I cannot believe I'm writing this (a post about home improvement)

One of the things that often occurs when we have one of those utter rarities - a completely free weekend - is that my husband and I get very excited about improving our home, mostly concentrating on what seems to be the most popular theme in modern-day culture: decluttering. 

And decluttering feels great, especially when you have kids who bring roughly 400 extremely special and important new belongings in with them every time they enter the house, like a barette one of their buddies clipped in their hair at school, even though we have discussed on numerous occasions the topic: "Please, I am begging you, do not share hair stuff at school."

Or maybe it's a weird little structure handcrafted from paper and decorative tape, and your son explains that it's a present for you to open...that he made himself! So you go to open it but you are not opening it in the right way, and then you have ruined everythng. Everything. 

Yes. Decluttering, and ridding your home of these once-crucial-now-forgotten items, is wonderful. 

But this weekend, inspired by a few design sites I'd been exploring, I decided it would be fun to take on a project that would provide a more immediate and heightened sense of joy than the dutiful act of decluttering. I had a little time to myself while J and the kids were outside and the baby was napping. So, intoxicated by the prospect of an hour alone in my home with nothing to do, I went into our kitchen to start on an idea I had. 

We have an open, recessed pantry-type area between our kitchen and our dining room, where we've always kept food. I don't mind the food being on display, exactly (although I have found myself hiding junk food in the back over the years, placing things like a five-year-old box of red quinoa at the front although it is a staple in our diet, hilarious). But pasta boxes and plastic bags of pretzels are most certainly not the most lovely things we own.

And because we live in a small space where every detail makes a difference, and because I'm a grownup, and grownups are allowed to occasionally be deeply affected by superficial things like sprucing up their homes, I decided, "Enough with this pantry being messy but useful. I want it to MAKE ME HAPPY."  

So I took all the food out and put it in the smaller cabinet by the stove. 

Then I took all the plates and bowls, mugs, glasses and cookbooks I love the most and put them on the shelves in the pantry. 

Then J came in and he thought it looked awesome, but that painting it might make it even better.  

So I went out and bought bright turquoise paint, and he got to work. 

The result: a once cluttered and stress-inducing space turned bright and joyful. Plus, it makes a lot more sense to keep the food in the cabinet that is actually IN the kitchen, adjacent to the stove.

Also, by displaying only the nice-looking and healthy items, like the fruit, we are way more likely to eat that stuff. Experts are always going on about this, and I never believe them. Like, "Oh, ok, so what you are saying is that if I want to eat all the leftover Easter candy, but there is an apple out in a bowl, I am more likely to eat the apple, which will fulfill my craving for sweets with its natural sugars?" 

Well, actually, in that case, no, I am still going to find the candy buried in whatever cabinet or drawer. But still, hiding the less healthy options does work at least sometimes. 

 Should we have realized all this sooner? Eight years ago when we moved in, perhaps? Sure. There are so many home projects that fit that category, like how we probably should have fenced in the backyard right away, or added a screen to the sliding glass door to give us extra breeze during the height of summer, minus the threat of mosquitoes. 

But thanks to our procrastination, we now have a whole bunch of home improvement projects to look forward to, for instance, fixing the bathroom doorknob so that it doesn't fall off every couple of months, which is, crazy enough, something we've come to accept as part of normal life. And which might be why I find it so soothing to be in public bathroom stalls that lock, which is decidedly a not-totally-normal feeling.