My husband can’t throw anything away. I realize this could be viewed as a good thing (I guess he’ll keep me around, too), but sometimes his closet and bathroom drawers look like an episode of “Hoarders.”
Dustin’s favorite item to hoard is... (drumroll) ... shoes. Not just any shoes, and certainly not designer or stylish shoes, but shoes for mowing the lawn. Note: I have never seen my husband wear more than one pair of shoes to mow the lawn.
Let’s back up, though, and talk about how Dustin buys a new pair of shoes, because that’s important. It is a long, tedious process that involves visiting multiple stores, from high-end to low-end, trying on a variety of sizes and widths, and ultimately returning to the lowest of low-end stores and buying something super cheap.
Our mid-shop discussion goes something like this:
Me: What will the next store have that the first three stores did not?
Dustin: A pair that fits my feet, hopefully.
Me: The five you tried on back there didn’t fit?
Dustin: I have really wide feet.
Me: What exactly are you looking for?
Dustin: Comfort, quality, a good fit, durability.
Me (as we pull into super-cheap shoe store): If your feet hurt so much, maybe we should invest in good shoes that will last.
Dustin: We don’t have money for that.
We leave the super cheap store with shoes that are tied together and seem like they will crack they are so stiff. I can’t get back those hours I spent shoe-shopping.
When we get home, we have the same argument: I want to throw away his old shoes to make room for the new ones, but Dustin thinks that is a waste.
“I can’t let you throw out a perfectly good pair of shoes,” he says.
“If these are so good, why did you get new ones?”
“Because those hurt my feet.”
“So why didn’t we invest in good shoes this time?”
“Well, I need shoes for mowing the lawn, so put the old ones in the basement, at least.”
In our basement, there are no fewer than 10 pairs of shoes saved for mowing the lawn. This is how hoarding begins. Today it’s the shoes; tomorrow it’s the half-eaten can of tuna.
When Dustin was on deployment last year, I threw out every pair of “lawn-mowing” shoes I could find in the basement. I took a whole sack to the Goodwill and never felt a moment of remorse — until last week. Dustin wanted to work in the yard. He needed shoes. He also wanted to wear flip flops to the lake, and as it turns out, I threw away all of those, too.
Luckily, Dustin had another hidden stash in the garage. In a back corner, behind old sleds and lawn mower parts, there is a “Hoarders”-worthy pile of golf shoes, water shoes and grass-stained shoes.
As an intervention, I made Dustin watch an episode of “Hoarders” that night. He fell asleep just before the woman hoarding cats opened her freezer and revealed a gruesome secret: she keeps the dead ones in there.
This made me wonder where else I might find old shoes. Because the crazy thing is, my husband has approximately five shirts, three pairs of jeans and one pair of shoes (that he wears). He is a very simple man and has no fashion sense at all. So why does he need piles of old sneakers?
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the very next day, Dustin woke up and said he needed to get a new pair of shoes. The soles of his old ones were falling apart and flapping under the toe, just like every other pair of old shoes he’s had.
“I need something that fits better and feels more comfortable,” he said. “I don’t think I got the right size for these.”
So I followed him around department stores and athletic stores, and, yes, the same super cheap store where he bought the last pair. I thought I was losing my mind. I reminded him of the dead cats in the woman’s freezer that he didn’t see.
Dustin just laughed. He’s not putting shoes in the freezer. Geez.
Finally, though, I talked him into investing in a really good pair of shoes. I took him to the kind of store where they measure your feet and help you make a selection. Dustin felt good about his selection.
When we got home, I told him that I was proud of him. He now owned a pair of shoes that would last. And, I’d throw out the old ones with next week’s trash.
Dustin stared at me with big, round eyes.
“No, I’ll need those for mowing the lawn,” he said.
Sarah Smiley is a Navy spouse and author of “Shore Leave,” a nationally syndicated column.