My pack rat husband is driving me up the wall

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Dear Troubleshooter:

I am a homemaker in my 30s. I cannot understand why my husband, who is in his 40s, won’t throw things away.

We live in a detached house, which is filled with his personal belongings. He has more than 40 plain white T-shirts and some of them are still wrapped. He won’t even throw out the cardboard boxes our home appliances came in.

Things that cannot be stored in his room invade our main living room, where the table is crammed with things like nails, New Year’s card holders and a cream that he only uses after taking baths.

I find it sickening because I am the type of person who puts everything away right after using it. Now, I often seek refuge in the spare living room on the second floor.

My husband says he likes a tidy room, but his behavior shows otherwise. When I put things away, he tells me, “You tidy up too much!”

We will have our second child this year, so I want to spend time in an orderly home. What can I do?

— W, Kanagawa Prefecture

Dear Ms. W:

Many women in society may not believe it, but there are men who feel better when they wear the same outfit day after day.

Such clothes inevitably become worn, but that is the flip side of the attachment to their clothes. Therefore, the notion of throwing them away is something that never enters their minds.

Moreover, your husband probably feels satisfied if he sees the nails are lined up on the table or if the lid is put on the jar of cream, thinking, “Well, everything is in its rightful place.”

I presume he has a super-myopic aesthetic sense. His field of vision is so narrow that he’s not capable of seeing living rooms, let alone the whole house.

Now, how about letting your husband open his eyes to what may be ahead in the future. It may come as a surprise, but a person like him is better suited for envisioning things in his mind’s eye.

For the sake of your children, you and your husband must make more space in your house, physically as well as psychologically.

Whenever you buy something for your second child, put one of your husband’s belongings in a cardboard box exclusively for that purpose. When the box becomes full, take it to a recycling shop and save the money you earned from recycling for your children.

It’s not about throwing things away, it’s the other way around. Tell him so, and he will understand. You will gradually regain more space at home, where a pleasant wind will blow through and your children’s voices will resonate.

— Shinji Ishii, writer