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Clutter: Out of the Closet, Into the Bedroom

Thousands of readers must feel that Erma Bombeck is looking into their living rooms and kitchens. The other day she wrote a column that makes me feel she is looking into our bedrooms.

Erma said that since complaining about an exercise bicycle at the foot of her bed, she had received letters from readers who confessed to having not only bicycles but fax machines, computers, microwaves and small refrigerators in their bedrooms.

My computer and fax machine happily are in my work room, but our two bedrooms have indeed taken on the corporate look described by Erma.

Because I sometimes have kicking and screaming nightmares, I have taken to sleeping in our front bedroom, leaving the larger back bedroom to my wife. But as Erma suggested, her room hardly sets a tone for “intimacy, passion and adventure.”

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As I have complained before, my wife’s bedroom shelters at least 1,000 cookbooks, which, in case of an earthquake, would undoubtedly fall over in their 6-foot cases and crush any person who happened to be sleeping in the bed that formerly was mine.

On either side of the twin electric beds are stacks of old magazines and newspapers that she intends to read when she retires. I keep pointing out that we can’t even keep up with current periodicals, much less years of old ones.

Her bedroom also contains our 26-inch television set, plus a large case containing all our videotapes. This collection includes tapes of several Super Bowl football games, which, as Erma suggested, are more likely to induce sleep than passion in the average housewife.

To the right of the TV stands her sewing machine and all the paraphernalia that goes with it. Surely a sewing machine does not give the room a corporate look, but it does remind her of work undone.

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My bedroom contains not only an exercise bicycle that has not been used since my wife bought it for me several years ago, but also a large copying machine that sits on an 8-foot folding table acquired years ago for some purpose that we can no longer remember.

On top of the table with the copying machine are numerous stacks of books, a carton of patterns, various articles of clothing, a manuscript and a cordless power scrubber and buffer that has never been removed from its box.

I am also heir to an old desk that my wife bought used and refurbished for use in her paper work, which is enormous. Its drawers by now are stuffed with old canceled checks, bills and income tax returns, and its top is hopelessly awash with pamphlets, magazines, old letters and printed matter of every kind. Through sheer glut, it is no longer functional; my wife does her accounts now on the dining room table, which has also been rendered useless for its intended purpose.

She used to clear off the dining room table on Thursday nights, before the housecleaner’s regular weekly visit, but she no longer even tries. The table has become another in the increasing number of areas that are off-limits to the housecleaner.

My workroom is also off limits. The carpet has not been swept for years. My desks and table tops are so cluttered with letters, magazines, books, clippings and newspaper sections that I would not dare to let the housecleaner past the door.

It also contains my computer, two printers and my fax machine. From this cell I am able to communicate with almost anyone in the outside world; but if I put a letter down it may be lost for weeks.

There are two television sets in the kitchen. One is a color Sony my wife bought for me to watch while I was riding the exercise bicycle. Because I never rode the bicycle, she put it in the kitchen to watch while she works.

The kitchen also has a small black-and-white set that my wife obtained as a premium when she invested some money in a savings and loan. So far as I know, she has never turned it on.

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One of Erma’s correspondents said she had a microwave and a small refrigerator in her bedroom, so she and her husband could have popcorn, pizza and soft drinks while they were watching TV.

We are depraved, but I can say we have not yet sunk that far.


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