I’m bringing an example about cookie cutters, but this is a pattern I’ve been trying to dig deeper into as it relates to lots of other items and things around my house.
My boyfriend and I live together in a farmhouse that was initially built by his grandma and grandpa, who have both been dead for over 10 years. Some of their stuff still exists in this house, whether by default from nobody ever getting rid of it (like random junk in the basement), or in this example, kept for sentimental reasons.
I used to be a professional home organizer, so I put home organization toward the top of my priority list. It’s very important to me to maintain a very organized, tidy, functional, and easy home. It’s very important to me that I don’t keep things out of guilt, obligation, or overattachment. Growing up, my family was very rich and my parents bought me and my sisters tons of toys and stuff but it was overwhelming the amount of junk and clutter that accumulated. In high school, my family lost everything and that’s when I learned how to not be attached to physical items. I am a minimalist and this is the part where I run into some conflict with my boyfriend.
So, there’s this old coffee can full of cookie cutters that were his grandma’s. Some are christmas, some are random/other holidays. I never bake cookies, except for once a year around christmas, and I happened to use them this year because I was baking with my nephew. Regardless, I wish boyfriend would let me get rid of these cookie cutters. I know when I ask him if he wants to get rid of these because we never use them, they’re taking up precious space in my kitchen, I don’t want them, I don’t see why we need to keep them. It’s not like he bakes cookies. And what’s he going to do with them if I move them out of the kitchen? Like, it’s not like he’s going to display them on a shelf? Or put them in his memorabilia/sentimental things box(es) in the basement? It’s weird. It’s just cookie cutters for god’s sake.
Let me piece together a model.
C: Coffee can full of cookie cutters that were given to Neil (boyfriend) by his grandma/we own cookie cutters that were originally his grandma’s, I want to get rid of them, boyfriend doesn’t use them, I don’t use them, grandma and grandpa have been deceased for over 10 years
T: He shouldn’t be so attached to them (and he should get rid of them).
A’s: (ya ready coach? I loaded the A line UP!)
• Ask him if we can get rid of them
• Act aloof when asking him, discounting the sentimental value he gets from owning these cookie cutters
• Get angry/frustrated when he says no (possibly another model in which the C: is after I asked him to get rid of them and he said no)
• Tell myself I’m better than him for not being so attached to physical items, and that I’m somehow morally better than him because I can easily declutter items without lots of emotional attachment, I can do it with ease
• Remove the cookie cutters from the kitchen, and put them somewhere else (like his sentimental pile/boxes in the basement where they’re even less likely to get used), with or without his permission to move them
• Have an agenda on the back end of my asking him if he wants to get rid of them (like if he says no, I will put the cookie cutters somewhere else in the house, with the hopes that 6 months or a year down the road when we’re doing maintenance organizing again, I can then be like omg we haven’t used these cookie cutters in forever, this is ridiculous! We must get rid of these immediately, this is stupid.)
• Point out the fact that he has never used the cookie cutters as long as I’ve known him (about 2.5 years)
• Say “Come on, you’re never gonna use these.”
• Ask rhetorical questions and then follow them with a snarky answer like “Come on, when are you ever going to bake cookies and use cookie cutters? Never, that’s ridiculous Neil.” but it’s said with humor and a smile, so that it doesn’t potentially come off as an attack to him
• Give him an ultimatum (ultimatum perhaps isn’t the exact right word) like “Well if you want to keep them so bad, they’re not staying in the kitchen, they’ll go in your sentimental space in the basement if we absolutely must keep them.”
• Not holding the space for his sentimental attachment to the items
• Offer to take them to good will for him, and act happy to do so for him, like as if I’m so nice I’m doing him a big favor
• Add this instance to the mental pile of all the other items in the house this same pattern exists (like certain clothing items in his closet, other random items in his sentimental boxes in the basement that I think are ridiculous and pointless to keep, other decorations that were originally his grandparents)
• Ask nonchalantly, not ask with love and compassion and gentleness and kindness, it probably comes off rude and uncaring and demanding
• Cite my authority over the kitchen by saying things like Well I’m the one who does all the cooking, the kitchen is MY space, I should get to decide how it’s organized and what tools I keep in here, because it’s not like you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
• Judge myself for being demanding toward him about something so seemingly insignificant – cookie cutters “for god’s sake” (The conversation in my head goes something like this: Omg you’re making such a big deal out of this, it’s just cookie cutters. Just let him keep the goddamn cookie cutters, you’ve made him get rid of so much other stuff throughout your living here in his house. You shouldn’t be so demanding. He lets you live here for free.)
• Judge him
• Judge his desires for wanting to keep the cookie cutters
• Assume I know his reasons for wanting to keep the cookie cutters
• Judge his reasons for wanting to keep them or not keep them as good reasons vs. not good reasons to keep an item
• Not say “Oh ok, I’ll keep them if you don’t want to get rid of them, no big deal honey. Would you like them in the kitchen where you might potentially use them, or would you like me to put them with your other sentimental items from your grandma tucked away nicely in the basement? I’d be happy to put these there for you.
• Make up a back story in my head for why he said no that goes a little something like this: He’s only saying no because he lacks the ability to declutter things. He’s only keeping them because he would feel weird for asking his brothers and/or sister if they want to keep the cookie cutters, because they might potentially be sentimental to them and they might want to keep them. Even if he doesn’t want them, he’s not courageous or confident enough to ask them to take them, or if they all say no, he’s too weak to just give them to good will. He’s people pleasing himself by keeping them at his own expense just because by default, nobody else wants them/will take them. It’s not fair that I have to be on the receiving end of his people pleasing, that I have to suffer because he’s unwilling to stand up to his brothers and sisters and just take the cookie cutters at face value, ask them if they want them and state what he will do (e.g. if nobody wants them, I’ll give them to good will.)
• Play victim to his decisions about the cookie cutters (meaning – I have to suffer because he’s unwilling to get rid of the cookie cutters.)
• (I think somehow somewhere in here I’m playing the martyr? Will continue awareness on that.) I say to myself in my head, “Well if I’m going through all the trouble of organizing this whole house and this whole kitchen, the least you can do is be flexible about getting rid of things to make my job easier.”
R: I’m the one getting overly emotionally attached to a physical item.
Oh. My. God.
This model blows my mind.
I’m the one getting overly attached to a physical item?!? I gotta sit with this one.
One thing I could also do to improve this model is actually ask him to get rid of the cookie cutters, see his response and see what I do, in order to get a more definitive C line – perhaps like I asked him if we could get rid of the cookie cutters and he said no, and also other quotes from that conversation.