Last week, Elizabeth Rago tackled The Project Simplify Challenge posted on the Simple Mom website. Elizabeth created a functional, organized, kid-friendly toy closet for her kids. She inspired me to try the Project Simplify Week 2: Pantry and Fridge Challenge.
After reading Elizabeth's blog post, I decided to channel all of my inner Martha Stewart, and I went to bed with glossy dreams of Martha Stewart Living magazine in my head.
Fueled by caffeine and sugary cereal, I started creating pantry plans on Monday morning. I quickly discarded the fridge part of the challenge and decided to focus solely on my pantry. After making lists of items to buy, things to do and fantasizing about the results, I caught a glance of the clock and realized it was almost 11:00 am.
All plans for a morning work-out were abandoned as I quickly dashed out the front door in my work-out clothes (last night's pajamas) and headed to the grocery store to make my weekly grocery shopping trip.
Of course in my rush to get out of the house, I forgot to brush my hair and my teeth and left the grocery list at home.
After wandering around the grocery store, unfocused and frustrated, I spent way too much money on a cart filled with impulse purchases and not a whole lot of ingredients to make a week's worth of meals out of. The clock in my minivan annoyingly blinked 12:15 pm. I had exactly 45 minutes to rush home, unload the groceries, get dressed, eat lunch and race to the elementary school for library volunteer duty.
I threw the bags of food on the kitchen counter, popped a frozen waffle in the toaster and raced upstairs to get dressed. After wiping my body down with Neutrogena make-up remover wipes and spritzing myself with my daughter's fruity body spray, I threw on some relatively clean clothes, a glob of foundation and a few swipes of blush, mascara and lip gloss. I brushed my hair on the way downstairs, ate the still-cold waffle with a banana and chewed a piece of gum on my walk to school.
After the library, all thoughts of my pantry were discarded. I was exhausted and spent the rest of the night helping kids with homework, cleaning up the previously discarded groceries, dishes, clothing, etc.
As I laid in bed that night, I once again prayed to the Martha Stewart gods of organization and creative focus. Surely, I would get some serious work done on Tuesday.
I woke up and the sun was shining! I vowed to ignore the sun's beckoning call. No, I told myself, I was going to focus on my pantry. I had baskets and bins and storage racks to buy. I was committed to my pantry, I swear I was. And, then, my very favorite running partner came knocking. And my legs were restless. And the sun was shining brighter than before.
And, then, her dog's floppy ears twitched as he questioningly cocked his head. The dog's eyes beseeched mine. My heart's not made of stone, people! Just 30 minutes of running, I reasoned.
But by the time I got home, it was too late to pop over to the store to buy my pantry gear. I was sweaty and smelled so bad that I momentarily blamed the dog ... until I realized that he was gone. I took a quick body shower, threw on a sundress and went to pick up my part-time daycare kids from school.
Had the two sweet girls I babysit not been so cute that day, I could have ignored them and focused on my pantry. But, no, they were cute and funny, and the sun was still shining. I just couldn't resist a walk outside.
I collected my mommy entourage and our ragtag assortment of kids and we attempted to walk around the neighborhood. It proved more to be an exercise in herding cats, but the sun was bright and laughter punctuated our sentences.
The girls left my house and my own kids came home from school. Chaos entered with their excited chatter.
Suddenly, my front yard was filled with neighborhood kids and I was pulling bicycles down from the garage ceiling and handing out snacks to the masses.
After dinner, I quickly brushed my hair and my teeth and darted out the door to meet some friends for drinks.
At 11:00 pm, I stumbled into bed and remembered the pantry challenge as I drifted to sleep. I pictured rows of cans lined up like little soldiers on the pantry shelves. I imagined the delighted exclamations when I finally revealed the pantry to all my family and friends.
In my dream, Martha Stewart herself called to congratulate me on my outstanding success. She offered me a monthly column in her magazine. I accepted, of course.
I woke up Wednesday morning with cobwebs in my head and the taste of Tuesday night's wine on my tongue. I moaned when the alarm went off and hit the snooze button ... three times.
Two cups of coffee later, I realized that it was Pi Day. And I needed to finish the blog post I had started the previous week, when the sun wasn't distracting me from my responsibilities.
And then I also remembered that I had promised to bring breakfast over to my honorary niece and spend the morning playing with the most amazing 16 month old in my life.
My fingers flew across the keyboard and my mind focused on finishing the post.
But then my computer remembered that it hated me. That whenever I needed to finish something as soon as possible, my computer would laugh at me, stop working and smile in triumph as I cried in defeat.
When I finally fixed it and posted my Pi Day blog entry, I had totally missed breakfast. Thankfully, my childhood best friend forgave me and accepted my apology. I brought lunch to her house instead.
Sure, I had a pantry to re-organize and de-clutter, but the promise of my niece's laughter was the siren's call I just couldn't ignore.
By the time I finally got home on Wednesday, I only had an hour to open the pantry, contemplate the mess inside and throw away all of the expired items I could see.
I spent the rest of the evening in the doctor's office and took the kids to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. And even though, I wrote a blog post all about celebrating Pi Day, I had completely forgotten to buy the ingredients to make shephard's pie for dinner and pumpkin pie for dessert. The kids were disappointed, and I felt like a total mommy failure. I really wish I would have brought that grocery list to the store.
I vowed to conquer Thursday. I fell asleep with Martha Stewart fairies dancing on each shelf in my soon-to-be immaculate pantry. They were all wearing pastel-colored oxford shirts with cashmere cardigans, khaki pants and pearl necklaces around their little fairy necks.
I really should've slept with the blinds closed and the windows shut. But, I didn't. On Thursday morning, I was greeted with bright sun peeking into my windows and a soft, warm breeze teasing me.
And then temptation knocked on my front door. Sure enough, it was Running J and her cute little doggie. I just couldn't say no.
Four miles of running later, and I was ready to conquer the world.
Unfortunately, I got a little distracted on my way to the home improvement store. I took a small detour and stopped at Starbucks, Binny's Beverage Depot, and followed a bunch of signs through an industrial park to a new pet training facility in Plainfield.
Of course, I had to go in. And talk with the owner. For an hour. But, I left with all sorts of information on puppy kindergarten, agility training, and so much information about feeding a dog grain-free food that I could be an expert on Animal Planet. And the owner offered me a job before I left. (I politely declined.)
After shopping at Lowe's, Menard's and Home Depot, I finally had all the gear that I needed to transform my pantry into the pantry of my dreams. I was giddy.
Until I looked at the clock. It was 3:30, and the kids were coming home from school.
I quickly greeted them at the door and dashed over to Elizabeth's house. My pantry was going to have to wait, again.
Elizabeth and I attended the Blogger's Night at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show. We had a delightful time. The displays were amazing and inspiring. It was wonderful to be with our fellow bloggers, and I learned a lot.
I returned home at 11:30 pm. $200 worth of pantry organizational merchandise laid strewn around my kitchen. I hung my head in shame as I climbed the stairs to my bedroom. I had run out of time.
I finally realized that I was not Martha. I would never be Martha. And on Friday morning, I was going to have to be me, the procrastinator, and figure out how to salvage my current predicament.
Friday, the day of reckoning:
This morning, I finally delved into the pantry project. I spent four hours emptying the entire pantry, sorting items and throwing away expired items.
I scrubbed each dirty wire shelf of the pantry.
I moved seasonal canned goods (pumpkin pie filling and evaporated canned milk) to the basement pantry. I moved surplus items (extra cans of diced tomatoes, boxes of pasta, etc.) to the basement pantry as well. I transferred open bags of flours, sugar, dried berries and nuts into the new OXO Containers. I transferred similar items into cute new baskets and put them on the shelves.
After four hours, my pantry was clean and organized.
I finished just in time to pick up my daughter from school to take her to the orthodontist.
Sure, it won't win any awards nor will it be featured as the sexy middle centerfold of Pantry Magazine. But I won't cringe each time a guest opens it either.
So, I admit it: I'm not perfect. I'm nowhere near perfect. In fact, I'm so far from perfect that I probably shouldn't be allowed to utter that word any more.
I am lured by sun-filled runs, leisurely warm days and like a flower in the sun - I lean towards laughter and friendship. I will always choose my friends and family and a beautiful day outside over the mountains of work and responsibility indoors.
While I had to discard the bulk of my ideas and now have a list of future pantry projects to finish, I am proud of my accomplishment.
And after writing this, I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful people in my life who offer me delightful distractions.
Tags: Binny's Beverage Depot, Chicago Flower and Garden Show, Clutter, Home Depot, Home Improvement, Lowe's, Martha Stewart, Martha Stewart Living, Menard's, Organization, Pantry, Parenting, Plainfield, procrastination, Project Simplify, puppy kindergarten, running, Simple Mom, Spring Cleaning, Starbucks, Sunshine, Sweet Tomatoes, Tsh Oxenreider