Putting the house in order

by Heather

kitchen

This week, I’ve been putting my house in order–but not, of course, in an end-of-life way, though I do sense that a new phase of my life is coming. Usually, when I feel this urge to organize and improve my surroundings, or do some serious clutter clearing, it’s because something wants to be birthed or realized in my life. I suppose it’s really a nesting instinct.

Some previous instances have involved the acquisition of a major piece of furniture to be used for storage–a linen press, a sideboard. I clearly remember seing my Prohibition-era Art Deco sideboard at the antiques shop and getting an adrenaline rush because it was, though I hadn’t known it until that moment, exactly what I wanted. I still love its beautiful curves, chevron and fruit carving, exterior and interior nickel fittings, and clean, restored silver drawer. The little liquor cabinet hidden in one side isn’t particularly useful, but adds to its charm.

I gathered dinnerware, glass, silver, and cloth and paper napkins from all over the house, and arranged them neatly in its drawers and on its shelves. I enjoy little more than organizing something well; I find this kind of thing deeply satisfying for reasons I can’t fully explain.

This week there was no new sideboard or linen press, but there was a new dishwasher–delivered and installed at last. I was loading it for its maiden voyage while my plumber was still here, and he observed that I was wasting no time. After more than a month without a working dishwasher, I’ve never been so excited about using one. This is also the first time I’ve ever had a new one. I believe in using things up and wearing them out, and that certainly happened with my 32-year-old former dishwasher, which came with my house. I can remember–and perhaps you can too–when almond was the ‘it’ color! (No one can deny that it was a huge improvement over the avocado green and harvest gold of my childhood–colors I recognized as truly hideous even at the time.)

I ordered the new dishwasher in a color meant to tone with my restored Kelvinator refrigerator called pastel turquoise. The manufacturer inadvertently added a metallic finish to the paint, which resulted in a silvery green. They said they’d make and send a new front panel in the color I ordered, but meanwhile I am thrilled to have a functioning dishwasher once again.

I’ve been hand-washing the dishes, flatware, glasses, mugs, pots, and pans I needed to have a functioning kitchen, but since I collect dinnerware and kitchenalia, I have extras of almost everything–and thus I had a backlog of dishes to do. As of this morning, I’m caught up with running the dishwasher, and my kitchen cabinets are satisfyingly full of tall stacks of plates, bowls, and the refrigerator dishes I collect and use (food keeps better in these old-fashioned containers than it does in plastic).

The electricians have been here this week as well–only painters and carpenters were missing, though they would have been welcome too! They replaced a bad pull chain over the kitchen sink, as well as various outlets that had been missed on prior visits. Best of all, they took care of a scary-looking (and live, I found out) hank of wiring and electrical tape at the back of one of my kitchen cabinets. I think it’s all that’s left of a former wall oven. The young electrician expertly (and impressively–I’ve seen experienced electricians make a mess of similar jobs) sawed a small hole in the back of the cabinet, recessed the wiring in a box, and covered the whole thing with a plate. A small thing, but quite gratifying to have something annoying so well addressed.

I also went and bought additional clear shoe boxes this week, as somehow I’d managed to accumulate more shoes than I had boxes. All are now properly housed. I also brought home another mini filing cabinet, twin to the one I already have, for those filing categories it couldn’t accommodate. I’m labeling the drawers as I remember missing categories. I also used my discount card (the large women’s shelters here raise funds in the fall by selling discount cards that can be used at many retailers for 10 days) to buy the new skillet I’ve been needing–Le Creuset this time as I have other pieces from them I love–and some Equal Exchange fair-trade coffee to give at Christmas.

I replaced batteries in two clocks that were running slow (bad feng shui, I know) with new lithium ones that should last for years. And my plumber replaced the curved shower curtain rod that came with the house, which had bent, with a new one fashioned from thick copper piping–very industrial chic. I couldn’t rest till I went out and bought a new fabric shower curtain liner to go with it. The plumbers also made an impromptu improvement to the flooring in the laundry room, which I truly appreciated.

The dishwasher being installed provided me with the opportunity to pull everything out from the kitchen sink cabinets, which I tend to do only when the kitchen plumbing needs attention. I cleaned, culled, and organized there, and also cleaned the dishwasher enclosure, which I suppose hadn’t seen the light of day in 32 years. Completing these and other cleaning tasks, I didn’t use quite every cleaning rag in my arsenal, but I did come close.

My new dishwasher, with its solid metal door and superior insulation, is exponentially quieter than the old one, and with its Energy Star rating, probably equally more energy-efficient. Interestingly, though, my old dishwasher cleaned just as well. While I generally like to keep my home relatively low-tech (no TV, no stereo, etc.), dishwashers will always be beautiful and essential technology to me.

Now that I’ve cleared the decks, and am well on my way to getting my house in order, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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