Irreverent Mama

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My first husband was a packrat. Stuff, stuff, stuff. He just liked owning stuff. I like my stuff, too, but I like it because it has some use, some emotional resonance, and/or some beauty. My stuff ia chosen carefully. If it doesn't meet those criteria, it doesn't get into the house. If it gets into the house, but hasn't any of those criteria six months later, it's out. I hate clutter. (Which is not to give you the impression that I live in a clutter-free home. But it is my Constant Goal.) He liked his stuff because... um... it Existed? Collected dust? Got underfoot? Owning things proved his significance?

I once suggested we get rid of five years worth of a photography magazine to which we no longer subscribed. Because he was no longer taking pictures. Though we still had the camera and all associated gear. In a box. Which was...he wasn't sure where.

I knew where it was. I did the housework. I was the one tripping over all his stuff in our two-bedroom apartment. A smallish two-bedroom apartment. The photography mags. were filling three good-sized (and outrageously heavy) boxes, and I wanted them OUT. Space and light. All my life I have craved space and light. As Anastasia Krupnik's mother says on the family's weekly cleaning day, "SURFACES! I want to see surfaces!"

I know exactly what she means.

NO, I could not throw them out! He NEEDED them. Not that he could remember the last time he'd needed them, nor what he might need them for. Not, for that matter, that he even knew where they were.

I knew that direct action would only serve to entrench him in that position. He'd probably start to read the damned things, just to spite me. I couldn't be direct, but I could be indirect. I could also be patient.

I moved those three heavy boxes to a less-obvious spot. Six months later, I moved them to an even less obvious one. Six months after that, I gave them to the library.

You're all waiting for me to say "The next day, he needed something from one of those boxes." Pfft! He never noticed.

But if he had, I had a strategy. I was going to wave my hand vaguely and say "they must be around somewhere". (Which, of course, they WERE. Not my job to tell him where.) And if he got persistent about it, I was going to get annoyed. "They're YOURS, not MINE, and..." - wait for it; I was very proud of this twist - "...if it were up to me, I'd have thrown them out years ago. YOU find them."

Not a word of a lie. Entirely factual. Very little actual truth in it, but utterly effective.

I am brilliant. Almost too bad I never had to use it...



  • Brilliant? Genius! But do you have any advice about what to do if the clutter your partner insists on keeping is such that even a charity shop would refuse to take it off your hands?

    By Blogger f:lux, at 8:57 a.m.  

  • Clever Mama, what a cunning ploy!

    By Blogger john.g., at 1:35 p.m.  

  • Sheer genius, absolutely.

    My ex-fiancee was also a packrat, and it made me batty. I'm not even THAT much of a neat freak, but I grew up in a household with a neat freak dad and a willing/stay-at-home mom who liked to make him happy. I like avoiding excess clutter.

    New dh isn't as much of a packrat, and his organizational tendencies were, I kid you not, something I found extremely attractive when I first visited his (now our) house). Leatherette containers on shelves in bathroom to keep small objects organized? Total turn-on.

    Problem is, I also found that a tendency to maintain an iron-fisted control over his stuff, including how it's arranged, comes along. C'est la vie. At least I don't have a 1-1/2 car garage packed floor to ceiling and front to back with old crap.

    By Blogger Alli, at 2:38 p.m.  

  • f:lux - Stealthy trips by night, or when he's out of town, to the local landfill. Failing that, secreting things in the bottom of garbage bins.

    John - thank you. Matthew says it's a good thing I'm on his side, because I'm way too devious for his peace of mind. Heh.

    Alli - Clutter depresses me. Which is depressing, because I'm only a moderately neat person.

    So, with your new hubby so, er, systematic about his stuff - does that mean HE does the housework? Because I could probably live with that...

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 7:42 p.m.  

  • My wife is like four packrats--four slobby packrats. I want to see surfaces, too!
    She went on a business trip for four days--four days of a blissfully clean house for me.

    By Blogger Denguy, at 12:07 a.m.  

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