A little order

Construction of kitchen cabinet

Heading into this winter, I knew that in my heart of hearts what I most wanted was to get the inside of the house better organized. In the warm months, we absolutely live outside and the house tends to become neglected. On top of that, when we moved into our new home just over two years ago, we left a number of key areas unfinished, and I went into this winter still battling a pervasive sense of chaos in the house. While I totally accept that the chaos will never go entirely, I was sorely in need of even a false sense of organization, particularly when life got even more hectic with homeschooling our youngest.

As seen in previously posted pictures here, what I think of as the back wall of the large, open central room in our home, was never really finished properly. We didn’t put any cabinets for the kitchen on that wall, and a makeshift bookcase and desk at the kitchen end of the room made the space practical if not ‘complete’.

When I became the main teacher of our youngest in November, my little four-shelf bookcase had to give up two shelves’ worth of cookbooks in favour of schoolbooks, and my tiny Victorian desk quickly experienced overwhelm. We made it work, but my desire to create more storage and increase the workspace in that part of the room ramped up hugely. This isn’t the best ‘before’ shot, but you get the idea.

Man making lavash crackers

I’ve been known to lunge at the nearest possible solution when feeling pressed: when heavily pregnant with our older boy and trying to quickly furnish our first house I voted to buy the first sofa I sat on and that’s exactly what we did. Over the past two years I had resisted a number of antique dressers and cabinets that would have looked lovely in the space – and been a wonderful way to reuse an old, existing piece of furniture – but done little to lend the much needed organization. The wait has been well worth the short term increase in chaos caused by the necessary removal of my workstation while the new unit has been built and painted over the past two weeks.

It was certainly worth it to see Reggie meeting a new friend (the stuffed lab of our youngest son, which predates our real live lab by a few years).

Black lab meeting stuffed dog in a kitchen

This dog loved having visitors in the house and seemed to have a lot to say, if only with his eyes, about the whole process.

Kitchen unit and desk partially constructed

For a while, the chaos in the kitchen seemed to invite that inevitable companion, even MORE chaos, when youngest son decided to set up shop with half of his Lego collection. I’m oddly proud to say that losing a good chunk of the kitchen island to a world made out of Lego for several days didn’t rattle me too much (and then one day I reached my limit and kindly demanded that the removal process begin).

Kitchen island covered in Lego

The painting was done yesterday, and now we’ll have to wait about a week until we can put anything on the painted surfaces. We’re also missing the worktops (wood), haven’t yet decided about tile for the bit of wall below the open shelving, and we’ll have a magnetic board framed above the desk. But none of this has stopped me from setting up shop again at the desk and enjoying this much longed for bit of infrastructure in the heart of our house.

Newly painted kitchen unit and desk

Taking time to live with a gap in the busiest part of our home was such a good idea; when it came time to sketch out what I felt we needed there, it came quickly and almost drew itself. And now we’re almost there. I already feel more organized just looking at what came into being in just a few short days.

My husband reflected recently that many people today, ourselves included, live like kings. We had to agree that in fact we live better than kings, when you consider the cold, drafty castles of the past and everything that went with them. All of which is just one way to consider how fortunate I feel to have all of this.

I was listening to an author being interviewed on the radio today about his new novel, in which he wanted to focus on the chaos of modern life. He referred to the ‘agony of raising children’ in modern life, and this resonated with me. There is so much of modern life that is complex and unnaturally chaotic, and much of it feels unnecessarily so. We most surely do not need all of ‘this’ in order to live good lives, raise our children effectively and yet this is where we have got to in our society at this point in human history. It’s pretty hard to break that down, as this is where we are.

I really didn’t intend to turn philosophical with this post, but it’s hard for me to put this post together without doing so, and the least I can say is that I’m grateful to have the means to alleviate the pressure I feel in my own life.

Red bench and kitchen desk and cabinet

14 thoughts on “A little order

  1. Love the new bits and WOW how this resonates with me. My daughter used her saved allowance to purchase fake glasses for her doll yesterday. I fulfilled her online wishes, but couldn’t help but think about how many people in the world could use REAL glasses, and now we have two small pairs that will likely end up in some strange location, neglected and unused, and eventually stepped on by Mommy’s big fuzzy Crocs (which keep Mommy’s big first world feet warm). I’ve gotten a little more militant lately about letting go of what we don’t use, sharing, passing on, but the chaos of relative affluence and availability continues to pile up on my counters – and you are a saint for leaving the Legos there. 😉

    1. Lots of head nodding over here with your very thoughtful comment. I’ve been through the very same steps that you describe with your daughter more times than I can count, and I really feel that compared to many people we are not shoppers or accumulators, but the fact is, this is ‘how’ we live in the first world. We try to keep a high level of awareness around our home too, but short of selling it all and hitting the road to live much more simply in some further corner of the world (which I’ve been tempted to do at times)… Sigh. Nice to connect with you.

    1. Thank you Sheryl, it’s incredible what a feeling of organization can do for us! I love that we have the same dog, they are such beautiful creatures.

  2. Sometimes when the chaos is getting to me, I just clean the stuff off my counters – you know, the stuff that gets set down ‘to be put away later’. To me, it makes the world of difference to see those countertop surfaces!

  3. I can relate to so much of your post – the heaving shelves of cookbooks, battling the chaos, the daily Lego encroachment… your new shelving looks lovely! I think you’ve made some beautiful life decisions; moving back to the land, living lightly and home-schooling. You should be pretty proud of yourselves, living the way you do. From here, your ‘this’ looks calm and peaceful!

    1. I love connecting with other mums who know all too well this kind of day to day chaos (especially the Lego encroachment!). Thanks for the kind words. I can imagine that your cookbook collection must be a good size – I’d love to know what your favourites are some time.

  4. The new desk, cabinets, and shelves are very nicely designed. Like you, we’ve been feeling the need for a little order as well, and I’m STILL organizing that giant mess that Dave created in the back bedroom (the room is organized, but the stuff I took out of the room is gradually being either tossed, given to charity, or put away where it belongs). I’ll bet your son is very much enjoying his new place for homework. I also like that you’ve given yourselves a nice cookbook storage place.

    1. Thanks Libby! Yes, I’ve been wondering how your own efforts on the organizing front have been going. I can completely relate to your piles allocated for different destinations! We’re both enjoying the new homework station very much. It seems there is always some part of the house in dire need of attention, but I feel like this area makes sense now.

  5. Built ins! I love built ins! I am so envious! I will stop exclaiming…but seriously, they’re just so practical, aren’t they? The airiness and practicality of your space remind me very much of the Susan Saranka “Not So Big” house designs, which have always reminded me of many of the Craftsman style from the 1920’s. I agree, I think you have to live with the space and the need for a while to know what you really want to make it all work well.

    I too find it challenging raising children in the complex world of now, but I think it’s always been that way for parents – this is just our reality, but 200 years ago, parents probably agonized over their children working in factory, field or manor house. The culture and social environment around us always seem to be too much compared to what we are familiar with and understand. “It was never like that in my day”…I think it, even if I (mostly) manage not to say it out loud too often.

    1. It makes me feel good that you see something of the “Not So Big” philosophy in our space, as it was very close to our hearts when we were planning everything here. We’ve tried hard to make things as timeless as possible, though no doubt in 20 years some of the details will look different to us than they do now.

      I think you’re right about parents always feeling challenged by the times and it’s a good thing to try to keep in perspective when it all feels like a house of cards.

  6. you have the absolute perfect yellow on your walls, would you mind sharing what the color name/number is? its stunning.

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