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My Husband Thinks I'm a Hoarder

I’ll admit it—I’ve saved every letter written to me at sleepaway camp circa 1984. And all of my concert T-shirts. And my sixth-grade sticker collection. And the satin unicorn with rainbow streamers that hung over my childhood bed.

My husband, on the other hand, recently threw out a working humidifier because it looked “grungy.”

I’ve filled three closets with my in-season clothes, yet they’re still spilling out the doors.

My husband purges his wardrobe annually and there is enough leftover room in his drawers for a baby to sleep.

You see where I’m going with this?

RELATED: 10 Stories of Hoarder Moms

They say opposites attract. That must be true, since depending on whom you ask, one of us is a compulsive neat freak and the other one is a hoarder. In my defense, I’m not the kind of hoarder who would get cast on a reality show, hiding cat corpses beneath the rubble. Everything around here smells good. I just have a lot of stuff.

Our different styles didn’t used to be a big deal. If anything, we rubbed off on each other in positive ways. He helped me get organized, and we had some oddly romantic evenings drinking wine while cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. I helped him relax a little and see the beauty in an unmade bed (it’s always nap-ready).

Sometimes he loses it, and I have to throw my body in front of the Hefty bag: “Nooooo. Don’t throw away all the wind-up toys! Only the broken ones!”

Then we had a kid and all hell broke loose. Without a basement or dedicated playroom, we’ve been forced to share space with a thousand tiny Disney figurines, tiaras, pretend grocery items, magic markers, Magna-Tiles and puzzle pieces. While we’ve done our best to corral everything in bins, our preschooler’s favorite way to play begins with dumping all the bins on the living room rug. The sheer volume of toys is like a dam bursting over my husband’s tidy psyche. Sometimes he loses it, and I have to throw my body in front of the Hefty bag: “Nooooo. Don’t throw away all the wind-up toys! Only the broken ones!”

As the designated hoarder in the family, I have a much higher tolerance for chaos than he does. I think it’s normal for kids to play messily, with lots of toys out at once. Play dates in other families’ homes have confirmed for me that our toy volume is not abnormal or excessive, at least not within our over-privileged community. My husband does not find this to be a compelling argument. His life’s ambition is to live with less. He actually would get cast on a hoarding reality show, only he’d be the professional expert who arrives in a hazmat suit to cart everything away.

RELATED: 10 Steps to Clear the Clutter

Recently, our opposite styles came to a head. After the one-two punch of the holidays and our daughter’s early January birthday, which brought in a few million new gifts (she’s the first grandchild on both sides), my husband reached his breaking point. We simply had too much stuff, and the volume of stuff was causing him stress. Like a teenaged bulimic, he desperately needed to purge. “If you love me,” he said, “you’ll let me do my thing here.”

I love him a lot, so I agreed. The compromise was that rather than tossing every extraneous item in the trash or the Goodwill bin, he’d put some lesser loved toys into deep storage so that we’d be able to reuse them with our next baby. Deep storage being fairly deep, I may never be sure whether he’s really kept the old toys or just fed me a kind line of bullshit, like “the family dog has gone to live at a farm.”

Either way, the peace has been restored and even this hoarder has to admit—less clutter feels good.

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