Column Classic: Junk in The Trunk

By Lisa Scottoline

If Freud wanted to know what women want, he could have asked.

If he’d asked me, I would have answered:

Another kitchen cabinet.

And I just got one!

Here’s how it happened.

It was about ten years ago that I remodeled my kitchen, adding white cabinets and a trash compactor. To tell the truth, I don’t remember wanting a trash compactor and think it was Thing Two who wanted a trash compactor, but I’ve blamed enough on him, so let’s just say I wanted a trash compactor.

At the time, my kitchen contractor said, “I’ll install this trash compactor for you, but I bet you’ll never use it.”

“I’m sure I’ll use it,” said I. And I probably added, “Plus it will give me something to blame on somebody, down the line.”

In any event, the trash compactor got installed, and it came with two free bags, which I promptly lost.

Ten years and one divorce later, it turns out that the contractor was right.

I should have married the contractor.

But to stay on point, I never used the trash compactor. Not once. I even forgot it was there until three months ago, when it began to emit a mysterious and foul odor. I searched the thing and could find no reason for it to be smelly, but I washed it inside and out anyway. Still the smell got worse and worse, until it was so bad I could barely eat in the kitchen. Then one day, the electrician came over to fix a light and he said,  “Smells like something died in here.”


The electrician showed me that you could slide out the compactor, which I hadn’t realized, and when we did, we found behind it an aromatic gray mound that used to be a mouse.


The electrician threw the dead mouse away, and I cleaned the trash compactor all over again, but it still stunk worse than my second marriage, which I didn’t even think was possible, so I threw the trash compactor away, too.

Which left an oddly empty space on my kitchen island, a blank square among the white cabinets, like a missing tooth.

I called the kitchen contractor, whose phone number I still had from ten years ago. As soon as he heard my voice, he said, “Told you,” and came right over.

Last week he installed a new cabinet, including a drawer, then asked, “What are you going to use it for?”

”I’m not sure yet,” I told him, excited by the possibilities. It was almost too much to hope for – a nice empty cabinet and a whole extra drawer. After he had gone, I pulled up a stool and contemplated my course of action.

The decision required me to consider the problem areas of my kitchen cabinets, which are many. My pot-and-pan cabinet is a mess because I hate to stack pots and pans in their proper concentric circles. I just pile them up any way, playing Jenga, only with Farberware. Also I can never figure out how to store pot lids, so I stick them in upside down, setting them wobbling on handles like the worst tops ever. Every time I open the cabinet door, they come sliding out like a stainless steel avalanche.

I also have a cabinet containing Rubbermaid and Tupperware, but it’s all mixed up, so that Rubbermaid lids are with Tupperware containers and Rubbermaid containers are with Tupperware lids, making the whole thing feel vaguely illicit, like an orgy of plastic products.

Then I have a cabinet of kitchen appliances I have never used once in my life, but feel compelled to keep close at hand, namely a juicer, a waffle iron, and a salad shooter. You never know when you’ll have to shoot a salad.

My kitchen drawers are equally problematic. I have one drawer for silverware, and four others for junk, junk, junk, and junk. All the junk drawers contain the same junk, just more of it, namely, pens that don’t work, pencils that have no point, extra buttons that go to clothes I’ve never seen, rubber bands I got free but can’t part with, menus for restaurants I don’t order from, and pennies.

In other words, it’s all essential.

I think I know what to put in the empty cabinet.

Trash compactor bags.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline

This Old Homebody

By Lisa Scottoline

I get my neighbors’ mail all the time, and I never open it, even juicy stuff like bank statements or brokerage accounts. I respect my neighbors’ privacy.

Also I can see through the envelope.

We begin with me mistakenly getting some of my neighbors’ mail in my mailbox. Specifically, This Old House magazine. I flipped through the first few pages, then I got more interested than I’d expected, and you’ll see why.

The magazine has articles about beaded wainscoting and vintage accents, as well as “how to give your laundry room a spa spirit.”

I stopped, astounded. My laundry room has no spirit, spa or otherwise. My laundry only has dirty clothes, piled on the floor. I eliminated hampers a long time ago. Now when I have to wash something, I just open the door to the laundry room and throw it on the floor.

Gravity is my hamper.

Back to the magazine, which showed a photo of a woman in a huge laundry room with white cabinets on all four sides, a sink under a pretty window, and marble counters on which to fold towels.

Girl paradise, right?

I couldn’t believe this was a laundry room. I checked the caption to be sure, where I learned that the counters were quartzite. I have no idea what quartzite is, but it makes a counter and that alone has me beat. My laundry room has no counters. I fold my towels on top of the washing machine, near sticky blue pools of spilled Wisk.

The magazine even showed a library ladder in the laundry room. I don’t even have a library ladder in my library. Okay, maybe I don’t have a library, either. But I do have a dining room with bookshelves.

Also the laundry ladder was painted lavender. And the laundry room wallpaper was covered with painted lavender plants. And on the counter was a pot of fresh lavender. 

We get it.

But that isn’t even my point. My point is that as I kept reading, the magazine started showing photos of men fixing all the broken things in an old house. There was a tall man with silvery hair installing a new windowsill of cellular PVC, to replace a rotting one. And a stocky guy with a brushy mustache drilling upward into a ceiling beam. Then a red-haired landscape contractor bringing a lawn back to life, plus a smiling man with a screwdriver, above a caption that read Master Carpenter.

My interest in the magazine was growing, but it wasn’t about the PVC sills.

The magazine was morphing into a man catalogue.

And I started thinking, maybe I should order me some Master Carpenter for Christmas.

In other words, This Old House got This Old House very interested.

There was a heavyset guy installing a base cabinet, above the caption General Contractor. A bald dude, the Plumbing and Heating Expert, fiddling with some red pipes. A younger guy with a caulking gun, whose caption read, Host.

I didn’t know what he was hosting, but I knew who was hostessing.

What’s sexier than a man with a caulking gun?

You have to understand that these men wouldn’t have turned heads if they were walking around the mall. But installing drywall, fixing pipes, and painting things?

They’re Mr. Right.

And not because they’re hot, but because they’re actually doing something. And in the fantasy, they’re doing something for me, which means I don’t have to do it myself. Also that it would get done right.

They’re Mr. Done Right.

Remember, I’m the freak who painted her entire first floor in two days, and it looks it. In fact, I learned from This Old House that those blobs of orange paint I left on the white ceiling are called bleed lines.

Except that my ceiling isn’t bleeding, it’s hemorrhaging.

Bottom line, I have to buy a replacement magazine for my neighbor.

And I’m subscribing to This Old House.

I hope it comes in a plain brown wrapper.

Copyright 2023, Lisa Scottoline