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Don't Touch My Stuff!

A domestic confrontation.

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Quietly, with absolutely no fanfare or public announcement, I have declared, “War”!

I admit that I have a mild propensity to let things pile up. Horizontal surfaces around the house provide opportunities for temporary storage, even if temporary can stretch into months or even years. My wife, on the other hand, does not share this inclination. Indeed, she is, what I refer to as, a clutter Nazi. She does not allow, permit, condone, or begin to understand, “temporary storage until I can review later”. She does not tolerate disorganization.

There are individuals who have a serious and pathologic condition which results in hoarding. My wife and I once rented a cottage. The previous tenant had piles of “stuff” all over the place. I mean all over. A pathway went from the door, through the living room. On either side of the path, in no discernable or clearly defined pattern, were piles of books, old newspapers, clothing, house wares, and who knows what else. It reminded me of a salvage warehouse only less well organized. Yet, I am sure the woman who lived there had precisely catalogued in her mind what and where everything was. “A place for everything and everything in its place”, as the saying goes.

I don’t have a filing system so much as a piling system. And trust me; nothing is more than a few months old. Well, maybe some things are a bit passé. And trust me further; I more or less know the general whereabouts of my stuff despite the haphazard appearance to the casual observer. Okay, I admit it’s more less than more. Still, without sounding too territorial, it is, after all, MY STUFF. So, it just about drives me crazy when I can no longer locate MY STUFF, even though I am certain where I last left it. Like most guys, I don’t like it when somebody moves MY STUFF and I particularly don’t like habitual offenses. These acts of provocation demand countermeasures.

My wife, on the other hand, is a clutter Nazi. When I cook and place a spoon on the spoon rest after stirring a fresh made sauce, the spoon is miraculously gone when I look for it to give another stir. I can leave a tool out while I am working on a project, take a break to use the bathroom, and return to my project. Fifteen minutes of wasted search and rescue time later—

“Honey, did you see the socket wrench I was using? I left it on the work bench.”

“Oh, I thought you were finished. I put it away in the shed.”

Some might find this helpful, but since the entire set of socket wrenches are in the garage, and I would never “put it away” in the shed, this pretty much drives me crazy. Of course, it’s even worse, when my wife can’t recall where she happened to relocate MY STUFF.

“Honey, do you know where my flashlight is? You know, the one I keep in the third drawer.”

“No sweetheart, I haven’t touched it.”

Weeks later I rediscover my flashlight in a most obscure and improbable place like the laundry room.

“Honey, where’s the tape measure?”

“I haven’t seen it.” …Disaster!

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So, it was with more than a little trepidation that I noticed my computer desk area looking strangely clean and tidy when I returned home after a week’s vacation with two buddies and my brother. You know, a guys’ get away vacation. Instead of returning to a “mess”, with a sinking feeling, I realized I had returned to something much worse—organization. Even worse, this had occurred when I was gone and unable to protect my turf. It could be weeks before I learn the new whereabouts of my personal assets.

“Honey, did you see the note I left myself about some things I needed to do when I returned from vacation? I left it right on the desk.”

“Sweetheart, I can’t find the letter from Lisa with her new phone number in it. I wanted to give her a call when I got back. I left it right next to the note.”

Twenty-five minutes of failed search and rescue have been fruitless in locating the missing items. Joining me in this futile shuffling of papers in an unfamiliar arrangement on my previously cluttered desk surface my wife exclaims,

“It’s got to be here somewhere. I didn’t throw anything out. I just made two separate piles and moved them here.”

There is a certain exasperated voice which delivers this message as she points to two nondescript piles neatly arranged on my desk. Of course, I have no idea what are in these piles, because as anyone with a piling system instead of a filing system knows, if you didn’t arrange the pile, you have no clue what’s in it!

Before I can intervene, she has taken four piles, two of which I am pretty clear about their contents, and the other two supposedly relocated piles, and thoroughly confused me by spreading them all out on the bed. Now I am sunk; I don’t have a clue what or how MY STUFF has been rearranged.

She innocently exclaims, “They must be in here somewhere!”

“What is all this junk anyway?” she asks holding up a current seed catalogue.

Hey, here’s a little news flash, that’s part of MY STUFF. It might not have any value to you, but I might want to look at that sometime. That’s why I saved it. That’s why I put it in a pile with other saved stuff. At this moment, I long for my old roll-top desk. Its design allowed for a cautious demilitarized zone where I could simply roll the top down and both my wife and I had a peaceful compromise. A bit of man genius went into that design, the equivalent of sweeping dirt under the carpet to make a room look clean.

Thirty minutes later, the letter has been found—in the dining room! The note must have dematerialized or been sucked into a microcosmic black hole. It is gone.

“What are you going to do with all this stuff? If you don’t clean it up, I’m just going to put it all into one big pile.”

I maintain my composure despite mounting fear that this threat could actually be carried out. Visions of uniformed German SS Officers are flashing through my mind.

“If you don’t clean all this stuff, I’m just going to throw it out.”

That’s it! This last bit of saber rattling has provoked me to action. Calmly, with no hint of a change in policy, I have declared war. I plan my strategy, thoughtfully weigh the likely response, and formulate my plan. Now, we know that actions speak louder than words, so, I haven’t actually told my wife. I want the message to be delivered by wordless action. Yes, it’s time…an incursion into HER STUFF is warranted. This is a just war.

She likes to keep her cell phone charger on the window sill, just over a wall outlet. I don’t think that’s a proper place for it. I have placed it in a nightstand drawer in the spare bedroom. Straight-faced with no animosity or warning, I have launched a stealth attack.

I can’t wait to hear, “Honey, have you seen my cell phone charger?” I relish the thought of her pointlessly looking and re-looking for her misplaced item where she is sure she last left it. It’s time to turn the tables, for prey and predator to temporarily experience a role reversal. Yes, I want to witness this long overdue drama.

Meanwhile, I am busy sorting through my utterly disorganized four-in-one pile… Hey, look at this, that 2012 article I had put aside to read later. I was wondering where I left it. Well, not really, I actually forgot about it completely. I guess I don’t need this 2014 catalogue from L.L. Bean anymore. Okay it can go, but most of the rest of MY STUFF stays.

As I am wasting valuable goof-off time trying to make sense out of this pile of nonsense she returns, bats her lovely brown eyes and says, “I’m sorry, after three days the Monk in me (you know, that misophobic, obsessive compulsive detective) got the best of me and I had to straighten things out.”

I have decided to put everything into one big mega-pile that I can go through “later”. I have a general idea what the contents are—nothing that requires immediate attention, including that article which I now know where to find. Voila, I have relocated my newly organized stash into a manageably neat pile on some hitherto unoccupied desk space. Actually, it was nice seeing that bit of unoccupied horizontal space; I had almost forgotten that the desk is cherry. But that naked space was just crying out to be covered!

“That’s okay honey.” I smile, one salvo and I am hopeful that I can at least obtain a temporary truce; thereby, safeguarding MY STUFF until the next incursion. If circumstances require, I can relocate anything really important to one of several secret locations of my veritable stockpiled arms, weapons cache, and nuclear warheads of "stuff"; that is, provided my wife hasn’t discovered and reassigned these hidden arsenals to places unknown. How else can I ever protect MY STUFF? The best defense is a good offense. No room here for détente or diplomacy. The gauntlet has been thrown!

“Honey, have you seen my cell phone charger? I know I left it on the window sill.”


Victor Acquista, an international author and speaker, writes fiction and non-fiction. Learn more here:

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