When it came to dealing with our possessions, the two of us were operating under opposite paradigms: I wanted my new home to look like a Pledge commercial, and he could have lived happily in the back room of the local Salvation Army Thrift Store. As long as everything was put away and out of sight, I was happy. As long as everything was out in the open where he left it, he was happy. We got into a lot of fights about it.
During one argument Dan said, “Who cares? It’s my dresser, and if I want my stuff left out, who does it bother?”
“Everyone in the whole world!” I responded, “Everyone except you thinks your dresser is a disaster, an eyesore and a health hazard.”
“Okay,” he sneered, “if you can get just ten people to sign written affidavits that my dresser bothers them, I will clean it up myself.”
I had yet to meet a spousal challenge that I could not handle.
I called all my friends and requested written statements regarding their feelings about Dan’s bedroom blight. Here are some of the excerpts from the responses:
I am afraid your wife is reaching a critical stage of a disease commonly known as ‘heapaphobia.’ It is the extreme inordinate fear of growing piles of paper and pocket trinkets. Sufferers have been known to charge these growing heaps of garbage with flaming blow torches. This could be very hazardous for you, Dan, as you would lose not only your trivial belongings, but also your dresser and, perhaps your half of the bed…”
I think that your pile of stuff next to your bed is not only unsightly and disgusting, but might well be considered a fire hazard. If this is to go on much longer, Marianne may have to leave you to come live with me and stay up late into the night, drinking sparkling cider and eating bon bons…”
He even received a solicitation from a dubious nonprofit organization:
“Dear Mr. Liggett,
You have been recommended to us as some one who might have an interest in our growing organization. We believe that we, with your help, can eradicate a very serious problem that is sweeping our great and beloved nation.
“Our Get-Objects-Off-Bureaus-in Every-Room Society (commonly known as G.O.O.B.E.R.S) is made up of American citizens who, like you, believe in making our nation a better place to live. Please do not confuse us with B.O.O.G.E.R.S (Bureaus-Of-Overflowing-Garbage-Excessively-Rank Society), our arch rivals. Our goal is simply the preservation and promotion of neat and organized Bureaus and Dressers. We believe if we can get just 30% of the population to maintain organizationally correct bureaus, we could vastly improve the quality of life in America…” The letter went on to ask for a sizable monetary contribution.
Unfortunately, Dan also received a few letters of support:
With respect to your wife’s disdain for your arrangement of highly important documents and items, I feel that it is not only a man’s right, but indeed his duty, to hold fast to those principles that he holds most dear. In short, bully for you!”
One legal eagle wrote:
After much research and investigation within the hallowed halls of our constitutional interpretive rights, I see no other course of action but that you stand firm and withstand the pressure to give up your rights. We gave up tyranny with the Constitution and the establishment of the People’s Bill of Rights.
“The First Amendment states: ‘No law may be passed abridging the freedom of speech.’ This has recently been expanded by the Supreme Court to include personal actions and expressions of one’s personality quirks. This also includes the right of people to peaceably assemble. I would take this, in your case, to mean to assemble your personal belongings in the place of your choosing…” The writer went on to explain that “the right to bare arms” meant that he was free to take off his watch wherever he wanted to.
I failed to get all ten affidavits, so the battle of the dresser continued. Even though nothing changed, at least we got a bit of comic relief for our situation. I thought about Mrs. Chism, Mrs. Parks and Jill’s mom with her white shag carpet. Surely, they didn’t fight with their husbands about piles of junk, did they? No matter how I kept house, I believed that mine could never measure up.