Friday, September 23, 2016

Rule #9 People are more important than things

I am a very religious person who truly believes in a loving God that watches over us and directs our lives. I believe He wants us to learn and grow and become more than we currently are and so He allows there to be challenges and struggles in our lives. I also believe that our loving Heavenly Father has a wonderful sense of humor. And that is why there exists, among other things, a certain phenomenon in marriage called the OPPOSITE LAW.

What is the Opposite Law you ask? Simply put, the Opposite Law is that amazingly universal rule that says that if any two people come together in marriage, one of them must be a frugal, miserly, worry-constantly-about money person and the other must be a free-spirit spender who can't keep a dime in their pocket to save their life. The Opposite Law also states that if two people are married, one has to be extremely cold blooded (or, as I like to call it, a Polar Bear) that would be perfectly happy to have the thermostat set at somewhere around 66 degrees and the other one is completely warm blooded (as in snakes and lizards body temperature) that has to wear a ski parka and winter hat around inside their house, even during the summer months when the AC is on, just to stay warm (hypothetically speaking, of course. I probably don't know anyone who has to do that?) And for sure this Opposite Law of the Universe says that if two people are married, one of them has got to SAVE EVERYTHING (just in case you might ever need your notes from your freshman college chemistry class or every nail and screw that you ever come across) and the other has to be the "why is there so much crap laying around here" kind of person who would throw away the kids' pet gerbils (we've had them for a week and they smell) and the wedding photo album (after all, that was a long time ago and really all it shows is lots of of  bad hair styles and embarrassing outfits).

The bottom line is the Opposite Law exists. It is real and a part of almost every couple's lives I have ever met. Thanks to our Heavenly Father's wonderful sense of humor, you can't escape it. SO, the time has come to realize it, embrace it and deal with it.

Without pointing fingers or naming specifics, my husband and I are 100% completely healthy and normal if the existence of the Opposite Law in our marriage is the gauge. We love each other completely and perfectly and, after 26 years of marriage and 2 years of dating, have come to appreciate and yes, even laugh at the fact that we are OPPOSITE in a lot of ways.


in the early days, it wasn't quite that easy (if you know what I mean?)

While we could go on discussing all sorts of different ways we are opposite and how we have worked on appreciating those differences, this blog is about the accumulation of STUFF and dealing with that so we're going to focus on the last part of the Opposite Law previously mentioned--the one that says that every couple is going to have one person who likes to keep everything and another person who wants to get rid of everything!  It's a real problem...and it's time we delve in and talk about it.

Let's start with a story....(see if this sounds at all familiar?)

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young gentleman named Craig and his lovely, adoring wife Kim and they married, started their family, graduated from college and got a job in Washington State. They rented a small duplex and began living their dream life. It was at about this time that they really started accumulating things. They had received many generous wedding gifts that helped get their new household established and, as poor college students, they really had no resources to buy much of anything else besides the necessities. Until they started earning a monthly paycheck that was suddenly bringing in a lot more money than they had been used to. In an effort to be responsible, Craig and Kim sat down and budgeted their new paycheck and realized they had a bit of extra fun money each month to spend on things they wanted. They made a list of items they would really like to have like a new stereo, a new computer, new bikes and bike cart for the kids, etc. and slowly they began to acquire things.

About this time, Kim was enjoying establishing her new home and organizing it and decorating it in cute ways. And one thing she began noticing was that Craig was not like she was. He had grown up in a large family of 9 children and had been taught to not throw anything out because at some point it might become useful again. Kim had been raised by good parents who had much of the same philosophy but she also had a strong phobia of having too much stuff. To her, if you haven't used it in the last year, you don't need to keep it. This was a mind-boggling concept to Craig and he wasn't quite sure what to do with this crazy wife of his! And, not to be out done, Kim was wondering how in the world she was going to live her dream minimalist, no junk life with a guy who wanted to keep EVERYTHING?! It was a real problem.

About this time, Kim started reading books on the subject of home organization. She heard a new phrase called "Dejunking," which sounded like a wonderful concept to her. Her most favorite book on the subject was called It's Here Somewhere by Alice Fulton and Pauline Hatch, who were two women who actually lived in her same town!  This book was revolutionary because it taught the reader exactly how to dejunk, in simple steps and also explained well the concept of organizing after dejunking (in fact, it's where the phrase "a place for every keeper" comes from.)  About a year after Kim discovered It's Here Somewhere, she heard that the authors Fulton and Hatch were teaching a class for a local community group and she was excited to not only meet them but to ask her a most important question. You see, Kim had loved the concept of dejunking and getting rid of things that don't add anything positive to your life. BUT, Craig was against it. And so as much as she wanted to jump in and live a more minimalistic life where you only kept things that truly were used and appreciated and necessary, Craig was not on board. What to do?  Kim went to the class to find out. She enjoyed the class and what Fulton and Hatch had to say but specifically waited to ask her question at the end of the class. After all, she was really wanting to solve the problem.

When the question/answer time finally arrived, Kim raised her hand and asked her profound, well-thought out question "WHAT do you do if you want to streamline your home and only keep keepers, but your spouse does NOT?"

And do you know what those two ladies said? (It wasn't at all what Kim was expecting.)

They said
"Nothing is worth ruining a relationship over. Stop nagging and fighting him about it and just streamline your things and the things you have jurisdiction over. We predict that eventually your husband will see that keeping everything is not only stifling but completely unnecessary. And if he doesn't, you can still enjoy a happy life together if you choose people over things."


There, ladies and gentlemen, lies the answer to most every marriage conflict. But especially this one.

So, let me "show and tell" you how I have worked to resolve this in my marriage.

First, let it be known....I don't do junk drawers. Or junk closets. Or junk spaces. Ever. Anywhere.
But when I found that my husband needed that, I eventually realized it as a need and obliged.
Here is one of his many "junk" spaces in our home that he uses to collect stuff. This one is in our bedroom closet and he tosses things in at his discretion. I don't touch it. It's not how I choose to live or what I would love to see in my closet, but it's his closet too, right? Enough said.

And this would be the shelves on his side of the closet. In my "ever-so-dejunking" opinion, there are WAY too many pairs of pants here that NEVER get worn. He keeps old jeans for "work pants" even though he has a lot and only needs one or maybe two pair a week (I DO do laundry after all).  Keep in mind that these are not his "going to work" clothes. Those slacks are all hanging up. These are extra and if it were up to me, I'd get rid of at least half of them. isn't up to me really. So, as long as there is some space for me to put clean "work pants" away, I make it work.

This is a picture of his section of the closet for shirts. For me, and my dejunking brain, there are WAY too many shirts here. He wears some of them most of the time and the rest just sit.  But I've learned that he's not as comfortable with getting rid of a shirt once it comes to reside in the closet. Maybe he's worried about hurting it's feelings? (I don't know...just pulling at straws trying to figure it out.) But, in the end, it's the way it is. So, I have learned to just let it go. It's his closet and he deserves his space. (Except....I do do this. On my birthday, Mothers Day and Christmas when he asks me what I want for a gift and I say "I want you get rid of 5 shirts out of your closet :) He usually doesn't but it's worth a try!)

This is a picture of our kitchen drawer. If it were entirely up to me, that box of "junk" next to the rolodex would be much less full and a lot more clean and organized. Hoewver, it's not entirely up to me and that is the hubby's spot in the drawer. He puts miscellaneous tools, screws, nails, plastic parts and pieces and who knows what else in there. It's never clean. He rarely gets anything out of it. But I have learned to just let him have his space and be OK with it.

And this would be the shop in the basement. I have attempted at times to help in the organization of the place. But.....

I've learned you can buy containers and such and even label them....but when a person likes a little chaos or mess in their lives, you have to let them fly a bit.

And that's not to say that my husband doesn't take care of things or like to be able to find things. He would say that his shop is a mess partly because we have 3 sons who like to work in here. I would say that that counts for a bit but probably not even half of the disorganzation in the room. Nevertheless, I shut the door and let it be....unless he asks me, on a Saturday afternoon "What should we do now?" Then I might have been known to throw in "Let's go clean your shop!" which doesn't ever work (but a girl can try.)
I know that to some of you these places don't look so bad. And granted, it could be much worse. But I really, really like an organized clean space and the post is to hopefully explain that

people really ARE more important than things

and you can work with those you love to find balance and compromise in the way you handle the management of your things.

Next post:  Rule #10  Have a specific place to keep things that need to go.