Stuff and clutter

One of my favorite bloggers just wrote about seeing an enormous mutant blue plastic thing outside her bedroom window that her passive aggressive husband apparently plans to use as his swimming pool.  You can read about it here: really?

This has really piqued my curiosity.  Do any of you have stories like this?

I’ve often told my passive aggressive husband that he’s like some old junk peddler. I picture him with that big cart wagon pulled by a horse, scouring the countryside for ‘finds’ to haul home.

It’s not that I can’t love a good day of going to yard sales or thrift stores.  I’m just hesitant and selective to actually get things.  My husband furtively sneaks in trips to the thrift stores in town, then kind of hides or slips the stuff he gets into the house or garage.  More stuff.

It did come in handy when the dvd player broke.  He had one he picked up for ten dollars hiding in some recess somewhere to replace it.  This actually happened a few times in a row in the last couple years.  No kidding.

We live rurally, so we have to haul our trash to the dump. People often leave usable things for someone else to find and recycle with new use, which is a good thing. The bad part is that my husband is the one who hauls our trash, and more stuff has surreptitiously filled our outbuildings than I can keep track of.  The danger is that bigger items also come home and get quietly placed in the already overflowing with stuff outbuildings.  I’ll need something really big to haul it all off one day.

The really bad part for me right now is that it adds to my feeling of being overwhelmed by stuff.

I’m facing the accumulation of a few decades and several kids. While I’m not usually the one who is in the acquisition role of ‘stuff’, there are still gifted things, things outgrown, things no longer used, and things needing repair etc. All the ‘stuff’ that happens with the years of life with kids and living. My problem is being the kind of packrat, the kind that was afraid to get rid of something that might be needed later. The other Achille’s heel I have with ‘stuff’ is sentimentality, and the historian within.

Aww… I remember when he wore this little shirt.  I wonder if she’ll want to show this Sunday School certificate to her kids one day?  He might want this story he wrote in grade school when he gets old enough to want to remember who he is.  She tucked this little stuffed animal by her pillow every night.  How can I throw it?  I’ve had this book of fairy tales since I was four years old.  What if my youngest wants to use this for crafts?  

Since I tend to live too close to the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid, I really want to try to go through it all and sell as much of it as possible.  If you haven’t lived through a significantly long time period where you worry about a roof over your head, utilities not being shut off, how to get your kid or yourself to a dentist or doctor, gas money for the car, car repair, and having money to buy basic groceries for the week ahead, then it’s the kind of thing you can imagine, but not really understand.

IF… I can look at any particular item of ‘stuff’ (clothes, books, dishes, decor, jewelry, toys etc.) quickly, I can force myself to emotionally disconnect and make a decision.  I’m at the point where I can decide based on whether I find it beautiful, whether it’s actually used, or whether it holds irreplaceable value for me.  In light of all those, I now add whether or not there are painful memories attached to any item, because that means some measure of energy drain for me each and every time I encounter or use it.  My goal is to release as many things as possible that will make me feel sad.  I’ve been sad for too long.

I need someone I can just hand it off to after making a decision.  Decide and release.  I don’t want to just organize and sort it.  I want to purge it.

IF I have to do more than a cursory, objective decision about it, if I have to wash it, fold it, clean it, arrange it etc., then I begin to emotionally crumble bit by bit by bit.  The sadness builds and accumulates and The Stuff wins.  I tell myself to suck it up, but that only goes so far. 

Stress overload  happens that feels like meltdown, and then I put it off.  I circle around it and try to find a strategy that will work.

I actually have some trauma in my history related to ‘stuff’.  That doesn’t help.

Not that long ago, a dear friend lost her mother, and it was years ahead of when anyone would expect such a thing.  Her mother had never gone through the decades of accumulated ‘stuff’, and it was on her mind so much until the end.

During the same time period, a beloved aunt of mine also died, and all the ‘stuff’ she always intended to go through but hadn’t, was also on her mind heavily until close to the end.  I guess at some point, impending death finally pushes all the meaningless and temporal out of the way.

I don’t want to wait for that, and I feel buried alive in three and a half decades of life accumulated stuff.  It’s so overwhelming, like staring down the pre-Hercules Augean stables.  It’s like trying to pick up and sort hundreds of painful memories and triggers all in a row.

If you have any stories about your husband hauling junk home, or how you’ve dealt with your own ‘stuff’ to streamline your life, I’d love to hear about it!

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14 Responses to Stuff and clutter

  1. Gaining Strength says:

    PJs, just get a divorce and have your house put up for sale! Presto! Instant getting rid of stuff. 😀

    I’m sorta joking. That’s what’s happening now to me. The realtor said we had too much stuff! He went and packed up what he wanted and threw/gave away quite a bit without asking if I wanted any of it! I was slowly working my way through my stuff and soon it struck me, when I move where am I going to put this stuff? In storage…hmmmm that cost money, nope I started giving Goodwill a lot of stuff (drove him crazy having to haul it to Goodwill 🙂 too bad) and throwing stuff away. I gave my child that lives closest to me a lot of stuff (now she has a lot of stuff 😀 too!). The child that lives farther away, he hauled stuff for her (this angered him). 🙂 I still have a lot of stuff, but it’s manageable and getting into boxes neatly stacked in a storage place. The house is looking empty and not lived in. I still have some stuff (I have to use stuff still) to pack and sort, but I’ll get there…I have to. The baby shoes, the toys, the books, etc. were hard to get rid of, but I closed my eyes and tossed it. Haven’t used it in 5 years? Toss or give away. If I had taken the time to thoroughly think through tossing/giving away the stuff, I probably would still have a gigantic mound of stuff! 😀 Stuff, stuff, stuff, stuff…LOL where would we be without our stuff?

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  2. Jane D. says:

    I actually am more of a clutter bug than my husband. That said, I do regularly get rid of things.

    I read a comment once, probably some where on the ‘net, about how sometimes we accumulate things for the life we wish we had. Several years ago I went through a period where I accumulated lots of dishes, cookbooks, home décor items, etc. In hindsight, having and sharing home cooked meals said “home” to me. . . after so many meals of the silent treatment, and pouting, I really wished I could live my fantasy.

    I have accumulated a lot of books in the last year. Reading was a comfort to me as a child; hmmm, wonder what’s going on in my psyche now? 🙂

    Right now I am looking at my stuff with the idea of, if I had to move quickly, what would I take? If I were on my own (with just my daughter) and lived in an apartment, would I have this item? Is this from a life I used to have or wish I had, but am not going to have? It’s helpful. . . and comforting, really.

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  3. Exodus says:

    I was just writing about ‘ stuff’ in my journal because I’ve been packing and well, noticing stuff. My husband is a very unrefined junk collector and I’ve had to put my foot down about him trashing our yard with useless junk. He swears that he will do this and do that and use it for this and that but he never will. One time he brought home one of those old rusty metal swing sets from a customer’s yard! What the heck would we do with that? I made him take it to the landfill the next day. .

    Well, when I was young and living at home, I was a very unorganized and there was a lot of clutter, dirty dishes and filth in my room. When I moved out and into my own apartment, I kept things very organized and clean but I collected a lot of small things for decorations- mainly because that was all I could afford. I’m very resourceful and have a love of picking antiques and collectibles so I would find really cool odd things to make furniture out of like authentic old Asian wooden tea boxes for end tables and things like that or old antique doors that I made my bed out of. I’m not a junker though I do have a few weaknesses like porcelain china Victorian furniture and Danish cookware and some Danish modern furniture.

    A few years ago, I decided to look at pictures of my home and how it had changed through the years and I noticed a very drastic change around Christmas 2002 when I had a major catharsis and became extremely minimalist Feng Shui and clutter-free. I tend to believe that in 2002, I was feeling very out of control and needing to create harmony in my living space. I couldn’t tolerate clutter and meaningless stuff around my house. I was spending way too much time trying to manage my husband, his mess and our stuff. So, I decided to remove anything in my home that had a negative vibe, no real purpose or function and that was just taking up space. All those little knick-knacks that need dusting?- gone! I also wanted to remove anything made in China other than necessary electronics because I believe they create bad karma. The only challenge was my husband and his absolute need to create mess and clutter wherever he went. I used to call him Pig Pen from the Peanuts because he was like a tornado filled with detritus wherever he went. He would create piles of boots and shoes in the garage, piles of clothing and his closet was so bad that I once told him that one day someone would find him dead, buried alive under all the stuff that would one day fall on him. If he was eating something, it would always end up on the floor, food smeared on the table and crumbs everywhere else. He needs a home made of melamine and plastic slipcovers and a mother to clean up after him all the time.

    Anyway, in recent years I have become obsessed with staying organized, keeping it simple and only buying things that have value, that I enjoy looking at and using and are necessary. I refuse to buy things that devalue my money by falling apart and needing to be replaced too often and frankly, I simply can’t tolerate all the nonsense in maintaining modern things made today like washing machines that have to be washed or they get moldy. Please! I also clean out my closets twice a year with the change of seasons and if something hasn’t been worn in two years, it goes. I don’t even think twice about it. I buy most of my clothing on ebay now because I can’t find any clothing worth buying today.

    I told my husband that a person can tell a lot about someone else’s emotional state by looking at their living environment. Obviously my husband’s emotional state is one of chaos and lots of unresolved issues that manifest as unfinished projects and displaced useless junk ( displaced anger that devalues his life).

    Now that his house has been super decluttered and boxed up, he should begin to heal and perhaps even be cured from his PA, Borderline disorder. Wishful thinking?

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    • lonelywife07 says:

      I agree Exodus…my emotional state is so chaotic….especially my bedroom! And it’s never been like this! But I can’t seem to get it together…
      Neither PA Man and I are junk collectors…in fact, PA Man tends to want to throw EVERYTHING out…even if it’s something I really want! We’ve had quite a few arguments about that!

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      • Exodus says:

        Well, it does make sense that your bedroom is chaos because the most intimate aspect of your marriage is! Interesting that your husband must purge things that you want to use. I will purge things that just sit around taking up space or have no value to us any longer but, I don’t just purge things because I’m OCD about being clutter-free.

        I was never a clean freak but after 2002, I had to have things in order and clean on the surface. Partly because I couldn’t afford to let even one day slip and then have even more to do. I have lived in a constant state of fear for the last 18 years that I would wake up and Norman would do something to pull the rug out from under us and I would need to devote time to repairing his destruction. I’m talking about financial matters or breaking something that we need to use every day, losing something or letting our dogs run away or creating a problem with our business. All those things consumed my life and I learned very quickly that it was best not to put off anything that I could do today. I have developed a tendency to feel completely overwhelmed and become paralyzed when I see a mountain of work ahead of me and living with Norman is a mountain to climb every day and Norman’s punishments were taking an increasing toll on my ability to endure any size of crisis. I knew I was becoming traumatized and I voiced my concerns to Norman and explained to him that I needed his support and to work as a couple/team instead of opponents but his resentment would not allow him to do anything that was good for us, good for me or good for business because that would make me happy.

        It was bad enough that Norman would sabotage any and all my efforts to stay organized and keep a relatively clean home. Even so, managing our home was the only job I could do that provided a temporary sense of accomplishment in my life. I grew to love doing my dishes by hand because my efforts always paid-off in a big way and I felt a sense of accomplishment in looking at the clean dishes. I would even compete with myself to find ways to do them by using less soap and conserving more water. Doing the dishes became a therapy in mindfulness and meditation. There was nothing else in the house or in my life that produced such satisfying results. I even got rid our dishwasher. All my efforts painted the illusion of ‘normal’ in my life and gave me at least some small bit of pleasure and peace even if only temporary. If anyone came to our house they would think we were perfectly happy, normal, fortunate, blessed people who were happy. They didn’t realize that it was just an illusion and that this was just a beautiful hell.

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  4. Christine says:

    I admit I laughed a little at your blog and laughed harder at hers! Yes! yes and YES I have that problem- just on a bigger scale!
    My nutty PA hubby has junk- crazy junk that in his mind like everything else is also so skewed that to him, it’s truly not junk- he gets offended if I call it junk- I mean me calling attention to his piles of “not junk” has started full scale PA battles where “my antiques or vintage finds get umm.. Broken or go missing” by accident of course but I know it’s pay back for drawing attention to his CRAP that he won’t toss out- because to him- his stuff has a use, he had a plan for it or it’s to good to toss.

    Let me say here that from the get go- he wouldn’t throw anything away. Being young and knowing his history when he lived at home with his mama- he didn’t have much- claimed he never got what he wanted and basically worked from 16 years old to pay his mamas bills… So I thought his attachment to things he brought home from job sites or found at the dump was related to going without.
    Nah…. We moved a few times in our 20s and everytime we moved it was his piles of crap that I had to toss- and each and every house had a broken down old car or truck he managed to always find without a working engine for a few hundred bucks that he was going to restore….
    And they sat where ever he had them towed- broken down, flat tires, grass growing high all around and junk junk and more junk tossed in the back of the truck or inside the cars- whichever he had parked in our back yard at time.

    He never once took a tool to even ONE of them. We would move- I would ask about his “junk car” he would give me the guilt trip based on how he wanted to do this and that but never felt we had the money…. And I would call the towing guy- sell the junk car for scrap- give a loud YeHaw! And no sooner than we were settled somewhere else, he would find another clunker- park it in the yard and there it sat until the next move.

    My kids always had a car to “play” race car in and pretend to drive in our back yard, but I never could get the swing set or metal storage building out of the box and PUT TOGETHER! The kids ended up playing on and around the junk cars until he filled them with more junk and the kids had no room to play…. While a jungle gym and a storage building sat nearby for years still in the boxes from the factory needing to be assembled and he never found the time.

    Over 25 years, I’ve scrapped so many trucks for cash that the guy that owns the scrap place knows me.

    I had one clunker hauled off and scrapped the day after he showed up with it. When he brought it home broken down like all the previous ones had been- this had other issues with the gear shift and he failed to mention it to me.
    Now he knew the kids had always played and pretended to be driving a bus or going to the store in all of “the no engine” broke down clunkers… So when one kid ended up behind the wheel of that one and actually moving pretty fast down the hill of our yard, I almost died of heart failure before I could get from the kitchen window where I saw it to the yard and down the hill to the fence where my 7 year old driving the truck crashed-‘it dented the hell out of the fence but it stopped the 1960 something ford truck.

    I think my hubby’s PA fit lasted a good half of a year when he came home and the truck was gone- 300 dollars was on the counter and I said to use the money to fix the fence!
    and of course all these years later-that was the ONE truck he would still like to have today and have it all restored… That truck to hear him talk was THE ONE- that perfect truck he would have restored unlike all the rest of them before or since that one- which he allowed to SIT and grow trees around them and never even attempted to fix. But that ONE truck he would have fixed.
    Yea right!
    We bought a brand new home maybe 15 years ago, I made him promise after scrapping yet another clunker in our yard that he wouldn’t bring another one home- he never even attemps to fix them.
    He promised- three months after moving he shows up with a two tone chevy made in the 1970s- one color was RUST and the other shade primer!
    It was God awful!! I was in the drive way blocking it with my body- saying NO- NO NO NO Nooo!!! You promised!

    But there it sat in our driveway- leaking oil and looking awful!
    A few letters from the HOA of the neighborhood and getting threats of a fine and he moved it to the back yard…. Once again I had a massive spot of dead grass under the truck- weeds knee high around it- and it sat for years untouched. The dog got the most benifit from that clunker and used that truck for awhile as a dry place underneath when it rained because the actual dog house needed a new roof and my PA hubby hadn’t found the time.
    I got really mad one day after begging him to go through all the junk he had collected in the garage area- it was awful and I had hardly any room to park inside the garage. He said he would- didn’t and continued to procrastinate until I ended up mad.
    But when a spare room that was suppose to be “my space” became filled with all his junk and parts to projects he never starts much less finished- I called a junk dealer to my house-
    I Sold everything in the room that was suppose to be my area….and I sold the truck that had took root in the back yard and almost rusted away to nothing – plus I sold off every broken down lawn mower he was gonna use for “parts” every old dryer he had stored in case ours broke- not that the ones taking up garage space even worked! I literally cleaned out every thing that they could fit and sold it for scrap.
    He was so mad when he came home that he not only pouted and sulked but blamed me for never allowing him to have a hobby or fix a truck!!!??

    I had to literally remind him of the numerous ones he brought home-
    I recall yelling at him that he was my “kid who brought home stray cars instead of stray cats”

    Not once in over 20 years did he even touch the clunkers once he parked them into the back yard.
    In his mind he was “always” about to start once we had the money… I reminded him of all the places he wasted money and how he never once made a single trip to a parts store for one of those clunkers to even start a restoration project.
    But I now understand years later that he’s so PA that his pout was just him waiting in silence until he managed to get me back for it and he did: plus some.

    My cleaning out project freed up amazing space in our garage- I had purchased everything needed to paint, organize and make a space for things. But before I could get shelves on the walls and get it organized-
    The man came home with another broke down car and pulled this one INTO the space I had just freed up in the garage.
    He innocently said that since I complained about his junk cars killing the grass and being an eye sore- no one could “see” the latest one since he was parking it in the garage.

    Yea. No one BUT me had to see it. And I do see it: every day- two and three times a day when I pull in and out of the same garage!

    It’s been sitting there broken down in the exact same spot inside the garage for 3 years now!
    Only now you can’t hardly tell what type of vehicle it is because all his new junk is piled HIGH on top of it. The inside is filled with a sink he got for free to use in an upstairs bathroom but hasn’t done yet. There is an old ice maker he was going to fix, and numerous boxes filled with God only knows what and all of that shoved inside the broken down car!

    Now let me give him a little bit of credit. I have noticed that he has shifted maybe 15 hours a week of his massive amounts of TV time from shows about auctions and re runs of storage wars to shows about fixing up cars: you know those garage shows and restoration shows where these reality stars do all the work while you watch.

    So maybe he is gearing himself up to actually put down the remote and pick up a wrench and fix this one.
    But I’m not holding my breath. Lol
    Instead I’m slowly de- cluttering my space and my life. He can have his junk and clunkers and the rest of it once I’m out of here.
    I now think years later it wasn’t that he couldn’t part with stuff because he had so little growing up, he goes and finds broken things like himself, promises to fix them the way he promises to change and fix or work on his own issues and then stuffs his junk out of sight when he makes excuses to not follow through, just like he stuffs his emotions and problems and his JUNK that he never follows through on in life.
    My PA husbands JUNK represents who he is to me now- a lot of promise but unfortunately: it ends up a clunker!

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    • AlonewithGod says:

      Oh my goodness, Christine–what a nightmare to have to look at junker trucks your whole life knowing they will never be restored. These men have not a shred of consideration for others. Even their children! Understatement, huh?? Thank you for sharing; my heart goes out to you. I like your analogy about junk and emotions. Pretty accurate. Hang in there. Your freedom will come and God will give you beauty for ashes.

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  5. GainingStrength says:

    Mine did not have anything that he wasn’t willing to get rid of. He had no attachment to anything or anyone. Everything is replaceable. When we moved from house to house, he would get rid of stuff (usually the stuff I wanted, of course) and tell me we could buy another one after we moved. Of course, he never gave thought that those things he gave away were not made 10 years later after we purchased it! The things we could replace never were replaced because I couldn’t find anything close to what he got rid of. Did it ever bother him that I was upset? Nope, thinking back on it now maybe he was pleased with himself? Stuff isn’t his thing, money is his thing. We are not wealthy, just middle class, but still money. When he was packing up to leave, someone had to tell him to take pictures with him. Did you read that?

    He.had.to.have.someone.tell.him.to.take.pictures!!!!! How is that for a caring, loving father? He probably figured if he EVER wanted a picture he could just ask me because like everything else I took care of the pictures. He knew I would have them! And I would just happily copy and send them to him! What reality is he living in? Oh that’s right…his reality.

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    • Exodus says:

      Gaining, Norman is like your husband. I’ve known for years that everything and everyone in Norman’s life is expendable and replaceable. Norman never wanted to give up anything though. He was a hoarder like his mother but nothing they had had any value to them. Norman doesn’t even know what he has and so instead of being resourceful, he wastes money buying more of the same thing instead of using what he has. He’s lazy that way. It’s easier to buy it new than looking for it in his trashy garage.
      The pictures? Norman hasn’t asked and doesn’t want any I’m sure. Though, I packed up pictures yesterday and I left him our wedding pictures. I have no desire to keep them. I will have plenty enough Norman reminders until the day I die.
      I should mention that Narcissistic Norman is on the path seeking his new N-supply now. He told me that he was going to kiss butt to his parents and get some land from them and he’s already looking for a new babe with a house that he can live in. This is so typical for him to use people like he always has and value them just like another piece of meaningless junk in his life.

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      • lost7658 says:

        Norman sounds a lot like my husband. Completely narcissistic and everyone in his life is disposable. My husband changes jobs a lot because he finds one person to become best friends with and when that falls apart. He uses someone else to find another job and continue the cycle. Everyone and everything to them is replaceable and to be used simply for their needs. I feel bad for whoever your husband cons into being with him. They will eventually end up the same way that you are. They can’t pretend that they are good people for too long.

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  6. lost7658 says:

    The clutter and stuff is something that drives me crazy. I have never had a nice apartment with my husband because he is dirty and collects things. Items that we don’t even need. For example he often brings home vacuums and phones he finds in eviction apartments at his job. None of these items ever come with the charger and often the charger is the same price as buying a new phone. Trust me if someone leaves something by the trash can my husband will begin circling around it like a buzzard and eventually you will find it in our house. We have a two bedroom condo we are renting and the house is filled with junk. The patio is covered with random pots with dead plants in them and other random items. Just this morning I woke up and found a couple of dead fish in those pots and I have no idea why. I could question him about it but what would be the point ? In the second bedroom that was supposed to be used for an office for me to study in has been taken over by him. The desk is covered with tools and dirty tissues. In front of the closet doors is about six bicycles and their parts. My poor cats can barley get to their litter box. The room also has tons of boxes because every place we move too we never fully unpack. I have lived at this condo for almost a year now and only 50 percent of the boxes have been unpacked. I once asked him why he disliked unpacking and he said he enjoyed having his items packed because he never stays anywhere too long. I got the message that we would never have a home together. I am embarrassed to live here and have people over because the house is constantly dirty. Whenever i clean one area he finds more junk to put in it’s place. We also constantly receive letters from the HOA about the dirty patio.

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