Why Women Have So Much Clutter.
This hub is partially inspired by another hub I read recently http://hubpages.com/hub/Things-women-dont-need written by Lazur and partially by a hilarious newspaper article I read this week that rang very true to life. I hope you enjoy and identify with the subject of this hub, and that it will make you chuckle.
For many years I have known my Mum is a compulsive hoarder. Her favourite weekend hobby is driving around the local car boot sales, charity shops, jumble sales etc, trying to pick up a bargain. The result of this 'hobby', is that she has a house, garage and loft, full to bursting point with stuff she rarely uses and will most likely never see the light of day in her lifetime. My Stepfather despairs of her, and whenever he tries to get her to de-clutter he fails miserably as she always insists that she needs this stuff and must keep it.
To make matters worse she insists on buying my Sister and I 'stuff' we don't really want (with rare exceptions) from these places. Rather than hurt her feelings I usually say thank you and take the latest plastic plate with a cat picture on, tea- towel covered in sea fish (as she thinks if I run a coarse fishing lake containing freshwater fish, I must be into all kinds of fish), or the blouse I wouldn't be seen dead in home, and dispose of it in my next clear out for the local charity shop, (making sure I allow enough time for her to not to ask me where it has vanished to). Yes I know it is thoughtful of her, which I why I seldom complain when she presents me with the latest battery operated, flashing Christmas earrings or the Doberman fridge door magnet (even though I no longer have a Doberman). I don't like to sound ungrateful, but really don't know how to stop her, and it is such a waste of her money if I am simply going to get rid of most of these offerings later on. Don't get me wrong, she is great for hunting down a bargain if you tell her you specifically need a certain item, such as a good condition set of curtains for the living room, but I just wish she would stick to the items we request.
My Sister is really into collecting Egyptian type furniture and ornaments, so one year my Mum thoughtfully bought her a Tutankhamen CD case for part of her Christmas present. As my sister said when we were discussing this yesterday, the problem with the case was that it was totally out of proportion, and poor old Tutankhamen looked like an 'Oompa-Loompa' from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'.
In addition to her bargain hunting, my Mum also likes to hoard clothes, newspapers, frying pans (the last count she had 12!) etc. Her argument for the masses of newspapers is that she 'is still going through them'. Every few weeks my Step Dad James forces her to read through them again and discard the ones she has 'finished with'. As he said to me the other day, 'I have this great fear that if I die before Mary she will gradually vanish under an ever increasing pile of newspapers'. To further drive us mad Mum will cut out any article she thinks we should read and present us with a stack of them each time we visit, e.g. articles about the perils of smoking, cannabis, alcohol etc, or cutesy articles about animals, or worst of all, cruelty stories about animals with brutally upsetting details.
Her multiple wardrobes and drawers contain clothes, many of which she hasn't worn for years, not to mention all sorts of other easily dispensable with junk that is no longer needed, e.g. the calipers my Sister once needed for her leg following her stroke, which was over 16 years ago.
Their loft is stuffed full of such needless things as the accounts from my Father's business, and he died 22 years ago, a number of years after he had retired.
Her kitchen cupboards and shelves are crammed full of saucepans, ancient recipe books, bags of assorted spare cutlery, hundreds of various wine glasses etc.
The home they live in is crammed full of ornaments, old encyclopedias and newspaper cuttings that my Mum will not part with. She takes nostalgia for deceased loved ones to the extremes, and we had the devil's own job simply to persuade her to part with her late Brothers bed, even though it was ancient and falling apart. If James gets a skip delivered to dispose of some of the rubbish, Mum promptly goes through the skip and takes half of the contents back out again, much to James frustration.
Is this a problem that only women have? I doubt it, but it does seem fair to say they are worse than most men in this respect. The newspaper article I read this week written by Alex Proud in the Daily Mail made some fantastic comments, some of which I would like to quote here for those of you who didn't see the actual article itself.
'Every time I walk through my front door, I look carefully around, knowing that somewhere my wife will have bought a little something for our home........It's not a good thing. Rather it's a Chinese water torture-but with ornaments'
' I do like to be able to cross a room from one side to the other without having to zigzag my way around like a slalem skier.'
'My wife however, considers a clean line an abomination and an empty space a gaping void that needs filling. It is instructive that when people want to describe a house full of junk they refer to a "mad old ladies house". But they could almost drop the word "mad"; by the age of 65, almost any lady's house will look like that'
'Whenever I suggest that the jewellery box that's overflowing with rubbish might do with a clean-out, my wife reacts as if I've just asked her to melt down the family silver. Of course, as a man, I have no truck with sentimentality. But I'll allow that, perhaps one feels a certain attachment to the wedding ring of a deceased grandparent or an 18th birthday trinket. But the cheap jewellery you bought in Camden as a stroppy 17 year-old? Please.'
'When a woman announces she is going to "de-clutter", what she really means is she's going to move picture frames and ornaments around. When a man announces he's going to de-clutter, he comes armed with bin bags'
'This is not to say you can't have a bit of art and perhaps a few magazines in a rack. In the end it's just pragmatism. After all, when you've had a glass of wine too many, you can't knock over a table of ornaments that isn't there'
'Indeed, I have a theory that clutter may have been the key driver behind the failure of the Sixties and Seventies council estates. When they were built they looked clean, light and futuristic. People hailed them as a huge improvement over the Victorian slums they replaced. But after a few decades of a woman's touch they had faux-leaded windows, fake Tudor doors, deep shag carpets and untold shelves of tacky collectables. They looked awful and it's a surprisingly short journey from porcelain miniatures to dealing with drugs in stairwells'.
'Yes, men do buy stuff. But what we buy is cars and electronics. There's a cost bias against our cluttering up. Most people do not buy 20 stereos or 12 Jags. The same cannot be said about picture frames'.
'The worst of all worlds is women's desire to keep things which are not just cheap, but those that are actually designed to be thrown away. Here I'm talking about my wife's magazine hoard. I think the hint with magazines is the month on the cover.
At the end of the month, you get a new one and should operate a one-in, one-out policy. But no. I labour amid piles of Elles and Vogues which date back to when my wife grew out of Smash Hits. In fact, for all I know she's got them too, down in the basements of her periodical skyscrapers.
She claims she keeps them for inspiration and ideas. But the only thing they have ever inspired me to do is to start a massive bonfire.
The female propensity to keep magazines has other, less obvious, downsides, too. My wife's piles of papery clutter soon reach a kind of critical mass where, blackhole-like, they start to suck in other, more important things around them.
Like bills and credit-card statements. One day I'll discover that I have the credit rating of a serial bankrupt - all because of a million old copies of Marie Claire'
'And so it goes up to and including the national car-boot sale that is ebay. Actually, ebay is far worse than a car-boot sale - it is a bizarre scheme whereby people the length and breadth of the country sell tat, which until recently they'd have thrown out, to each other.
Sometimes I'll look on my laptop to see my wife 'watching' several dozen items all coyly presented in gushing terms like 'vintage' (i.e. worn out) and 'shabby chic' (an oxymoron if ever there was one).
I suppose I should be excited about ebay, as it enables you to sell clutter. But, in our house at least, the postman always brings more than he takes away. Green types dream of being carbon neutral. I dream of being ebay neutral.'
'The clutter was bad enough when it was just my wife and I. But then my Son Ulysses arrived on the scene.
It's amazing. My wife is incapable of visiting any sort of commercial premises without buying at least three pieces of clutter for Ulysses.
His nursery has gone from a clean, stylish room suitable for a young male to a plastic Chernobyl. My only consolation is that as soon as he's old enough to make taste-based decisions of his own, he'll throw it all out.'
'What's a man to do? I recommend 'zoning' your house. His and hers zones. My zones are the study/library and the living/dining area. In them, a clean modernity reigns supreme.
Hers are the shed (which I never visit) and Ulysses's nursery. The rest of the areas - kitchen, bedroom and so on - are accorded a kind of 'disputed territory' status. Potential flashpoints are the kitchen (which I think of as a kind of Kashmir) and the bathroom (the Golan Heights).
But zoning is only a stop-gap - a more permanent solution would be separate houses. I'm not suggesting we live across town from each other; I love my wife, just not her clutter.
Rather, we should buy a large plot of land and build not one but two houses. The two will be joined by a glass corridor. With a lockable door at my end, which has a bin outside it.'
I hope you enjoyed this Hub, and would be interested in your opinions about hoarding and what kind of things tend to be hoarded, not to mention the compulsive bargain hunting where people seem to end up buying things that they don't really need, would never have shopped for and will never use, simply because they are a bargain.