It's time to come clean here at Old Town Home, and to be honest, I'm only doing so because my partner in crime busted me this weekend. You see, while working on the installation of our new IKEA butcher block counter tops, Alex needed to empty the majority of our kitchen cabinets, including the large area under the sink. And boy was he surprised.

But let me back up for a minute. In January, we had a bit of a public outing regarding a hoarding situation in our house. My vice: the collection of nearly 100 paper shopping bags, stored jammed behind our white hutch. (Even Lulu is embarrassed by my behavior.)

My husband's: hoarding of scraps of wood, that have slowly taken over our basement making it difficult to use as a wood shop, and laundry/storage area.

As part of a new year's resolution to purge and organize, our public shaming of each other was met with a little huffiness substantial results. We remedied the bag situation so that the area behind the hutch was cleared of this clutter, and we worked on getting the basement into decent enough shape that it was clean(ish) and more functional. 

But old habits die hard, and if anyone is a fan of the TLC show Hoarders the way I am, you know that more often than not, those afflicted with hoarding tendencies are either chasing the junk removal trucks down the street in an effort to rescue a few "really important" items from their fate in a landfill, or play it cool for the cameras but later fill their homes back up with stuff once the coast is clear.

Well, we have a little bit of both going on here. Might I direct your attention to Exhibit A, the state of the basement, lovingly referred to as The Hellhole. 

Despite carting five trips of donations to a local charity, and throwing out several large contractor bags of trash earlier this year, the mess down here slowly amassed over the last six months. I did my best to ignore it, until our hand was forced. We just finished refinancing, and having our home appraised was part of the process. Embarrassed by the mess, the morning of the appraisal (yep, you read that right), Alex was frantically tidying up down there to make it less offensive. 

An hour or so's worth of work later, significant improvement was made. Though we have several ongoing and active projects that require much use of our basement/wood shop/hellhole, Alex has done pretty well to keep it fairly organized. Sure, it's not even close to a clean and organized example of what basements can be, but it's workable.

I, on the other hand, did a better job of concealing my little hoarder backslide. Alex routinely checked behind the white hutch to ensure I was no longer stashing bags in my original location, so I selected my new hidden location. As I mentioned at the start, my secret stash sat hidden away until the counter top work blew the whistle on it a few weekends ago. On the fateful day, as Alex started emptying out the cabinet...I knew what was coming. 

As he pulled out handful after handful of various crumbled bags, expletives started to fly and I knew I had been busted. I scurried around behind him, trying to quickly organize the piles he had exposed, throwing them into the brutal light of day. No longer hidden away, I made every effort to protect my bounty, but my efforts were futile. Here's my death glare that screams, "Touch these bags and you lose an arm!"

Okay, even I have to recognize that the stash had grown a bit out of control. So I completed the quick task of organizing the bags into reusable grocery bags, plastic bags, and paper grocery/shopping bags.

Next, I went through them and came up with a decent size pile of those that could be discarded. Here I am, with the "aren't you proud of me, honey?" smile, as I bid these bags farewell. 

As much as I hate to admit it, I really appreciate times like these when you're forced to face your out of sight disasters. Even though I'm a neat freak, as long as things are clean on the surface, or the door to the basement is closed, I can usually ignore these problem areas for quite some time. But the recent appraisal along with the upgrades in the kitchen, are forcing us to make some decisions about what should stay, what should go to a new home, and what should head into the garbage or recycling bin. It's also presenting an opportunity to reorganize our home and our lives.

Having to pull out drawers and empty cabinets has forced me to make some decisions about kitchen items that we can part with. In addition to donating a bagful of items to a local charity, I'm thrilled to report that our kitchen junk drawer has gone from this nightmare...

...to this semi organized state, now free of batteries leaking acid and other atrocities.

Have you tackled any organization projects recently? Is there an area in your home, or an item that you "collect", that despite your best efforts you can't keep in order? Have you every been busted by your partner for a little bad habit "backslide?" I'd love to hear your stories.

Comments 28

Comments

Katie Boyle
9/6/2012 at 2:51 PM
OH you know you can't open a closet door or a drawer in our house! Colin hates it! I told him some day when I'm dead and gone he'll open up a drawer and find something random I crammed in there and it will make him smile. His response was, "No, I'll be pissed because I will open that random sock drawer and find your will that I had been searching for since you croaked!" We miss y'all!
Wendy
9/7/2012
I'm glad to hear you haven't changed! :-) Now I'll just have to come to CA to cross the line and start organizing your home. We miss you too!
Kelly
9/6/2012 at 3:01 PM
The closets in our third floor have remained untouched since we moved in last June. Its super scary like bins of paint, boxes, stuff we never unpacked.

My husband also has BINS FULL OF WIRES. It drives me nuts. Wires like cords, chargers, cables, etc from old computers, old cell phones or whatever.


How are the patients doing? I wanted to ask you about Lulu. Do you ever feel bad she is alone all day -- is she alone? I have a dog and I feel so bad that he's alone all day. We've pretty much cancelled our whole social life because I feel guilty leaving the dog to go out to dinner or to a party. I was just wondering how you handled it. We tried fostering to adopt a dog but they just kept fighting and did not get along so we are back at square 1.
Wendy
9/7/2012
I totally know what you mean about bins full of wires. I might know someone in our house that has that bad habit. Hint: he may hide them in the basement. :-)

The patients are doing well, thanks for asking. We're still waiting on the pathology reports, but they're recovering nicely from the surgeries.

As far as Lulu goes, when we're out of the house we put her in her crate. We've found that she's much more relaxed when she's in there, and tends to get frantic and destructive when she's left out and unattended. (We keep a web cam on her so we can check in on her throughout the day.) I'm very fortunate to work just minutes from home, so most days of the week I come home at lunch and we hang out together, and it also means I have a lot more time at home in the mornings and evenings because I don't have to block out time to commute. Alex also works from home one day per week, so that minimizes her alone time as well. So far this is working really well for us. :-)
9/6/2012 at 3:14 PM
Thank you for posting this! My father is making an 8 hour drive to help me with painting the exterior of the house next weekend, and I am worried about the state of the interior of my garage. Like your basement, I have all my ‘projects’ and tools there. It is so bad right now that both vehicles are spending the nights camping out under the stars. On the other hand, my basement is not an issue, but only because it is too damp to actually store anything down there right now.
Wendy
9/7/2012
That sounds just like a neighbor of ours. He's currently working on cleaning up his garage so that he can use it again as a workshop. It seems that these "project zones" just have a tendency to collect...things. :-) Good luck!
Sabina
9/6/2012 at 4:10 PM
ugh - what i wouldn't give for those bags. I've been shredding up a storm and have no place to put the shred. I even went to the store bagless so i could get some paper ones!!!! Feels good though right ?
Wendy
9/7/2012
I have to admit it does feel good. I can finally see what I have and access it easily. (I can't promise how long it will stay that way though!)
Kate
9/7/2012 at 8:27 AM
I'm in the same boat as Sabina, I need paper bags to store my recyclables. If Alex decides to declutter/purge his surplus wood scraps, I think if you announce it there will be plenty of us willing to pay to take them off your hands, you know, for those of us making wooden crates at home...
Wendy
9/7/2012
We'll keep you posted. :-) I have to give Alex props here though. He's done a bang up job of using up a huge portion of our wood scraps. I hate to admit it, but maybe it was a good idea to hold on to some of that stuff?
Whitney
9/7/2012 at 12:41 PM
Since we've been transient in ON, we have amassed an ASTOUNDING amount of sh!t. My childhood bedroom was never properly designed for storage, but now is literally covered in piles upon piles of half organized stuff. I've managed to pack some boxes (3 weeks til this phase of our lives is done!! Moving to Halifax NS!!), but there seems to be a lot of stuff that doesn't belong quite anywhere.
On the other hand, we will have only TWO WEEKS to purge our entire house of hoarded stuff (once we get back to MB), before movers come and box it all and transfer it all to the new house!! Aaaaaahhhh!!!!
Wendy
9/7/2012
Good luck with the move, Whitney, and the next chapter of your life. It sounds like you're embracing the opportunity to purge some unneeded items. Good for you!
Karin K
9/7/2012 at 2:15 PM
This hits home on a number of levels. Just this morning my husband came out of our garage loudly complaining about the mess and proclaiming that he was going to throw out everything that wasn't claimed as a keeper - AS IF THE MESS IS ALL MY STUFF. With the exception of a charming dollhouse I acquired from a friend with the intention of fixing up for my daughter (that ship has sailed...she's in middle school now), I can honestly say 99% of the crap is HIS. I promptly emailed him a link to this post to hopefully give him a little inspiration. Oh who am I kidding? I'll have to clean it all up myself. The man has never put a tool away in his life. Honestly, I should start a blog of my own after I clean it out, just to chronicle how HE will trash it all over again. Would anyone read that blog? Probably not.

And on the scrambling-for-the-appraiser note, we just went through the same thing, although the garage remained a disaster. But I got the rest of the house in excellent shape, and his only responsibility was to be home to meet her. As he stood in the kitchen (no doubt stuffing his face), she exited our back door onto the deck to look in the backyard, and promptly slipped and fell on the wet deck that had about a quarter inch of green mildew growing on it, because SOMEONE hadn't power-washed in a really long time. Thankfully, we got approved, and she didn't sue us.
Wendy
9/10/2012
Good luck with the garage cleanup. Sounds like it's a cleanup that rivals our basement! ;-)
JC
9/8/2012 at 9:21 AM
OMG! I almost died laughing at that "death glare" photo. LOL.
Wendy
9/10/2012
Alex knows he's in trouble when he gets that look. ;-)
9/9/2012 at 12:25 PM
lol. Rest assured Wendy, you are not alone on "bag hoarding". I have even convinced myself they multiply when I am not looking (sort of like how cords get tangled even after immense care to keep them organized!).

My "hoarding" is related to saving glass jars, like almond butter and ghee mostly. I buy these regularly at WF, wash the jars, and put them in the cupboard. It is crazy how many are there, even after boxes of them have been already weeded out! And they aren't even nostalgic jars like mason or anything.

I don't have the "external buster" so I have to rely on the "internal noticer", which of course is always more lenient in situations like this ;)

Eh, it's all good. Who would we be without our silly quirks? Sending extra chin scratches and butt rubs to the little ones. I bet Lulu is loving this (finally) cool fall day!
Wendy
9/10/2012
So glad I'm not alone in this. At least bags and glass jars are useful, right? (Wait, I think that's something they always say in episodes of Hoarders. Oops.) :-)

Thanks for the love to the babies. I'll be sure to pass it on.
9/9/2012 at 3:29 PM
I may be a bit late in the game on this, but I just HAD to comment. I have the same issue with brown paper bags, especially the thicker, more robust Whole Foods paper bags. They have so many uses, but perhaps we don't need SO many. I'm the first to admit I don't need them all but I keep piles nonetheless. Every time my husband opens the pantry and one falls out, he LOSES IT and recycles a bunch of them, streamlining my pile to 5-10.

BUT I have an awesome idea for them that you may or may not have considered. I cut them down the side, tear off the paper handles, flip them inside out and wrap presents. I don't spend much money on wrapping paper and instead use the "kraft paper bag" to create a unique, special-looking present and the paper is repurposed and recycled! Instead of spending so much money on wrapping paper each year while hurting the trees of the world, I splurge on fancy ribbons to make the kraft paper look a bit more special - something rustic and cute for a birthday present, pink/blue for a baby present, so on and so on. An added bonus is (if you're crafty) being able to write a message on the paper, e.g. Happy 50th, Uncle Mike!

Hope that helps! And keep blogging! I'm new to the blogging DIY world (started my blog in March) and I'm so glad I stumbled upon Old Town Home. Your writing voices are unique and funny. Cheers!
Wendy
9/10/2012
Hi Amanda. Thanks for the great gift wrap suggestion! Typically I reuse the Trader Joes bags as a means to collect yard waste or to use when I need to make a template for something, but I've never thought about them for this purpose. Thanks!

Good luck with the School House rehab!
Heather
9/9/2012 at 7:17 PM
This made me laugh! I have my bags stuffed between the fridge and the wall and can't get rid of them either. Especially the pretty ones like from Anthropologie! I have other hoarding tendencies but we're not going to talk about them right now. ;-P
Wendy
9/10/2012
:-) So glad I'm not the only one!
9/11/2012 at 10:31 AM
I read this piece smiling all the way through it. Seems you both have busted each other and are exposed not only as beautiful homemakers, but as having secret warehousing and factory inclinations, too.

What’s great about your blogs are we don’t just see the end product, we see the mess involved in creating the end result, and frankly with so many projects going on I think a little factory mentality combined with warehousing tendencies are inevitable.

But Wendy, I have to say while I sympathize with the scrap wood cluttering up the basement, I can’t really condone your bag collection; I mean, come on, that’s so girl. Go and hang your head in shame.

Not really related to the DIY theme but still I thought I would share why I call it a girl thing. When my wife and I were still dating she came and stayed with me in my little apartment for a week or more and I had to leave her there whilst I went to work.

I would worry about her being bored out of her mind in a home that wasn’t hers and little to do. When I got home my fears were put to rest as she had spent days finding drawers full of supermarket plastic bags which I had a vice for keeping, and folding each one perfectly and neatly arranging them back in the drawers.

Ok, I was the one at fault for keeping them but what is it about you ladies and bags?!
9/11/2012 at 10:34 AM
I read this piece smiling all the way through it. Seems you both have busted each other and are exposed not only as beautiful homemakers, but as having secret warehousing and factory inclinations, too.

What’s great about your blogs are we don’t just see the end product, we see the mess involved in creating the end result, and frankly with so many projects going on I think a little factory mentality combined with warehousing tendencies are inevitable.

But Wendy, I have to say while I sympathize with the scrap wood cluttering up the basement, I can’t really condone your bag collection; I mean, come on, that’s so girl. Go and hang your head in shame.

Not really related to the DIY theme but still I thought I would share why I call it a girl thing. When my wife and I were still dating she came and stayed with me in my little apartment for a week or more and I had to leave her there whilst I went to work.

I would worry about her being bored out of her mind in a home that wasn’t hers and little to do. When I got home my fears were put to rest as she had spent days finding drawers full of supermarket plastic bags which I had a vice for keeping, and folding each one perfectly and neatly arranging them back in the drawers.

Ok, I was the one at fault for keeping them but what is it about you ladies and bags?!
Denise Larkin Clement
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
Oh thank you SO much for sharing. I needed this today! After living in our home for 13 years we're beginning the process to prepare it for sale. Along with all the wonderful home improvement projects that had been placed on the back burner over the years (think carriage lights purchased and never installed, etc, etc, etc, etc...you get the idea) there's that minor de-junking detail that needs to be worked out. Slowly but surely my & my husband's hoarding tendencies are coming to light! I'm so glad to see that we're not alone! Now, it's back to work for me on another of those long delayed home improvement projects!
Elizabeth Lahey Jones
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
We have the EXACT same issue: bags and wood scraps. You never know when it will come in handy.
Shalini Gupta
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
Yup, I've got my stash of bags both plastic and paper ones from department stores and grocery stores. I never seem to use them quickly enough.
DC Beagles
9/11/2012 at 6:18 PM
Nice! If you have extra plastic bags (even big ones) consider dropping them off at dog parks. Most have containers where they collect "poop bags".
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