I’m Living in an Armpit.

My house is a disaster.

Not a pretend,  Oh look!  I’m mortified.  The can labels aren’t straight disaster or a Golly, who left their keys on the table disaster.  I mean a REAL disaster.

Living in a hairy armpit disaster.

Case in point:


This is where I keep my pressure canner …


Basement 1


And my drill …


Basement 2


And somewhere in here is a 1932 Studebaker, Amelia Earhart and the cure for hiccups.




There are a variety of reasons for this mess.   Too much to do, too little time.  An insatiable curiosity for what it would take to make myself go completely mess crazy, running and screaming up and down the street with hairpins flying out of my hair.  (I’m not there yet)

But mainly it’s because I’m getting some spray foam insulation done in my basement.  So I had to shove everything in the basement to the centre to allow the workers room to spray.  My basement is about the size of a very large box of instant potatoes.  Conversely the contents of my basement could fill most of Ireland.

No excuse for the last picture, (the potting shed) really.  There was some reason for the mess, but I can’t remember it anymore. Mainly I’d just rather play with the chickens than clean it up.

So this weekend is the weekend of getting things back in order.

Because I am organized.  I am neat.  I am an accomplisher.

And I really need my pressure canner.

The good part is you’ll all be getting a post on how to build VERY fast and easy basement shelves in the near future. Well … I guess that’s only good if you’d like to build VERY fast and easy basement shelves. In that’s not the case … there really is no good part for you.

You see, if I’m putting my basement back together I might as well make it better than it was before. In its best shape it basically looks like the pictures above, only everything is more spread out. So I’m custom building shelves to go around a lot of the perimeter of the basement. Cheaper than buying shelves and this way I can make them the exact size I need them.

Have a good weekend. I will be having a miserable weekend. If you’re going to the beach or on a picnic or reading or BBQing or going for walks or riding stallions I DON’T want to hear about it.  Shush.  YOU.  YOU THERE WEARING THE CHAPS, HOLDING THE MEAT THERMOMETER.  SHUSHHHHHHHHH.  SHUT UP.

Don’t wanna hear it.


  1. roving polly says:

    Good luck on the clean up. I can relate VERY much to your post and have a similar basement. It just seems life has so many FUN & INTERESTING things to do & tidying up one’s mass of chaos & confustion doesn’t fall into those categories.

    Don’t be hard on yourself…just plow through things & be ruthless. If you can… share with us your strategy for all those ‘Life livers’ out there with messy basements.

  2. Brooke says:

    I follow your blog daily and always enjoy what I find, but this post goes beyond “enjoyment.” It has moved instead into the realm of “justification.” I too plan to show it to my husband to illustrate that we are not the only people in the world with Stuff with a capital S. Only problem is that our Stuff is all pushed against the walls and there is no “middle” into which to smush it to erect shelving. Anyway, misery loves company; rationalization loves evidence; I love your blog. (But maybe, could you look through that stuff and find the recipe for the sweeet-and-sour meatballs?)

  3. Sarah A. says:

    My armpit of a garage is also getting cleaned up this weekend, starting with a garage sale tomorrow. It’s nice to know that I won’t be the only one grumbling all weekend as I hear of people doing nice things like reading, enjoying sunshine… and shopping at garage sales. Grrr…

  4. laura says:

    girl, you don’t know mess! My husband told me last week we was going to buy a cargo trailer and I nearly wept I was so happy. Of course all of our junk is far too precious to throw out or sell but it’s a okay to pile it all up in a HUGE tangle in the basement (and all around the rest of the house).

    so now the plan is move everything out of the house and up to the farm we just bought…but that’s a whole other story!

    For now I’m just happy to be able to move around the house without keeping tight to the wall…I wonder what our basement floor is going to look like…

  5. Lynn says:

    At least you are classy and have a chandelier!

  6. Debbie B says:

    I seriously had so much stuff, then one day I said no more. Took about 4 months and over 200 banana boxes, but I got it done, then I donated it all to the MS & diabetes association, and they even picked it up, just had to put it out for them. I feel so liberated.

  7. Larita says:

    Sorry, but… HOLY COW, what a mess! A delightful, curious mess that makes me want to come dig through it with you and check out all the weird, interesting things you have. I wish my basement had cool things in it. (I could totally make you jealous with the spotless, organized basement I have.)

  8. Dawna says:

    Just a suggestion;put heavy duty wheels on all your shelving.That way,if you ever have to move them,it won’t be so hard.Get the ones you can lock into place.It also keeps the shelving off the floor.Looking forward to the finished project!!!

  9. Imagine how wonderful you will feel when it is all accomplished!

  10. Thera says:

    Looks the same as my basement and I dread trying to get it organized. My only shred of sanity is that 50% of what is down there isn’t ours. We had a college student come live with us and then use us as storage, so that’s 25% and it’s being removed at the end of the month. Our middle daughter finished college, ran into a few bumps and moved back home temporarily and will be moving out soon, so that’s another 25% and my hubbies mother passed away just after inheriting 50% of her neighbours stuff, so that is another 30% of what is down there, leaving our junk at about 20%.
    Yes, the percentages are a part of that sanity, I just keep telling myself 20%, 20%, 20% lol!

  11. Katie says:

    I suddenly feel a lot less angsty about where my water canner lives.

    My answer however is going to be to hang a curtain. Out of sight, out of mind, at least until it cools down enough I don’t feel like the weather is out to get me.

  12. Karen J says:

    Why is that other people ‘stuff/junk’ is so appealing?
    I’m thinking of all the great colours I could paint that crazy light! Or does it need to be painted? I need a closer look…

  13. Chrissy says:

    You have just saved my weekend! I was going to head down to the basement and try to make sense of it, but now I have to wait for your tutorial before I begin. Thank you!!

  14. Patti says:

    So. I just got married a few weeks ago, and with that comes REALLY BIG kitchen gadgets of which I will NEVER use. Add that to the HUGE pile of random stuff in our basement, and Karen, I honestly thought you’d snuck into my house to do an expose on our ‘storage’.

    I was just saying to the dude that we need shelves and STAT (which means, if he’s in charge, I could wait about 10 years), so now I’m going to wait in excited anticipation for your post on how to do it, and maybe I’ll just make it happen myself! I’ll have to brave the house centipedes in my basement (we call them walking eyebrows – it’s less scary), but you’ve inspired me! And! If you happen to come up with techniques with how to deal with said eyebrows, they would be great tips to share, too! YOU RULE!

  15. Laura Bee says:

    There may be a lot of stuff in our basement, but now I can say to hubby “At least there isn’t a penguin.” Thank you from the bottom of my heart, I love you a little more each day. I’ll be showing this post to him tonight. I’ve been wanting to build shelves too, can’t wait to see what you do.

  16. Amanda says:

    It’s also where you keep your taxidermy penguin? Well that’s not weird. Not weird at all.

  17. r says:

    Ooooooooooooohhhhhhh….I feel your pain. I am relocating the contents of a small garage/storage unit into the 2nd bedroom of a 2-bdrm apt. Crazy roommate moved out after 3 months…and now it makes more sense to save the extra $75/month to help with the other 1/2 of the rent I so quickly and unexpectedly assumed. (Think of the value of my life that was spared, too – close to a buck fifty.)
    This is after downsizing (AKA divorce) from a large home with a similarly large basement (Costco-sized box of instant mashed potatoes.) = 3 dumpster fills, 5 yard sales, even a few ‘give aways’ and reading too many blogs that throw my Dollar store forays into Hoarder-like shopping sprees.
    Ease up on yourself, my friend, you share the guts of your life and we love watching you rearrange, organize, repurpose all of it so some of us can look at something we (I) have a few (too many) of and say, “Hmmmm…I’ll keep this because maybe Karen will show me what I can make out of it.” My crockpot is making my 2nd batch of yogurt as I write this and I’ve given several Dollar store candle pieces that were Happy Birthday successes. Enough from me, can’t wait to see the shelves. Do be careful – these projects usually end up costing you a perilous jab with a spikey, rusty object. Love ya.

  18. Jennifer says:

    Very fast and easy basement shelves are my favorite.

  19. Erika says:

    What I wouldn’t give for a DRY basement to be able to build shelves in! I can’t store anything in mine, and I have to have my appliances, furnace, and water heater up on blocks, because anything that touches the floor is bound to get periodically wet. I suppose the lack keeps me from bring more stuff into the house, though. :)

  20. kelliblue says:

    Wow. Just…wow. Impressive. Disgusting, but impressive. :)

    Actually this all just makes you that much more human, Karen! This to me is “normal” and is what I struggle against constantly (y’know…grandma’s pack rat genes). Plus I have neither a basement, an attic, a backyard, nor a garage, so as much as I love your projects, I can’t do half of them because they involve large swaths of real estate, or sawing, or flying bits of wood or feathers or eggs, so I’m very limited. Good to know you’re just like us…chickens. Or something to that effect. :)

  21. LoriD says:

    Very timely! 1/3 of my basement plus my garage look like that. Before kids my garage actually had room for a car and my basement was virtually empty! I’m taking next week off and will be spending a couple of hours every day tackling the piles. Easy basement shelves will be perfect!

  22. LauraRN says:

    Wow– I thought you took pictures of my house. My whole house. We had replacement windows put in 2 days ago, and everything needed to moved back a few feet from the windows. We’re putting the “K” in Chaos. But looking forward to clearing out and reorganizing/redecorating with some of your fantiastic ideas… one room at a time. (It’s going to be a really long autumn.)

  23. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Karen, I envy your basement storage! I don’t have a basement, but our new home will. My husband is already telling me I can’t fill it up with stuff. What a party pooper.

    Today is a great day, we are taking my 20 year old who knows everything, back to college! Woohoo! I love the kid, but he needs to go back to school.


  24. Cheryl in Wisconsin says:

    Thank you thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one who will be spending her weekend in the basement. I’m getting ready for a Barn Sale at a friend’s which is my perfect opportunity to purge. While we may be envious of people who are “recreationing” this weekend, they should be envious of US come Monday morning, when our places are improved, and theirs still look like they did on Friday night.

  25. Deet says:

    I think you have underestimated the “R” value of stuff. You probably don’t need that spray insulation.

  26. Allison says:

    How did you ever get a picture of our garage and office?!?!? I seriously need a few uninterrupted weekends to clean them out… Good luck with your basement!

  27. What I’d give for all that storage space! I’ve a tiny shed that just about holds a toolbox and a lawnmower, and a tiny space at the short end of a converted attic. Ireland (btw, loved the reference in this post!!) doesn’t do basements.
    But, thank you Karen, you’ve just given me a brainwave for insulating the edges of that tiny attic space! Now I won’t have bits of pebbles on the pillowcases; hotpress is below said attic space.

    • Karen says:

      Hah! You’re a gal who can appreciate a good potato joke. You can use canned expandable foam for that. :) Like the stuff I used to make my Cupfakes! ~ karen

  28. Ha! I envy you your basement and your potting shed too! I moved from a house with a full finished basement and a (sigh) workshop to an apartment attached to my store in PEI. The boxes you have piled in your basement are stacked in my upstairs hall and one bedroom looks like your potting shed. Basement shelves will not help me. The people on “Hoarders” are my only hope.

  29. Diane says:

    If it makes you feel any better it’s gonna rain here all weekend. I’m going to spend my weekend hanging pictures in my long narrow hallway and trying to figure out a way to brighten that space up. Loking at your pictures reminds me a little of my spare bedroom. I feel your pain.

  30. Tigerquill says:

    Recently re-organized my basement in your “better than before” mode. Let me say floor to ceiling shelves….you’ll never be sorry. All of us who had lived with a basement like your’s know. Good luck.

  31. Lyn says:

    We had foam insulation sprayed in our basement & attic last year. I’m sure it’s going to make a huge difference in our heating & a/c (it’s a new to us house, so no past bills to compare), but it does look as though aliens are incubating something in there, very freaky looking…

  32. Gloria says:

    Can’t wait to see the pictures when you are done! But hey, looks like you have some really NICE stuff! Keep smiling!

  33. Annie says:

    Is that a stuffed kiwi bird beside Santa?

  34. Lori says:

    I LOVE your armpit analogy!! I too am living in a big hairy armpit. It has been a challenging spring/summer. My fella is contracting an addition to our house. It will be nice when it is done….
    But I am so so tired of living in an armpit. I keep trying to pick up crap, dirt and hair – 2 boys, their friends, 7 cats plus the one I keep trying to get spayed just had 5 kittens on Sunday 8/12, 3 dogs and a fuzzy guinea pig. Luckily the two chickens and three ducks all live outside or I would be really certifiable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You are so lucky to be able to put things back this weekend. Can’t wait to get to that point again. Wish I could help you out – those things are always more fun when you can work with silly friends.

  35. Melissa says:

    Just think – if you had kids, your basement would simply stay this way. For a long time!

    What’s that smell? Is it a future tutorial? Heh.

  36. Heather says:

    As usual (which I find rather strange)this post topic comes at a fortuitous time. We are in the beginning stages of dividing our unfinished basement to put in a much needed bedroom. So I need to purge and organize to be able to use my much smaller space more efficiently. After 20+ yrs with kids and such it is not pretty. I am sure I will be happy when all is done but right now–Ugh. So I will prob be making your shelves in Sept or Oct. If they are simple enough, I may even make some for my shed. So Thank You for this timely blog and for the opportunity to use the word fortuitous. Keep up the good work and kudos on your psychic ability to know exactly what your readers need.

  37. Dru says:

    Will you tell us about spray insulation in the basement? Only ever thought of it upstairs…

  38. Patti says:

    You are too funny. I’m afraid if it wasn’t for my husband’s non-gentle reminders, my shed and basement would probably look very similar. Thank goodness, we have had several moves which have forced me to get rid of a lot of things, but there is so much more I should throw out.

  39. Sebrah says:

    You’ve got a braided rug stashed away in there! I really really want a braided rug but they’re soooo expensive!! It’s just going to have to stay on my wish list and there you have one, tossed in your potting shed!

    • Karen says:

      Sebrah – I actually rescued that one from being thrown out by someone else! It’s filled with sand and dirt, so it’s in the shed until one of us cleans it. THEN, it’ll go in the kitchen. :) ~ karen

      • Sebrah says:

        Lucky you! If you find another, I’ll pay for the shipping costs to the UK ;-)

      • Amy in StL says:

        My mom has several braided rugs and as a housewarming gift she’s giving me the two made of the selvage from Girl Scouts brownie uniforms. One is huge, but I’ll find a spot for it.

  40. Jamieson says:

    Oh dear, I hope that DVD doesn’t arrive til Monday…

  41. Rosemary Walsh says:

    While you’re at it, consider a good sized section of 1/4″ pegboard. I love me a bunch of pegboard. Get some of those sticky outie two post fasteners. I’ve got all my hammers on one. And consider getting a tool holder thingie, long and narrow, to hold all your Philips head and flat head screwdrivers. You are going to love love love your new basement.


    • Karen says:

      Rosie – I actually just took down the pegboard! I believe I’ll just be relocating it. I found another 12 square feet of storage behind it! ~ karen

  42. meredith says:

    dang, you got some weird stuff.
    I have been totally befuddled at how you have time to read all those books. Now I know, you are secret slob, or maybe that would hurt. A not-so-secret messy person.

  43. deb says:

    Unlike Michelle, I am not curious, just nosy. Again with the 2nd picture, far right. Anorexic golden reindeer?

  44. Louise says:

    Thats soooo funny. I’m over in the UK and I’m reading your post, lying in bed with a cup of tea. It’s 6am and today is a momentous day. My best friend Kate is coming over..in fact she’s driving for an hour to get to me, to don overalls and gloves most likely, and help me….clear out what we call “the office” at the bottom of our garden! We’ve lived here for six years and in that time have just shoved more and more STUFF into the place until I can’t even open the door without a crowbar. It looks just like your photos, without the Santa! Time to reclaim the space and attempt to use it as it s name suggests…yeah….right…

  45. Maureen says:

    My entire house looks like that and I have spent a week trying to make some sense of it all. Thrifting, crafting and blogging have turned my world upside down! Good luck!

  46. Lesley says:

    OK I have to ask, although I may regret it – and its going to keep me up all night anyway – but in the middle photo, right at the bottom centre, is that a … baby penguin??

  47. Chris says:

    You have some cool stuff down there like that funky light fixture. Our house had no useful storage and the first thing we did was get those metal wall hangers and brackets and thick plywood and put several shelves in the cold room and it is packed with decorations, canning stuff and food. But the rest of the basement looks like a tsunami hit and brought all this junk in. Once the renovating is done upstairs I hope I have enough energy left to reorganize the basement I call the dungeon. I feel your pain!

  48. Erica M says:

    I want to offer ONE tip before you start those shelves. MEASURE your storage boxs FIRST.
    Seriously..Hubs built my shelves in the garage and we *thought* that two rubbermaids would fit side by side on each shelf. Nope.
    So on each shelf I have a box and a bunch of stuff…because two won’t fit. Nice…so much for organization.

    • Karen says:

      Erica M – LOL. I’m way ahead of ya, already thought of that. I mean seriously … that’s the sort of thing a man would do. Not a woman! :) ~ karen

  49. Um, I’m curious – what exactly is a stepping Santa(2nd picture)? Is he doing step aerobics?

    • Karen says:

      LOL. The fella bought the Stepping Santa at Costco one year. It’s a Santa that goes up and down a ladder holding a rope of Christmas lights while tinny sounding Christmas Carols play. Relentlessly. Kids who come by LOVE it.

  50. Therese says:

    Hey, you lucky thing having a basement, and a potting shed!

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