Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 234: Clutterers anonymous

You guys, I think the well has run dry. I don't have anything to write about that I can write about. There is stuff going on - new job, SH's projects - but it's not a good idea to write about work and husband's projects online.

Well, I guess I can write about the impact of SH's big project. Where do you guys stand on clutter? Is there a designated clutter space in your house? I have mentioned before that I grew up in a clutter-free environment whereas SH was raised by hoarders in a house where every surface except the ceiling is covered with tchotkes.

The house of SH's parents is a nightmare. I just read the book "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?" by Roz Chast. I recommend it. She talks about caring for her aging parents and the problems of getting them into assisted care and cleaning out their apartment, where they had lived for over 50 years. They were collectors. They never threw anything away. Roz had to clean it all out. Actually, she sorted through almost everything, took the few things she wanted, and then left the rest for the superintendent -

Note to those of us who have never lived in an apartment in a big city - I have learned that the superintendent is the person in charge of the building, doing repairs and whatever. This is the sort of knowledge you get from living in New York. This and knowing what a taxi medallion is. If you have not lived in New York, you do not know this stuff. In flyover country, we do our own repairs or we beg our landlord - if we are renters - to repair. In flyover country, we do not take taxis because it is too hard to get a taxi. We drive.

Where was I? Oh! She left most of the junk in her mom and dad's apartment for the superintendent to deal with. I wish SH and I had that option with his parents.

My mom has a lot of stuff, too, but her stuff is organized. Also, my mom is not the kind of person to leave her mess for other people to deal with. My mom will make sure that her house is lean and mean in 24 years, when it might be time for her to move.

NB - My sister's husband has told SH and me that "when it is time, Mom is coming to live with US." My mom is a good houseguest and does not expect to be waited on hand and foot. She entertains herself and does her own dishes. She would be a good person to have as another member of the household.

SH's parents, on the other hand - well, they expect a higher level of service.

And I have gone so far from my main point that I can't even see it any more. What I was getting at was that SH has a clutter problem. The walls of his office shrink a little more each year. It's his office - his space. I don't dictate what happens there.

But when the clutter spills into the rest of the house, I have a problem with it.

His clutter is like a virus, stealthily invading the hallway, the stairs, the guest room, the dining room, and the living room.

SH's defense is that as long as we are not having people over for dinner, the dining room does not have to be clutter free.

I maintain that the dining room should be maintained in its state as a dining room. That I should be able to look at the dining room table and see nothing but table.

He disagrees and of course he is so so wrong. He points out that our house looks better than his parents' house does and I reply that that's setting the bar really low.

So my question - what is the rule in your house? Where is clutter allowed to accumulate? Whose clutter is it? Where do you throw a bit of a fit and insist that this mess be dealt with? Is it when you find your husband's suit hanging from the rocking chair? Even though YOU HAVE A CLOSET? Is it when the pile of empty corrugated boxes in the basement falls over? Is it when you can't walk up the stairs because they are so full of junk mail and things you want to throw away but SH says he can fix?

What say you?


Anonymous said...

I can't function in clutter and have been on a quest to simplify every aspect of our lives for years. We also do not have a basement, which would be a huge clutter magnet. We deal with mail immediately and junk mail is tossed in the trash can or shredded. A huge help has been this website: where there are great tips for getting family members on board with dealing with clutter. There's a free online newsletter anyone can subscribe to on that website too. One of my friends used to be a realtor and she said her family got into the habit of pretending their house is always on the market and they keep it perpetually "showing" ready. We have also adopted that practice and it's so nice to have a clean, clutter free, peaceful, relaxing environment to live in. White Chocolate

Evelynne said...

FWIW, I strongly agree with your definitions of what's appropriate, but in practice I am a lot more like SH and really have to fight it (with varying degrees of success). So I can see both sides.

I think that your solution, having a room that he can clutter up as much as he wants while having the rest of the house be as clutter-free as possible, is really the best one. That room for me is the bedroom. I've gotten pretty good at putting things away everywhere else but I struggle with the bedroom.

The problem with allowing clutter on the dining table is that when it's time to have guests, where do you put the clutter? Better to force myself to deal with it. I try to do it on a regular basis but I end up having to have "declutter weekends" when I go through the boxes I shoved things into that I didn't know what to do with. It actually works pretty well, because by the time I go through the stuff it's expired or no longer relevant or whatever emotional attachment I had has often lessened somewhat. If I need motivation I just watch an episode of "Hoarders" and that lights a fire under my butt.

Actually this post has lit a fire under my butt and I want to go through my boxes now but I'm supposed to be working so I have to wait for the weekend.

Marilyn Leslie said...

A clutter free home is my ideal, but I have come to the conclusion that as long as I share my homw ith husband and adult children, that some clutter is inevitable. I insist that the living room/ dining room be clutter free and no clutter on the stairs. My biggest issue is that my sons nsist on keeping every pair shoes the own in the entry way. Drives me crazy.

Gaylin said...

I agree with you, I am pretty clutter free. I love to eat at my table (even though I live alone) and it is almost always empty, save for place setting.
I adore have nothing on my kitchen counters or as close to nothing as I can get!
I have a basket on the back of the toilet so any bathroom clutter has to be in it.
I have a wooden container that I put any mail or paperwork into. Go through it every once in awhile to make sure nothing is stale.
I have tchotkes, most of them Disney and I do work at keeping them under control.
My closets can get a bit stuffed and when they start to bug me, I clear them out.
I couldn't live with someone else's clutter - could be why I live alone!
I am very good at organizing and actually have had friends invite me over to help them declutter, I love doing it!

webb said...

Not meaning to be argumentative, but all the above comments are from people who WANT to do better ... and SH does not. He does not agree on a designated clutter room. He does not agree on a clutter-free dining room, so you have a more difficult problem.

Perhaps you could negotiate spaces -parts of basement ... yes, but dining room ... no. The bigger problem may be that he wants to declare, not negotiate. Good luck.

Gaylin said...

I forgot to mention, I live in a 700 sq ft apartment. Clutter could build up quickly in here and make the place feel small, not interested in that!

The first place I lived in when I moved to Vancouver was 440 sq ft, I lived there for 8 years, learned a lot about what I really needed to keep around!