Last week I spent three hours cleaning out two kitchen cupboards. Not my cupboards, but the cupboards of my 80 year old client Deborah in Scarsdale.  I was called in because Deborah is under daughter’s orders NOT to climb the step ladder!  So I climbed the step ladder to dissect and discard the ancient artifacts in her spice and tea cupboards. This is a common task in my work as a professional organizer and I am often called upon to tackle a cupboard, closet or storage area that has not been dealt with in a while. Heretofore the event of flotsam – the debris of life and cupboards.

Many people will not attempt a job like this- ever- or without enlisting the help of a friend or professional.  In fact, some people find sorting and organizing, just too plain daunting and will be overwhelmed.   A lot of times someone will be so overwhelmed by the project, they won’t even start. They may not have the energy or the enthusiasm for this particular kind of job and would rather be playing golf, bridge or jumping on the trampoline with the kids!  So then cupboards get filled and because no one can see what’s in the back of the closet/ cupboards, we then find too many jars of spices, condiments or products we bought on sale or thought were a good idea and now realize, will never be used.  Many times these items are out of date (by the way, my mother holds the record at 13 years.)  Sometimes these unwanted items have been given as a gift.  In this Scarsdale cupboard we found innumerable boxes of fancy gift tea and the irony of this is that Deborah is not even a tea drinker- she’s a coffee-only girl! So I gathered all the errant teas and packed them up for my local church.

The actual task here was to create space in this kitchen that is organized and functional. Giving room for products or items that no longer serve you is like renting out space to a tenant that doesn’t pay.  Kitchens can be beautiful but primarily they should be functional.  Cupboards are meant to hold the stuff you need, love and use. Bad tea, broken coffee cups, useless kitchen gadgets do not serve you. There comes a times when you need to jettison the stuff that has crept into your cupboards and into your life that you do not like or use, even if it came in as a gift from a well-meaning friend or relative.  Let’s call a moratorium on gifts- say a year or five, if you must- and after that, you give yourself permission to let this stuff go.  If the flotsam you gather has some value, then give it away.  If it’s old tea or food stuffs then please throw it out. You deserve and need organized cupboards in your kitchen and this exercise will also benefit not only your physical well-being but also your mental health.

Back to Deborah in Scarsdale: together we made room on the second shelf for her current needs. Previously this space was taken up by too many mason jars which had outlived their purpose. Now we had room for Deborah’s backup snacks and as a result she doesn’t need a step ladder to reach them. On the counter below her cupboard, we made a tray of regular snacks, so that she has neat, easy access to her daily nibbles.

In the end, what we have created for Deborah here is a space that really reflects her needs and wants and is a source of contentment. Her daughter no longer has to worry about her mom climbing step ladders and we have created a more functional kitchen. She now has enough room to put all her flavored coffee and the companion snacks on her shelves without the bad company of the old stinky tea! – Happy Organizing!