Long-time readers have probably noticed that in my 6+ years of writing this blog, whenever I’ve shown pictures of our house, or written day in the life posts, I’ve never included my husband’s basement office. I’ve typically mentioned it in an offhand way, with the disclaimer that “I don’t go in there,” and yes this was a joke, but it was also the truth. I did avoid going in there as much as possible, mainly because it was so cluttered and dusty that it caused me terrible anxiety, and while I would often ask him how he could stand working in there, I didn’t really push him to do anything about it. I decided that if he kept the mess contained in this one room, then it wasn’t really my problem. I successfully lived by this philosophy for nearly a decade, until it actually did become a problem.
Last spring, I confronted my husband with an issue. My office was too full, however it was not full of my stuff. It was full of household items that had no home because our old laundry room, which I had always intended to use as a storage room after we built our new main floor laundry, had been taken over with his stuff. I used this as a segue into a discussion about his office clutter issue.
My husband is a man with countless wonderful qualities, all of which I will tell you about right now! (Hee hee… this is a joke. I’m wondering if anyone will get the reference). He is wildly intelligent, funny in a sweet, oddball way, quick-witted, kind, gentle with me and the children, sensitive, capable, hard-working. I have a terrible weakness for him because he is so handsome and endearing, but do you know what he is not?
Organized. He is not organized, nor has he ever been.
In the 14+ years that I have been his partner in life, I have watched him struggle with a crippling attachment to objects. He felt guilty if he got rid of anything that was a gift, even if he didn’t like or want it, because he worried about upsetting the giver. We gradually worked past that stumbling block, as I helped him to understand that it’s possible to graciously accept a gift and be thankful for the sentiment, without letting unwanted items eat up valuable space and time in your life. After all, each of us has only one life, and we cannot let others dictate how we’ll live it. Over the years, I’ve also worked on teaching him that:
-Letting go of things you don’t need is not wasteful. Buying things you don’t need IS wasteful.
-It’s possible to appreciate and enjoy things without having to own them.
-Material objects are not a substitute for love. They cannot love you back.
-The value of your possessions does not determine your value as a person.
-Organizing is not a waste of time. Being organized actually saves time.
-Time is more valuable than anything else. It’s something that can never be reclaimed when it’s gone.
I’m reluctant to say that my husband will never have a clutter problem again (I hesitate to use the word “hoarding” though he freely refers to himself as a hoarder in recovery), but I do feel that we’ve achieved a major milestone. I believe that the years we’ve spent simplifying every aspect of our life together have helped him achieve real understanding of himself. He now understands what’s most important to him, and he’s finally learned to let go of what isn’t. He’s learned to not run away from tough decisions, and if something is special to you, you should treat it as such instead of stashing it away in a box for 20 years. After all, if you claim that something is important, it should be deserving of your time and attention, correct?
This office is not the final frontier for my husband (his shop is, but that’s a whole other post), but having it done has been such a huge psychological boost for him. I can see that it makes him happy, and that makes me happy. So finally, after 6 months of work, here it is!
(As you can see, he had a tendency to just stash stuff here, there, and everywhere):
I’d like to conclude this post with these words from my husband:
“It’s been a long time coming, and the transformation is amazing! It motivates me to go after my shop next!”