Author Topic: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?  (Read 10585 times)

judgypants139

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How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« on: November 16, 2016, 12:18:12 PM »
I'm not calling it hoarding, because it hasn't gotten to that level yet. Here's the situation:

My wife has an unhealthy relationship with stuff. Namely, she just can't get over the belief that 'more is better,' that you always need a specialized tool for every job (even if you're only going to use it once), and that she needs to buy stuff now because they might stop making it in the future (even if she doesn't need / want it now). She hates to get rid of stuff, and won't let me help.

The only good news is that she is a bargain hunter, so at least she isn't buying super-expensive, luxury brand stuff.

She knows this is a problem, but won't admit how big a problem it is (she tells herself the lie that she just needs to 'straighten up a little and get rid of a few things' -- which she will do 'someday' but never today).

The biggest problem for me is that our house is a constant mess as a result. Our bedroom has huge piles of clothes on the floor. The den has piles of freshly laundered clothes that need to be put away (but nowhere to put them). The kitchen counters are stacked with papers, magazines, etc.

I'm a neat person. The house drives me nuts, causes me stress, we constantly fight over it, and it's just bad enough that we can't have people over unannounced (although that not so bad that we can't, with a furious morning of shoving stuff into closets, have a pretty nice-looking home and have friends over for dinner).

This is a learned behavior, that she learned from her mother (who's house is in similarly bad shape, with a 3-car garage stacked to the gills).

She's made some baby steps. She went through our bathroom and cleaned it up wonderfully. She started to go through her closet, collected 5 trash bags full of clothes to get rid of, but still has much more to do and now won't let me give away the clothes in the trash bags (they are sitting on the floor, and she is convinced they are valuable, that she can sell them on ebay or craigslist, which I know is something she will never do).

Appealing to the financial side of things will get me nowhere; the truth is that we are set financially and I could retire tomorrow, although I like my work. Although of course we'd have a lot more money if she didn't waste so much.

Our home is driving me crazy. I know she's not happy with it. Our young son is learning all the wrong lessons (his room is packed to the gills with toys and books and looks like a bomb hit a toy store).

I don't think it's bad enough to stage a 'hoarding intervention.' But I need to find the right way to get her to see how much happier we'd all be with less stuff.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. Anytime I try to talk with her about it we either end up in a shouting match or, in a best case scenario, with her admitting something needs to be done and that she 'will get to it.'

Anyone have any success dealing with such a situation? I'm at the end of my rope.

ZiziPB

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2016, 01:05:42 PM »
Maybe have her read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo?

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2016, 01:14:01 PM »
Maybe have her read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo?

Thanks. I bought a copy and read it myself, and even though I don't have much stuff and keep it pretty darn tidy, I have been implementing the KonMari method on my side of the closet, with the idea that I will 'be the change I want to see in my home.' She admits that my side of the closet looks great but goes out of her way to say that the Kon Mari folding method is 'silly,' or takes too much time, or doesn't make sense -- in other words, she is preparing her defenses and setting up to give me all the reasons why it wouldn't work for her.


Sibley

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2016, 01:20:34 PM »
Newsflash: your wife is a hoarder. Just because it's not bad enough to get on TV doesn't mean she isn't.

Don't believe me? Read what Mayo Clinic says:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/basics/definition/con-20031337

My approach, but I am not great with people and am really blunt:
You need to (nicely) make it clear that is not an annoyance, it's a real PROBLEM, capital letters problem, for you and you need her to stop and get rid of all the stuff. You'll help her sort stuff. You'll help her find a therapist. You'll help resell, or donate, or trash, or recycle, or whatever. But her stuff is damaging your marriage, and it has to go or you'll go. The key is you have to be willing to follow through.

Edit: I missed/forgot that you have a child. Living in this environment is NOT healthy for him. Either fix the environment, or get him out before he gets screwed up. He will thank you in 20 years.
« Last Edit: November 16, 2016, 01:48:54 PM by Sibley »

marty998

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2016, 01:27:28 PM »
Yep, she's a hoarder. I am no expert (goes without saying!) but can you just start chucking things and stand there with a zen like pose while you get hit with the inevitable torrent of abuse and say "darling, that is not how adults talk to each other"? When she talks about her feelings for her stuff, remind her about your feelings and ask if they matter as much.

Then institute a rule that whenever something is brought into the house, something else must be taken out.

frugal rph

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #5 on: November 16, 2016, 01:30:20 PM »
Is your wife willing to go see a therapist about this issue? From what little I know about hoarding, it doesn't seem like you'll be able to help her solve this on your own.  I'm also concerned about the effect on your son.  Could you at least try to make his room off limits?

Nick_Miller

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #6 on: November 16, 2016, 01:33:06 PM »
I am a bit nicer than Sibley, but........I agree.

Your wife is a hoarder. It's not just the amounts of stuff, but it's her setting up layers of defenses to justify her behavior. It's basically like one of those TV shows, but maybe 2 or 3 years prior.

I have a close family member who is a hoarder. I have tried EVERYTHING to help. Nothing works. I think you need a trained professional to provide assistance, because this is like any other addiction that affects the chemical parts of your brain.

Think of it like drug addiction or gambling addiction or porn addiction or whatever. Folks with those problems don't generally just stop cold turkey. It can be a very slow and painful process to recovery.

Frankies Girl

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #7 on: November 16, 2016, 01:41:01 PM »
Your wife is a hoarder.

I come from hoarders. Both parents are/were and sibling is too. I was definitely on my way in my early 20s, but I got help because I didn't want to live like that any more. I even have a journal here about the hoarding clean out (we had to hire hazmat cleaners when my dad died).

Oh, and every hoarder I've read about or seen, ALWAYS bargain shopped.

What you are describing is how my parents were when I was growing up. Rooms becoming jam-packed, every available surface covered, lots of "bargains" to justify the constant shopping. Piles of things that are valuable or might be useful someday... that's how it starts. No matter what level you or she thinks she is, she IS a hoarder and it will only get worse until she deals with the issues of WHY she needs to shop/hoard.

You both need counseling to deal with this most likely. Hoarders rarely get better without intensive counseling.

Basically, she's addicted to the acquiring great deals and gets a high off of shopping and scoring stuff. But she's also trying to control her environment in an unhealthy way. The fact that you can't talk to her about this without her getting very angry and refusing to see how bad it is getting is also VERY familiar. The anger is a giant bandaid she uses to avoid seeing how bad things actually are. She is deeply in denial and that is scary because the worse she is about that, the less chance she has of actually pulling herself out of it on her own.

She needs to understand that this is damaging your relationship, and your child's future and how they deal with things/people as well. But you have to make sure she understands you're not trying to attack her or call her names; she's got a serious issue that she is unable to admit to that is affecting your entire family and you want to get counseling as a couple to help deal with it, but that most of all you love her and want your home to be a source of comfort for everyone living there. You have to come at this from that point of view, otherwise she will probably not respond in any meaningful way (hoarders are SUPER at living in denial and avoiding seeing how things can end up hurting their family relationships).


I'd recommend checking out these books from the library and both of you read them and discuss:

https://www.amazon.com/Stuff-Compulsive-Hoarding-Meaning-Things/dp/0547422555

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544320816/ref=pd_sim_14_15?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=VM5MMNVGR34VXJCTSKZC

It might just open up a dialogue so that you can both work on this together.

But if she can't start figuring out how to stop the shopping/hoarding addiction, and start cleaning out all of the extra junk in your house, then yes, counseling ASAP.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2016, 03:58:33 AM by Frankies Girl »

plog

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2016, 01:49:50 PM »
Quote
Anyone have any success dealing with such a situation?

In this order:  yoga, meditation, buddhism and divorce.

AA has like a 10% success rate, my guess any hoarder rehab program would be similar at best.  So, ditch fixing her, the focus is on you and either living with the situation or extracting yourself from the situation. 

pdxbator

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2016, 02:43:45 PM »
Get to a therapist stat!

This sounds just like my mom. She slowly started acquiring stuff and now the house is full. It drives my dad crazy, and has definitely damaged their relationship. Now that she's in her 70s all she can focus on is her stuff. To throw out a coffee mug (for which they have dozens) or a sweater (which she literally has 100s of) is the biggest deal. In order to clear out the garage my dad had me help my mom go through her fleece jackets. We narrowed it down to 100. Yes 100!

She really could use therapy for this, but absolutely refuses to go. My dad is so patient with her, and loves her, but I can see that it really bothers him.

And just like your wife my mom shops the 'deals'. She only shops at Goodwill or Kohls with the huge discount coupons.

I wish you luck with the discussion you will have just to get her to agree to see a therapist. It is tough to face something like this where you are convincing someone there is a problem, when that person cannot see that there is a problem at all. Best wishes!

cchrissyy

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2016, 04:36:20 PM »
Your post sounds 100% like my parents' house, and I agree with all other posters that this IS hoarding.

Everything you describe about the mess and the oversized reaction when you try to organize/remove it, and yes, bargain shopping for things you don't even need, that is exactly what hoarding is. Just because you can make a couple rooms presentable for guests, given advance notice, and would't qualify for reality TV, doesn't mean this isn't an awful situation that needs to be taken seriously.

I have no recommendation except both of you get individual counseling, and that hers needs to have expertise in hoarding, and the related areas of anxiety, grief, control, etc.

MsPeacock

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2016, 06:01:18 PM »
Tossing her stuff isn't going to help and will likely lead to gigantic arguments and increased resistance to change.

I agree that she sounds like a hoarder. Not all hoarders live in piles of garbage. Many have neatly stacked boxed stuff - just stacked to the ceiling in every available spot. Additionally, none of them start out with stuff stacked everywhere - it takes years for the accumulation of stuff.

If your wife is willing to change I'd suggest find a very good behavioral psychologist (either straight-up behavioral or cognitive-behavioral) with experience dealing with hoarding or OCD specifically. She may also need a psychiatrist for medication.  If she is unwilling to change then you have to make a decision about how you can live and if you can continue to live with her. If you'd watched hoarders you know that many families fall apart in the face of the hoarder's behavior - children can't deal w/ their hoarding parents, divorces, etc. Couples and individual counseling for yourself as well may be helpful too.

handsnhearts

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2016, 08:08:10 PM »
I would like to put another viewpoint out there. I also have a stuff issue so I might be able to understand your wife's perspective a bit. I am not a pathological hoarder. However hoarding is a spectrum and like any other psychological illness, it is only pathologic when it causes harm in someone's life and they continue despite it. It would be arguable that causing problems in marriage would constitute causing harm.
So I wouldn't be quick to pathologize it.
Does she really want to organize and sort through stuff, or does she really like having all that stuff or is she too worried to get rid of things?  These are important distinctions to figure out the best way to move forward.
It sounds like she is happy with the bathroom and with your side of the closet.
Have you asked her what her vision is for "someday"?  And what she thinks is getting in the way?  Would it help if you sold the extra things online for her? 


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Bee21

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2016, 08:24:24 PM »
I always read these posts with interest, people here always have good recommendations.

My parents house is packed to the rafters and she refuses to let go of things. Grandparents were the same. Similar behavipur with other family members. She is not a shopper, it is mostly inherited stuff, without much value, but every broken cup is kept because we can still use it at the farm. Or somebody might be able to use it. Or we paid good money for it. Or it was a present. They have 6 soup tureens. Enough sheets to outfit a hospital. 100 crystal glasses. 2000 books. Etc. Every time i visit(they are overseas so not that often) i get rid of a few bags of stuff and there are tears.

The place is quite neat, the clutter is organized, but just the sheer amount of unused stuff is crazy.

The thing is, mom is not that well, it is getting increasingly difficult for her to clean and maintain this stuff and it saddens me that i can't help her with it. She is so used to this amount of stuff that she doesn't realise that it would be so much easier to clean and maintain the house with less clutter.

Like frankies girl, i had similar tendencies till my twenties, when i managed to sort myself out. I am almost a minimalist know, ruthlessly purging everything. Whenever i am upset about something, i toss a few things.

Before you do counselling, try to clean up together. The mantra I used succesfully was -yes, i might need it someday, but somebody needs it right NOW.it was easier to let it go knowing that i help others.

If she is worried about the cost and tries to sell stuff, encourage her to do it, but give her a timeframe. And calculate her hourly rate. That is usually  scary enough to discourage people from selling the crap. See i make 42 per hour in my day job. If i spend 3 hours trying to sell 20 dollars worth of crap, it is not worth my time. I would rather not buy it in the first place.

If she is worried about the sunk cost, tell her that the stuff taught her an important lesson, ie what you don't need in life, so it was money well spent after all. Investment in life lessons.

I really enjoyed Joshua Beckers book and Francine Jays Miss minimalist, ask her to read these. They both have blogs, check them out.

And find some activities for the weekends to keep her out of the shops. New hobbies. The gym. Hiking. Invite people over more often to motivate her clean the house. Be gentle, but firm. It is your home too, you and your family deserve a nice home environment.

Let us know how it goes.

Dicey

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2016, 04:21:26 AM »
Therapy, therapy,  therapy,  therapy.  For your wife, for you, for your kid and for you as a family. Like FG, this runs in my family. One trick that helps me is to take pictures of things before I get rid of them. Soothes that little place in my brain that's afraid of being in need. It really does work. It also helps that every couple of years I can get my sister to come stay for a few days and help me go through things systematically to organize and purge.
Also, own up to the fact you've allowed this situation to build over time. Recognize that change is likely to be slow, if at all. You have my sympathy, as this is a tough place to be.

2Cent

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #15 on: November 17, 2016, 05:34:43 AM »
If you are set financially and are even earning more, maybe you can just rent/construct a space to put the hoard. I would make it so that things in the back can be removed quietly. If she never is going to need them, she'll never find out they are gone.

My Grandmother is also not able to throw stuff away, due to experiences of extreme want in WW2. But she is able to give things away when she thinks they will be used. This way she gets rid of most of her unused stuff without feeling bad (and in fact feeling like it was a good thing). So you could try to get her in touch with some needy people who could use your stuff. Also it might be good to move her from paper magazines and papers to digital ones. If your hoard fits on a 2.5 inch hard drive it's not so much in the way.
Another nice one for your kid's toys is telling him he is allowed to sell the toys he doesn't want anymore. If it was me as a kid, I'd sell all the kids stuff to buy things like video games and computer parts. If he gets a taste for profit, you could even let him sell your wife's stuff that she wanted to sell for a percentage. Might teach him to actually enjoy getting rid of stuff.

chasesfish

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2016, 05:38:50 AM »
You need to move houses.  If you're already set for life financially, find a reason to move.  It'll accomplish two things:

1)  Throw away the shit you haven't touched in two years unless its a tool

2) Get some segregated space in the new house where you and her can have "excess storage".   Agree that's the space.

I come from a family of hoarders, the people who've moved a couple times tended to break the habit.  The ones in the same house for 15+ years are rough.   Moving houses at 24 and then downsizing at 31 really broke that habit.  I remember watching our carpet crew haul away two F-150's full of furniture/stuff we didn't need and I thought "never again".  A bunch of this stuff came from parents who hoarded under the excuse of "the kids can use it" and brought it into our house.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2016, 05:43:24 AM by chasesfish »

Linea_Norway

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2016, 06:05:33 AM »
I feel sorry for your situation. To me it seems that your wife with this habit is not a good match for you as a neat person. I think you should have a serious talk with her about your feelings. Without shouting, just tell her that you simply don't want to live in a house full of piles of stuff. And then suggest a plan to do something about it. Like doing a good cleanout, selling stuff in a garage sale or something. And go into counseling. And then offer to help her to achieve it. Let her know that the situation is not lost already, she gets a chance to improve. But she must understand that if she doesn't improve, that you do not want to spend the rest of you live with her, if that is your opinion.
Otherwise, I also support the idea as mentioned above, that your wife gets her own room where she can keep whatever she wants. But the rest of the house should be forbidden territory for storage outside cupboards.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2016, 01:32:28 AM by Linda_Norway »

pbkmaine

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2016, 06:13:58 AM »
I would not call my husband a hoarder, but he is disorganized and not bothered by clutter. He gets one of our three bedrooms to use exactly as he chooses, plus most of our garage space. We have to park the cars in the driveway, and I have to keep my own set of tools, but the result is peace in the home.

Sibley

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2016, 08:40:57 AM »
I would like to put another viewpoint out there. I also have a stuff issue so I might be able to understand your wife's perspective a bit. I am not a pathological hoarder. However hoarding is a spectrum and like any other psychological illness, it is only pathologic when it causes harm in someone's life and they continue despite it. It would be arguable that causing problems in marriage would constitute causing harm.
So I wouldn't be quick to pathologize it.
Does she really want to organize and sort through stuff, or does she really like having all that stuff or is she too worried to get rid of things?  These are important distinctions to figure out the best way to move forward.
It sounds like she is happy with the bathroom and with your side of the closet.
Have you asked her what her vision is for "someday"?  And what she thinks is getting in the way?  Would it help if you sold the extra things online for her? 


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Handsnhearts, your words worry me.

"It would be arguable that causing problems in marriage would constitute causing harm." - If your behavior is causing problems in your marriage, then by definition, you're causing harm. You're hurting the marriage, and by extension the person you married. This is not arguable. This is a fact.

You say you have a stuff problem yourself. I would urge you to have an honest talk with someone about this. Remember, just because you don't see something as a problem doesn't mean you're not causing harm.

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #20 on: November 17, 2016, 10:57:10 AM »
Thanks to all of you for your replies. There's a lot to think about here, and I want to consider it all carefully before I move forward.

My wife has some self-awareness. She's a smart woman who took a lot of psychology classes in college. She watches Hoarders on TV and understands many of the issues; in some ways, I think she takes comfort that our house doesn't look like the ones on TV (at least, not yet). I know she really does want a tidy, organized place. She makes baby steps at times, then feels overwhelmed and by the time she comes back to it she's already bought more stuff.

Sometimes she gets angry with me when I clean up and throw things out. And then, much to my surprise, sometimes she thanks me for it. Just last week I cleared out a section of the kitchen counter and was shocked at how pleased she was. I think that's part of why I hang on to some hope.

I've got some reading to do and then, I think, some gentle, loving, but firm conversations to have.

Thanks to all of you. I'll report back.



honeybbq

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #21 on: November 17, 2016, 11:05:51 AM »
I agree with much of what has been said here.

I would frame as a context that you want a better life for your child and teach them that experiences and people matter, not stuff.

Check out this book:

Born to Buy
The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture

Dicey

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #22 on: November 17, 2016, 11:29:48 AM »
I come from hoarding stock, so completely understand feeling overwhelmed. That's why I so appreciate having my sister visit to keep me focused and on track long enough to make a difference. If your DW doesn't have someone to help, hire someone. It's just too daunting to go it alone.

PS, my sister spent 10 days with her SIL, who inherited the house she grew up in and the only home she's ever lived in. My awesome sis couldn't make any headway at all, despite mad skillz and herculean effort. Moving is actually a great suggestion.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2016, 01:41:09 AM by Diane C »

WootWoot

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #23 on: November 17, 2016, 12:13:22 PM »
Reading this with interest, as I am married to a borderline hoarder. I can tell you, the "my room" and "your room" thing didn't work. When we moved into our home 18 years ago, I was supposed to have the three rooms on the first floor as mine, for entertaining, etc. The middle room is more or less my art studio. But the front/living room is full of a pile of his stuff, five feet high, and I can't even sit on my couch. The kitchen is full of other stuff.

If anyone has suggestions as to what you do when the other person encroaches in "your territory," please let me know.


Would also like to recommend this book: https://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Secret-Daughter-Compulsive-Hoarding/dp/1439192529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479409891&sr=8-1&keywords=Dirty+secret+hoarding

MayDay

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #24 on: November 17, 2016, 12:27:16 PM »


If anyone has suggestions as to what you do when the other person encroaches in "your territory," please let me know.



Move it onto the lawn?

WootWoot

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #25 on: November 17, 2016, 12:44:18 PM »
MayDay, we don't have a lawn.

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #26 on: November 17, 2016, 12:52:48 PM »
My wife is the same way. She just doesn't have an issue with clutter. Her closet always has a pile of clothes on it with drifts a couple feet deep. I could go on and on. It drives me insane. I like things neat and organized. Clutter makes me uncomfortable. I have an almost physical reaction to it.

Anyway, it's been a 10 year journey and she's finally getting better. Things are going to Goodwill, getting sold off in garage sales, or just being trashed. She's taking pictures of sentimental items to keep them in a way, but unloading them. The piles around the house are getting smaller.

Marie Kondo, the minimalist literature, and her mother's nudging have helped. The difference for her has been understanding that having less means being able to use what you have in a better way. She's finding that she spends less time figuring out what to wear. She's rediscovering good things, long forgotten, as well. This has served as a positive feedback-behavior loop. Fingers crossed that it continues.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2016, 12:54:20 PM by Tetsuya Hondo »

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #27 on: November 17, 2016, 01:21:30 PM »
Anyway, it's been a 10 year journey and she's finally getting better.

What was the impetus to start improving? What conversations did you have with her that seemed to help?

It's good that her mother is supportive. In my case, her mother is part of the problem -- she has 'stuff' issues herself and loves to suggest that my wife should buy this or that knicknack at a garage sale. It drives me crazy.

pbkmaine

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #28 on: November 17, 2016, 01:45:48 PM »
Reading this with interest, as I am married to a borderline hoarder. I can tell you, the "my room" and "your room" thing didn't work. When we moved into our home 18 years ago, I was supposed to have the three rooms on the first floor as mine, for entertaining, etc. The middle room is more or less my art studio. But the front/living room is full of a pile of his stuff, five feet high, and I can't even sit on my couch. The kitchen is full of other stuff.

If anyone has suggestions as to what you do when the other person encroaches in "your territory," please let me know.


Would also like to recommend this book: https://www.amazon.com/Dirty-Secret-Daughter-Compulsive-Hoarding/dp/1439192529/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479409891&sr=8-1&keywords=Dirty+secret+hoarding

I ask him to put it away. If he does not, I put it in his space.

galliver

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #29 on: November 17, 2016, 06:15:02 PM »
I don't have personal or professional experience with hoarding, so my suggestion shouldn't be taken to contradict many of the above, e.g. therapy, etc...

My personal experience has been that anytime I go on a long trip/vacation, I have a new appreciation for how little I need, and a better physical sense of how much of a burden my "stuff" is (after dragging it around airports, in and out of taxis or buses, etc). For someone who sees and appreciates others being more minimalist but maybe doesn't see how they can let go of some of their stuff, I could see it being an awakening, like "this one suitcase of outfits got me through 2 months of various activities, and it was easier to find the things I wanted" or "it was really nice in the kitchen of the rental having just one nice set of dishes instead of the mishmash we have" or whatever. Just really having that practical experience of the simpler lifestyle as a motivator to simplify one's lifestyle at home. So, since you are basically FI, go on that dream vacation (whatever it may be) for at least a month (though I think it would be more effective if longer and to more than one destination). And then if that fails, move house as suggested above ;) Possibly to someplace smaller, since stuff often grows to fill empty space!

I actually really like the moving theory a lot...I know I become much more ruthless when faced with the prospect of packing and unpacking things. When temporarily situated I tend to collect things like magazines and jars and old clothes. But when I move, out it goes! Actually this thread made me want to toss the magazines now. We'll never actually read them. The jars I semi-recently purged and do occasionally use for storage, and the old clothes are currently serving as lab clothes and might be burned in a bonfire once I defend my thesis in a few months, haha.

handsnhearts

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #30 on: November 17, 2016, 08:37:30 PM »
I would like to put another viewpoint out there. I also have a stuff issue so I might be able to understand your wife's perspective a bit. I am not a pathological hoarder. However hoarding is a spectrum and like any other psychological illness, it is only pathologic when it causes harm in someone's life and they continue despite it. It would be arguable that causing problems in marriage would constitute causing harm.
So I wouldn't be quick to pathologize it.
Does she really want to organize and sort through stuff, or does she really like having all that stuff or is she too worried to get rid of things?  These are important distinctions to figure out the best way to move forward.
It sounds like she is happy with the bathroom and with your side of the closet.
Have you asked her what her vision is for "someday"?  And what she thinks is getting in the way?  Would it help if you sold the extra things online for her? 


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Handsnhearts, your words worry me.

"It would be arguable that causing problems in marriage would constitute causing harm." - If your behavior is causing problems in your marriage, then by definition, you're causing harm. You're hurting the marriage, and by extension the person you married. This is not arguable. This is a fact.

You say you have a stuff problem yourself. I would urge you to have an honest talk with someone about this. Remember, just because you don't see something as a problem doesn't mean you're not causing harm.

Hi Sibley, no need for concern. 
As a health professional that deals with mental health issues that underlie diagnoses like hoarding, I can tell you I don't have it.  My husband and brother agree.  A bit of a clutter-bug, but not a pathological hoarder.  I can have people over anytime, and my floors are clean and open.  Maybe I have too many papers on the counter, a few too many clothes, and a few family heirlooms, but we live in a clean, cozy and comfortable house. 

I am concerned that after asking for help, many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that Judgy's wife was a hoarder.  I am not sure from hearing a brief description here, and I don't think anyone else can be sure she is a hoarder either.  I am uncomfortable that there was a strong push to diagnose a significant mental illness immediately.  This is why I wanted to provide another perspective. 

And causing discomfort or disharmony in a marriage, while clearly undesirable, unpleasant, and may or may not be in someone's best interest, is not "harmful" in the sense of a pathologic problem.  That was the distinction I was trying to make. 

Anyway, Judgy, I think you have gotten some really good, respectful suggestions here.  I totally agree with galliver about traveling makes you realize how little you truly need. 

I know that for me, what helps with purging and organizing is a dedicated few hours, and a buddy who can help keep me moving if I get stuck too long on one thing, make suggestions if needed, and help move items to new or donate locations. 

But if you think that there may be a true hoarding tendency here, then it is not about the stuff at all.  It is about a mental illness, usually based on severe anxiety, OCD, depression, PTSD, or complicated guilt.  If you think that is the root cause, then mental health help with someone whom you trust and has experience and training would be good.  But I didn't get that sense from your post.


Linea_Norway

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #31 on: November 18, 2016, 01:45:20 AM »
Some years ago there was a program on TV about cleaning up a hoarder's house. In that case, a bunch of relatives showed up (the ones that understand that hoarding is a problem) to clean out the house. Everything was sorted into different boxes:
- To be thrown away
- To be sold
- To be given away
- To be kept
And then the group helped doing this, driving to the dump, organizing a garage sale or writing adverts.
This could be a good start. And as someone mentioned, maybe one person helping would already be enough, as the house is not a total chaos yet.
Of course this action doesn't change the root cause, which is the urge to buy all the stuff. Maybe your wife should not go shopping with her mother anymore, if the mother encourages this behaviour.

It is nice to hear that your wife is happy when you clean up some of the stuff.

cchrissyy

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #32 on: November 18, 2016, 09:52:09 AM »
It is tough to make any progress as the friend or family member who wants to help/inspire some clean up.

there is an angle that helps with my mom a little

in the face of "but I might need it some day" , she can sometimes let the item goto a new home where somebody needs it now.  It can't be as general as "let's take it to Goodwill, maybe somebody who needs it will buy it". It has to be more specific like "here is the wish list from the women's shelter in town - everything here is something they can use right now - let's see if we can find these items"

that also helps with the unnecessary saving of items that have already been replaced. My mom has, for example, multiple old sets of pots and pans and tupperwares and kitchen appliances that are "backups" for the nice new ones in the kitchen. the thing is, if she buys a new blender, the old one is kept forever in the garage, not given away. and decades go by until nobody knows if that old blender even works, or was it replaced (and kept?!) due to being broken.  anyway, the tactic above works on that a bit too. "Oh look, the women's shelter list says they need a blender. Let's find your old ones!" once she says OK maybe you privately check if they work. Donate if they do, throw out if they don't.

another idea - the ONLY thing my mom is OK with me cleaning for her (like, without her involvement) is the sorting and removal of expired mail and coupons.  I suppose because she doesn't feel any use for expired coupons and credit card offers and voting materials and such, but she would also find it stressful to go through her stacks of paper on the desks herself. So, when I'm there I do shrink those piles. but that is definitely the only thing I am allowed to do. Unfortunately it doesn't extend to old newspapers and magazines, since those might still be read someday  (sigh)

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #33 on: November 18, 2016, 10:42:17 AM »

I am concerned that after asking for help, many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that Judgy's wife was a hoarder.  I am not sure from hearing a brief description here, and I don't think anyone else can be sure she is a hoarder either.  I am uncomfortable that there was a strong push to diagnose a significant mental illness immediately.  This is why I wanted to provide another perspective.


First off, thanks to all of you. I'm pretty good at realistically assessing things, and I think handsnhearts may be close to the truth of my situation. It may be that my wife requires therapy; I'm certainly not discounting that. But there are just enough positive signs from her that I think I may, with the right information and the right approach, be able to nudge her in a positive direction.

She recognizes the mental tricks hoarders use to hang on to things ('I might need it someday,' 'I have an emotional attachment to this,' etc etc). I think deep down she knows that she falls prey to these at times, too. Sometimes she shows some real rationality in getting rid of things and wanting a clear house.

I think the most painful to her is admitting that she made a mistake in bringing something into the house in the first place. For example, we bought our house four years ago and literally the day the offer was accepted she went on ebay to look at furniture (she was panicked that we didn't have any furniture for the new house). She bought a coffee table and two ottomans for a grand total of $3! They are ugly as sin and have been sitting in our garage ever since, as she insists that she will refinish them and they will one day look great in our house.

We've fought over those ottomans many times. I think, for her, it's not the cost (after all, they were only $3). It's admitting that she made a mistake in the first place when she bought them. As long as they sit in the garage, she can convince herself that they will be useful someday. The day I take them to Goodwill is the day she will have to admit it was a bad decision.

These are the things she really struggles with.

In any case, I've reserved some of the suggested books from my local library. I plan to read up to better my understanding of the issues, then have a gentle, firm, loving talk with her. And we'll see how that goes. If we can't make any progress, then it will be time to bring in some outside help.

MBot

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #34 on: November 18, 2016, 02:27:42 PM »
+1 to the suggestion of "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the meaning of things"

I believe it's quite helpful in understanding what is normal and not, and how most "interventions" don't work. But also why effective interventions are effective.

That and the Kondo book helped me pare down a lot personally.

Metric Mouse

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #35 on: November 20, 2016, 07:39:08 AM »

I am concerned that after asking for help, many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that Judgy's wife was a hoarder.  I am not sure from hearing a brief description here, and I don't think anyone else can be sure she is a hoarder either.  I am uncomfortable that there was a strong push to diagnose a significant mental illness immediately.  This is why I wanted to provide another perspective.


First off, thanks to all of you. I'm pretty good at realistically assessing things, and I think handsnhearts may be close to the truth of my situation. It may be that my wife requires therapy; I'm certainly not discounting that. But there are just enough positive signs from her that I think I may, with the right information and the right approach, be able to nudge her in a positive direction.

She recognizes the mental tricks hoarders use to hang on to things ('I might need it someday,' 'I have an emotional attachment to this,' etc etc). I think deep down she knows that she falls prey to these at times, too. Sometimes she shows some real rationality in getting rid of things and wanting a clear house.

I think the most painful to her is admitting that she made a mistake in bringing something into the house in the first place. For example, we bought our house four years ago and literally the day the offer was accepted she went on ebay to look at furniture (she was panicked that we didn't have any furniture for the new house). She bought a coffee table and two ottomans for a grand total of $3! They are ugly as sin and have been sitting in our garage ever since, as she insists that she will refinish them and they will one day look great in our house.

We've fought over those ottomans many times. I think, for her, it's not the cost (after all, they were only $3). It's admitting that she made a mistake in the first place when she bought them. As long as they sit in the garage, she can convince herself that they will be useful someday. The day I take them to Goodwill is the day she will have to admit it was a bad decision.

These are the things she really struggles with.

In any case, I've reserved some of the suggested books from my local library. I plan to read up to better my understanding of the issues, then have a gentle, firm, loving talk with her. And we'll see how that goes. If we can't make any progress, then it will be time to bring in some outside help.


Good luck! Having a loved one with an issue like this must be very difficult. We're all rooting for you!

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #36 on: November 28, 2016, 11:50:19 AM »
An update:

To my delight, my wife has taken some positive steps in the right direction (with limited prodding from me).

Those four plastic trash bags of clothes sitting in our bedroom? She sent one off to ThredUp to be sold/donated, let me take two other bags to Goodwill, and is keeping the fourth to see how much value ThredUp gives her. She says she'll either send the last bag to ThredUp or let me take it to Goodwill.

On Saturday morning she decided to clean our son's room. The two of them went through all of the accumulated toys, books, and other items scattered around. It's not quite a finished product yet but the progress is fantastic.

I'd like to think the example I'm trying to set is having some effect, but I don't actually know if this is the case. I'm trying to give her lots of support and positive reinforcement every time she take a positive step.

I've begun talking to her about my desire to lead a more minimalist life. She isn't saying she is on board with it, but she isn't calling me crazy, either.

I got one of the recommended books from the library but haven't read it yet, as I'm trying to keep it hidden from her. I think she might be offended if she saw me reading 'hoarder' books. I want to read in private and then be more prepared to have discussions with her.

So I'm a looooong way from thinking the issues have been fully addressed, but I'm definitely happy with some of the recent steps she's taken.

Once again, thanks to all for your comments and suggestions. 

Metric Mouse

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #37 on: November 28, 2016, 11:52:06 AM »
Wow. Progress! Good luck; hope it continues.

MayDay

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #38 on: November 28, 2016, 12:04:47 PM »
I think the 2 biggest things you can do are:

1.  Stop new stuff from coming in- you can't control this entirely, obviously, but if there are certain things that are likely to happen over the holidays, like relatives cleaning out their closets and gifting you their junk, maybe you can talk about it ahead of time and come up with a game plan to not accept that kind of stuff.  Or get control over the shopping.  Or quit the garage sale hobby, etc.

2.  You've done a great job of starting the clean-up process- now you need to keep it going.  Perhaps you can get her on board with cleaning out (together?) one thing each weekend.  A junk drawer, a closet or even just a shelf on a closet, etc.  Maybe you can agree to divide the labor- anything she identifies to get rid of, you will list on CL/ebay, and she can use whatever money is made on a massage/dinner out/some other service item, ie not more shopping, lol!  If you are willing to do the annoying listing for sale part, and she gets to keep the money, she may suddenly become very motivated to clear stuff out!

chasesfish

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #39 on: November 29, 2016, 05:34:31 AM »
Congrats on the progress.  Keep it up

Boganvillia

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #40 on: November 30, 2016, 05:16:43 PM »
This reminds me of a long phase my mother seemed to be stuck in. FWIW, nobody would have ever described her as a hoarder, and left to her own devices she does keep her house spick and span - it does help that her home is quite a new building, and that it is three-bedroom two-bathroom for just herself - and she is conventional as far as housekeeping goes.

During her unhappy marriage to my father, however, which was spent in a remote farmhouse with no municipal rubbish collection, she did develop a notable problem with hauling home unnecessary shopping. The OP's description of desiring a specialised piece of equipment for each task was certainly something my mother did - and she still does this: last time I visited, for instance, she proudly showed me a gadget which is used to turn zucchini into spaghetti-shaped strings (doesn't really work even for that narrow purpose). It chimes with a need inside herself to be organised and well-supplied, and not to be seen to be just 'making do'.

But no spending category has really been beyond her range - electronics was safe, perhaps? She overbought: clothes for herself, clothes for one of my younger brothers, bedding, kitchen gadgets as mentioned, cookbooks, New Age paraphernalia (drums, crystals, massage tables, Bach flower essences, essential oils, books, calendars, jewellery), artwork, knick-knacks, magazines ... A recent visit saw her bringing out her bathroom toiletries collection - expensive shampoos, conditioners, creams, all these lady potions  - which she amusedly noted were all completely surplus to her requirements ... I only wished I could have carried them all home with me so that I could be set up for the next 10 years! (wasn't practical to do so, believe me, I did the maths). Many of her belongings are items of beauty and all are well-cared for and stored attractively with plenty of negative space.

In her case, eventually she did tire of going to her stressful full-time job, which she retired from at age 63, and that has stanched the inward flow. Also, it is au courant to cull, and she is falling in with the times. Maybe she has an eye to the horizon, too: one day in 10-15 years she will need to downsize quite considerably, and that task is best done at a leisurely pace. She is a pretty sensible person. She is also infallibly generous, so responds well to the idea of passing things on to charity.

Depression was a factor; the ramping up of consumerism in the late 1980s may have triggered a pre-disposition to buy too much ... but she always had the flip-side, the disinclination to cull: even in the '70s, we would always have a spare bedroom full to overflowing (and which we as children loved, it being like an Aladdin's cave).

Identity has been a huge factor: so she is a quality person, with quality taste, as reflected in her belongings - again, that 80s ethos. I am sure she despairs of my comfortableness with shabbiness as a mark of lacking self-respect, or something along those lines.

Certainly my brothers and I have been shaped by all this. One brother has kept, for several years, extra stuff spread across two storage units. The other has a large farmhouse of his own with belongings swelling out onto the verandahs, and buys in new stuff on the internet rather than maintaining his existing stockpiles. Myself, I find this all endlessly fascinating; I am a longstanding minimalist and my family is used my clarion cry 'I can feel a declutter coming on!'

Coming back to the OP: I can feel your love for your wife in your words, and feel sure that some kind of appeal to her better self will be effective in the medium term.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2016, 05:19:17 PM by Boganvillia »

Kansas Terri

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #41 on: November 30, 2016, 06:24:42 PM »
Can you itemize your taxes? Because if she gets receipts from Good Will- they give them if you ask- then those bags of clothing really ^ARE^ worth money. All she has to do is bring them down and ask for a receipt.

That being said, we have saved a small fortune over the years by not throwing things away. Now that both the kids have moved out some things will neverbe used again, and I go through things and decide to give stuff away. For instance I now have too many pans, the kids left behind a few things they did not want, I no longer need so much Tupperware, etc.

There is a time for everything. When the kids were home I did not get rid of anything that would possibly useful, but now every couple of months I find the energy to sort through things, take them to the Good Will, and turn them into a "Chartable Deduction" to be taken off our taxes
« Last Edit: November 30, 2016, 06:26:30 PM by Kansas Terri »

the_fixer

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #42 on: December 01, 2016, 02:19:10 PM »
My wife and I have gone around about her stuff for years. We are so far apart that it is crazy I have almost nothing and have no attachment to stuff and she assigns meaning and feeling to everything.

Recently my wife's friends house burnt down and they lost everything and my wife invited them over and gave them several car loads of stuff. My wife was happy because the items went to someone that was in need and that she could feel good about.  I could tell it was a huge stress relief she really wanted to to deal with the stuff but just did not know how to do it in a manner that would feel good.

She still has too much stuff but a little less now :)

Kapiira

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #43 on: December 01, 2016, 03:40:57 PM »
Glad to hear that there's progress!  I have a family member that sounds very much like your wife.  Getting rid of things can be very difficult, so I would encourage you to work with her to find a way to limit the amount that is coming into the house.  That can consist of a moratorium on purchasing certain items, sticking to a budget, cancelling catalogs, switching to electronic bank statements, ect.  Good luck!

judgypants139

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #44 on: December 01, 2016, 05:05:33 PM »
Coming back to the OP: I can feel your love for your wife in your words, and feel sure that some kind of appeal to her better self will be effective in the medium term.

Thank you so much. What a wonderful thing to write!

I began reading Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things and have already had a few 'Holy Cow!' moments. I highly recommend the book to anyone dealing with these issues. A few things that really struck me, and that I clearly see in my wife:

1) Difficulty making decisions. She absolutely suffers from this, and it affects both inflow and outflow of goods. Inflow because if she can't decide between two items, she buys them both. Outflow, because she has terrible trouble deciding what to keep and what to discard, and then sort of mentally shuts down without doing anything.

2) Making many and vivid connections around things. She imagines in great detail how a particular item will be used, and how wonderful it will be to see it used in just that way. To give up the item is to give up this vision, which she can't bear to do.

3) Being highly intelligent and highly organized as long as it isn't her stuff. My wife volunteers at the local school and successfully manages complex projects, organizes the art supplies for the school, etc. But our collection of art supplies at home is a complete disaster. And she has an extremely high IQ, is intelligent, well-read, etc.

4) Having relatives who are similarly afflicted. Her mother, brother, and grandfather all have (or had) huge collections that they seem unable or unwilling to part with. Her mother, in particular, has the same ability to vividly imagine the wonderful uses to which things will be put.

All of these are characteristics described in the first 30 or so pages of the book. It is clear that my wife definitely has some key hoarder characteristics, but also clear that she has some self-awareness and really wants to have a clean organized house and life.

I feel like this book will be immensely helpful to me in having a conversation with her. Thanks to those who suggested it.

Boganvillia

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #45 on: December 01, 2016, 07:35:01 PM »

Thank you so much. What a wonderful thing to write!


:)

katscratch

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #46 on: December 01, 2016, 08:37:28 PM »
It sounds as though you and your wife are starting to find common ground in this.  I love that you are researching and trying to understand what she may be feeling.  I also really admire that you are standing up for your marriage and your home and family -- by this I mean you are looking for a solution that honors all those things, rather than just your wishes or your wife's wishes alone. 

One of the most profound things I came to realize over the years was that I can let the store physically keep the thing I want for me until the time I *actually* need that thing.  It sounds completely goofy, but it really was a HUGE emotional shift to see something I'd normally just buy, and then actually tell myself, "Hey store, will you hang onto this for me? Thanks, pal."  For some reason this worked -- I got the satisfaction of enjoying whatever object (um usually kitchen implements!) I was coveting, but then the silly mind game gave me the satisfaction of allowing someone else to use that object in the same degree as if I'd lent it to a friend that really needed it. 

KBecks

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Re: How to help my wife with a stuff accumulation problem?
« Reply #47 on: December 03, 2016, 07:00:59 AM »
I read about half of the replies and here are two thoughts -- I struggle with keeping my house tidy too and it's something I struggle to stay focused on.

Is focus an issue for your wife?  Might she have some ADHD going on, and does she need help staying organized and on task?   Would a chore chart help?  Would working with a timer help, maybe starting out with baby steps of 15 minutes in a room a day. Check out the Fly Lady program, she is great.  She is less severe than Kon Mari

Also with the shopping, does she have other things in  her life to keep busy?   Maybe she would enjoy volunteering or something else to escape the house and get out that is not shopping. 

If you can help here and there that is great.