If you’ve got a house full of beloved furniture, clothes and other belongings, it can be hard to imagine how other people might not love your collection just as much as you do.
But for partners of people who hold on to huge amounts of clutter – however beloved – the truth is that living in a house over-full of belongings can prove very stressful, as one grandmother told users of popular online forum Gransnet.
“He is a kind and thoughtful man but one thing is driving me crazy,” she posted of her husband of 45 years. “He will not let go of any of his stuff.” Even though the couple live in a decent-sized house in the country, the woman said her husband’s masses of “stuff” made her feel desperately overwhelmed in her own home.
“He has so many clothes he never wears, inherited furniture, books galore, video tapes, old photograph albums, not to mention DIY stuff,” she said. “I feel as though I’m drowning in all his stuff and I’m beginning to despair.”
The woman said she had tried to talk through the situation reasonably without success and was now urgently looking for answers. It seems many others have faced a similar issue, with one person suggesting she address the issue in bite-sized chunks.
“If he agrees with you in theory that he has too much stuff, then the next step is to nudge him into agreeing in practice,” the Gransnet user wrote. “Set a particular wardrobe or cupboard and set a time. That way, going through the wardrobe is non-negotiable. The only thing he has to decide is whether to help you or not.”
Another person, however, suggested getting to the root of the problem, which was why the hoarding began in the first place.
“Have you tried to work out why he has this need to hoard? Hoarding like this is recognised as a mental illness – it is sometimes connected with unresolved issues over loss and insecurity,” they said.
This was echoed by a second person who also made mention of popular television shows on hoarding and how assistance from doctors may be the answer. “I do think this problem should be seen as a symptom of a mental health problem…I think the solution is the more gradual one though through the GP with psychological counselling for the hoarder,” they suggested.
Hoarding is, in fact, a recognised mental health issue that’s known to be linked to obsessive compulsive disorder. According to a report by University of New South Wales Associate Professor Jessica Grisham, it’s also surprisingly prevalent, with up to six per cent of the population suffering with the condition. The main warning signs include acquiring clutter and difficulty discarding items.
Most experts differentiate hoarding from merely being a bit of a ‘pack rat’ in that the type items accumulated by a hoarder can seem useless to others, are so numerous that they create living spaces that are difficult or impossible to use, or cause emotional distress in the owner when discarding any is discussed.
As for the concerned Gransnet wife, she told users that she was determined to have another attempt to convince her husband to declutter. “I’m going to make a concerted effort to get this sorted and I’ll report back in due course,” she said.