The Closet

The Closet

I’m the type of person that throws things out or, when possible, donates things I no longer have a use for. I’m the very antithesis of a hoarder. In fact, I hate clutter so much that I probably throw things away with too much vigor. I was raised by parents who were both excessively neat and organized and therefore, I blame them for my lifetime obsession with order.

Having young kids made it challenging to maintain a sense of order in my house, but it didn’t take long to establish a system that worked for me as far as toys, laundry and crumbs were concerned. My abuser’s hoarding skills, on the other hand, were a challenge that I was never able to conquer. If I tried to clear out his old high-school era clothes, he’d rage at me to leave his “shit” alone. If I tidied up around him, he’d scream, maybe throw things and ridicule me about my habits. Nevertheless, I did what I could to keep my home tidy which usually meant doing my housework when he wasn’t around.

One Saturday morning, while my abuser was at work, I opened a large bedroom closet in the old house we were renting. I was sick of searching through this black hole of chaos to find a skirt or a pair of shoes for work. It was such a waste of my valuable time to have to dig through the neverending pile of clutter to reach what I needed on a busy weekday morning.

And so I decided to spend the day organizing that closet. I didn’t dare toss out a ripped t-shirt or concert ticket stub for fear that my abuser would find out and punish me. But I sorted, folded, stored and hung the heap of clothes, shoes, longjohns, boxes of photos, weights, and miscellaneous junk that had been expanding and gathering dust. I spent hours organizing that mess, and it was satisfying to peer inside my closet, discover the floor again and feel the stress melt away.

When my abuser came home from work, I was still in the upstairs bedroom applying the finishing touches to my closet organizing masterpiece. I was excited to show him what I’d accomplished and to declare that I hadn’t thrown out a single precious item. As he entered the bedroom, I smiled and said, “Look what I did today!”

In an instant, he was on me. He grabbed me hard, yanked me away from the closet and pushed me onto the bed. Then he turned and started ripping all of the clothes I had hung from their hangers. He threw everything back onto the floor of the closet as he railed at me, “This is MY fucking stuff! I knew where all of my stuff was and YOU RUINED IT! I told you not to touch my fucking things!!” I jumped up and yelled at him to stop. Again, he shoved me towards the bed and turned back to the closet. He tore every item off each and every shelf and hanger, including all my belongings.

I could hear my kids crying in the other room, so I left my abuser as he continued to wreak havoc in my bedroom. I brought my kids to the kitchen, gave them a snack and went into the bathroom to cry. This time, I was lucky. This time, he didn’t break down the door to get to me and I was able to scream in silence.

Love is not supposed to hurt.

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