The Rockwood Files: Startling Discovery Behind Closed Doors

rockwoodfiles2-205x300By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

There’s a set of stainless steel doors that get opened and closed in our house at least 20 times a day. And typically when I open those doors, I’m on a hurried mission – to grab the orange juice for the kids or shove a Tupperware full of leftovers onto a shelf. In a house with five people, the refrigerator is a busy place.

What I realized last weekend, however, is that the refrigerator can also be a surprisingly gross place. I’m not talking about forgotten food shoved toward the back that morphs into something hairy over time. Sure, that happens now and then, but what I’m talking about is the fridge itself – the shelves, the drawers, the walls and even the ceiling which ends up spattered with all kinds of unidentified smudges and drips. And it makes me wonder: What’s going on in there?

If I was as disciplined as I wish I was, that fridge would get cleaned top to bottom every couple of weeks or so. But, in the real world, refrigerators can wait. And generally we don’t expect a fridge to acquire much dirt anyway since the things going into and out of it are presumably clean. It’s not like the crisper drawer is playing a game of rugby on a muddy field, right?

But recently I opened the fridge to stick something inside and the surface of one of the glass shelves had reached its crumbly, sticky tipping point. Suddenly it looked pretty bad. So I grabbed a hot, soapy wash cloth and started wiping it down. The more I wiped, the more crumbs and grime I found. As soon as one shelf was done, the one right next to it looked like a refrigerator ghetto.

So I kept on wiping and noticing how spots of mustard and juice and God-knows-what were stuck to the most random places inside the fridge. Even the tiniest nooks and crannies were flecked with food bits.

Are things exploding in the fridge without my knowledge? Is that suspicious-looking can of ReddiWip throwing some kind of raucous party with the other condiments behind closed doors? Perhaps when the doors close and the lights go out, a secret disco ball starts spinning and the bacon slices use a hot dog as a limbo stick. The orange juice plays bumper cars with the barbecue sauce. And the jelly gets jiggy with the ginger ale in some kind of weird, sticky free-for-all.

Based on what I saw during that two-hour cleaning session, something bizarre is definitely going on in there. I’d blame it on the three kids if I could, but they can’t even reach some of the sticky places I found in that fridge. It looked as if we’d been backing up 10 feet from the open door and throwing things inside the way a quarterback might launch a Hail-Mary pass downfield.

After an intense scrubbing session, I’m proud to report that the fridge has been restored to its once pristine beauty and will likely stay this way for roughly five minutes until somebody cooks dinner or one of the kids needs a cup of juice. But for now, it feels good to have banished that layer of sticky everyday grime that accumulates behind chilled, closed doors.

My mother came over and complimented my newly spotless fridge and asked if I was going to tackle the freezer section next. But I’m saving that project for another day. There’s no telling what goes on in that frozen tundra. gwen rockwoodAnd frankly, I’m afraid to find out.

Gwen Rockwood is a freelance syndicated columnist. Her new book, Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile, is available on Amazon and at Nightbird Books. Email her at or visit her online at

Author photo: Lisa Mac Photography

Note: If you want to get your fridge, pantry or anything else in the house organized this year, check out Amy Volk’s website. I met Amy, a professional organizer, at a blogging conference last year and started reading her blog soon after. I’m seriously hooked on it now. She has TONS of great ideas. Click HERE to see it.

amy volk





  1. My husband cleaned our trudge over Christmas vacation. He was so proud of himself and was begging for praise. I asked him if he was expecting a parade. It’s his mess too.

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