Author Topic: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!  (Read 8926 times)

ILoveMyBlondeStache

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Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« on: November 14, 2014, 07:28:15 AM »
So I moved in with my fiance and his daughter exactly two months ago.  I knew he was a lover of having lots of things, but I never ventured into the basement/shed/garage depths to see how entirely frightening the amount of stuff really was.  I am the opposite...I don't care to have things, I'd rather fill my space with people and happy memories than have heaps of garbage.  Nothing is in any order, nothing is where it would make sense to be.  When I look for a hammer and nails, it takes FOREVER because it's not on the tool bench (where it should be) located behind about ten feet of crap in front of it.  I am a highly anxious person and feel the NEED to have things organized.  We are polar opposites in this area and it's eating me up.

Some examples I have found of things around the house:   

-More than 30!!! old cans of paint (not in one location, but scattered around the basement)
-Two stacks of boxes of sample items from his job (that I'm pretty sure had about a two-year layer of dust on them and haven't been touched in that amount of time)
-A ferret ball from his ferret (that he hasn't had for more than ten years)
-Clothes from his daughter that are FAR too small and randomly in plactic bags around the basement
-Empty containers of you name it, cleaning supplies, bins, laundry detergent
-He has 4 methods of personal transportation (motorcycle, truck, company car, and classic car)...and one junker classic car that I'm not even counting...I think this is the worst one.  Just stick to the company car, and if you HAVE to have another vehicle, just keep the classic car because you love it so much.

Every time I bring it up it starts a huge argument.  I don't know what to do.  I tell him that it's causing me lots of stress and his response is always very defensive.  He says it's a lot better than before he "cleaned it out to make room for me."  (To be clear, my things take up about a 10' x 5' square of the basement right now.)  He spends time away for work and hunting, and I feel like that's a huge opportunity for me to get some organizing done, since he hates it and I love it and he's not there.  But for some reason he takes the hoarder mentality and responds by saying he needs to be there to say what to keep or donate or throw away.  I have stooped to begging him to just let me organize it, even without getting rid of anything.  He doesn't get it.  He says he shouldn't have to wake up every day having to worry about what to rearrange, change, or get rid of.  I said I shouldn't have to wake up every day having to worry about the chaos either. 

I'm sincerely looking for helpful suggestions.  I love him and we're great together, outside of this massive issue.  But I feel like I can't keep living in this house in the state it's in.  I'm not looking for snarky comments about his stuff. I would appreciate constructive advice. Any help is appreciated.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 08:01:11 AM by Valerie_Jo »

Gray Matter

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2014, 07:45:55 AM »
This is particularly tricky because it's not your joint accumulation of crap over the years, so I'm not surprised he feels defensive about it.  Having someone move into your space (even though invited and wanted!) would be difficult, at least for me.  That said, moving INTO someone's space and having to live with all their crap would be doubly challenging.  I don't suppose moving into new "our" space would be an option?  (I know it's complicated by they're being a child.)

Anyway, a few years ago, DH and I cleaned our attic.  The task was daunting and overwhelming and left to my own devices, I never would have done it.  He kept saying, "We have to clean the attic!" and I kept saying, "No, we don't.  If our kids have to throw it all away and curse us while doing it, that's fine.  We don't have to do it."  He is, I believe, borderline OCD, and I am, by nature, disorganized and scatterbrained and sentimental and easily-overwhelmed, as long as it's out of sight, I'm fine with mess. 

He promised to make it very easy for me, and also promised that I would be the one making all the decisions about my own stuff.  I sat in a comfy chair, while he brought things downstairs, grouped like with like, I made very quick decisions about whether to keep, donate, throw away, etc., and he whisked it away to the appropriate place, and brought me more stuff.  That way, there was always a big enough pile of things on front of me to motivate me to make quick decisions (couldn't afford to go down the rabbit hole that is memory lane, which is what I normally do if sorting myself).  But he was careful not to pile so much in front of me that I was overwhelmed.

We actually took two days off work to do this.  He didn't argue with any of my decisions, and the fact that he was doing all the moving of items, organizing, and putting them back away, kept me from feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.  It worked beautifully.  In the end, I got rid of about 90% of the stuff that was in the attic, and was able to do it easily because of how we went about it.

Also, I set some guidelines for myself and decide that something had to be two out of these three things in order for me to keep it:  beautiful, sentimental, functional.  If it was only one of those things, I generally got rid of it (a few exceptions for truly sentimental things, but only a few, because even if it's sentimental, but I'm not going to use it or display it, what's the point?  Take a picture and move on.)

So, not sure if there's anything useful in there for you, but that approach worked well for us.

EastCoastMike

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2014, 07:49:03 AM »
I remember my parents having this same discussion.  Dad is a notorious pack-rat.  Mom is a minimalist.  I remember they started small.  You might start with the too-small clothes.  Suggest they could go to Goodwill if they're in decent shape.  From there, look at things little by little.  If you come across with the "why do you have all this crap??" he's probably going to get defensive and you'll have an argument. 

Mom put Dad on a schedule.  She'd identify an item and he had a week to justify it or we got rid of it.  It took a while, but she managed to whittle down the piles of junk.  They sold a lot of stuff and used the money to fund a family vacation.

Mom told me later that she and Dad had some sleepless nights.  Early on they established the rule that they'd never go to bed angry with each other, so on occasion they had some long nights.

I guess the point is that they were able to reach a happy medium.  Mom got to keep her sanity by reducing the tons of clutter around the house.  Dad got to keep some of the things that really meant something to him.

Hope I didn't come off as snarky.  My first thought when I read your post was "get a 25 yard dumpster and a shovel!!!!"  My mindset is very similar to yours.  Back when I had a TV (and when I actually watched TV programming), I saw a show about a hoarder.  I got nauseous like I was motion sick.  I have an Aunt and Uncle who live that way.  I can't even go into their house.  I just can't.

FrugalSpendthrift

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2014, 08:00:23 AM »
I have a similar problem, the clutter makes me anxious, but doesn't bother my wife at all.  You may be able to organize everything one weekend when he is away, but that is only temporary.  That won't do anything to change his habits, so it'll eventually morph back to it's current state, because that is how he lives.  If he doesn't see the value in changing his habits, then don't push it.  The last thing he wants is someone moving in and telling him he has to get rid of his motorcycle and truck.  Show him the value of decluttering and let him make his own decision.

I try to just focus on my space, instead of the whole house.  She can do whatever she wants up stairs, but she can't clutter up my workshop.

iris lily

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2014, 08:08:55 AM »
This is particularly tricky because it's not your joint accumulation of crap over the years, so I'm not surprised he feels defensive about it.  Having someone move into your space (even though invited and wanted!) would be difficult, at least for me.  That said, moving INTO someone's space and having to live with all their crap would be doubly challenging.  I don't suppose moving into new "our" space would be an option?  (I know it's complicated by they're being a child.)

Anyway, a few years ago, DH and I cleaned our attic.  The task was daunting and overwhelming and left to my own devices, I never would have done it.  He kept saying, "We have to clean the attic!" and I kept saying, "No, we don't.  If our kids have to throw it all away and curse us while doing it, that's fine.  We don't have to do it."  He is, I believe, borderline OCD, and I am, by nature, disorganized and scatterbrained and sentimental and easily-overwhelmed, as long as it's out of sight, I'm fine with mess. 

He promised to make it very easy for me, and also promised that I would be the one making all the decisions about my own stuff.  I sat in a comfy chair, while he brought things downstairs, grouped like with like, I made very quick decisions about whether to keep, donate, throw away, etc., and he whisked it away to the appropriate place, and brought me more stuff.  That way, there was always a big enough pile of things on front of me to motivate me to make quick decisions (couldn't afford to go down the rabbit hole that is memory lane, which is what I normally do if sorting myself).  But he was careful not to pile so much in front of me that I was overwhelmed.

We actually took two days off work to do this.  He didn't argue with any of my decisions, and the fact that he was doing all the moving of items, organizing, and putting them back away, kept me from feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand.  It worked beautifully.  In the end, I got rid of about 90% of the stuff that was in the attic, and was able to do it easily because of how we went about it.

Also, I set some guidelines for myself and decide that something had to be two out of these three things in order for me to keep it:  beautiful, sentimental, functional.  If it was only one of those things, I generally got rid of it (a few exceptions for truly sentimental things, but only a few, because even if it's sentimental, but I'm not going to use it or display it, what's the point?  Take a picture and move on.)

So, not sure if there's anything useful in there for you, but that approach worked well for us.

That's a nice scenario, thanks for sharing this method.

In our household, the slightly OCD one is the 'rat. He grew up on a farm with lots of outbuildings and they saved everything because they might need it someday and they had a place for it. That's said, he is very neat and orderly, unlike the OP's FI.

OP, all I have to say is that you need to slow down any plans for marriage. This conflict is an essential one and it touches on the big issues of marital troubles: family and money.

MandalayVA

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2014, 08:10:51 AM »
First, a warning--if you've been having huge arguments with him about his stuff and he's not budging and you try to "organize" when he's not home?  He WILL go ballistic.  He will look at it as an invasion, not as you helping out.

That being said, I agree with FrugalSpendthrift--as long as the clutter doesn't start seeping into your space, let it go.  Marriage is about compromise.

ILoveMyBlondeStache

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2014, 08:12:36 AM »
First, a warning--if you've been having huge arguments with him about his stuff and he's not budging and you try to "organize" when he's not home?  He WILL go ballistic.  He will look at it as an invasion, not as you helping out.

That being said, I agree with FrugalSpendthrift--as long as the clutter doesn't start seeping into your space, let it go.  Marriage is about compromise.

That's part of the problem...I don't have any "space."  There is no place in the house where I feel like there's not work to be done and it's driving me insane. 

rubybeth

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2014, 08:13:54 AM »
Ohhh, I feel for you. My husband is not exactly at this level of keeping things, but he holds onto things that I just don't understand. And also, he's an artist to some extent, so he has loads of art supplies and journals and pieces of art that I dare not touch. We've also had many conversations about how, in order to relax, I need my space to be visually calming with very little clutter, but I happen to love a man who has ADD-inattentive type and keeps everything. *sigh* :)

I think that a few things have helped, over the years, no idea if they'll help you:

1) buy closed shelving units to at least hide/disguise the worst of the clutter
2) have him help you assign 'zones' for certain types of things so it makes sense and you can both find things
3) help him to declutter, with no judgement
4) if needed, bring in a third party who can be neutral to help sort of some of the bigger problem areas

I'll expand on these with personal experience

1) Closed shelving/closets are my lifesaver. Over the years, we've bought a few nice pieces of furniture that have closed shelves, so he can jam them full of things (old journals, for example) and I can close the doors and not have to see things.
2) We have areas for specific things, and I created a spreadsheet with the general 'zones' divided up in ways that make sense for our space (games/art supplies/off-season clothing/tools are some examples). We then mutually decided where these items best fit--sometimes it takes putting all of the particular type of object in one space so you can see how much there really is, and then assign it an actual 'home' within your home.
3) Help him with the physical work of removing things, but don't make any judgement about what he decides to keep or not. My sister helps me with my clothing declutter projects, by holding up individual items for me to assess (there's research that shows that touching items brings back memories and so it's easier to detach if you don't touch!) and then I say "keep" or "donate."
4) Hire someone or get a friend to help with the decluttering if having you help is too stressful/emotional/whatever. My sister is awesome at this, you might know someone who is a good organizer just waiting to be asked. :)

Villanelle

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2014, 08:22:11 AM »
I could back way, way off, and tell him you are going to do so.  Then tell him that you would like once space to be organized up to your standards, and suggest a couple specific areas (workbench, one specific set of shelves in the basement) and tell him that you won't throw anything out.  Suggest this as a compromise--that he simply let you organize that one set of shelves.

That will give you the one space you feels is organized.  And perhaps when he sees that it isn't painful at all, he might come around.  I think maybe having you want to organize All The Things is overwhelming, where as perhaps just doing the workbench or the front left corned of the garage might not be. 

mbl

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2014, 08:24:34 AM »
Many good responses here but I'm going to say what I know.
You need to re-think living together.  And if that means that you won't marry, I can tell you that would probably be best.

Living with a pack rat who is comfortable with clutter and the chaos that goes along with it will make you increasingly uncomfortable and then resentful.   I know this from experience.

This is not dissimilar for someone who is frugal and thrifty trying to make a go of it with someone who is a spender and refuses to save or live below their means.

It is not just something that you can over a long period of time just compromise on and think that you'll feel differently about.
How can you come home to a place that creates anxiety for you?

Have you ever talked to his ex-wife?


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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2014, 08:32:02 AM »
I would move out, frankly.

My experience with this sort of mild hoarding is that it is a lifelong pattern that drives everyone but the hoarder insane. One of my parents is this way. It will effect the state of your home, whether you  have guests over, and how frequently your hypothetical children will visit when they are grown. If you can live with it, awesome. If not, I would let him know you will leAve if he doesn't get serious psychological help for the issue. No amount of organizing is likely to last.

ILoveMyBlondeStache

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2014, 08:35:11 AM »
Many good responses here but I'm going to say what I know.
You need to re-think living together.  And if that means that you won't marry, I can tell you that would probably be best.

Living with a pack rat who is comfortable with clutter and the chaos that goes along with it will make you increasingly uncomfortable and then resentful.   I know this from experience.

This is not dissimilar for someone who is frugal and thrifty trying to make a go of it with someone who is a spender and refuses to save or live below their means.

It is not just something that you can over a long period of time just compromise on and think that you'll feel differently about.
How can you come home to a place that creates anxiety for you?

Have you ever talked to his ex-wife?

His ex-wife and I are friendly.  We need to be for the sake of his daughter.  She was part of the problem, and he will admit that.  She didn't want to get rid of anything either, so they together just accumulated junk and let it sit.  She moved out SIX YEARS ago and he still had a crap load of her things in the basement.  When I asked why it was still there, he said he didn't want to make her take it because he wanted to make things as easy as possible for his daughter and not cause a problem. He finally got her shit out of the house THE WEEK before I moved in.  That just shows you how different our views on things are.  I would have had that crap out the DAY my ex moved out if it were me in that same scenario.

I should clarify also, that we have made some great progress since I moved in.  The kitchen cabinets are better organized than they were, and certainly less full.  I am just dwelling on the things that still need to be done.  I know that part of the problem is that I moved into "his" house, but moving to a new house together was not an option at this time because his daughter would have to move schools, make new friends, etc.  That was my first question when he asked me to move in, "Are you sure it won't be an issue making it 'our' house rather than 'your' house? Are you going to let me make it feel like it's ours?"  His response was "of course."  I know he's trying, that's why I feel bad for feeling the way I do, but when it's causing me huge amounts of anxiety I can't just sit quietly and push it down. *sigh*

FrugalSpendthrift

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2014, 08:38:06 AM »
First, a warning--if you've been having huge arguments with him about his stuff and he's not budging and you try to "organize" when he's not home?  He WILL go ballistic.  He will look at it as an invasion, not as you helping out.

That being said, I agree with FrugalSpendthrift--as long as the clutter doesn't start seeping into your space, let it go.  Marriage is about compromise.

That's part of the problem...I don't have any "space."  There is no place in the house where I feel like there's not work to be done and it's driving me insane.
Ask for some.  Tell him you would like some space of your own, that you would like to remain uncluttered.  Then move all of his shit out of that space into the garage, don't threaten to donate or throw it out.

And look at it from his point of view.  He doesn't see a problem with how he lives and isn't looking for a solution.  The 'stuff' is more valuable to him then it is to you.


mbl

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2014, 08:46:41 AM »
Many good responses here but I'm going to say what I know.
You need to re-think living together.  And if that means that you won't marry, I can tell you that would probably be best.

Living with a pack rat who is comfortable with clutter and the chaos that goes along with it will make you increasingly uncomfortable and then resentful.   I know this from experience.

This is not dissimilar for someone who is frugal and thrifty trying to make a go of it with someone who is a spender and refuses to save or live below their means.

It is not just something that you can over a long period of time just compromise on and think that you'll feel differently about.
How can you come home to a place that creates anxiety for you?

Have you ever talked to his ex-wife?

His ex-wife and I are friendly.  We need to be for the sake of his daughter.  She was part of the problem, and he will admit that.  She didn't want to get rid of anything either, so they together just accumulated junk and let it sit.  She moved out SIX YEARS ago and he still had a crap load of her things in the basement.  When I asked why it was still there, he said he didn't want to make her take it because he wanted to make things as easy as possible for his daughter and not cause a problem. He finally got her shit out of the house THE WEEK before I moved in.  That just shows you how different our views on things are.  I would have had that crap out the DAY my ex moved out if it were me in that same scenario.

I should clarify also, that we have made some great progress since I moved in.  The kitchen cabinets are better organized than they were, and certainly less full.  I am just dwelling on the things that still need to be done.  I know that part of the problem is that I moved into "his" house, but moving to a new house together was not an option at this time because his daughter would have to move schools, make new friends, etc.  That was my first question when he asked me to move in, "Are you sure it won't be an issue making it 'our' house rather than 'your' house? Are you going to let me make it feel like it's ours?"  His response was "of course."  I know he's trying, that's why I feel bad for feeling the way I do, but when it's causing me huge amounts of anxiety I can't just sit quietly and push it down. *sigh*

Unfortunately, IMO, that anxiety won't lessen over time.   
That anxiety is a legitimate warning sign. 
Marriage is ideally forever......can you picture yourself living in a cluttered environment forever?

When you close your eyes and see what you want your home to look like,  is it what you're living in now?
Some might say that this is a minor issue. 
It truly isn't.   Those hoarding/living in a mess characteristics also flow over into other areas of life.

I would strongly encourage you to rethink this.   And then, rethink it again.
It is very important that his daughter be the priority.....yes, even over you.  And if he makes excuses based on his concern for his daughter, that tells you what is most important to him.  I would commend that.
That's just my opinion,  others can flame away.



Frankies Girl

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2014, 09:29:18 AM »
I would move out, frankly.

My experience with this sort of mild hoarding is that it is a lifelong pattern that drives everyone but the hoarder insane. One of my parents is this way. It will effect the state of your home, whether you  have guests over, and how frequently your hypothetical children will visit when they are grown. If you can live with it, awesome. If not, I would let him know you will leAve if he doesn't get serious psychological help for the issue. No amount of organizing is likely to last.

This.

I grew up with both parents being packrats and then both turned into hoarders. I had to move out from both of their houses during different points of my life due to the massive amounts of STUFF (along with several other reasons, but the hoarding was definitely in the top three).

A packrat (in my experience and from my reading as well) is much more likely to turn into a full-blown hoarder if they are already compromising their relationships for their crap - emotional triggers are what send them into a hoarder spiral and after that, the only way to stop it is professional therapy and a strong desire for them to actually want to stop hoarding.

In other words, it is probably not going to get any better if you're already getting yelled at and push-back from your guy in what should be a "honeymoon phase" since you just moved in recently... and it probably will just get worse the longer you're there since he appears to have some deep-seated and unresolved issues about his relationship with his stuff and what it actually represents to him.

Have a sit down with him and tell him that you are not happy with the house/stuff, and asking him to understand that your (shared) home should be a place you can feel comfortable, happy and safe - none of which you feel right now. You need him to understand that you are unhappy and that this house situation is causing you anxiety and emotional pain. If he still dismisses your feelings, well, I am sorry but you have two choices at that point - leave him, or put up with the mess (with the understanding that he also doesn't value your feelings as well).

He is already on the charts for being a hoarder if he values his crap more than his relationship with you. That should be a wake-up call for you both, and only you can decide what you are willing to put up with from him to keep this relationship going.


frugaliknowit

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2014, 09:40:36 AM »
Echo MBL.

If you cannot reach some sort of comfort level with this situation, I think you should not live together. 

I have learned that moving in with a partner is a huge step from dating and doing sleepovers.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2014, 09:57:34 AM »
I would start with the obvious donation items (daughter's clothes). And the obvious garbage (empty containers and old paint cans).

If you find that he won't let you do even that, then I don't know what to advise - I, personally, would move out at that point until he got that under control. I wouldn't consent to live with someone who can't throw out actual garbage or take a bag of clothes to Goodwill.

If you get that far, move on to items that you agree should stay and label/organize/store those items.

In small doses, select items that ought to be gotten rid of. Put them in a box (only do one box at a time) and say you're planning on donating them to Goodwill and that he should look at the box and see if there's anything that should stay. If this results in a full-blown meltdown, just take the box of stuff back and store it. Don't fight about it. At least it's in a box now. Label the box. Fill another box and repeat.

If he never consents to get rid of another item, then again - it's going to be up to you to evaluate whether you want to live with someone who has hoarding issues.

Leave the car/motocycle situation for last. Accept that you may never win that battle, so it might be best not to fight it.

My husband has a lot of stuff. Silly stuff that he should get rid of, but refuses. I settled on storing it in the basement in neatly organized plastic storage tubs. When he asks me where he can find XYZ, I ask if he looked in his storage tubs. If he complains he can't find something, I nicely offer to help him go through the tubs and get rid of some more stuff so it's easier to find what he wants. He rarely takes me up on this offer. ;)

I threw out the obvious garbage long ago. And the stuff we kept doesn't spill over into any public or shared areas. There's a storage room. It goes there. If the storage room gets crowded, I use the Goodwill-box technique above (fill a box, ask if he as objections and take it away).

I do not agree that you should ask for your own space. I think that you should ask for an agreed upon storage area. "Stuff" needs to fit in the storage area. If it doesn't, there's too much for any one person to find anything, anyway. I don't believe that a person should settle for having some little corner of the house that's clear of clutter. The clutter belongs in a corner, not you. It's going to be up to you to decide if you can get this house to a point where it's an acceptable home for you.

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2014, 10:01:27 AM »
I think it's fair for you to ask for some space that you can organize and call your own, but try to tune out the parts of the house where you don't spend much time.  It is tougher in that it's his house and he doesn't see any problem at all.

I agree, start small with non-controversial items and try to get him to see the upside of donating the stuff or selling it.  Bags of clothes that are too small might be a good place to start.  Are there charities he likes that could use this stuff?

Do not just take the opportunity for him being out of the house to reorganize.  It will not end well.  Dh and I both have some pack rat tendencies.  I could cheerfully toss 90% of his stuff and I'm sure he could do the same for mine.  Every so often he will take it upon himself to reorganize the kitchen.  I do the overwhelming majority of the cooking.  He is 6'4" and I am 5'3".  He takes pans that he thinks I never use (I do) and puts them up on high shelves near the ceiling in the garage, where I couldn't get them if I wanted to, and then forgets what he did with them.  We don't fight about much, but this is one of those things. 

Ynari

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2014, 10:08:21 AM »
You might want to try http://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com They (she?) have some good posts about how to balance the needs of multiple people (be they roommates, SOs, or relatives) who live in the same environment but have different standards of cleanliness/clutter.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2014, 10:10:32 AM by freznow »

pbkmaine

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2014, 10:16:36 AM »
My husband is a messy person and a pack rat. He believes that any random horizontal surface is a good place to put piles of unrelated items. I have my clothes hung by type and color. It took us a LONG time to figure this out, and it is still imperfect. I do most of the cleaning and organizing, and have my own set of tools he is not allowed to touch. He also has designated areas for his stuff - a bedroom he uses as a den, and Rubbermaid bins in the garage. His childhood was much less affluent than mine, and I think that informs his collecting. He wants stuff around in case he "needs" it. I think you need to tell him honestly how anxious this makes you. Then ask HIM for suggestions. Our solution was the stacked Rubbermaid bins and the den. I would much rather have the space, but they bring him comfort. The rest of the house is neat. One comment I made that really helped, especially with books and clothes: I told him we weren't using those things, and I would like to donate them so they could help others. Keep in mind, though, that his essential nature will never change. He will never be neat. Can you live with that? I decided I could, because he had so many other good qualities. Your decision may be different.

Christiana

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #20 on: November 14, 2014, 10:43:20 AM »
What, no 15-year-old junk mail (unopened), mixed in with everything else?

What I have done, over the years, is to separate the Useful Crap (tools, cleaning supplies) from the Completely Random Crap from the Obvious Garbage.  I've thrown out the Obvious Garbage, designated homes for the Useful Crap, and left him two whole rooms for the Completely Random Crap, much of which is now sorted.  It still spills over into the rest of the house, but I beat it back every now and then.  He will sometimes admit that it is to his advantage to let me organize the Useful Crap; then even he can find things when he needs them.

Don't marry this guy unless you want to take on the lifelong project of conquering his chaos.  I find it kind of fun, but you might not.

MayDay

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #21 on: November 14, 2014, 11:32:09 AM »
Is "run away fast" helpful advice?

Seriously, I couldn't deal with that.  My H is a pack rat, but luckily I met him early enough in life that he lived in a one bedroom apartment, so the sheer quantity of crap was small.  I have no doubt that if I died tomorrow, he would fill up the whole large house we have now within a decade.  He would just never get rid of anything, so it would all pile up and up and up. 

I think if he wants to fill up the basement with piles of junk, I'd let him, but I would draw the line at the main living spaces.  The kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedrooms (with the possible exception of his daughter) must be clean.  Anything else has to fit in the basement, with no spill-over to the upstairs of the house. 

If he can't live with that, I would be out of there, because I couldn't live with all that crap around me all the time. 

socaso

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #22 on: November 14, 2014, 12:29:32 PM »
If it were me I'd approach him and say the disorganization is making me anxious, would you object to me just organizing the space. Then see if you can't enlist his daughter a bit. She may not be willing to help clean but she might be useful in getting him to let go. Ask her if she needs the outgrown clothes. She'll likely say no and then you suggest donating them. Once you start looking through things to organize them there will likely be some great reasons to throw things out such as the paint cans are dried out or bugs or mice have gotten into certain things. I did something similar with our storage area and put the things we were keeping in labeled plastic tubs that were neatly stacked.

Pigeon

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2014, 12:42:08 PM »
I'd leave the daughter out of it.  I don't think I'd be overjoyed if some woman moved in and started telling me that I should throw out my dad's stuff, even if I didn't like the stuff to begin with.  Step-parenting, even if that's not exactly what this is, is tricky business.

Dr. Doom

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #24 on: November 14, 2014, 01:22:35 PM »
I would move out, frankly.
..One of my parents is this way.
..It will effect the state of your home, whether you  have guests over, and how frequently your hypothetical children will visit when they are grown.

This.

I grew up with both parents being packrats and then both turned into hoarders.
...
In other words, it is probably not going to get any better if you're already getting yelled at and push-back from your guy in what should be a "honeymoon phase" since you just moved in recently...
..
Have a sit down with him and tell him that you are not happy with the house/stuff, and asking him to understand that your (shared) home should be a place you can feel comfortable, happy and safe - none of which you feel right now. You need him to understand that you are unhappy and that this house situation is causing you anxiety and emotional pain.
...

Yes to all of the above.

I've gone through many of these same issues.  My mom's a former packrat who has transformed into a much worse full-blown Level 3 hoarder (link to chart) and it's exhausting.  She unintentionally values things more than people, and her poor relationships tend to feed into her obsession with things because she's not getting enough healthy socialization, which results in a negative feedback loop, making the problem worse. 

Not saying that everyone with packrat tendencies becomes a full-blown hoarder, but the warning signs are there, big time.  I'd be very, very concerned.  And the fact that you've taken the time to post at length about this indicates that your level of anxiety is quite high, i.e. this is of critical importantance to you.

So sit down and have that conversation again.  If it feels like an argument now, imagine what it might be 3-5 years or more down the road?  Worse, guaranteed.  Tackle this thing up front and don't back down.  If he's not changeable and it's really driving you nuts, I'd leave.  Most people with this mentality have a very, very hard time making adjustments to the way they interact with and think about stuff.  (Hint: It's not just "stuff" to them.  They have an emotional bond with each item.  Plans for the future.  Plans, dammit, PLANS!!  Blarg.)

I'll drop the D word:  You deserve to be comfortable both in the place where you live as well as with your potential spouse.  An inability to be flexible in this area would be a dealbreaker for me personally unless he started to show some real interest in listening to you and working on the issues in an earnest way. 


farmstache

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #25 on: November 14, 2014, 04:40:24 PM »
I think you can have several strategies formulated now with all the tips, so I'd just like to add one thing about hoarders: they are *not* a lost case, specially if caught early on. It can take some help from a spouse, or maybe some therapy.

Of course one must evaluate if they want to take on the challenge and marry the person, but as you can see, many here have, and some here are even the pack-rats. I know I am. DH has some hard time asking me to get rid of stuff, but since we moved to a much smaller house and implemented a permanent "donation box", it's been easier for me. If I don't miss the stuff in the box for a while, or when the box is full, we take a last look at it, see if anything can be given to a dear friend, and the rest gets donated.

I'm also the organizer, though. I really like to organize stuff, but I also get lost on all the memories... DH just likes having few things so he never needs to organize anything. I organize clutter. It's a conundrum. If I had less clutter, it would look less messy... I don't know. It's an ongoing improvement to myself. It's also hard to me to know where to draw the line between having family heirlooms and not keeping so much useless stuff around the house.

rocklebock

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #26 on: November 14, 2014, 05:08:36 PM »
I'm going to provide a (maybe rare) example of this situation working out well. When my SO and I were dating, I did not see any possible way we could cohabit, ever. I'm pretty tidy, though not extraordinarily so. Clutter makes me a little nervous. I also love getting rid of stuff, and do big purges of my belongings a couple times a year. His house pretty much looked like a serial killer lived there. It was completely filthy and full of crap. He also literally tons of stuff there left by two previous girlfriends, one of whom was a for-reals hoarder. Oh, P.S., he was about to start a gut remodel of the house.

Here's what worked:

-- We took the move-in process very slowly, and everything was negotiated up front. I told him specifically what I would like to see happen, he told me what it would take to do that, and we came up with a plan together. I was willing to give in certain areas, but I was prepared to make good on the negotiation either way. In other words, if he hadn't been willing to accommodate, well, I liked my apartment and was happy to keep living there.

-- We talked in a pretty neutral way about his interest in getting rid of the stuff, and what was stopping him. I stayed away from judgmental language like "You have too much shit, you have to get rid of it." Most of the time, anyway. I also didn't pass judgment on what he should keep vs. get rid of, unless I was asked.

-- Partway through the process, I realized that I am uniquely un-intimidated by going through huge piles of stuff and making decisions about it. I mean, abnormally so. I enjoy it. Whereas he was really just overwhelmed and didn't know where to start. I suggested tactics for getting organized at a more macro level first, rather than picking through things item-by-item. Someone upthread mentioned Rubbermaid tubs,which was a big win for us.

-- Linking the de-cluttering to his priorities, not just mine. A lot of purging had to happen before he could do certain parts of the remodeling, for example.

-- Agreeing on where the "messy zones" and "clean zones" will be. This is also critical for preserving your sanity while living in a house you're remodeling. I asked that one of the bedrooms be completely remodeled before I moved in, and I pitched in with the labor. This is now my office/den, it's lovely, and it never has power tools, spray foam, or greasy rags in it. OTOH, the basement is both his painting studio and storage for tools, and I accept that it's always going to be a hole no matter what.

--Discovering that going to the dump is really fun! At ours, everything is very organized, the people are friendly and helpful, and then at the end you get a receipt stating how many pounds of junk you got rid of. Very satisfying.

-- After we did a big purge, talking about how awesome it felt, how we'd never miss all that crap, how crazy it is that people have so much stuff, etc.

So, pretty early into the process, he decided he was really into it, and he's now more minimalist than I am in some ways. We both officially hate stuff now. So this can work - but the packrat has to actually want to get rid of the stuff.

galliver

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #27 on: November 14, 2014, 05:29:22 PM »
I haven't had any experience with a similar situation, but I do have a radical and possibly expensive idea...If the only issue with moving is the daughter's school and friends, but otherwise it's desirable, do a fake move. Move out of the house, and back into the same house. Maybe take the opportunity to wash the carpets and paint the walls. Rearrange furniture. Sort and pack all the stuff.

If you don't want to go that radical, I would agree that asking/dealing with one thing at a time ("I keep finding these empty containers, would you mind if I tossed them?" "I found these clothes in the garage when I was looking for a hammer, but they're obviously too small for Girl. I bet a thrift shop would appreciate them." etc). Unless he's an actual hoarder (who will justify why they keep old newspapers and empty coke bottles, other trash, broken things, etc) it's possible the idea of cleaning the huge mess is stressing him out and he doesn't want to deal with it. This would save him from considering the scale of the whole problem by focusing on the baby steps?

Also in your shoes I would try to sit down and have a conversation not about the Mess, but about YOU. That you don't mind moving into his place, but you need the freedom and agency to treat it (mostly) as your own if your relationship continues, to make yourself at home. Maybe don't bring this up in relation to cleaning or organizing something. Maybe say you want to replace a tablecloth or a comforter or something. Also, you may need to try to convey that your personality is not stressed by cleaning, but by resisting the urge to clean; these sorts of differences aren't necessarily obvious. My bf and I (just moved in) frequently encounter something that one doesn't even register that really matters to the other. I left a tower fan behind our bedroom door and I didn't notice because apparently (I hadn't even realized) I don't open doors all the way. Whereas he banged the door into the fan, and it bothered him. So obviously we moved it. So try to convey to him, without passing judgement on the mess's existence, that it stresses you out that you can't do anything about it out of respect for him, more than it stresses you out that it's there.

southern granny

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #28 on: November 14, 2014, 06:01:25 PM »
I would not recommend "organizing" his things when he is away.  I have been married to the same type of person for 39 years, fortunately it doesn't bother me as much as it does you.  He has a garage which he can pile to the rafters with junk if he wants.  I stay away from there.  If I want to get rid of some of his old clothes or shoes, I put them in garbage bags and hide them for 6 months or so.  If he doesn't miss them, then I throw them out. I once found 6 deodorant sticks in the closet that each had just  a little left.  He didn't want to fight for that last little bit, but didn't want to throw them out "in case he ran out".  I gave him two weeks to use them up or throw them out.  When the two weeks was up, I threw them out.   When he drags things in, I tell him to take it to the garage, which he does.   My opinion is to ask him to designate space for you in the house and in the basement, that you can have for your own.  As for his and the child's things... hands off.  Unless you guys can come to a compromise, your future together doesn't look promising.  I wish you the best of luck.

marty998

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #29 on: November 14, 2014, 06:10:03 PM »
I would start with the obvious donation items (daughter's clothes).

You'd be surprised how hard that is for some people to do. I'm not talking about hoarders. But for many people a particular item of their children's clothing may be of significance to them.

Could have been their kids favourite dress, or something they wore on a special occasion. Or just something they looked cute in.

Bit like a photograph or memento. It may be the case that you've just asked him to throw away a happy memory.

studentdoc2

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Re: Fiance's house is a DISASTER AREA...Please help!
« Reply #30 on: November 14, 2014, 08:11:36 PM »
I had something of the opposite problem -- my fairly messy, unorganized partner moved in with me and had to deal with my more organized, type A self. I don't think our problems were as serious as you seem to have, but we had to have lots of conversations during the process. Our conversations involved a lot of expressions of how our environments make us "feel" and had to be careful to not come off as attacks (Lots of things like "I need the space where I relax to be XXX, and when it's not, I feel anxious and stressed out and really unhappy. I know you might feel a little differently. I love you and want to find a way to make this work -- how can we compromise?"). It was SUPER important for us to give him his very own room in our apartment (which is an ungodly mess, but I rarely have to see it). I think it's very reasonable for you to start by saying that you need to feel like you have a "space" that is yours in order to make "his" house feel like your home too. Eventually, common areas should be cleaned/organized in a way that represents a compromise on both your parts.