Real Life Minimalists: Bug Girl

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

This week, we have a very interesting story from Bug Girl. This is one of the most compelling (and creepy crawly) reasons I’ve heard for becoming a minimalist! Great inspiration to clean out those nooks and crannies…

Bug Girl writes:

My minimalist journey unfortunately started with a pest problem two years ago. (Black Carpet Beetles, if you dare to Google it.) Little creepy crawly bugs that LOVE to feed on dust and cat hair and clothing were everywhere in my house. And I mean everywhere! Under the fridge and stove, in my clothes drawers, under the couch cushions – anywhere a dust bunny would reside, there they were. I kept the place relatively organized, and not gross and dirty by any means, but I didn’t do the maintenance to move things around to vacuum/sweep under them, because there’s simply too much.

The first line of defense is to wash all of your clothes in hot water, put them in giant plastic bags, and vacuum everything. That didn’t work because they were under the carpet and behind the baseboards. So last summer, I had to rip up the carpet in the three bedrooms upstairs and put in laminate flooring. Everything I owned up there had to be shifted around to do the floors.

The problem has greatly improved upstairs and on the main floor. I still have issues in the basement, which is also carpeted. As I’m shuffling everything around, I’m realizing more and more that if I didn’t own so much stuff, this whole process would be MUCH easier. If the basement were empty, the carpet could have come up 2 years ago, when the problem was first discovered.

I’m doing really well with purging, but still have a long way to go. When I came across my favorite childhood doll, she had bugs in her hair and it was really easy to put her in the dumpster. But there’s a lot of other stuff that isn’t infested, and I don’t use, so I’m giving away a lot of that. I take pictures, and put them on facebook for my friends. Then whatever they don’t want I Freecycle, and after that, I’ll donate what’s left to charity. It feels really good to purge, but as much as I’ve purged, I still have a house full of stuff! It took me 32 years to accumulate it; I can’t expect to get rid of it all overnight. I passed by the book section in Meijer the other day and I shuddered, because I’ve sorted, and paperbackswapped, and donated so many books lately. (Although I’ll probably end up donating all of my paperbackswap credits to elementary schools, because I don’t ever want to own another book – I love the using the library and my new kindle.)

I am happy to report that I spent this past weekend emptying the basement and I can call someone this week to rip up the carpet! And there’s a HUGE give-away pile!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

30 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Bug Girl

  • Mrs Brady Old Lady

    A carpeted basement? Whatever was your landlord thinking of?
    The first thing I did when I bought my bedsit was rip out the carpets. Now I’m even more glad I did – YUK!!!
    My heart goes out to you, bug girl. Keep up the fight!

  • Good for you! My own place is small and fairly clutter free. I can move everything easily when it comes to clean and part of my reason for that is because I dislike housework! Always something more fulfilling you can do! But I am having to clean my parents house at the moment and it drives me mad because there is so much furniture I cannot move, stuff everywhere and stuffy fluffy carpet. I dont think I could go back to a carpeted house actually. As you go on with your decluttering I think you will find that it will spill over into all areas of your life. So much more calming to be free of endless stuff. And at least if the bugs come back you will see them in plenty of time… Good luck and thanks for your contribution.

  • AussieGirl

    This is one of my fears and one of the original reasons which prompted me to declutter. I could not stand the thought of unseen creepy crawlies running around my house at night, so anything that would contribute to that and not much else (i.e clutter) had to go.

    Good on you! Once the carpets are ripped out completely, you will also have a lot less dust to deal with as well. I don’t understand fully carpeted homes. I live in a fully carpeted home at present and cannot wait to get out. I really miss the clear and sparkling wood/tiled floors, especially after they have just been mopped. :D

    Thank you for sharing your story and best of luck in your minimalist adventures.

  • Good for you–just a yucky circumstance that brought you to it! Keep up the good work! PS-It seems to be easier for us to keep our non-carpeted areas cleaner because the dirt is so much more visible :)

  • Milly

    By all means, get rid of the basement carpet as soon as you can. We tore out ours when we remodeled the basement, and just stained and varnished the concrete floor. Luckily it was in good shape, and it looks great!

    Wall-to-wall carpeting harbors all sorts of grime and creepy-crawlies.

  • We got carpet in our main living area 12 years ago when we remodeled. Oh how I wish I had done wood. Depending on how much longer we plan to stay here, we may do a nice laminate or something. The thing about carpet is you can vacuum and even steam clean and you still never really know how clean it is. I love my large kitchen tile floor!
    Resources for managing your home, family and life

  • I know what she’s saying! I have been living with these tiny beetles for years thinking they were coming from outside (we live near lots of wild areas) one day I looked them up and realized what they were and what they were doing to my soft stuff… no wonder there were tiny cocoons in the cotton sheers. I also had a moth problem that came in with some hand me down antique fabrics. Both these pests have done damage to my favourite fabrics all over the house. Even when we were ripping up the bedroom carpet a couple years ago, I found cocoons BEHIND the baseboards! I have a cat, dog and a love of natural fibres so I don’t think I will ever completely irradicate the bugs without fumigation (and I would rather deals with a few holes rather than toxic chemicals on my clothes).
    Decluttering certainly has been helping me to find and control the infestations a whole bunch easier! Hooray for solid surface floors! Hooray for less furniture, less clothes, less towels, less linens, less dog toys, etc, etc, etc.

    • Bug Girl

      Someone who feels my pain! Terminix put a poison powder behind the baseboards, so when we ripped the carpet, the powder clogged my vacuum filter and makes me wheeze really bad. Can’t be good for me or the cats. Plus I live in an attached condo, so I’m sure the neighbors are infested, too. I’m too embarassed to ask. When we eventually move, we’re not bringing the couch, armchairs, mattresses, or anything else that might carry them. The more “stuff” I can get rid of in the meantime, the easier it will be to pack when that time comes.

  • The Tiny Homestead

    I totally relate. We bought a fixer upper that needs major work done in every room. It’s been so hard to live in the house and try to do renovations at the same time. We had to come to the realization too that moving stuff out from room to room slowed our progress significantly. In fact, I’m sure we’d be done by now if we had decluttered earlier.

  • I know the feeling Bug Girl!

    While we haven’t had those particular pests, we have dealt with fleas and roach-infested neighbors! Being a minimalist really helps!

    There was carpet in this place when we moved in, hiding some hardwood floors. If the carpet had not been put down by the landlord I would rip it up and just paint those old abused floors, but I’m afraid I would get in trouble if I did.

    Carpets and fabrics tend to absorb odors and be a haven for dust, dirt and bugs, so I avoid them whenever possible. All of the furniture I buy is either hardwood or metal and as little as possible. The only things we have that are upholstered are two wingback chairs that were given to us, and one day when we find suitable replacements they will leave. They are pretty but I cannot help but see them as bug havens (yuck).

    Good luck on your purging! It gets easier the more you toss!

  • Madeleine Lawrence

    Wow, bug girl, your situation would have freaked me right out!! Good for you for tackling it, it must have been overwhelming.

    Miss Minimalist, I wanted to thank you for the time and energy you put into you blog. Your thought-provoking essays really are inspiring, and I do think you are making the worlk a better place by taking the time to make us all think, and hopefully take action too.

    Have a beautiful day everyone, Madeleine from Australia

  • I’m confused. Who is this Bug Girl?

    I have gotten a lot of questions about this, and just wanted to make it clear that…it’s not me :)

    Although, I’m a big fan of hardwood floors and getting rid of carpet, and that will certainly help get rid of dermestids.

    Bug, a completely different Bug Girl ;p

    • Bug Girl

      Sorry about that! I didn’t want people I know to google my name and find a story about my house being infested – I’m afraid people would think I’m gross and not want to come over. I’m only borrowing the handle for this post, and never again, I promise. ;)

      • mrs Brady Old Lady

        Yes Bug Girl(s), the shame is understandable! I have a hoarder friend who is so ashamed of her abode that only me, her sis and mother are allowed into the house – and only if she really cannot avoid it… I have tried to help her but have (finally) realized that I need to let go of that… She only gets irritated and says she hasn’t got time to clear up. When I gently suggest seeing a therapist she acts all surprised (who me? I just haven’t got time to declutter). Anybody have any positive experience with helping a hoarder?

        • mrs Brady Old Lady

          And yes, I’ve lent her my Peter Walsh declutter books (which started my on my journey to minimalism). But lending her my cherished “joy of less” by Francine Jay? Hmm. A step too far…

        • Lydia

          Mrs Brady…
          I worked for a hoarder a few months back, helping her pack to move cross country. At first I thought I might be able to help her but soon discovered it was not possible. She would get upset and start breathing heavily at my mere suggestion that she wasn’t going to need a certain item. Most things, past her hundreds and hundreds of collectibles, were junk. If someone doesn’t want help, you can’t help them and your counseling idea was a good one. But…she has to want help.

          It’s hard when it’s family or close friends because you do care. I try and help my parents downsize and declutter, but it only frustrates me and I don’t get enough mileage when I do try. So, the most I can do it lead by example and keep my own life simple! Good luck!

  • Well, we all come to minimalism differently, don’t we? hahaha! I’m sorry about the bug situation, but I’m glad you’ve discovered a new and freeing way of life! :D

    P.S. I totally understand the fake google name for privacy! We have to keep *some* things to ourselves, right?

  • mom2two

    My family and I just moved into a 5 year old condo 4 months ago not realizing that we have moved into a place with a (mild) carpet beetle infestation (mild in that we called a pest control company and they told us that we don’t have a problem that a good vacuuming and some RAID can’t fix).

    The previous owners really didn’t take care of the place and my guess is that they brought the little critters over to this place. The little guys like to hang around the baseboards so we’ve been spraying RAID around them. I’ve personally seen them crawl out from under the boards (where the tile/laminate flooring meets the boards). EWWW!!!

    We don’t have the black kind, we actually have problems with the variegated carpet beetle. We like to keep a clean house so this has not been sitting well with me.

    After reading your message I felt like I completely understood what you’re going through. I, too, feel like my problem would be easier to eradicate if I had less stuff. I am currently embarking on my de-cluttering journey by getting rid of as much stuff as I possibly can. It’s quite liberating not having to worry about all of my “stuff” anymore.

    I was just wondering if you’ve been able to get rid of your beetle problem completely? We’ve seen a few larva around, but not many and we can’t locate where they’re coming from exactly. I worry about them hiding behind the baseboards or under our carpets. Any tips for getting rid of them?

  • What an unusual angle that brought you to minimalism. All kudos to you :)

  • And those bugs are a blessing for you, because they have encouraged you to downsize and simplify. I’m always looking for the silver lining and hidden meanings in things and from my way of looking at things those bugs have changed your life!

    On a much smaller scale, when I still had a bunch of junk, I once brought home a bag of fabric from a rummage sale. I set that bag down next to my dresser and forgot about it. Maybe 6 months later that bag was still there, along with a bunch of other stuff around it (I was a packrat!!!) and I discovered termites had infested my dresser.

    When I dug around I focused in on the fabric as the likely culprit because I discovered a lot of termites in the folded up fabric pieces, and they’d been dining for a while.

    It was a termite blessing! The bag of fabric went out, the dresser went out, and most of the stuff in my bedroom too. :)

    • Bug Girl

      One positive outcome is that I have beautiful laminate floors now. And my dad helped me do the floors, so it was nice daddy/daughter bonding time.

  • I had a similar problem with ants and roaches in a rent house I moved into. But I really didn’t want the harmful chemicals filling the place for my son and I to breath in. I found some good natural solutions to keep the bug population down in the house at I did a blog post about my experience.

    But good things come in the strangest ways. We all have fun stories about what happened in our lives to turn us to minimalism.

  • Clare

    When I was in Greece I had a run-in with bed bugs. It’s traumatizing when you lie in bed at night and know they are coming to bite you (I got flat, raised splotches of skin that itched really bad). Luckily I hadn’t brought much stuff and there were only a few pieces of furniture and a twin mattress to move around. I had to locate the bed bugs manually and kill them; luckily there weren’t too many, so I was able to kill them off after a bit of hunting. While all this was going on, I was doing quite a bit of research, and I discovered that they can hide almost anywhere, including under light switch covers. They are flat and can fit into thin cracks (I picked them up with tape, because I couldn’t squish them with a kleenex). For really bad infestations, some people have to get rid of almost everything they own. If you can’t wash it in hot water (I don’t know about freezing) it likely isn’t salvageable. I didn’t bring my suitcase inside when I got to the US until I had checked and washed everything. Now when I go to hotels and look at all the furniture and carpet, I check underneath the mattress just in case. All those hiding places…creepy.

    When you go to a hotel, don’t throw your clothes on the bed or floor, or leave your suitcase on the floor! Use a wood/metal chair, or one of those luggage holders. You don’t want to bring any tiny enemies home…

  • Tina

    When we lived in our first house we had carpenter ants and I thought that was terrible. I didn’t
    Realize there was so much worse out there. What a good reason to have few things and no clutter in your home. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Tina

    When I watch the shows about hoarders and they have mice in their homes or cockroaches, I get upset. Then there is always something worse. Today, my cousin talked about walking into a 20′ x 20′ storage area piled 10′ high and just not being able to deal with that much of someone else’s mess.

  • Tina

    I forgot. Someone asked about helping a hoarder and I’ve tried everything but my mother has continued her ways. She is in a nursing home and saving old magazines, used tea bags, old cookies and the staff has cleaned her drawers out a few times. Over the years, I had cleaned out her house, her condo, thrown out all kinds of broken stuff and never made a dent. My brother also remembers trying to get her to part with old carpet and old mattresses over the years. I think it might be a brain wiring thing.

  • Tina

    I just visited my mom in the nursing home. She complained that someone stole her old newspapers and magazines. I think it was just the staff, cleaning her mess out again. I tried telling her if she gave me her old magazines, I’d bring her new ones but she always says she’s still reading magazines from March and April. I bring her tea bags, but she keeps used ones in her purse. She is not demented, she has been hoarding for at least 60 years.

  • Tina

    Visited my mom again, and I offered to take her thin summer shirts home so she would have more room for her sweatshirts. She prefers a stuffed cabinet where everything is jammed in.
    She has taken over her roommate’s table with more of her old magazines and newspapers. She accused me of stealing pieces of her jigsaw puzzles until I reminded her that I had bought the puzzles in the first place. She is happy with big piles of things she can see and has always been this way. Boxes and piles and stuffed closets and cabinets and drawers. I don’t understand it but my daughter is the same way.

  • My mom died in December. When I cleaned her condo in FL, I had filled a small bag with broken wristwatches. I have been gradually getting rid of her stuff and I sold the broken watches for $90 because one had some gold in it. Because everything was moldy and smelled, there was not much to save. She never ran air conditioning. My son asked me what I would like for Mother’s Day and I would like an unusual houseplant. I put my plants out on the balcony in summer, and bring them in for the winter. My cats leave most of my plants alone.

  • Tina

    I have tried to help various hoarders but they see everything as valuable. Whether it is old ripped clothing or a paperclip. When I shop, I might buy 4 or 6 of something. My mom would buy 24 or 48 bars of soap or rolls of toilet paper and she lived alone. She loved Costco. Another hoarder I know loves Sam’s Club. She asked me why I didn’t join. I said I’d never use that much of anything. If I keep 20 plastic bags for garbage, they will last a year. I use small plastic bags for cat litter. Yet I see huge rolls of the big black garbage bags in people’s homes. And so many of those huge tubs that hold gallons of stuff. A friend mentioned going to the Container Store. I have one 1/2 empty closet and 3 small drawers of clothes. And more to give away.

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