Left on the shelf

Posted on April 26, 2011

In my kitchen, there is a shelf. I have seen such shelves in other people’s kitchens, usually photographed in glossy interiors magazines. In those pictures, such shelves are clean, horizontal spaces, used to denote the transition from one section of an open-plan space to another, without the need for anything so unsightly as walls. In those pictures, such shelves are adorned with one witty fruit bowl, often overflowing with piles of unseasonal lemons or limes (see left).

In my kitchen, there is a shelf. I know it’s there because I’ve seen it. When we moved in. Since that time, it has been buried under an avalanche of family detritus. Or ‘an eclectic layer of adornment’ if you like the interiors-speak better. Pencils and textas (but never a working pen when you need one). A thermometer to poke in sick children’s ears. Keys. A Tupperware catalogue that I forgot to order from. Two DVDs that I forgot to return to the shop. Those children’s artworks that are not destined to be treasured forever but must spend their time at the holding station before being recycled lest said children think that we do not love them. Three funky orange canisters that have never held anything. A shiny copper jam pan with a witty fruit bowl stuck inside it because there is not room on the shelf for both. Admittedly, there are some lemons in said fruit bowl – but they are withered and stale because I forgot to use them. It’s hard to see them under all that adornment.

Every once in a while, I clear off this shelf, leaving it bare but for the funky canisters and the weird jam pan arrangement. Within minutes, it has started attracting a new layer of adornment.

In your kitchen, is there such a shelf?

[image: 22BayRoad/etsy]


  1. Kymmie

    Aaaah, the hot spot. I have one in my kitchen. It’s called my dining room table. No, not the kitchen benches, just the WHOLE table.

    And then there’s my desk in the study. Oh, that’s a beauty.

    And then there’s…

  2. Mrs BC

    Your shelf sounds like the top of my microwave! Although no fruit, that is it’s own bowl of junk on the opposite corner of the kitchen. Actually, most of my house is cluttered, which is a lifestyle choice I embrace. Not everyone loves cold hard minimilism!

  3. Maxabella

    But of course… and a drawer, and a basket and most of the pantry. Where does all that STUFF come from!?!? x

  4. superrelish

    Let’s just say I had a wall built to block such a shelf from view of the front door because clearly building a wall is easier than getting rid of said crap. Now there is a new wall, with a new cabinet that is also a crap repository! The kitchen (is also the laundry) so there are a few choice locations for all those oh-so-necessary items such as odd socks, lunch box lids, batteries, stale crackers and stuff that is found in the washing machine. There is no way around it, I can’t build any more walls so I really must get rid of some of it… eventually.

  5. Andrea

    I dream of such a shelf…our kitchen table, and our entry table and the spare room bed act as the shelf,oh and my desk. I have been tryig hard to make rules about reducing ‘drop spaces’….and failing miserably. Our house will never be of the walked off the pages of a magazine variety, and such a shelf, should we ever have one, will never make the pages of Decor8. I’m embracing a balance of clutter free decks’ and over cluttered decks. I think it is the only way to survive the daily detritus, and embrace it all at once.

  6. River

    My kitchen barely has bench space, there’s no room for a shelf.

    Why not use those funky canisters? Roll up the artworks and store them in the tallest one, fill the middle sized one with pens, pencils, textas and scissors, (to continue the art theme), use the littlest one for bits and bobs, or for keys. This frees up shelf space, for that uncluttered designer look. The concept still works even if all canisters are the same size.

  7. Shauna

    ^^ Shauna. Not Michael.He has his own computer so why must he pollute mine.

  8. Michael

    I have a section of bench that has a pile of adornment the size of a small child. Its just how it is.

  9. tinsenpup

    Every flat (or moderately flat) surface really, but the favourite is “in front of the microwave”. As in, “Where do you want this?” “Um…Just put it in front of the microwave.” “Where’s my iPod?” “Have you looked in front of the microwave?” Which, of course, creates a whole new set of challenges in the event that anybody actually wants to USE the microwave.

  10. mamabook

    There just might be! In our house we are now selling the breakfast bar bench was never once used for breakfast. It was cleared of layers of crapola for every bday party or other emergency situation. It is now pristine, clear, perfect. Because we are selling the house and no longer there.

  11. InkPaperPen

    I have many of these shelves…and drawers too…

    And our fruit bowl never looks like the ones in magazines, a typical day in the life of our fruit bowl is 1 avocado, 1 banana and 12 apples (and each apple always seems to have one little bite mark in it!)

    Gill xo

  12. Sharn White

    I love this post. My husband refers to the ‘stuff’ which accumulates on our ‘shelf’ ie every flat surface available in the kitchen as my ‘piles’ ( I have a pile for this and a pile for that) but I know exactly what is in every pile, so when anyone asks where something is, I can immediately reply, ‘Oh its over there in THAT pile!’. Whenever I need to tidy up for visitors I put my ‘piles’ into bages. So now behind my desk are piles of bags. One day I might sort through it all and find something interesting! I think it might be called hoarding?

  13. Naturally Carol

    The sideboard gets it all. I neatly arrange it with fruit bowl and vases and little ‘adornments’ then the boys claim an end for their stuff, the bills come in and I don’t want to forget them so they get shoved on a plate..then bits and pieces accumulate. The birthday cards are still there from February, the glass do da that was a birthday present..and I don’t know where to put it permanently..it’s there too! I give up…’til my next minimalist frenzy.

  14. Suzi

    Yes, well technically it’s not a shelf, it’s a microwave but it has a habit of becoming a rather messy storage facility until such time as a visitor arrives and I sweep it off into my ‘junk basket’ which is relocated to the depths of the study and forgotten about…

  15. Toushka Lee

    every surface of my home is a crap magnet. When clearing one surface the crap gets moved to another surface. Sometimes when I clean the kitchen bench I see our life in layers – like geologically, but without the fossils. hopefully.

  16. Riki

    MY whole kitchen is like that. Actually, my whole house is the same. I do try to tidy up and get rid of things but all I end up doing is moving them to another place. This works for a while as you can clear one room and kid yourself that you are a dazzling housewife until you go into another room and realise you are the hopeless slob you’ve always been!

  17. Nita Davis

    Sadly my kitchen is too small for even a mini shelf. I do however have the top of the refrigerator. I did enjoy this peak at real life.

  18. Daisy, Roo and Two

    Yes! It’s too easy to put things up there, but its too high for me to reach to de-clutter easily. So many invitations to parties past!

  19. Diminishing Lucy

    I do not have such a shelf. I have a corner cupboard. So I hide all the crap. But the crap is there…and the cupboard is deep…

  20. thesinglegirlfriend

    Ah, I think that shelf is called “the entire counter” at my house.


  21. http://featherandnestki.blogspot.com

    No, I don’t have the shelf but I do have drawers and cupboards. Several of them. Full to the brim with…crap! I’m going through everything this week, actually. I hate making mess to create order. I am queen of keeping things neat and clean and tidy but I hate sorting through stuff and causing chaos to get order. So if a mess does arise I really don’t cope and avoid and quickly shut the drawer or door in hope it will all dissappear, real quick;) This week has been a BIG challenge but I’m getting through it. I’m yet to get to those drawers (Lewi’s room seems to be taking up ALOT of my time!!!) but they are on the list.
    When everything has a home, then there’s no need for shoving. That’s my mantra this week.
    Thanks for this post, Allison. Perfect to read mid-week when I’m wavering and not wanting to face more sorting and throwing.

  22. Deer Baby

    No – I don’t have that shelf. I have my Orla Kiely mugs arranged just so and some limes. And some Jamie Oliver coffee.

    Of course I do – but it’s all shoved in a drawer!

  23. A-M

    Oh yeah, have had the shelf thing happening for years so now there is a very pretty basket at the front door where everything is deposited. It gets cleaned out once a week. I must admit though, my inbox on my desk… which is very near the kitchen, is now taking over ‘shelf duties’. Hmmm. A-M xx

  24. Cheers!

    Yep! The first surface you come to in the kitchen. It is where everyone drops their “stuff” the minute they walk in. That counter is my nemesis. 😉

  25. MissDMarie

    Oh in the kitchen and the bathroom. Random collections that fit the fancy of me or my roommates for the day/week/month then it gets cleaned and the new interested make their way on it..
    Now the drawer in my room is completely filled to the brim of “important” things from awesome pens to cards to never-ending to-do lists and everywhere in-between.

  26. thepowmill

    I love this post because it is so real to life …in a well lived-in home . I have such a shelf which brings me from pure frustration to “what the H*** ” in seconds flat. When the bug catches me , I give it the clean and it lasts until the first person with something in hand passes by .
    This would be a great photo study – a picture a day from clean to normal. Of course the camera would never be on that shelf where it usually sits- being occupied in that moment .
    Then, there is the junk drawer!

  27. Liz

    That describes every surface in my kitchen (um…house)! I’ve been going through major spring cleaning mode and can actually see the vast majority of my kitchen counters today. I will cherish this moment as I may lose them tomorrow 🙂

  28. Cate

    Sadly you just described every surface in my whole house!!! Right down to the “never a working pen when you need one” part 🙂

  29. therhythmmethod

    We have a breakfast bar. Number of times we’ve eaten breakfast on it? 2, perhaps 3.
    It acts as a gigantic in tray for all of life’s bits: screws, keys, broken toys, toothbrushes, camera, mail, shopping bags, etc. Think ‘open plan third drawer down’.

  30. no-one

    In my house any resonably flat surface is sure to have at least one pile of useless crap on it. Any self-respecting decorative fruit bowl would take one look and find a way to transport itself to different house.

  31. Mama of 2 boys

    Haha! Brilliant Allison, I love this!
    Yes, there is such a ‘space’ in my kitchen, though it is actually part of the bench… which I *think* is supposed to be a breakfast bench?!?
    This little corner of the bench harbors many of the adornments you speak of in this post.
    And yes, I do clear it out, every once in a while and it looks pretty good. But then life just takes over and it fills with ‘stuff’ once more ;o)

  32. Tai Tai

    If I had room for such a shelf in my kitchen I can guarantee it would be the same. Actually, there is that exact shelf, just in the study. And although those homewares magazines are often the highlight of my day, they do certainly make our ordinary houses look just that don’t they?! Sigh.

  33. Mañana Mama

    I live on a shelf like that. I occasionally have a massive clear-out, and then the stuff all skulks back within a few months. Clutter makes for an interesting life though, or so I tell myself 🙂

  34. Tenille @ Help!Mum

    My whole house is such a shelf. We have pockets of adornment everywhere. I’ll make a token effort to address the situation periodically, but the crap, sorry, adornment reappears in a flurry of toddler activity or the ‘justgothomefromworkandhavetocookdinner’ rush.

  35. Amanda

    My kitchen has such a shelf – suitably high so I can’t even really do much other than shove more things onto it and then walk away hoping they don’t fall down; my kitchen also has two “fruit bowls” (large) which have not seen a piece of fruit in a number of years, but instead hold light globes (probably not useful ones), batteries which may or may not be recharged, Post-it notes which are never used, pens which don’t work, and … well, you can imagine. Have recently been contemplating getting a third fruit bowl (not for fruit. It sits directly on the kitchen bench).

  36. muminsearch.com

    Absolutely, and more than one…

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