Hi. I had a coaching call yesterday which brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings I need help to process. The call was regarding my thoughts about the clutter in my house. I prefer my home to be free of clutter – very similar to how Brooke’s home looks and what she describes as her aesthetic. My husband, on the other hand, has a different preference. He likes a lot of “stuff” and has a very hard time throwing anything at all away. This includes actual trash such as junk mail from two years ago. If I ask him about the trash he agrees it can be thrown away, but he does not actually put it in the garbage. Other things are sentimental for him … chipped dishes that are “still good”, every single book/toy/clothing item his son ever owned (his son is now 30 years old and has told us repeatedly that he does not want any of these things saved for him). We have lived in our house for 20 years now and it is brimming with things I consider to be junk/clutter/trash/useless and he considers important and/or wants to keep “just in case”.
I respect the things that are his and never throw any of it away without asking him about it first. He occasionally decides to go through things and organize, but it does not usually result in much of it actually leaving the house .. he just packs it away differently. He is an excellent packer and can get a huge amount of things stored in the closets. 90% of the things in the closets have either never been used or have not been used in over 10 years. He keeps them “just in case”. I would prefer to donate them and then buy it later if we need it. He likes a lot of things around and I prefer to have open spaces – breathing room. He also has a habit of “rescuing” things I have put in the trash, recycling bin, and/or donation bag.
Over the years we have come to a point where I have designated certain rooms of the house as “clutter free zones” and he has his space to do whatever he wants with: his son’s bedroom & closet (my husband has turned it into a kind of storage room for virtually everything he wants to keep but we do not have space for, so it’s filled with those things as well as all of his son’s childhood belongings). He also has his office which includes a storage closet, the laundry room and cabinets, the small bathroom, and his very large workshop in our backyard. The “clutter free” part of the house is made up of the kitchen, living room, family room, master bedroom and the large bathroom. I can’t remember the last time we had a discussion about the clutter because I have given up trying to make this different. I thought I was fine with it until recently when I cam across a pile of papers in his office on his worktable that I needed to use temporarily. I picked up the papers to move to his desk and was shocked at the amount of dust collected … then looked at them more closely and saw the dates on the documents were from 2016. I’m guessing they have sat in that same spot for the last 3 years. Underneath everything were 2 rags and when I opened them up there were little black bugs (all dead) in the folds. I was horrified and disgusted. How can he live like this? He is supposed to be cleaning “his rooms” because I don’t want to deal with his clutter and he does not want me moving his stuff around. But I am not okay with living with this level of dust and definitely not with dead bugs!!! I took a closer look at the surfaces in his office and I don’t think he has done anything at all in there for a very long time except sit at his desk to play video games and pile more papers on the papers that are already there. Ugh. It feels very unfair that I have to clean up after him in order to live in a clean house. It feels very unfair that he gets to live in an environment he feels completely comfortable in with zero effort and I am the one compromising / working / cleaning in order to have an environment I like.
So .. this was the subject of the coaching call. I didn’t go in to this level of detail but I did give the coach the highlights. He asked me why this clutter bothered me which took me by surprise! I assumed it was obvious why this would bother me and obvious it would bother anyone – but it made me realize that’s totally not true at all. It definitely does not bother my husband. So – I had to take a look at this and see that not only was I judging my husband (which I knew, but felt justified in doing) but I also am absolutely not seeing the clutter as a neutral circumstance whatsoever. The coach asked me really good thoughtful questions about how I feel when I am in a room filled with clutter versus a room that was clean and pristine and the way I prefer. He reminded me I can feel that way in any room I am in – that the clutter does not determine my thoughts and feelings; I always have control over them. It was a good insightful conversation and really made me think.
What I need help with is what to do now. What is my action? I really don’t want to think the clutter is okay and I’m finding myself fighting it. I like what I like. I tried to think of it as a preference instead of “wrong”. Lets’ say my husband likes the color green and I like the color blue. Those are just preferences. If I walk into his green room it would not create feelings of frustration and disgust in me the way the clutter does .. I would not be trying to control or change it, I would just notice that’s his preference and go enjoy my blue room. I can’t seem to get there with this issue though because I do believe clutter is trash and trash needs to be thrown away. I also am constantly picking up after him because he tends to leave his stuff all around the house.
I am going in circles and making myself nuts. 🙂 I feel like I opened up a lot of thoughts/feelings around wanting things to be perfect and in control … things I had pushed down a long time ago when we first got married and had a lot of arguments about because I didn’t know what to do with them and now I am looking at it again which is bringing up a lot of emotions I still do not know what to do with. This feels unfixable. I know I can’t change /control him and I know the circumstance is part of the package of loving him … still stuck.
Thanks. Wow – this was longer than I meant! Will keep it and send “as is” since your instructions say we can write as much as we want.