The Chalkboard Refrigerator: A Cautionary Tale

December 11, 2012

by Alissa Lively

In an effort to streamline my kitchen and simply my life, I decided to look for a way to consolidate as many lists and to-dos as possible in one space. Since our kitchen/dining room combo is definitely where we spent the most time, it seemed like a natural choice for a command center. Enter: The Refrigerator.

I know using your refrigerator as a central information-storing unit is not novel in any way. But I had a brilliant idea: Why not a chalkboard refrigerator? Everything would be located in one place, and it would be less visually cluttered without magnets and random scraps of paper. Genius! Or at least I thought — but apparently 7 million other people have already had that bright idea.

Once again, my novel idea was not so novel, but what the heck, I decided to do it anyway. Unfortunately, I’m still a renter, and I didn’t have the guts to ask my landlord if they would mind if I, ahem, painted their refrigerator. I thought my project was stymied until I had another brainwave: chalkboard contact paper.

A day full of trying to line up six-foot-long sheets of sticky-backed paper may not appeal to most sane people, but I love that kind of precise, meaningless toil. My day with it was great: I removed the handles from the fridge and was able to cut holes in the contact paper around the hardware mounts. Getting around the water dispenser was a little trickier, and it has the mistakes to prove it. I dream about repapering that side one day, but the stress of the imperfections will have to build up for a while longer before I actually gird my loins and do it.

Once the fridge was papered and the handles replaced, we “seasoned” our oversize chalkboard. If you don’t season a chalkboard by rubbing it all over with chalk and then erasing it, you’ll experience “ghosting” — when the original chalk lines drawn on the board never fully erase. (It’s kind of a bummer, which we learned firsthand with the girls’ easel.) After the seasoning was done, I made a calendar to keep our family’s activities mapped out in one place. At first I tried it with a chalk marker, but switching the months got to be frustrating when I would accidentally erase the calendar itself. So I changed the frame of the calendar to electrical tape, which lets me erase every month with impunity.  Now, the upper half of my command center stores all of our appointments, parties, and adventures in one place, as well as most of my lists (grocery, Target, books to read, movies to watch).

There has, however, been a downside to my genius. The lower half of the fridge has been commandeered by several budding artists who don’t quite get the whole “less visually cluttered” aspect of what I was going for. They’re also blissfully unaware of the piles of chalk dust that accumulate on the floor, their clothes, and their little fat feet and hands (and, ergo, the rest of my house). It also makes using the refrigerator difficult when I have little people blocking the doors.

But in spite of the dust and less mobility in the kitchen, our chalkboard refrigerator has not only consolidated our family information but also our family itself. I didn’t think that our kitchen could be any more central, but with the babies headed for the chalk at any lull in the day, they’re almost always around. And though making dinner around the pile of children can get tricky, it’s nice that we can be together at that particularly stressful time of day without totally driving each other crazy. They all draw and chatter while Dan and I cook and decompress from the day. It’s a far cry from when they were previously banished to another part of the house altogether. I suppose I can deal with a little chalk dust here and there in exchange for a little more peace.

What about you? Have any of your projects had unexpected benefits or downsides?

Images: Alissa Lively

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