Caregivers know the caregiving life can be chaotic and expensive. What I didn’t realize until this weekend is exactly what a pickpocket disorganization can be.
On Saturday, I cleaned out and organized my pantry. (As an aside, I’d been putting the task off for months because I “knew” it would take “hours” to accomplish. It actually took about 20 minutes.) As I pulled out cans and boxes to rearrange things, I discovered a number of items that were long expired (and obviously not fit to eat). As I threw these things into an old box, I said to Mom, “I feel as if I could just as well be burning dollar bills.” I felt ashamed of my wastefulness, but, beyond that, the real financial impact of the situation hit me: Merely because my pantry had been so disorganized, I’d not been able to locate items and use them before they spoiled. Being a frugal person, I found this feeling frustrating.
I learned a second lesson as I re-organized the pantry shelves to make things easier to find. I like to group items in the pantry. For example, I try to keep all the canned vegetables on one shelf. In fact, I group all the canned corn together and all the canned tomato sauce, and so on. To me, this system maximizes efficiency.
As I was arranging my canned goods, I added in several flats of vegetables and soups. These items had been languishing for months on the floor adjacent to the pantry due to lack of space. I’d bought these canned goods believing I was low on them. Boy, was I wrong.
If you look closely at the photo accompanying today’s post, you’ll see my tidy pantry. You may also notice, at the far right, approximately three thousand cans of peas. We rarely eat canned peas. We’ll never plow our way through the quantity on the pantry shelf, even with the long shelf life of canned goods.
I wound up with so many canned peas as a direct result of my disorganization. If I’d kept the pantry tidier, I’d have known not to buy additional stock. Thus, I unnecessarily spent money that could have gone to worthier endeavors, like an evening at the cinema.
So, disorganization cost me hard dollars in two different ways. First, by forcing me to throw out food because it was past its prime. Second, by causing me to buy things I didn’t need and can’t use up. (I plan to donate a lot of those cans of peas to the local food bank.)
And all because I couldn’t spare 20 minutes over the course of a year to organize my pantry.
Well, I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not going to let my pantry get out of control again. Not only that, but I’m attacking my freezer next. I shudder to think I may have to throw out meat because it’s freezer-burned beyond recognition.
As caregivers, we can make our lives so much easier and less stressful simply by investing a few minutes each week in organizing. Maybe it sounds silly, but I feel much more centered right now, knowing my pantry has regained its usefulness.
This week, I challenge you to organize your pantry, your freezer, or even just a cupboard. Set your kitchen timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and do what you can. You’ll feel a real sense of accomplishment to carry with you as a grounding force throughout the week
Weigh in: Do you have a particular organizing strategy for your pantry or freezer? Please share your best tips in the comments!