A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: hoarding

A new way to use my crazy for good at school!

Ever since the year I was an overachieving (see: pill-popping) Kindergarten room mom, I tend to steer clear of volunteering at school. I’ve just found that my kids do better on their own without me being there to, you know, ask questions like “So is the Principal Pal thing rigged, or what? Who do I have to throw some Benjamins at to get one of those frickin’ magnets on my car?”

But you know me, I like to help. I’m just much better behind the scenes: pulling weeds in the school’s butterfly garden, or sending in canned goods, or selling my soul to the devil in exchange for the last existing yellow poly folder with pockets AND prongs in the western hemisphere.

One year I found that the best way I could help was by sharpening all of our teacher’s classroom pencils every weekend. (Those poor teachers have THE WORST pencil sharpeners in their classrooms!) My oldest son Vince would bring home a baggie full of about 100 dull pencils every Friday and I would zone out and reflect on my deep thoughts over the sound of my professional grade X-ACTO whirring away. Very therapeutic. I like my pencils like I like my men: tall, sharp, and with a big, firm, pink… eraser on the end. Ew, what did you think I was going to say?

This year will now forever be remembered as the year my child was finally rewarded for my hoarding tendencies. 

That’s right, people. The stars have aligned and Mini-Me’s math teacher sent out an email this week asking parents to save twist-on bottle caps for a future project.

Uh, like these?

It finally pays to be a hoarder by The Bearded Iris


My sweet child came home all aglow yesterday because apparently I was the only parent to reply to that teacher’s email.

See? We all have our own unique gifts and ways that we can serve others. Mine just so happen to involve repetitive tasks and the DSM-IV. Whatevs. You say PTA, I say PTSD. God bless us, every one.  

So that’s what’s new around here.

But elsewhere…

I overshare on the Internet

Last week I was invited to write this for HLNtv.com about moms who “overshare” on the Internet. And apparently it struck a nerve with some people. Granted, I’m not licking my own face repeatedly or slapping my nekkid butt cheeks all up on a gyrating Footlocker employee’s man meat, but still—this article garnered the second ugliest comment I’ve ever received in the five years I’ve been doing this blogging thing. (Which you cannot read because it was not published. As a general rule, the only assholes I pay any attention to whatsoever are my own and my children’s.)

I’m also very excited to be making my debut at Bonbon Break this week to share some of the behind the scenes pinnacles and pitfalls of the whole self-publishing experience. Please check it out!

I hope your Labor Day weekend is everything you need for it to be, times two, with a side of Come Back Sauce, and a free kitten.

Yours truly,


Cat Pee and Clutter Concern: Oh, Grandma’s Here!

My mother came to visit last weekend.

It was lovely. It always is. She does laundry…all the way through! And she buys school clothes, and takes us all out to eat, repeatedly!

It’s so nice to have her here that I don’t even mind the fact that she bought me a book about compulsive hoarding.

I’m not even kidding.

Apparently she heard a fascinating interview about it on NPR and it reminded her of me and my life-long struggle with clutter.

I imagine that some people might get offended if someone came to visit and then gave them a book about compulsive hoarding.

Not me.

Guys? This book is rocking my face off. I always joke about being a borderline hoarder, but apparently I’ve gotten to the point where it’s not a laughing matter anymore. I have so much in common with many people who exhibit this compulsion, it is frightening. But more on that another day. (See? Classic avoidance.)

Instead, let’s discuss a different thing that happens every time my mom visits: my cat Gracie gets pissed. Literally. There is piss, loads of it, in inappropriate places.

So Gracie’s in solitary confinement and I’m In The Powder Room today weighing my options. Meet me over there and we’ll discuss.


The Mother of All Crap Magnets.

It’s week # 11 (eleven!!!) in Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge. This week Org Junkie’s topic is “Consolidate & Conquer.

Eeeek. That makes me absolutely quiver with fear. Quiver I tells ya. And not in a good way.

You see, I already know how to consolidate… that’s easy. I toss massive piles of crap into bags and boxes and buckets all the time! It’s the conquering that baffles me.

The reason people like me have so many piles of stuff everywhere is because we cannot make decisions. Wait, let me rephrase that. I am great at making quick decisions about really important things like what to major in (history! sure, why not? there are probably TONS of jobs for history majors!), what house/car to buy (this one doesn’t smell too bad!), whether or not to take a job in another state that would uproot my family and leave us in financial ruin (yes! let’s do it!). But when it comes to whether or not I should toss a plastic milk jug cap? Hmmm. I’m not sure. You know what, I think I’ll keep it. For now. You never know when you might need something like that.

Which leads to having a bag like this in your basement:

On the count of three:





But you know what? I’m getting better. I am. I am gradually seeing some improvements around here. And those improvements are boosting my confidence. And that confidence is helping me to not keep every piece of paper or plastic that touches my fingers. Want some proof?

Here’s what I conquered this week: the outside of my fridge. Also known as the MOTHER of all crap magnets.

Ick. Nothing screams “I totally do NOT have my shit together” like having your most used major appliance completely buried under a bunch of junk. In fact, I’m pretty sure there must be a direct correlation between the number of decorative magnets on one’s fridge and that person’s insanity level.

Well, not for me, anymore! I conquered that sucker! Well, the fridge part… still working on the sanity.

How’d I do it, you ask?

Naturally, I tried to follow Org Junkie’s PROCESS (Plan, Remove, Organize, Containerize, Evaluate, Simplify, Smile). However, after 11 weeks, it seems as though I have developed my own slightly less effective version, which I like to call ROACHES: (Remove, Organize, Attack (toss as much as I can), Clean the dust buffaloes I’ve uncovered, Hide rest of crap I couldn’t bear to toss, Evaluate, Shop for cute containers.)

Here is a picture after my “REMOVE” and “CLEAN” steps:

This is totally my favorite part.

The rest of those middle steps were not quite as photo-worthy this week. But let me assure you that I did a bunch of tossing and recycling this week, and did not need to resort to very much “crap HIDING.” Especially because most of the junk on the fridge was outdated paperwork that was a no-brainer even for a gal like me.

Now I’m in the “EVALUATE” and “SHOP” phases, and here is what it looks like so far:

I put all the bread products on top of the fridge into a bigger wicker basket that I already had somewhere else in the house. Isn’t that so much better looking? Very easy to grab the whole basket and just get/return what I need.  I also designated one magnet for each kid to display their ONE favorite piece of artwork for the week. (Still waiting on my third child to choose something for our “gallery”). I’ll have to vigilantly enforce the “One In, One Out” rule here so we don’t backslide into the dumping ground it was before.

On this side, you will notice three “Responsibility Charts,” courtesy of Org Junkie, and a pen hanging from a (sassy pink leopard print) shoelace. We just started using these charts this week. So far, so good! I’ll let you know in a few weeks if we are keeping up with it.

And on this side, I’ve got ONE decorative magnet (the blue polar bear with a picture of my husband and youngest son) and one baggie for coupons and one baggie for those evil Box Tops I absolutely abhor with a passion.

At some point I’ll buy or make some cuter storage containers for the coupons and Box Tops, but that’s just gravy. I also need to find a magnetic paper catcher for new recipes that I haven’t added to my recipe book yet. But I haven’t found one I like at this point.

Now of course, my children cannot STAND to see uncluttered spaces. Those are just blank canvases to them. So not one day after I achieved this marvel of organization did I find this piece of crap on my fridge:

If I were a better mother I’d probably be celebrating their creativity for making a flower out of K’Nex and lovingly participating in the decorating of our home. But no, I’m just annoyed they are mucking up my pretty kitchen with their plastic CRAP. Why I oughta….

Fortunately, I can just employ Org Junkie’s Ten Minute Tidy at the end of the day and quickly spot and remove any stray objects from my newly organized spaces! Foiled again, my uninvited little decorators!! HA! I guess I need to put some kind of bulletin boards or magnetic surfaces in the kid’s rooms so they have a surface they can decorate as they please. No prob, I’ll just add that to the “SHOPPING” list!

Have a great week, everyone!


PS – to see the rest of the 52 Weeks projects I’ve tackled so far, click here.

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris. All rights reserved.


The Art of Simplifying, Simplified.

It’s week # 10 in Org Junkie’s 52 Weeks of Organizing challenge. This week Org Junkie’s topic is “Tips for Cluttered Surfaces.” As always, her tips are fabulous. Go have a look-see when you get a chance.

Cluttered surfaces are definitely a big problem for me. Here’s one of my worst hot spots: the kitchen island. Oy vay!

Kitchen island "hot spot," earlier today.

Kitchen island "hot spot," one month ago.

Kitchen island "hot spot," three years ago.

This spot is truly a black hole. The minute I get it cleared off, people start piling stuff back up on it… like it has a mysterious gravitational pull.

Clearly we need a better system, but that will have to be a project for another week. First I have to do some research, and wouldn’t you know it, Org Junkie has all kinds of ideas for how to create a command center and get your paper piles off the counter! Sweet! I love that woman.

I did spend some time today clearing this spot and going through the mound of paper. Amazing what you can find under all that CRAP!

Ooops! Too bad this was at the BOTTOM of the pile. Looks like Bucket Head is learning to count with Cheerios at preschool.

It’s a miracle we don’t have bugs. Also surprising that Ike (the devil dog) didn’t find that Cheerio art and wolf it down. He was probably too busy noshing in the litter box.

So that is my next mission, creating a command center. A few feet away from that cluttered kitchen island is a built in desk that is also always mounded with CRAP. It would be the perfect place for a command center! Wanna see it? You know you do. Doesn’t looking at all my messiness make you feel SO much better about your own house?

Location of my future Command Center!

Another view... that's Nature Boy on his laptop.

You are welcome; I’m happy to help boost your self esteem at my expense. Stay tuned for the “after” pics when I have my spiffy new Command Center up and running… one of these days.

It’s been a rough week, what with Mardi Gras, and my hangover on Ash Wednesday, and my subsequent alcohol withdrawal because of Lent. But in spite of all that, there is one thing I accomplished this week that I’m dying to share with you.

This week I was inspired by two of my new Internet friends, Martha and Megan.

Martha is one of my separated-at-birth-sisters in the 52 Weeks Challenge. She put up a photo recently in a post about cleaning up her desk in which I noticed not one, but TWO decorative signs extolling the virtues of simplifying.

Oh shite, I thought to myself. I have one of those:

What is this, a Cracker Barrel?

And then I thought about Megan. She is on a quest to simplify her life by getting rid of something from her house everyday for a year. I’ve been stalking her for a week now, and let me tell you, she is fearless. She’s tossing things left and right, and not even horrible things. In other words, she is making some ruthless decisions about what gets to stay and what has to go. It’s a good thing I don’t live in her neighborhood, because I would gladly take most of her cast-offs, they are that good.

But anyhoo, I started eyeballing that “SIMPLIFY” sign and thinking, you know… I don’t really like that thing. I bought it a few years ago thinking it would help to inspire me on my quest for a clutter-free home. It obviously hasn’t helped. And since I don’t love it, it is clutter, and it has got to go! Buh-bye!

Sometimes LESS really is MORE!

Ahhhh. That is so much better! Isn’t it?

You probably have no idea how hard this was for me. We’re talkin’ borderline hoarder here, people. But it is like a switch has suddenly been flipped and I can finally see the light!

So thank you, Org Junkie, for the continued guidance; and thank you, Martha and Megan, for inspiring me to let go of that not-so-simple SIMPLIFY sign. I am hopeful this is just the start of a lifetime of letting go.

with gratitude and optimism,


PS: if you are just joining us and want to get caught up on all of my previous 52 Weeks projects, click here.

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.


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