Chances are no matter how organized you are things accumulate on your kitchen counters and grow into piles, and those piles beget piles.  It’s like the Duggar family with 19 kids and counting—you take care of one and minutes later two more spring up.

All sorts of things pile up: paper, mail, small animals . . . and these piles take on a life form of their own.  If fact, a pile is probably forming on your kitchen counter as you read this.  It has probably grown a mane of hair, a set of teeth and learned multiple languages by now.

It’s not until you lose something important that you take action—something like your passport, your keys or your birth control pills.  Then you rummage through the bottomless layers of strata until you either find what you’re looking for or strike oil.  Once, my family uncovered a rabbit’s foot left from my teenage daughter’s 3rd birthday party.  That was an exciting find, until we discovered the rest of the rabbit.

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Things pile up for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes we leave things out as a reminder to act on them, like a prescription that needs to be filled, a party invitation that needs a reply, or your unread copy of “Conquering Clutter.”  Other times we leave stuff out because it doesn’t work—a deck of cards with missing deuces, a broken flashlight, “miracle” rejuvenation cream . . .

But mostly we leave things out because we’re just too lazy to put them away.  Men are particularly guilty of this, which explains why we finally invented pants with zippers.

There is no real cure for piling.  It’s one of those things in life that’s unavoidable, unless you’re a hobo or a monk.  But there is a helpful trick, which is to think of your pile as a home mortgage.  If it grows too big it can smother you and cause you to lose your house.  The best treatment, therefore, is to keep it down to a manageable size through feverish sorting preceded by a tetanus shot.

If you’re too late and your piles have taken over the house to the point that they mimic the New York City skyline, there’s only one thing left to do—move—preferably to a house with no kitchen countertops.


When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother.  Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties.  Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist.  Her monthly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Visit her blog  Follow her on twitter @lisatognola