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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband Is Overwhelmed by House Full of Clutter

DEAR ABBY: I'm 72 and my wife is 74. She has almost entirely quit doing any housework. She will grudgingly cook a meal now and then. I do the laundry, scrub floors and help with the dishes, but I'm not a homemaker. Her back is very bad but she won't have it looked at. She just complains all the time and says she can't do anything.

I wanted to hire some cleaning people to come in and help, but she won't have that.

We have so many clothes the closets are jammed. Nothing ever gets thrown out, so everything gets piled on the furniture or the floor.

The kitchen cupboards are jammed full because when she wants some canned food, instead of using what we have, it's easier to run out and buy some more. The countertops are loaded with cans and packages of food. She would rather eat out, which we do three or four times a week.

Abby, there isn't a surface in the house that doesn't have stuff piled up on it. To wrap a Christmas package, she had to lay it on the kitchen stove. I have suggested moving to an apartment where there isn't so much work to do, but she won't accept that, either.

Are there any solutions to my dilemma? -- DISTRAUGHT HUSBAND, PITTSBURGH

DEAR DISTRAUGHT: Yes, however they won't be easy. Your family doctor should be informed about your wife's behavior -- and any recent changes you have noticed. She may need a thorough physical and possibly neurological examination. She may be buying the large quantities of food in your kitchen not because it's "easier to run to the store," but because she has forgotten that she already has it.

From your description, your home may have become a fire or health hazard. If your wife is unwilling or unable to discard items you no longer use or need, an inspection by the local fire (or health) department should be scheduled to be certain that the clutter hasn't become a danger to both of you.

Please don't wait. Your wife needs help, and it's time you took charge. It may not be pleasant, but it's necessary for her sake and yours.

DEAR ABBY: Our priest (and friend) told us about the oppression of women in Afghanistan. We were so happy to see your column about their plight, and also the telephone number we could call to become a part of the protest against the rigid restrictions on these women.

Abby, your article must have been a great success. I started calling that number at 7 a.m. on the day that column appeared in our paper, and was not able to get through until 3 p.m.

My concern is that others may have become discouraged and given up trying. Please print the phone number again. -- DOROTHY BOHN, REDMOND, ORE.

DEAR DOROTHY: I have received a bushel of letters from readers who also had problems getting through to the telephone number I published. It seems the Feminist Majority was unprepared for the onslaught of calls that came pouring in -- and although they were able to handle more than 7,000, they estimate they "lost" at least that number. So, Readers, if you were unable to get through, please keep trying. The number to call is 1-888-939-6636.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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