The Survival Guide for the Junk Man’s Wife

Occasionally I deviate from the garden prose to comment on other life pursuits, collecting being one of them.

Junk Men like Rice Krispies Treats too

We fondly call them the MacStuff Brothers.  Treasure hunters like no other.  Firmly committed to the belief that one cannot have enough stuff, they are otherwise known as Jim and Doug MacIndoe, husband and brother-in-law of yours truly.   Their passion is a blessing and it is a curse.    The two will entertain you endlessly as they tour their respective homes and show the other their latest found treasure.  They are perfect fodder for a radio show.

They also can become easily overwhelmed by the kingdom they have created.  But does this stop them?  No.  They handle their overwhelm by simply getting more stuff, usually as if in a race.  High spirited and competitive, they love to best the other.  Watch one brother get out of the car to high tail it to the latest estate sale while the other struggles to get out of the back seat of a red Honda Element (they each own one) made impossible because the person in the front seat is not moving fast enough, that person usually being me.  I never hear the end of it since I am supposed to be in the go position even before the car stops, and neither man can stand it when the other gets a jump on the goods.

The truth is I married a junk man (more respectable definition:  collector), and in fact, married into a family of junkers.  It is hopeless.  I must confess, I think I have become one of them, perhaps a little more restrained, but a junker nevertheless.

Never try to change a junk man.  It is an impossible feat.  For a Virgo with strong tendencies towards order, my relationship with Jim from the outset seemed impossible.  I learned quickly upon meeting Jim that my life education had ill prepared me for the real world of living with a collector.  From furniture to watches to cars, my husband feels the collection of items both large and small is a worthwhile pursuit.  His greatest frustration is not having enough space.  Is he filling a void?  Probably.  But the more significant danger in judging a junk man is thinking you can change his inclinations, which are as natural to him as breathing.  Nature abhors a vacuum.  So does a junk man.

I was once a minimalist, perhaps partly a product of having moved too often.  Jim as does Doug finds beauty in having more than one of a good thing.  That is what we have – several replications of a good thing.  On any given day Jim will model not one watch on hand but two.   Sometimes, although rarely, three.   Certainly he can do three because he must have at least 50 watches.    And then there are the clocks.  I count at least 7 grandfather clocks alone in our small little abode (there may be more in the shop).  There are the wall clocks too, plenty of them, but I’ll cut Jim some slack because they’re pretty.  One of the Sunday traditions, between ball games and swap meets, is to wind the clocks.  Fortunately, I like them.  You have to, especially when they chime on the hour, all of them, that is, at the same time. Occasionally we have to stop the clocks for visitors who have been known to bolt up in the middle of the night when they strike.  Doug is no different in his leanings.  For example, and it is only one example at that, Doug owns more wooden canes than any person I know.  I guess he thinks he is going to need them when he shops in his old age.

One particular memorable moment is capturing Doug on camera with a lamp raised in his hand.  What makes this interesting?  Perhaps pathetic?   The lamp was in a ditch in which Doug was standing.  He stood proud, lamp in hand, smiling from ear to ear.  I wish I still had the photo.  It was clear evidence of a problem that even ditches and yes, dumpsters, are not out of bounds (sorry, Doug and Jim – your secrets are just not safe with me).

I have made peace, for the most part, with the fact that there is never enough room.  I clear out, Jim brings in.   He loves the television show The Storage Wars.   I have fantasies of a perfectly organized house where there is a place for everything, and room left over.

You can fight clutter, but if you are married to a collector, you might as well get with the program.    Here are my ten rules for survival for those who live with the collector (Note:  The rules easily apply to women).

Rule #1

The hunt is everything.

Rule #2

One is not enough.

Rule #3

The more space the better.

Rule #4

Never try to change a junk man.

Rule #5

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Rule #6

He who has the most junk wins.

Rule #7

If it’s old, it’s better.

Rule #8

Never sell it for less than what you bought it.

Rule #9

Junk men are the original recyclers.

Rule #10

Don’t fight a junk man.  Join him.  I did.


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