I love throwing things away. When my t-shirts no longer fit into a single drawer, I find serious satisfaction in downsizing my collection. Do I really care about my York East Resident Assistant tee? Can I do without every single shirt from my a cappella group in college? Yikes, what is this old t-shirt from my ex-boyfriend doing in here?
I have no interest in keeping brochures, magazines, souvenirs, trinkets, or plastic cups. No need for extra packets of soy sauce, take out menus, condiments I never use, or any sort of food that will sit unnoticed for months at a time. My fridge basically holds cheese, white wine, carrots, hummus, and whatever we’re cooking for dinner over the next three nights. My closet also gets a solid sweep a few times a year. Even when it’s hard to drop something in the donate pile, I never look back.
My husband is…well…my opposite. My wonderful, loving, perfect-for-me opposite. But the man can find sentimentality in absolutely anything. How can we throw away our tickets to the first movie we saw together? This bobble head is from Spring Break 2005! Baby, I bought this pack of 24 cans of beans for only $2.00! Best deal I’ve ever gotten on anything in my life! (Not a single can opened, purchased in 2011.) He can also come up with some of the most imaginative scenarios I’ve ever heard in which he would need the grey beanie he hasn’t worn in 8 years, or where he’d desperately need to scour this brochure of $150 bow ties.
Our friends often make fun of us– and we make fun of each other– for our very different Keep or Toss habits. Sometimes he freaks out when I throw away his stash of chopsticks, and sometimes I freak out when he refuses to get rid of a single t-shirt so that everything can fit into our dressers, but most of the time, things are pretty humorous.
No joke, he once left a dozen frozen squirrel carcassees in this roommate’s freezer for six months, constantly claiming he was eventually going to make squirrel stew. I can’t make this stuff up, you guys.
When something is truly sentimental, I definitely keep it. I have cards from throughout the years (only ones with personalized and heartfelt messages), the medal of completion from the Turkey Trot I did with my mom the year before she passed, and even a closet full of pageant dresses that I keep hoping will be perfect for some future occasion…like a royal ball, I guess. See? I’m not the perfect minimalist by any means.
It’s easy for me to think I’m more rational and responsible than Aaron because of my tossing habits, but that’s also a super egotistical way to look at it. Yes, for practicality sake when it comes to mere space, Aaron has to learn to let go a bit, but his natural desire to hold onto things isn’t “better” or “worse” than my desire to throw things away. It’s just a different point-of-view. And I shouldn’t waste this opportunity to broaden my horizons by attempting to understand why certain people feel more attached to their belongings than I do.
As I’ve listened to Aaron explain his reasoning for keeping his favorite old oven mitt or ill-fitting pair of jeans, I’ve started to realize that his hoarding (strong word) has very little to do with materialism or irresponsibility and everything to do with his energetic optimism. You’ve never seen a guy so happy as he reminisces about the time he cooked the most amazing caramel apple pie brownie cheesecake with the help of that oven mitt, or the hilarious party he attended while wearing those old blue jeans. When he talks about needing that grey beanie, it’s because he’s convinced that he’ll wear it when galavanting around Europe, or on a fun trip to Seattle (since that’s on my bucket list).
Aaron’s excitement for life is what drives him to keep things. I was so busy thinking about all the reasons that it’s a pain to have so much “stuff,” when this whole time, there was an important lesson for me to learn about happiness. Sure, we’ll still have to do some cleaning out of his things, but I shouldn’t take for granted the fact that I’m married to someone who has such grandiose plans for the future and is so enthusiastic about memories from his past. It’s part of what gives him such joyous energy and makes him the man I love.
I love looking back at pictures to remember wonderful experiences, and always hope to have amazing adventures in my future, but I tend to be much more pessimistic, thinking “you can never go back” or “it’ll probably be a while before I can afford to do _____.” Part of why Aaron doesn’t go through as many emotional ups and downs as I do is because
he’s male he can find excitement in the past, present, and future at all times. And he maintains that excitement through material reminders.
We’re pretty perfect for each other, because I help him from spiraling out of control with his possessions (he usually concedes to throwing certain things away after listening to my take on things, then sleeping on his final decision), while he helps me understand why certain things are okay to keep to make life a little more fun– even if they’re impractical or seemingly unimportant.
It’s easy for us to think our way is the best way, but when you think the “right way” is crystal clear (100 t-shirts is ridiculous!), remember that there’s always another side to things. People tend to have good reason behind their points-of-view– we just have to be willing to listen. It doesn’t mean we have to adopt their way of life (I will never own a lot of “stuff” because it stresses me out), but our patience and love can soar through the roof if we remember that we’re all wired a bit differently, and that there’s always a lesson to learn.