The Importance of Admitting to the Problem
You may be able to force your spouse to get rid of things, but if they don’t believe they have a problem, the items will just accumulate again. Often, having a hoarding problem is just a symptom of other issues. Someone with a hoarding problem may have anxiety, and may be trying to fill that anxiety by being over-prepared. The things may go away, but that doesn’t mean that the anxiety goes away.
Living with Someone Who Has a Hoarding Problem
Hoarding problems often build up over time. It can be easy to overlook “a few extra things” until you find yourself needing to step over items just to get through your living room. Hoarding households are unhealthy. Not only does it contribute to dust and pests, but it can be damaging to your own mental health. It’s been shown that having clutter around your home can lead to depression.
Work with Them to Get Rid of Old Possessions
Don’t just ask them to get rid of their own possessions. Frame it as a household decluttering, and work with them to get rid of some of your unnecessary items too. This avoids making them feel like they’re the sole target.
Focus on the Result of their Hoard
Rather than telling your spouse they have too many things, instead, focus on the end result of having too many things. Don’t tell them “You have too many boxes,” instead say “Your boxes are blocking the walkways, and making it difficult to walk through the house.”
It’s hard for someone to understand they have “too many things” when they don’t see having a lot of things as being inherently bad. They need to understand how the hoard is impacting you and them.
Get Started Early with Couples Counseling
As mentioned, hoarding is often the symptom of deeper issues. Seek couples counseling early, so you can work through these issues with your spouse. If you can address the reason that they are hoarding, you’ll also be able to address why they’re hoarding.
Consider Donating Items to Friends and Family
Ask friends and family members to come down and look through your things. There may be things that you can use. Your spouse may be more willing to get rid of things if they feel as though they are still with someone that you know. Sometimes sentimental attachments are formed to items, and they don’t want to get rid of them entirely.
Start Out Slowly and Get Rid of Things in Stages
Instead of just taking things out right away, consider getting rid of things in stages. This can ease your spouse into the transition, rather than shocking their system. While it may be great television, it’s usually not best for a hoarder to get rid of all of their things at once. In fact, that can just lead to a quick relapse. Instead, speak with a therapist and try to get rid of things on a regular, but realistic, schedule.
Draw the Line on Getting New Things
Hoarders are very likely to relapse, and it may be slow enough to be subtle. Make sure that your spouse isn’t starting to collect new things after getting rid of the old ones, because that will just start the cycle over again (and probably be more expensive). If your spouse has a serious issue with purchasing items, you may need to agree upon a spending limit.
The Line Between Hoarders and Collectors
Many hoarders are also collectors, and many collectors can be seen as hoarders. Where do you draw the line? There are two important considerations: whether the collection is harmful to your lifestyle, and whether the collection is truly valuable. Have an appraiser value the collection: hoarders are often unrealistic about how much their hoard is really worth.
With work and time, you should be able to help your hoarding spouse stop hoarding. But remember that it isn’t something that they’re doing to annoy you: hoarding is a real disorder, and it’s often a sign of a deeper underlying problem. With the help of counseling, you should be able to emerge both healthy and victorious.