Temerity Jane
18. 06. 2013

You know what? I won’t ever again envy anyone’s vast expanses of counter space as long as I live.

Sure, it’s easy for me to say that now, considering that I have vast expanses of counter space.

But listen, there is no soulcrushing household crapmagnet like the vast expanse of counter space.

It’s just there. Being vast an expansive. Waiting for you to put your shit on it. And then put some shit next to the shit you already put on it. Just a pile of mail here, and the stuff from the grocery shopping that wasn’t groceries there. And the scissors and the tape — look, I don’t need to tell you how a horizontal surface, free of crap, becomes unfree of crap faster than you can say, “WHAT THE HELL IS ALL OF THIS CRAP?”

And as someone who used to not have much counter space, I can see how a huge amount of counter space is alluring. I was allured. I was allured right into this house with the giant CRAP MAGNET right in the middle, with the MINI CRAP MAGNET on the way to the big crap magnet, a kind of CRAP MAGNET WAY STATION, if you will. If you don’t have counter space, you think, “Ugh, if only I had space for all my CRAP, things wouldn’t look so CRAPPY around here.” Because that’s what you think. You think everything looks so cluttered and messy because you have to jam it on to a tiny counter.


Because then you move into a house with a GIANT SOULCRUSHING CRAPMAGNET RIGHT IN THE CENTER.


So now I have this counter, and I swear it’s bigger in real life, not just because that’s a picture, but because it just is, I can’t even wipe all the way across it without going around. “Oooh, so much COUNTER SPACE,” said past me. But you know what? Even past me knew. Past me saw that for what it was, because past me KNOWS ME. Knew me. Knew past me. And paster me. Not pastor me. I mean like, more past. Past me knew the me that came before the me that I’m talking about when I say past me NOW. ALL OF THE ITERATIONS OF ME TO THIS POINT ARE FAMILIAR WITH ME AS I HAVE EXISTED UP UNTIL THE POINT THAT THEY THEMSELVES EXISTED.

I don’t know how you clean. Maybe you just power through shit and get it all done. Maybe you do different things on different days. Like maybe Monday is laundry day and Tuesday is for floors and Wednesday is for, I don’t know, what else is there? I am really bad at housekeeping. Like, piss poor. And the problem can be traced back to the CRAPMAGNET.

You see that house in that picture right there? I could clean that house. I could keep that house clean. ANYONE could keep that house clean, right? But you know why I could? Because I can see all the horizontal surfaces. But once a horizontal surface becomes buried in crap – AS A CRAPMAGNET IS WONT TO DO – the house is just too far gone. It’s gone. We need to move. It will never be clean again. Ever. EVER. There is no point to do ANYTHING because how CAN I? Everything I NEED to clean is buried under CRAP. We’re ALL buried under crap. WE HAVE TOO MUCH CRAP. I’M GOING TO THROW AWAY ALL THIS CRAP. Or I WOULD if there wasn’t so MUCH. And some is probably IMPORTANT, which is why I set it on the CRAPMAGNET in the FIRST PLACE.

When a crapmagnet is THAT BIG, it pulls is ENORMOUS amounts of crap.

But I can’t just not do anything FOREVER. Eventually, not being able to see the giant horizontal surface right in the middle of the house becomes entirely too stressful and too much to bear, because THAT is what I perceive as a mess. If a giant horizontal surface is terribly cluttered and disorganized to the point that I can’t see it, EVERYTHING IS A HUGE MESS. A huge mess that CANNOT BE TACKLED.

And this is where Phil and I come in to a huge divide in our cleaning styles. He will see a thing that needs cleaning and he will clean it, often in a manner that I will perceive as passive-aggressive, because why didn’t I clean it? But then there’s me, and I cannot do anything – I can’t do a single thing – if I can’t see the crapmagnet. So we can end up in a cycle where every afternoon, I work myself in a circle around the kitchen, clearing off the surface of the crapmagnet and stand beaming at it proudly, while he comes home and starts putting away Penelope’s toys, the toys that are up to my ankles, with tone. AS IF HE CAN’T EVEN SEE THE SURFACE OF THE CRAPMAGNET.

And then I cook dinner and not all of the dishes/tools/ingredients get cleaned up and put away, and he leaves his tea and cereal boxes where he likes them on the counter in the morning, and the mail is on the crapmagnet, and this happens for a day or so, and two days later, I’m furiously making the same loop around the crapmagnet circle, all, “TAA DAAA!” and every item of Penelope’s clothing is all over her bedroom floor. Not to mention every item of my clothing being all over my bedroom floor.


If you are a specific type of person – which I am, and this is my blog – a giant expanse of counter space is a CRAPMAGNET. Everything that comes in to your home will first take up temporary residence on the crapmagnet. Any type of horizontal surface can (and WILL) become a crap magnet, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that a larger counter equals some space for kitchen stuff, some space for crap. It’s kitchen stuff with CRAP WEDGED IN ALL UP AMONGST IT.

And if you are a second specific type of person – which I am, and this is still my blog – the horizontal surfaces NEED TO STAY VISIBLE to motivate housekeeping in general. If I need to clean my house, my first task will ALWAYS be to find all the horizontal surfaces. If I can’t, THEN WHY BOTHER CLEANING, IT’S ALL GOING TO HELL ANYWAY. The longer it takes me to decrap a crap magnet, the more chance there is I’m just going to pat myself on the back and say, “there now, good for you, go and sit down” when I’m done.

ACTUALLY? I decrapped the crapmagnet yesterday, Phil walked into HOLY HELL in this house – I mean shredded mail in a trail all the way into the kitchen, toddler clothing strewn all over, a bike in the living room, a stock pot full of water right inside the front door, crayons broken on the carpet, the TV looping on some DVD menu – and when he got into the kitchen and saw the crapmagnet all free and clear of crap? He goes, “Hey, looks great!”

So, yeah, sometimes I sit down when I’m done.

I realize that you have to be two specific kinds of people combined to come to resent your giant crapmagnet of a counter, but maybe you actually only have to be one kind, and also have children. Or a husband. Actually, probably you just have to be the second kind because I’m pretty sure the Household Horizontal Crapmagnet Syndrome is universal, and maybe the whole needing visible surfaces to actually feel any cleaning progress is being made is a more specific thing. But it can’t be THAT specific, because I’m pretty sure it’s an actual cleaning TIP I read at one point. Clear a horizontal surface first. I think it was meant so that you’d have some work space, but in reality, it’s probably so your soul feels a little less crushed under the pull of your crapmagnet.

Please don’t give me helpful hints on how to clean my crapmagnet. The key isn’t in the crapmagnet cleaning. The key is in it not being a crapmagnet in the first place. If you can come over to my house and demagnetize that bitch, I’m totally up for hearing that. But I already know how not to leave a room with empty hands (I try not to leave a room without Penelope) and how to take 15 minutes at the end of the day to put things where they go (I usually allocate them for weeping in the shower lately, priorities) and how to use baskets to collect things to return to their homes (I’m out of homes, and I’m on my second basket).

It’s just… it’s a habit. I am convinced that Phil and I quit smoking more easily than we will stop being drawn in to the crapmagnet with our crapladen hands. Is there a Chantix for the crapmagnet habit? Because I will take a month’s worth of fucked up dreams about sawing the heads off of dogs, I will, I SWEAR, if only to be able to run straight from my front door and Dukes of Hazzard right the hell over my counter (in my head because one, there’s nothing on the other side to justify such a move. Two, have we met, because if we have, that will stand for two.)

Uh, anyway. So, maybe this also applies to you. Or not. Maybe your counters are free of crap and other life debris and neatly wiped down each night before you dim the kitchen lights and slide into the bed you make EVERY MORNING EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE JUST GETTING BACK IN. And you could probably Dukes of Hazzard a counter, too.


Anyway, the No Buy, No No Blog didn’t work out. It’s not that I bought anything. I didn’t. Even when I knew it wasn’t working out, I still didn’t buy anything. I’ve really stuck to it. I skipped sales. I’ve even sat on a gift card to Ulta for more than a month. I just haven’t felt like blogging. So I didn’t buy anything, even though I knew I wasn’t going to blog, because that’s how I said I was going to do it. I didn’t know how long I wasn’t going to blog, but I didn’t think it would be this long. It was a while. Sometimes, when you find some people might be a little more comfortable with your business than you’re comfortable with, it might be a good idea to just not have any business for a while.

I think I might start buying things again. I could have been buying things a while ago, probably. I have written some really emphatic blog posts in my head recently.

I recently discovered Vine and I’ve been using it to capture some of Penelope’s more camera-elusive talents.

Anyway, that’s all. If you want to come over, I’ll clear off the crapmagnet.*

*That’s not a real invitation.

41 responses to “CRAPMAGNET.”

  1. Jesabes says:

    Oh, I have a crapmagnet. It is the bane of my existence. The thing takes SO LONG to clear. I had a small party tonight and I just…couldn’t do it. I couldn’t muster the effort to clean it. So I just threw everything in a box.

    And that’s how you end up with a dozen boxes of might-be-important crap in your basement. This is my first box, but I know. You should see my parents’ basement.

  2. Lara says:

    1 – I could watch that video of Penny all day.
    2- “Because I will take a month’s worth of fucked up dreams about sawing the heads off of dogs, I will, I SWEAR…” made me laugh so hard.
    3 – My crap magnet is my dresser in the bedroom. I DO hate it being all crapped up because it stresses me out. But Andrew’s crap magnet is this low bookcase thing that is directly in my line of sight when I open the front door and so I come home from work and I’m instantly just all “UGH THE WHOLE HOUSE IS A ROTTEN STINKING MESS IT WILL NEVER BE CLEAN AGAIN UHHHHHHHH.” I can close the door to my crap magnet. I wish he’d hide his crap a little better.

  3. Imalinata says:

    Our crapmagnet is the hutch. I think there might be one 4″ square space that doesn’t have crap piled up to the cabinet; it’s only halfway in that spot. There is an up and coming crapmagnet, likely due to proximity, and it’s the could-be-a-bar-but-it’s-not thing that doubles as a place for me to put recipes when I’m cooking instead of in the inevitable spot of wet something on the regular counter.

    The kitchen counters, other than the not-a-bar, are usually clean or at least decluttered now that I stay home. I could handle the dishes being left all over instead of stacked (wtf husband, it’s not hard to stack plates. It’s also not hard to scrape your uneaten and not worth saving food into the trash instead of leaving it on the counter) when I didn’t have to look at them all day long. I now know that the level of aggravation I feel about the kitchen dishes, counters, and the cleaning or lack thereof as pertains to my husband is gleeful karmic backlash for the aggravation my mom felt when I wouldn’t do the dishes how she expected. I should apologize to her now, but I really don’t want to listen to her gloat just yet.

    I totally get the inability to clean until your counters are clean though. I don’t necessarily have the same issue, but I won’t cook if the counters are too far gone. Popcorn or a piece of cheese or a protein bar become perfectly viable dinner options until I can work up the effort to clean the counters so that my kitchen can just explode all over them again.

  4. Miriam says:

    I would suggest using razor wire as a protectant in the future for those counters! Ha! Mine is the dining room table. If it doesn’t have a sewing machine with various and sundry detrius from sewing projects on it, it is an odd day. A very odd day. (We call it the sewing- ummm, I mean dining room.)

    TJ Reply:

    I bet if I put razor wire around that counter, I myself would tunnel in from below to throw my Target bags on top. It can’t be stopped!

  5. Paula says:

    Ah. The crapmagnet. You never hear about that on HGTV.

    TJ Reply:

    No, all you hear about is how great it would be for all the ENTERTAINING they do. Shut up. No you don’t.

  6. Veronica says:

    I have a giant crapmagnet, and then a coffee table crap magnet and a dining table crapmagnet ALL IN THE SAME AREA and I cannot do it. I just cannot. If I clean the surfaces, nothing else is getting done. NOTHING.

    TJ Reply:

    But it’s okay if nothing else is done, because three clear horizontal surfaces would make SUCH A DIFFERENCE in how the room looked that you’d have to be impressed with the change you’d made and you’d DESERVE to sit down.

  7. Swistle says:

    We put in a dining room. Like, on purpose. And you know what a giant dining room table is? Yes. I don’t know what we did with all that crap before we had a dining room table to put it on.

    TJ Reply:

    All this crap couldn’t possibly have existed before we had this much space for it, right? It couldn’t have, because where would it have been?

  8. Amanda says:

    Ugh. Every horizontal surface in our house is a crapmagnet that I can’t see the bottom of right now. I don’t even know where to start. It’s SO depressing. I just end up deciding to not de-crap and then more crap comes along. Where does it come from?

    TJ Reply:

    It’s hardly your fault. It actually gets SUCKED IN, because they’re crapMAGNETS. It’s science, really.

  9. Sister says:

    Dining room table, yep. It is so far gone that I usually forget I even own a table. I guess it’s unfair to say it’s just the table. The whole room is a goner. Piles of crap up to my knees. I stopped even walking into that room.

    TJ Reply:

    Then give me the table.

  10. Laura Lou says:

    When Phil walked in, saw the clear counter and said “Hey, looks great!”–that’s how you know you’ve trained him well.

    We got one of those entry benches for our mudroom, right by the garage door. Nice bench, baskets for all our shoes, cubbies and hooks up top, it was going to be just like the Pottery Barn catalog pictures. Of course you know what it really is–a crapmagnet right by the door that we use the most. The bench is covered, so we now just pile the bags and crap that we walk in with around the bench. Sigh.

    TJ Reply:

    The crapmagnet in the kitchen is actually SO ENORMOUS that when I clear it off, even if the rest of the house is in a shambles, it give an appearance of cleanliness. It turns into a giant clean island in the midst of a mess, and it’s all you can see. A clean crapmagnet leads to a clean house in that way. The clean island would be INSPIRING. But it CAN’T BE because it’s a CRAPMAGNET.

  11. Christy M says:

    We have one in every room. It’s so sad. Plus my husband cleans off the major ones (kitchen island, front door console table) but he really just moves all the piles of crap to the crapmagnets upstairs for me to deal with. We didn’t have so much crap when we lived in a house that was literally half the size. It expands to fill the space, like a gas. Crap gas.

    TJ Reply:

    I mentioned it briefly in the post, but we also have a half wall in the living room, which is a total crap waystation on the way to the crapmagnet. Or the way AWAY from the crapmagnet, which is WORSE, because if I’m cleaning the crapmagnet, it’s just a place for the crap to stop on its way to its PLACE.

  12. Courtney says:

    Every house we have lived in has had a kitchen island – aka a crap magnet. It drives my husband crazy because I pile all the crap there but then am completely unable to clear it all off. It sucks my will to live, I swear. We are moving this week into a new house that doesn’t have an island, so I’m not sure where our new crap magnet will reside, which is a scary thought. It could pop out of no where and I’ll be completely unarmed to handle it. Ugh.

    TJ Reply:


  13. mjb says:

    When I clear off our crapmagnet/kitchen table, I have to take the important stuff up to the office to die. But there’s an extra desk in there that’s just a huge crapmagnet. We’re thinking about getting rid of it, but then where will I put my crap? I’m afraid of it just piling up on the floor!!!!

  14. Bre says:

    The kitchen island…and then the barstools at the island….and then the kitchen counter closest to the kitchen table…and then the kitchen table. When it reaches the table the WORLD HAS ENDED!!!

  15. Stephanie says:

    Every single horizontal surface in my house. All of them. It’s too overwhelming to do in “just 15 minutes at the end of the day” (or 15 minutes at any time of the day) so I do nothing. The worst one is the couch because that is where I put the clean laundry. I EXCEL at doing laundry. I never ever ever ever fold it. It’s all clean! What more do you people want from me?

    I also get annoyed at my husband for never folding laundry (I’m all “oh does he think this is just MY job because I’m a WOMAN that this is WOMAN’S WORK”) and then I feel guilty when he does fold it (“I really should have helped do that. Or done it myself. He doesn’t fold it correctly anyway. And that was a lot of work to do.”).

    Laura Lou Reply:

    My clean laundry goes in the laundry baskets. I have given up on folding it and putting it away. My then 4yo once looked at the bureau and dresser in my bedroom and said “Mom, what are these things for?” “Some people put their clothes in them.” He looked at the overflowing laundry baskets, “But how do they fit?” “Well, if you fold them….oh never mind.”

  16. Hayley says:

    I was all entertained while reading this, but somewhere about halfway through, I looked to my left and right and saw that I was SITTING at a crapmagnet. Not only that, but I’ve been meaning to tidy up my bedroom for almost three weeks now and every horizontal surface is still a crapmagnet.

    I typically am the opposite kind of person– clean the floors and other messes and save the crapmagnets for last. Or for never, more likely. It’s bad.

  17. Ann says:

    You just described my cleaning style to a T. I will climb over dust bunnies the size of my dog to clear off the horizontal surfaces. Once all the crap is put away, I think to myself “Done!” and sit down with my feet up on the coffee table (which could be covered with smears of who-knows-what baby food, but at least it’s picked up!)

    I think of it as picking up vs cleaning up. Cleaning up cannot happen without picking up, at least in my head.

  18. april says:

    We have very little counter space, but we do have a “pass through” between the kitchen and the dining area, which is where all of our crap comes to rest.

    And here’s the biggest problem: I put things there specifically to deal with them or so I don’t lose them, and my husband is constantly cleaning it off by restacking stuff other places and now I still have crap but it’s not where I can find it!

  19. julie says:

    Hi, so half way through the comments, sorted, tossed, and now have smallish pile of crap next to me on the couch to go through, think I’ll set it on the dining room table. Thanks,

  20. Audrey says:

    What Ann said. There is cleaning, and there is de-cluttering. And de-cluttering absolutely must be done before cleaning. But then once the de-cluttering is done, everything looks so much better that you think “Cool, looks good! I’ll worry about the actual cleaning later.” But then the crapmagnets do their thing and you have to de-clutter again and then you think “Looks good!” and nothing ever actually gets clean.

    We have crapmagnets everywhere, but the worst one is the fireplace mantel. It’s tall enough that the toddler can’t reach it, which makes it the ideal place for things that used to live on the coffee table or entertainment center but now must be kept out of the reach of sticky fingers. And now that stuff lives on the mantel and the mantel is permanently cluttered and I hate it. But there is nowhere else to put the crap, such is the strong pull of the fireplace crapmagnet.

  21. Faith says:

    Our dining room table and kitchenette are both giant crap collections and it drives me insane. They are always the first, and often the only, things to be tidied. Also, WE HAVE THAT PICKLE CARD TOO!

  22. Maggie says:

    Several years ago we were considering remodeling our 80s style kitchen. New countertops, all fancy with storage, etc. Then I got cold feet. In part I couldn’t pull the trigger on the cost and the inconvenience, but really, the final decider was the realization that we’d just spend a ton of money to remodel a kitchen that would end up looking exactly the same as our old kitchen because everything would still be COVERED WITH CRAP. I could have the highest end kitchen on earth and no one would ever know because it’s impossible to see it through the endless crap left on counters every. damned. day. There is no end.

  23. Gaby says:

    We have a long crapmagnet counter, too. And a little hutchy one next to the refrigerator. And our dining room table frequently requires us to shove over crap to make room for us to eat at one end. It stresses me out, too, but I can’t seem to keep on top of clearing it all.

    I think the worst part of all the crap on horizontal surfaces in my house is that it’s an open floor plan. Visitors (HA! As if we have people over in that hazmat environment) get a nice view of the crap strewn from entryway to living room to dining area to kitchen. Lovely.

  24. Rosa says:

    Hmm, I was thinking maybe you could trump you Crap Magnet Syndrome with a healthy dose of OCD: make the counter very symmetrical or pretty with vases or candles or whatever so it hurts your little OCD brain to put stuff there. That should help you decrapify the counter! Also: everybody has crap. You have to accept the fact that you have crap and assign a crap station that’s less visible (and smaller). Hope this helps ;)

    Vocalinds Reply:

    Late to the comments, but I feel like I would still put stuff on my beautified crapmagnet, I would just feel really bad about doing it.

  25. Jenna says:

    HA. Crap waystation. Love (and sympathize with) this.

  26. Sam says:

    We replaced the counters in our kitchen. We paid extra for the counter “bar” which you can see from the kitchen and the living room. It’s a higher grade more pretty surface that we only see when we have a party. Because it is a crap magnet. That we paid more for because we are dumb.

  27. Dara says:

    Thank god I read this! I am planning my kitchen remodel, and my brother keeps pressuring me to add a big long countertop. Yikes! I didn’t even think about the crapmagnet issue! He was born organized, so his counters always look gorgeous. I was not born organized, and so the small counters I have right now are covered with crap. Adding a long counter would be awful!

  28. […] high enough that it’s out of my visual space and I don’t “see” it as a crapmagnet all the time. But, it was totally a crapmagnet. Now that I have my baskets it’s sort of […]

  29. […] still snoring, Maggie is at the neighbor’s house. I’M ALONE AT LAST. So I clean the Crap Magnets around the house (dining room table, counter in the butler’s pantry, kitchen island). Scrub […]

  30. […] of that. So I guess if we need it and it has a place, THEN WE SHOULD PUT IT AWAY. Reminds me of TJ’s CrapMagnet post. Right now? The entire townhouse is a crapmagnet. And everything seems so disorganized and crazy […]