the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A look inside our days together

A few days ago in the hectic hours of the afternoon when Leta was home from school and the phone in the office was competing with the waterfall of email in Jon’s inbox, I snuck downstairs to reorganize my cosmetics drawer for a blog I was writing for HGTV. Yes, that is a link to something I have written elsewhere. Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. Yes, I have a hard time sleeping at night. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

Anyway, I’m knee-deep in old lotion bottles, trying to figure out if I could stick a knife down inside one to get at the last few drops. Kind of like a peanut butter jar, you know? You don’t want to throw it away when there is even the tiniest bit left, and next thing you know you’ve got your arm inside that thing scraping every last bit with your knuckles, and suddenly your husband walks in and you’re lying on the floor, your entire hand in your mouth, peanut butter drool pooling on the floor around your face. And you know he’s thinking, my God, I want to bang the shit out of that.

See, I have hoarding tendencies that I have to fight every single day. And here and there it creeps up on me, and in this instance it was my cosmetics drawer. Bottle after bottle of lotion and hair product that I should have thrown away but didn’t because I was going to use those last few drops. I WAS, OH YES INDEED. Except, those are famous last words for hoarders. That and “but it has sentimental value.”

All you hoarders are nodding and looking around to make sure no one is seeing you nodding.

And here I remember that one day my hair looked AWESOME, and if I ever threw away that specific spritz my hair would never look awesome again. Maybe that’s not hoarding. Is it superstition? Paranoia? Jon calls it nutball insane. Ah, but I didn’t choose to marry me! Meaning, I win.

Where was I? Right. Sitting in the middle of a mountain of empty bottles when all of a sudden I heard my niece Mariah yelling from Leta’s room, “Marlo! Marlo! MARLO!” And I looked out into the hallway to see that Marlo had crawled out of Leta’s room and was charging toward me. Except her crawling is still figuring itself out, so she sort of looked like a wounded soldier dragging his broken legs out of a ditch. And she was mumbling, “Maaaaama… Maaaaama…” in a hoarse voice that sounded distinctly like a wounded cat.

She was coming for me! Whether I liked it or not!

I love that this is going to be one of the memories I have of this milestone, and when I reenacted this story to Jon, as well as I could through hysterical laughing, I was like, there was my baby coming at me like a zombie emerging out of a muddy grave. She is going to kill it at parties.

  • freckleface

    2010/04/23 at 11:15 am

    OMG! OMG! First!

    I really wish you got that on video… priceless!

    EDIT: Now that my overexcitement over having first comment (something I’ve dreamed about since I started reading your blog months and months ago, inspired by all the “firsters” before me) has receded and I’ve had a chance to actually read your entire post, I laughed SO hard at the lotion hoarding part. I’m just the opposite. I LIVE for the day that x beauty product starts to show signs of running out, so I can run out and buy another different one that I’ve never used before. Actually only a few days ago I bought new shampoo & conditioner even though I have about a HALF LITER of my old shampoo left. I’ll send it to you, k?

    PS: I hope I have a zombie baby when I grow up!

  • bzunder

    2010/04/23 at 11:10 am

    Oh, I love it!

  • Chai_Bella

    2010/04/23 at 11:11 am

    I have a tendency to save items and/or use them in the exact same order as I did on a day that went really well. Like maybe it was my order of items that made the day good. So I’m probably nutball insane, too. 🙂

  • alto girl

    2010/04/23 at 11:11 am

    Please tell me you videoed that. I snorted out loud here at work. And I’m still laughing.

  • dtelisman

    2010/04/23 at 11:16 am

    If you watch “Hoarders: Buried Alive” on TLC, you’ll feel much better about yourself.  That’s what I do for a little self-esteem charge. I watch that, Intervention and Sober House with Dr. Drew, and I then feel pretty damn near perfect.

  • Buffy4444

    2010/04/23 at 11:22 am

    Great tip for you if you want to eeek out the very last bits of the lotion from the bottles: remove the pump (toss or recycle), put a baggie over the top and secure with a rubber band, turn the bottle over and wait a day or so. Now all the lotion that was at the bottom is now at the top (and not leaking out because you’ve put the baggie on the end) and you can squeeze it out into another container and not waste a bit. My husband thinks I’m a freak for doing this, but I hate not being able to get every last little bit and I paid for it, so I should be able to use it. 🙂

  • Allie

    2010/04/23 at 11:38 am

    I have to fight the same hoarding tendencies and you’re right, it’s a constant stream of “what if I need that someday and I don’t have it” SLASH “My mom gave me that broken electric blanket when I moved away to college 8 years ago and I CAN’T BARE to part with it.”

  • JennfromCanada

    2010/04/23 at 11:41 am

    I know this feeling. Just about every birthday and Christmas I get new hair products, and a vast array of body/hand lotions. I cleaned them all out one day and if they were unopened I kept them and if they were opened, I tossed them. If I haven’t used them up by now I probably never will. That said, I should donate the unopened ones too because obviously I’m not going to use those either.

    Dtelisman: I can’t bear to watch the hoarding shows but I have started watching Sober House and find it makes me feel pretty good about my life.

    Have a great weekend.

  • Coraniaid

    2010/04/23 at 11:42 am

    Ok, so I’m a theatre geek & totally own one of those multi-tools. I use mine to cut open bottles to get out the last little bit of whatever. But, yeah, I save the bottles because I can use it ‘someday’. I have to fight packratness every day.

  • fidothefatcat

    2010/04/23 at 11:51 am

    I always keep hair products, lotions, make-up, perfumes, etc. that only have a few drops left. I want to make those last drops count. I convince myself that I am saving those last few drops for a special occasion when I need to use that perfect product one last time.

  • KarenInToronto

    2010/04/23 at 12:03 pm

    First-time commenter, long-time reader…

    Just had to reply because I always face this huge dilemma with leftover products… even if I don’t want them, I can’t just throw them out because of course the bottles are undoubtedly recyclable… but if I want to toss them in the recycling bin, then I have to clean them out (to be a good citizen). Of course lotions and shampoos etc. are nearly impossible to clean out (especially shampoo – I had bubbles coming back out of that extra hole in the sink forever!). A bathroom mini-reno will lead you to do crazy things, so one day, my husband and I just went through everything, cleaned out the containers, and then recycled them (except for the ones I thought “might be useful one day)…


  • Jess F

    2010/04/23 at 12:05 pm

    Now if only you can teach Marlo to say “braaaiinnns.”

  • Greta Koenigin

    2010/04/23 at 12:08 pm

    I love when hoarding stories go zombie. You are good. And thank you for the visual of hoarders at their laptops looking to see if anyone is looking. I’m at Sbux now and this is particularly funny. I had to stuff a LOL like it was a sneeze. I hope I didn’t pop a blood vessel in my eye, because the school auction is tomorrow.

  • abvint

    2010/04/23 at 12:13 pm

    *still nodding* …… so, that makes me a hoarder AND someone with a head twitch….TOTALLY date-able … 😉

  • harugirlie

    2010/04/23 at 12:14 pm

    We just remodeled both our bathrooms and found out that we are hoarders, so much hotel shampoo, bath gel, shower caps! Neither one of us even uses a shower cap! Anyways, we ended up taking all our bathroom junk to a local church.

  • Laura Jones

    2010/04/23 at 12:43 pm

    Maybe she had dry knees and wanted those last drops of lotion.

    And the advantage to being a hoarder is that when your kid says I need a 3 headed dog by 8 o’clock in the morning you go find 3 pink kittens, chop the heads off two and sew them to the big pink one then use the leftover black spray paint from another project and voila, Cerberus. For pictures:

  • William

    2010/04/23 at 12:43 pm

    The problem with Zombie babies is that someone needs to chop up the brains before the zombie baby can eat them. otherwise they may choke.

  • suburbanmummyuk

    2010/04/23 at 12:48 pm


    I am a chucker, my husband the hoarder…Nataliya where have you put this. Ermmmmm

  • mstinak

    2010/04/23 at 1:07 pm

    At least you don’t hoard perishable food in your drawers with your nearly empty lotion bottles. That’s when things get disgusting.

    Not that I would know or anything.

  • juliensharp

    2010/04/23 at 2:01 pm

    Wish that was on video.

  • Anxious Annie

    2010/04/23 at 2:11 pm

    I find that if I cut the plastic bottles in half (not an easy feat, risking ruining the scissors and losing a digit) I can use all the lotion, cream, serum, whatever. It’s worth the risk.

    On another note, has Jon read about the 2 iPad LIFETIME limit? Careful, he might hyperventilate on that news.

  • Anxious Annie

    2010/04/23 at 2:13 pm

    By the way, food banks often take unopened toiletries from hotels to redistribute. So if you tend to grab those but never use them, donate them.

  • The Christine

    2010/04/23 at 3:03 pm

    Oh lordy. Thanks for that magnificent second paragraph, needed that today.

  • MsKathleen

    2010/04/23 at 3:06 pm

    I just opened my overstuffed cosmetic drawer and I swear it yelled, “Clean me!” — How embarrassing!

  • mamadouce

    2010/04/23 at 3:32 pm

    fellow hoarder here! though I mostly have it under control since I DO NOT WANT TO TURN INTO MY MOTHER!

    But the lotion thing I can’t really relate to since I never seem to get to the bottom of any single bottle, I just keep acquiring new ones. They don’t have expiration dates, right? RIGHT?

    But hair products are another matter. I have hard time throwing away a bottle of conditioner if there is even the slimmest possibility of some left in the bottle. At least with that I can mix it with water and get some use.

    Are we the sanest crazy people ever or what?


    2010/04/23 at 3:53 pm

    Hey Heather, I’m a longtime reader here (almost since the beginning)! Haven’t commented since the community I suppose. Anyway, What you do is cut the top off all the lotion tubes, so there is only the bottom inch or so left, and vwalla, all the last drops are usable! You will kick yourself for throwing them away!

  • Figtron

    2010/04/23 at 3:59 pm


    Aren’t kids the greatest thing ever?

    I recently cleaned out my cosmetic CABINET. Yes, it took me all day.

    Well done!

  • brookland

    2010/04/23 at 4:03 pm

    My roommate hoards like crazy. I don’t — the clutter drives me nuts. I do the opposite — I won’t buy a new bottle until I can’t squeeze out anything more… and then I usually end up with dirty hair for a day or so.

  • Janice

    2010/04/23 at 5:19 pm

    Are you sure she wasn’t hurrying to make sure you weren’t going to throw away her favorite hair products? Her hair is always ‘just so’ in her photos…

  • the niffer

    2010/04/23 at 7:53 pm

    Oh I love her.

  • bawb23

    2010/04/23 at 9:19 pm

    I tend to collect the little lotion bottles from hotels, and since I travel, a lot… I recently emptied a dozen bottles from my toiletries bag. I couldn’t bear to just throw them away, so I mixed them together into a half-empty normal-sized lotion bottle. The resultant glop was not appealing — too many different scents and viscosities. I ended up throwing the whole thing away.

    Fortunately I’ve got at least a dozen little bottles left, and I picked up two more lovely ones in Vail this week (typing this from the airport.)

  • Pandora Has A Box

    2010/04/24 at 5:14 am

    I’m not much of a hoarder or a saver, except for toiletries. Because you never know. I might NEED that last drop of face cream to stave off wrinkles and those two little dollops of sunscreen will definitely prevent skin cancer.

    Also, can Marlo come over to our house and show my zombie baby how to say “Mama”? It’s been eighteen months.

  • ddicorcia

    2010/04/24 at 9:15 am

    The fabric idea is sort of neat. I hate when the dust of your face powder colorizes the bottom of your make-up drawer.Fabric looks like the way to go with it. Luv ya Heather!

  • melanirae

    2010/04/24 at 12:58 pm

    I’m the exact opposite. I have to get rid of everything, to my own peril. Have you ever tried explaining to the IRS that all copies of your taxes were thrown out in the great paper purge of 2008?

  • geekybookworm

    2010/04/24 at 1:13 pm

    There’s something wrong with having a dozen almost empty lotion bottles around? And I agree with the earlier person who said watching something like Hoarders will make you feel better. You at least can move through your house.

  • sarahmcow

    2010/04/24 at 9:20 pm

    You mean your baby doesn’t smile and gurgle adorably while crawling toward you in slow motion while soft piano music plays in the background like in diaper commercials? Weird. Mine totally does.

    P.S. I have a cabinet full of hair crap that I am CERTAIN I will never use again. I can see the cabinet while on the toilet and sometimes consider throwing all of it away. But never do it. Because – obviously – there’s always that chance in Hell that THAT day will come. And then how mad will I be at myself if I prematurely and irresponsibly throw out all that precious, dust-collecting nonsense?

  • Unknown Mami

    2010/04/24 at 9:38 pm

    I always have to fight my whoring tendencies. Oh wait, hoarding, not whoring. My bad. I guess I have to fight my hoarding tendencies too.

  • TexasKatie

    2010/04/25 at 1:51 am

    I also tend to keep medication that I don’t need anymore – the prescription kind. I am sort of afraid to throw it out for fear that the Vicodin or muscle relaxer or antiobiotic will somehow enter the water supply if thrown away. Or some crazy bum will sift through my trash and find the “good stuff” and get high off of it. So then I end up with a cabinet full of drugs, and I look like some sort of druggy. Anyone doing the ol’ snoop-er-oo through my cabinets in the bathroom would think I am some sort of nutball. What IS the best way to get rid of that stuff, anyway? Bury it in the backyard? Burn it? Throw it off a cliff?

  • BGlass Designs

    2010/04/25 at 8:06 am

    I am relieved to hear I am not alone. Though not your intention, I feel like you have given the green light for me to keep a claret toned eye shadow set that I haven’t used in 18 months – because I may could or possibly someday need it.

    Let’s not even discuss hair products!

  • mom interrupted

    2010/04/25 at 1:11 pm

    It’s in my DNA, I can totally relate. And please keep that video cam close at hand for moments like that, too cute!

  • HumHumViz

    2010/04/25 at 7:09 pm

    OK wait for this one…my husband is a Dermatologist. Why is that significant you might ask? (no we don’t have more money than god, he just started practicing 4 years ago at age 40, bad mid-life crisis but better than a mistress, maybe)

    I digress, this is significant because he gets samples. Samples of everything skin related that you can imagine and I’ll bet you in computer land can imagine a lot. Lotions, creams, salves, soaps, skin medicines, hair products, feet product, products that I can’t tell what their for products. Do I chuck these out as they come in by the bushel? No, of course not. Because usually its really good stuff and it would be WASTING. So I keep thinking I’ll use it up somehow.

    Now, however, we are moving and I’ve discovered just how much hand cream we actually have. At last count it was near 30 very large containers of unused hand cream. Don’t even get me started on “Night creams for the face”. (OK probably 20 un-opened bottles) We have enough of a certain soap that rhymes with ‘glove’ to supply an actual hotel. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen, we can’t because we have several drawers full.

    This is after giving as much as I could to friends who now run the other direction when they see me with any plastic container in my hands.

    Now that I have a better idea about the insanity of all this, large amounts of self care products are being donated to various shelters and such which is a relief because I was getting pretty stressed about trying to use all this up.

    I must apologize to Heather however, we have nothing to cure zombie babies but something called Balmex is really good on their butts.

  • HumHumViz

    2010/04/25 at 7:17 pm


    I also horde old medicine because I have this weird paranoia of natural disasters and being cut off from my needed medicines. Or, what if my fellow castaways need an antibiotic? Or, pain killers or stool softeners? I think of this as part of my emergency readiness kit.

  • MidgetViking

    2010/04/26 at 3:58 am

    I have NO idea what you guys are talking about! (—, not just a river in Egypt)

    Just received some furniture from mum. She had left a couple of drawers with “stuff” in them and I found myself going through it thinking “that might come in useful one day – whatever it is”… I am trying hard to break the bad cycle handed down over generations. 🙂

  • MidgetViking

    2010/04/26 at 4:00 am

    Sorry – only meant to post once… *sheepish groan*

  • kraftyczap

    2010/04/26 at 9:54 am

    The only things I hoard are your writing and ideas, so please continue to cross pollinate the blog with shameless plugs. Bring on the hyperlinks.

  • Eightwomendream

    2010/04/26 at 11:35 am

    I am still stuck at the “I gotta bang that” part.

    I am the opposite though – throwing away everything I haven’t used in 6 months – including men.

    My teenage son locks his door for this reason – okay – maybe some other reasons too – but this is his main one.

    Thanks for the laugh –


Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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