Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tackling a Black Hole

Perhaps you have one in your home.    I think there must be at least one in every dwelling.   You will know what I am talking about shortly.    I refer to ours as a Black Hole.   In most homes these days we have places where we euphemistically "store" things.     Sometimes these places are closets.   Other times they are the so-called junk drawer.     On larger scale they are our garages and out buildings.    For today's blog entry I am referring to that dark, dense place known as our pantry.     

When we moved in this house in 1994 our galley type kitchen had a pantry----basically a closet with shelves and a door to hide it all.     I was happy, at first, because it was a pantry separate from the other cabinets.     It seemed like an enormous amount of space to put cans of baby corn, sacks of dried beans, cereal and syrup.    We had lived in an apartment and had not lived in our Mobile, AL house for several years.      So having what was clearly planned as a storage space for all those staples we use to stock our kitchen seemed like the bee's knees.  (That is a good thing for all you readers who are many years younger than me.)   

For a while this pantry worked nicely and functioned as intended.     But you know it had to happen.   One day I realized that things had migrated to the back, never to be seen again.     Cans of chili beans, lone jars of mango-chili pepper jelly (given to us as a gift), half a box of raisins (long since petrified into a muy shriveled version of itself), nearly a whole bag of dark brown sugar (easily a substitute for a brick) and assorted remnants of half eaten boxes of cereal (clearly past their prime so that even the birds would not eat it if I tossed it out in the back yard).   Our pantry needed help and fast!  Food was being wasted and ruined.   In addition I would get aggravated when I would discover (by accident) that I had 6 cans of tomatoes but NO tomato sauce when it was the sauce that I really needed to buy. 
Nice pantry, but definitely a Black Hole!

                                                           Pantry pre-modification

So I would pull it all out, re-arrange the contents and vow to do better to use up things, never allowing it to mysteriously migrate to the far reaches of the shelves again.     But it is hopeless when the shelves are too deep for me to reach to the back.    Things get shoved back there, not rotated to the front.     The pantry is also dark inside, another factor that makes it extremely hard to see what is in the pantry, no matter where it is located on the shelf.     It would have taken a lot of discipline and determination to stop the inevitable and I had neither.   
After many complaints and hearing me bemoan the poor design of the pantry, Larry finally heard my pleas.     It also helped that my niece, Rebecca, recently got a makeover to her pantry, a storage place in her kitchen of very similar design to mine.     And what was the solution that turned the black hole (hers and mine) into better storage places for our family larder?     Pull out drawers that sit atop the shelves, thus making things at the back, easily accessible to even a shorty like me.     Yes, there are limitations to this solution, but all in all, we're pretty happy with the way this modification turned out.  

Larry started the process by measuring the shelves and door opening of the pantry.    Then he went to the local building supply company where he found the drawers at a very seasonable price, made out of real wood---Italian Oak!    Then we unloaded the food inside the pantry and discovered before he could do anything else, he would need to paint the walls and shelves.   (He actually asked me if I wanted him to do that!)  Who knew that cans and boxes could leave so many black marks on the walls and shelves?     A quick two coats of an off-white paint to the dingy walls and shelves and he was ready to install the drawers.    
Making measurements and marks for drawer guides

                                     Two coats of paint to cover the black scuff marks.

Next he had to put the runners on the drawers and then make the appropriate marks on the shelves to determine where he needed to screw the runners in place.      Then it was just a matter of installing the drawers in the guide-runners.
                                           One drawer installed----three more to go!

Once that was done, it became apparent that the small vinyl covered shelves that hold boxes and bottles of spices on the inside of the door would no longer fit inside the pantry without butting up against the newly installed drawers.     OK, so we didn't think of everything.     That meant moving them up or down slightly so they would fit correctly.    Problem solved at no extra expense.    

The pantry looked nice after I started putting things back inside.     I am still adjusting and figuring out the most logical way to have the food inside, but so far, I am very happy since I can pull out the drawers and actually SEE what is there.      There are spaces along side each drawer where I can put more food and will use those for things like cans of tomatoes that I usually keep in quantity.    I also have put some taller bottles of things like catsup and vinegar that are too tall for the drawers but fit nicely along the sides.

Checking out the contents of the pantry is much easier now.

                                           Drawers pull out so the contents are easily seen.

                                        For right now, things are pretty neat and tidy!

Oh and one other thing.    After Larry put the door back up and the drawers were loaded, shelves filled with the food necessary to keep our kitchen open, I shut the door.    Or at least I tried.   One last little glitch jumped into our faces----the door knob bumped into the drawer directly across from where it entered the pantry.    I was somewhat stumped with what to do about that problem.     Larry took one look, went to his tool box and retrieved a screw driver.  Before long he had the whole problem solved.     Since this is a pantry and no one will ever be on the inside, hoping to get out, he simply removed the inside knob.   Duh, now why didn't I think of that?  The door shuts, doesn't hit the drawer and all is well.     Yay for people like Larry who can see the problem and instantly know what to do to fix it!    And thanks, Larry, for fixing this black hole!

                                         No need for a knob on the inside of the pantry!
So this was one more step in finding the good life. It's amazing how much a little thing like improving storage can raise your mood and make your kitchen a happier place. This entire project took less than two days to complete. It could have been done in a day if we had not had to wait on the paint to dry for a second coat. If you have one of these black holes at your house, I urge you to consider installing some pull out drawers so that the contents can no longer go into hiding, never to be discovered until 3 years after their expiration date!   

                 A happy Marcia inspects the inside of the reformed and transformed pantry.

Happy Trails to you in your search for the good life!



  1. I love your "new" pantry, Marcia! When we moved into our roughly 75-year-old house in July, I thought I had hit the jackpot with the pantry, which had been a powder room in a previous life (the toilet drain was still there to prove it). Unfortunately, all we have for storage is some metal shelves that don't quite fit the narrow space, and I have to climb over bags of dog food to get to the back. I have some plans, though. It feels good to organize, doesn't it? I also enjoy the occasional purging, and for that reason we no longer have much in our junk drawer. :-)

  2. Marcia, my pantry is exactly like yours was before drawers installation. I chuckled all the way through reading the blog and I'm still chuckling. Drawers. We could have installed drawers!!! Duh! Why didn't we think of that? I often sent black thoughts to the builder of our house. How can anyone of supposedly sound mind build a four bedroom house with such a tiny pantry. He/she definitely was not a person who liked to cook. May he eat many meals of rancid oats and petrified raisins.
    Love your pantry renovation.

  3. Wow that looks good Marcia. Now you can find what you want. Good job Handyman.


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