Clutter House


2004 Column Archives Last Updated: Apr 22nd, 2006 – 16:33:07

Clutter House
By John Sammon
Feb 23, 2004

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I used to have a neat house, back when I was single. Granted, it wasn’t clean (when you thumped an arm of my bachelor sofa, a cloud of dust would rise up).

But the house was more or less picked up.

That was until I met my wife.

I have never in my life seen clutter follow any person around like it does my wife. As soon as we married, I lived in a house that had more stuff piled up, stacks and stacks, old magazines and books, knitting yarn on the floor, phone books, hats, shoes to trip over—you name it.

To this scene we added our young daughter.

You should see the place. It looks like two escaped deranged mental patients ransacked the house.

Now—–I’m prepared to try and ignore it for a while. I don’t look much to the left or right anymore. But like some predatory beast, the mess is after me. When you walk by a pile of stuff, the mere air disturbance your body creates in passing causes gingerly balanced piles to fall over.

I call it “cascading piles.” Like a waterfall. Walk around in my house and you’ll hear stuff hitting the floor in another room, or down the hall, on its own, like it has a mind of its own.

I get mad.

I threaten to back a truck up and load all the crap and haul it off to a dump. My wife is a saver. Everything to her is precious because it has a memory. She won’t throw out that 1950’s Richfield Oil Company map of Arizona because of a childhood trip it reminds her of. Instead, she puts it on the turned-off burner of the stove.

The stove is the only place left where stuff isn’t piled. She’s using the stove as an extra table.

“Thats it! I’ve had it!” I go through the house with a trash bag filling stuff.

“You’ve got an attitude,” she says, combatively positioning herself in front of me like in a wrestling match. “Why are you so intense? I’ll get to it. I’ll deal with it (clutter). Just give me a chance.”

I’m on to her. This is a deceptive tactic as good as the Trojan Horse. What she means is she’ll take the stuff and make neat little piles all over the place. Neat little piles. Nothing will get thrown out. Just neat little piles—-neat for three hours until my two dogs and twelve-year-old daughter race through and everything returns quickly to its customary place on the floor.

I’m swearing now, using bad words I shouldn’t. She’s got me because I’m not willing to pick up the mess I blame her for. Since she offered to do it, I’ll be a hypocrite if I tell her to stop.

I threaten again to back up a truck.

“I’ll tell you what. Let’s buy separate adjoining houses. You can have your clutter house, and I’ll have my neat one. We can visit.”

She gives me the eye, that narrowed eye that tells me I’m reaching the brink of real trouble. I retreat. I’ll go out and tinker with my car.

On the way out the door I trip on a discarded shoe.

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