When one spouse decides to clear the clutter

When one spouse decides to clear the clutter

Now that we’ve gotten through the holidays and hauled all of our new stuff home, we face the annual task of finding somewhere to put it.

Seems like everyone is facing the same challenge this time of year, but at our house the child clutter (as I’ve mentioned before) is threatening to take over. I recently cleared out a small closet in my daughter’s room just to hold all of her doll/Build-a-Bear/dress-up clothes.

I did some pre-emptive strikes before Christmas, donating a few games and other clothes and toys to Empty Tomb. But it just scratched the surface.

So my husband, who is off this week, is home clearing out our breezeway (aka junk room) and garage while I go back to work.

That should be good news. But his tossing binges can sometimes be, shall we say, random? And that makes me nervous.

He is no neat freak. His desk is as messy as mine (almost), and he is a collector. He has sweatshirts from almost every college he’s ever visited (including Canada and Australia), not to mention those plastic stadium cups.

But I am the sentimental keeper of things — especially anything to do with the kids. I once briefly considered keeping a tuft of pink dryer lint from the first load of my daughter’s baby clothes. (I think I could be a candidate for a TLC reality show.)

I also can’t stand to throw away something that might have a good use somewhere, or could be recycled, or even earn a few bucks. I am a child of Depression-era parents, and it shows.

So when he wanted to toss a bag of old cell phones, I directed him to a place that recycles them. I wouldn’t let him throw away a broken twin bed frame because we can still use the mission-style headboard in our son’s room. That pile of soccer shoes? I need to decide which to hand down to friends and which to donate.

I could sense his frustration. So I let him recycle the cardboard creations my children made at science camp (I took pictures). And toss an outdated car seat (nowhere to recycle them). And set an old bike out on the curb, free for the taking. Hey, someone will use it, right?

I’ve done plenty of de-cluttering on my own, but I usually only get through half the process — going through clothes, packing them in bags or tagging them for a sale — and then get diverted to some other life crisis before I can finish the job. Hence the piles of stuff.

My husband waited until I was walking out the door for work Tuesday morning before he waded into the breezeway and started saying things like, “What IS all this stuff?” and “Do we really need this?”

I gritted my teeth, and after the initial round of bargaining I made a deal: he’ll go through things every day, tossing what he can and setting aside anything questionable for me to look at that night. And we’ll try to keep the piles moving.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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Photo: Maybe someday my breezeway will look like this. Photo from HGTV website

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Jodi Heckel wrote on January 07, 2011 at 11:01 am
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The exact same thing is going on in my household. I'm very sentimental about all the little kid art projects, whereas my husband sees them as clutter. I agree with him that we need to declutter. But being the control-freak that I am, I have to do it myself! Which means it could be 10 years down the road before our daughter's closet is clean!