Who I am… plus the dilemma of open shelving.

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open kitchen shelving

It’s my pleasure to introduce myself here at Clean My Space. I’m a writer and editor, and I met Melissa last year, when a literary agent paired us up with the goal of translating her vision into a book.

Those who know me well laughed at this bit of news, that I would be working on a cleaning book. See, I do know how to write and edit, but I know almost nothing about cleaning. Full disclosure: To illustrate my cleaning cluelessness, my husband will occasionally quote me, from the first time I used a broom in my late twenties (I know): “This thing really works!” He is the neat one in our relationship. We have a professional clean our house twice a month, but he does much of our cleaning and organizing otherwise. I have come a long way from those carefree days when I was in my twenties, since we now have 3 kids, and kids are the ultimate taste-of-your-own-medicine for slobs. So I am a lot cleaner and more efficient than I used to be, but I’m always looking for ways to improve. I look forward to sharing bits of my learning curve with you here, and I hope my family will still want to live with me as I air out our literal dirty laundry.

A few years ago, we moved into a new house, that had open shelving in the kitchen. You know what I’m talking about—this kind of biz:

open shelving

At first, I thought of them as sort of faddish; but pretty soon after moving in, I was in love with them. I discovered that I could empty out the dishwasher in about 3 minutes, and with none of that post-earthquake look of all the cabinet doors being open at once. It was quick and quiet. Even my babysitters loved them—they never had to search behind cabinet doors to find the cups and dishes they needed, since everything was right there in view.

So in the spirit of trying to improve my habits incrementally à la Melissa Maker, and being honest here, I’ll tell you: Since moving in 2 1/2 years ago, I’m not sure we have ever dusted them. The cups and plates themselves are clean—I vowed to only put things here that got used constantly, since I hated the idea of all the stuff on these shelves getting dusty. But still, the truth is that there was quite a bit of dust settled on the shelves beneath the stuff, and that couldn’t be good for the cleanliness of our dishes.

“Have we ever cleaned this?” I asked my husband. “No,” he said. “You’re short, so you can’t see it, but it’s gross up here.”

Therefore, I decided it was time to clean them. The shelves are painted with glossy latex paint—much like a baseboard. I knew from working on the book that attacking dusty baseboards with a wet cloth would be bad news—the dry dust would transform into wet, clingy dust, and become even more of a nuisance to get off. So I started with a dry microfiber cloth first, which removed much of it. I then sprayed them down with Melissa’s diy all-purpose cleaner (love that stuff) and wiped them down once again. Another full-disclosure: I am short and clumsy, and my husband is tall and graceful, so once he saw what I was up to, he took care of that top shelf for me. For other shrimpy-statured owners of high open shelving, I recommend a good step ladder and a pal to spot you while you’re working on them.

We did discover that some of the dishes on the bottoms of the stacks had dusty rims, so I gave those a scrub with hot, soapy water. Then we put everything back, and it looked great! The good news is that once you’ve done it, you can ignore them again for a long while. Hopefully not as long as 2 1/2 years, though!

Lesley Porcelli
Lesley Porcelli is a writer, editor, and recipe developer who has written and edited for many print and online magazines and books, including Allrecipes, Family Circle, Fine Cooking, foodnetwork.com, Saveur and Martha Stewart Living. She also collaborated with Melissa Maker on her book, Clean My Space. She lives in Syracuse, New York with her family.

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