I’ve been spending a lot of time in clients’ and my own kitchen lately and I’ve noticed a trend: in most pantries, there is a shelf dedicated to all the items we panic-shopped at the start of the pandemic and haven’t touched for a full year. I have one client whose husband bought ALL the chili when we went into quarantine. A year later, standing in her kitchen during a pantry clean-out, my client looked at the chili and then looked back at me. “Get rid of it,” she said with a no mercy tone in her voice. I could tell that after a year at home, she was done letting unappetizing items that bring her NO JOY take up any more space.
Staring at the canned spinach in my own pantry took me back to March of 2020, when the grocery stores were cleared out of inventory. Toilet paper, wet wipes, baby wipes, paper towels...gone. All-purpose flour, wheat flour, bread flour...also gone. And then came the slim pickings of the canned food aisle. To begin with, I’m not someone who is very comfortable in the kitchen, so you can imagine how overwhelmed I felt when I had to stock my pantry for the zombie apocalypse. Quite frankly, I didn’t know what to do with SPAM or canned spinach or canned shredded chicken, but I also knew I couldn’t leave the store empty handed. If this was all there was left, then this is what I’d take home and I’d make it work later.
A year later, as I reorganize and calibrate my pantry for my new normal, it’s clear that I hadn’t made it work. While I do not judge myself for making the purchases that I did (I mean, after all, we were all in uncharted territory), I’m reminded of why it is important to never shop when in a heightened emotional state. When we are stressed, we have a harder time distinguishing between what we want and what we need, and as a result, we overbuy. And unconscious consumption almost always leads to clutter. Yes, even food can be considered clutter when we are not eating it or if we do not have a clear plan for it.
Not one to let anything go to waste if I can help it, I decided that I can still transform clutter into a culinary creation. And so I enlisted the help of cooking coach and founder of www.olivejess.co, Jess Dreyer. Just as I can see the potential in my clients’ spaces, Jess’s superpower is that she can see all the possibilities in your pantry and fridge. I hope this video of how she helps me creatively declutter my pantry, one can at a time, will inspire you to find new purpose for your survival food. Of course, if the thought of decluttering your kitchen by cooking your way through it sounds more draining than satisfying, you have other options, including hiring a professional organizer (ahem, me!) to help declutter and design a more functional system for you. Together we will start a new trend: the COVID Canned Goods Clear Out.