I consider myself a bit of a “zen” person.  I like quiet and serenity, and I like my house to be uncluttered and organized.  I prefer my home to be on the “minimalist” side of things. Unfortunately, my house is not any of those things. My hubby is a pack rat and getting him to part with anything is a real challenge. I’m a big believer in fung shui and that clutter blocks positive energy in the house (not too mention it’s harder to clean around everything).

So when the neighborhood Spring clean up rolls around each year, I get all excited! I spent about 10 hours today cleaning out closets, the basement, and the garage.  I’ve got one truckload of “stuff” already packed for drop off tomorrow, and will fill up another truck load tomorrow.  There were four big bags of more “stuff” delivered to Salvation Army, and a slew of boxes of still more “stuff” for a yard sale.  I wish I could say I noticed a significant difference in the house, but I’ll take any improvement I can get! It was certainly worth all the aches and pains that are creeping into my muscles and joints!

My focus on decluttering today reminded me of an article I wrote a few years ago for a writing class I was taking. It’s from 2009, so clearly I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped when I wrote it!  (Love you, dear!)

So I Married a Pack Rat

Once upon a time I lived in a beautiful house.  It was clean, organized, and uncluttered.  It was my sanctuary; I felt at peace there.

I still live in that same house, but it is hardly a sanctuary.   There is “stuff” everywhere.  Toys, books and old mail sit in piles in the kitchen.  The dog’s toys are scattered about.  Too many mismatching pillows and blankets are haphazardly thrown about.  Baskets of clothes wait to be properly hung.   Nothing ever seems to get put away any more.  Where would I put it anyway?

A friend suggested that I needed an intervention.  This was not the house that welcomed so many cocktail parties and girls’-night sleepovers.  It was a source of stress instead.

So what had gone wrong exactly?   The answer: I married a pack rat.

Yes, I knew David was a pack rat when we decided to marry.  But he had promised to clean out his house before moving into mine and, at that time, my attic and basement were relatively empty.  I felt there was sufficient room to absorb his belongings.

But nothing could prepare me for the sudden onslaught of possessions.  It just kept coming and coming—bit by bit in carloads, and in one final drop via U-Haul.

I had anticipated needing a yard sale to rid us of duplicates and inessentials, but I didn’t expect it to be so challenging.

“You never know when we might need a (fill in the blank).”

“That might make a good gift for someone.”

“But I got that Dolphins shirt when I was in high school.  It still fits.”

I had done my best to purge my own belongings to make space for David.  After all, this was now “our” home.  I made room for pictures of his children, and cleared out my closets and dressers to make room for his clothing.  I allowed his German shepherd to move in.  We did some remodeling to maximize space in our kitchen, and I allowed the attic, basement and garage to be packed to the gills.

Perhaps in my desire to make David and his children feel at home I gave up a little too much of what this home meant to me.   As a lover of books, I gave up too many novels I loved to make room for his Star Wars collectibles.  The once cheerful guest room has taken on life as a secondary storage space.  The beautiful library/music room is now also a part-time bedroom and houses numerous Darth Vaders, some of my son’s toys, 10 mismatching pillows, and hordes of stuffed animals that no one touches.

I was unprepared for the volume of camping gear secured to the garage walls, boxes stacked in the attic and basement, or dog hair on everything.

The biggest surprise, however, was the allocation of closet space.  Our bedroom has a walk-in closet and we did configure some additional space.  A 50/50 split of this space seemed fair and, as the woman of the household, I figured I might garner a tad more.  This was definitely a poor assumption.

Currently, I have exactly 28” of hanging space, compared to his 110”.  I counted 105 hangers filled with shirts and jackets, plus 27 pairs of pants.  There were 18 shirts hanging in the laundry room, and 68 clothing items hanging in the guest closet.

The allocation of shelving yields a similar variance—120” to 24”.  There are 10 Space Bags in my attic filled with more clothing, and there are 5 piles of sweaters awaiting bagging.

In the hall closet, David harbors 28 coats and jackets.  (What man needs 28 coats?)  The space is so tight that my son and I hang our jackets on the closet doors rather than battle with squeezing them in.

Other than one shelf of towels, my husband has commandeered the entire linen closet.  Stockpiles of deodorant and hair gel (doesn’t all that go bad at some point?), 52 pill bottles (most empty), and 6 jumbo size vitamin bottles are but a few things taking up that precious space.

You get the picture.  There is not one room that doesn’t contain some level of clutter.

While it may not appear that I am winning this battle, we have made progress.  So for those of you who might also be struggling with the stress of someone else’s clutter, I thought I would share a few of my war strategies.  Some have been more successful than others.

Throw stuff out when no one is looking, and get rid of the evidence.  Use the “like you can find anything in this mess” argument if someone ever looks for it.  Chances are good, however, that no one ever will.

Be creative in finding storage space.  For my bathroom, I purchased a small cabinet to store shampoo, toothpaste and feminine products.  It’s decorative and serves a useful purpose.  I am currently considering a new side table for the family room.  It will most certainly contain storage space.

Be assertive and take back your space.  In my closet, I took back 12” just by re-organizing some of my husband’s things.  I know that only brings me up to 36” compared to his now 108”, but it’s a start.

Purge. I have too many clothes myself.  Between my annual yard sale and charities, it won’t go to waste.  Just this week I got rid of 5 pairs of size 6 jeans.  I came to grips with the fact that I wasn’t going to fit into them again.

Yard sale.  Last year, I got David to participate.  We didn’t need those air conditioners since our house has central air and making a few bucks at the yard sale was just the motivation needed.

Exchange something out.  When David brings home something new, I ask him what he’s giving up to make room for it.

Promote a charitable heart.  I frequently remind my husband that there are people less fortunate who could really use one of those coats.  I try to teach by example, and a little guilt doesn’t hurt.

I will continue to wage this battle for a happy medium where we are all living happily ever after in this space that is our home.


IMDb: Clutter (2013)


13 thoughts on “Clutter

  1. Oh my God, I can soooo relate to this! My husband has so much stuff that we have been renting a mini storage unit for years to house the overflow. He never goes there and probably will never use any of that stuff again, but we have to pay $75 a month to keep it. Imagine what you could do with an extra $900 a year! Drives me nuts!!

    • Oh, that would drive me crazy also! What a waste of good money. We aren’t in storage unit mode as of yet, I think because my house had so much available space. It felt SO good to load up the truck with crap and get it out of here. But so much more should go. Whenever David asks me what I want for my birthday or Christmas, I like to say “a dumpster”! 🙂 Have a great day!

      • That’s funny. Every time we move to a new place, I do have a dumpster delivered to the driveway. And we fill it up with no problem! Grrr! You have a great day too.:)

  2. OH MY GOD! I got stressed just reading this. As a minimalist myself, I firmly believe that you can find calmness and serenity in organization and minimal ‘things’. I can feel tension rise just walking into a house with clutter, so I can only imagine what you feel every time you open a closet door! Keep cleaning out that clutter! And you thought on throwing out ‘stuff’ when no one is looking is how I converted my husband – it did take time though!

    Great to see your blog today!

    • I loved your reaction to my post! Thank you for that. It’s always great to have someone to commiserate with… my hubby obviously doesn’t get the stress part of clutter. I am encouraged that you were able to convert your husband. I will not give up the fight! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  3. Our walk-in closet is in need of a serious purge. Sadly, its all my fault. But, I cannot tolerate clutter or disorder in any other part of the house. Project Closet Purge 2014 is on my to do list.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Good luck with Closet Purge! My side of the closet doesn’t get to disorganized because there isn’t enough room to do it! Most of my clothes are piled on the corner of my dresser! (It’s not pretty!) Have a great day!

  4. I have to say I really loved this blog entry.

    As someone who just (in January) combined households into a new dwelling, I can really relate (but probably more so from your husband’s perspective). Now in my case neither one of us are pack rats, but I did reserve the right to have my home office filled with a ton of books and a few things I have acquired over the years, (including Penn State memorabilia, a vintage radio, some VW Bug stuff and a ‘still in the box, original issue’ Darth Tater). For the record I did purge a few things before combining households, including a few radios I collected over the years, a lot of computer parts /cables (you never know when you will need the power supply for a 2001 HP desktop or 87 spare USB cables) and a lot of clothes. Chris was glad though that I got rid of the 70’s era non-functioning desktop telephone (for the record I thought it looked neat).

    Now the house is in order, although my office is a tad bit cluttered and I still have to get to around to some basement organizing, as I have a ton of tools scattered about. I kind of collected a lot of tools over the years. All told though, things seemed to be going well. Chris even bought me a nice Paris-themed storage box for my 36 Avon deodorants that I keep in the bathroom (they don’t go bad by the way and I really like Avon deodorant).

  5. My husbands problem is he can never buy one of something… He has to buy in twos and threes!!! Plus he NEVER throws away a magazine .. Problem is we have a large attic and it all ends up there!!!

    • Oh, I feel your pain!!! Particularly if they are on sale, why buy just one??? 🙂 We have bags of those shampoo bottles from the hotels… and if I ever send him for “just bread” at the grocery, he comes home with 4 bags!
      I hope you are well! Great to hear from you!

  6. Hi.

    So I don’t disagree that dad has a problem but there are some pretty offensive things in this post.

    ” made room for pictures of his children” Wow. Family doesn’t “make room”. family is about accepting. Remember we lit a candle at your wedding saying we were a team? Teams don’t “make room” I’ve known you for so long and we have been a family for a long time now that I think I should be more to you then “his children”.

    As for the “part time bedroom” I’m sorry I needed a place to sleep? I’m sorry I wanted my Beauty and the Beast blanket I’ve had since childhood with me. Why did I want it? Because I’ve had it since I lived in that little house in Luzerne and I needed it. It means a lot to me. But really, where did you want me to go? Was every other weekend really to much of an inconvenience for you…

    Michele, we are a family.. Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.

    • Hi Mikayla,
      I am so sorry you took offense to my article. Please remember it was written many years ago and dusted off because of the relevance to the clutter issue. I totally understand how some of the wording could have been taken the wrong way, but you are right. We are family, and have been for a very long time. This article was written at a different point in time where there were, perhaps, other dynamics at play. The intent was never against you in anyway. It was intended to reflect my feelings that I no longer recognized my house (and still don’t) because of the clutter and amount of “stuff”. The items you mentioned were just added descriptions for purposes of adding color to the article (it was a writing assignment). I apologize for any offense you may feel. I wouldn’t change a thing from back then, and we both loved having you girls here on weekends. I think I have shown my love and devotion for all of you in many ways over the years. Please do not let one writing assignment undo that. You are certainly not left behind, nor forgotten. My deepest apologies. Love you.

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