We do not go through life alone. We are born with a few friends who guide and support us through this journey. My friend Conscience has been with me since childhood. She has a tendency to be a killjoy, but she has kept me out of lots of trouble over the years.

When my first child was born, Intuition joined our posse. She connected my heart to my stomach. She tends to keep me up nights now and again, but she knows her stuff. I really should trust her more. A new friend has been creeping up on our group like mold on leftover food wedged behind the chardonnay on the bottom shelf of the fridge. We call her Wisdom.

The whole gang joined me just last week to tackle the pantry. Conscience had been on my case for a while, noting our kitchen closet was in disarray and getting dangerously close to becoming a health hazard. Conscience can be so dramatic at times.

Then again, the pantry floor had slowly been converted into a storage shelf rendering me unable to reach the tuna. Also, on several recent shopping trips, Intuition kept telling me we already had diced tomatoes and paper towels, but I still added them to our cart.

When Wisdom chimed in with her arguments about organization, efficiency and money savings, I finally gave in and we began the daunting task of cleaning out the pantry. Our first plan of attack was to pull everything out.

An hour after we started emptying, I grew concerned that this task might actually be impossible. The more we took out, the more we found. Could our pantry actually be the bottom of a black hole into which another universe’s collection of junk had been sucked?

Conscience, Intuition and Wisdom rolled their eyes at the thought. As for me, I just kept pulling out food, appliances, doo-dads and whatnots and obsessively organizing in an attempt to keep my irrational black hole thoughts at bay.

All my baking supplies were placed on a table and arranged by type and size. Pots and pans we no longer use but could give to our kids should they ever move out were stacked on the dining room table. Paper products covered the kitchen counters.

When my family adds items to our household shopping list, Conscience and I tend to blindly purchase said products. But as I stacked bags of marshmallows next to a tissue box tower, Intuition pointed at my piles and screamed, "I told you so!"

Intuition and Conscience scoffed as I created several stacks of miscellaneous, mismatched items for which I might someday find a use. They called my stacks hoarding starter kits.

A couple of hours into our pantry ordeal, Wisdom, who had been quietly observing, began to speak. She gently mentioned that if people in my household could not physically see something within three seconds of glancing at the pantry, they sincerely believed we were out and needed more.

Wisdom added that my family members also don’t have time in their hectic schedules to move the peanut butter aside to see if a new bottle of ketchup might be behind it. Therefore, she suggested some reorganization of the pantry upon reassembly.

After Conscience and I finished cleaning and sanitizing the emptied shelves and bare floor, Intuition and Wisdom pitched in with the redesign. All our food was stored on open shelves. My family can now plainly see all non-perishable, edible food items.

We had only one bag of trash in the aftermath. It contained empty wrappers and non-perishable foodstuffs that did, in fact, perish. Wisdom took note that my precious family members have a habit of eating the last packet of ramen noodles and leaving the plastic and cardboard packaging to decompose in the depths of the pantry.

Once the floor was cleared — and thoroughly cleaned thanks to Conscience’s insistence — Intuition mentioned the probability of future clutter. Wisdom pondered while Conscience and I took inventory of all the items that still needed to be moved back into the pantry.

Wisdom suggested a break so we could relax and consider the options. As we sat on the porch and sipped coffee, we came up with a new rule. From that day forward, only items approved by all four of us would be allowed on the pantry floor.

Garnering initial approval were cases of soft drinks and our giant coffee urn. We didn’t really want to store the urn on the floor, but since we have to thoroughly clean it before each of the two times a year we actually use it, we decided it would be fine.

At the end of the day, I wanted to celebrate with a cookie. Conscience suggested a celery stick with hummus. Intuition only wanted a nap. Our new friend mentioned it was time to make supper. We rolled our eyes at Wisdom, ordered take-out and then fell asleep on the couch.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is mickibare@inspiredscribe.com