We all have dirty little secrets around our home. Perhaps it's the junk drawer that can't possibly hold another tape dispenser or pack of batteries, or maybe it's the coat closet that has 40 pair of shoes in the bottom. Whatever the case is, when it's in your house and it's hidden, only you know about it so it remains your dirty little secret.

Well, we have a couple dirty little secrets in our house. Some are my responsibility, others are Wendy's, but regardless they drive each of us nuts. The problem is that as long as they remain secret and we have other projects to take care of, they will either stay the way they are or just continue to get worse.

Today I'm taking the opportunity to call out one of these secret stash locations by publicly shaming its creator...Wendy. Perhaps this is a call to action, or perhaps an intervention, but either way it's dealing with an issue that has reached its breaking point as far as I'm concerned and it needs to change. Besides, what's not fun about a little public intervention?

Ok, before I go any further and have everyone on the Internet whispering about what an awful, horrible, and downright deplorable husband I am for exposing this aspect of our life (gasp, he's talking about their hidden junk area), please realize that Wendy is a willing participant in this intervention. I'm also relatively sure I will get my own intervention in the coming days or weeks, so please, don't cry for me Wendy, Argentina.

And now we can continue with our virtual intervention.

Our kitchen is horrible. No, really, it's a joke. We've done all we can along the way to turn it into something useable and useful, but it is really somewhat terrible. It's a large room but the layout is awful. The cabinets are all jammed into one corner, there's little storage, the lighting is subpar, the appliances are dated and there's no storage. Did I mention there's no storage?

It's for this reason that back in 2003 we bought and refinished an large storage hutch to go on the unused opposite wall of the kitchen. This hutch has worked great. It stores and displays a few of our glassware items behind doors, has a few drawers full of various kitcheny stuff, and holds larger items in the two lower cabinet doors (hello Kitchen-Aid mixer and cookbooks). It's a kitchen workhorse.

The thing is, this kitchen workhorse also hides Wendy's dirty little secret. While all of the compartments are full of useful and kitchen-related items, Wendy ran out of places to keep her various bags that she wanted to save. Being an environmentally conscious and economically savy consumer that she is, Wendy likes to reuse shopping bags as much as possible. This is especially true for larger paper bags, specialty boxes, canvas/fabric bags, and other qualifying containers.

So what is an environmentally conscious and economically savvy consumer  to do when she runs out of space for her bags? She creates new space for those bags...behind the utilitarian yet attractive hutch cabinet. You can see the edge of a Trader Joe's bag winking at you from around the back side, starting to spill over.

Honestly, I know what you may be thinking. "That's not so bad, it's just the edge of a bag. Just tuck that sucker back there and call it a day." But this is along the same lines as those guys on the Titanic that said "Hey, look ahead, there's a little floating chunk of ice peeking up out of the water, let's go ahead and bump it and push it out of our path so we can be on our way." We all know how that one turned out. (Okay, so I've probably taken a bit of creative license with my interpretation of the events that unfolded on the Titanic.)

Last week I decided that enough was enough. After returning from a shopping trip and realizing the bags we brought back had nowhere to live, and hearing how a few days prior one of the bags had slid down and turned the kitchen and patio lights out on Wendy, I decided to liberate and organize the mass of shopping containers held captive behind our kitchen hutch. The aftermath of the liberation movement was emotional and shocking.

A plethora of shopping bags had been freed and were attempting to organize a revolt to overtake our kitchen. It was complete and utter havoc, and I nearly had to don a set of riot gear to hold them back. The occupy our kitchen with shopping bags movement had commenced, and it was up to me to get it under control.

Yes, that's a veritable mountain of shopping bags that Lulu is standing on and looking dejected about. I agree with Lulu, it was a horrible realization. She was ashamed, I was ashamed...we were both ashamed that we had let this sickness go for as long as we had. It was as much on us as it was Wendy, we had enabled her...condition...through complete inaction. The collection of bags highlighted the past three years of purchases at stores who have profit margins that are apparently high enough to afford nice bags. Grocery, boutique, clothing, winery, and other stores comprised this what's what of our interests.

We had bags from around Old Town, as far west as Napa Valley, and as far east as Sweden. Wendy the bag lady had bags that covered roughly half of the world! There were bags in perfect condition, and others completely torn and unusable. If there is one thing for certain, we had enough bags shoved behind that hutch to last us through a nuclear fallout. You need lots of bags for those, don't you?

Rather than take the brute force route and throw everything in the trash (probably causing a hoarders-like breakdown that would surely bring Wendy to swearing at the camera men and threatening to off herself with the bags), I took the obsessive compulsive route and organized them into piles of like bags. I figured we could still use many of them, but they just needed to be put in a better place in a neat and tidy fashion.

Once all was said and done, we were looking at 90 bags. Yes, I said 90, with a nine and a zero. Ninety! I couldn't believe they all fit behind that innocent looking piece of kitchen furniture.

We went through the bags, determined which ones should be tossed, which kept, how I might publicly shame Wendy on the Internet, and where to store the ones we were keeping.

To be honest, it really felt good to take care of the mess, but I know it felt better for me than for Wendy. She didn't really care as long as she couldn't see the bags, but I could always see them. I was also always worried about the possibility of a fire hazard, but that's mostly because I'm paranoid.

After everything was said and done, Wendy had a small pile of about 12 bags she had to decide how she'd prefer to handle. I had to catch her as she walked back towards the hutch to slide them behind...out of sight, out of mind. I told her that this was an intervention after all. You don't see Dr. Drew offering Charlie Sheen a hit of blow after getting him to kick his drug habit. Today the cabinet remains free of bags, and Wendy the bag hoarder has done well thus far. 

Wait, what?? Wendy just informed me I don't know where her new secret stash is hidden. <sigh> I guess you can't teach an old dog new tricks. But as long as they're not sparking a fire behind the hutch in the kitchen, I still consider the intervention a success. And how fitting is today's post about Wendy, the hoarding bag lady on the day after she posted about the best contractor grade garbage bags?

Stay tuned as Wendy brings up some of my horrible secrets. I think I know what her focus will be on, but I want to point out that I neatly arranged her mess for her, and then helped to put it away, so I hope the same treatment will be afforded during my virtual intervention. Wishful thinking I guess.

So what are your dirty little house secrets? I hope they're not too bad. I mean, nobody wants to hear about piles of garbage and dead cats. If you leave a comment like that, I'm calling Matt Paxton of Hoarders and he's coming to your place.

Not to be outdone, Wendy proceeded to call me out of my disaster area of the house. Don't miss her post on the basement. I have to admit, I'm quite ashamed. FYI, thus far there has been no assistance for me on cleaning the basement, just sayin...

Photo credit: CBS, How I Met Your Mother

Comments 24

Comments

Sil
1/4/2012 at 11:01 AM
First things first: I love your site! You guys are awesome. And your home is lovely. Now, I have to admit that I have the same problem with bags...I might need help. So, Wendy I cry with you. Sil from Buenos Aires Argentina :-)
Wendy
1/4/2012
Thanks so much Sil! And it's so nice to know I'm not alone in having a bag "problem." :-)
cdhedges
1/4/2012 at 11:01 AM
I'm an avid fan of your blog and love seeing all the amazing things you've done with your house! I love this post. Wendy, you are a woman after my own heart. I stow these darn bags everywhere around the house. I just went through a cleaning frenzy and found bags hidden in the strangest places. Good luck beating the habit, I'm trying to curb mine as well! Also, since it's one of my FAVORITE shows, I had to mention, that "How I Met Your Mother" is a CBS show, not ABC. Thanks for sharing all your fun projects - even the zany ones :)
Wendy
1/4/2012
Thank you so much! And thank you so much for letting us know about our incorrect photo credit. (It's been fixed.) I knew we should have looked that one up rather than rely on memory. :-)

I'm so glad I'm not the only bag hoarder out there. You just never know when you'll need one...or ninety!
Josh
1/4/2012 at 11:16 AM
I'm guessing your intervention will have something to do with wood in your basement! :)
Wendy
1/4/2012
SPOILER ALERT!!

Um Josh, you've hit the nail on the head. (Pun intended.) :-)
Alex
1/4/2012
Uh oh, I think it's gonna get ugly.
1/4/2012 at 11:53 AM
Oi vey! I'm a bag hoarder too, except they are plastic bags all smushed into the booze cupboard. Maybe not a fire hazard, but a...buzz retardant?
Wendy
1/4/2012
I might have a small issue with plastic bags as well, although the issue has lessened now that we have the reusable grocery bags. I still save them though and use them as small trash can liners for the office and bathroom.

You might need to find a new spot for your plastic bags though Ashley if they're impeding your ability to get into your booze cupboard! LOL
JC
1/4/2012 at 12:11 PM
LOLOLOL. OMG I laughed SO hard when I got the photo of the Trader Joe bag poking out of the side.

I'm a bit of a hoarder, but over the years I've tossed a bunch of stuff out, and I plan to do a big yard sale next year.
Wendy
1/4/2012
I know, it was the bag that broke the camel's back so to speak. If only I had tucked it behind the cabinet a little better, maybe my stash wouldn't have been raided. ;-)

A yard sale is a great idea. Purging + funding for new projects = success!
1/4/2012 at 12:32 PM
I must admit, I sort of have a similar bag problem...maybe it is time I do something about it, as well. =)
Alex
1/4/2012
Let me know if you need us to come over, photograph your bags, and ultimately have a public shaming/intervention for you on the Internet. We're here to help.
Wendy
1/4/2012
New Year, new beginning? I'd still save a few though, just for good measure. :-)
Cher
1/4/2012 at 12:36 PM
I love your website. I too was a bag hoarder and so was my nieghbor until she told me that she got roaches from the paperbags at Trader Joe's. Perhaps, she was just a dirty person, not sure, but it was the motivation for me to get them out of the house, and onto the cloth type reusable. Keep up the fun posts. Hopefully bug free.
Wendy
1/4/2012
Major ick!! Probably due to the condition or her home, but that's motivation like no other to recycle them immediately. Thanks Cher!
Laura
1/4/2012 at 3:36 PM
I've become a religous reader of your site and find it hilarious that it took me a "paper bag hoarding" blog to get me to post a comment. This is one of my guilty pleasures too - although I feel vindicated when I never have to buy wrapping paper during the holidays. I keep them in my craft closet so my husband never encounters my problem. :)

Thanks for blogging about sensitive historic rehab - I live in a 120 y-o home and love its originality and quirkiness.
Wendy
1/4/2012
Thanks so much Laura and we're so happy you left a comment, even if it's in response to a post about my "issue"! :-) From the comments today, it seems I'm not alone in my love for (and need to hold onto) paper bags. Craft closet you say? Hmmm....great idea.

We hope to hear more from you in the future!
threadbndr
1/5/2012 at 1:04 PM
I'm usually pretty good about the 'ordinary' paper bags. We don't have a local Trader Joe's, but I use the Chipolte take out bags to store yarn in - they are perfect size. And once the project is done, they are pretty tattered and go into the recycling.

On the other hand, gift bags get reused - and then reused again. I have one storage bin for all the gift bags, tags, bows, ribbon rolls. If I can't get the lid on, it's time to cull the older, shabby bags.

Good luck with the reorganization. (You, too, Alex.)
1/5/2012 at 4:04 PM
If you want to get rid of usable bags but don't want to toss them, take them to your local thrift stores. They generally can use them ... I would recommend the Junior League one behind Ross.
Wendy
1/5/2012
Thanks for the tip!
teak
1/9/2012 at 12:13 AM
I read this after reading about your basement! I used to take my plastic bags back and recycle them at the store. Now I put them inside my reusable shopping bags which I take back to my car and when I pick up the fruits and vegetables I reach in and grab one and re-use it. But my biggest hoarding problem is plastic containers for storing stuff (whipped topping, margarine et al) and about the time I get rid of a bunch I have a dinner guest and don't have enough to send home leftovers in. Another UNCANNY... I really think there should be support groups for people who can't through away an empty plastic container!
Kate
1/27/2012 at 10:36 AM
I'm very late to comment but just want to say that if Wendy is looking for a good home for those paper bags please consider me! I use paper bags to store recycles but roomie and I tend to use tote bags when shopping so we are always scrounging for old paper/Christmas shopping bags that maybe a friend left behind.

Just saying!
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