Jasmine is looking around her bedroom in dismay.  Peter’s side of the bed is piled high with books, papers, magazines, His night table is jumbled with several watches, an alarm clock, a clock radio and an i-pod.  The floor on his side is covered with boxes of books, a collection of antique toys, and a pile of clothes, some old coffee mugs, and several pairs of old shoes.  The mess is overwhelming.  Some days she wants to cry, some days she hates him and wants to leave, and every day she wonders how such a lovely guy when she had met him and fallen in love could be destroying her life with all this mess and debris.

The entire house is filled with things that she considers garbage, useless, redundant, and dangerous.  “Let’s just throw all of this stuff out”, she pleads with him.  “I’ll do it, you can go out.  I need to get rid of all this junk!”  The answer is always the same.  “I’ll get around to it, don’t worry so much.  If you loved me you would try to understand that I need to do it myself and take my time!”  They had fought over this too many times to keep track of.  She had cried, screamed, pleaded, offered to pay for someone else to do it, suggested therapy, offered to go with him to therapy, threatened divorce, sulked, and withdrawn.

Peter obviously has a fear of letting go.  He can’t throw out the papers and magazines and books because he hasn’t finished reading them.   He worries that there might be something interesting in piles still unread, something that might be important to him.  Jasmine would say that he couldn’t read the stuff already accumulated in his lifetime and more keeps coming in.  He can’t throw out the old clothes because he might need them sometime.  He can’t let go of the coffee mugs because his young nephews gave them to him and he doesn’t want to lose the memory of them at that early age.

Peter is holding on to all these things because of the sense of security it gives him.  He lives in a world of negative possibilities–what if he needs this, what if he misses that, what if he never sees them again, what if he forgets?  He holds on to everything that comes into his life so that he will never have to face a time when one of the what if’s comes to be and he doesn’t have the immediate solution.

The prospect of one of these possibilities materializing is governing Peter’s life and now Jasmine’s.  He doesn’t realize that in trying to be prepared for future possibilities he is sacrificing his present life.  He and Jasmine spend a great deal of their free time arguing about his mess, trying to organize it, or navigating around it.  All social activities at home take on a nightmarish quality as they try to move the stuff to less obvious areas of the house and present a front of normalcy to their guests.   Most of his holiday time and weekends are devoted to ineffectually trying to get on top of the accumulation or avoiding it

Peter tends to become depressed when he is forced to confront the issues with the house.  This removes him even further from living in the present as he begins to retreat to watching television and not dealing with anything.  He also feels guilty if he chooses to enjoy something because he is aware that in Jasmine’s eyes he should be dealing with his mess.

Peter’s initial impulse, to be prepared for possibilities in the future, was positive.  It is becoming a monstrous weight which is slowly sinking his life.  It is robbing him of the very self esteem that he was trying to support by being proactive around the future.

One thing that would help Peter is dealing with his current situation is to realize his good intention in the beginning.  He wanted to do the right thing for himself.  He didn’t want to be unprepared, careless with opportunities or with the things that he had.  However, the intention and the reality are so opposed that the disconnect between the two might help him break out of his morass.  He hardly has a life any more so preparation for the future becomes meaningless.  Trying to do the right thing or be a good person is irrelevant if he is barely living at all and avoiding most activity because he can’t deal with the most pressing requirement.  Realizing the impossibility of living in the realm of possibility might just allow Peter to let go and actually live a life in the present free of the buffer of stuff that protects him from a possible negative future.