Suzanne Tobias: Cleaning out the cupboards makes you want to stomp your feet and clap your hands

09/11/2013 12:00 AM

09/10/2013 3:13 PM

We moved into our house nearly five years ago.

A terribly-timed flu bug left my husband a feverish, snoring heap atop the bare mattress on our bedroom floor, so friends swooped in to help me unpack books, clothes, kitchen supplies and assorted miscellany.

At some point that evening, I recall tossing armloads of stuff into laundry room cabinets – which are, to the previously storage-deprived, what a sharp knife would be to a chef with a spork – and pledging to sort it all out in the morning. The next day, as you probably guessed, there were more important things to do. Like finding flu meds.

Fast-forward a few years, during which those cabinets were cleared just enough to store laundry detergent and dryer sheets, rearranged just long enough to find the dog brush, and you have the makings of an anthropological odyssey.

I set out on the quest last weekend. Figuring there might be something of value in the deep recesses of those cabinets, I carried a big plastic tub marked “YARD SALE” to the laundry room, set it on the floor and opened the first cabinet door.

Oh! That’s where all our Sandra Boynton board books went!

A hog and a frog do a dance in a bog.

But not the hippopotamus.

A cat and two rats are trying on hats.

But not the hippopotamus.

A moose and a goose together have juice …

Gosh, I love this book. I love it nearly as much as … What was that other one? The one we read – er, sang – every night when Hannah was 4 and Jack was 1? Oh, here it is!

Stomp your feet! Clap your hands!

Everybody ready for a Barnyard Dance!

Bow to the horse, bow to the cow,

Twirl with the pig if you know how …

It took me 20 minutes to reread and restack all the Boynton books – back on the shelf, of course, not in the yard sale box – before moving on to the Jan Brett ones: “The Mitten,” “Hedgie’s Surprise,” “Gingerbread Baby” and “Armadillo Rodeo.”

I knew sifting through the neglected cabinets would take time. I didn’t realize it would be like opening a time capsule, each item blowing dust from a once-forgotten memory: bedtime stories, roller-skating in the driveway, learning Double Dutch with the neighbors and playing Operation. (“The wacky doctors’ game where you’re the wacky doctor! Batteries not included.”)

Not much landed in the yard sale box besides some old bakeware and an almost-new pressure cooker, a gift from my parents before Mom decided to hand down her old German one. It seemed silly to throw the newer one away, so I shoved it into the progressive time capsule along with its recipe and instruction book.

Elsewhere in the cabinets I found decks of cards, craft supplies, jigsaw puzzles, birthday candles, Mason jars with firefly holes and cords to electronics that no longer exist.

I unearthed cookie cutters shaped like the numbers 1 and 2 – too late for any 12th-birthday cookies at our house, but they could come in handy for a 21st. Perhaps margarita flavored?

As household chores go, this one was delightful. I made progress, letting go of some items and relocating others, though the cabinets still house an eclectic mish-mash of our lives. The stuff is stacked a little more neatly, some board games reunited with missing pieces. I’ll get back to it eventually.

If only for another chorus of “Barnyard Dance.”

About Suzanne Tobias

Suzanne writes about family life on Thursdays. She has covered local news for The Eagle since 1990. Suzanne is a native of North Carolina and earned an English degree from North Carolina State University.

Find her on Twitter: @suzannetobias

Contact Suzanne at 316-268-6567 or by emailing her at

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