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By Kimara - Posted on 22 April 2008

            When my children were growing up I always kept a mending basket in my room. Sweaters that lost buttons, jackets that needed new zippers and pants that required hemming were layered in the basket. Then, during idle moments, I was able to scoop up the basket and spend the required time needed to repair said items. Sounds efficient, right? There remained, however, a two pronged problem…first, coming up with idle moments, and second, mustering the motivation necessary to spend my precious leisure time on a task as mundane as mending! Suffice to say the basket was seldom moved, and every couple of years when the clothing was mounded so high that the addition of one more item threatened to topple the carefully constructed edifice, I’d need gardening sheers to cut away the carpet that had grown through the basket weave!


            For clothing, the mending basket was the kiss of death! I could imagine a particularly astute pair of pants, digging its heels deep into the carpet as it eyed my mending basket, uttering a final plea, “Please, don’t put me in the basket! Anything but the basket. I’ll be good, honest I will! You don’t need to patch the hole in my knee. I like it that way. Yeah, that’s it…I made this hole intentionally, ventilation you know. Just don’t stick me in the basket!” The reality of the situation was…once in the basket…gone forever! Although my intentions were honorable, my follow through left much to be desired!


            My mending basket represented one of many “named” piles in our house. Truth be told, I am a stacker. Okay, there you go, I’ve said it. Isn’t that the proverbial first step, acknowledging you have a problem? Trouble is, I acknowledged the problem some 30 years ago, and still I continue to stack. And before anyone asks, NO, I have never sought professional counseling, although, through the years, my family has staged multiple interventions.


They: “Why don’t you just throw that stack of magazines away?”


Me: “Because there are ideas in there I want to save. I’m going to go through them and pull the articles I want to keep.”


They: “You’ll never do that.”


Me: “Yes I will.”


They: “No, you won’t.”


Me: “Want a brownie?”


            And so the stack of magazines continued to reproduce until they could be used as a coffee table or to do homework at. Then, on some random day, abounded with renewed determination, I’d grab a pot of coffee, several of the magazines, and a stack of file folders, and begin to “go through” the heap. After flipping through a couple of the magazines, unable to remember what had been so interesting that mandated saving, I’d give up.


Me: “Okay, let’s get rid of the magazines.”


They: “Hallelujah!”


            Quickly, the stacks would disappear. You NEVER want to give a stacker the chance to change her mind! Regret was always swift and severe, when later that evening I’d remember that somewhere I’d seen a recipe for quick and easy tiramisu and realize the hidden gem was now the property of the local recycling center! I learned that employees at recycling centers have little patience or compassion for stackers that return to the scene of the crime wishing to be reunited with impulsively discarded treasures! Sadly, I’d walk away knowing our lives were a little less brilliant due to the overwhelming loss.


            One of the most awe inspiring stacks was school papers, you know, backpack potpourri…a literary genre in and of itself. This included everything from homework assignments to monthly newsletters. There were book club orders and fieldtrip permission slips. Add articles on head lice and requests for soup labels. Multiple this by 3 children, and the results are devastating for a stacker. I did have the presence of mind to create a substack…things that required action…but the rest landed on the stack “to be gone through more thoroughly at a later date.” These stacks would actually get so high that they required boxes to hold them. They eventually worked their way down to our basement, with me vowing to organize them “soon”. I probably reached a stackers “low point” when I opened my preschool, and had to clear my stacks out of the walk-out. After two weeks of pure angst, I decided to rent an off-site storage unit, to TEMPORARILY house my stacks until I could go through them. (This is not an embellishment for the sake of storytelling, folks, this is the sad, gospel truth!) For 10 years my stacks grew, as I paid a small sum of money each month for what I perceived to be storage of irreplaceable treasures, but really it was for some misbegotten peace of mind.




They: “When’s the last time you’ve been to the storage unit to get something out?”


Me: “I’m planning on going tomorrow. I think I actually wrote it on my calendar.”


They: “Seriously…as God is your witness, when is the last time you took anything out?”


Me: “Define out.”


They: “When is the last time you drove to the storage unit, rummaged through the stacks, and actually brought something home with you?”


Me: “Okay, never, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”


They: “You’ve got a problem.


Me: “I know I do.”


            Eventually, I got rid of the storage unit. My excuses became more and more feeble, and ultimately I knew they were right. I did not have the fortitude to do it myself, and on the dark day when I gave my family permission to “throw it all out” I staged a solitary memorial service. Gone were the never created scrapbooks; gone were the bathroom makeover suggestions; gone were the plant markers from perennials that moved on to a higher plane years ago! I was overcome with a sense of inexplicable loss, but truth be told, I lost nothing of value besides a monthly storage bill!


            Since that time, I’ve gotten much better, hmmmm, well, at least better. I still stack, but I usually contain my stacks to a three-tiered basket and my desk’s pigeon holes. Also, as mostly empty nesters, we receive far fewer pieces of potential stack fodder. And, probably having the greatest impact was the introduction of the Internet. With information readily available 24/7 and an almost endless supply of storage, I am able to save important emails, magazine articles and sites of interest in cyberspace...instead of my desk...or dining room table…or foot of my bed! I must admit my computer screen is cluttered with a cornucopia of icons of well traveled sites, and my favorites list is so enormous and random that although bookmarked, I actually have a hard time returning to a site after I leave it. But it makes me feel secure to know all this vital information is safe and sound, and someday soon I’ll get around to organizing all of it. Really…I will!


Almost everyone has some area of their life that gets away from them. Maybe you’re a stacker or a garage sale junkie or a procurer of vintage garden gnomes…anything excessive that causes others to shake their heads, suggest professional help, or orchestrate a friendly intervention! If you’re willing to come out of the closet and fess up, what behavior do you psychotically…I mean excessively exhibit? 

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There are really things in life that we cannot forget easily and all we have to do is laugh out loud everytime we remember those moments. - Nova Publishers

This was so stinking funny I nearly wet my pants. I'm what you would call a novice stacker. Just got married this past year and I'm in a new house so I haven't had years to collect junk but I see myself in this blog. OMG is a storage unit in my future? LOL. The family interventions were wild. Thank's for linking. I plan to read more!

I am more of a dumper. I usually have a closet or two that I cram full of junk, only stopping to deal with it when I can no longer fit anything in the closet, it no longer will close all the way - or heaven forbid, if I actually need to find something in it. The worst was after the first child... before the second. I had an entire room (my old office) that became the dumping ground. I think this stems from the "push it under the bed" cleaning tactic I had used as a child. But the only real "stack" I have in my house is the catalog, child paper, etc one that collects on top of my printer on my desk. Other than that I can't stand to look at stacks... so off the junk goes to the closet. Out of site, out of mind.

Now one thing I do seem to have are these little tupperwares full of odds and ends. Lego blocks, puzzle pieces, hair clips, dice, paper clips, coins, etc that I am constantly picking up from around the house (and of course need to keep out of reach from my 19mo old). I have a little tupperware on the kitchen counter, one on my desk and another in my bedroom. All those little bits that need to be sorted and dealt with later in my cleaning. I eventually dump them all out on the table to be sorted while the kids delight in finding lost treasures.

Please tell me I'm not the only one with these random bits collecting all the time.

Makes me feel good to know I'm not alone in this stacking thing BUT I'm more a "piler". That's what happens to stacks when they fall over and become more of a heap than anything recognizable! I have spent most of my life figuring stacks existed because I've ALWAYS lived in apartments, usually small. When I was growing up I lived in a small apartment with my mom. I told you she was a waitress. She also did mending and alterations for other people and in some hard times ironing. I usually had to clear off a spot at the kitchen table to do my homework. The apartment was in the downtown area of our small town. We lived over a children's clothing store. And there were always people coming by to pick up or drop off stuff. I was proud of my mom but I did feel embarrassed when there were kids from school who dropped things off that weren't my friends. My friends didn't care and the apartment was always cleaned, just incredibly cluttered! Like you, Lisa, I swore I'd have a neat house when I left home, but here I sit today, surrounded by mounds of stuff I need to deal with. My ex boyfriend left a pair of shoes here and it took me a couple of months before I unburied them! BTW I did not return them but took delight in throwing them out! Bitchy, yes, but it felt good! I keep telling myself that someday if I get a bigger place I'll have room to put everything away. I sincerely doubt it, but I can dream can't I? (If I were to fess up about something else it would be an awful habit I have a making off with the jams and jellies at restaurants! I figure if I ever get snowed in I can live for a month on jelly! Reassuring in some macabre way!)

I'm a stacker, too! Anyone want to start Stackers Annonymous? LOL I have stacks of mail and magazines, clothes to put into storage b/c they are too small and have to wait for younger siblings, clothes to send to goodwill, stuff that I don't use but will put on a garage sale, books to read, books I've read...the list goes on and on and on. But I do keep it fairly organized, so you'd really have no idea. But I know it's all there and it eats at me, but I just can't get rid of those things. What if I NEED them someday?

Okay, take everything you said and verse it and you have me! When people talk about me the world "anal" comes up alot! I go crazy when things are out of place. I think that is part of the reason cooking and crafts didn't have a great pull to me, everything is so messy. Just like you, Sarah, I think this was a reaction to my mom. She worked full time and when she came home she didn't want to think about household things. Our house was jammed with stuff that needed to be dealt with. As a kid I would try to put things away only the have her get angry that she couldn't find things. I really was too embarrassed to have friends over. I've got to believe, Kim, that your house look fantastic, and company ready most of the time and that the stacks existed in a clean house. That wasn't the case at home. So, as soon as I got out on my home I kept things perfect. When I finally got control I took it with a vengence. I am trying very hard to let go. I can see it in my kids face when I make them clean what they think is clean already. I'm trying. I love reading your blog, you seem so balanced. That's what I'm trying for, balance.

OMG! So many things to comment on! I laughed so loud reading this. My mom was so neat and believed "a place for everything and everything in its place." I think my disorganization is a direct rebellion to how I was raised. I have stacks of everything. Things I need to go through, outgrown clothes, art supplies. My mom comes over and offers to "help me" "right the house". I know I take some sadistic pleasure in saying "No thanks mom, its how I want it". I must admit I spend way to much time trying to find things because I'm usually pretty clueless as to where things are but I have a spare bedroom and most of it goes in there. My girls share a room. If they ever decide they want there own rooms I'll have to deal with it but for now I totally understand your stacking. Maybe someday I'll need my own off site storage!

Now, the truly interesting thing, I lived in Homewood! I grew up in Chicago but when my mom remarried we moved to Homewood and I graduated from Homewood-Flossmoor HS. When did you live there? I now live in Downers Grove which is about 30 miles away from Homewood. Small world, right?

I just had to laugh at this one because I could unfortunately picture all of your stacks all too well in my mind's eye. Like the stack of "backpack fodder" that has come home for the last month sitting on the island in my kitchen. It finally shifted positions from the kitchen to my office desk because we had a playdate today and the island was so messy and required cleaning before company came over. Of course now it is sitting on the corner of my desk. Thankfully, I have a very large partner desk with twice the desktop space of a normal desk! A great cure for the stack of magazines that I always wanted to go through and cut things out, but never did, was moving. Am I going to pay $$ to move old magazines across the country? I can proudly say that they all went into the recycling bin. But, yes, it was hard. I have even been able to start throwing away my children's artwork and schoolwork. Yes, I keep many things, but you just can't keep every little thing! Once again, though, the digital age comes to our rescue, because I take pictures of things first! Most of my clutter is confined to my office which thankfully has a door. Much better than in our old house where my office was in the "living room" (which we didn't use as a living room) and thus open to the rest of the house.

I have a lot of crafty interests and I tend to collect projects and supplies. So, all of my crafty implements tend to spill over everywhere. Sewing machine, fabric, yarn, embroidery, quilting rulers and mats, little wooden craft objects, half-finished quilt squares, pounds of wool roving, scrapbooking tools and papers up the wazoo....if there is something you are looking for, I mostly likely have it. I keep looking at those organized craft room photo sets on Flickr and dreaming of the day that I know will never come.