Vivid memories of my father opening and closing drawers and cabinets in the kitchen in search of a utensil or mug flash across my brain as Hubby doubles back in search of the trash can.
My dad used to become frustrated that Ma was always moving things in the kitchen. Hubby has been just as frustrated lately.
Now that I’m home and spending more time cleaning and organizing, I understand why Ma may have moved the mugs or found a better place for the utensils. In the past year, our coffee mugs have been relocated twice and now the trash can has a new home, much to the confusion of Hubby and the boys.
Ma, on the other hand, can waltz into my kitchen and find the mugs, trash can and anything else I’ve moved. Ma gets it. If it’s not where it was, it’s in a more convenient, efficient place.
My sister shares this gift of reorganization and kitchen logic as well. She and I can operate in each other’s kitchens, even if it’s the first time we’ve visited a particular house. I’m on my seventh kitchen and she’s on her, well, by now I’ve lost count. But we can instinctively move about each other’s space with ease, because we both put things where it makes sense to put them — a talent we inherited from Ma.
And while we see this talent as a blessing, our respective husbands consider it a curse. Hubby just doesn’t get why anything ever has to be moved. Meanwhile, if there is a better place to store the sea salt based on how often I use it for cooking and the fact we need additional space for the coffee filters where the salt used to reside, I must move the salt. This leads to months of frustration as Hubby searches for the “missing” salt.
If I moved the salt again before he got used to its last new home, Hubby would get quite rattled. If he had his way, everything in our kitchen would stay put forever more. But my world is ever evolving. If we get a new small appliance, it can completely throw off the balance of the kitchen. A new coffee maker could easily result in the relocation of mugs as well as the mixer and all my nylon cooking utensils.
When my middle child moved into an apartment a couple of months ago, we gave him the chairs from the nook in our kitchen as well as some dishes, pots and pans. This threw our kitchen into chaos. I had to completely rethink and reorganize my world.
The table was moved up against the wall, which meant the shelves that were now exposed had to be cleaned and reorganized. A domino effect ensued and when the dust settled, the dogs’ food and water dishes were relocated to make room for the new, more logical placement of the trash can.
It took about two days for the dogs to get used to their new dining area. Hubby still has trouble finding the trash can. I can practically feel my dad empathizing with Hubby from the grave. One morning, I’m going to wake up to find an extra trash can in my kitchen, placed where the old trash can used to be — a posthumous gift to his son-in-law.
My children also become agitated by my constant need to reorganize. But I’m their mom. They know to simply ask me where I am currently storing the pizza pans or oven mitts. They’ve been dealing with this since birth, so they don’t actually expect things to stay in one place in my kitchen for long periods of time.
There are advantages to the way Ma, my sister and I keep our kitchens. Every time something is moved, all the affected areas are thoroughly cleaned. We are also exercising our brains as we problem solve more efficient organizational patterns. So, while the women in the family are building brain function and capacity, the men become stressed out.
I may have just stumbled upon one of the contributing factors as to why women typically outlive men.
This reorganization gene might very well be present in all females of the animal kingdom. Squirrels don’t forget where they buried their nuts. Female squirrels simply find much better places to bury them during the long, boring winter. The male squirrels, not able to comprehend that the new spot was more convenient and easier to access, just keep digging in the original spot until they get so frustrated they run out into the street and … SPLAT!
Next week, I’m going to be reorganizing our bedroom. Therefore, if Hubby is late to work or shows up half-dressed, I will take full responsibility. But rest assured, everything will be placed where it logically should be for optimal efficiency.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.