What to Do If You Live With a Hoarder

How to help someone you love deal with the deeper issues behind their clutter
An excerpt from ‘The Hoarder in You’ by the therapist on A&E Network’s Hoarders™
 
If you live with someone who hoards or who has a problem with keeping clutter under control, it’s important to bear in mind that the mess is only the symptom of a deeper psychological issue. The individual might have attention problems that manifest themselves in an inability to finish a project, or he might struggle with procrastination and perfectionism. These are not things that are easily overcome, no matter how frustrating they are to the people you love.
 
Living with a clutterer can make you feel as though your time and space aren’t being considered or respected, especially if you are constantly cleaning up to make the environment more habitable. And, as the problem continues, resentment can build, further exacerbating the conflict already present in the relationship.
 
The 10 Least Helpful Things You Can Say to a Clutterer
  1. “You don’t care about yourself or your environment.”
  2. “You don’t care about how your clutter affects me.”
  3. “You must have a disorganized mind.”
  4. “It’s not important for you to have things organized.”
  5. “You’re a slob!”
  6. “Your stuff is more important than me!”
  7. “Just throw it away! It’s no big deal!”
  8. “You don’t need to keep that.”
  9. “You’re never going to use/wear that.”
  10. “Just get rid of it. You won’t miss it.” 
An outsider can be helpful when the problem is persistent cluttering, although the role of the outsider is somewhat different. You don’t want to insert a friend between you and your loved one in a conflict, but if you’re the person who clutters, it can be tremendously helpful to have the objectivity of a friend when you’re cleaning, purging or organizing. That person is not sentimentally attached to your possessions and can help you make better decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. There’s also an emotional benefit to just having a friend around while you’re doing an unpleasant task such as cleaning out your closet. Having someone else with you also helps to make you accountable — if you make a date to declutter your basement at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, and you know your friend is showing up, you’re less likely to put it off.
 
The place to start for any family member or friend of someone who hoards is to set aside judgment. That is not easy to do. Compulsive hoarding is such a visible problem and one that affects each family member personally. But we all have things we fear being judged upon. What’s more, remembering that compulsive hoarding is not a choice is critical, as is remembering that this problem is only part of the person you care about. The person who hoards or clutters is not just “a hoarder” or “a clutterer.” She may also be a good friend, a terrific baker, a loving grandmother and countless other things.
 
The second thing to do is to educate yourself about the condition of hoarding, as you are doing now, which will go a long way in helping you to better understand the complexities of this condition. Understanding those who hoard, and how the behaviors and resulting chaotic environment can create intense feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment, can help you approach the person with compassion and patience, and convey how you feel without anger.
 
The third thing is to anticipate that helping someone overcome her clutter problem, no matter where she is on the continuum, will likely be frustrating for both of you at times. You can’t fix the problem for another person, no matter how badly you want to, and in fact it is so important that the person with the hoarding or cluttering issues learns that she can work through it herself. Your role is one of supporter and cheerleader. She must be in charge of her own process, or any improvements in the home will not last.
 
The 10 Most Helpful Things to Say to a Clutterer
  1. “I know this is hard for you.”
  2. “Let me know how I can help.”
  3. “You don’t have to fix this problem overnight.”
  4. “Let’s find ways to simplify the process.”
  5. “Don’t look at the big picture. Take baby steps.”
  6. “When you get overwhelmed, take a break and remember your goal is to live a healthier life.”
  7. “We are a team!”
  8. “Help me understand where you have the most difficulty.”
  9. “What things are important to you in your home?”
  10. “Let me know how I can best support you; you are in charge of how this process of decluttering goes.” 

Finally, be prepared to compromise. Your goal, if you’re helping someone who hoards or anyone who clutters, is to find that middle ground where you can both be comfortable.

Think you may be the one with the hoarding or clutter problem? Take this quiz to find out. 


 
Reprinted from: The Hoarder in You © 2011 by Dr. Robin Zasio. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc. Available wherever books are sold.

 

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Comments

debelsey
debelsey's picture
User offline. Last seen 1 year 37 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 11/09/2014

I have dealt with spouses hoarding for over 30 years. I've tried variations of many of the options listed in the above article, and though I have had repeated assurances that it will be dealt with, things have only gotten worse. He doesn't seem to have time to take care of things that need doing, but can find the time to build yet another "shed" to store things in. I am beginning to think that I should never have been so easy on respecting his stuff, because it has only gotten worse and worse and I am frustrated. If, as you suggest, I not judge or be negative and being understanding and respectful has gotten me nowhere, what am I left with to do? He obviously is not going to deal with it. There seems to be a lack of balance here of respect and consideration. Are there hoarder mediators out there?

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

You dont need to respect a Hoarder's trash or recycling - just throw it out as soon as you find it. Collections of newspapers, glass jars, plastic bags or cardboard boxes should go out for garbage pickup weekly. Dont be drawn into their arguments for why they want to keep it ; you'll NEVER get their permission to clean out anything. If you need help, get it from someone strong, crafty, and resourceful. You will feel better once the pure trash is gone, while the Hoarder NEVER WILL.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Finding a middle ground is only an option if you are one of the lucky few who's circumstances make them able to sacrifice a personal level of well being with regards to yourself and the rest of your family for the sake of hoarders journey.
For me though, with three children who are seeing this behavior as normal and living in an unhealthy and unsafe environment, middle ground is not an option. The behavior must change. It's not an optional thing and the goal should be clear on that. I've tried every approach, but middle ground still means that my kids are in a car full of hazards, that I'm still scared they will choke on a small trinket they put in their mouths. I'm ready to leave over this so I simply throw the trash out and present hard facts to my spouse when it comes to it. When I'm presented a choice like that, there is only one choice to be made and unfortunately it is not her feeling of security or control that I'm choosing.
Point is, this approach does work but reality makes it alot harder.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

The article does not address how unfair it is to people living with a hoarder. It is difficult for the hoarder but people living with him or her cannot have normal lives until the healing and cleaning up take place. For example, children can't have play dates and grown-ups can't have friends over.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

i have tried all these things my partner and i have lived together for 31 years not all good either for the majority of our living together he has had a drinking problem which hasnt completely gone away he now drinks far less but clutters
up each cuboard and each room in our house and its made my life so miserable we have a daughter who has given us the most wonderful little grandson but im diprived of seeing him much at my home i must always go and visit him at my daughters home or her boyfriends home as they both say our home is far from childsafe. It dose not matter how much my daughter goes on at her dad or i try aswell he just will not throw any of his clutter not for my sake our grandsons sake my daughters sake he will not declutter. Now i live in my bedroom infact its the only room i can feel a bit relaxed in where he will not clutter my doctor has tried talking to him lots of people have and so far nothing has changed i am in dispair now i do not know where this will all end all i know is i hate it so so much please help me what can i do where do i go from here.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Omg I completely agree with you.. I've been dealing with a loved ones hoarding for 10 yrs... I'm so tired of trying to be nice to him about it.. What about what he's put me through? I'm out of here in June if things don't change.. I'm actually looking forward to a clutter free home.. A home that I can feel proud of when people come to visit.. He can be someone else's problem.. I know it sounds cold and heartless, but I have had it..

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I have a close relative who i will not name who it is out of respect, that Hoards. Other peoples Nick Nacks that they're throwing out, this person will take it off their hands, bring it home, and hoard it in the Garage. Every drawer in the house, from the TV entertainment centers drawers to the drawers under the china cabinet, to the kitchen drawers, are overloaded with JUNK! Useless, JUNK! Outdated papers, Kids meal toys from fast food restaurants, still in their wrappers. Old reciepetes, etc etc. I live with the Hoarder, and i'm a very Organized, and Clean person. The complete opposite of the hoarder. I have cleaned and thrown out and organized this persons cabinets and garage because i cannot stand living like that, and it's also embarrassing for me because those who come to visit will see the mess and think i also like living like a slob.

No matter how many times i've cleaned it all up and organized and thrown out, i get screamed at, belittled by the person, and the hoarder continues to redue to the process of re collecting. Its a demon of Coveting i believe. If i'm still alive when this person passes away, i am having a huge yard sale, and throwing out what doesn't get sold. I have no interest in material possessions being a christian. I especially have no interest in JUNK. Hoarders don't meet you half way and comprimize. It's all about them, and there Junk and what they want. They're behavior is very selfish, and they don't care how they are hindering the lives of those stuck living with them in their mess.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow, I have to say I am getting more from the comments than from the article itself. Sorry, Gaiam, but really those of us who love and live with a hoarder (he says he's a collector..haha) and have children involved know. I have 'gone along' to get along too long, and now it looks like if I don't go back over the line I drew a month ago when I said "enough is enough" after years of nothing changing and rooms and sheds getting more and more filled up or full, looks like I will have to leave. We have a 10 year old and I do not want her to think this is normal. My husband does not think he has a problem, and I feel like until he recognizes that he does, he can sort through things and try to make me feel better and continue to "go along" but we always end up back to where I am feeling suffocated yet again.
Is there a support group? I do not know where to go from here other than to leave the marriage and then be a single mother.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Thank you for sharing your situation.

I am living a similar situation and it has just been 5 years of marriage. I would not like this to become a reason for separation or divorce. It is getting to my limits. We moved from a small studio apartment (already too much in it) to a newer bigger appartment with the prospect of having a new start and better controlled way of organising things. We did not have time to furnish the new place properly as we were only allowed one week to make the decision and move. Busy with work we have not dedicated time to furnish the place yet; this is after one year. However, the extra room is now filled with staff I can not even get in there! It was supposed to be our living room :( The little space in the hall is beginniing to look so cramp. It has come to a difficult situation; all arguments lead to this problem, arguements and arguments and promises that he will clear the room. Well, it has been 1.5 years and it has gone worse. I dont really know what to do, how to talk to him anymore; it used to be calm and relax talks, ignore, now arguments. Any advice? or where can I get help?

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I know and understand how you feel brother . So sad that there are people so organized and people that are so the opposite

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Everything people have said here is so familiar....have been marries 32+ yrs. In the beginning it was not so noticeable, it crept up slowly. Since I grew up with a hoarder, I tend to keep some extra things for memories. Old pamphlets, notes, tickets, ....but the situation has progressed so much with my husband in the very recent years that I am about to go insane. We have no room to move in the garage, Ares of our home are overflowing. He soesn''t even 'SEE' it. Many comments were made about throwing the stuff out....well the worst part is that if I throw something out into the weekly trash, and he happens to find it, it is removed, dirty and all, even with dog and cat crap on it and brought back into the house/garage. Then, I get yelled at about it. It is all 'HIS' stuff, from empty jars, jugs, bags, ....and I have no right to mess with HIS stuff. I have started taking things in a special bag, to work to throw out. It is the only way I can get rid of plastic containers, old newspapers, plastic and aluminum trays, plastic water bottles, old pet food bags (50 lb size-I cut them up into small pieces to hide them in other trash.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Everything people have said here is so familiar....have been marries 32+ yrs. In the beginning it was not so noticeable, it crept up slowly. Since I grew up with a hoarder, I tend to keep some extra things for memories. Old pamphlets, notes, tickets, ....but the situation has progressed so much with my husband in the very recent years that I am about to go insane. We have no room to move in the garage, areas of our home are overflowing. He doesn't even 'SEE' it. Many comments were made about throwing the stuff out....well the worst part is that if I throw something out into the weekly trash, and he happens to find it, it is removed, dirty and all, even with dog and cat crap on it and brought back into the house/garage. Then, I get yelled at about it. It is all 'HIS' stuff, from empty jars, jugs, bags, ....and I have no right to mess with HIS stuff. I have started taking things in a special bag, to work to throw out. It is the only way I can get rid of plastic containers, old newspapers, plastic and aluminum trays, plastic water bottles, old pet food bags (50 lb size-I cut them up into small pieces to hide them in other trash.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

where to begin. I am sooo tired. I've begged pleaded, organized only to see the same space filled up again. I have complained and complained to all our friends. they don't understand and think I am a crumby wife for being so hard on this wonderful, helpful man. always at their beck and call and he hauls away alllll their crap. I wasn't raised to have tons of stuff that 'I only have tooooo ________." the only have to never happens and it continues to collect. finally I had a relapse in my depression and I got some counseling. I got my focus on finding a way to deal with it. my son is a solider and had a baby and I was give the opportunity to raise the baby. so I moved with him and I come home a every few weeks when his job requires. I try to apply the 12 steps of al anon and the slogan i.e.: " let go and let god". I quit having our friends over. they'd say " oh it's not that bad." that's cuz I try to keep up with the living space. finally realizing I am not going to get support from them. I not going to get understanding of my incrediable depression. I was trying so hard to make them understand. then finally it dawned on me: "maybe I am the one who needs to understand." so I am trying to not talk about our problems with them. it has gotten to the point with my used to be best friend that it feels like she has taken over my place in his life. rescue rescue rescue. we have no respect for each other. we are still married becuz all my money is invested in this place. my parents contributed lots to help us and my siblings resent that. he insists that when he dies all this stuff will be worth money. it is being rueined by mold mildew and mice. I know the answer is in finding acceptance. that however is a process: shock, denial, anger, bargaining acceptance. we go back and forth through this process until we finally get it that things are not going to get better. hoarding is just a progressive disease just as any addiction. anyway, I need to get it together. I am only here for 6 wks. snow has disappeared and all the work has appeared. I've been harping for a couple of days on all we have to do before I leave. already 4 people have called for him to come do all their work. which means he won't be here to participate in our clean up. I just need to do what is important to me and accept that's all I can do. ok i'll stop rationalizing for today.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I am in a serious and expensive divorce that will cost everything due to not being able to get along with a hoarder, my wife, and who's hoarding was dangerous to my kids as she filled the car with garbage constantly and drove with the kids like that. She will never change. The hoarding is an addiction and the addiction comes first. You suffer living with them and try to "Fix it" only to fail, or leave the marriage, Mediators wont work because these are people who have rights too, and love their possessions. But try. My life is now a living nightmare and worse, my kids are suffering. They have never had any friends over. It will cost everything to get out but I am hoping for peace.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

There is two support groups on Facebook, but hoarding/cluttering support group is the more positive less whiny one of the two.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Listen up leave the person! they wont change, its like a drug addict but worse, relapse is high for these people. Don't live such miserable lives! just run leave them! simple. I can guarantee you will feel better, and visit them in 10yrs and they will be worse, why hang around if they are so disrespectful to your needs?.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Problem is they love their stuff, not you!...like a drug addict loving their drug. Best to just leave find someone new.! SERIOUSLY

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Good luck. I hope you find peace. I love my wife, but am considering leaving as well -- as much as I love my wife, I cannot take the crush. It has broken my soul.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Let me start by saying that I love my wife dearly. She is a very thoughtful and caring person that does so much for others. Our house over the past 28 years has gradually become a disaster. The basement and second floor is so cluttered with stuff that she finds new areas to inhabit on the main floor and now even those rooms have piles of papers and cloths in them. We don’t sleep together anymore because I can’t sleep in a room full of stuff. She gets very upset if I ever attempt to clean anything up and I’m afraid that at some point I will need to move out. She promises me she will organize but I’m afraid after 28 years the situation will never change.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I appreciate your post very much – it's similar to my situation. My wife of 17 years is a total Hoarder living in denial. I'm considering a divorce as well but I keep coming back to the fact that it will ruin me financially and I'll never see my kids.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Thank you for your post. I can relate on so many levelsl I live with a hoarder. After 10 years of talking about how dysfunctional the house was, we just remodeled the kitchen and TV room. Hallelujah, right? After organizing, buying new appliances, filling up 4 of the largest trash dumpsters, and using the garage to store extra cabinets, and house wares, the kitchen and TV room was finally clean and clutter free. I thought I could rest easy. Everything had a place in the newly remodeled kitchen and TV room. I saw the light.
Not.
The rest of the house still has a lot of junk. Items started to make it's way back into the kitchen, onto the shelves, things moved around, cant find anything, books staked up on on the piano, with along dog food, alarm clocks, boxes, blankets, bags, junk on the new floors, making sweeping difficult.... new shelves and counter tops are all disorganized. I am a Christian too, but after the umpteenth time, my frustration level is thru the roof, and i just want to scream. I also have no interest in junk, or worldly possessions. I like clean. I like organized, but the lifestyle of a hoarder is very selfish, and very unhealthy. Is there a remedy?

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I'm in the exact same situation. I've been married for 18 years to my wife, whom I love more than anything. The hoarding has reached a point in our lives that I can't stay in this relationship anymore. I have made threats about leaving and I've actually left for several months. I always return with the broken promises that things will change(which of course , they never do). I'm afraid that if I do leave once and for all, I will never see my kids.

The kids and us haven't had friends over to our house in nearly 8 years due to the embarrassment of living in a house of this condition. Anytime I bring up organizing the house, it turns into a major fight. It doesn't matter how I try and approach the situation. I've tried the helpful avenue, the caring and understanding avenue, ahowing my anger, using our teenage kids to express how they feel with her and so on and so on. I have even tried the old adage, if you can't beat them, join them. This tactic didn't help out at all, this was then just turned around by her to make the hoarding issue my fault. She would say that I don't help her, the kids don't help her, and that all of the messes are from us.

Does anyone have any additional ideas that I can try(other than divorce, which is most likely going to be the only solution for me to maintain sanity). Living like this for so many years has put me into a severe depression. Many days I wake up and I'm angry that I'm still here on this Earth. Is there any support groups that I can join with people going through the same thing? I'm not interested in joining online support groups, I feel talking to other people face to face would help a lot more?

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow, I feel almost the same or part of every letter written here. Makes me feel better that I am not alone in this situation I find myself in. I am fed up. When I went to the back porch to ask my husband of 33 yeas to please not pile his junk on my chairs he told me to cram my chairs up my butt. I haven't spoken a word to him for 14 days. I am so upset at his actions. I have a mobility problem and need a chair to sit in. He took both my chairs and piled them down with his crap. He fills every empty spot, any flat surface. I looked today and the chairs are still piled up. Maybe even more stuff. I just don't know what to do.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Why don't you all go out the next beautiful spring day for a walk?
My hoarder mixes up my things with his --when we were first
married he rented 5 garages to hold his hoard that I didn't know about-
that was 45 years ago. Listen up folks, just take care of yourself-
one room at a time. Remove all things theirs and tell them if one
things appears it's going in the garbage. I claimed the back enclosed
porch to frame my paintings ( he actually did clean the crap out,then
turned it into one more of his "work areas" that is now piled to the
ceiling with his and my stuff. It's a war folks! If they win, everybody
loses. If you win everyone wins! Adult children too. They won't have
to be cleaning out all this clutter and crap when you kick off.
'No luggage on a hearse". Take a lover,frequent good restaurants
join a volunteer group and laugh a lot (at them) Cortisol kills.
Anything I find in "my area" goes on his bed. Next stop- the garbage
dump. Thanks for reading

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I am with you. I am a professional woman that has a normal life outside home but I live with a boarder and my life there is a mess. I thought I could change things.... Never. I though he could work on thinks on time... Nope... I threw some stuff out and he almost had a heart attack. I know my life will be on hold u til I move out.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I'm tired of articles and books telling me to "be gentle" with the hoarder. After 10 years of dating I married the man of my dreams. During those 10 years there was no evidence of his hoarding. We've been married for 13 years and the hoard started soon after our 1st child was born. Shortly after our 2nd child was born we moved from our small townhouse to a larger house with shed, garage, and attic. After we moved in I was shocked by the amount of boxes we had. I swear he must have had a storage unit somewhere without my knowledge! Since moving in, I have never been able to use my dining room or guest bedroom because they are stuffed full of boxes and bags of stuff. I seldom am able to use my den because it is also full of boxes and bags of stuff. Our garage is chock full of boxes and bags of stuff. My husband is a wonderful husband and father with the only exception being his hoarding. As much as I love him, I am seriously thinking about leaving because of his hoarding. Our kids are now 11 and 8 years old and I'm afraid they think the condition of the house is "normal". I am at my wits end.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

If she has a hoarding problem the judge/court may not grant her custody.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I am currently in the same situation as many of the above.i have been living with my girlfriend for about 8 years we have a 3 bedroom house with a loft and rent 2 garages full of clutter.i think maybe I could handle the situation however we have a wonderful 8 year old boy who will be brought up to believe this is normal how can I teach him that his mothers mess ,clutter hoarding is not normal,and is not a healthy way to live.we also have my girlfriends daughter of 24 living with us and she is exactly the same.if I leave clearly there will be little or no hope that he wont grow up the same way.the 3 of them recently went on holiday for 5 days due to work commitments I couldn't go.i then blitzed the house and spent 30 hours cleaning,obviously I got no thanks for this and a week later the place looks like a bombs hit it again,i am at my wits end.you cant talk to her about it I don't even think they see mess as normal people do but to bring up a child like this is so selfish

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

thank you. my sentiments exactly. I,too, have accomplished, and the problem has only increased. there have been many occasions when I wished I had never met her.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I personally have found the comments more helpful than the article itself.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

This article does not really address the other issues that hoarders bring to bear regarding the deceptive and emotionally manipulative aspects of their personalities albeit brought on by their illnesses. Hoarders are adept at doing whatever is necessary to avoid anxiety, which in a hoarder is brought on by everything. They will deftly lie, and remorselessly engage in any form of emotional dishonesty they can to avoid making decisions and anxiety. Even if they are not extreme hoarders like the in the TV show, they have the personality traits. This means the closer you are to them, and the more you care, the more you are manipulated; and if you don't know you're being manipulated you are devastated when you find out. This illness is insidious and these therapist are so focused on catering to the illness, that they IGNORE the real damage hoarder have wrought in their families.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

As with any addiction a person is responsible for himself! When he decides to face the problem is up to him. If we all chose to play with the emotions of those we hurt it would be quite a hopeless situation. Remember, loved ones are suffering too, so let's be fair and hand over that burden to the one who's reluctant to get help! As a recovering alcoholic, I say "you can Do it!" And, as a decent human being, you follow that with "I must!! "

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

My husband and I have been married 31 years. I've spent HOURS and hours of my time cleaning up his mess to the point where, with children and other responsibilities, I had no time for hobbies that I enjoy, etc. Now, he's retired and home 24/7 and I'm older and have to PAY someone to help me clean up behind him because I can't keep up with it anymore. Even though I pay someone to help me clean, I still can't keep up with the cleaning and my home and yard is quickly beginning to look like those hoarder homes on TV. I feel like he's stolen so much of my time that I can never get back and now I have to live with the shame of my home and yard being filthy. I'm ashamed of our home and yard and his cars filled with clutter. I've broken down and cried so often lately. I don't think anyone else understands how difficult this is for me. I've given up, stopped trying and I'm just leaving dirty dishes in the sink and don't even take the trash out anymore, why bother.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Well I want to view have been in these marriages with A hoarder for years . My boyfriend is a hoarder and when I go stay with him as we have a long distance relationship I see through your messages but I will probably be miserable living with him . I was married to someone who was immaculately clean for 21 years had a 4000 square-foot home and I maid came twice a month just help me do deep cleaning. I love my boyfriend so good to me. We have broken up three times over five years the second year we dated his house caught on fire and he was allowed it new furniture money and to redo his whole home . We painted it and put in flooring ourselves to save money . He has put all the furniture that has smoke damage in the basement and attic. I have tried to refurbish some of the things that are important to him because I love and care for him. I am starting to learn by reading hear that this will go on forever and get worse. I have gotten back together with him for the fourth time in five years we have been apart for 10 months the only thing he has done is painted his house but the junk is still in the yard the attic and basement he says he needs me there to help him but when I'm there land of cleaning old campers never taking anything to the dump. It sounds like everyone here is recommending to run I have run three times and find myself missing his love and care and feel guilty that I don't appreciate it. So I guess it's just the guilt driven love. I cry as I read these messages as well as writing mine. I'm sure you all have had many tears many arguments and felt frustrated most of your life. I'm sorry for that I wish we could help these people without them being angry and yelling at us and meaningless I have a choice because I'm not married . It doesn't sound like anyone have any resolution or anything that has worked to help clean up the mess or solve the problem the most of you who think you tried your best failed. Hi tried your best failed.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I'm completely feeling the same way have lived with my Spouse for 16 hrs and my son can never have friends over and I can't either it's a very stressful life but don't want to throw our marriage out the window!

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

After months and months of trying to get my mate to " get motivated"( as he put it when I moved in) to help him work thru his junk, scrap metal and adult child's possessions still left with him. I finally took the steps and move out.
If I mentioned going thru it or selling it there was always an excuse!! Scrap prices were down, girls needed to go thru things and he was too tired or busy with fire department.

I love him and wanted to stay, but if I have ANY chance to get custody of my grandchildren I have to have a safe, clean and mostly organized place for them. He is hurt, as am I, and refuses to help me move anything! Thanx for that one!

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow! I felt like I could have been reading my own comment here. My wife and I have been married for 32 plus years as well and she's been constantly adding more and more stuff to our middle class home of almost 30 years. There's rooms we can't use, closets so full you don't dare open them without extreme caution. Our yard around the house if littered with useless junk, even her rose garden is filled with plastic and glass bottles and broken pottery. I've made countless trips to thrift stores donating trunks of junk and even go on mid-night dumpster runs to throw out stuff in other peoples containers because if I use ours she simply plucks it out the next day. I'm at wits end with her, I still love her because she's basically a good person, but I just can't live like this anymore. I agree with a comment above that said they were getting more from these comments than what the article contained, I feel the same, it's actually good to read others frustrations of living with a hoarder. She hasn't only hoarded junks and material things, but animals as well. One of the dogs she rescued was filled with ticks and eggs and we didn't notice until it was too late and they infested the front door area of our house, it's been months trying everything to get rid of them and they're still showing up. It's like a battle I can't win anymore, it's like a boat full of holes, you plug one and another one shows up or another one starts to leak. I'm really tired, but not ready to go down with the ship just yet, but perhaps moving out is my only option.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I'm glad I found this forum. I live with a hoarder. When we met he moved out of his father's home and left a huge amount of stuff in his room. We bought a house together and I gave him one room all of this own. It is now so stuffed that he has encroached in the bedroom. I told him I need somewhere to have serenity, like a nice place to unwind which would be my bedroom.

He's always ordering from Amazon and buying so many things that are useless. Today I had a meltdown and demanded he help me organize. I don't think that's going to happen. I think our health deteriorates from the stress of hoarding and like others, I am a Christian and now really things don't matter as much.

I literally fantasize about having a house with hardly anything in it just because I like neat and tidy homes and space.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Amazing! 100% of the comments are at odds with the advice in the original post. I.e. that something can be done to change a hoarding spouse's behavior. Only one comment offered a solution, other than leaving, and that was to reclaim what rooms in a house one can and forbid anything of the spouse's in it.

My spouse admitted last night that she doesn't care about the clutter. That's key. They really don't care -- at least enough to declutter.

Also, another poster pointed out that they don't care about the aspirations the non-hoarding spouse has, like the ability to have guests over to the house. How can you develop a social life if no one can ever come to your house?

Here''s another list of possible things to do to help a declutterer:

1. Hire a professional declutterer, if the spouse will agree to work with them.
2. Set an example in the rooms you've reclaimed so they can see how desirable it is to live in an organized space. Most of us can probably do better in the areas we currently control. We are better, but probably not perfect ourselves.
3. Negotiate. Read "Getting Past No". Is there something the spouse wants in return for getting rid of stuff? Are you willing to provide it?
4. Learn about decluttering techniques which the spouse may not know about and may be willing to consider, such as taking pictures of memorabilia.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow, there really seems to be two options. Divorce which will suck because my wife will use the kids as pawns, or continue to live in a messy, unsafe depression. My wife of 13 years has issues with her mother and they are going to a counselor. She says her mother is a narcissist and she probably is. I'm not sure if my wife's hoarding is related to the issues she has with her mom but my wife will not accept blame or fault with anything. She refuses to take meds as directed. To top it off she has post-pardom. I am seeiously going insane. If our house caught fire I would cry tears of joy!!

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

My partner limits his horrid hoarding to our garage. Since moving into my home a decade ago his 'trash pile' has changed location from our bedroom to his home office to the grand ballroom of it all the garage. I have just invested over three hundred thousand dollars to update this home. Open space, light and organization is paramount and everywhere but the garage where I cannot even enter let alone park my car. We have argued over this for ten years. He flips out and becomes aggressive if I attempt to throw out something, even if it i is MINE ! . NO solution . Ever !

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I'm at my wits end!! My aunt is a hoarder. She has a 12 by 60 foot 2/2 mobile home, she can't live it because you can't get in it. I recently found out she has 4 storages units that are full and pays 100 dollars a month per unit. Here car is so full she can't see to drive, but she still does. She got sick and couldn't call for help because she lost her cell phone in the the garbage , my mom went to find her and had to call fire rescue to get her out. They said they would report this but never did. She was in the hospital for a month then to a rehab center. She did great there. My mom decided to let her stay here with us for a few weeks till she, with our help could get it livable again. Well that was 2 almost 3 years ago and no progress has been made NONE!! She owns 1 third of this house we all live in. My mom has 2/3. Their other sister passed away on Jan 11 2016. She feels since she owns a third she can do whatever. She pays third of bills Expects food , laundry supplies, toilet paper and anything house wise should come with paying these few bills....sleeps till 2 pm or later everyday, then does nothing but watch tv and try to use Internet. She is going to cause a car accident and kill someone. Police won't help because. Who wants to inventory all that crap and she also gets almost 4000.00 per month in retirement benefits and is always broke. Could not pay for a free metro pcs smart phone service!!! Any thoughts would be great please. Thank you for letting me vent...

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Advice: If you're dating someone who you suspect is a hoarder (especially if you meet their family and see that they are hoarders or clutterers) run! Run away as fast as you can and don't look back. You won't change them and they will waste the best years of your life. Even if they aren't currently too bad, they will be eventually because it just gets worse and worse as time goes by. All of your memories in your home will be tainted with messy clutter. Every Christmas, every birthday, every anniversary will be tainted with the memory of how miserable you were while trying celebrate it in your home. You 'll have children and won't want to leave because of them, even though growing up in it will distort their minds and probably cause them to be depressed adults because they grew up in a dirty, unhappy home. Even if you don't have children, you'll eventually be forced to leave for you own sanity, regardless of how committed you are to your vows, and if he or she divorces you for leaving, it is a financial, social, spiritual and emotional nightmare that you don't want to go through. Avoid that altogether. Don't even start down that road. Run. Find someone who will love you more than their stuff. Someone who will give you a home where you can have happy memories, and where you can have guests without being embarrassed, and where you can have a normal social life. Find someone who thinks enough of themselves not to live in clutter or squalor. No matter how painful it might be at first, break it off now and run. Do it today, right now, and don't look back. I can't stress this enough.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

My mother is a hoarder who is living in denial and it has gotten to the point that the whole family dynamic is being destroyed. I am at the peak of moving out of the place I've called home since my birth, even though financially I would be committing suicide. Being a college student, I can't afford much, but I've spent so much time just looking for my own places so I can get away.
It has only been as I've grown older do I realize just how awful her problem was. I use to never say a word when she would place the bag of old clothes I would be planning to give to donations into her closet or tell me the old shoes that definitely wouldn't fit me anymore could be used in the future and that I should keep them in my closet.
The large stacks of paper cluttering her closet (which is full of old, unwearable clothes from her childhood to now) is an embarrassment and every other nook and cranny in this house is full of her stuff that she just wont let go of. We actually need to go through her closet in order to get our Air conditioning unit fixed but the times the worker was here she would deny him access or any of us in the house the ability to move things.
The problem does not extend to just the owning of physical things, financially she is damaging us in so many different ways that the rest of us in the house are just stuck.
Although other circumstances can be to blame, I feel that in the moment I do move out my parent's relationship is over and even though that will hurt, I know they don't love one another anymore and the hoarding is just an addition to the bigger issue.
The amount of arguments we have had with her regarding this issue has skyrocketed and I can see no solution. If I even try to suggest a clean up, I am yelled at and told how much I have ruined her life (which is hilarious and just adds more to my own ill physiological state, but what can I do?) This is a very frustrating situation that I would love to fix, if it were easy, but I see to hope.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Very glad that I came across this article. However, the comments are indeed more helpful than the article itself. I'll try not to reiterate the other comments since I have a lot of the same complaints/concerns about my fiance. We just moved into a new house and I desperately need some advice on how to put my foot down now before this house turns into what we just moved out of. Our new home is 6 bedrooms, 3 baths, and a 3 car garage. He already has the garage full, his office full, the guest bedroom full, the kitchen cupboards and pantry full, the guest bathroom full, a storage bedroom full (where we agreed that he could have his things). We are still cleaning and moving things from the old house and there are mounds of dust, dead flies, dead and living mice, mouse poop, spiders, bees, mildew and mold. I am a very organized person and I had kept our kid's bedroom and living space clean in the old house yet this is what we have found since moving. I am in desperate need of help, especially since we have only been in our new home for a week and still have not finished moving everything from our old house.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I have been married to a hoarder for nearly 40 years. It is a lot of work! And so very tiring. Initially I went along with his desire to keep everything just thinking he was right. We eventually simply ran out of space and I realized that his "hoarding" simply wasn't rational at all! He says he just wants me to ask him before I throw anything out. Well, the answer is ALWAYS the same. "NO!" I recently asked him to help me carry an old rotted bench to the curb for the trash. You would think I had asked him to cut off his arm! He has a totally illogical over the top reaction to getting rid of anything. It really does cause him a lot of anxiety. This is a mental condition and I had to realize it and accept that it was totally and completely my responsibility to keep my home liveable. I throw stuff out all the time. ANd I cannot put it in our trash becaue he will dig it out, hide it somewhere, and, when I find it, I will have to try to throw it out again! I have to take it to a dumpster! This is a lot of work! I know that I occasionally throw out something we do need because I don't know what it is. He refuses to hire anything done and does all home repairs. He has an arsenal of home and car repair items (while recently organizing the basement I came across 18 tape measures) and I don't know what a lot of it is. I can't ask him because, no matter what, he will say we can't throw it away. Therefore, in order to maintain some sort of home livability, stuff we could use does occasionally get thrown away. If he could answer honestly it would not happen. Can't feel too bad because most everything can be found in a store somewhere! In fact that is what I tell him. He buys and buys stuff we don't currently need because it is cheap. I tell him that is why they call it a store - becaue they store it for you until you need it! He spends more money buying toms of stuff cheap because, someday, we might need it, than he would if he only bought what we did need when we needed it! He seems to have a phobia about being poor. We are both college educated, our home is paid off, and we have over a million in the bank. I accept that he is mentallly unstable. Therefore, I need to ignore his illogical issues and do the right thing, which is keeping a clean and liveable home even though it means he is going to be mad about it. He doesn't even throw away old used paper towels! He might use them again!!! He keeps adds forever so he will be sure to get the best price. He even gets upset with me when I throw out spoiled food! He will eat it! I am so tired, stressed, and frustrated by the whole thing. It is constant. It is either inherited or learned because you could not walk through his parents home and 2 of his 3 siblings also have hoarding issues. His brother's wife will not tolerate it, but we have been unable to visit his sister, whomI dearly love, for 30 years because both she and her husband hoard. Luckily, none of our children seem to have it. There is no reasoning with a hoarder so take the bull by the horns and do what you have to do. Get rid of the crap.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

Wow, reading all of this has been so therapeutic, if only knowing that ALL of the emotions, tactics, repercussions, consequences that I have felt/tried/endured through 39 years.......have been felt by others. Thanks everyone. I am a smart and strong person and yet, I have not been able to "help/rescue" by husband from his terrible habit. Everything that has been said above, has happened along the way in our household too, to one degree or another. I too have contemplated divorce, even though this guy is basically kind and I do think he loves me, underneath his love of stuff and ebay! The progression goes something like this: dismay, stress, exhaustion, resentment, depression, and finally disengagement from that person and their problem. Two things I would like to offer hope-wise: those of you raising kids in the midst of this: kids are smart. They see other family's homes and they do figure out that this behavior is NOT NORMAL OR HEALTHY. My 4 kids have all grown up to be educated successful adults, who worry about their dad and his habit(s) and about my safety and sanity! Also, the one tactic that has (mostly) worked is to (as some others of you stated) designate spaces for the hoarder to have and ruin. My husband has sheds, the garage, and two rooms in our big house that are HIS. I don't look at them, enter them, even try to deal with them, and it is obvious to others where his space ends and mine begins. Without limits, he would have killed us both under the weight of all his junk a long time ago. Sorry, that is all I have to offer. PS: I have often been referred to as his "Mother" and his "Handler"! I RESENT being labeled as his "enabler"!
Are there ANY recovered hoarders who can post something helpful????

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

My hoarder is my mother in law who moved in with us 3 years ago. She does confine her hoarding to her room (she knows I will throw out anything that is left in other rooms) but she goes through the garbage and she takes MY things to hoard in her room. I have had to get a locking cabinet for my canning jars because she takes them. I have no Tupperware containers because she takes them. She takes my terra cotta pots from my front porch. The thing is that none of these items are used but only stored. She actually took the basket that held the flowers on my mother's grave. She has nowhere else to go and, as others have said, will not change.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

I feel for every one that commented on here. At least the inside of my home is neat and clean and organized because I refused to let my hoarder husband of 33 years put his stuff all over inside. However, our full basement is a disaster area, along with under the deck and part of our yard. There is room in the garage only because I told him I am going to park my car in the garage period...he put up a lot of shelving in there with tons of "stuff" but I can park in it. I'm just feeling sad because now that we've retired I don't see how we can reach our dream of moving to a smaller house in the country with all of his stuff. I guess I feel a little better seeing how bad other people have it.

Anonymous
Anonymous's picture

My husband is a hoarder. It is getting worse. Parts of our yard are filled with junk. Its ugly and dangerous. He collects scrap metal which is very ugly, and piles up by the driveway. He has filled the basement with junk, and has 2 barns full of junk. His workshop is a disorganized mess. Whenever I try to talk about his problem, or get angry because of the mess, he just tells me to leave if I don't like it. I hate living like this. His hoarding problem is really hurting our marriage. It really hurts me to live like this. He refuses to get help. I've asked him to go to a therapist, but he refuses. I'm afraid that the hoarding will just continue to get worse, as he gets older.

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