Rim Up or Rim Down? A History of Dust in the Kitchen

It was always my belief that farmers developed strange theories of cause and effect because they spent too much time alone. A combination of incomplete information and a lack of critical review led to some odd conclusions. In the early days of farming, a reinforcing factor in all this was that horses seemed willing to accept almost any theory if it was accompanied by oats. It was a closed circle.
– Leonard G. Lee, Lee Valley Tools –

Rounding up dust bunnies is a dirty job – but our dirt woes today are small compared to the cleaning issues during the  Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties!

rim down

My Grandmother, as did many other women during the Dirty Thirties, turned her drinking glasses ‘rim down’ in the cupboard. That ensured that the glasses were clean inside when it came time to use them. Water was scarce, so a clean glass meant this precious liquid wasn’t used to rinse out a glass before drinking out of it. A quick dusting of the outside of the glass was all it took to keep these vessels clean.

My mom turned the glasses rim down in her cupboard too, as do I. At least I did, until I did a critical review of this practice. I started thinking about how I could fit more of my every day drinking glasses on one shelf in the cupboard if I alternated them, rim up and rim down. Two generations of rim down history fought for supremacy in my mind before I decided to live on the edge and turn every other glass rim up. This works fine for the every day glasses that get used often enough not to get very dusty. But the good wine glasses don’t get used that often, so it is rim down for them – a compromise for a dusty house in a windy place.

rim up and rim down

Which brings me back to Leonard Lee’s observation – incomplete information and a critical review. I know my example about drinking glasses is a trivial one, but the process isn’t. I bet each and every one of us can think of at least one thing we do or one way we think because that is how we’ve always done it.

So, the next time your horse, or dog, or cat or goat is in complete agreement with you and your family thinks you are nuts, it might be a good time to think about my water glasses. Maybe you need to turn your thoughts ‘rim up’ and see if you get a better result…