Today, a credenza is...a type of sideboard used in domestic or restaurant situations. In dining rooms, it is typically made from wood and used as a platform to serve buffet meals (hee hee, mine is used as a platform to hold mail, piles of books and assorted science projects.) In restaurant kitchens, made from stainless steel, it provides a side surface and storage cupboards.
Originally in Italian the name meant belief. In the 16th century the act of credenza was the tasting of food and drinks by a servant for a lord or other important person (such as the pope or a cardinal) in order to test for poison. The name passed then to the room where the act took place, then to the furniture.
The credenza is large. Very large. The dining room is small. Very small. It really doesn't help the cluttered feel of the house at all and it has not ever really functioned as storage for us, as it has been filled with their stuff. Over the years, I have managed to fill in all the blank spaces between their stuff with our stuff. Not surprisingly, it became...well...stuffed. Overflowing, actually. Did you ever watch that PBS Kids show, Zobomafoo? Remember the closet? The credenza was kind of like that closet if you tried to open any of the drawers or cupboards.
When Andy's mom died suddenly so soon after moving here (vascular angiosarcoma is a very nasty cancer and that incredible, Godly woman is missed every day), his dad needed to live with us. That was fine, but the question was what to do with all of their stuff. They had moved here from a large home, assuming they were going to build another large home here. Of course, they never built that home. What to do with all their furniture?
It hasn't been easy. That furniture makes Andy's dad feel at home...or at least sort of at home--as at home as the poor guy can be with ME at the helm of the S.S. Good Housekeeping. So, the credenza, big as it is, stayed.
I swear to you, that thing is a beast. We have to put our smallest kid (who is now adult-sized) on that side of the table because she is skinny enough to squeeze into her chair without having to pull it out all the way. The Beast is in the way, of course, so it doesn't pull out like it should.
We still can't bear to break his dad's heart by removing the credenza, but today I conquered the beast. I started with the drawers. Emptied those suckers. Cleaned them. Tossed out half of their former contents and organized the drawers with useful things, handy things. I made the drawers mine. Boo-yeah. After the drawers, I moved on to the cupboards. Same story.
It took me about two hours, not too bad when I consider the results. Really not that bad. The process was even...gulp...enjoyable. Did I seriously just type that? It was. It was...satisfying. I actually stood at the credenza and opened and closed drawers and cupboard doors several times throughout the day, just to admire their orderliness. Plus, it was great for keeping my kids on track for school, an unexpected benefit. I was busy working right in their presence, so it somehow motivated them to stay busily working, too. Cool, huh? Of course, I know some of you have little ones and this doesn't work at all with them. God bless you, moms of little ones. I have no desire to go back to those days.
After the credenza-formerly-known-as-the-beast was finished, I also tackled the pile of baskets and boxes of junk and general miscellany that had accumulated on the floor on the far side of the behemoth--in the crammed corner of the dining room that no one can really see at first glance.
I borrowed my son's strong back and we moved the credenza down the wall so that hole couldn't fill itself up with crap again.
But then the credenza wasn't centered on the wall. The huge, decorative Asian fan that was a gift from a foreign exchange student (and is actually very pretty) was left hanging out in the middle.
It was time to work on decor.
Beauty in my home has definitely been sacrificed in the last four years for some very specific reasons that I'll get to later this month. For now, let's just say our home has become a little ugly--and not just from the clutter. I saw the moving of the Beast as a perfect chance to add a little bit of beauty back into the home, at least on the long dining room wall. I moved the fan to be centered over the credenza again and then began to scour the barn and the garage for elements of decor, long forgotten, that might cheer the rest of the wall up. Staying with the world travel theme, I also hung a wood and wicker wall hanging from the Phillipines. Then I found a favorite, a "May God Bless Our Home and Us" hand-carved wooden sign from Papua New Guinea which features their national symbol--a stylized bird of paradise with a drum and spear. Finally, the last bit of design balance was achieved by adding a bright hand-painted ceramic trivet brought to me by a friend who had visited Finland. It looks so nice!
I was inspired.
Back out in the barn, I found my super cool, huge antique canning jars, brought in a few different sizes and filled them with sea shells collected from Florida on our trip there back in March. The shells had been languishing in a plastic pretzel tub in the aforementioned corner of the dining room. They are now so nicely displayed on the fireplace's hearth. Pretty.
Adding beauty to a home is an important part of emerging from the chaos. I really believe that. It creates the kind of vicious cycle that actually works for you; as you see your home as starting to be beautiful, you want it to be more beautiful so you clean and organize more. As you clean and organize, there is more potential for beauty! It's great! Believe in the power of beauty. We were created in the image of the God of the universe, the same God who created the Alps and the Amazon, the streams and the seashores. This is a God who knows and appreciates beauty. We have it in us. It makes a difference in our souls. I believe that with all my heart.
This evening, after returning from my son's filmmaking class again, I couldn't help myself. It took me a little past my stated eight o'clock quittin' time, but I started in on the kitchen junk drawer. You know, the one that can't open and close properly because it has to house all the hot pads and oven mitts in addition to all the normal (and abnormal) kitchen junk. You know, the one that had the box of 800 toothpicks explode in it sometime last year (wish I was exaggerating here), along with the box of matches and the box of 80 birthday candles. In addition to the mess in the bottom of the drawer taking up an extra inch of space, the almost entirely empty boxes of toothpicks, matches and birthday candles were still there, too. I found more than a dozen corn-on-the-cob-holder-things, a huge selection of magic markers, assorted poker chips, those nifty pumpkin carving tools, several rolls of tape (none of which are the type we use most), rubber bands galore, far too many bottle and can openers, a bunch of things I couldn't even recognize, and five thin pads of assorted post-it notes. Oh, and a grimy dime. It was bad, friends.
But not anymore.
It too, is done.
Credenza means belief. And tackling this credenza has cemented my belief that this goal can be accomplished. I believe it.
It was a good day around here, friends. How did your day go? Are you accomplishing things? Are you starting to emerge from your chaos? I'd love to hear about it. Tomorrow I hope to focus on some non-cleaning and organizing tasks--chaos of a different feather. See you then. Journey on.