How to live through your kitchen remodel

By Helen Ellis

Here’s what nobody tells you about redoing your kitchen: it’ll never be perfect and you’ll eat like an indiscriminate teenager. The sooner you accept this, the easier living through your kitchen renovation will be. But first things first: out with the old. Purge. Empty your cabinets of all that’s expired. Did you marry your husband with that cinnamon? Dump the old spice. Get rid of outdated saltines and soup, half boxes of taco shells and duplicate Jif. You’ll never make tea from all those tea bags. Those sprinkles have stuck. Your olives have grown eyelashes. Now weed your utensils. You don’t need two garlic presses, two salad spinners or two ice cream scoops. No, you do not. That spatula is half-melted. That bread knife is duller than your great-grandma’s nut cutter. Yes, the cliché’ is that there’s nothing duller than watching paint dry, but when you at long last see paint dry in your kitchen, you will be thrilled. Pack your dishes and glasses. You think you’ll continue to set the table and eat like civilized adults while your kitchen is out of order. You tell yourself you’ll handwash your Fiestaware in the bathroom sink. You’ll roast baby carrots over candlelight. No, you will not. Be realistic: you’ll eat on the coffee table in front of Family Feud. Be optimistic: every meal is a picnic. Be romantic: these are your salad days. “Salad days” means eating potato chips and a pound of Brie off baguettes. And then ordering pizza. Or fried chicken. Buy plastic cups and paper plates. Don’t bother with knives or sporks because all food is now finger food. Plug your fridge into a living room outlet. Say goodbye to decorum and company. There is no reason to entertain while your kitchen is plastic-wrapped like a UFO contamination site. Enjoy your privacy. It’s just you and yours-and two to four construction workers at any given time. Don’t panic. When workmen take hatchets to your old cabinets with the gentility with which Jack Nicholson went at Shelly Duvall’s bathroom door in The Shining, don’t scream and swing a baseball bat like Shelley Duvall did in The Shining. Say thank you and offer them bottled water from your living room fridge. Pony up. Order your dream fridge to replace your old fridge that is now your living room fridge that came with the old kitchen and hums like a weird dentist. Order your dream oven to replace the one you have to sweet talk to preheat. Order your dream dishwasher to replace the one that rocks like a dryer with sneakers inside. The thing is: you will not remodel your remodeled kitchen for a very long time, if ever again. So don’t scrimp on appliances that you use every day. You don’t need a fancy Sub-Zero fridge with a built-in TV and nanny cam, but if you want a custom-colored cherry-red refrigerator for an extra couple hundred dollars, you buy it. Be patient. When your dream cherry-red refrigerator is delivered and does not fit through the kitchen door, take the doors off the fridge. When it still doesn’t fit because the ice maker hookup sticks out like a hitchhiker’s thumb, don’t let go of your dream. Adjust your expectations: saw off the nub, you’ll make your own ice. Adjust your attitude: embrace the surreal. Buy ice trays with molds in shapes of goldfish and Legos, dentures and brains. This will lure party-goers back to your parties. It will also make the construction workers a little nervous about you. Be practical. Cooking is messy. No matter how careful you are in your new kitchen, splatter happens. You’ll drop a meatball and then you’ll step on that meatball. And sticky fingers ain’t just a Rolling Stones album. So, choose glossy wall paint instead of flat because Mr. Clean’s magic eraser is so magical. Terra cotta floors are harder to clean than a crime scene. And stainless steel gets scratched. I know this because I’ve made such mistakes. And here’s what else nobody tells you about redoing your kitchen: you’ll make mistakes. You thought you’d use that under-the-sink Rubbermaid trash can on a trolley. You thought you’d stack condiments on stackable shelves. You don’t like eggs, so why did you let the salesperson convince you to get custom-made egg drawers for our fridge? The sooner you forgive yourself (and buy an 8-gallon step-on steel trash can and multiple lazy Susans, and start storing Chinese’ delivery duck sauce packets in your egg ovals), the easier enjoying your new kitchen will be. Helen Ellis is the author of the short story collection Southern Lady Code. She tweets every day @WhatIDoAllDay. kitchen remodel

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