Sunday, June 25, 2006

Fighting for Every Square Inch of This Kitchen

IN WARFARE, TERRITORY IS critical. Control the right stretch of land or sea, and you will increase your chances of victory. Anyone who rents an apartment will recognize this dictum. Encroaching clutter along the borders of an otherwise secured, clean room can quickly flare up in multiple salients, pinning down your efforts and encouraging rubbish to gather along other fronts. Soon you've got open rebellion: stacks of paperbacks tumbling from unstable IKEA shelves, towers of pint soup containers massing for a mad dash to the kitchen floor, dark muttering among the previously docile socks in the laundry basket.

So when you have the chance to secure permanently a slice of turf long thought unassailable, you take it.

Such an opportunity appeared this afternoon in my kitchen. I had removed a wire dish rack temporarily to scour the Rubbermaid drip guard beneath. While this piece rested in the tub with a cap-full of Pine Sol dissolving the built-up scum, I went shopping. Upon my return, I stacked some bagged fresh vegetables between the sink and the wooden rack holding my dinner plates —

— when I noticed that the space wherein said veggies were resting had not existed mere hours before.

I then made the final, crucial connection. The only reason I have the drying rack is because, as one resident, I rarely build up such a huge mound of dirty dishes that I need to resort to the energy and water hog that is my dishwasher. However, the dishwasher is, in essence, a two-tier dish rack. All I would need to do is wash a dish, throw it in there to dry, and luxuriate in the extra space that the old rack had occupied.

Yes, this sounds like a microscopic victory in the vast world of trouble in which we strive. But one of the two problems I have with my current apartment is the layout of the kitchen. The cabinets do not admit boxes over a certain height, and what counterspace there is, one tends to cast into shadow while working because the light is above but behind the main prep space. To liberate another couple of square feet, even with the shameful fact that it took me almost 7 years to realize my mistake, is a wonderful pre-birthday gift. The next one I'd like to unwrap in something considerably less than a near-decade.

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