I was supposed to be doing the vacuuming and laundry and dishes–the normal cleaning that makes the house livable. And the house needed a good cleaning. It had been a busy week.

But though I don’t even remember opening the cabinets or walking into the pantry area, the next thing I knew, I was taking everything off the shelves and working toward a serious purge.

The cabinets certainly needed a good sorting. I found an unopened box of graham cracker crumbs that I brought with me when I moved into this house. Five and a half years ago. A few bags and boxes had just a quarter cup or less of oatmeal or couscous. New boxes had long since been bought and opened, these scraps left to take up space and create clutter.

And really, how many four-year-old tea bags does a person need?

But my cabinets also were loaded with things I don’t eat anymore: boxes of lasagna noodles and jars of honey and powdered drinks that could be added to water. If it has gluten or animal protein or sugar or soy or dairy or preservatives, I don’t eat it.

I nearly cried as I considered what to do with it all. All the good stuff went back in the cabinet, of course. I was amazed how easily it all fit and how organized it all looked. Everything with a past due expiration date went into the garbage, along with a few things that just didn’t look too good. I gave away a few items that I can’t eat. And a few baking items – some wheat flour, organic sugar, semi-sweet chocolate chips – they went back in the cabinet to use for baking for others.

I repeated the process with the refrigerator, throwing out condiments I couldn’t remember buying and containers of leftovers I should never have saved. I even cleaned out the medicine cabinet and my stock of natural cleaning supplies, not wanting the momentum of a fresh start to end in the kitchen.

When it was all over, and I was just left with the ordinary dirt and clutter that stacks up in a week, I felt free, relieved even. It meant this new lifestyle I have chosen is really happening. Having a clean, organized supply area makes it easier to prepare meals, working with what I can eat rather than working around what I can’t.

But it also meant that a lot of the temptation is gone, at least in the place where I eat the most. Though I’ve tried to see this adjustment as a challenge and have done well with new habits and new recipes, sometimes I just want a pizza or hamburger or a chocolate chip cookie.

So much of who I am revolves around food. Making such a drastic change has threatened my identity and has even caused me to question how I relate to others and how I give gifts and make meals for friends.

But the more I learn, the more I am convinced. And cleaning my cabinets felt a whole lot like the old me embracing a new change for the better.


After writing about my dietary changes in a recent blog post, several people asked questions and commented about their own attempts to make changes in their diet. As a result, I wanted to share one resource that I have found to be extremely helpful in understanding the basics of a healthy diet. The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health was revolutionary in my thinking about food and diet.

And, if you are considering a diet with no animal protein, gluten, dairy, sugar, soy, or preservatives consisting primarily of vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts, take courage. It is possible. I am going to occasionally post photos, meal plans, links, and recipes to encourage us all.