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
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
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
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.
© 2003-2004 Judy Brown