Friday, February 7, 2014

The Empty Kitchen Drawer

The following appears in the February edition of Chicago Parent magazine.

While visiting my sister Megan recently, I found myself in need of a spoon to stir my coffee.  I immediately began rifling through her cabinets to locate one.  That is when I saw it.
The empty kitchen drawer.
Up until that very moment, I assumed empty kitchen drawers were the stuff of legends and lore.   Sure, one would occasionally hear whispers of purported sightings, but nobody could ever prove they existed. 
The empty kitchen drawer, as far as I was concerned, was the Yeti wrapped in the Abominable Snowman shrouded in Santa Claus. 
The reason for my shock and disbelief in this uncommon finding?  My sister has children.  Did she not know that kitchen drawers become the ultimate purveyors of crap once kids come along?  They are the place you shove Rainbow Loom bracelets and orthodontist’s appointment cards.  They are where pens that don’t write and batteries that don’t work go to die.
Kitchen drawers are the Pandora’s Box of things you know you should throw away but can’t.  Yet disposing of this junk requires a decision-making ability that is often eroded by the larger questions of the day like “Why can’t I do third grade math?” or “Where did I leave Joey?”  As insignificant as the task may seem, going toe-to-toe with a cluttered kitchen drawer can feel overwhelming in the throes of everyday life.
My kitchen drawer.  Totally not empty.
Yet my sister is a minimalist.  There is no clinging to the sentimental.  If something is not part of Megan’s daily rotation, it gets discarded or donated.  She does not retain tools and equipment simply because they might be used one day.  She takes pictures of her kids’ art projects instead of boxing and storing them for all perpetuity.  Megan claims this makes for a less stressful life.  She tries to sell me on the practice, insisting how easy it is to dust with fewer knick-knacks and books strewn about.  She nudges me excitedly, feeling confident that I will take the bait.
I haven’t the heart to tell her that there hasn’t been any dusting in my house since the Bush administration.
Regardless, I felt I should still give the minimalist thing a shot.  I started with our out-of-control stuffed animal collection.  Yet as I sorted through dozens of bears and dogs, countless memories of my kids’ toddler years came flooding back.  The animals beseeched me. 

Just give us a little more time.  For the children.
Annoyed and frustrated at my mawkishness, I knew I needed to begin somewhere easier.  I needed a project where sentimentality wouldn’t derail me from the start.  I needed to rid myself of the superfluous, but not hesitate in doing it. 

Joe is still wondering where half his old t-shirts have gone.
For the first time ever, we have an empty closet shelf.  It may not be the much-coveted empty kitchen drawer, but it is a step in the right direction.   

Next week? 

I tackle Joe’s beer stein collection.

This is going way better than I thought.    


  1. "Just give us a little more time. For the children."

    I spat out my coffee all over the computer screen laughing at that one. Brilliant!



  2. Marianne!!!!! This may be my favorite post yet. I laughed and laughed and laughed!!! Mawkishness?? Why have I never seen this word before? We are definitely partners in crime where the husbands' t-shirts are concerned. "Where did I leave Joey?"

    You're a genius.


    1. Oh I love you, Andi. You AND your countertops.

  3. Good use of Chicago winter! Clean out a space! I totally get not dusting, because you would have to move too much stuff to dust. Watch out, though, you might not be able to find stuff if you rearrange too much.

    1. I seriously can't find my dress shoes. Haven't seen 'em in months. Yes, cleaning can be perilous!

  4. Oh Marianne with your messy drawers...wait,that doesn't sound right

  5. I see a theme here, Joe's T-shirts, Joe's beer steins. Maybe an every other week thing, one week Joe's, one week Marianne's?

    I don't think we've dusted either lately. (like maybe past 3 years)

    how can anyone not have a junk drawer? That's the first thing that gets cleaned out when we are getting ready to move and about 99% of the stuff gets thrown away, LOL :)


    1. Wait. I'm supposed to throw away MY stuff?? What's the fun in that? And I can't imagine life without a junk drawer. Where the heck would I put all those pens that don't write??

  6. Marianne is talkin' about her drawers again.

  7. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

  8. Nooooooo not the Steins!!!!!! Dusting? What's that?

  9. I love that you started your minimalist movement with your husband's tee shirt collection. Now I don't feel like such an ogre for doing the same. Be careful when you move to his shoe collection, that is one they often notice! Thanks for keeping me in such good spirits.

  10. Why can't I be more like your sister? I hold onto some of the silliest things. I'm a borderline hoarder. Haha...not really...but I need to definitely clean out some drawers!

  11. Haha, but hey, have you ever wondered if your sister and her family might actually be robots placed into your life as some sort of weird scientific social experiment?
    I know how you can tell... are there any spiderwebs in her house? This is how you can tell...the lack of spiderwebs...

  12. An empty kitchen drawer?? There's something not right with your sister. Sorry.