Where did they PUT everything?!

My kitchen was 11′ x 7’6″ as built. At some point (my guess is the 50s) the most pathetic addition ever was built, extending it to 15’6″ x 7’6″ and giving it two cantankerous casement windows in addition to the one original double-hung.

Into this tiny space there would have to be put a sink, a stove, and an icebox. (The original ice door is still present on the outside of the house, although it’s been plastered and tiled over on the inside. So I know where the icebox was. And the drain for the sink has never been moved either, so I know approximately where that was in the room; likewise I ave noticed a stub of gas pipe in the basement ceiling that leads me to guess at where the stove started out)  The door to the basement is also in the kitchen. All of that leaves very little space for things like storage, or prep space. I’ve often wondered where they put everything. Pots, pans, dishes, dry goods, fresh food…where did it all go? And in this modern world we have a lot more kitchen stuff. My fridge (which is half into the addition space) is probably twice the size the icebox was. I assume the stove was also tiny because of where it was in the room and what stoves were like in 1924.

(Actually, having written all that out, I can now picture the kitchen my house started with: back door-tiny ice box-Hoosier cabinet-window along the south wall with the cellar door next to the window on the west wall with the stove next to that, and then swinging door to the rest of the house-big old cast iron kitchen sink on legs on the north wall, leaving a tiny space for a tiny table and chair between the sink and the stove. All food not stored in the Hoosier or the ice box is in the cellar, and the dishes are in the china cabinet in the dining room.  It’s kind of homey, in a completely dysfunctional workflow sort of way.)

At some point (probably when the addition was added) someone remodelled the kitchen.  The stove was moved to where the icebox was. A counter was added around two walls which contains the sink and cabinets, with more cabinets above. Some time after that a dishwasher was put in in place of one of the cabinets. Leaving me with a huge blind-corner base cabinet that’s mostly impossible to use, one more base cabinet, two drawers, and 5 various sized overhead cabinets, including again a blind corner that’s mostly wasted because it’s so inaccessible. And the space under the sink.

Soon after we moved in, we made the decision to put up a wall of wire shelves across the end of the addition (the east wall). Which gave us a little more storage space at the expense of losing a little floor space and open-feeling and a little of the light from those cantankerous casements (which for those of you trying to draw a complete picture of the room in your head are on the north and south walls at the east end). Since then as room mates have come and gone, each trying to impose their own ideas of what should go where while trying to figure out how to stuff 10 pounds of bananas in a 3 pound sack, that shelf space and the cabinets have become more and more confused until at this point the cabinets and the shelves and the countertop and the rolling cart I added a couple years back to try to help matters are stuffed with…things and there’s still no order. Or prep space.

One of the projects I need to do that started me on this blog is the un-f*cking of the kitchen.  To that end I have acquired a couple of sets of 48×18 wire shelves and set them up in the basement.  Pantry items are being moved onto those shelves.  Seldom-used kitchen appliances as well.  They’re about 1/2 full and a casual glance at the kitchen shows almost no difference.  Except the shelves and counter are no longer packed.  You can see what’s (still) there.  Soon I’ll get more of those shelves and set them up in the basement.  Little by little the kitchen is being emptied of…stuff.  Soon I’ll have space to breathe. And cook.

Then I can assess what needs to actually be kept in the kitchen and what can stay in the basement.

(*spoiler alert*: It’s mostly all staying in the basement.)


A guy in his early 50s, living more or less alone in a 90-year-old house, trying to keep it all together.

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Posted in A place for everything, History
8 comments on “Where did they PUT everything?!
  1. My grandma kept her Kitchen-aid (actually a small Hobart) in the laundry room in the basement. There was not enough counter space in her kitchen for it. She baked a lot. She just brought everything downstairs to mix it.

    • Erik says:

      That sounds horrible.

      My current best idea is to get rid of (move downstairs) the wire shelves that are now in the kitchen and put a stainless steel work table in their place: more work area, but the Kitchenaid would permanently live thereupon. A 5-footer would fit there well with space to put the rolling cart next to it.

      • Tracy says:

        A work table would be great there; especially if it were the type that has a lower shelf or cabinets or drawers (or combinations thereof) for a bit of storage of the various tools and devices one might want to use on that work table.

        A few years ago, using Alton Brown’s advice about what you actually need in a kitchen, I went through my entire kitchen and deleted probably a third or more of its non-food contents. Away went all the unitaskers, weird random implements and crap that didn’t work the way I wanted it to work. I invested a few hundred dollars in really really good replacements for the crappy items I tossed despite needing one of those. Nowadays I do the majority of my cooking with one pot, one skillet, half a dozen cutting boards and a knife I want placed lovingly beside me in my casket. Sure, I have other stuff. But everything I have gets used at least once a year, and it all fits comfortably in my kitchen (which admittedly is a helluvalot roomier than yours). I do recommend the purge part of this in any case; like getting rid of the clothes that don’t fit and discovering favorites that had gotten buried, it tends to make you feel like you gained a lot more than you lost.

      • Erik says:

        Yes, much culling will happen. Some is happening as I move things to the basement. More will happen once there is space to see everything. I do need a bit more than “one pan, one skillet, one knife” because of certain other projects, but things that clearly don’t meet my needs (for instance a plastic colander, made by Tupperware, that as far as I can recall has not been used since it was acquired) are already on the way out. The table I’m picturing is much like this table, although that particular one might turn out to be too deep to fit in that space and leave room to stand; 30″ is pretty wide compared to the space available…and so am I, these days.

  2. Tracy says:

    Sure. As I said, I *have* a lot more stuff than the skilet/pot/knife setup that I use daily. One must be able to bake, for lord’s sake. The main thing is to get rid of all the stuff that seems to accumulate in the nooks and crannies because of the “out of sight, out of mind” problem (or whatever that weird pathology is that we humans seem to have that leads us to accumulate stuff and rarely re-evaluate its usefulness).

    Do you still have all the fancy china? Seems to me getting rid of some or all of that would reclaim a ton of cabinet space if you haven’t already. Heck, you might even net some cash if you sold it to Replacements Ltd. or one of those sort of outfits.

  3. Erik says:

    I do still have all the fancy china. I have ideas of dinner parties, still. It will get moved to the basement soon, though. As soon as I come up with a way to protect it down there; wire shelves are sturdy and stable, but they do wobble a little…more than cabinets, anyway.

  4. […] I said, I have these overhead cabinets that have an inaccessible blind corner. I’ve thought about […]

  5. Star Straf says:

    We have those exact shelves in the basement storage room – 5 of them.
    1 is bulk buying of paper goods and other non food items storage and appliances not used monthly (Bread maker, deep fryer)
    1 is bulk buying of food items
    1 is half bug out bag / storm survival other half formal serving / china, and informal odd serving items (old bar back that we use for taco nights)
    1 is kitchen items not used monthly – Chicago deep dish pan, Chicken roaster, lasagna pan
    1 is bulk buying of soda to stock gamer fridge

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