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Wifey Wednesday: Taming the Packrat

It's Wednesday, the day when this blog talks marriage! I introduce a topic, and then the rest of you comment, or better still write your own Wifey Wednesday post on your blog and come and link it up in the Mcklinky!

So, to go along with our New Year's Challenge theme, I thought we'd talk clutter.

It seems to me that there are two types of husbands: those who are inclined to come home at night, look at the house, and say "what did you do all day?" because it's a mess, and those who wouldn't see a dust bunny until it impeded their view of the television.

I know that's a vast oversimplification, but for blogging purposes I'd like to talk about husband #2 today.

I am quite aware that it is not always the man who is the messy one in a relationship. I think my husband, for instance, is less inclined towards clutter than I am. But picking up on some of the comments over the last few days as we've tried to tackle our clutter, one common theme is women who want to throw things out, and men who can't part with them.

When we moved a few years ago, I swore that I was not going to pack up junk. So I condensed my entire life prior to our marriage to a box slightly larger than a shoe box. It held important papers, pictures, cards, etc. My husband just couldn't throw anything out, so we have three large boxes for him.

I have a friend whose husband will not throw anything out. He's just attached to all kinds of things that have no other name except "junk". And he refuses to clean up his office. It's scary to go in there. One year, in a fit of cleaning frenzy, I offered to help her clean it for him as a surprise. Our church was having a huge yard sale, and we thought it was the perfect opportunity.

So we took that old deer hoof that had been mounted, the mixer that was missing a cord, the hair dryer that was 35 years old, etc. etc., and packed them up and sent them over. You could actually see inside their storage room again (though we hadn't tackled the office).

He found out, and early Saturday morning, before the yard sale opened, he went and reclaimed all his stuff.

So we made a big mistake. We did it without telling him, and he was sore at us for quite a while. I definitely do not recommend just throwing things out that aren't yours. But what do you do?

I'm in favour of dedicating a particular part of the house that is "just his" that he can keep the way he wants. He is an adult, after all, and if he wants to hold on to stuff, I do think that's his prerogative. If you're extremely tight for space, then you may have to really talk to him about this, but I don't think it's fair for a wife to completely take over the house.

At the same time, there may be mess that you just can't live with. So here's our question of the day: what do you do with a packrat husband? Has anyone dealt with this before? Or what do you do if he's way messier than you are? How do you find a compromise?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Just leave a comment, or write your own post and link up below.

And don't forget, my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, has tons of space dedicated to just this problem: how to divide up household responsibilities and come to agreement on how the house should be kept!

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At 9:35 AM , Anonymous Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said…

Oh do I have a pack rat husband!!! He is a teacher, and I will often tease him and say do you still need this hall pass for some kid named John to use the lav 3rd period....... from 2002?!?!?!!!!! :)
I have tried and tried different things to help organize him, all to no avail. He just doesn't want to take the time to sort through things. We are a busy family, and sorting through stuff takes time. Ugh.
I have learned to tolerate it. It just makes life easier. You must choose your battles, and I have determined after 20 years of marriage I can not win this battle. He does have a junk area in the basement and in a spare room. We set goals each summer to try to go through some of it.
It's a true test of patience and relying on Godly wisdom for me. Although I must admit I secretly throw a few things on now and then, like the hall pass from 2002. :) It makes me feel better. :)


At 9:36 AM , Anonymous Sandy@ Jesus and Dark Chocolate said…

Wow congrats! That is the longest comment I ever left on a blog. :) LOL


At 10:17 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

Yes, my husband thinks he needs to keep the ugly vases that his great grandmother that he never knew apparently gave him. She's dead now, so he HAS to keep the stuff, it's a requirement. I tried telling him that his great grandmother only gave him ugly vases because they were so ugly SHE didn't want them. Why else would you give a BOY vases?

And he can't throw out the ugly Mickey Mouse t-shirt, his aunt made it. He'll "just wear it to work" as if that makes it any better.

He is always agreeable to letting me go through his stuff and throw some away, problem is when I go through it he has a new reason to keep his stuff every time and so I rarely get to throw anything away.

But then again, when you have such special childhood treasures as pet rocks, why would you want to get rid of them even though you live in a small house and don't need to be storing junk? LOL.

However, he can hoard as much junk as he wants, has no respect for my stuff (I packed my entire life into two bags when I came here to marry him, and he can't get rid of any of his junk for me?) But he will still come home at night and want to know what I have been doing all day because the house looks like crap. Well, maybe if he'd throw his JUNK out I'd have room to store everything else.

The problem is, he learned this from his mom, and his mom thinks I'm a mean person for wanting to throw out the ugly vases that nobody likes or uses, simply because well, you know, they were great grandmas, and she's dead.


At 11:33 AM , Anonymous Kiesha @ Highly Favored said…

I have a packrat who is in denial - it's borderline hoarding, I tell you. What's crazy, is that he thinks is a neat freak - and he was when I first met him - he actually goes through phases. When he's upset, he'll clean the house from top to bottom - when he's happy, everything's a mess. I clean up after myself, but rarely have the time to clean up after everyone else, so I've delegated chores to the children - honestly, if it wasn't for them, I don't know what we'd do. But I love him in spite of it, and he seems to do the same when I go through my messy spells. I've come to learn that life isn't always going to be tidy. As long as you do your best to attend to what needs to be done, everything works out.


At 1:55 PM , Blogger Herding Grasshoppers said…


1. You hit on one of the most practical ideas already - give him a space. A limited space. For instance, in our house, his office (which is two rooms) is his space. I don't care what he keeps there and I don't clean it either, (he doesn't expect or want me to), but the rest of the house is my domain :0)

2. But still... I do occasionally go through things without him knowing it. It's for his protection... at least that's what I say. Because, truly, he does become overwhelmed by his stuff.

A lot of it is information. For instance, he's an architect and has had subscriptions to professional magazines for years and years, and he keeps every single one. Because he's going to go through them someday and cull out helpful articles, which he's going to file someday, so he can refer to them someday. Right. He was gone for a weekend and I recycled a pile of magazines taller than me, and he has never missed them or asked about them... because the pile is growing again. But honestly, that pile of magazines is a pile of pressure for something he thinks he has to do... but really doesn't, in this day of the internet.

3. Things that might be "treasures" (no kidding, a lump of clay with holes for pencils, given to him back in his school days by a casual acquaintance who later committed suicide, and therefore must be kept) that he has a hard time parting with, I box up and stash for awhile. If he hasn't missed it or asked for it in a year, it goes.

4. Sometimes I can get him to just take a picture of the thing, and keep the picture instead (like all those old t-shirts from high school or even middle school that don't fit anymore anyway.)

5. But this is my biggest goal: I'm training my boys not to be attached to their stuff. And sometimes this is hard for me, because even though I'm not a packrat, like my husband is, the boys will willingly get rid of something that is sentimental to me. And I have to let them!

I want them to hold things lightly. To treasure relationships, to honor people, not things. Stuff is just stuff. It can't love you back!

Whew. That's another long comment for this post!



At 4:18 PM , OpenID thehorizontalyoyo said…

All men need a Man Cave. My husband's just happens to be our living room! I find the act of compromising to be a good solution. When I clean and declutter, I'll end up putting all his stuff in box and tell him that he needs to go through it and find a home for everything.

Sometimes it takes him a month to get to that box, but eventually he does.

What I find is that most of the time, he and I come to a mutual understanding: it is time to declutter. But we each have our level of pack rat-ness. Usually I'll save until I get tired of looking at it and then it gets dumped (and then I end up needing it the next week...)


At 5:01 PM , Blogger Nancy said…

My husband never sees the mess. Which is good on one hand, but bad on the other. He never comes home and is upset when the house is cluttered. But then he rarely sees when his stuff is cluttering. The basement is his domain. I only go down there in an emergency. When his mail,tools etc. begin to stack up in the main part of the house, I load it into a box and ask him to go through it. Usually it ends up in his car for him to go through later. What actually happens later, I do not know. Occasionally he does have to clean his car out so he can get in. ;)


At 7:18 PM , Blogger sarahe said…

we are both packrats and hold onto things for "sentimental reasons" I have gotten a little better recently, but still keep too much. He doesn't care about having things clean, and he has his office where he can do what he pleases and keep all his stuff. I only get onto him when he starts trying to move his "storage" stuff into other rooms. I knew it was bad the other day when I was watching the show "Hoarders" on A&E. He walked in while they were showing a clip of a man who had hoarded a huge room's worth of beer cans and was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy...hubs walked by and said "oh no! why are they making him get rid of his collection?!?" it really made me laugh. thankfully, though we are both slobs, we are at least on the same side so it doesn't cause too much conflict (as long as he keeps most of his mess in his office)


At 12:36 AM , Blogger Melissa said…


There! You've found his one & only flaw! LOL. No, seriously, i love him so much & that's all i talk about that one coworker calls him my pretend husband (in jest). He is a FABULOUS guy except that packrat thing. It drives me CRAZY!!!! We have an extra room filled with his junk! It's TONS of plastic bins he never uses, a weight bench i've never seen him use (we've been married over a year, plus the dating/engagement period!) & other stuff. He also has MULTIPLE pairs of UGLY shoes - like 4 pairs of EACH ugly shoe - & he won't get rid of them. He says he will need them for a day when he needs to wear something that he can get dirty in - like a moving day or something. i'm like really? you need 5 extra shoes for that?!?! ACK!

one day i told him that if i get pregnant, we have to get rid of EVERYTHING in the extra room. you know what he said?! (MEN!) He said, "Well, i'd be awhile before a baby would need their own room." I said, UMMM baby room will not be a baby/office/workout room!" & then i said, "Where exactly would a crib go? And baby clothes?" he saw my point then. :)

Anyway - i don't know how to tame the packrat! But when i do - i'll let you know! :) :)


At 9:22 PM , Blogger Alex Headrick said…

When I first married, I had no idea what a packrat my dear husband was. But I think we're all missing an important key aspect: understanding. I learned early on that my husband had to move nearly every year as a child and often his mother threw things out or sold them for money. Now that he's an adult and "has" things, nice things, he'll keep them no matter how unuseful they are.

Because I understood where it was coming from, we had a talk. I asked him truly what he was holding onto and what he was afraid of etc. I sound like Sigmund Freud but you know what? It helped!

He still tries to hold onto things, but we've got it down to a few boxes in our storage unit. I do admit to secretly throwing out things I know he won't miss (wholly t shirts etc), it just keeps me sane.


At 9:26 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

I think Alex hit on something important--sometimes one of the best roles a wife can play is to be a sounding board for our husbands!

Men aren't always able to articulate what they are feeling as well as women are. When we give them a safe place just to talk and vent, we help them feel much more understood (and we help them understand themselves!).

Maybe I'll have to turn this into its own post.... :)

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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