I had a couple of days off from work, so I decided to make the drive to my parents’ house today. I turned into the driveway, and the familiar sight of the Coca-Cola machines by the old storage shed greeted me. I brought Norton with me again. He began sniffing the air expectantly even though the windows were not down, on the lookout for my parents’ dogs. As I pulled in to park, I saw Dad in the distance, walking the dogs. Norton and I went up the worn wooden steps and into the house. I put my brown quilted weekender bag on the bed in my sister’s old room. I always sleep in there when I visit, because my mother has loaded down my old room with clothes. In my old room, you can no longer walk in more than two feet, if that. I quickly changed into the green sweatpants and old t-shirt I reserve for intense cleaning and headed to the kitchen. I would continue the decluttering there.
I started with a top cabinet that holds food to the right of the stove. I heard the front door open and close, and then my dad entered the kitchen. “Whatch’ya doing?” he asked. “I thought I’d work on clearing out these food cabinets today,” I told him, bracing myself for a negative remark or comment, but he stood back to watch. I grabbed a black thirty gallon trash bag from under the sink and got to work. There was an abundance of spices! I began pulling out all of the spices, checking dates, and sitting them on the countertop if they were still within date. I counted six cinnamon’s. “Cinnamon doesn’t go bad,” Dad told me. “Do you need six of them?,” I asked him dubiously. He unscrewed the top off one, revealing that the seal had not been broken. “I could take two of those,” I told him, hoping to get rid of a few. “But you’ll throw them away,” he accused me. “No, I won’t,” I told him, thinking that at least I wouldn’t have to buy any for awhile, although I rarely use it. We continued going through the spices: whole cloves, parsley, basil, saffron, garlic salt, and others. Dad finally said, “Well, I’m thinking that if we have it in the spice rack, we don’t need the extra ones in the cabinet.” “Exactly what I’ve been saying,” I stated, rolling my eyes. There were also six bottles of karo syrup, a combination of light and dark. He refused to get rid of any of these, saying, “Listen. They never go bad,” but he did consolidate the light and dark into three bottles. There was a huge tin of maple syrup. “Stays good for thousands of years,” Dad exclaimed, “and it’s only been up there for about ten years.” I couldn’t help myself from grimacing. “Your Granny used to scrape mold off the top of jam and still use it,” he told me. Apparently FDA rules mean nothing to him, I thought to myself. There were multiple boxes of crackers: buttery, herb, saltine. He insisted on keeping these plus his four different varieties of salt substitutes. We did manage to throw away six boxes of hardened brown sugar, two bottles of worcester sauce, old cake decorating sprinkles, and some stale flour (and recycled the pink canister it was in). After removing the dirty shelf paper, vacuuming the shelves, and replacing the food, I moved to the top cabinet to the left of the stove.
My parents have a good bit of junk food, such as candy and chips, that was cluttering the countertops. The goal was to get these items off the counters and into the cabinets. I was able to throw away enough expired food to make room for these items. During this process, I found three types of sugar substitutes. Dad said he really liked one of them but that he needed to keep the other two for back-up. This kind of thinking is why they have clutter. On the top shelf, multiple lightbulbs had made a home. There wasn’t anywhere else to put these items for now (will eventually go above the washer and dryer), so there they stayed. I gathered all of the canned food and consolidated it to the large top shelf in the bottom cabinet by the dishwasher. I washed the larger pieces of bakewear (such as cookie sheets) that were on top of the fridge and placed them on the bottom shelf of the same cabinet. Dad asked, “What are you going to put on top of the fridge.” I answered him in a slightly exasperated voice, “It’s not supposed to have anything on top of it.” Then I collected the diverse plastic containers and items that were still lying on the countertop even after Mom had promised to decide which ones she wanted to keep and put the rest away. I rewashed them and laid them out to dry. That night, I asked Mom again if she wanted to get rid of some of them. She agreed to let go of the hamburger patty tupperware set, a bean pot, and a brass candlestick holder (Dad said it was worth only about $0.60), and two sconces that no one knew what attached to. We considered sorting through another cabinet, but at this point I was very tired. We went through many medicine bottles on top of the microwave, and then I went to bed.