Saturday, July 25, 2009


It’s tough to watch your dreams, aspirations, and hopes dissipate. I think it’s also hard to watch it happen to someone else.

I’m talking, of course, about my husband. Home ownership was a much bigger deal to him than it ever was to me.

I’ve admitted to everyone that I’m more of an apartment dweller by nature. The less space I live in, the less I have to clean. And don’t even get me started on the joy that wells up in my soul when I think about having no yard work, snow removal, or fix-it-yourself repair jobs.

To me, an apartment feels like freedom. I’ve felt tied down to this monstrous house ever since we moved in. It’s been too much to clean. I hate yard work (or even being outside) with a passion, and as much as I liked our neighbors, there’s a certain amount of anonymity I crave.

While I appreciated the security of having our own home, I also still thought of it as “just four walls.” Losing it is hard – because of the timing and the situation, but it isn’t like we are being tossed on the street or heading to the rescue mission. We will still have the four walls and ceiling we need, you know?

I don’t know if it’s because he’s a man or because he was raised in a family where home ownership is looked upon as the Holy Grail of accomplishment, but Brett is taking this very hard. I find myself dealing with a grumpy 15 year old with each box packed, sent off to the Salvation Army, or shipped to Mom and Gary’s basement.

We’ve been having our struggles getting on the same page. For instance:

Me: Starting over! No debt! Great apartment!
Brett: Obvious failure. Losing everything. Throwing money away every month.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know this reflects my Pollyanna nature, as well as Brett’s Eeyore nature.

There are other obstacles that have me feeling like I’m jumping hurdle after hurdle.

One is actually kind of funny. Brett has inherited his family’s tendency to pack-rat. Now, I love this man dearly, and it is that love that has prevented me from strangling him due to this proclivity.

I mean, we are talking about a man who saves empty medicine bottles to collect change. A man who will not throw away a scrap of old dishtowel, torn underwear, or ripped sock – but instead “collects” them to turn into rags. We currently have 8 (EIGHT!) industrial-size bags of saved “rags” sitting in our laundry room. He also saves slips of paper, advertisements, and out-of-date magazines, like they will someday turn to gold.

I, on the other hand, am ruthless with clutter. Sentimental items that are not going to be displayed are packed away lovingly. Decorative items go up. Everything else goes in the trash.

For nine years, we’ve been able to juggle this problem. He secretly saves his stash, while I mercilessly toss out every non-essential I can get my hands on. This is because we’ve had the space of the house to hide our Mr. Hyde sides.

Now, of course, as we pack and prepare to move, Brett’s addiction to clutter comes to light.

I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to throw away old dishtowels – OLD DISHTOWELS!!! I’ve taken a very hard line, no sympathy approach. I keep threatening him with, “Do you WANT our apartment to look like your parents’ basement?”

He doesn’t give in easily, and I get dirty glares with each empty medicine bottle I toss.

The other funny thing is that he also thinks we can “sell” our old junk.

Now, when I say “junk,” let me clarify. First of all, yes, we can sell some things – Mom has already collected a nice pile of house wares to take to the secondhand shop.

However, Brett thinks we can sell actual junk – like the Gift of Jesus 1982 coffee mug he got in – oh, 1982. I try (I really do) to tell him NICELY that the only people who will take that is the Salvation Army, and that’s only because they HAVE to.

He just doesn’t understand. He wants to sell our old VHS tapes. I explained VHS is already a twice-expired technology. I pointed out it would be like trying to sell old 8-track tapes. But he still won’t let me pitch the whole lot – or at least make them the Salvation Army’s problem.

I don’t know what it is that makes him want to hoard or profit off of the junk we’ve managed to accumulate. My guess is that “stuff” is very important to him while it’s (frankly) “just” stuff to me.

My viewpoint is A.) We don’t need it. B.) We don’t have the space to store it. C.) Maybe someone else would want it, and if we give it to SA, a very good cause is helped.

Oh bother.

We have this battle every time we start pack. Just ask Mom and Gary. If I didn’t act the part of callous, uncaring, hard-nosed shrew, we’d have packed exactly one box so far. But because I can be calculating and cunning when I have to be, most of the house is packed up.

No one loves me for it, but there you have it.

Today, I got a burst of energy to do some more packing. Call it nesting if you want, but I attribute it to the four hour afternoon nap.

Brett silently helped out as I packed, wrapped, and sing-songed about everything going on. Finally, I noticed he looked slightly disgruntled. I needled him about it, thinking it was just laziness or a bad attitude, but when I looked closer, I saw he was actually disturbed.

Finally, in the great tradition of wives everywhere, I accusatorily blurted out, “What is WRONG with you?”


Stony silence.

Finally, I waddled my pregnant self into the dining room (now our “staging” area) and eased myself down in the chair next to him.

This time I changed my tone of voice into something civil, and asked, “Seriously, what’s wrong? I can tell something is bothering you.”

At my changed tone, he seemed to relax a fraction. “It’s just that it’s becoming real to me now. I mean, we’re packing. It’s actually happening. We’re losing the house. It’s real. I worked so hard so we would have security and equity and be able to have our own home, and it’s gone. It’s really gone.”

He ducked his head down.

I felt bad. I really did. It was like watching a dream die.

I tried to reign in my Pollyanna who wanted to chirp out, “But we’re not dead yet!”

I wanted to say so many things. I wanted to point out we are having a baby and with that comes a joy to eclipse the loss of material items. I wanted to start counting out the blessings, name them one by one, as the song says. I wanted to inform him how we are fortunate in so many ways.

But I didn’t.

I’m not there often, but I have been down in the dumps occasionally. I may visit, but my Eeyore lives there. Still, I know nothing is more discouraging than a well-wisher thumping you on the back when all you need is a listening ear and a comforting smile.

And so I listened. And smiled. And encouraged him to pray about it. I’ve learned sometimes that’s all you can do for someone who’s not ready to let go.

Heaven knows, I’ve been there myself.

And so, with the induction scheduled for Monday, we start a new chapter in our lives. Hopefully, an uncluttered start to getting back on our feet. Think of us during this time, and pray for the contentment that only God can give.

And, if you really want to do something to help us, tell Brett you are willing to pay top dollar for the fabled rare edition of the 1982 Gift of Jesus coffee mug – if only you knew where to find it.

You’ll make his day.


a joyful nusiance said...

Poor Eeyore. I do hope he is doing better today!

I think you should name your NEXT baby Polly. ;)

Alice said...

I truly am glad about your fresh start in a new place with a new baby. I think it will be great.

And just tell Brett to be sure and get a full receipt from Salvation Army because then all that stuff is a tax write-off, even the Jesus mug!

Jennittia said...

Good for you to know what your hubby needed and then to give it to him!!!!! That is really hard sometimes, but so worth it.

Can't wait to "meet" Sam!!!!

October said...

Yet again I understand his side. In fact, in the yard sale today I sold several VHS tapes that aren't even mine! $.25 each. Yes, people still buy them. But I get what you're saying. Just tell him that if he wants to sell it he has 72 hours to get it out for a yard sale and pack up the rest. Maybe he'll feel better knowing no one wanted it? and maybe you'll have enough for a tank of gas or something.

The Beard Bunch said...

I have been and will continue to be praying for you, particularly on Monday!

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Like October, I see his side here. Unlike you or Tob, I am the clutter-bug. Why? Because everything seems to have potential, or is connected to memories. Yes, I am sentimental. And, yes, it is hard to let go of things.

For one, I like to make things... and old clothes are great for material (and buttons!)

For another, I feel more "responsible" reusing things. Less waste, less trash= responsible, right? Maybe that is partly where Brett comes from. Why throw away old dishtowels when they are perfectly good? I'm not saying it's right reasoning, only that I understand it. I just cut up an old towel today for more dishtowels. As if I need them.

I feel for you both. I'm so sorry for the house loss... but you are right... 9 months ago Brett would have traded anything for the baby he had no idea was coming. Now he can pretend that he did just that. ;-)

Monday!! What time? I'll be praying!

Sun-Kissed Savages said...

Oh, and Tob is coming on Monday to help me room-by-room declutter my house. Everyone needs a ruthless, honest, and tidy friend (or spouse.)


Brett, I prefer vhs to dvd!! I am also a clutterer but please don't discuss it with Uncle Jim. I'm trying to de-clutter. I must have 10 or more types of collections. How will I decide which ones have to go if/when we downsize to a smaller place??? Good luck on saying goodbye to your "treasure" as you pack and move. Also congrats on Sam's birth. Love ya.

Cindy Swanson said...

I'm soooooooooo happy for you guys about Sam's arrival!!!! Congratulations! Can't wait till you have the energy to blog about it.

You're in for some major changes, but DON'T let anything get you down. The first six weeks are the hardest (repeat that mantra to yourself when you feel overwhelmed.)

That aside, you are in for the most rewarding and wonderful experience of your life.

Blessings, blessings, blessings!

Juliet said...

Well, I side with you! And of course I would. Today when I was cleaning around you house, I found three EMPTY altoid tins. I threw them in the garbage. When Brett came home tonight, I told him about them. He said that he uses them for loose change. So he retrieved them from the garbage.

It's time. But I guess that's where he puts his change. And they are his tins and his change.:)

Heidi said...

You could have a garage sale to make a few bucks. Who doesn't need money?