Choked By Clutter

Growing up in Chicago, we had a neighbor from across the street that was a clutter-addict.  He had a 1960’s Ford pick-up/trailer full of junk, top to bottom.  His garage was one of the most fascinating places I remember seeing as a kid.  We would go in there, and be memorized by the piles and piles of junk.  Not junk to Ed.  His garage was full of treasure.  His Juke-Box, his record collections, newspapers from every decade he had been alive, dog cages, magazines, gumball machines, tools…you name it.  Literally top to bottom side to side, every square inch of the garage filled with trash accumulated over a lifetime.

Clean House About once a year, his wife got to the point where she reached her boiling point.  She’d say things like, “It’s me or your trash.  You pick.”  He’d sulk while she dragged item after item out to the curb.  As the day progressed, predictable as ever, we would watch from our window across the street as Ed would sneak around the house from the back yard, grab a few items and dash over to his truck and cram it into the back, only to be put back in the garage when everyone’s back was turned.  We would giggle every time this happened, but, truth be told, over the years, the trash took over the marriage.  Our neighbor said to her husband, “Ed, it’s me or the trash” for the final time.  He chose the trash.  She moved out.  He stayed and lived in a house full of his treasure until the day he died.

Our family has been closely watching the show Clean House on the Style Channel.  I don’t know why it fascinates all of us so much, I think each of us has a different reason for watching.  Belle can’t believe adults are messier than her, Whitney and Maddie love to see the designers do their work to a house utterly demolished by years of neglect.  Rob and I watch because the reasons people hold on to their trash like it’s life.  It’s fascinating.  People hold on to “stuff” tighter sometimes than to the people they love. 

Watching this show has brought up a lot of very interesting conversations in our household.  Why do we keep what gets in our way?  Why do we argue and fight about “stuff”?  Can we live with less?  These have been great conversations.  We even followed suit, just like the show and had a gigantic yard sale.  We made almost $500 by selling our junk.  We could not believe it.  It was an amazing and freeing feeling for all of us, and we are using all that money to do some fun things along the way as we make our way over to India.

Has your stuff ever gotten in your way of loving people?  I think it has been a fascinating question to ponder myself.  The older I get, the more I see the less I need. 

Watch the show sometime if you have an hour.  You’ll learn something…maybe even about yourself.

2 thoughts on “Choked By Clutter

  • May 25, 2009 at 10:22 pm
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    I watched a marathon of that show for most of a day. It really made me see the same things. Since then we’ve de-cluttered a lot and paid more attention to the relationships. Good stuff!

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  • May 26, 2009 at 9:24 am
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    Very interesting article Michelle. I have a husband that is exactly like Ed, and your right it can cause a riff in the household. I get so tired of the junk he will keep. He says “I might use that some day” so I think it’s time for a yard sale over here on Fairway Ave. very soon, lol! Thanks for sharing this story and I hope things are going well as you prepare to head off to India. God bless.

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