The gloves are coming off. Yesterday my husband and partner in crime publicly called me out on my err...hobby...of saving and reusing paper bags. As if having a hidden stash of nearly 100 bags jammed behind a piece of furniture in our kitchen qualifies as hoarding behavior! Humph. Okay, maybe it's a little nuts, but I was encouraged by the many commenters that shared my bag obsession. Your solidarity was greatly appreciated and helped me through my very public intervention. Now, turnabout's fair play.

Though my bag obsession was made public by my loving spouse, you have to realize that I'm not alone in abusing an area of our home by housing excess items that otherwise belong in the trash. And so in keeping with our theme this week of New Year's resolutions, this post will be devoted to the little problem my husband keeps hidden from the world in his secret mad scientist-like lair otherwise known as our basement. 

My husband has a wood problem. I mean, my husband has a problem with tools. No, that doesn't sound right either. What I'm trying to say is that Alex has a classic case of "I'm not going to throw that out because I might use it some day on another project," which frighteningly enough you hear hoarders recite time and time again on reality television shows. 

Back in 2002 when we began our home search, one of Alex's requirements was that our new home have a basement. I didn't give it much thought, but he insisted on a space for storage. Little did I know, our new home's modestly sized subterranean space would soon become a sore spot in our marriage. It's so bad in fact, that many of my closest friends have never seen this area of our home. And those brave enough to venture down the rickety stairs have remarked that they "can't believe I can put up with that" or they "can't believe it's part of my home," given how neat and tidy the other floors are. 

So here's the moment you've all been waiting for. Are you ready? Brace yourself for a glimpse at the horror:

Good grief, I'm feeling a little bit nauseous just looking at the photo. Is anyone else itching with claustrophobia? Here's a highlight of some of the items stowed in this steaming pile of crap:

  • Scrap pieces of wood from each and every home improvement project we've tackled in the last decade. Buckets of it, piles of it, and stacks of it, leaning against walls, stacked on shelves, tucked in the ceiling, it's everywhere you turn. This wood hoard also includes every leftover piece of wood siding, crown molding, old boards removed during projects, or wood that is going to be used on a project...sometime...someday. Do you see all of those nice straight boards leaning on the shelves? Yep, someday those will be our storm windows...someday. 
  • A claw foot bathtub. Yeah, seriously. We scored a great deal on this beauty about eight years ago, and it's been slumbering down there until we can refurbish it for our master bath. It's in the photo below. Just look really hard at what's beneath the old framed photos, part of Alex's Halloween costume from last year, and all the other junk.
  • Alex's pride and joy, the server rack. Do you see all of those blue lights and wires on the right tucked under the stairs? He's wedged the thing in there and I hope it never has to move. It's actually one of the few organized things in our basement.
  • An old oil drum, partially filled with rain water and oil, left from our home's oil heating past, who knows how long ago. 
  • A beast of a furnace with dangerously low ductwork. I can't count the number of times Alex has trudged upstairs with a bleeding cranium, nearly unconscious from his most recent head trauma after walking smack into the duct while not paying attention. I usually know what's coming when I hear a loud thud and then a muffled curse word or two. We even put a danger sign on it, but it hasn't helped him remember to duck.
  • Every tool that we own, including all of the great ones we've talked about in our Toolbox Tuesday posts, as well as some that Alex deemed necessary during our trip to the home improvement store but have yet to break out of their packaging. 
  • A box of wedding gifts, that after nine years we just haven't found the "right" place for. 
  • The original seats that came with our Mustang.
  • Our laundry area. I use that term loosely, as it's our washer, dryer, jug after jug of dust encrusted detergent and bleach, and used dryer sheets and lint strewn about on the floor. (You can barely see it on the right)
  • Rolls of screen, house wrap, hand clamps, a hammock, beadboard, PVC, and even leftover fabric all hanging in the open joist cavities. (Okay, I might be responsible for the fabric.)
  • A small inadequate tool bench that houses little more than Alex's obsessive collection of antique hardware.
  • And, about four tons of other miscellaneous junk, house ware items, dirt, grime, dead bugs and general this box of plumbing, sandpaper, gloves, ductwork, and notebooks that served its purpose until the bottom blew out of it and it now sits, still, unmoving, sad, defeated. 

Yeah, it's really that gross, and seems to pale in comparison to a little stack of shopping bags, doesn't it? So my hope for 2012 is that my darling husband resolves to clean up this space once and for all. I think the last time we cleaned it was back in 2007, so it's long overdue for the little sprucing up. I know we're both tired of tripping over things and spending countless amounts of time searching for items we need for the project at hand. 

I am being critical about the mess here (Alex deserves it after yesterday's post), but we're off to a good start on the cleaning process. Alex tossed several contractor bags worth of garbage over the weekend, and I made four trips to the local charity this week to donate items that we thought someone else could use or enjoy. At this point you can almost see that we have a bathtub sitting in the basement, which I think is an improvement. So if we keep up our cleaning spree another three or four times, we might be in business. But someone is going to have to give up some copious amounts of wood. (Cough, cough.)

So let's have it. I want your honest opinion in the bag vs. basement hoarding fight of 2012. Who's the undefeated champion of the worst habit? In my opinion, Alex and his wood and tool issues have me in a TKO.

Comments 47


Maureen Brady Johnson
1/5/2012 at 10:15 AM
Mark and I have been married for 36 years and the minute I throw away anything from his work bench, there is an immediate need for just that item. It is uncanny! I've decided to organize rather than throw away...and I always ask before I pitch anything that is HIS. For me, I am a much better "pitcher" but I do have a few brown paper bags stuck between the cabinet and the refrigerator, I mean, what would I store the mushrooms in???
Interesting. I've run into the same issue of the miraculous need for something just after it's been pitched!

And of course you need a few brown paper bags handy in the kitchen for mushrooms. That's a no brainer! :-)
Maureen Brady Johnson
1/5/2012 at 10:20 AM
PS. I think you two should lobby for a show on one of the home improvement stations! I really enjoy reading these posts!
1/5/2012 at 10:35 AM
What potential! So jealous of such a great workspace.
Thanks! Yes, the potential is definitely there. We dream of someday (years down the road) converting the basement into a clean and usable space for things other than just renovation-related. Can someone say wine tasting room?
You're right, it has a TON of potential. Regardless of our long term plans and eventual work, it has great potential as a workspace (and has served us really well for the last 9 years). Honestly, it's just gotten out of hand since it became a dumping ground for my junk.

Can we store wood in the wine tasting area?
I have been publicly shamed...I am ashamed.
1/5/2012 at 10:46 AM
Yeah, this is much worse than your bag hoarding. On the other hand, now I know where to get random pieces of wood when I need them. =)
Thank you Beth! My thoughts exactly.

What are you doing this weekend? Need a truckload of wood?
Mandy S
1/5/2012 at 10:56 AM
If you need a good home for some of that wood, I'll come take it out of your way!
By all means Mandy...assuming I can get Alex to part with some of it. The guy that trolls our alley the night before garbage pickup is going to score big in the next few weeks. :-)
Mandy S
1/5/2012 at 10:59 AM
created a Facebook account (I wish more blogs would do this!)
Glad you like the feature. Though the basement may be a disaster, we try to stay as technologically progressive on the blog as possible. :-)
1/5/2012 at 11:35 AM
Here's the pertinent question: How often have you needed a good piece of wood and were able to get that wood downstairs?

I seem to recall that you got some good basement wood from Alex just recently (for your magnolia swags).
It doesn't happen as often as you might think, given the large inventory. You are correct about the holiday decorations. If we have no size/quality/type of wood requirements, usually Alex can locate something to reuse. So, usually about once a year the hoard comes in handy.
Thank you for defending my basement wood and its purpose!
1/5/2012 at 11:49 AM
Wow! That's a lotta stuff. One of my goals for 2012 is to organize our basement into some version of a workshop for Mike, so that I can get the compound mitre saw and stand out of my won't take me as long as it'll take you guys ;)

I've loved these last two posts. So refreshing to hear about REAL houses.
I know Ashley, it's a shockingly large amount of stuff for a house that's only 15' wide! Ahh, mitre saw in the kitchen. I remember those days. Good luck, and thank for your comment. We try to keep it real over here. DIY renovations aren't all sunshine and rainbows after all! :-)
Personally, I find the kitchen to be a very productive workspace and wood cutting area. Just sayin'.
1/5/2012 at 11:51 AM
Ooh, I've really enjoyed these last two posts. I swear I should be a life coach/personal organizer... considering how excited I get about seeing a mess like Alex's, and the thought of the cleaned up aftermath. My spouse is a (plastic!!) bag hoarder, but fortunately he doesn't care when I go in and clean out his stash. I on the other hand have a "workshop" that has outgrown my solitary workbench, so I totally empathize with Alex's lack of organization. That said, Alex is by far the worse offender ;)

What other peeves are you guys going to share with us!? :)
No way, I want a recount! Wendy's mess was tiny, sure, but the space it consumed was equal to the space it had available. The basement is a much larger space. To truly compete I would have to fill it floor to ceiling and wall to wall with wood! I'd also like to point out that Wendy's bags were Wendy's bags alone. Please see exhibit A: photo #4 of the post (the one with the danger sign). The majority of what you see in that photo that is occupying the bathtub and all of the items to the left are Wendy's, brought home from her office during a move...omg, I can't believe we've had a bathtub in the basement for nearly nine years. I'm sorry, you're right, I win.
1/5/2012 at 12:57 PM
I offer up the follow for inspiration

My family had a big barn chalk full of stuff and my wife and I cleaned 2,200 square feet of junk in order to shoehorn our reception into it. If we can do it you can too!
Wow! No seriously, w-o-w! That barn is a veritable treasure trove! The claw foot tub is beautiful and the horsedrawn sleigh?? No words.

If only we could find "cool" stuff in our mess, it would be much more fun to do the cleaning. :-)
1/5/2012 at 2:37 PM
Oh, hai! Basement! So excited to see you! It's been a while! :)
1/5/2012 at 4:10 PM
Doesn't look that bad! Actually our shed is nearly that level of disorganization ... and we only moved into our new place last August! Then again, we just dumped things that couldn't go into the house yet there when we moved in.
Well, the basement has become our dumping ground, which is part of the reason for the problems now. Even this past week Wendy decided we no longer needed the table in the sun porch. It will eventually go back to her parent's house, but until then where does it go? You guessed it, the basement. So it isn't all my doing. I objected to the table in the basement, but I lost.
1/5/2012 at 4:58 PM
Wendy, as far as I'm concerned, Alex has little room to challenge you on a few bags. However, I guess Alex doesn't have to purchase wood for a very, very, very long time and will be able to complete the new window project.
Exactly, it's not a mess, it's just disorganized preparation and cost savings.
Thanks Monique! I hope you're right about Alex not having to purchase wood for a while...but something tells me there's a shopping trip in his future for "something." :-)
1/5/2012 at 5:00 PM
Maybe it's the male in me. But I see the wood, and it doesn't look like hoarding to me. But I see a collection of bags and think "Ones the same as the next? Why do we need so many?"
I like this logic, it makes perfect sense to me.
1/5/2012 at 8:41 PM
Well, it's an unfinished basement. What else would you be putting down there, anyway?

Surely it could be tidied up a bit, and not every scrap needs to stay. But the man needs his man cave!

Happy New Year guys. ;-)
Now that's what I like to hear! Thanks for having my back on this one, much appreciated!
Old Town Home
1/6/2012 at 12:19 AM
Thanks Mrs. J! I know the feeling of missing something I KNEW was there just the day before. You're right, it is crazy how that always works out. I think Wendy would like to organize, but the basement is so bad she just gets upset and has to walk away, otherwise lots would probably get thrown out. Oh well, we all have our processes.
1/6/2012 at 2:24 AM
OMG, that looks EXACTLY like our old basement, down to the crusty parade of detergent jugs on the washer. I'm not kidding! The only difference is that the *junk* was my husbands (and still is, in our current garage), whereas the very valuable *wood* is mine. Yes, we fight about it. Kidding. Sort of

Good luck!

Really? We're not the only ones with a basement like this? That's so comforting to know!

Your comment cracked me up Angela!
1/6/2012 at 3:50 PM
Come on now, it's not that bad! At least it's in the basement and out of the main living area of the house. As soon as we throw something out, we end up needing it, be it a scrap of wood, a leftover length of pipe, or anything else.
1/6/2012 at 6:09 PM
Hmmm, I will freely admit that as a cabinetmaker, I also hoard too much wood, and wood scraps. My workshop (the entire garage) is also a huge mess. My excuse is that I still need to build storage cabinets to actually house most of my tools (which will clear up a lot of space).

Some of it (in a relatively clean state) can be seen here:
In looking at your pictures, I think this looks way more organized than our disgusting basement. Alex's comment? "I wish we had a garage." Good grief.
1/6/2012 at 7:02 PM
I love your "hoarder wars" posts! My husband accuses me of being a hoarder --and he's not wrong, just strangely blind to the fact that while my stuff is confined to a few places in the house and basement while he's filled up a two-car garage and a workshop larger than a one-car garage, plus most of another 13' x 20' outbuilding with tools, hardware, wood, etc. Of course much of it is useful (someday) but I have no idea how he finds anything. Our nasty 1920s unfinished basement is smaller than yours and less filled up, but still features the junky laundry area, old paint stuff, and lots of wrapping paper and bags (yes, one of my hoarding weaknesses). Good to know that organized, neat persons like yourselves harbor some out-of-sight shocking secrets!
1/8/2012 at 11:40 PM
I loved this post! I giggled and giggled! I've been married for forty years and the closed to us ever parting sheets is over this issue. The part about the "uncanny need for something shortly after you've chucked it" is so very true! My husband gets upset when I straighten up his messes because then he can't find what he wants.
Thanks Teak! Are you telling me that even 40 years in husband hoarding issues don't get any better? Nooooo....!
1/11/2012 at 9:28 AM
Love these posts! We're trimming right now so we're knee deep in wood (and sawdust) right now in our basement as well as in our living room & dining room... so I feel your pain.
Thanks Kelly! Ugh, sawdust is the worst. It's kind of like sand in that it gets in every little crack and crevice!
1/20/2012 at 12:49 PM
Wendy any after pictures? :)
5/5/2013 at 8:58 AM
I must confess I missed this post....I must also confess I am a hoarder. The life of a hoarder is difficult! We're always running out of space and building shelves!!!

Enjoy your Sunday,

1/18/2015 at 8:10 PM

Funny. No contest, obviously. Then again, you don't get 1x8's and porcelain doorknobs with every purchase at the grocer's.

I've been packing stuff into my barn and connecting shed for years. When an area reaches the critical mass of interfering with life, I pull everything outside, sweep, and put back only what's worth the effort. The rest is yard sale, free to drivers-by, or dump.

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