you make it?

  6. Oh God, even the title of that book makes me squirm, though I know from friends it's a good one. I am in the middle of a redesign of my back garden, complete with stones and mud and birdbaths and mud and chartreuse and green and emerald and mud and mud and mud. How can I possibly be tidy in Spring? xoxo