Letting go
June 14, 2006 12:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I get my husband to let go of old boxers and socks?

My beloved husband refuses to part with his old, ripped up boxer shorts and socks.

The other day while folding laundry, I discover a pair of his boxers with a hole in the back so big I could fit my head through it. Seriously. I assumed that since there was no fabric left to cover his bum, the boxer were useless and threw them away. My husband then proceeded to fish the boxers out of the trash because they were still “wearable.”

I buy him new boxers and socks regularly to replace the old ones but he refuses to let them go. Every time I try to throw out the old clothes, he digs them out the garbage!

Why does my husband insist on keeping these old articles of clothing? Is there anyway I help him move on or should I accept this as a loveable quirk?
posted by chicken nuglet to Human Relations (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My question would be, why do you insist on throwing out your husband's clothing?
posted by Jairus at 12:24 PM on June 14, 2006

"Why does my husband insist on keeping these old articles of clothing? Is there anyway I help him move on or should I accept this as a loveable quirk?"

I would suggest you ask him these exact questions. Open, honest communcation is always good.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:28 PM on June 14, 2006

My question would be, why are you doing such a bad job of throwing them away?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:28 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Fire hazard. :-)

Seriously, I’m not trying to get rid of his favorite concert t-shirts or anything. . .just boxers and socks that can longer function as boxers and socks. We have limited space in our apartment and I’m trying to maximize it.
posted by chicken nuglet at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2006

Is he really wearing the torn, ratty undies & socks, or is he just saying that so you won't throw them out?

My fiance is a pack rat, and he hangs on to completely unwearable things for years. He doesn't actually wear them though and has actually bitched at me because his sock/underwear drawer won't close because it's stuffed with old and new and newer stuff.

My trick is when putting laundry away to move the unwearable items to a new location (a box in a closet, an unused drawer, etc), and leave them there for 6 months to a year. Then, when he hasn't looked for them in that time, you can safely assume he's moved on, and throw them out.

I've done things like this because I've lived with packrats my whole life. You can't tell them you're throwing things out, it will only make them crazy. You have to let them forget about the things, and then throw them out.

If he's still actually wearing bumless undies though, your husband's problem is too advanced for me to help with. Good luck!
posted by tastybrains at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2006

We have limited space in our apartment and I’m trying to maximize it.

Then I suggest you take that approach with him (we need more space) rather than the one you're taking (your old stuff needs to be replaced so here's some new stuff).

Or, he might just enjoy the throwing-out-retrieving-underwear game.
posted by Jairus at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2006

He's a cheapskate. Pitch them all on trash day, replacing them with new in his drawer. Explain that the old undies weren't sexy enough for a big strong virile hunk like him. Then show him how sexy you find him in his new skivvies.
posted by LarryC at 12:35 PM on June 14, 2006

they sound fairly worn out - rip them in half - then they'll not be wearable in the least.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2006

Or you can destroy the offending garments, remove the fragments from the premises, and then, wide-eyed, say, "I don't know, darling. I suppose they all entered the Kenmore Dimension."
posted by La Cieca at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2006

I like Tastybrains' idea. I too have a packrat in my life.
posted by k8t at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2006

Men keep things for sentimental reasons, even if they won't (often) admit it. I don't think this counts for socks so much, but I have gotten pretty attached to pairs of boxers in the past, along with tshirts, short- and long-sleeved button-downs, and other garments. Perhap the ripped boxers that you're trying to toss are an old pair of "lucky drawers." Since they are often woefully old (or from an age when skinny dudes happily wore XL tshirts -- what were we thinking?!), I've decided to get rid of the items themselves, but still keep it around in spirit:

I'm keeping small (8 inch or so) scraps of the cloth. I plan to eventually figure out how to sew, or to talk my wife or mother-in-law into making me a "manquilt" out of the scraps. But even if I never get around to this, I've still turned a huge mess of clothes into a small bag of scraps. So that's progress, at least. And besides, who could resist snuggling up to a blanket made of 15 year-old boxer shorts and zany-tshirts?!
posted by zpousman at 12:52 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

zpousman - That's a really cool idea, unfortunately, my fiance's reason for hanging on to mountains of useless stuff is more of a panicked "WHAT IF I NEED THAT SOMEDAY!" type of mentality. He even freaked out when, after receiving a couple of sets of nice looking coasters as a gift, I was about to toss the drink-stained, ugly, cheapo cork coasters (that were technically mine anyway). I think some people are fearful of being wasteful and getting rid of useless things, and in the long run, it just drags you down to hang on to trash and live in a cluttered, messy environment.

But, manquilt, I love that! What a great way to turn useless stuff into something wonderful.
posted by tastybrains at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2006

What Jairus said.

I simply don't believe they are "taking up room" in any way you can notice.
posted by mzurer at 1:01 PM on June 14, 2006

zpousman: The manquilt is definitely one of the most awesome ideas I have ever heard.

As to your husband's problem, if he's still actually wearing the clothes accidentally rip them off of him during a flurry of passion. The activities subsequent to your "mistake" will result in quick forgiveness.
posted by schroedinger at 1:05 PM on June 14, 2006

You're ignoring the fact that he obviously wants them, for some reason. Sometimes, you don't wanna go naked, but you don't want a full pair of underwear. Sometimes, you just want a rag that you can hang around your waist. I don't know why, but you do. That's what he's thinking of.

My mom used to hate having hot coffee. She would make coffee and then leave it on the counter to cool for a while, in a mug, until it was the temperature she wanted. Invariabily, my father would come along with his keen eye for slightly cooled coffee and pour it into the sink. Hilarity ensued. This is that, writ boxers.
posted by jon_kill at 1:09 PM on June 14, 2006 [3 favorites]

I've been using the zpousman method for a while with old shirts and stuff, and I love it. Saves me so much room b/c I loathe tossing clothes that have sentimental value. Mine won't technically be a "manquilt" but I'm gonna call it that anyway. :)
posted by tristeza at 1:12 PM on June 14, 2006

I have a pair of "lucky boxers" that predate my marriage. . .they are very torn up but no way will I get rid of them.

I also have a pair of sweatpants older than that, which I wore for part of a night spent with someone. I have not washed them and I still believe that this other person's dna or at least essence are on them.

Both of these garments are unwearable but would not be able to get rid of them without distress.

I'd probably get over it though.
posted by Danf at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2006

When your mother throws out your favourite tshirt because its holey and two sizes too small, it's a traumatic experience. Exercising autonomy over your own clothes is one of the first and most basic things we achieve. You're acting like his mother, and his inner seven year old is responding. This is why rational argument is useless. It is not a rational phenomenon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Did you ever consider that they're just more comfortable than new ones? I've got a drawer full of new boxers, worn once, because they're just not as good as the old ones. The old ones are in fairly good shape right now, but even if they were holey and threadbare, I'd still wear them. I'll buy new boxers for holidays, occasionally, but if they're not super-comfy, they go to the bottom of the drawer, to be worn only in case of emergency.

I really don't see why you'd want to throw out his old boxers. If he keeps wearing them, and they make him happy, who is it hurting? Nobody sees them but you!
posted by uncleozzy at 1:22 PM on June 14, 2006

I don't think any of you defensive guys have noted that he doesn't seem to wear these boxers and that it's not a pair of worn out boxers, but it sounds like it's more of a drawerful. And when you haven't got much drawer space, six or so generations of worn out unused undergarments does, in fact, take up a lot of room, and can easily render a dresser drawer un-closeable.

Also, if Mr. Nuglet is anything like Mr. Tastybrains, he's not wearing the old worn out stuff. He just keeps it and wears the new ones.

Mrs. Nuglet - if you do feel that Mr. Nuglet is going to be emotionally scarred, I would just refuse to do his laundry anymore so you don't have to look at or go near the old ripped undies.
posted by tastybrains at 1:36 PM on June 14, 2006

Usually in my house we make a deal "I will toss out those baggy cotton undies that you hate. In exchange, you will get rid of those boxer shorts with no ass." or something like that.
posted by jessamyn at 1:43 PM on June 14, 2006

I must say I'm amused about the tone of your post: it sounds as if you're talking about your dog.

Just read it again....

I'd get furious about meddling manipulative approaches like hiding my stuff and hoping that I would not notice and throwing them away. Maybe that's just me; you should know him well enough.

For your consideration: don't treat your husband like a dog; talk to him, use arguments.
posted by jouke at 1:52 PM on June 14, 2006

Yeah, I'd get super pissed off if my wife or girlfriend tried to throw away my old crap.
posted by delmoi at 1:56 PM on June 14, 2006

It's underwear and socks. That are never worn, and hold no sentimental value. They are ones that we bought together at Target that have holes in the crotch or are several sizes too small.

Throwing out useless underwear from a drawer that I'm expected to maintain is part of the laundry & housekeeping process. If it bothered him, he'd have mentioned the moved items or looked for them within a year, and he could take them out of the closet at any time during that year.

Some people just refuse to take part in throwing things away. To deal with a packrat, you sometimes need to work around the obsession with keeping EVERYTHING.
posted by tastybrains at 2:08 PM on June 14, 2006

1. launder them
2. cut off the waistband, cut out the fly, cut them in half, cut socks in half, stick them in a box in the basement, now they are rags. Rags are useful.
3. if he bitches about him tell him he can do all the laundry or he can get the laundry done your way. If something was of sentimental value he can dig up those scraps and start his manquilt box.
posted by nanojath at 2:14 PM on June 14, 2006

tastybrains has got it right. There's no reason to keep socks with the heel worn straight through or underwear that looks like it went through an acid wash.

He protested and protested even though I kept buying new ones. After a few months of wearing the new underwear and socks... I did the same thing, stored them away as I did the laundry...after a month, I tossed the old pairs.
posted by AmericnJewl at 2:27 PM on June 14, 2006

along the lines of Jessamyn's answer, my parents have a method that may or may not be what's kept them together for a couple of decades.
Each person picks four or so of the other person's items that they despise and want to throw out. But the key to this is that each person also gets one (and only one) "save." In the end six things get thrown out while both people still feel like they're retained some amount of control over the decision.

This is probably more of a compromise than you're interested in making to simply get rid of your husband's ratty underwear, but it can show that you're willing to meet him halfway on the space issue, and it's probably a better solution than a stalemate that ends in unclosed drawers and low-level but persistent annoyance. Good luck.
posted by Hadroed at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2006

Do not throw out things that belong to other people.

Chicken nuglet wouldn't stand for her husband throwing away any item of hers, would she?

I'm a wife, and my husband also has holey clothing. Move on to something more important.
posted by Joleta at 2:38 PM on June 14, 2006

I used to have the same problem with my kids.

What I did what tastybrains said plus I made the hole bigger and bigger every time I washed them.
posted by teapot at 2:40 PM on June 14, 2006

I'm with the folks who are anti-manipulation of the situation. I hear people talk about how they trick their spouses into doing things, and I just always bristle at it. On the other hand, I'm not married to a packrat. Maybe all my ethics would go right out the window in that case.

Hey, it may be completely stupid for him to be hanging on to these useless items. I guess I'm the kind of romantic fool who wants to be loved in spite of my stupidity, so I'd want my spouse to at least be upfront about it. If you are finding them in the laundry, he obviously is still wearing them. Maybe he's cheap, maybe he's sentimental, maybe he's a packrat. None of these things are necessarily bad.

Maybe your husband can be swayed by you talking to him about it. Tell him that it bothers you because: they're tacky, they're gross, he deserves better, they take up space--whatever. But let him be the one responsible to take care of it. If he won't budge to make his main squeeze happier, I'd try some of those negotiation tactics mentioned above.

Or, of course, show him this thread. Good luck.
posted by claytonius maximus at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2006

I'm a bit of a packrat myself. I hate this tendency but I can't seem to get rid of it. (hmmm...) Anyway, I can work around it by not throwing things out directly, but by offloading them creatively. Donate, recycle, etc. Maybe Mr Nuglet is like me - can't throw stuff out, but would be OK with a less drastic removal.

Obviously you can't donate blown-out underwear anyplace, so my approach is to take it travelling. Wear one last time, then discard. (I do this for all clothing I need to ditch, not just undies.) This way, I gradually make room in my luggage for souvenirs, or at least my suitcase gets lighter as the trip progresses. If I'm travelling in a 3rd World country, I tell myself that somebody might be able to salvage my old clothes (or maybe they'll feed it to their goats, or something!)
posted by Quietgal at 6:20 PM on June 14, 2006

Why are you doing his laundry? Why doesn't he do his own?
posted by cajo at 7:26 PM on June 14, 2006

cajo: maybe because when you're living together it's far more efficient to do laundry all together, so things get clean faster, or so you can sort clothing more logically by color and fabric type, rather than making meaningless distinctions that result in more hassle for everyone involved?
posted by dagnyscott at 7:46 PM on June 14, 2006

It may be more efficient for some households (not mine) but if his underwear is bothering her enough, I question why it's even worth it to do. My husband and I have always done our own laundry, in part because he has fewer clothes than I do and I don't require and in part because I like fabric softener sheets and he doesn't. I can't imagine him doing my laundry and then questioning why I have what I do, or vice versa. It just seems like it won't bother her as much (or frankly, him as much too) if she doesn't do his laundry anymore.
posted by cajo at 8:25 PM on June 14, 2006

i was going to tell you to clean the toilet with them, but ...

i realized that i've hung on to ratty old undies way past their expiration date ... earlier this week, i cleaned the bathroom floor with them, so now they're in the trash at last

it must be a man thing ... i still haven't thrown away all the socks that have holes in them ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:47 PM on June 14, 2006

I'm guilty of holding on to a few shirts for sentimental reasons, but this is ridiculous. I have grandparents who are the same way -- they're still wearing the same pants they did 20 years ago, despite the fact there are paint stains and holes in them. Buying them new clothing as a gift doesn't work since they use those as "nice" clothes for going out or visiting people, no matter how large of a supply they're given.

You're his wife. I'd assume, maybe incorrectly, that you go shopping for clothes with him. I'd inform him that you don't find it acceptable that he's wearing boxers with a giant hole and schedule a shopping day to replace them.
posted by mikeh at 8:56 AM on June 15, 2006

This makes me wonder if Mr Nuglet isn't just an undergarment packrat but instead a packrat about everything. If this is the case, then there's probably no point in trying to get the socks/shorts thing 'fixed' until the bigger issue is handled. There are a ton of resources on the net for clutterers who are fixated on the value of items that are actually useless.

This is AskMe, so of course what you should probably do is either get him therapy, get him meds, or just leave him.

FWIW: My wife is a hardcore clutterer but only in extremely focused ways... namely craft stuff and decorative items. My mom is a big-time "stuff in storage" clutterer. My solution was to allow them to be the way they are, but to become an intensely accomplished organizer.

You could buy a bunch of new underwear and socks. Then roll up the old ones into very tight, small rolls and fasten them individually with rubber bands. Bury them at the bottom of such a huge pile of brand new and nice stuff that he'd have to change socks twice a day for a month before he even saw the old stuff, and then it'd be such a hassle to get at them that he'd look for the newer ones.
posted by BruceL at 12:24 PM on June 15, 2006

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