Today, I Cried.

Today, I Cried. Betsy Miller

An excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book I’m writing about my experiences as a professional organizer.


There is crying in organizing. Lots of crying. Real tears. Tears of laughter. Tears of disbelief. You name it, that salty substance has flowed plenty of times.

Today I wasn’t crying, at least not yet… I was happily on my way to a consultation with a new client! And she lived down past one of the lakes close to my home.

Bonus, because that view never gets old. Today I just wanted to help my new client and maybe buy some pretty baskets to label.

The 20-mile drive was gorgeous. Lush green hills with the area’s signature limestone edging the highway. All leading me to the town where the Oscar-winning “Winter’s Bone” was filmed.

I was heading into the heart of the Ozark Mountains, where I was born and raised. The home of the Ozark Hillbilly, which I take great pride in being. It’s who we are here in the southern Midwest!

The town did not disappoint…burned out trailers, dogs on chains and cars on blocks. Based on the Winter’s Bone film alone, somewhere in the back of my mind I knew what I was heading into.

But, even that film didn’t quite prepare me. These were not my Ozark Hillbillies. This was a whole different level of Hillbilly.

I turned the corner and there I see it: the late 1970s, brick home with a million-dollar view of the crystal-clear lake.

Wait, did I see it or smell it first?

The 70% cat urine, 7% mold, 3% mildew, 5% general filth couldn’t drown out the 15% depression.

Oh dear. “No, do NOT cry”, I say to myself…

The life the home once lead, was one of weekend barbecues, badminton & waterskiing with maybe a Pabst Blue Ribbon or two around the bonfire.  Those years are clearly over.

When I pulled into the driveway what I spied was a dilapidated couch & water-damaged cardboard boxes in the carport.   There were too many cats to count and they scattered like toothless meth addicts on a two-day high when I pulled in (Winter’s Bone was clearly on my mind).

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out she needed my help.

I carefully made my way through the obstacle course formerly known as the carport to the front door.  It was there that I put on my best southern Midwestern smile disguising the fact I had already lined my nostrils with Vick’s Vapo-Rub and said, “Hi, I’m Betsy!”

My new client was a tall, homely, 50ish divorcee.  She stepped back as she opened the door, using it as a shield between the two of us despite towering over my five-foot frame.  She was friendly, but a bit skittish making me wonder if she inherited that trait from her numerous cats.

We made small talk while I secretly tried to take it all in.  Bless her heart, it was bad.  Really bad.  Which is why it’s so great that she called me, that is Step 1.

Finally I asked her if she’d give me a tour so we could visit and make a plan of action.  The tour took awhile, as the pathways were quite tight. The only thing tighter was my hand on my gun in my pocket.  With all this clutter, there could easily be a creeper hiding anywhere, you just never know.  Especially in this neck of the woods.

Toward the end of the tour she took me to a detached cellar or what we call around here a “fraidy hole.”  A fraidy hole is a place you go to when there’s a tornado.  It’s underground, kind of icky but it will keep you safe.

This small cellar like room was on the complete opposite end of the house from the kitchen. It was thankfully quite tidy, keeping my claustrophobia at bay. The only thing inside was a deep freeze.  Five-feet wide, three-feet deep and rusted from the occasional spring rains.

I asked if it still worked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Wouldn’t it be better to get the freezer closer to the kitchen?”

“Yes, it would” she replied.

“Do you even use it?” I asked.

“Yes, do you want to see what for?”

Without giving me a chance to answer (by the way, always say “no”), the freezer was open and there he was.

Among the corn, peas & ice cream lays her long-since dead tabby cat, “napping” peacefully and stiffly on a blanket.

Today, I cried.