My Pantry Saga Part 2: Questioning My Thoughts About The Kitchen Pantry

My Pantry Saga Part 2: Questioning My Thoughts About The Kitchen Pantry

He said no. My handyman said no. I knew he wasn’t sold on my brilliant idea to replace my kitchen pantry drawers with shelves, but I didn’t think he would completely reject the project. Oh, but he did.

Some of you may recall Part I of this saga which I wrote about in my post, What I Learned About Love From My Kitchen Pantry Renovation, and all the brain drama I went through deciding to replace my “highly desired” pantry drawers with shelves, which many might consider a downgrade. I ended Part 1 with the handyman leaving my house and – I imagined – heading to the nearest bar to drink his way to a yes.

However, that’s not how this kitchen pantry story played out.

He called me later and told me he’d discussed my project with two interior designers AND an architect, and they all agreed it wouldn’t “work.” He only had one possible solution to the problem – more drawers!! To put a partition down the middle of the pantry and do eight drawers. I explained that although that would solve the problem of having to open both cabinet doors to pull out the drawer, my family would still have to … pull out the drawer.  (He probably thinks I live with aliens.)

Given that eight drawers weren’t an acceptable solution to me, he turned down my project.

I called my mom, because that’s what forty-somethings do when the handyman rejects them, right? After a few moments of self-pity, I recommitted to MY truth. Many people may perceive pull-out shelves as “more valuable” than standard shelves, but that’s just their opinion. I know in my heart they are not more valuable to me.

It’s amazing how one simple thought can cause us hours of spinning.

One thought – “pantry drawers are superior to shelves” – kept me living in kitchen chaos for 15 years. I was trying to make something work for my family that just didn’t work.

And what happens when we finally change those thoughts?

When I changed the thought to “maybe kitchen pantry shelves are better for US” – it opened up a world of opportunity. But changing that thought wasn’t easy.

First, I had to buy into it myself.

(I mean, isn’t it a fact that pantry drawers are better? How can I change a “fact?”) Once I was sold that my new thought was sound – I mean there is no scientific reason pantry drawers are better, it’s just a widely accepted “opinion” – I then had to figure out how to hold on to my new, intentional thought as it kept getting challenged by people.

And here’s the thing: I get to choose my thoughts.

And this is what I realized: My pantry doesn’t work for us. It causes me anxiety. It looks like a hot mess. We waste food because we can’t find it before it expires. My family won’t pull out the drawers. And yes, we will lose some space in the middle of the pantry where shelf space is cut out for easier access to the back, but we can make better use of the vertical space — instead of four drawers, we can have five shelves! It’s inspiring! Shelves ARE better than pantry drawers!

Recommitted to my kitchen pantry mission, I went back to work looking for another handyman.

“I need a handyman who won’t judge me” was how I started one post in a Facebook local mom’s group. I searched Nextdoor for recommendations. I sent out several texts and made numerous calls and finally ONE handyman responded. (I’m going to assume the others were just really busy.)

He took almost a week to come by for the estimate – something that would normally cause me to take him off my list. But I was desperate. When he finally came, I felt relieved. Not only was there finally a handyman back in my kitchen, but he got me. I can’t say he 100 percent agreed that my plan was the best, but he understood my predicament, my vision, and the old adage, “the customer is always right.”

And then I saw what appeared as a good sign – he started sketching and measuring, and asked detailed questions. He did try to propose one giant sideways pull-put pantry. Which I considered…for a moment. But I think it was only because I was feeling weak and exhausted by the whole pantry saga.

I knew I couldn’t give up, I was almost there, I needed to stick to the kitchen pantry mission. Shelves!

When he gave me the price, I felt myself get weak again – but this man was actually, physically in my kitchen discussing my project. And he had properly sketched out MY vision on his notepad. And, most importantly, he was willing to do it. I signed the contract.

The kitchen pantry renovation took weeks, but the shelves finally arrived – and they were a perfect fit, like Cinderella and her glass slipper.

And let me tell you, zero regrets! Even my husband gets it now. Who would have thought that he would actually ENJOY our new pantry? He can find everything easily, can neatly put things away. He even put the groceries he bought straight into the pantry (rather than throwing them on the counter like he usually does)!

And this my friends, is where the moral of my story lies.

Expectations and judgments and societal norms mean little. (I won’t say nothing – because, seriously, who are we kidding? I mean, we’re all invested in the debate about whether fanny packs are or aren’t cool – and until it’s decided only the brave will wear one in public.)

But in all seriousness, there are subjective views that we hold on to as fact. How much time do spend judging ourselves and others on what’s good and bad, based on arbitrary opinions that have simply gained traction?

What if we question those thoughts and decide if they actually serve us?

What if we let go of expectations that nine-year-olds (or heck 48-year-olds) shouldn’t cry, a “good” mom serves a hot home-cooked meal every night, a clean house is a symbol of having it together, or that kitchen pantry drawers are better than shelves.

What if we let go of some of that noise that, whether we realize it or not, puts unnecessary pressure on our already weighted shoulders?

There shouldn’t have been so much mind drama around my pantry. Want shelves? OK. Easy. But that’s not how it works, and going through this process, I was reminded how many “pantries” we have mental battles with every day.

Maybe if we can be more aware of all the “shoulds” that we let affect us each day, we can find a little relief and spend our energy on the stuff that really matters – like making sure there’s enough dark chocolate hidden in my new kitchen pantry.

My Pantry Saga Part 2: Questioning My Thoughts About The Kitchen Pantry PIN

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Janell Bitton
Janell is a mom of two teenage girls and a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Parent/Life Coach. She is passionate about helping parents learn new ways to address their ongoing parenting challenges through her business, Parent2Parent ( Janell grew up in Los Angeles and received a BA in Sociology from UC San Diego. After college she moved (with no job!) to Boston where she began a career in public relations and met her future husband on the T (the subway). Now a resident of Mission Viejo, and a few years away from being a full-time empty-nester, Janell keeps busy with her family, her business and as a volunteer for various groups including Lion’s Heart Teen Service organization and Capistrano Valley High School. Janell is an avid traveler, enjoys cooking (more specifically eating), reading, photography, dance and is a musical theater geek. You can follow her at: and