Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Reality of It All

Yesterday I found myself standing in the middle of my kitchen, looking around at all the stuff that accumulates on my counters this time of year.  I thought back to my younger self.  The self that cleaned her house (completely) every week no matter how clean dirty it was.  The self that always had everything in it's place.  The self that couldn't go to bed unless everything was in it's place (no matter the hour).

Ahhh.  I remember her.  Her expectations were high because they could be high.  Fast forward eight years, three children, an old farmhouse, large gardens and a (sometimes insane) desire to put up and make my family's food.

My expectations have changed.

At first, I wasn't too sure about the change.  I regularly had internal arguments with myself.  What if someone came over?  What if I win the Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes and they come to my door with cameras?  (I was failing to remember that you actually have to enter said sweepstakes to have a chance to win it.)

But slowly, and over time and additional kids and projects, toys and canning supplies, I've been able to relax into some new expectations of myself.  Here are the main biggies:

1) The house is not cleaned completely unless we're having overnight guests.
2) The downstairs will be cleaned (minus the dusting sometimes) if we're having dinner guests.
3) The bathrooms are cleaned only if they are in (way) obvious need of cleaning.
4) The floors must be picked up/swept every couple days.  I cannot let go of this one- I really dislike feeling stuff on my bare feet.

Back to kitchens.  I often see photographs of kitchens with nary a thing on the counter tops and it puzzles me.  First I think, maybe they don't cook.  Then I think, maybe they do cook but they're just willing to pull out everything they need each time (and then promptly put it all away) to keep their counters clear.  If the second maybe is the case, I applaud them for not being as lazy as I am.  And for having adequate storage space to house all their stuff.

And so, this is my life.  The reality of it all is that my counters are cluttered.  Yes, everything has it's place and one day each thing will return to it's home, but I will never promise that they'll all be away at the same time.

So, just for fun, I'm going to show you what my kitchen looks like these days (this happened to be a pretty good day).  Controlled clutter is what I like to call it.  I'm fine with it.  My younger self?  Well, let's just not show her, okay?

 Pans that wouldn't fit in my drying rack (I do not believe in drying dishes.  Now, if my Mom wants to do it when she comes, I will not stop her.  I love you, Mom!), bag of used plastic bags for freezing, red raspberry jam.

 Butterfly habitat complete with chrysalis and a caterpillar happily munching on carrot fronds, my food processor (which requires me standing on a chair to put back in it's place- not going to happen if I'm going to use it again within a week), spare bowl, cake carrier contraption, bag of jar rings.  Behind it all, radio/tape/CD player, books on tape, CDs.

 Lid, lists, canning journal, seed catalog, Sunday school materials, bug spray, phone, pennies drying on a tissue (what? why?).

 This counter is kept relatively clear.  I mean, where is a girl going to work?  (Three) compost containers (goodness- take a walk already), cooling rack, egg towel, garlic, stevia, homemade fruit fly trap (more on that soon). 

 Even my bench gets cluttered.

Okay.  I know my fridge looks pretty good.  I recently cleaned it because something spilled everywhere.  I just took this picture because I think it looks so pretty this time of year.  You know, because of all the produce?  Am I the only one that sees the beauty of the contents of refrigerators?  

I may be embarrassing myself now.  I'm going to stop typing.

But before I do, I want to know about the state of your counter tops- at this very moment.  Embrace those changed expectations!
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  1. Jars of roasted tomato sauce, bread rising, bananas and cheerios for breakfast, bowl of butter, eggs to be washed, jar of sourdough, etc. It's actually fairly cleaned off, and both tables are clean, too. But then nobody is awake besides me and hubby...

  2. You surely gave me a good feeling ,add a chuckle for on my way out the door-,ya ,you guessed it. another trip to VA. we couldn't do the pet scan last week.I'm gonna ask why the va can't make a exception and put a insulin pump in my husband.back to your blog---my food processor takes someone with strength to lift it to its normal spot,my counters are the same and actually not high enough from miss thing from touching everything from mosquito repellent to the remote so now they clutter the entertainment center [ can't see the actual wood ] and what why?--did you fish the pennies from the tp

  3. Mine are covered in peaches! I canned peaches and peach pie filling yesterday afternoon. The canner is still on the stove!

  4. LOVE this post! In a "blogworld" of such envy and feelings of constant comparison, this is my absolute favorite kind of blog post. REAL, fantastic, honest, BEAUTIFUL! Look at what a lovely, warm, inviting, nurturing home you have to do so many great things for you and your family - so much goodness is happening in your house!

  5. I have seen those pictures too on other blogs of completely bare kitchen countertops and it has always baffled me. Even if I scurried around like a wild woman all day long I couldn't keep my kitchen like that. (I've got 4 boys who make sure of that). Everytime I turn aroun something else has appeared on my countertops that I didn't put there. (I loved the pennies on a tissue!) My kitchen is the most lived in part of my house. So, I feel right at home with your pics. Now, that's reality. And, I think it's beautiful

  6. I love this post! I often have flashbacks to my former self and wonder what happened to that girl who kept a spotless house and individually dusted every one of her plants leaves in spite of cooking from scratch. Then I remember that she didn't homeschool, garden, can, make soap, yada yada yada... Sometimes I wish she would still come clean for me, though. :0)

    My counters right now; have dishes drying on them (I don't believe in drying, either), tomatoes that need to be processed, soap curing, yogurt going in the crockpot, a covered cake stand filled with cookies I made yesterday, a box of peaches, the food processor I didn't put away yesterday because I'll be using it today, along with the coffee maker, canisters of coffee, stevia, sea salt, crystalized ginger, 2 crocks of utensils, a basket of canning rings/lids and a microwave. And, you can see every bit of it when you walk in my front door.

    I'm so glad you shared your kitchen counters today. It's nice to know I'm not the only person who battles the (necessary) kitchen clutter. I think I love you. :0)

  7. Thank You!!!! I knew I couldn't be the only one out there with cluttered cupboards. Remember the quote "Empty desk empty mind" What do empty counters represent? Empty tummies perhaps? :)

  8. There are jars of canned tomato products sitting everywhere. It's 8 in the morning and the canner from last night is still full of water sitting on the stove. The breakfast dishes are on the counter waiting for me to unload the dishwasher of clean dishes. There are two big bowls of tomatoes sitting on my window sill. Crumbs all over the floor, toys strewn everywhere, and a bowl of peppers and eggplant sitting in a corner. One lonesome dirty egg sits in the egg basket on top of a stack of papers and telephones beside the computer. A measuring cup full of butter waits to be cleaned and packaged for the refrigerator. The empty milk jar needs washed before it starts to stink.

    But that's all pretty good compared to what it looked like at 6:00 last night. I had every pot that held more than 2 quarts out on the stove/counters helping me make supper and can tomatoes. It was a royal mess. My supper didn't end up getting done in time so we ate chips and fresh salsa, crackers and cheese, and cucumber salad.

    Let's hope today isn't quite such a mess. I, too, was like your former self.

  9. Due to the fact that I am 14 weeks pregnant with baby #3, I have zero motivation these days, and practically go to bed at eight when my children do, my counters are probably in worse shape than yours... :( I have a dirty griddle from making french toast, three days ago. Frying pan with oil in it from lunch yesterday. Plus assorted dirty plates and bowls in the sink... Oh, and did I mention we are moving in two weeks?! So, boxes everywhere! I did manage to load and run the dishwasher yesterday, so one counter is relatively clean. This is probably a step up for me though. Before kids I never did the dishes... still hate to do them, but we dirty all the silverware in one day now, so something has to give! ;)
    Ps I too hate grit under my bare feet. I hate dog hair on my carpet even more. So ALL my floors are usually clean!

  10. There's no need to be embarrassed, I love my fridge too when there is a lot of healthy, fresh produce in there. Mine has too much pizza in it. My excuse is our recent move. I think tonight I might actually do some real cooking.

  11. I love your refrigerator contents because it contains REAL food and produce from the garden. My kitchen right now is in the middle of a remodel so is a cross between pathetic and warehouse grunge. "Pretend" cabinets with pieces of ripped out old counter on top, a card table, no lovely garden produce because of no garden this year, etc. I can't describe how much I'm missing a normal kitchen where I can cook, bake and preserve.

  12. Pickles brinning, two bowls of cucumbers ready for pickling, an onion and spices, cookbooks, notes galore, slow cooker in sink soaking from last nights dinner, milking pail, milk jars...your kitchen looks better than mine:) I know we are in a busy season when I can't find my counter tops. Thanks for the smiles today!

  13. Let's see...currently on my counters. My huge pressure canner, still with water inside from yesterday's canning session. Several jars of canned spaghetti sauce which need to go to the basement shelves. A huge bowl of tomatoes which still needs attention, with some zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, and a lone banana strewn around it. 3 stainless steel water bottles which still need washed from vacation, my food processor, food mill, and 3 stockpots, 2 of which need washed, cutting boards, and jar rings. Plus my canning books and recipes, which are stacked precariously on top of the microwave. And the breakfast dishes are still on the table, because the dishwasher is full of clean dishes and the sink is full of ice cream buckets (used to pick produce and carry out compost scraps) that need washed.

    I used to clean faithfully too. I still try to, but like you, I have MUCH lower expectations these days. Especially during canning season. Thanks for another great real life post!

  14. What a great post! Here's my countertops :)
    Peaches, pickles, YOUR peach salsa (thanks!), my yogurt supply box, pet fish, basket of paperwork, easybake oven. Cookbooks, mixer, food processor, breakfast AND last nights supper dishes, sink is full, canner still full of water from peaches last night, compost bucket, two boxes of jars and a bowl of miscellaneous "stuff".

  15. I read your blog regularly, and I am inspired by the work you do for your family. Right now on my counters there is a collection of old empty Ball jars I bought over the weekend at a flea market, a container of kitchen utensils, dishes drying in a rack, canisters of flour and sugar, a basket of rolled dishtowels, a giant bowl of sweet potatoes, a stand mixer, and more empty jars. Let me just say that my kitchen is pretty small, and I am getting ready to go to farmers market (so later there will be a vast array of veggies too). The interesting thing is that I can remember, like you, being newly married and crazy about cleanliness. It is funny how things change as the reality of life sets in!

  16. You caught me on a good morning! Coffee pot, empty ice cube tray, marker drawings from my niece, toaster, open butter dish, bread, empty bread bag, neti pot (eeew), stand mixer, cookbook, dead cilantro, compost bin, 2 limes, empty jar. Not bad for me! I've never been a super neat kind of person. I'm trying to learn. It stresses my husband out to have a cluttered house, so I really need to make an effort for him.

  17. I love it-
    It's amazing how children and maturity change our priorities and convictions. I personally feel better to know I am not the only one. Let's smile together- one day we know our kids will have homes of their own and our house will be clean...and we will miss this.

  18. Well, my dear, your kitchen looks great to me! Mine is about 4 times worse right now but I'm getting things put up for the winter, so I don't really mind.

    I noticed you have a flat surface stove, as do I. Do you pressure can on it? I got my stove as a WONDERFUL gift from my Father-in-law at Christmas. People are telling me I can't pressure can on it. I've been water bath canning with no problems, but now I'm kind of scared about the whole pressure canning thing.

  19. Oh, I am feeling so content knowing that there are many other cluttered counters out there (and cluttered with such great stuff!):-).

    I've pressure canned once on my flat top and am hoping to get a pressure canner in the next year and use it like crazy. I've heard of many others using one on their flat top with fine results. From what I understand, as long as the bottom of the pressure canner is also flat and doesn't extend more than two inches beyond the circle design on the cook stove, it will be successful. That said, I would recommend you look into the specific recommendations for your stove and the pressure canner you want to use. Good luck!

  20. Thank you! I LOVE it! My counter has a bowl waiting for granola, two trays of granola cooling, granola bars cooling, a plate of tomatoes, tang (ok, now I'm getting embarrassed, but I have my reasons, we are going on vacation and it is a childhood memory, ok!), a bowl for putting dried nectarines in (been there since Saturday), candied pecans in a pretty container, telephone, hot pads, a paper bag, raisins, a spatula (used for stirring the granola), two knifes and some bagels. I appreciate your practical side and your willingness to post this! Shannon

  21. My canner is still on the stove, jars are sitting on the counter top, dishes are waiting to be washed, assorted squashes and tomatoes are hanging out and the bread has finally been put in bags, but it's not in the freezer yet. I love your idea of controlled clutter. I will never be one of those neat people. The best I can hope for is to control the clutter. Loved this post!

  22. I am SAVING this post to share with my husband to prove that I'm not the only one who leaves things out, especially at this time of year and at the holidays. My kitchen is right at the front of the house, and you go through it when you come in from the garage. It is ALWAYS full and about half clean, but I use it, too!

    Thanks for being willing to share the stuff many people won't put on a blog--open and honest writing is really refreshing and I loved the window into your world:)

  23. Let's just say if you want to open the small chest freezer that's in our kitchen you have to move the water bath canner, a metal dishpan, and a couple of gallon ball jars. All that because they won't fit on the counter tops.

    Here is a question..how long does it take you to empty the water out of your water bath canner after you use it? if I don't have anything else to can immediately I've been known to just let the water sit a day or so til I carry it out to water the garden with. :)

  24. Melissa,
    I actually empty it immediately so I can use the boiling water to kill the grass and weeds that grow up between the old bricks of our back patio/landing. For that reason and because my canner is so old, I'm afraid rust will ruin it. I wish I could recycle it- it makes much more sense:-).

  25. This is my kitchen! Especially the mom counter with all the extremely important notes that I hope don't get splattered by the frying chicken. Great idea...I love to be let in on people's real lives.

  26. To be honest, I've really stopped cleaning my house all together. Feel free to come over any time to give yourself an ego boost. I've got it all. Clutter, dust, cramped kitchen, one space left on my counter to work. I don't really care anymore. I"ll get to it one day. Or not. :)

  27. Thanks for a REAL post about real life. Though I really do prefer bare countertops enough to occasionally make them happen, most of the time our eating style does not make them happen (having a toaster oven, coffee pot, grain meal and Bosch mixer out all the time, and other appliances here and there). We almost continuously have fresh produce and loaves of bread on the counter, as well as 1/2 gallon mason jars of various beans. I also do NOT believe in drying dishes, except when I run out of space to stack them to dry. :P I do keep the main work surfaces relatively clean and uncluttered, but the area to the right of my fridge tends to be a catch-all for all kinds of stuff.

  28. I need more about the fruit fly trap now! :) We are battling them as I speak. I think they are currently winning :( Help!


  29. :) uplifting post :) i'm a controlled clutter person, too... my countertops have pretty much everything on them... today: cupcakes, blueberry oat muffins, dirty dishes from dinner, paper, receipts, lots of kitchen devices (microwave, food processor, mixer, steamed coffee mixer, hand blender, toaster), a container of decaf tea, a collection of utensils in a container, a TV, place mats, bubbles, pens, pencils, paintings from my daughter, a wooden spoon, fruit ripening... and it's never EVER clutter free... no matter how much i try to keep it "neater" and tidy, it almost always seems to find friends within another 24 hours... my kitchen table is the same way... :)
    hopefully when people come to see you, they come to see YOU and your family...not the state of your home. and, if they're there to see how nice and clean your house is, then they're probably there for the wrong reasons anyhow... :)
    20 years from now, no one will say, "that Jane...her house was always so immaculate...." they're going to remember how happy and incredible your kids were, how nice your garden was, how you canned like a mad woman so that your family could eat fabulous food in the winter months, and that, strangly, a cluttered house showed a contentment that just felt "right." :)
    CHEERS to clutter... :) i'm glad i'm not alone :)

  30. Mine are pretty terrible right now, to be honest. But I live in a house with three other 20-somethings. We all have completely different eating habits, so the kitchen is cluttered anyway. I've noticed that when I keep up on my dishes and give the kitchen a quick once-over every time I cook, my roommates are likely to do the same. Unfortunately I've been lazy lately, and things have really started piling up :)

  31. Groovyghosthunter,
    I pressure canned on my flat stove all last year. I had no problem. You just have to ensure that the heavy canner doesn't rattle and break the glass. It needs to be a newer pressure canner with a flat bottom and you need to make sure that the bottom and the stove are dry so no boiling droplets get trapped between. Good luck!

  32. Baby bottles, tomatoes, cutting board, and an overflowing compost bin!

  33. You are so brave to show pictures of your countertops ;)
    I don't dare show mine-especially during canning season.
    It's so true...there's just some things that matter more than a clean house!
    I'd much rather have my winter 'store'~

  34. Funny, because today I scrubbed the bathrooms, and it amazed me how grimy they were. It had only been a few days since the last scrub.

    My kitchen counters are always cluttered. I cook too much for them to not be. Thanks for sharing your reality, I think many of us have made the same changes in what we are okay with over the years.

  35. Love it! Thanks for being real. My kitchen and dinning room look like that all the time. And no you are not strange. I love seeing pictures of other's pantry's and fridge. BTW I REALLY, REALLY, want to see a picture of your pantry when you are all done canning the harvest.



Just a friendly reminder, if you know me personally please try to refrain from using my name. There are those who may try to locate me, break into my pantry and steal my pickled beets. Thanks:-).

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