There's nothing like the hint of a cool snap in the air, the ground gaining a carpet of golden leaves, and the general clunk swish of the central heating kicking in after a few months' leave of absence to get my thoughts turning to the inside of the house and to the joys of cosy evenings curled up with curtains drawn and candles burning.
Forget Spring Cleaning (Why not? I usually do); the weather starts to turn and suddenly neglected corners of my house start crying out for attention. Well, that, the prospect of visitors, and the fact that I could no longer open the pantry cupboard without dodging falling tins and flour-bombs. The realisation that with our new streamlined rubbish collection system (rationed to one wheelie bin a fortnight for general rubbish and one for recycling; interesting with two girls who can between them produce a vast amount of medically-based waste) I will no longer be able to sling out an extra couple of binliners whenever I do have a general sort out was a good motivator too. So, I gathered the essential tools of the trade, and made a start.
One box for the inevitable duplicates; cunningly providing us with cans for Harvest Festival on Sunday too. One bag for hopelessly out of date or else unbearably sticky stuff (there was an unfortunate incident involving a packet of ground ginger, a jar of marmalade and a box of rice cakes longer ago than I care to admit, considering some of the debris remains welded to the shelving and to anything which sits near it), and fuel for yours truly.
Half a shelf down, I'm finding packets with a best before date of 2005. Not great, but hey, flour doesn't really go off does it? I think the powdered milk might have had it though.
And this one is particularly worrying, considering we didn't move here until 2003. Why on Earth did I feel the need to bring out-of-date foodstuffs with me?
I'd allowed myself a generous ten minutes per shelf - bin, donate, or dump on the side, wipe down the shelf and replace. Four shelves, forty minutes?
Four hours later, two bin liners full of the rejects, one box containing eight cans of tuna, three of condensed milk and very little else, the shelves looked more like this.
That's better. And very nearly neatly organised. All the food about to expire neatly stacked towards the front. And a determination to be a better steward, and to use the short-dated stuff first. Of course this means we're going to be eating eleven packets of chicken noodle soup, livened up with some tasty suet dumplings, and finishing every meal with tinned mandarins, but that's balanced, right?