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Organize Your China Cabinet

by Judy Brown
May 18, 2001

I decided it was time to do an in-depth purge and cleaning of my china cabinet. When we moved into our new home a couple of years ago, one of the features that attracted me was the wall-to-wall china cabinet in the dining room.

Wow, after years of living in mobile homes and cramming my dishes into the kitchen cupboards, I was finally able to display some of my old china and other fancy dishes. I have quite a few nice pieces that I inherited from my grandmother who came to Canada from England in the early 1900's.

They looked wonderful on the shelves... well, maybe I should be truthful and admit that my Coronation plate of King George V1 was no longer visible after a few months. Somehow over the past two years, I filled the cabinet to overflowing.

The day I decided to clean out the china cabinet started with good intentions. I have to admit, though, that in about four minutes I was considering leaving it to another day. My lovely china cabinet that had provided a home for my antique pieces was filled with odds and ends.

Prominently displayed, for all the world to see, were the wedding favours we got at a friend's daughter's wedding. I know I remember thinking how cute they were on the wedding day and what a nice keepsake they were, but come on now, do I really need to cover up my beautiful china with plastic silver-sprayed wedding favours? Not only did I have the one I saved, but I kept everyone else's, too! So there were four of them stuck in there on top of King George's plate.

I sat down for a coffee.

I decided I would take everything out of the cabinet, one shelf at a time. I set aside everything that was not unique or valuable. By the time I finished with two of the top cupboards, it was plain to see that the china cabinet had become a catchall.

There were quite a few dishes that didn't need to be in there. There were even more things that didn't even need to be in my house! Garage sale treasures that had struck my fancy that had never been used for anything. A huge chip and dip set that I dragged from one house to the next on every move and I can't remember when I ever used it. It had been a gift and was actually rather an ugly thing. I don't even remember who gave it to us.

I got boxes and started one for dishes to give to family members, and one for dishes and ornaments to donate to the thrift shop. If you have garage sales you might start a garage sale box as dishes are something many people look for.

I have to admit, I found it a bit hard to part with some of the contents. I kept all my old things and most of the serving dishes; but I was quite ruthless in getting rid of odd glasses and tea cups. Most of those went to other family members and the rest I donated to a local charity for their yearly sale. The thrift shop got their share as well.

After taking out the china, I wiped down the inside from top to bottom. While the cupboard was airing out, I washed everything by hand in the sink, dried it well and put the things I wanted to keep back on the shelves. I must say it does look good, and I feel much better now that I can enjoy looking at nice tidy shelves with only the nicest things displayed.

Parting with the excess china was the hardest part of the cleaning and organizing job; but now everything I have looks much nicer and I can find what I want very quickly. I plan on doing this every six months. Hopefully, it won't become a catchall again.

Tips for storing your china

When stacking plates, always put something between them. I use a large coffee filter. It prevents the finish from being damaged. Many old dishes are hand painted and sliding a plate on top of another can scratch the paint. You can also use paper towels but I find that the round coffee filter is just perfect.

If you have matching sets of stemmed wine glasses, arrange them on the shelf so one is turned up and the one next to it is upside down. This allows for the glasses to fit together and you can store more of them this way. Consider getting a fitting for the top inside 'ceiling' of your cupboard like they have in bars where the bottom of the stem of the wine glass can be slid in to hang upside down, thereby freeing up shelf space below.

Speaking of wine, can you believe there were about 10 corks saved in a jar? You know, of course, that they never fit any other bottle so I don't know why I was saving them - out they went.

Shortly after I tossed them out I came across a web page that has all sorts of innovative ideas for making things with corks. (I was relieved to see I was not the only person with this fetish.) You really should go and take a look at Cork's: What To Do With Them and find out how to use corks to do everything from fixing the plumbing to decorating your Christmas tree.

While you're there, be sure to check out the page that has helpful hints for choosing wine glasses and cleaning them.

Copyright 2003-2004 Judy Brown