Arlene Green

Arlene Green
Clearlake, California, USA
January 08
Geek girl, mother of more children than human beings should be allowed, owner of a snake named Plissken, several dogs, a plethora of cats, easily annoyed, easily overjoyed, will work for books.


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JULY 18, 2008 1:34AM

The Collector

Rate: 7 Flag

I actually started this post about a week ago and then never got around to finishing it. I'm finishing it tonight. Things have come to a head. Changes are going to be made. Even if I have to drag my husband kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat. (apologies to Pratchett)

My husband is a collector. Not of interesting memorabilia like dorelvis aka Princess Dorella, not of cool vintage books like amy_b, no, he collects the detritus of our lives.

I should have realized that there was going to be an eventual need for an intervention the first time we moved from one house to another. I was merrily going through the junk in the garage, relishing pruning all the unnecessary stuff from our lives when I came across a car radio that looked circa 1972. I shrugged and tossed it in the black garbage bag.

Bill saw me do this and dove in after it and cradling it protectively in his arms informed me, "You can't throw this out!"

"Why on earth not?"

"Because it might be useful someday!"

"Bill, it is an AM car radio it doesn't even have a tape deck. It is never going to be useful."

"It could be!"

"No, it won't. Now throw it back in the bag."

Long story short, he refused. It now resides deep in the recesses of our white wooden shed where I am afraid to go lest something he saved has suddenly gained sentience and it attacks me because it knows if I had my way it would be in a land fill.

Years have passed since then. The house we live in now has lots of storage space. Had lots of storage space, I should say. It doesn't have any now. Now what it has is storage pregnancy. The closets are gravid and full. I'm quite certain, after a couple of rum and cokes and an attempt to find something in some closet or another, that there are things breeding with other things in there.

How else do you explain the little twirly things made of metal that show up in my kitchen drawers that I certainly never bought and whose only purpose seems to be jamming the drawer shut? Hmmm?

At any rate, I should out myself here, as well. While I am exposing my husband's foibles it is only fair to point out that I am a slob. I don't notice clutter. I never have. This combined with the fact that my husband is a collector and not a slob makes for some really stupid fights.

"Where did you put my stuff?!?!"

"What stuff?"

"The stuff I left on the desk!"

"Oh, I put it away. It was looking messy."


"There's no need to get all pissy. It's in the drawer in the corner table."

"I've been looking for it all day! If you didn't have so much crap crammed into every drawer and closet I might have found it!"

"Well at least I put my stuff away!"

Things tend to get worse from there.

So, that is where we are today. There are boxes and piles of his stuff in every available storage space. He also keeps trying to store his bits of paper on my bookshelves. I won't allow that. The bookshelves are mine and the one thing I keep free of clutter because I like to be able to browse my books without having to move stuff out of the way.

He claims the fact I own all these books and won't throw any of them out is the same thing as his collection of bit, pieces and obsolete machinery. It isn't. I actually use my books. So there.

Tonight I am in our bedroom closet trying to find some old correspondence from my grandmother to my grandfather for another blog post and I tug on a box and something wobbles up there in the dark, shifts, plummets towards me and only fails to bash my head in because I am quick. I lept sideways into a box of old magazines that he keeps around in case he needs artistic inspiration (he's never looked at them since they went in there) and was clipped on the shoulder by, wait for it, a VCR.

This may not seem too odd since I'm sure there are other people out there who have them lurking in a closet. But this VCR was a Betamax. That's right, a 30 year old Betamax. That I know I threw out once because we had a "discussion" about it. He apparently rescued it on the sly and hid it up on the small shelf in our closet where I never go. It doesn't even work.

Do me a favor, please, and don't tell me how it is a museum piece and I should keep it for nostalgic reasons. I'll get enough of that from him.

I'm calling Empire Waste Management tomorrow. I'm hiring a dumpster for the weekend. The junk is going. Whenever I start to weaken when he looks at me with tears in his big brown eyes, and tries to save something no one but him would want, I will remember that his collection almost killed me tonight.

I'll let you know how it goes. Right now I am going to go get some more ice for my shoulder. It hurts.

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packrats, husbands, collecting, humor

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Yeah, well, the problem with that is that I am going to have to be brutal and swift about this. Besides, which, there really isn't much that would actually sell on eBay. Not even under "shabby chic".
That's one of the odd things about him. He isn't really much of a consumer. He buys very, very little and will hang onto most things and try to squeeze the last life out of them before he gets a replacement. But...

He will not throw out the crap once it is of no further use. So it has accumulated. Boy has it accumulated.
I only talk about the cool stuff I have here. Not the tshirt from eighth grade that I might want to wear someday. Its a sickness and I have to try hard to control it.
We have a storage bin that is full of stuff we might want one day. I am to the point where I want it to be empty...takes a lot of time to sell the collections on eBay. You might just have inpsired me to start doing that this weekend. Thanks, Arlene. Hope your shoulder feels better!
I collect a whole lot of crap, so I feel for your husband. But it's all GOOD crap.
Good luck. I have the feeling you're going to need it.
I predict news helicopters circling the Clear Lake area any time now. The junk-horders and the junk-tossers will face off with you and your husband doing a choreographed Betamax tug in the center of the ring. Beware, if they start snapping their fingers, fancy-stepping, and singing to you to "Stay Cool," run for your lives, particulary if a pretty Latino woman is in the mix.
Yikes, Arlene!

I hope you keep us posted on future developments. We have a similar dynamic at our house, but perhaps slightly less civilized. I'd like to know how you proceed. You might provide me with some clues.
If all else fails, recruit (or hire) a third party. When I left my software job last year my first goal was to clean the house top to bottom and clear the clutter. It was just. so. hard. to go through it all. So I hired a friend's college-age daughter to help me. She was neutral, organized, and ruthless. In two days we got done what would have taken months on my own. I had no idea how good it would feel; that physical clutter is a mental weight. Let it go!