I’m short. 5’2″, to be exact, which means most things that are on the top shelf of anything – a cupboard, a closet, a bookcase, etc. – are out of my reach. Combine my height with my inherent laziness, and that translates into pretty much any item that is being kept on a top shelf in my house is rarely (or never) being used.
In some instances, this is fine – there are things I have that I do use, just very, very sporadically. When I was recently reading The Joy of Less by Francine Jay, she talks about having “inner” and “outer” circles of stuff – meaning you put your most frequently used stuff in easy reach, and then put the stuff that you only need occasionally in the harder to reach areas. It makes a ton of sense to me, and I’ve been re-evaulating the way we have certain areas of our home set up, and trying to make sure that things in our inner and outer circles actually belong there, or if they need to be switched or permanently removed.
One area in particular I wanted to examine were the shelves above our refrigerator. They are definitely “outer” circle for me – I can’t reach either of them without a stepladder. So anything we keep there needs to be something I don’t use that often. I took a look at what we currently kept in the space:
It’s a lot of stuff, and most of it never gets used. In fact, the doors to that cupboard don’t even shut all the way, because the glassware pushes against them and keeps them slightly ajar. The top shelf is all vases – because most of them are clear, it doesn’t look like a lot, but there are about ten of them, far more than we need. Here they are on the counter:
I didn’t buy any of them myself – most of them came with flower deliveries, and I think a couple were gifts. I’m not sure why I kept so many of them – maybe I had this fantasy that I would be the type of woman who has vases of fresh cut flowers all over her house. I’m pretty sure that the woman who does that has one key factor that I don’t – extra money to blow on fresh cut flowers every week. I know I have pared them down before, but then I’d get flowers again and the collection would creep back up. I actually have two really beautiful crystal vases that we got for our wedding that I keep out on display all the time, and when I get cut flowers, I always put them in those, without even thinking to open the top cupboard and pick from a vase stored there.
The bottom shelf contains a mashup of pitchers, random glass jars, and paper plates/plastic cutlery. Truth be told, we don’t often use pitchers, but they are a good “outer” circle item . When the entertaining need occasionally arises for one, I’m always glad I have them. So I definitely wanted to keep a couple. Two of the nice glass ones were wedding gifts, and are classic and lovely:
But for some reason, we’ve also kept this cheap plastic one we bought before we got married, that is now all cracked and battered:
I also found some random glass containers – I think they were given to Ron as promotional gifts from hotels he’s stayed in and were probably full of candy – here is one of them:
I’m sure I thought they would come in handy someday, but I was surprised to see them when we pulled everything out, which told me how often they actually got used.
I started my paring down process with the vases -I knew I needed to come up with a maximum number to keep, and I decided that magic number was four. Counting the two vases I already use that are always out, that would give me a total of six. I couldn’t imagine ever having more than about six vases on display in our house at any one time – we’d run out of mantle/table space. These four are my favorites, and the ones I decided to keep:
Then I went through the stuff from the bottom shelf, tossing the cracked pitcher, and a lot of the unused random glassware. I put our most beautiful and useful items back in, and voila – the doors shut all the way! I can see every single thing we have at a glance, and it’s all stuff that I know will get used – maybe only once and while, but for an “outer circle” storage space, it’s perfect.