Friday, June 2, 2006

Living with a "Keeper"

My husband is a "Keeper".  He likes to keep stuff.  That is the most basic and kind way I can put it.  I do not want to use terms like pack-rat, clutterbug, etc. because I do not want this post to be negative. 

But I do want to share about how a wife can honor her husband and his desires, while still trying to keep a clean home.  It is a fine line.  So many blogs and books written to Christian women will encourage decluttering the home and organizing the home.  But if you are married to a "Keeper" this can cause stress in your marriage. 

Early in my marriage, I did not respect my "Keeper's" desires. I did not respect his belongings and his piles.  I did not respect his feelings on the subject.  I threw away his things.  I rearranged his piles. I argued with him and put him down for not letting me clean things up.  I cried and manipulated him by telling him how I felt about his piles.  I put what I  thought others were thinking of me and our home above my husband's feelings.  Because of my wrong-handling of these issues, my husband lost trust in me.  He does not trust me to handle his things respectfully anymore.

This is a sad fact that I now have to live with.  I refuse to further damage that trust.  I will not take any advice that has me secretly throwing things away.  I will not listen to any advice that has me giving my husband "deadlines" and "ultimatums" for cleaning up his own things.  I am not his mother.  I am not his boss.  This house is his home, his refuge, his castle.  It can not be a refuge to him if everytime he is here, he has to listen to me nagging about things.

So, what do I do?  I try to keep the things confined to certain areas.  I give him organizational tools for organizing his stuff.  I keep the areas of the home that I can control clean, to the best of my ability.  I practice patience when things don't get taken care of on my timeline.  I practice selflessness as I learn to overlook piles. I learn humility as I push my pridefulness aside.   I will not let a pile of mail or newspapers become a mountain in our marriage. I will not let my reaction to them cause a wall in our relationship.  I focus on my husband's good qualities and practice thankfulness for all he does for me and our family.

People before things.  I have to remind myself of that all the time.  My husband's feelings and desires are more important than having an ideally beautiful and organized home.  My children's feelings are more important than whatever item was damaged.  Spending time with my family is more important than having that magazine-beautiful home.  My relationship with my husband is more important than being clutter-free.

I have lost that perspective in the past.  I've jumped on the decluttering bandwagon (which is not a bad thing in itself) and tried to drum it into my husband's head.  I tried to change him to fit my desires.  I even tried to explain to him why he was the way he was, and why that needed to change.

I still struggle with this at times.  When I read of others who are successfully decluttering their homes, I am sometimes jealous.  I find myself losing my focus and becoming negative about my "Keeper".  I forget that my "Keeper" is a "keeper" in more than one way.  He has many good qualities that far outweigh this issue.  And it's wrong of me to focus on this one issue, and forget to be thankful for his many other wonderful qualities.

And when I am in a negative rut, I just think back to the times my Dad rebuilt a car engine in the master bedroom, or an entire motorcycle in the living room.  I may have mail piles and newspaper piles in my kitchen and living room.  I may have an air compressor in my dining room, sitting by the back door.  I may have extra printers and computer parts stored in the bedrooms.  But, at least I don't have a greasy engine or motorcycle in my house. 

It also helps to think of all the faults my husband overlooks in me.  Does he say anything when I take a day off to read a book?  Does he say anything when I let the clean laundry pile up for 2 days before I fold it?  Does he lecture me when the dishwasher needs emptied so the dirty dishes piled up in the sink can be placed in it?  No, he might even jump in and load the dishwasher for me.  He's definitely a "keeper", for all he puts up with in me!!

Perhaps I am speaking only to myself.  But, hopefully this will be helpful to someone else out there that is married to a "Keeper".   It isn't wrong to strive for a clean and organized home, but don't let it come between your "Keeper" husband and yourself.   Love your "Keeper", be kind to him, and be submissive to him.  Work *with* him, not against him.  Remember all the good things that make him a "keeper", not just the negative sides of him being a "Keeper."

"Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."   Titus 2:3-5


  1. April, what a wonderful, honest, open post! You've GOT it! God has given you the revelation about husbands! When you feel the negative feelings coming, just go back and read this blog you wrote, in fact, print it out and keep it close by so you can read it when you need to. With these revelations you have about your husband and children, your marriage and motherhood will only get better as the years go by. I've been married for 23 years and God has blessed me with the same revelations. I wish every married woman could read your post. Keep going, you're on the right track! God bless you!

    I'd like to add you to my "friend" list, if that's okay with you. Let me know.

  2. it's perfectly fine. thank you!


  3. My husband is a keeper too, but he has taken much responsibility in the past few years for keeping the house clean too. We have a standing joke that he is a bulemic packrat. He loves to trashpick and he will do that, but then periodically he purges and puts some of that same stuff back out in our trash. It helps us to laugh about his tendancies.

  4. I am married to a "Keeper" as well, and totally identified with your post. Thank you so much for your insights. After 14 years of marriage, I realized these things, but the reminder always helps! btw, I have asked God to show me the positive in my "Keeper" and one of the things God showed me was this: My husband is not visual. He simply doesn't "see" the piles and clutter around the house that bother me incredibly. What is the upside to this? Because he is not visual, he has also not had the overwhelming struggle with "lust of the eyes" that many men seem to have. In fact, many times, he doesn't even notice when women around him are dressed immodestly. He has "eyes" only for me. What a blessing!


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