Question about open drawers opens a can of worms

Back on May 8, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar of Annie’s Mailbox published a short question from an frustrated wife:

Dear Annie: My husband has the bad habit of not closing doors — kitchen cabinets, file drawers, closets, etc. Do other women experience this? I try to ignore it, but I worry someone will get hurt. — Help

K & M recommended a training program that echoes what you hear at puppy obedience school, which gives me an odd feeling.  Surely one shouldn’t try to shape a spouse’s behavior the way one would a pet’s.  These techniques are used by dog whisperers and preschool teachers the world over because they work.  On an adult, though…I’m betting on backlash:

Dear Help: If you’re lucky, your husband will smack his head on one of those doors and remember to close it next time. Every person has at least one bad habit. Your husband can be “trained,” but it will take effort. You’ll have to sweetly call him every single time you see an open door and ask him to close it. Repetition and consistency are the keys, and progress won’t happen overnight. While you will be counting on him to shape up, he’ll be counting on you to give up.

Who would have guessed that this letter would strike a chord with so many readers?  Since the original letter on May 8, at least 5 Annie’s Mailbox columns have featured reader responses to this issue.  (While Abby and Amy tend to compile readers’ reactions in a single follow-up column, Marcy and Kathy, I learned tonight, spread theirs out over months.  Months. )

As we might expect, the responses were mostly from frustrated wives, though at least one husband weighed in.  Interestingly….not a single door-leaver-opener wrote in (notably, too, everyone was part of a married couple–no significant others, parents/kids, roommates, or any other arrangement) :

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Help,” whose husband doesn’t close any cabinet doors.

My mother left her cabinet door open and stood up quickly, hitting her head smack into the corner. Nothing happened right away, but a month later, she bent over to pick up a book and felt nauseated and got a severe headache. Thankfully, my father was home and took her to the hospital.

The neurosurgeon said this blunt trauma to her head caused a cerebral hemorrhage that left her left side temporarily paralyzed. If she had been alone, it could have been fatal. Her rehab took more than a year. Thankfully, Mom has made a complete recovery, but should she bump her head in the same spot, she is at risk of dying.

I hope this helps someone else understand the seriousness of not closing cabinet doors. — Laurie B.

Dear Annie: I have a suggestion for “Help” on how to get her husband to close doors and drawers.

My wife had the same problem. After several conversations on the subject, I told her I would remove every door or drawer she left open. When that didn’t help, I took pictures of each open cabinet and then removed all the contents and placed them in the living room along with the picture. That worked. I suggest “Help” empty the drawers or cabinets and put the items on the counter or floor. — Deep South Reader

Dear Deep South: We suspect having cabinet items strewn all over the floor might bother women more than men, but thanks for the extreme suggestion.

Dear Annie: “Help” said her husband never closes cabinet doors and asked if anyone else had this problem. Yes. Big time.

Not only does my husband leave doors open, but he leaves the cap off the toothpaste and the top off the orange juice (so that it flies all over when I shake it), fails to close cheese packages, loaves of bread and cereal boxes, and leaves all the lights on. Last week, he even left the hot water running in the sink. I call this condition “failure to complete.” — Hamden, Conn.

Dear Annie: Like “Help,” I, too, have a husband who refuses to close things. He leaves the house and car doors wide open, and often, I find the refrigerator and freezer doors left ajar. Any bottle or package sits without the top on. Bagged lettuce spills all over the fridge, pills scatter all over the vanity, and more shampoo has fallen down the drain than you can imagine. He also refuses to hang up his clothes. Instead, his shirts are stuffed on shelves, and his pants hang on decorative hooks.

It doesn’t matter if it costs him money, injures him or forces him to clean up spills. My pleas fall on deaf ears, and if I say too much, he accuses me of being overly critical. I am open to all suggestions. — The Closer

Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Help,” whose husband leaves all the cabinets open. I can do her one better. My husband leaves the back door open — even in the winter at night. One time when he was making a new laundry room for me, I counted 13 times that he came and went, and he never once closed the back door. For good measure, he also leaves the dryer and microwave doors open with the interior lights burning.

This is my second marriage, and I keep telling myself that this one is so wonderful in every other way, the least I can do is close all the doors when he’s done building me a new room. — Canada

Yikes–I love Canada’s jolly attitude and broad perspective, but I could never keep it up myself.  This would drive me absolutely batty.  This seems like one of those issues that would never even occur to you–because why would someone not close something they just opened?–until you had to live with someone who did it.  And yet, apparently it’s alarmingly common.

This quirk was even featured in this spring’s Date Night, which I recently watched on a plane ride.  Tina Fey’s character crashes (repeatedly) into drawers left open by her husband, played by Steve Carell.  The bit is even mentioned in this entertaining interview, where Carell admits that the bit is inspired in part by his own life–he and Tina Fey’s husband both apparently don’t close doors or drawers.

We’ve heard from all of “the closers.”  Now, I’d love to hear from folks who do this.  If you leave things open, do you realize you’re doing it at the time?  Is there a rationale for it (like you’ll need to go back in there again soon), or do you just forget?  How do folks who share space with you react?

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30 responses to “Question about open drawers opens a can of worms

  1. My wife says once she has opened the cabinet and retreived the thing she is looking for, her mind has gone on to the next thing and she rarely ever remebers to go back and close it. She will even walk by it and not even realize it is open because she is not paying attention to it.
    She claims to have been this way since childhood and got in trouble for it then as well. You can imagine how hard it is to hide having had cookies when you always leave the cookie door open and the lid off the cookie jar. But she still never learned.
    I boil over every now and then, but once I have calmed down, I resign myself to my fate. For the rest of my life – closing cabinets and drawers.

    • Thanks for sharing! It seems like this is a common problem–oddly enough, “leaves drawers open” is one of the most common Internet searches that leads to this blog

  2. I am a drawer-leaver-opener. I haven’t always been….it seems to have started in the past year or so. I have no idea why I do it and I don’t even realize that I did it until my finacee mentions that I left another drawer open, like he has had to do three times today already.
    It’s mostly drawers, occasionally a cabinet door. Yet I find always find myself closing the pantry door in the kitchen, when I pass by. We both leave that one open.
    I have also noticed that I constantly catch myself straightening pictures on the wall or the placement of an item on a table. What is wrong with me?
    And yes my “leaves drawer open” search, after my fiancee told me I left three drawers open so far today, led me to this site.

  3. My husband does not close drawers, cabinet doors, sets the top on pill bottles and liquids containers and does not bother to turn the tops to attach. He leaves the freezer open by just giving it a half spirited push that does not catch and gets mad at me for mentioning any of this and says I am nagging. Could this be some sort of brain disorder? Could it be the opposite of OCD? Doctors, please weigh in.

  4. My husband leaves any door open around the house, television, refrigerator, freezer, his desktop computer and light bulbs burning. The front door especially since we have a lot of critters that can come in the house like cats, snakes, racoon’s etc. He is trying to convince me that it doesn’t take much electricity if he does this. I come from a humble poor family and my father used to tell me if you see the meter running you are wasting money. Any advice I can do to alleviate this problem would be much appreciated. I have tried to tell him true stories of husbands leaving dishwashers open and the wife goes into the kitchen in the dark, slipped and fell and wound up with a broken leg. It doesn’t seem to work. HELP!

  5. I have to admit Im “one of them”. I dont close kitchen cabinets or drawers, i leave my car doors open… but close everything else.. I have hit my head on the cabinets more then once and brusied my legs dozens of times on the drawers. All i can say in my defense is that I do many things at once, I’m constantly multitasking.. I’m cooking, cleaning, talking to my child and moving from one thing to the next. Before i know it all the cabinets are open and i have just missed knocking myself out on the corner of one of them. I didnt think to much about it until my boyfriend brought it up. I think its just a bad habit and i have to just retrain myself to pay attention to closing them. Is there a psychological reason behind it?

  6. It’s simply thoughtlessness. Not thinking of others, who might have to “clean up” after you. Chances are mommy picked up, cleaned up, and shut drawers/doors for you w/o saying a word.

    Grow up.

  7. Its my wife who never closes anything. Cupboards drawers bottle tops you name it . I’ve told her if she goes first I’m going to leave her ****** grave open

  8. I found this thread late while looking for an answer to why I am personally starting to leave ‘things’ open (such as drawers, microwave oven doors, cabinet doors, etc.) when I’ve never been one to do so before. In fact, I used to drive my deceased husband bonkers because every time I left a room, I’d turn off a light if I didn’t plan to return immediately (I was brought up that way – and no, I didn’t do it while he was still in the room!) He has been gone for almost three years and I just recently began to notice that I back into open dishwasher doors, find that I left the lights on in the bathroom or bedroom, leave the lid off the jar of roasted almonds… things of that nature. I’m otherwise ‘normal,’ even though I am nearly 67 years of age. But I still work, and I even asked my boss (also a friend) if she has noticed me doing similar things at work, and she hasn’t. What is going on? It’s not deliberate. Am I just preoccupied with my thoughts? Has anyone else experienced this?

  9. I’ve lived with two different people who’ve done this and it drives me insane! I’m a constant close things and turn off lights kind of person!! I’m currently living with someone who does this and I’ve gotten hurt several times from it. It makes the house look disheveled!

    The first person was a young girl, between the ages of 8 – 12 years of her life. It seemed she would be doing something and never would ‘complete a thought’ and leave things open. She’s now 15 and a bit better than she used to be.

    The second person was an older woman, who did it no matter how many times you spoke with her about it. She was taking medications for anxiety but, other than that, seemed perfectly normal. I wish I knew how to help her before I had to find somewhere else to live for safety reasons!

  10. i would like to know what could be a psychological reason behind this bcos generally i am a very careful person and close all lids etc properly. lately i feel like leaving doors open and closing them gives me a sense of mundane perhaps…i cant say. would love to know more. i am also going through insane amounts of stress and loneliness in my life.

  11. our cat opens and then leaves the closet door open all the time. we just can’t get her to close it after herself! we’ve resigned ourselves to closing it after her.
    ;)

  12. My Brother does this every time he visits my place, I walk in my house and it looks like the aftermath of an earthquake, everything in the kitchen is wide open. I think this is a mental condition and must have a name for it
    (NUTS) Thank God he live 3000 miles away!

  13. I’m a serial drawer leaver opener, To me I cant say its laziness, I can say that I honestly dont know why I leave them open but do know that if I open a drawer and then DO close it without even noticing something triggers in my head telling me that I shouldn’t have closed it because if i’d to get anything for the drawer again i’d only have to re-open it. If it makes any sense to anyone I do a lot of calculating of things in my head the whole time. Getting things done in life for me always has to be done in as little as moves possible. Opening a drawer once and leaving it open for a few hours in case i’d need something from it again in my head counts as one move, To me opening a drawer and closing it possibly 8 times in a few hours is too many moves.

  14. Counting Cupboards

    My husband is a serial opener. I’m not sure if it has gotten worse or the realization that I will be living with it forever has gotten worse. To deal with constant “openness”, I have started counting how many cupboards/drawers/microwave/fridge/freezer/dishwasher doors he leaves open every time I come into the kitchen. He averages 8 out of a possible 22. (.364 is a pretty amazing batting average considering half the cabinets and drawers contain things he would never use). I try not to get to frustrated but it is nice to know that so many others deal with this too! Interestingly, every time we visit his parents, their bathroom vanity cupboard is also always opened. Apparently my father-in-law has the same problem!

    • Juanita Barnett

      I wrote back in February to say that I’d begun leaving drawers and cabinets open, lights on in the rooms that I’ve left, and tops off of jars… and I’m writing to tell you that it isn’t happening anymore. The only thing that has changed in my life is a change of diet, but I have no idea if that is the cause. It’s plausible that it could be the issue. I had begun the Paleo Diet about eight months before I noticed the new aberration. Because the diet seemed to stop working, I began taking a diet shake supplement that I purchased online and stopped taking the Paleo Diet supplement. I began to have heart palpitations, and, not connecting the supplements with the “fluttering,” I went to a cardiologist. At his recommendation, I stopped taking the supplement and went to see a nutritionist connected with the cardiologist’s office. In this “Lifestyle Management” program, I was instructed to stay below 20 carbs a day and eat primarily protein, fat, and limited veggies (even good veggies have more carbs than you would think). I’ve lost 15 lbs, regained my muscles (and redistributed my weight), and lo and behold, I’m closing doors and turning off lights once again. I personally believe that the higher fat content of my diet has something to do with this. Just a thought.

      • That is very interesting and extremely timely. We just returned from a 10 day vacation where I ate things I never eat anymore….way too much processed and junk food. We started eating much healthier within the past year due to my husband developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We now try to eat only what God made….fruits/veggies and lean meats. What a correlation to make. My husband actually complimented me a couple of months ago because he noticed that I was not leaving drawers and cabinets open anymore…..but yikes, just today, I noticed that I was leaving everything open. I had never considered diet as a possilbe link. I contributed it to stress which has also gotten to be less over the past year but again probably due to better diet and feeling better and getting more done in less time. All I can say is amazing. Tonight will be the first night after the 10 day vacation that I will be eating a healthy meal. I will have to keep an eye out for how I react now.

      • This is very interesting – never thought of diet being a cause – I was searching because I was hunting for ibuprophen for my grandson and picked up the peanut butter and the lid wasn’t screwed on. Cabinet doors, drawers, you name it. His clothes aren’t in drawers and yet every drawer in his dresser is open, his vanity looks like someone dumped a load on it and he calls me a hoarder because I want to keep a few things from my previous historic offices and dishes that belonged to my grandmother. It’s also selfishness, since he considers his Road and Track magazines from the 60’s more important than my grandmother’s depression glass and every space in the house is “his.”

  15. From what I have read it seems my husbands problem of leaving doors and drawers ajar rather than fully closed is because he is stressed. He left 3 doors open in one morning as I got up after him!!! Totally annoying!!
    He has also taken a lot of Ibufrofen as he has had bad headaches.

  16. Juanita Barnett

    Hi, I’m back again… I have a new notion as to why I stopped leaving doors and drawers open. I still believe it is diet related, but I’m beginning to see a direct correlation between my consumption of fish oil and “fuzziness.” If anyone has the problem, it’s worth taking some fish oil supplements for a month or two and see if it doesn’t correct the problem. Personally, I think fat, and especially in the form of fish oil, is key to this mystery…

  17. Halfway through this thread, I could not contain my laughter. It is so familiar that I had to let it out until tears started to come out. I am not one of the closers. I’m afraid I am one of the non-closers. And I am a woman. I never really noticed it, until I moved in with my partner. The first few times he said it, I thought it was just that I forgot. But one day, he went in the kitchen to find all 10 cupboard doors wide open. It was an eye opener for me. I myself could not believe and we both started laughing as we realized that it may be more than me being forgetful and that he would have to close the cupboards for the rest of his life. He would try to always tell me sweetly to close the cupboard but I never seem to learn. Personally, I don’t really realize that I was not closing them whenever I left them open. I do not have a clue as to how to change my behavior.

  18. It was reassuring to hear of other people having to live with this behaviour. I find it leaves me with no confidence as far as security of our homel,never locks up or puts things in their place , like the idea about diet , could it be a form of ADD?

  19. My fiancé does the same thing – leaves his drawers & cabinets open. After meeting his mom, I realized its because she would close things for him. I am not doing that! He’s a grown man & can follow through.

    Thanks “counting cupboards” since I used your advice. Tonight we were watching a movie & I looked around. He asked “what are you looking for?” I replied “you don’t see it?” He said “see what?” I answered “6 doors are opened.” He looked around & got up. My fiancé closed the 6 cabinet doors plus the bathroom door he left opened!

  20. I am 20 years old and I live with my parents. I’m a girl and I leave everything open. All drawers and doors and cabinets, in my room, the bathroom, and kitchen. My worst habit if leaving the refrigerator open. Thankfully it usually drifts close on its own. Idk why I do this. I don’t even think about it. Even when I try to focus on closing things behind me I don’t. This is an annoying habit for my family and they don’t understand how subconscious it is. I have no explanation. I think it is a deep rooted form of psychology, for me it has nothing to do with laziness or carelessness. It must have something to do with how my brain processes or an inner efficiency standard. Idk. If anyone has answers please help!! – Mickey.

  21. I am a woman, and have had this problem for decades. In reading the comments, I am the opposite of lazy, and never had my mother picking up after me as a child. I have hurt myself too, yes. . I would love to know the psychological reason for this. I occassionally do not close tops of things enough, but make a concerted effort to do so..as I’ve had disasters from that. I just left the kitchen and looked back and had 11 doors open and looks like an insane person lives here. Sigh. I am a multi tasker and my mind is going going going but I believe it must mean something….. I read someone comment that when they changed their diet ..it helped. I don’t think it is actually diet related, …think it is more that they ‘got in control’ I notice that when I am out of control with eating or binging as I’ve been known to do .. (pretty much corrected now) that many other things in my life were in disarray also, and then when I got all that handled, I had much more structure everywhere.

  22. I believe it’s a passive-aggressive behavior.

    • If it is passive-aggressive behavior, why did I experience doing this as an older single woman living alone, and then when I improved my way of eating (cutting out sugars, high carbs, etc. and added more natural protein), the behavior disappeared? Sorry, I don’t buy that particular theory in my own case!

  23. When we choose to address food and behavior issues it causes us to become more mindful of the present moment. This allows a person to adjust their thinking and employ thoughtful judgment as to what is the next right thing to do.

  24. Daniel Serjanivic

    I do not live with the person whose behavior has lead me to this forum more than once, though this is the first time I am taking time to comment. It is sad for me because I desperately want to help this person. I spend LOTS of time with them, and it is almost as though I did live with them. This person is my best friend, and yet I fear is also my greatest enemy. No one has left a comment pointing toward a most sinister nature that this behavior heralds. I have known this person for a very long time, and we have been such good friends. My philosophy of life is good natured and believing that people have the best intentions. Digging at this issue, however, and noting other hallmarks, I am afraid that this person I call my friend is really a pathological narcissist. The actions of leaving doors and drawers open are so minor. It’s not my style, and I get it. The world for some people is backwards and upwards or whatever you want to say. However, there is a stubborn resistance to either acknowledgement let alone change, for when I have attempted addressing this “problem”, I have been met with bitterness and hostility. There is no acknowledgement of the “wrongness” in leaving both the refrigerator and freezer doors open, soda bottle on the counter, chips all but eaten save a few crumbs and the bag left on the counter, or the careless littering that occurs literally almost everywhere (with my personal favorite being the “it almost made it into the trashcan, but not quite”). Common excuses that don’t attempt to completely evade my opinion/comment/inquiry relate something to the effect that they weren’t finished with that yet or that I hadn’t given them the chance to “complete” what they were doing. This is complete bullshhh. It angers me and frustrates me, because this person is supposed to be my friend, yer they are totally helpless when it comes to making it through one minute of one day, let alone the whole day. I hear wanton complaints about how they wish things were different while simultaneously blaming others in a paranoid fashion for all the struggles they percieve. They glorify themselves from one moment to the next, spicing the air with comments about how wonderful they and their life are, only to be followed by hypocritical pleadings for help/advice/opinion. They don’t want help. The bottom line is that they just want you to do it for them. As for advice or opinion, anything I say or suggest is met with skepticism or outright denial. This is a way to both degrade me and avoid the truth/solution. I’m just an idiot who must lack common sense. If this is happening to you, get away. I did. Then I got sucked back in again. I have had to end this vampiric relationship more than a few times, cutting contact completely for extended periods of time. I have accepted their apology after sufficiently regrounding and healing. I just have to constantly remind myself of the potential for this behavior/dynamic whenever I engage this person. The worst part is that I do believe in the goodness of others and this nature of my best friend is the darkest thing I have seen or experienced. Deep down, and they CANNOT admit or understand this as it would shatter their glamorous grandeur mentality, and deep down I get this feeling that the care for others so infrequently expressed in haphazard and unthoughtful blurts is like the insincere apostrophes longing for something to be better or different in their life to ease their struggles or sufferings. They don’t care, about you or making the effort required to bring about the claimed change desired. They only care about themselves. They see themselves as being above such mundane things as shutting drawers or the banalty of conidering how their actions or words might affect others. They don’t have to do those things; that’s what their slaves are for. Masters of manipulation and projection, it is difficult to see through the web of marionette strings enveloping you. Again, this isn’t about leaving drawers/doors open, but then again it is. So, please, I share this story in the hope that if the ship you’re on has been crashing repeatedly into this iceberg, open your eyes and remove yourself from the situation. Most of the comments were from couples/spouses, and I am glad to see an amicable frustration and resolve to endure/change. Just take a second to check and see if there are any similarities between my experience and your own as a sort of lithmus test for danger zones to avoid at all costs.

  25. I’m a cronic non-closer and a female. The “closer” in my life is my husband, but he’s in sales so you’d expect that (ha!). I have learned to put the cap back on toothpaste (mostly bc its a snap lid now) but I never completely screw tops on, close other lids, I leave drawers and closet doors open (and I tend not to close exterior doors all the way sometimes) I’m getting better at turning off lights (bc my husband has pestered me for 20 yrs, but he’s pestered me about all of this, soooooo…….). I think the woman that said “failure to complete” is the most accurate. My husband says I’m “not In the moment”. He’s right. I’m always thinking about something else, so I forget to complete the first task/step before moving to the next. I suspect I can’t meditate for the same darn reason.

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