When we have people over, I like my house to be cosmetically clean. By that I mean, even though my house may look spotless, I caution you to never open a cabinet or a closet door –cardboard boxes and volleyballs and unopened junk mail will waterfall out and bury you.

Closet stuffed to overflowing

I’m not a clutter person, but I’m both a procrastinator and a sentimental packrat. Some people sort through the junk mail when it comes every day and toss things that are of no interest. The procrastinator in me just grabs everything out of the mailbox and puts it a pile on the kitchen counter. Then I move the pile to the side counter to get it out of eyesight, and there it continues to grow like some horror movie blob. I cleaned out a kitchen drawer to put the mail in, but it’s always stuffed with last month’s junk, so when someone is coming over, I rely on a large paper grocery sack.

My friend can drop in on a Thursday and my house is a pig stye – blanketed in bills, sales flyers, assorted cutlery, clothes, junk mail, water bottles, sewing projects, pet supplies, groceries and the like. When she comes back for a dinner party on Friday night, the house is immaculate (to the undiscerning eye). She says, “Where’d you put the grocery bag?” She knows me. “In the master closet,” I reply. Sometimes she’ll go look for herself because she can’t believe I have corralled all that mess into a measley grocery bag or two. If it’s around Christmas when I’m really busy, there can be three sacks in three different closets, but never under the beds – that real estate is already stuffed to capacity.

You should see my potholder drawer. A lot of the potholders were made by friends, so the sentimental packrat in me doesn’t want to toss them. Although they are frayed and stained, they still spark joy. I’ve bought new ones because I’m embarrassed to use the old ones in public, so the drawer holding them is so jam-packed I have to butt it with my bottom to get it to close.

My husband likes to invite friends to dinner so they can enjoy his culinary creations. My part of the entertaining is to get the house presentable, set the table, try to keep our eighteen-year-old incontinent dog from peeing in the middle of the carpet right before everyone shows up, etc. I certainly don’t have time to sort through paperwork, pick up clothes, or put away Christmas presents I have no place to store. All of it gets crammed in a grocery sack.

I’ve kept a lot of my children’s baby clothes – those cute little blue and pink outfits that conjure up such sweet memories. They fill any extra space in the kids’ closets. I have my son’s entire Honey Bunny crib set from Daisy Kingdom – I think of how darling he looked in his little matching bunny comforter, sheets, bumpers, wall hanging, plush headboard and footboard. How can I part with those things? I just can’t.

I’ve still got throw pillows from sofas we replaced years ago in the hall closet. I might need them someday. I’ve got all my books from college – and I haven’t looked at them since then. I even kept all the toys from the McDonald’s Happy Meals – those plastic knock-off action figures – some of them still in their wrappers because the MeDonald’s near my house had a cool play structure and I could meet a friend there for lunch and let the kids burn off energy when it was raining outside – which it does a lot in Oregon. When they got the same toy they already had in their Happy Meal, I’d snatch it and keep it just in case they’d be collectors’ items one day. They’re stored in gigantic tins holding three kinds of popcorn on top of the shelves in my laundry room. They’ve probably reached their maximum value by now – please let me know if you want to buy any.

When I’m aware in advance that people will be walking into my house, I race through every room and scoop up everything lying around, no matter what it is, shoveling it into the open bag until it’s full to bursting, chunk it in a closet and then grab another bag. People step into my home and can’t believe how clean and tidy and uncluttered it is. They would be shocked if they knew what it looks like behind my closet doors. It’s like seeing a perfectly gorgeous model who is secretly wearing dirty underwear. What you don’t know won’t hurt you, unless, of course, you open one of my closet doors….