HELP! My partner is a hoarder! What can I do?

Q. How does one declutter and simplify when they live with someone who is panicked by the mere thought of removing something of questionably dubious value that might be needed thirty years from now?

A. This is a really tough question because it sounds like the person you are dealing with is a hoarder. Hoarders are very different from your average person who is messy, or has some clutter. A hoarder has deep-rooted, psychological reasons for hoarding, and they experience the kind of panic that you describe, when faced with getting rid of stuff.

So I suggest this approach when dealing with a hoarder.

First – understand that hoarding is a serious disorder. You will need to find it within yourself to develop both compassion and patience for your hoarding partner. I acknowledge that this won’t be easy, but it’s the only way through your situation.

Second – educate yourself about hoarding. The more you understand, the easier it will be for you to support and encourage your hoarding partner. A great place to start is Hoarders Anonymous at www.hoardersanonymous.org and reading into how others have helped hoarders. I’ve included information from their website below.

Third, take care of yourself. While your hoarding partner cannot change overnight, that doesn’t mean you need to drive yourself nuts by living with the kind of clutter that a hoarder accumulates. Here are some ideas on how you can take care of yourself. After educating yourself about hoarding, you can have a compassionate and understanding talk with your partner, and hopefully get him to agree to make an appointment with a hoarding professional. A hoarding professional is not your average psychotherapist – its someone who specializes in helping hoarders.

Another way you can help yourself is by designating one room in your house for your hoarding partner to use for his stuff. Ideally, this should be a spare bedroom, garage, basement or whatever is available. It needs to have a door that you can close so you don’t need to look at the mess. Understand that your partner cannot throw things away without experiencing great distress and anxiety, so simply give him a room. Hopefully, with time and help, your hoarding partner will be able to let go of some stuff, but in the meantime, let him have a room.

Make two rules:
1. Any shared space in your house needs to be kept clutter free.
2. The room that you give to your hoarder must be kept in a safe condition. This means there cannot be items that pose a safety hazard such as tripping, and most importantly, the room needs to be kept free of items that could cause or inflame a fire.

Here is information from the Hoarders Anonymous website. I strongly encourage you to do further research by doing a Google search for “hoarding help” or “hoarding.”

“The Psychiatry Department at the University of California describes hoarding as a disorder characterized by one’s difficultly discarding items that appear to have little or no value. Hoarding is not simply an issue of aesthetics, but also can result in serious threats to the health and safety of the hoarder and anyone else who spends time in her home.

Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder, deeply ingrained in the hoarder’s mind and habits. While it is vital that a hoarder receive support, you must recognize that you cannot “heal” her. A hoarder’s condition can improve with cognitive therapy and sometimes medications to treat an underlying condition, but as her friend your primary role will be as her supporter.

Hoarders are considered to have a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). While most people with OCD never hoard, those who do can have a difficult time unraveling their hoarding habit with their compulsive need to save things. Here’s how you can help.

Educate Yourself
The International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) offers information and other resources on its website. You can read through to get a better idea of what your friend is dealing with as well as what she faces as she attempts to control the disorder. Maryland Hoarding Cleanup also offers resources for those dealing with the problem.

Provide Practical Support

  • Help your friend find a professional in your area that deals specifically with hoarding issues, recommends IOCDF. Taking the first step can be the toughest. Offer to help her find someone she feels she can work with.
  • If you are physically able, offer to help with the actual clean-up process when the time comes.
  • Help your friend gather others who are willing to help with the clean-up. Give everyone an assignment. One person might be asked to find a way to dispose of the mess, while another goes on drink and food runs. Try to think of all those small details that she may be too overwhelmed to remember.
  • Do small things to let your friend know that you’re thinking of her. If you keep in mind how embarrassing a condition like compulsive hoarding is it, you can begin to understand how low her self-esteem is. She needs to know that you don’t judge her. Invite her over for a movie night, bring her a special coffee drink on occasion or find other ways to let her know she has a friend. Remind her that hoarding is just one component of her personality and not her entire identity.

Dig Deep for Patience
Psychology Today warns that patience is an integral part of helping a hoarder find a healthier way to live. While it would be wonderful if you could rent a dumpster and have everything out of the house by the end of the day, that’s not the way it normally works. Rather than expecting her to change her deeply entrenched behaviors overnight, be grateful for each tiny baby step she takes forward.

Understand That It Is a Process
The reason most hoarders say they began to keep unneeded items is because they thought maybe they would be valuable in the future or because they had sentimental value, reports The Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Even after her home is perfectly clean, your friend is still going to be dealing with the issues that led her to hoard in the first place. She has a great deal of work to do to get to the bottom of what’s causing her behavior, and can certainly use a friend during this time.

Please see my newer, updated post on hoarding where I’ve learned that hoarding is a serious psychological disorder. Find out what’s going on with your hoarder, and how you can help here.

This quoted information was originally posted on the Hoarder’s Anonymous website, here.
Image Source: Pixabay

57 comments

  1. Timely! Thank you. After reading this-and after watching some of the hoarder reality shows, I realize that we are just a bit overrun with stuff that does not have an assigned home. And that my tolerance for this is a bit less than my husband the prepper. I will just work on carving out a few perfect rooms and let the rest be a little cluttered. After all, no one is tripping over anything and you could still easily get the paramedics in and out! It is just harder to clean if you have to move stuff.
    My husband does feel more comfortable with the in-case stuff around, but is certainly not a clinical case after reading the definitions in the article. He was just brought up on a ranch by people who lived through the depression. He has been a firefighter for many years, so has a heightened sense of “pre-planning”.
    That being said, I think I will get up and go tidy something and toss a couple of items in the outbox.

  2. Fabulous article – just out of curiosity is there a specific problem with hoarding for children? We have a four year old that is the fourth child and so now has every toy imaginable taking over the house. I don’t want to part my daughter with her toys but with Christmas coming up and extended family….
    My wife has a thing for keeping the toys and I don’t want to be the bad guy but a strategy for painlessly de-cluttering would be great.

  3. Great question, and you are definitely not alone. We adults are overwhelmed with stuff, and we’re passing the problem on to our kids. So here’a the simplest way to deal with too many toys. Depending on the ages of your kids, sit down with each one individually and tell her or him you’re going to play a fun game. The game is to go around and choose her 5 or 10 (whatever number that feels reasonable to you) favorite toys. Part of the game is to find a way to display these toys. Do that with your child and keep it fun. The next part of the game is hiding the remaining toys so the displayed group of toys gets to be special for a week or month (you choose). Carefully store the toys that were not chosen. The game is to give full attention to the chosen toys for a week/month, and then after that period of time, your child gets to choose which stored toy will come out and replace one of the chosen toys! This way there are never more than 5 or 10 toys out at a time!

    This game teaches your child to discern what’s most important and thus, to not feel overwhelmed by too much stuff and too many choices.

    What a great skill to learn early! Let me know if this works for you.

  4. My husband has too many items all over the house and the basement is full. Our house is 4,000 sq ft. I cannot “not” clean and it’s very stressful. Electronics, radios, etc he likes to sell on eBay. He fixes and cleans them, but has not sold too much. I have told him to get moving and sell and he says he will, but dosen’t do it. He realizes he has too much stuff, but does not like to throw anything away. I used to have people over and had family dinners etc., but have not done so for a long time. My husband will be 75 yrs in March. I said we should move into smaller place, but says he has to sell everything first. I said this will never happen. We do travel and go to other people’s houses for dinner etc. I do not know what to do. Need help.

    J

    1. Hi Judith – I’m so sorry that things are so difficult with your husband’s hoarding. I don’t know if you have property around your house but if you do, you might consider adding a building just for your husband’s stuff. You could buy a pre-made structure from a place like Home Depot, or build a simple building. Either way, you can make it large enough for your husband and his stuff. If this is not possible, then can you help him organize the basement by adding shelves and storage so that you can move his stuff that takes over the house, into the basement? If this won’t work either, then as I suggested to Dave above, I suggest you, too, go to a hoarder’s anonymous meeting to learn how to deal with your hoarder. if you do go, please let us know what you learn, and my best to you.

      1. Thanks for your article! It was helpful! My husband builds another shed when he runs out of room.We have piles of magazines upstairs,in the basement,in the garage,and one of the sheds! I use my rower when I can’t run due to inclement weather. last fall when I was doing groceries he put it in the back of the shed. I cleared a path to retrieve it and he filled it up with old bald tires and extinct car parts. I now have a cracked heel and the doctor wants me to do non-weight bearing exercise. He finally took my rower out but I feel like getting a dump truck and throwing everything out! Should I box up the magazines and load them into his garage or shed? He is also collecting broken tables and chairs from other people!

      2. This suggestion completely ignores that the hoarder is going to fill that space and not remove anything from the house. There is no trade off here where you clear out space in the house because now that person has their own spot. They will take over “all” the space. Also the suggestion of helping him to organize the basement ignores the obstacle that the person doesn’t want “any” of their stuff touched and ignores the very likely possibility that there is so much stuff that just reorganization isn’t efficient in solving the problem nor that they will want to throw out anything.

        1. This article is factual and yes, sad. I’ve lived with my hoarder spouse for 40 years. In our old house it was the whole house. I’d never heard the term ‘ hoarding’ , I just thought he was lazy, til almost 20 years ago when we moved into our dream house. Since then he has completely filled oneroom ( door shuts), a garage, and his car with the most indecipherable and misunderstood junk, BUT he carries more stuff into our family room to the point he’s moved furniture! He puts junk on my bookshelves. I won’t lie, we’ve fought and fought over this. I’ve tried reasoning and other suggestions. You know you’re getting to ground zero when he dead eyes you. Sigh. The giving him one room did not work! His side of our bedroom is horrible, as is his side of the bathroom. I force him to keep his ‘ side’ separated from mine. I don’t know the answer. He won’t acknowledge he needs help (I want things ‘too tidy’) and the behavior has never changed. I’ve cried often over this because I have to work so hard to make our home nice… and it enrages our grown children. He’s also kept multiple cats and dogs inside and outside our home for 40 years…. I don’t mean to scare others who care and may live with hoarders, they may see success, but nothing has ever changed in my case.

          1. Hi Pam,
            Have you received any useful answers? My challenges extend to yard work that my hoarder says he doesn’t want to do anymore. He says trees need major pruning, but he doesn’t do anything. The beautiful garden space we had when we moved to this house (9 years ago) is weed covered with hoses and tools buried under the weeds. I’ve been working to clear this. He bought lots of big equipment, filled up separate garage spaces and other equipment is left out to rust. Interior spaces are full of stuff too. Only recently he acknowledged that a pile he’d searched through could be reduced, but no action. My hoarder walks the dog, listens to talking books and naps. That’s about it.

      3. In my case, I have been reduced to basically living in one room as my husband’s “collections” have taken over most of the house, more than 3/4 of the basement (washer & dryer is “mine”), the two-car garage in which he has built a make-shift 2nd floor to hold more of his stuff, and he has also added 5 sheds on our property which he says are needed for things “all” homeowners need. I think of moving out and/or divorce almost every day of my life, but don’t want to break-up my family. Cleaning and tidying-up takes up so much more time because I have to wade through so much excess. Recycling eats up more of my time than it should as he doesn’t connect purchases, such as a 3-inch stack of daily newspapers with less to be recycled unnecessarily. I work full-time and I’m tired.

        1. My hoarder husband and I have been together for almost 12 years. I recently had him removed from our home for unrelated reasons, but now that he’s gone and can’t communicate with me I have started unloading all of his hoarding. I have a friend that owns a dump truck, and I have filled it full twice emptying the garage. I now have to load it with a third load that will come from the yard space around the garage and the 6*6 room where the water heater is. I’ve found everything imaginable. The garage and the room he hoarded in were flooded by Hurricane Florence last year, so no mold abatement was done at all, so I have to attend that now. I need to get a yard rake and rake the papers out from under his desk and clean the den that he overtook. He’s never welcome back to my home.

          1. Good for you VC,he sounds like too much trouble .your better off now! It’s distressing to live with piles of stuff,bad feng shui as well. Cheers to a new beginning,I’m single and happy about t, Lisa in bc canada

  5. Hi Janet,

    Thanks for your advice! Reading your blog has helped me to better understand and sympathize with my SO who has hoarding tendencies.

    I have two questions on your rule #1 – Any shared space in your house needs to be kept clutter free.

    It’s easy to agree to a rule like this, but in my experience it’s very hard to follow. My questions are:
    1. How do you get to a point where the shared spaces are clutter free to begin with?
    2. More importantly, how do you deal with the situation when the rule is broken?

    Thanks!

    1. Dave you’re asking a great question. It’s easy to tell someone who isn’t a hoarder that shared spaces must be kept clutter-free, but when you’re dealing with a true hoarder, you’re dealing with a mental disorder. Nonetheless, my first question to you is, is your partner agreeable to having your shared space be clutter-free? And does she acknowledge that she has a problem? If she is agreeable, then you can, indeed, set some rules. First, you need to designate a room that’s just for your partner so she has a place to put all of her clutter. And then you two can agree that in fairness to your own sanity, she needs to do a sweep of the shared spaces every night and put her clutter in her own room. If she is not agreeable to this, or if she doesn’t acknowledge that she has a problem, then I suggest you go to a hoarder’s anonymous meeting yourself to learn how to deal with her.

  6. My husband of 4 years is a hoarder. I now understand some of the items he can’t let go because of memories. His space is in the garage and it is driving me insane walking around the clutter to get into the house. I now understand I need a lot of patience and an appt. with my psychiatrist to learn more about dealing with him.

  7. I have a husband who has so much stuff he builds more space in order to keep his stuff. We now have 4 new outside buildings full. I feel like I live at the junk yard. Trying really hard to understand. I will see a professional for myself. I have started a business, but i have to give up on it because people can’t come here.

  8. My husband is an expert at avoiding dealing with his “stuff”. After 32 years of marriage, I told him today, that if he doesn’t stop avoiding responsibility and begin dealing with his “stuff”, I will file for a divorce. I feel as if I have been held hostage, due to his overtaking of our entire house and garage, with his “stuff”. I haven’t parked in the garage in over 20 years! I can no longer do my art, due to his overtaking of space. He has told me that, “I will do whatever you want, yet he Always has a reason , or puts some other activity ahead of what he needs to do. I wake up in the morning, walk about the house for a bit, and BAM, the clutter, the dysfunctional use, (or non-use) of space right in my face. I am sick of not having a table to eat at! If anyone knows a way to legally “force” a spouse to begin the process of de hoarding, PLEASE let me know. I am starved for a life of simplicity, happiness, and productive creativity that is akin to true peace of mind. Blessings to all of you who live with TOO MUCH. May simplicity rein forever!

    1. I have the same problem with my partner who built a shed outside. I am realizing that the more space he has, the more he uses. It will never be enough. Aquiring more space will just exacerbate the situation, in my opinion.

      1. I feel like I need a counsellor that I can call at any time for support. Being married to my husband for 33 years I am also at wits end for simplicity and a peace of mind. I feel like Iam drowning in stuff.

    2. Gayle. Did I write that? I am having to deal with precisely the same thing as you – Except – I am a he. I sympathise with you, I am at my tethers end right now. Dave

    3. Gayle, this is exactly my situation! We’ve been married 37 years and I’m worn out picking up after my husband. He attaches sentimental value to each and every item in his ‘collections’. Nothing can be sold or given to Goodwill. I can’t take it any more. This stuff means more to him than our marriage. The piles have worn me down and I am exhausted from trying to de-clutter. He has magazines from the 80’s. They reek of mold and mildew, but he can’t toss them. I know this is almost August, but I am just seeing this post now, as I have reached the same conclusion you did.

  9. I wound up moving to my own trailer…he is not welcome to bring anything over. We now live separately, as I was going stark raving mad. I am also calling code enforcement and letting the officials take care of it. I’m done.

  10. Does anyone here have advice on how to cope with knowing the stuff was more important than you are? I am no longer living with the hoarder but this broke my spirit.

    1. I know exactly how you feel I just recently moved out from my partners home due to his hoarding and told him the same thing that he loved his junk more than me I stayed stressed out constantly now maybe I can have less stress in my life

  11. I have been dealing with a hoarding husband for thirty years. He has filled our lovely half acre parcel with every imaginable type of junk…because someday he may need it. Of course, on those rare occasions when something in his piles may actually be useful, it can never be found because it is buried in twenty years of clutter.

    We have cleaned out the mess several times over the years, which he promptly fills back up. Our kids were too embarrassed to bring their friends over and I feel the same. Simply suggesting a clean up is enough to make him furious and we inevitably wind up in a huge fight.

    Not sure how much longer I can take this. I’ve been patient, too patient. I’ve been understanding…too understanding. I’m ready to bring in a crew and have all his precious crap taken to the dump. I want to be able to walk in my yard. I want to be able to let my grandchildren play outside. I’m sick of living like this. I’ve had enough.

  12. My husband is a hoarder. I am tired of the clutter that is everywhere and I’m tired of other people looking at me as if I’m a slob who doesnt clean. We are having our first baby in August and I’m stressed to the bone about getting our two bedroom apartment organized before then. I have decided to try having him put everything in our second room so we can have our kitchen, living room, and bedroom back. Then I have until August to make him throw the stuff away. Hope this works.

  13. He also hoards broken down cars and wants me to move to an acreage so that he can hoard more. His mother’s place is starting to look like a junkyard as she is enabling him!

  14. im on the verge of getting a skip and by the time he comes home, the skip will have been collected, taking away all his junk

  15. I hear you. I too, live with a hoarder. By hoarder standards, it’s mild, but it keeps me up at night. I HATE it. Give him his own space, he outgrows it. “Be patient”??!! Ha. Those of us that live with it have already BEEN patient, because it’s still a problem, wrecking our lives. Get out. Move on. YOU be happy, not just the hoarder. Baby steps progress does NOT ever get it done. Endless battles, & the hoarder always wins, because we must be patient & understanding? At our own expense, yr after yr? Love can only gloss it over so long b4 it’s a health risk, a fire risk, eviction, uninhabitable, or condemned. That’s the reality. His Nana had (deceased now) a home worth 10.5 MILLION, filled with…crap. 30 yr old candy bars! 1/2 eaten. Mum has 700k home…yup, filled to capacity. Complete with wool moths, & carpet beetles. Any more “patience” & I’ll be buried alive.

  16. I am so glad to hear I am not alone. My husband has invaded every bit of space outside the house, in all 4 cars but mine, and every room in the house but my room and the bathroom. If I hadn’t complained as much as I did and do I would have no space. We are going on 35 years of marriage, and I don’t know how much more of this horrible habit I can take. He’s been a great provider for both myself and our 5 beautiful adult now children. He’s recently retired and I am ready to move on to the next phase of my life without the clutter. Help!

    1. Omg! I’m reading this and it’s like I wrote it myself! I can’t live like this anymore! I’m bitter angry and frustrated! I’ve been married almost 30 years and it’s just getting worse. Now are adult kids bedrooms have been filled with stuff and I don’t even have a place to put my grandchildren Who I watch 3 days a week.

    2. To ‘Chaos’
      I live it too. I just can’t take it anymore. It’s killing me. My life has been destroyed by my wife’s hoarding, I don’t wish a divorce, but I’m at the end. It’s been going on for 30 years and I’m 60 now. Should not I have a little cleanliness for my last years…?
      Roger

    3. I live with a hoarder, we have been married 14 years. A lot of your stories resonate with me. He is addicted to shopping and has tons of stuff and when I put it away he gets more. It’s like if he sees a clear empty space he has a compulsion to shop and fill it with piles of shit. So much of our money and hours upon hours of my time are wasted cleaning up his crap and throwing away packaging, papers, junk mail, periodicals (most never read or opened)duplicates of useful things like tools, papers that he refuses to throw away, empty pill bottles, spent batteries, fast food plastic utensils, tiny toiletries from hotels and hospitals, not to mention that he has more clothes, shoes, and coats than anyone else in the family, and basically has an entire rack of clothing and boxes and boxes of clothing in the basement in addition to his closet full of clothes. When I complain that he has more stuff than anyone else, he just says that we can all have more stuff too, if we want. He doesn’t see that we get rid of as much as possible, including things we want, to make room for all his shit which he doesn’t even know he has. He thinks old socks, underwear, and t-shirts are “rags” and therefore must he kept. So basically whenever he leaves the house I get several trash bags and dump huge amounts of stuff without his knowledge. When he asks where is all my stuff, I tell him I put it away and tidied up because I don’t like stuff all over the floor. I feel like a bad person sometimes but I don’t think he will ever change and this is the only way I can stay sane. When he is looking for something I usually know where it is. There is that one or two times I threw out a receipt and he needed it to return something, and he never lets me forget “that’s why we never throw away receipts” but I still do. There is a huge pile of receipts every day from his compulsive shopping. It’s all a waste of money too. He used to buy a new suitcase instead of cleaning it out, and he did the same things with computers, instead of cleaning out useless files, he would just get a new computer. He won’t even throw away a computer that is old and doesn’t work. He upgrades and buys new things but will NOT throw the old thing away. We have2 clothes dryers and there are people who don’t even have one. So now I’ve convinced him that hoarding things is hurting the poor people who could actually use the stuff he hoards and isn’t using, and doesn’t need. This seems to be having more of an impact than anything else I’ve tried. It doesn’t stop him from shopping, though. You all have my sympathy.

  17. This has been very helpful. Thanks to all of you for stating what I have been feeling for 11 years. I had already told my sweetie that I would not marry him nor move in with him because of his inability to throw out old useless junk. I don’t care if it is needed somewhere down the line. If it hasn’t been used in 6 months and takes up valuable space it needs to go. I was in denial about his issues for several years. I stayed out of his house for 6 months and was shocked when I finally went back in. The situation has gotten worse. I would never have believed it was possible. I care and love this person but I love myself more. I don’t have the patience this would take and may have to bail.

    1. To everyone who has commented on this blog post, I hear you! I’ve heard the deep, deep frustration of living with a hoarder. I want you to know that your comments inspired me to update my information on hoarding, and indeed, I discovered that it’s a pretty serious psychological disorder that you need to understand if you’re living with a hoarder. So, rather than respond to each comment individually, I wrote a new blog post with updated information. My new post is titled “Take it seriously – hoarding is a psychological disorder.” You can find this post by typing the title into the search bar on the homepage.

  18. I am dating a hoarder, we have been dating for six years, I can never marry him, I could not live that way. He owns over a thousand cars and none of them run. Some are true antiques and classics but they are just rusting away. He doesn’t even let anyone in his house anymore. It is so sad, he is a good man in many ways, but he won’t even discuss cleaning it up. He is so cheap because every penny he has goes to collecting more junk.

  19. I have solved the problem. I have been so frustrated and miserable that I have come to the conclusion that everything we have is mine, all mine. See that? And see that over there? That’s mine, and it will look and be like I want it to be. If he wants to be married (and he does), that’s the way it’s going to be. This is the last time we go on this merry-go-round.

  20. My partner and I have been together for 10 years first he just had his things in our bedroom now it has overflowed into two other bedrooms. I do not know what to do every day he goes to thrift stores garage sales and consignment stores. He is a good man but this is driving me insane. What should I do?

  21. MY Husband has the same problem, the garage is full of stuff, some areas that we do not use that much inside the house are full of boxes with papers, computers etc… one day he bring 2 big plants to put inside the house just because at his work they were going to throw to the garbage, and he does the same with computer monitors and keyboards (when at his work they no longer use them)he keeps lots of papers/ store receipts from 20+ years ago, the house is full of books that he will never read, I want to have a nice, clean and organized house but is so hard, I get very upset that he can not get rid of so many things that he doesn’t need…

  22. It all sounds good until you realize the one who hoards has to buy into the plan, will never do it. You need a damn dumpster for a month and if the hoarder hates it, too bad.

  23. I too live with a hoarder. My husband hides his hoarding. He has 2 storage units that I know of 1 shed and a garage 1/2 full. I demand using my 1/2 for my car! He also claimed one bedroom which is full of stuff. I keep the door closed for my insanity but it stinks!
    How do you keep the smell from the rest of the house?

  24. Some terrible stories here. And a lot of similar ways to living with an alcoholic, trying to fix things, trying to solve things, getting isolated because the partners behavior is embarrassing to be around so you can’t invite people over. For a lot of people I’m afraid the solution is the same as living with an alcoholic, ‘detach with love’. Accept you can’t change them but you owe it to yourself to not live with them or enable them as the long term effect will be so bad for you. Leaving can be very difficult (not least because selling the house is so hard if its full of junk), but not leaving is ruining your life. May be it will give them the wake up call they need, but if they won’t seek help even though they are heartbroken you are gone there won’t be anything they can do. Painful but in the long-run you have to look out for yourself. Good luck to you all.

  25. I love my husband very much, but the frustration over the hoarding has caused me to have so much pent up rage that when the topic of hoarding comes up at all between us, I feel very out of control. I appreciate everyone’s comments and the info in the article, everything I read actually is helping me to understand that he just can’t help himself. My making threats or casting ultimatums just causes bitterness between us, and I really don’t want to spend my time with him feeling like that. For the most part, his hoarding is confined to our garage and spare bedroom. We have never parked a car in our 2 1/2 car garage – EVER. We just had a battle about this tonight, and as I predicted (I went ahead and said it out loud…) “now you’re going to be mad and go and sleep in the other room and not talk to me”. Yup, that’s where we are as I write this. That old expression “choose your battles wisely” comes to mind. After reading everything here, I know in my heart that I can never beat this. I really like the idea of confining the hoarding to certain spaces, and he has talked about getting a building for out in our yard.

    1. I have the same issue, he fills our third bedroom, including the en suite bathroom/the double garage/the loft all the areas around our beautiful property. I fight to keep the home beautiful, now in separate bedrooms, because it is creeping into the master bedroom. I want to sell up and have my own home. He won’t clear so we can put house on the market. So I am trapped. Hoarding is a form of mental abuse to the partner. I cannot have family to visit/stay. It’s a nightmare.

  26. I am in the same situation seeing things build up more in the spaces he has. I am so embarassed when my family members come to stay from out of town. his stuff is in the basement where he works at a crowded desk lucky to hold a cup of coffee, he shows them around like he doesn’t realize how cluttered it is. Every day i also see more shoes bought stored in his closet he uses with jackets. i’ve had enough. i want to know if there are grounds for divorce when you are living in unhealthy environment with a hoarder.

  27. About 4 years ago my husband’s brother died. I’d never been to his house. His children wanted to just “bring in dumpsters” and throw away everything. I (sort of) understood why when I went into the home. It was PACKED. The living and dining rooms were impassible, the family room and bedrooms had just enough room to walk. He had one place to sit for TV and one small place to sleep. The kitchen and bathrooms were unclean but not cluttered. There were no dirty dishes or things on the counters. This wasn’t exactly like TV hoarders.

    My husband spent an entire month clearing out the house (which had once been his mother’s). Instead of getting rid of most stuff, he rented two storage units (he’s still paying) and brought most of the rest of the stuff home. “A family member might want something” (even though NO ONE went to the house as it was being cleared), “there are memories.” He has the entire huge family room filled floor to ceiling, every single closet is filled (where there should be linens there are old paint cans, old computers, etc.). Code enforcement forced him to move 2 vehicles out of our front yard and lay gravel. He won’t even let me get rid of two of my own vehicles that don’t run. He bought a whole (old) boat for one part because it was cheaper than buying just the part. I recently listened to him decline a neighbor’s offer of “$5000 cash today” for one of his blackberry ridden cars that hasn’t moved in 7 years (and won’t, because he isn’t physically capable of fixing it anymore).

    I’ve pleaded with him (“I can’t stand it!”) and he has his excuses or he will say he’ll do it when he feels better. But I’m often silent because I think, I have to get rid of my own clutter first. But really, my clutter is because of his clutter. I have stuff in the bedroom and even in the living room because it can’t go where it should go. The vacuum, even towels and blankets, all just piled against the walls or in boxes. He recently put some of our camping equipment in my office, which is my personal space since he moved into the family room. I painstakingly decorated and furnished that room and there is NO clutter… till now. He can’t get to the old truck he normally stores the camping stuff in. I can’t open my curtains because of the eye sore on the patio. On a quarter acre lot we have 5 non-running cars, a non-running boat, and two utility trailers in addition to 3 running vehicles. We have zero use of any yard for our 1 year old grandbaby who lives with us. And she is growing up to think the way we live is normal. I never let anyone visit me at home (he does; I hide in the bedroom).

    He is not dirty or messy… well, I guess outside the house is. It is awful. Best of all, the house is only in my name. Sorry to vent so long. I’m finally admitting I live with a hoarder. It’s a hard admission to make.

  28. What do you do when your wife of many years refuses to even to discuss the issue. She had come from a family where her grandmother committed suicide and mother was paranoid with mental issues. I have few options unless she agrees to professional counseling. She feels threatened.

  29. Im 60 and I’ve literally just met a man a few days gao after not having had a relationship for a few years, he seemed very nice and a good match. However we went to be house and it’s just horrible. He has stuff absolutely everywhere in every room, old stuff from his parents and newspaper cuttings DVDs CD videos stereosz old furniture ornaments etc etc
    as an introverted person I find this all very depressing and dark, I tried to ignore it but it’s very difficult as we are in a new relationship I am not sure if I want to move forward because he suffers anxiety and depression and he talks a lot about things that are fairly nonsense or things I know nothing about. I find myself exhausted listening. I’ve given it 3 dates now and feel sad that it may not move forward because of this

    1. Run! No matter how much you love them you cannot “fix” them. I stumbled upon this blog by accident. For the first time in a long time I don’t feel as if MY inability to deal with growing “collections” is the problem. Best of luck to all the partners of hoarders as the giant 127 yard sale weekend approaches.

  30. My husband of 42 years is a hoarder. We have a very small house to begin with with very little storage space and no garage. I cannot clean because stuff is everywhere. I am so depressed because I can’t invite friends over and of course when someone does drop over unannounced I am the slob who does not keep my house clean. I have talked to my husband about this and he keeps saying he will clean it but he is always too tired. If I try to clean it he tells me not to touch his stuff. I feel trapped.

  31. My husband is a hoarder. If he wasn’t very ill at this moment, I probably would’ve walked out. I had ordered a dumpster and had help lined up to do a clean up and he flat out freaked out and I had to cancel which cost us 150.00!!! I am So done. If he gets better, I may think about leaving after our son graduates. I simply can’t Take this anymore. It’s so sad because I do love him but sane people have limits.

  32. This article addresses helping the person who seems to be aware that they need help. My husband is angry when I refer to him as a hoarder and yet he is truly a hoarder in every sense of the word. Despite my in-laws hoarding themselves out of every room in their house, they could never admit they had a problem. They saw it in the other one but never in themselves. My husband sees that they are hoarders but doesn’t see himself as one. The fact is, I have spent 25 years of my life organizing, reorganizing, figuring out the best use of space, buying new tubs, shelves and other organizing tools. I have purged my own things in an effort to make more space and I have purged his things behind his back because he doesn’t even remember what he has. We have been arguing about this our entire married life. It consumes me because he takes up so much space and keeps demanding more and more all the while I’m constantly cleaning and coming up with ways to keep it our of our living space. But he has never been the one to manage it. If I wasn’t always fighting to keep it out of our living space and with some semblance of organization, he would be hoarding himself into the corner like his father. I have been on anti-depressants a few times, usually as a result of feeling that I’m losing the battle – that I’m digging a hole and he is throwing dirt back in faster than I can dig. When I try to tell him how it stresses me out and affects my mental health, he tells me that I need counseling. I’m at a loss, back on anti-depressants and I’m losing the battle. I’m old, I’m tired and this has consumed my life for 25 years. And yet any talk of getting rid of any of his stuff is an insult to him and I get accused of “trying to take his childhood away from him.” In reality only half is his childhood stuff. He has at half a dozen “collections.” I feel like his THINGS have always been THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN HIS LIFE. I just don’t get it and I’m done with patience. It hasn’t worked to cure this!

  33. Wow! So much encouragement!
    I’m reading it’s not only about stuff,
    but, time!
    Time goes by;
    days,
    months,
    years,
    decades,
    half centuries!
    Oh my!!
    It’s truly time!
    Time to clean out home and garage of so much unnecessary stuff!!
    Thank you again!
    May God bless all of you for
    your insightful help!

  34. Hello. My father is 91 years old and he lives in a big home with his 61 year old hoarder son. I feel bad that he took his son out of a shelter 15 years ago because his marriage tanked. It is disgusting what decades of hoarding junk has done. (Used tissues, newspapers, clothing, etc.) He knows where to take his junk and throw it in a dumpster but does not. I feel bad that my father has to live with him at this point in his life. Thank you for all you do.

  35. My husband has a room filled wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with stuff- not junk- actually quite expensive photography and computer equipment that he can’t use because it is a packed, disorganized mess. In trying to organize it, he expanded into the hallway, guestroom, guest bath and part of our master suite. OK. I was supportive but gradually lost patience over 8 months. Knowing he has a serious disorder, I followed all the advice about being loving, respectful of his belongings, offering to help organize, renting a 350/month storage space, and asking very infrequently (once a month) if we could agree to clear out our shared spaces. Each request was met with eye rolls and “yes, I am working on it.” It hurts to be working so hard on respecting his hoarding while being disrespected when I ask for my needs to be considered. When I finally asked to set a date, I said I was really uncomfortable with all the stuff, and I wanted to have the guest bath, hallway and guestroom working for their intended pupose, I asked if we could couldn’t organize it in his room by the end of the year, could we move it to the garage or storgae to be soreted gradually ito his room. He responded by jumping up and shoving ALL of it into his room so that now it is a solid wall of stuff and you cannot enter the room. And he is not speaking now- this has gone on for three full days, and I can only face the possibility that I might actually be getting a divorce over what seems like a ridiculous issue. But the fact that he can sink to the level of the silent treatment over this is the real issue. Living with a hoarder who is in denial; and refuses to get help leaves me with the choice to accept it or leave a person who claimed to love me but is actually capable of ignoring me for days on end. Does anyone have any other choices to suggest for me?

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