Saturday 1 September 2018

May We Dispense with Our Husbands' Stuff?

Benedict Ambrose had a day off work yesterday, and when a friend agreed to store some boxes of books for us, B.A. went to the Historical House to carry them down three flights of stairs. I was a little worried about his ability to do this and so was vastly relieved when he phoned to say he was okay.

Our friend appeared at St. Benedict Over the Apple Tree (our new home), our first guest after our solicitor, with two beautiful plants for the garden, and we drove off to the Historical House. It was a warm and sunny day, and it was wonderful to be outdoors.

We met B.A. at the bottom of the stairs.  He looked like an exhausted cockatoo. He's still very thin, and of course half the back of his head is still shaved or bald. He was drenched in sweat, clutching a box and staggering a little.

"I've carried down twenty already," he said, panting, as I clucked like a hen and ordered him to sit down. He collapsed into a garden chair in the sun, and J. and I and B.A.'s co-workers carried the boxes to the car. They're relatively small boxes but heavy.

Ignoring my system--the most elementary division of books into most valued and less valued--B.A. had just started with "the books in the hall", which means the "most valued" books are now in a cellar in the New Town. But the good news is that the least valued books are still in the Historical Attic, which means we can more easily banish them to a charity shop.

When our friend's car was thoroughly packed with "most valued" books, I suggested to B.A. that he sit amongst the "lesser" books (mostly novels) and choose which ones should go to the charity shop. He responded with faint wails of horror and exhaustion. The mental energy this would take was simply beyond him.

To put this into perspective, B.A. has neither read Marie Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up nor surfed the internet in search of inspiring Minimalist blogs. And as hoarding goes, he is nothing to my mother, who still has a few pairs of my great-grandmother's spectacles. My great-grandmother died, I believe, in 1978.

Actually, a list of the hilarious objects dating from before 1980 to which my parents have granted houseroom would make for a very funny post. Meanwhile, my great-grandfather and grandfather each brought back a German helmet from their respective World War, a grisly reminder that our their* Iron Age ancestors used to fasten the skulls of their enemies to their door lintels.

B.A. doesn't have any helmets, let alone skulls, but he has had an awful lot of junk which I began throwing away after maybe five years of marriage. I think I waited five years. For a very long time, I did not think I had any right to throw away any of my husband's belongings, including worn-out trousers. Now that we have been married for almost ten years, I realise that the secret of unburdening my husband of objects he has not seen for years is just to make an executive decision and throw them away without mentioning it.

This should not be treated as a universal rule. Still, it might solve a major household headache if the minimalising spouse asked the non-minimalising spouse if the way forward is just to proceed with a closet/attic/basement purge without telling him/her what had disappeared.

There are limits, of course. Although B.A. doesn't listen to his large collection of compact discs, there exists a possibility that he may in future want to listen to a specific contact disc. Therefore, I have not eliminated his contact discs. Nor have I got rid of the DVDS although their days are numbered.

Lest the frequent reader think I hate all my husband's stuff, I should mention that I admire B.A.'s taste in antique and mid-century furniture and very much like all but one of the pieces we have already transferred to our new home.

*I say "their" because only my mother's ancestors were 100% British. My father's were also Irish and German, and I don't know what they got up to during the Iron Age.


  1. My husband's mother has an unfortunate shopping habit that leads to, among other things, compulsively buying many multiples of the same item if it's on sale. So when we got married, I discovered that he wasn't, in fact, wearing the same shirts over and over, but different iterations of the same shirt. He didn't want to throw any of them out, no matter how worn or holey they were, so we struck a deal. If I, in laundering, discovered that something was beyond the pale, I put it away for 6 months, and if he hadn't asked for that particular item by then, I could throw it away. That eased him into letting go, and now, almost 4 years into marriage, he doesn't question the dispensing with some of his possessions. I have, however, held onto all of his scientific scribbles until he goes through them - he's a professor, so I don't want to pitch a breakthrough

    1. Excellent idea! And I understand about the scientific scribbles, as B.A. has a large number of historical scribbles. Some of the scribbles I value even more than he does are his diaries of an exchange trip to Poland in 1990. I'm a diary hoarder.