“Argument of the Week” is a series written by Brenna Jennings. It will feature the daily domestic battles she gets into with her husband Steve, of which most of us can probably relate. Mike will often decide the closet needs organizing which ends with the closet looking great but all this mess out in our apartment again that I HAVE TO DEAL WITH— so yeah. I get this.
I’d spent the better part of a week hurling myself at my couch over and around a series of obstacles left by Steve’s CD organizing project. My floor looked like a complex training course, with storage bins, jewel cases and huge, black binders stacked everywhere. Saturday’s ambition had become Thursday’s indifference, and I was left to navigate my living room like a boot camp recruit.
My husband will do the laundry and the dishes, he’ll cook, he usually doesn’t flinch when I have to leave him with our seven-year-old for work or sanity, and I know these are qualities I’m lucky to have in a partner. I’m grateful that he’s motivated to take care of things around the house, especially when they’re finished in a timely fashion. Sometimes though, they aren’t, and the disruption can be hard to live with.
Last week Steve decided to clean all of the old food out of our fridge. Something momentous must have happened in the midst of it, because when I came out of my office he was gone and there were no fewer than six containers full of fossilized leftovers sitting next to the sink. I didn’t know whether to call CSI or the EPA, so instead I rinsed out the least gruesome and tossed the rest.
Once in a while, Steve will sort old paperwork that’s collected in our file cabinet. Usually this means he pulls out what we don’t need to save and leaves it stacked precariously on top of the paper shredder. I tiptoe around my office trying not to kick up any sort of breeze for a few days before relenting and finishing the job myself. Sometimes he’ll clean out a closet and leave a heap of Goodwill donations on the dining room table. I’m tempted to make myself a tee shirt that says, “Don’t Worry, I’ll Get That.”
There’s something about clutter and piles and unfinished business that make me almost forget all the good he does around here, just for a minute or two, just in the time it takes me to trip over something, calculate how long it’s been sitting there, and realize that I’m going to be the one to put it away. Add another twenty seconds for cursing under my breath, then apologizing to the dog.
None of us wants to be a nag, so I’ll usually just clean up what Steve hasn’t gotten to and wait wearily for the next project to start, the next pile to materialize, the next task abandoned.
One morning after I’d straightened up for the day, Steve decided it was high time he sorted the Tupperware cabinet. “We don’t have lids for half of these! Where do they go?” He was trying to pack his lunch and acting like the first man to experience the agony of mismatched containers. He pulled every last piece of plastic from that cabinet, spread it across the counter, and realized he was running late. Steve left for work and I turned on a bunch of break up songs.
By the time he came home I’d decided to stay married, but I had to let him know his good intentions were putting me in a bad mood.
“Honey, I know you’re trying to take care of things around here but you have got to stop leaving me these messes.”
Notice I led gently into the complaint, because I know Steve believes he’s helping when he embarks on his projects, and because he means well. He explained that he doesn’t intend to create work for me, he just can’t get to everything he wants to accomplish in a day. He didn’t realize I was so aggravated.
Here’s our new strategy: First, no more spontaneous projects like the sudden onset refrigerator purge. Second, he has to ease off on his to-do list; we don’t need to renovate the bathroom, take the car to the shop and start composting all in the same week. I’ve always respected Steve’s work ethic, but we both agree the next thing he has to organize is his time.
Do you live in a house of half finished projects? Tired of tripping over good intentions? Tell us in comments.
Read more from Brenna Jennings on Suburban Snapshots.