My house is fat. I still love it as I did when my husband and I bought it with dreams of a future in which the house was to be slender and beautiful.

But I have to say, the physical attraction is waning.

Once upon a time we lived in a tiny 1930s house, the kind where you could grab the toothbrush off the sink and get your shower running while sitting on the toilet. Not that I’ve done that. Back then, Dave and I vowed not to let our house turn into the cluttered mess we knew most American houses become. No exploding closets, no cars in the driveway because the garage is filled with Christmas decorations, no favorite clothes kept around just in case they come back into style.

Use it or lose it was the motto. And for a while, it worked.

Then we moved into a bigger house. Not a McMansion by any stretch of the imagination — we live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a cardboard box costs $400,000 — but a decent, three-bedroom home with closets, cupboards, and a two-car garage. We needed to buy a few things to fill it out. And then, in replacing some of the old drab stuff, we bought new items and put the old ones — an old couch, chair, and tables — in the garage. Temporarily, of course.

And then we had a baby. Suddenly, there was no time to sift through our belongings and take trips to Goodwill. As baby products consumed every room, we shoved mattresses, cookbooks, and our daughter’s impressive wardrobe into every nook and cranny. And that old couch in the garage? You never know if a sibling or friend might need furniture. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
As the house’s waistline grows, I know we should watch our intake, but I can’t seem to help myself.

I like stuff. I want stuff. Stuff makes me feel good.

I rarely walk into a baby store without buying an outfit for Sarah, even though her grandparents do a marvelous job of keeping her in high style. She has 18,000 toys, all of which she eats. We, the adults, have a mammoth television, Christmas plates, and half a closet dedicated to gift wrap. Recently, while reorganizing, I came upon a forgotten heart-shaped casserole dish. And still, as I perused Crate and Barrel for a media stand to hold our new TV, I wanted more. It got me thinking: Could I ever expect to have one of the thin, beautiful homes we see in the catalogs that rain down on us every week? Or is that dream as unrealistic as waking up to find I look like a supermodel?

Pottery Barn is one of these beauty magazine offenders. About every four hours we get a new catalog from them, and each one shows myriad, perfect rooms with a throw blanket and a pair of slippers at the foot of the couch. There’s no pile of bills, no overflowing laundry basket, and you certainly don’t find last season’s Pottery Barn décor shoved under the stairs. It’s perfectly sparse. It’s the skinny model I always wanted my house to be.

Instead, I open my kitchen cabinets and Tupperware tumbles out like rolls of fat over too-tight jeans.

Rather than purge belongings, a lot of people become manic about organization. Places like The Container Store have been established to satisfy this need. There are nearly 40 across the United States, and like gyms we go to for a week each January, they pretty much exist to make us feel like we’re getting our acts together.

I am guilty of this. I buy color-coded boxes, plastic bins, and shelf dividers, and bring them home to clear out the garage with the aim of driving my car into it. Ultimately, I just have too much stuff in nice bins.

You’d think Americans would catch on. We buy things in an attempt to improve our lives. Next, we believe that if we could just get our stuff organized, everything would be okay. Unfortunately, The Container Store can’t match the army of Pottery Barn locations in the United States, so our consumption is likely to far outweigh our efforts to get in shape.

Our society definitely makes it hard to live a lean lifestyle, but outlets exist to get our homes in fighting condition. On Earth Day, we dumped a TV and yards of extra cords at an e-waste recycling center. There are numerous places to donate clothing, furniture, and appliances to the less fortunate. And if we are really determined, we could just say “no” to buying things.

For our house, that’s not going to happen — at least not for a while. I’m resigned to it being on the chubby side, junk and all.

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