As a new survey finds men have just three drawers for their possessions, husband and wife Nick Harding and Stephanie Davies offer their views.
British men are being squeezed out of their homes by wives and partners who take up 65 per cent of the storage space in properties, according to a new survey. Of the 2000 couples quizzed, the average British male cohabiter was found to be in possession of just three drawers for their worldly goods, while 14 per cent only have one. More than a quarter of men incite ire if they leave their belongings in sight - 77 per cent of respondents said they had rowed about storage space - and one in 10 have had their things thrown away, the results of the study conducted by Anglian Homes found.
Consequently, 18 per cent have resorted to keeping their things in the shed.
Nick Harding, 49, and his company director wife Stephanie Davies, 40, report from the front line of the gender storage war...His messMy "man drawer" is my last bastion, a citadel against my wife's territorial claims. It lives in my bedside cabinet, but my bedside cabinet no longer lives beside my bed. It was consigned to the guest room. So now, if in the night I need a multi-tool, a selfie-stick, an old mobile phone from 2002 or some ski googles, I must go downstairs to get them. The items in the man drawer are under constant threat because, according to Stephanie, they are "tat".
It is because of this constant, low-level threat that I have now taken to hoarding items in the office - my last safe space. The broken remote-controlled mini-helicopter that I will one day fix is stashed in a secret drawer, as is the soldering iron that I bought from eBay to fix said helicopter with. My collection of Buddha statuettes from around the world is on the filing cabinet, guarding a drawer underneath full of power leads, old laptops, dial-up modems, pre-DAB radios and other archaic technology that we will need one day if Project Fear's predictions of societal meltdown do indeed come true as a result of a no-deal Brexit.
Meanwhile, in the rest of the house, wardrobes creak under the strain of Stephanie's shoes, bags, tops, dresses and, until recently, items of feathered clubwear from the mid-Nineties that were kept, presumably, just in case, after a break of two decades, she ever fancied another night out at the Ministry of Sound.
I understand the clothes. And the shoes. And the need to stockpile scarves, just in case all the sweatshops in the Far East close and there's a global shortage. What I can't understand is the volume of towels and bedding that we apparently need. They take up one large chest of drawers and most of a large wardrobe unit. Even more confusing is the strict protocols under which they are deployed, which also cover the crockery. As far as I can ascertain, there are three levels, and each level depends on who is using them. There are everyday towels, bedding and crockery, then a guest level and finally the mystical level three, or Defcon 1 as I call it, which is, as far as I can gather, reserved for visiting heads of state and minor deities. I take great pleasure in telling guests what level they have achieved, much to Stephanie's annoyance.
It doesn't surprise me in the least that men are under constant encroachment. When I told Stephanie about the results of the latest survey she scoffed and said it was rubbish. At the time, she was unpacking a new lamp that she'd bought to replace the perfectly good one in the lounge. The irony hung in the air, like the recently purchased voile curtains that we don't need either.
There's no such thing as a "man drawer". It's a drawer full of stuff Nick insists on keeping, but which neither of us needs. Yes, I encourage him to throw things out, but it's for his own good and my sanity. If the house, its contents and its decor were left to him, we would be living in a home that wouldn't look out of place in an episode of Britain's Biggest Hoarders.
Nick struggles to break bonds with his possessions. He has just as many clothes as I do and hangs on to shirts that are busting at the seams, in the hope that one day he'll be able to get back into them. He still wears one that he bought when we went on our first holiday together almost 10 years ago. I don't like to tell him that fashions have changed since then. A while back, when he decided we needed a clothing cull, he insisted on the rule that if it hadn't been worn in a year it had to go. It was only when I pointed out that he was clinging on to several items of gym wear that were older than most of the players in the England Under-21 football squad that he capitulated.
I often encourage him to have a clear-out because it's healthy to declutter, but he never does. It took him over a year to get around to sortng out the shed, and he doggedly clings on to the ludicrously huge activity centre he bought our cat, which takes up a whole corner of the room and which the cat never uses.
Consequently, I often need to take matters into my own hands, using my own judgment as to what needs to go and what needs to stay. Nick's input would only be obstructive. This can sometimes be tricky, particularly when we happen past one of the local charity shops into which I've offloaded several bags of his tat. On occasion, as I've hurried him past, he has glanced in the window and proclaimed: "I've got one of those." Not anymore.
He has a drawer in his office that he hasn't even noticed I've been gradually clearing out over the past year. Every time I remove a few items it seems to magically fill with more useless stuff. How many sets of headphones does one person need anyway?
The professional view: "Having an organised home can be learned"
Gill Ritchie, who runs Declutter Dahling, and is a member of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers, says: "In some couples, both may be messy; in others, one is tidy and the other less so. It very much depends on their dynamic."
"There are no general gender divisions, men and women can be tidy or messy. But if there are issues about possessions, tidiness, clutter and space, it is important to speak to each other about them and to listen," she explains.
"Generally, people get into disorganisation because there has not been a system of organisation in place. Being organised and having an organised home is a skill that can be learned.
"Decluttering can involve an emotional element, so it helps to have a professional third party involved who can rationalise issues for clients. If, for example, a couple are trying to free up space in their home and one person has 20 pairs of jeans, I will ask: how often do you wear each pair; how often do you do your laundry; do any pairs hold sentimental value? This helps people to identify a way forward and look at the issue objectively."
Storage by numbers
The percentage of those "fed up" by how much stuff their other half has
The percentage of women who have "nearly left" their partner due to their mess
1 in 5
The number of women who have secretly thrown out their partner's things
The number of drawers the average man is allowed to have in the home