A few days ago I did a post kind of lamenting the fact that, almost two years into this Manse-ownership business, Raymond and I have not managed to make a lot of progress on getting the needed (and wanted) renovations done. Mind you, we have some reasonably good excuses for that, as the post noted – and as some readers were kind enough to point out in follow-up comments. But still.
I do want you to know, though, dear readers, that we are not doing nothing. For one thing, there is a lot of day-to-day maintenance and cleaning required in a house like the Manse. For another, there are small things taking place that don’t count as renovations or “maintenance and cleaning” that wouldn’t mean much to anybody else, but do to us. Things like getting some piles or boxes of books sorted out and onto bookshelves, or moving kitchenware and other household items from Montreal to here, and actually finding places to put them. Small things, but they make the Manse increasingly comfortable for us to live in.
I have to say that Raymond is better at getting that incremental stuff done than I am. (Actually he’s better at most things than I am.) But every now and then I get a notion in my head, and then – look out!
A few days before Christmas, my notion was to finally clean out – I’m talking serious scrubbing here – the Manse’s pantry to make it a lot more serviceable. We’ve spent almost two years with all the foodstuffs that weren’t refrigerated or in tins parked in covered plastic bins, because there was no way they were going into the kitchen cupboards until that scrubdown happened. Which meant that the plastic bins took up all kinds of precious space in that tiny pantry, making it even more annoying to work in than it actually had to be.
(To go off on a tangent for a moment: I would give almost anything to know what the layout of the Manse’s ground floor was when it was built in 1888. I am pretty sure that the pantry would have been used for what a pantry is supposed to be used for, i.e. storage of foodstuffs – as opposed to what it became sometime in the middle of the 20th century [around the time my family moved here], which was a place for storage of foodstuffs and food preparation and cleanup – because the tiny pantry was where they decided to install the electric stove and the indoor plumbing and sink for washing the dishes. Now don’t get me wrong: my family was then, as Raymond and I are now, grateful for an electric stove and indoor plumbing. But the tiny pantry may not have been the ideal place for them. And now that the washing machine has also been moved into the pantry [something that happened between my family’s tenure here in the 1960s and early 1970s, and Raymond and me buying it at the beginning of 2012], things are really crowded in there.)
Anyway: the time had come, and so I started at the very top, discovering into the bargain that the previous occupant had left behind there (at the top, I mean, behind some sliding doors made of repurposed 1970s wood panelling) a collection of styrofoam trays and aluminum pie plates and plastic containers – mercifully washed, though by this time having collected a lot of dust. Presumably they were intended at one point for the recycling bin, so why they were stored in a place that you had to use a ladder to get to I do not know.
I scrubbed those shelves – and the walls, and the windows, and the countertop, and the sink – like you wouldn’t believe. At the end of the exercise there was a bleachy smell throughout, but at least everything was clean clean clean. And though my back muscles were sore (from stooping down to get into the far reaches of the lower cupboards) I felt an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And once we got foodstuffs and pots and pans and whatnot moved into those cupboards, and into the bargain created all sorts of new space for ourselves in the pantry and larger kitchen area, I felt even better. As, of course, did Raymond.
Those newly cleaned cupboards (which you can see in the photo atop this post) are the cheapest known to humankind, made out of recycled and painted wood panelling and plywood and whatnot. They have got to be replaced in the renovation, and they will be. But for now they are clean and serviceable again. And that means that life just got better at the Manse.