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Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

If you were a "spartan", how would you deal with a hoarder?

Asked by Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One (3901points) April 21st, 2015

I am a very frugal person. I don’t have a problem with people owning lots of things except that.. well yes.. I suppose I do otherwise I wouldn’t be asking this. What suggestions do you have for either partner in a relationship where one person is a bit of a hoarder (not obsessively so; just likes to have a lot of things) and the other is a frugal “spartan”?

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75 Answers

fluthernutter's avatar

Not that I’m advocating for this. But my husband is able to cope with my borderline hoarding tendencies because he’s spatially oblivious.

He once managed to miss this huge coffee table that I had dragged home—and left smack in the middle of the room. We’re talking about a 4’x4’ table.

More realistic answer, organization and storage. Agree to a one-in-one-out rule.

canidmajor's avatar

Interesting phrasing. Do you realize that you have so slanted your word choices to elicit very specific types of answers?
In today’s society, the word “hoarder” carries a stigma of A somewhat disgusting mental illness, while “Spartan” has always evoked the concept of a stream-lined warrior lifestyle.

hominid's avatar

As @canidmajor mentions, this may be phrased wrong. Frugal != spartan, and hoarder is certainly not the opposite of frugal. In fact, in my experience most hoarders are quite frugal, even though not all frugal people are hoarders.

janbb's avatar

Do yo uhave a large enough house that you can each have your own spaces? Maybe a room of her own where she keeps her stuff and a spartan space for you. Obviously, there have to be compromises in common areas like the kitchen.

bossob's avatar

First, I’d clear the stacks of magazines and newspapers off of 2 chairs so we had a place to sit down and talk! ~

First, you need to convey your feelings to your partner that you’re not comfortable with the current arrangements. Maybe they’ll have ideas to help out.

Darn, janbb beat me to it: Each of you having some space of your own to do with as you please is my suggestion too. If nothing else, it will shrink the size of the conflict!

ragingloli's avatar

Find a very deep hole, and then kick him into it while yelling “THIS IS SPARTA!”

JLeslie's avatar

I am a “Spartan.” The Michigan State University kind. I also tend to be the messy one in the family. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder, but I’m certainly not a neatnik. My husband would prefer everything to look spartan. It gets on his nerves. I also like a neat house, I’m just not great at it. Especially paperwork. Piles of paper tend to accumulate.

I don’t shop a lot, generally if rather not own it in the first place, and I like to throw things away, but I still have quite a bit of stuff.

I think @janbb‘s suggestion is good that basically the hoarder needs a room they can trash. Like my husband says, “localize the mess.”

For me, what would really really help me be neater, is if my husband would be with me once a week for an hour while I sort through paperwork. If he just talked to me or watched TV with me in my office while I organized a little it would make a huge difference. He won’t do it. I have hired an organizer a few times. For me it’s money better spent than a typical cleaning person who mops the floors. I don’t pay for either usually, I typically do my own cleaning, but the professional organizers really helped me especially the first time I used one. They helped me put systems into place I never would have thought of.

I think the trick is the person has to like the place to be near also, just maybe doesn’t know how to do it.

If they simply don’t see mess and don’t care if it’s messy it’s really difficult for them to keep things pin near. If they feel an emptiness in their lives and the things give them comfort, it’s really difficult.

Inspired_2write's avatar

If one was a compassionate Spartan then I would suggest reading up as to the ‘why” a person needs to hoard.
In a nutshell they are filling some void that they feel in their life with “things”.
Usually after some investigaion one finds that the4 person who hoards had a tramatic episode in their life which is either on the subconscious level or a deliberate means of deflecting a painful feeling with collecting things.
Have a compassionate talk with your partner in a gentle way.

JLeslie's avatar

I want to add some more thoughts.

@Inspired_2write I’m glad you also brought up there is typically an emotional component. There usually an emotional compenent to extremely neat people, but since that is generally rewarded in society it’s a little more tricky. Any extreme usually has some story behind it. I’m not saying the OP is extreme, I have no idea.

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Back to the why, separate spaces does not solve the why, it only solves having fewer arguments about it. If the messy one can actually be in touch with the why, share it with their partner, then I think the partner has an obligation to care enough to be at least a little helpful. I find most neat people won’t do it. It’s part of the dynamic and in some ways makes things worse. Makes a hoarder feel more empty that the person who supposedly loves them allows them to be lonely, inadequate, or feel out of control. In my mind the hoarding is like an addiction in some ways. However, some of it is usually personality trait, and some is simply not knowing what to do. The simple saying, “a place for everything and everything in its place,” was a new concept for me in my 20’s. It has to have a place or it will never be out away. Some people don’t know that, even though it seems so simple.

If you can be willing to help your SO (I’m assuming we are talking about an SO) and spend a little time on it, then ask how you can help, but you have to do it in a way that you aren’t being frustrated or selfish about your own need for things to be neat and spartan. Don’t expect them to ever be as tidy as you, that is a recipe for unhappiness.

I think this issue is a very big one for couples. I have a friend who is borderline hoarder, I would have simply said she was a slob if this was years ago, and she was dating a guy who is extremely neat. When she told me she was moving in with him I wanted to tell her, “don’t do it.” I really hope it all worked out well, but I feel like she was bending herself into a pretzle for him.

I’ll throw one more saying out, this time it is one we messy people covet, especially people who have trouble with paper. “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, then what is an empty desk?” Something like that. I think it was said by Albert Einstein, but I’m not sure. Almost every person I know who seeks tons of information all the time and absorbs it like a sponge, has piles of paper or books, and multiple things they are working on, and looking at, going on at once, and they don’t like to file it or put it away out of sight. I don’t know the actual statistics on that, this is just my experience. If your hoarder is more of a shopper than a paper problem, which is how it sounds to me, then what I said might not apply. My dad is both. He shops, he likes getting a deal, he doesn’t like to part with things, he doesn’t see the mess (oblivious) and he is very needy, he was very neglected in childhood. He also is what I would call an academic, he loves learning, did teach for several years, and for the most part in his career was surrounded by scientists. Having a stack of journals and multiple reports in his office would have been commonplace in his field. Being concerned about how things “look” was not very high on the list. At home it was all much more pronounced though; much more out of control and hurt my family. It still affects the family today.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

As others have said, it’s about communication, understanding, and compromise.

One tool that my partner and I found helpful, not only for understanding about collecting tendencies, but about other personality characteristics, was to take Gallup’s Strength-Finder assessment. Their research over 50+ years has found that there are 34 Strenghs. We all have them, but the degree varies. The purpose is to have individuals take the assessment and learn what their Top Five Strengths are and to focus on them.

One of these Strengths is called, Input. You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable. Source

Just like all Strengths, if over-used, it can become a weakness. This is where the communication is key. My partner and I both have Input as our #1 Strength, although what we like to collect is more different than similar. We now have discussions before making a purchase, deciding what to keep and where, and hold GUTS days (Give it away, Use it, Throw it out, Save it). By doing this, it keeps our Input in check.

ibstubro's avatar

If you ignored the hoarding long enough to form a relationship, just STFU and deal.

janbb's avatar

@ibstubro But surely things that can be endearing quirks in a new romantic partner can be real annoyances in a long term live-in? I don’t think “just deal” as advice is sufficient in that situation.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@fluthernutter
I miss stuff like that too – but what I don’t miss is the inability to walk from one room of the house to the front door without stepping on, going around, or pondering the existance of yet another thing. It peevs me to have a lot of belongings but I realize that because I deem them unnecessary doesn’t mean they are.

@canidmajor
I actually had to do some research and I couldn’t find better word choices. I usually refer to myself as a minimalist which turns out to be incorrect by definition. Perhaps there’s a better synonym for “hoarder” but that’s why I threw in the parenthesis.

@hominid
I can’t help but feel your answer was crafted ad hominem. =)

@janbb
Yes we do. Unfortunately, most of the house is hers. I don’t have a problem with that either actually – but when I go into the bedroom to set down a drink and there literally is no place to set down a drink – that’s when I start to wonder what to do.

@bossob
We’ve talked about it for around 15 years. But it seems to have turned into a very strong and nearly immovable personality feature for both of us. And please don’t get me wrong – I recognize that my fiendish desire to remove 90% of the things from the house isn’t exactly practical. I’ve just known simpler living in my time and have grown accustomed to it.

@ragingloli
THIS! IS! HOARDING! I’ve often wanted to scream it – but screaming rarely accomplishes things(Especially in a social environment in which it is frowned upon to kick people into pits). I certainly couldn’t kick my wife down there. Perhaps if there were an elevator – and at the bottom was a vast storage system – then we could think about it.

@ARE_you_kidding_me
Theft is illegal in most parts of the world. Perhaps you should consult local law enforcement.

@Inspired_2write
I know you are correct in this assumption. In fact, I’ve known it for quite a long time. My problem with this knowledge is that I can only talk about it so long before at some point I just wonder if I should live on the roof. Bear in mind this is around a 20 year relationship – so we both have our baggage. Hers just happens to be blocking the fire exit.

@JLeslie
You bring up some excellent points and you’re right. She is a very talented woman with lots of things going on. She is artistic, crafty, and very smart. I think the “nail on the head” part of what you said is that I have to really work on not being frustrated when I talk to her. Unfortunately, I suck at that part. Usually I’ll say nothing until I trip on just one more thing in the hallway and then I’m too frustrated to talk about it with any good measure of wisdom.

Einstein also said “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

I think he just needed a storage bin or two. =)

@Pied_Pfeffer
I think it would be kinda fun to take that test seperately and then talk about what we find out. I was actually forced into the “5 language of love” seminar not that long ago. It all made sense but it’s difficult to put into practice for sure.

@ibstubro
In the spirit of @JLeslie ‘s reference.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In short: No.

For some reason I keep thinking “maybe you’ll understand when you’re older”.

janbb's avatar

My Ex bottled things up for 37 years and then walked out the door. I suggest you find a way to tell her that “the soup is too hot.”

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@janbb
I’m not sure I know what you mean by “the soup is too hot”. Cold soup is gross though.

janbb's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Sorry, it’s an old joke about a boy who never spoke at all. One day when he was about 5 years old, he was served soup and said, “This soup is too hot.” His parents were amazed, “You can talk! Why didn’t you ever say anything before?” The boy says, “Everything was all right up until now.”

hominid's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One: “I can’t help but feel your answer was crafted ad hominem. =)”

Sorry

Uasal's avatar

These are my things and I need them. Each one serves a purpose. And I know exactly where everything is. It’s not my fault you don’t have hobbies and you don’t understand. Leave me and my kipple* alone.

* reference: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” – Sci FI bookshelf, fourth from the top, behind the hardcover Dune novels.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@janbb
I have no desire to bottle things up: that’s kinda why I asked the question. I’ve told her the “soup was too hot” more times than a graphing calculator could graph. I’m not sure where that gets me though. The way you laid it out sounded a bit like an ultimatum.

@Uasal
Sounds like its “hobbies” weren’t infringing on any sort of collective space or budget – which is a different story altogether.

janbb's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Not at all an ultimatum. A suggestion that dealing with things as they arise – which you say you are doing – and finding solutions is the way to prevent having to end a relationship. I don’t know how you operate; just was saying that this was what happened to me. I empathize with your frustration.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@janbb
Ah ok. Well the things that arise have arisen and remained. =)

janbb's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Yeah – it’s the ”and finding solutions” part that is always hardest, isn’t it?

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One
I just read some of the posts above and realized possibly that your partner “is” literally building a fence to keep you out.
Perhaps there is something on her mind that she is afraid to mention to you?
If she knew that it upset you so much that you had to go onto Fluther for help , and that it may leave you with no other alternatvie other than giving her an ultimatium of it her mess or you.
Leave for a weekend away , and see what response you get from her. Did she miss you? Did she get worse or better, in that she cleaned up the mess or reorganized? If not, then that should be aclue to move on as “you’ are the problem that she does not want to confront?

canidmajor's avatar

Because you are asking this, @Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One, and not your SO, most of these responses are crafted to your perspective (not at all unreasonably). Maybe, just for a moment, look at it from her perspective. She thinks her amount of stuff is the normal amount and you are obsessively “Spartan”. She might be annoyed by the fact that you are uncomfortable in your shared space and won’t relax. She may think you are harping and judging.
I’m not saying either of you is in the “wrong” here, but I do think you might want to consider couples counseling to try to understand how the other feels. An objective, trained professional could likely help.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@Inspired_2write
I’m not really “upset so much that I go onto Fluther”. It is more of a question based in curiosity. I’m genuinely interested in a solution.If the stock piling continues when I’m gone, I don’t understand how/why that proves it’s me that’s the problem. Could you elaborate?

@canidmajor
Of course my responses are crafted from my perspective. It’s my perspective after all. No matter how many times I try to put her shoes on, they’ll never quite fit. We all have such biases.

If a “normal amount” of stuff means covering every flat surface in a room then I think we’re going to disagree on some basic points.

Not for nothing but..I’m actually starting to prefer @ibstubro ‘s answer. If nothing has worked up till this point, I may as well resign myself to a life of tripping in the middle of a walkway and stifling a curse.

canidmajor's avatar

That’s your take-away from my post? It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s about what both of you think.

Reread what I said. I said that ” most of the responses..etc.” not ”your responses..” And I said ”She thinks her amount of stuff is normal…”

I stressed that there are two different perspectives. Surprised you missed that. The real take-away is the last sentence.

fluthernutter's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One
Damn, could you have picked a longer name? :P

As the hoarder in our relationship, I don’t think it’s a your way vs my way necessarily. There’s obviously something about my personality that acquires way more crap treasure than my partner. But that’s not to say that I like having every flat surface covered with stuff. Nor do I think that it’s normal.

You said your partner is creative. So use that to figure out how to corral the stuff. I’m guessing part of the problem is that there isn’t a designated spot for stuff.

For example, my dining room is a currently a disaster because we don’t have a spot for:
– craft projects that in progress
– drawings that need to be dated and filed
– party supplies for a birthday in three months
– partially accumulated care package for my niece
– magazines that I still want to go through for images for image/reference or collage
– party favors that my kid has collected
– scraps of fabric and paper

A place for everything and everything in its place. That’s a two part problem. I have no problem with putting things in their place. I just don’t have a place for everything.

Sit down with your wife and try to brainstorm a storage solution. And agree to limitations. (ie Here is a box for your paints. They cannot exceed this box. Here is a box for party supplies. They should not exceed this box.)

Good luck!

Inspired_2write's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One
Just come right out and ask her If she wants to break up.
Is she doing this to force you to do the breaking up?
By going away for a short while will give you both a chance to think about continuing the way things are or moving on?
Nothing will change If neither of you do.

fluthernutter's avatar

@Inspired_2write Kind of harsh, dude. There’s also the third option of working with her to change things.

Also it’s kind of an odd assumption that her hoarding is some kind of passive aggressive move to break up.

Inspired_2write's avatar

@fluthernutter
of course one should do that in as gentle way as possible. I was giving the gist of it.
Get it out into the open and deal with communication problems.
That is all I was trying to say however some took it as an insult, of which i was not intending.

fluthernutter's avatar

@Inspired_2write Didn’t take it as an insult exactly. Just don’t think ultimatums and threatening to leave is a healthy way to address the situation. If anything, that seems like a failure in communication. :/

jca's avatar

If you really love this person, then there can be compromise. I say go to IKEA or something, whatever you can afford, and get some storage solution stuff. Maybe some bureaus or bins and organize the stuff. Sort it into categories. What kind of stuff is it? Craft stuff? Clothes? Hopefully all the clothes fit currently and are worn, not stuff that’s old, torn, stained or does not fit. Cooking stuff? Whatever it is, get some armoires or bureaus or whatever fits and put the stuff in it. So she can have her stuff but it’s not in the way. Then if you want to get couples’ therapy or whatever, you can but the immediate cause of the stress is out of sight and out of the path of being tripped on.

ibstubro's avatar

“Just come right out and ask her If she wants to break up.
Is she doing this to force you to do the breaking up?”

“Kind of harsh?”

“Do that in as gentle way as possible.”

‘Ultimatums and threatening to leave isn’t a healthy way to address the situation.”

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@canidmajor
I seem to have angered you in some way. I’m sorry.

@fluthernutter
I’m not sure if I could have picked a longer name.

There isn’t a designated spot for stuff left. True. That part made me laugh. She often complains of not having storage places – but when she gets more storage places it’s only a matter of time before she says it again.

There is one entire room in our house that is forbidden to go into because of the stockpile of things. It is chock full of storage bins.

I appreciate your candor and I think I need to use just such an approachable demeanor when I talk to her. It’s so very difficult to do when I have to clear a spot off of something so we can sit down to talk. haha

@Inspired_2write
This is a 20 year relationship. I’m invested. Neither of us would be so foolish as to flush that investment over something so petty. Again, I’m asking out of curiosity and desire for a solution. It’s not out of a desperate cry for help.

@jca
As I said to @fluthernutter – We’ve been down that road several times with the storage bins. There is one entire room full of storage bins and shelving. This room was going to be the playroom, but it ended up being impossible.

Perhaps though, she needs something different. Maybe a storage solution that is conducive to her creativity. I think she needs a workshop. If I can keep everything down to that one workshop it just may work!

fluthernutter's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Do you guys live in or near a larger city? Most will have resources that will take most of your stuff. Part of the problem with being creative is that you see potential in everything. You end up keeping everything because you could use it in a project one day. Plus you hate seeing that potential go to waste.

For instance, I live in the Bay Area. And I often joke that if I lived anywhere else, I’d be on that Hoarders show. Our household is in this perpetual fight against the landslide of potential. What saves my butt from going over that crazy cliff is that I have tons of resources to get rid of stuff.

East Bay Depot takes stuff that people could find creative uses for like corks, prescription bottles, film canisters, egg cartons, magazines, etc

Urban Ore takes salvaged furniture, building materials like old doors or sinks, etc

Unwaste will take electronic waste, as well as metal scraps, plastic and styrofoam, etc

Also knowing little tips like how goodwill will take your clothing that are too beat-up to sell for textile recycling. Nike stores will take beat up shoes and make turf for playgrounds.

You just got to look around. You can find a good home for her stuff. It doesn’t have to be “all over the house” or “in the landfill”.

Maybe have her sit down and write down all the different categories of stuff that she needs to have a space for. Undesignated storage will just get eaten up like a black hole.

We have a room like that too! Unfortunately it’s also our guest room. And our guests have to sleep in this bizarre fortress/nest of stuff. Seven bins of retired clothing. Several boxes of vintage shoes leftover from when I used to sell on eBay. DVDs and movies that need to be burned onto a drive instead of taking up space, a pile of clothing that need to be mended or hemmed, boxes and boxes of crafting supplies, pictures drawn by our kids (organized by date), cameras, film, toys that were gifted to us that the kids are too young for, toys that were gifted to us that are waiting to be donated, board games, boxes of photos…we’re going to have to dig one of our guests out of an avalanche one day!

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@fluthernutter
Wow, I never knew those places existed. I wonder if she knows about them.

Currently we live overseas. There are a few resources here, but nothing like that. It’s sort of a small village.

Bringing in what I’ve come to learn as “the American mentality” into a smaller place like this is tough.

Thank you very much for the insight into the mind of an uber-creative person. Specifically, the bit about “seeing potential” in everything. That’s spot on and I’ll keep it in mind when I’m tempted to call her stuff trash/junk/crap.

Oh, and good luck with the avalanche! Maybe you should make a avalanche alarm wall decor type thing as a joke. =)

fluthernutter's avatar

I feel for you, man. It’s hard being at the other end of this. There should be a support group for being married to one. Kind of want to apologize on behalf of hoarders, but that would be a bit presumptuous.

canidmajor's avatar

No, @Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One, not angered, just annoyed that I took the time to address your concerns with reasonable responses and you only seem to address points I didn’t make.

jca's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One: The problem with bins is that the stuff is not really accessible. It’s probably easier for her to buy more than to unstack all the bins and search for stuff in each one. That’s why I suggest bureaus or armoires, because then it’s accessible and can be seen easily, and put away easily, each thing in its spot.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@canidmajor
For what it’s worth – we’ve been to couples counseling before. She absolutely hated it. It’s one thing we happen to agree on actually.

@jca
You’re completely right – and I’ll definitely have to bring this up. Maybe she has something in mind for an ideal storage setup that I haven’t wormed out of her yet.

janbb's avatar

Are you handy at all? Can you make building storage for her stuff a shared project?

Also, are you married to my sister-in-law? I couldn’t live with her.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@janbb
I doubt I’m married to your sister-in-law but in this topsy world, who knows?

I’ve done some woodworking but I’m more musical than handy. Either way, I’m sure we could make it a shared project. (one she would no doubt oversee with an artist’s critical eye)

Uasal's avatar

I’m not a hoarder, but I am a crafter and that’s close to the same thing. Haha.

I like shelves and drawers to sort things; having almost a filing system so there’s an obvious place where everything goes. Acrylic yarn in the top drawer, cotton in the second, wool, silk and linen in the third…

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@Uasal
To the best of my ability I think I’ll stop even saying the word “hoarder” in reference to her. Perhaps using the word “crafter” would be better and more productive in the “peace talks”. =)

Uasal's avatar

It’s a good idea. The word “hoarder” brings to mind the crazy old cat lady who died when a stack of newspapers she began in 1967 fell on top of her.

snowberry's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One “It’s so very difficult to do when I have to clear a spot off of something so we can sit down to talk…” Have you considered taking her out to eat and talking to her there, or in the car?

Another option is write her a note and hand it to her. When hubby and I were going through a rough spot in our marriage I noticed that e-mailing back and forth was easiest.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@snowberry
My comment was more to “set the scene” as it were. I didn’t actually mean I couldn’t find a location to talk. Sorry for the confusion. =)

I could try the note – hand written sentiments are largely lost in time aren’t they?

snowberry's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One It depends on how you’re wired and how she’s wired. E-mail worked for hubby and I, and I had a copy of the entire conversation from start to finish.

JLeslie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Clear a spot off to talk?? I didn’t see where you wrote that. Right there sets the stage for her to be tense. She knows you hate it. You hate her stuff, her mess, and then you make a visual showing before even getting started that she is incompetent. I think that is often the message the hoarder is receiving, they are incompetent at doing what is expected by their spouse or society. They are lazy, or compulsive, or letting down their spouse, or causing their spouse to be unhappy. Discussing it away from home sounds like a good suggestion to me.

I don’t see why you have substitute the name hoarder for another one? How about call her by her name? Or, whatever sweet nickname you always call her? What are going to say, “let’s address your hoarding?” Or, “I want to talk about your crafting?” She knows that you just can’t take it anymore and you want her to change. Does she want to change it? That’s what you need to know. If she is happy with it then any efforts she makes to change are for you. To keep you, to make you happy. She might try out of insecurity (which sucks) or because she loves you, or because her whole life she has tried to do things to satisfy others while feeling unhappy.

If she wants to address the issue, I think you just ask how you can help, and not make it all about you. In the end it is really hard for the neat person not to come across as controlling, manipulative, condescending, disappointed (ugh, that one is huge in my opinion) and unloving (that’s pretty big too).

I have a question: do you see it as something that is her job and responsibility? She should be responsible to keep her things neat and put away and not buy more than is necessary? I’m not talking about male female roles and stereotypes, like the woman should keep the house clean, I just mean do you resent having to lift a finger or spend any time on helping her with her stuff? When is she shopping? When she is lonely? Angry? Bored? Doed she get positive reinforcement from others about her crafts, and everything else she is reminded where she is below par? Don’t be the one who is negative in her life.

Women tend to perceive anger as their husband doesn’t love them anymore, is witholding love from them, is neglecting them, is cheating on them, is disinterested in them, etc. My husband and I have been fighting a lot the past year and his short temper feels to me like he thinks about life without me all the time, but our committment, long standing relationship, and that he actually says to me that he is not going to let our current circumstance distroy our marriage, helps me through. One way you can get rid of the mess is to get rid of her. Most likely she has thought that at one time or another.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@JLeslie
Wow, there’s a lot going on in that response but the pearl I took out of it is “Don’t be the one who is negative in her life”. I talked to her earlier about maybe building some kind of workshop so that she could have all of her stuff stored the way she wants it and have all of her stuff in one place. She seemed to like the idea.

Thanks for the extra insight into the mind of a woman too. =) For me, I know it’s nothing so complex as all that. I just want to be able to walk through the house without tripping. I don’t value her any less because of this stuff.

I know you’re right though too. All of those things probably run through her head as well.

I have some bad habits that are difficult to change and I’m starting to see how some of my proclivities are causing her to buy stuff.. causing her to feel badly..

I’m starting to see that her shoes don’t fit me and mine don’t fit her.. so we should both just go barefooted.

snowberry's avatar

@JLeslie What a sensitive and well thought out answer! Kudos!

jca's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One: If she does crafts, believe me she’s always looking at stuff in the crafts store and picking up stuff that’s on sale because you never know, one day you might need it and it’s better to have it handy then to have to run out and buy it at full price. It’s also better to not have to stop what you’re doing and run around shopping and lose that crafty momentum. Many times guys are the same way with their tools and their parts to things.

I have a lot of craft stuff and I have a kid who likes to do crafts, too. I know, as I said prior, that it’s way easier to access stuff in bureaus or things with drawers rather than bins which are so labor intensive.

Get the stuff organized and out of the way but yet accessible, and then see how things go in the house.

Once you do that, everything else will be easier to keep clean and it won’t be so chaotic.

Also if you can spare it, consider hiring a cleaning woman. That can make a huge difference in the whole feel of the house. Believe me, been there done that. A total miracle. A MIRACLE! Even if you only have it once, just to come home and the whole house is spotless is really wonderful.

JLeslie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Building the shop sounds like a great idea. Hopefully, it’s mostly a matter of supporting her hobby and giving her the room and organizational tools to do it. Let us know how it turns out. If this is the big fix, this one move towards resolution might snowball into positively affecting other things. I hope that’s the case.

You sound to me like you genuinely do want to find a happy answer, not just a selfish one. Hopefully, the planning of the new room is a positive and fun endeavor for both of you.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@all
I talked to her again last night over a glass of wine. I came clean and let her know that what I was saying wasn’t some miraculous Travolta’s “Phenomenon” thing. I let her know you all helped out. We had a good conversation. She was making hats during the whole thing. Haha

Thanks for all your wisdom. I will have to periodically slap myself in the face I’m sure, but if I can keep this stuff in mind I know it will push us both past self-actualization and all the way to shared-actualization.

fluthernutter's avatar

Yay!
I like you.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@fluthernutter
Well thank you, I like you too.

Interesting morning so far. I’ve had to slap myself a few times. It’s bloody difficult to keep myself in check. I found myself moving her stuff around from place to place today. I’m sure there were times when I looked like the dying T1000 from terminator during parts of it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Well done friend, not only for addressing the topic again in a more relaxed environment, but talking about how it makes you feel. And take comfort in that you are not alone. Please make sure that you compliment and/or thank her when she does make progress in making a change, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement is a strong incentive.

A search for organizing crafts netted many. Here is one: 9 Tips on How to Get Your Crafting Organized & Keep It That Way.

JLeslie's avatar

Compliments on progress is a great point. My husband tends to only notice the mess still remaining. It feels like it doesn’t matter if I have 6 piles of papers a foot high, or one pile with ten papers, because he points out the remaining ten. Mind you, I don’t think anyone would ever call me a hoarder. I’m not a shopper, and I don’t keep tons of things. My house is overall clean and neat, although my office can get very disorganized at times and I tend to leave the folded laundry in the laundry room for days.

If we lived in less space it would look and be more out of control.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Pondering on this awhile and then I realized that we are all looking for answers for the symptoms but not the real answer as to the ‘why’ or cause of these symptoms (Hoarding).
Thats all I wish to convey.
I wish you a better outcome in this situation.
I will stop following on this question as it seems to be going around in circles.

canidmajor's avatar

Conversely, she may just have a lot of stuff and he may be the one with a pathology that needs to be treated, an OC Disorder that causes him to see “hoarding” where there is minor clutter.
Just as a thought exercise, I wonder how she would ask this Q about this issue in the relationship?

@JLeslie has made some really excellent points, here.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@jca
What bureaus? The federal ones?

@Pied_Pfeffer
When we went to that glorious love languages seminar I did learn that apparently one of hers is words of affirmation. I’ll make sure to do just that.

@JLeslie
I’ve failed at that at least a dozen times today. I’ll walk in and see she’s made tons of progress but my eyes wander to the rest and she doesn’t need me to say anything at this point to know what I’m thinking. That part is tough.

@Inspired_2write
I’ve been thinking about the why for a while. It’s like a word problem. I suck at those.

@canidmajor
There’s a small part of me that wants to look at this as an “equal partner” who is getting screwed over.

90% of “our” belongings are actually hers. 100% of it was purchased because of my job. I do realize that makes me sound selfish and a-hole-ish .. but I can’t really stop my brain from thinking it sometimes. What part of that is fair to me? When it comes down to the brass tacks of the matter – isn’t it fair for me to wonder about that?

There are lots of things I can’t afford because of her purchases. Hell, the things I want to buy for her are unaffordable because of the constant spending and filling the house. She wants to have lots of money with which to buy lots of things, yet she can’t stop spending long enough to give me the means to pay ourselves.

And just to head off the negative comments that are sure to come.. yes. I know. I know that I’m not supposed to say some things that go through my head. But right now, I’m very tired. I’ll vent here so I don’t vent to her.

I’ve spent the entire day moving potential project pieces around and right now I don’t have the energy to “stfu and deal”.

I’m also aware that I may be partially at fault for her spending (psychologically speaking). But to what extent am I to take the blame for this?

If you’ll look back at the responses I’ve gotten, I’m not sure you’ll find many that give her advice (even though I explicitly asked for advice to both parties).

Bottom line: I’m an asshole. I know it. But sometimes.. just once in a while.. I’d like someone in my corner. Unfortunately, the ones who are “in my corner” are the silent husbands who are reading this and saying “damn straight” but are wise enough to never say or type it out loud.

Ok. I’m done venting for now. What I should do is delete all this and answer with something tactful and polite that makes me look like a nice guy. Like some type of anonymous cyber-politician, I should ensure that my answers fit the bill of a good model member of the community. But that’s just not gonna happen. I am the grumpy one after all. Maybe my brutal, and often unfettered honesty will help someone. Maybe not.

JLeslie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One Well, you get tons of credit from me for trying to find a productive, understanding solution, and for being very self aware.

I think if you are the one doing the earning, and she is overspending compared to your spending to the point that you don’t get to purchase things you would like to, then you have a valid point about the money. Although, you said you are an expat I think? So, is she unable to work and following you in your career pursuits? One if the biggest obstacles for companies regarding expat happiness is the happiness of their spouse.

Back to the money, do you discuss money goals together? Individual and couple goals? Things you want to buy and what you want to save?

In my opinion honest venting is good. This is the place for it while you stifle a little at home.

janbb's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One I totally empathize with you and I am no one’s husband. One of the stress-free parts of my marriage was that neither of us were messy accumulators. I would have lots of trouble being silent around a messy hoarder. I don’t think you’re being unreasonable at all although I realize there are sides to every question.

How would she feel about a “one thing comes in, one thing goes out” rule? And how about a budget for buying new things?

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Gracious, you are not an “asshole”. What has been described is just the reality of any relationship: Conflict of interest. Based upon the most recent post, the underlying factor sounds like it is financial responsibility. The burden is on your shoulders. Is this the case? If so, that is a whole other matter and the hoarding is just a catalyst.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

@JLeslie
Moving takes its toll on our time – sorry for the delay.

The thing is: We don’t really have financial worries at this point. It’s more about the principal for me I guess.

We’ve discussed money more times than I care to count. We usually end up at the same point: A brief reprieve from spending followed by another flood of spending.

@janbb
We’ve done a budget several times as well. That usually crumbles when I have to go on long trips and I’m not there to nag her. (I hate doing it but it works, marginally)

@Pied_Pfeffer
Well, I’m glad you don’t think so – but I can be objective in saying it. Many times, I simply am an asshole. It’s not a personality trait so much as a sporadic behavioral eruption.

I should underscore that even though we have vastly differing proclivities, I love this woman and plan to always whine about her spending – well into my 90’s. At that point I’ll probably forget who I am so it won’t matter much.

Uasal's avatar

My bank has an account separate from the regular checking and savings accounts. It’s basically a prepaid debit card, but I can manage it in my online banking with my other accounts.

One common use for this account, and I’ve done this myself, is to use it as a “play money” card. Transfer the amount you are free to source this week/month/pay cycle, and after that is gone, you’re done until your allowance comes in again.

You can even set it to auto-transfer.

JLeslie's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One/ Not having financial troubles is completely different than whether or not you feel ok to spend money on a particular thing. I get it, believe me, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be a little irked that your money is going towards the clutter that drives you crazy. When I say your, I don’t necessarily mean the money you personally earned. My husband and I have always had our bank account together, so any money earned or spent is ours and I care how it is spent. Even while I didn’t work for years I cared how it was spent; although, I admit to feeling less power over it, and less able to stop him from spending when he was doing all the earning. Who earns the money does usually come into play I think no matter how much both parties want to feel or believe it doesn’t matter and all the money is shared. It’s tricky.

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

I’ve been thinking about this the last couple of days and I realized that I made a mistake. I said it’s not about the money, but I also said that I can’t afford to buy her things (or myself things). That made me examine what the truth was in the matter. The truth is that what I can’t afford is investment. In the short term we’re ok, but I fear the long term – especially if I ever decide I want to retire.

I just wanted to clear that up as I realized I contradicted myself.

I have roughly a week before the big move. I’m looking around at all the things in our house and all I can think is that I’ve somehow let her take advantage of me. Wrong or right that’s how it feels. I have wanted to build myself a music studio for years now and the physical space hasn’t been there – nor have I felt confident in spending that money knowing how it would affect us down the road (call it pre-buyers remorse).

This leads me to a whole new question, but I’ll split that off into its own.

JLeslie's avatar

Savings count! It is a financial goal the same way buying a boat is, and anything else you buy with money. Saving for the future is basically buying freedom and security.

Evaluating savings and making decisions about it is a good goal to have in common. Seeing a financial advisor can help put it into perspective, and they can do most of the talking instead of you sounding like you’re giving her a lecture.

If she doesn’t work then she should in reality be more worried about savings than you. You want to be able to retire, but as for now you confidently make a good living. What if God forbid something happens to you? Can she earn as much as you?

I think I’m just grasping that you are about to move? I thought you already lived outside if the country. I might have that all confused. If you are about to move and she has a lot if “stuff” the move might cause her to reevaluate all that she has. Boxing everything up and unboxing can be overwhelming even when a corporate nice helps you with a lot of it.

Let’s face it, you resent her. You love her, but also have some resentment. Ideally our spouse makes our lives better, more fun, more live, more calm, more support. When it feels like our spouse is dragging us down or making things unenjoyable, what’s the point of having them around? Relationships are never perfect, and I in no way get the feeling you want out of your marriage, I just think you feel like you are compromising on things that are beginning to really get to you. She might have some similar feelings where she has been compromising.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One It’s been two weeks since your last post. Would you mind giving us an update? Did the move take place? Any more discussion on long-term financial goals and organizing?

Apparently_Im_The_Grumpy_One's avatar

We are still in the process of moving and unfortunately our new place is both smaller and not available yet.

She seems quite willing to work with me on getting rid of some things but we will see when they arrive.

Finances are a different animal altogether but we’ll take it one step at a time.

I will answer a little better when im not typing on a mobile device as it just takes me forever this way.

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