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Warmest regards: Can you throw stuff away?

Published August 17. 2019 06:42AM

My friend Chuck is newly married and makes it clear he thinks his wife is absolutely perfect.

Except for one thing.

“She’s a hoarder,” he says. “She hangs on to everything.”

He told me he’s having a hard time convincing Connie to throw some things away.

A few weeks later when we went to dinner together Connie pulled me aside with a surprising complaint about Chuck.

“He can’t throw anything away,” she said. “I think he’s absolutely incapable of clearing away the clutter in his house.”

So he says she’s the problem and she says, no, it’s Chuck who can’t part with anything.

It’s a big problem for the two of them because they are in the process of clearing out Connie’s home so she can put it on the market.

But Chuck says they’ll be dead before they accomplish that because each room in Connie’s house is jammed with a lifetime accumulation of stuff.

They married late in life and each one had a home. They decided to sell Connie’s house and live in Chuck’s house because it’s bigger and has a great water view.

They’ve been married for just about a year and haven’t solved their “too much stuff” problem.

Oh, boy, I can relate to that.

Connie took me through Chuck’s house to show me her version of the problem.

Chuck was a bachelor for decades and his house reflects that. His living room is more of a man cave. Actually, there is no living room — not in the traditional sense anyhow. A big TV, oversized leather chairs and a pool table are jammed in there.

Connie wants to move her living room set into their home. But there is no room until Chuck gets rid of stuff from his bachelor days.

The reason I can absolutely relate to their problem is that I’m married to a guy who is psychologically incapable of clearing away boxes that he’s had filling every closet. The stuff hasn’t been taken out of the boxes in decades.

Even though he will never open those boxes in his lifetime, he refuses to throw anything away.

Here’s a telling tale to illustrate my point. Needing to make some room in the back closet, I opened one box and found it contained smashed Christmas tree balls. Actually, the balls were in smithereens. There wasn’t a single ball that wasn’t in pieces.

I picked up the box and was on my way to the garbage with it when David stopped me.

He said I couldn’t throw it away because those Christmas tree balls once belonged to his mother. He couldn’t throw them away — even though they’re broken.

When I tell him he is incapable of throwing anything away, he says he clings only to things with sentimental value.

“I’ll never get rid of anything that belonged to my grandmother or my mother,” he says.

The only things he ever wants to throw away are my dishes, cooking pots, utensils or kitchen stuff.

He says I have too much kitchen stuff. I remind him I’m a serious cook and that is what cooks need.

We’re more than a little like Chuck and Connie. Each one thinks the other one has too much stuff that has to go.

I’m not blameless when it comes to having jammed closets and dresser drawers. I admit I have too many clothes. My drawers are hard to close because they’re overflowing. Finally, this week I did what I’ve been promising to do for a long time. I weeded out the clothes in my closet and drawers, packing boxes for charity.

I have to admit it hurt to part with some of what I gave away. And it would be easy to make the case that I’m just as silly as David is about what I save.

For instance, in the back of my closet was a brown monogrammed blouse that I have always loved. There’s a sentimental reason why I saved it.

When my first husband and I were married, money was more than tight. After we paid the rent and bought groceries, there was nothing left.

But Andy saw me admiring the monogrammed blouse in a catalog. For Christmas, that blouse was under our tree. I wore it for years. It didn’t matter if the style was in or out.

I kept saving it for sentimental reasons.

Well, this week practicality finally won.

I discovered how freeing it is to get rid of excess and rid of clutter. Plus, it felt good to give my excess clothes to a women’s charity.

Coincidentally, my two daughters and I are all in the same stage of clearing away excess. I think they are having a much easier time doing it than I am.

One daughter is ruthless in throwing everything away. She values clean, open spaces and won’t tolerate clutter anywhere.

Maria and I had to work hard to eliminate excess and clutter. But now we both feel good about our uncluttered, organized closets.

Actually, I feel so empowered that I have expanded my efforts to the rest of the house. This weekend I tackled the toughest room in the house — the garage, where everything gets stored then forgotten about.

My overflowing garbage cans prove I am no longer reluctant to throw stuff away.

What about you? Do you find it easy to identify and eliminate excess?

Contact Pattie Mihalik at

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