Married 2 mos and already it is starting....

scarlett2001October 16, 2006

We are a middle aged couple, married two months. My husband can no longer live in his house because he has the hoarding disorder or whatever you call it. We are living in the house that I rent and things are starting to pile up in corners, etc. He has alrady taken over the den and garage with his giant piles of newspapers, etc. I knew about this condition when we were engaged, so its not a surprise and I do want him to feel at home here- but this needs to be addressed because I won't live like that. But how?

We had a chance to buy a really nice home in a great neighborhood 5 years ago, but he just can't clean up and sell his old house. Now the same home is on the market again and I would love to buy it, but once again, Dave's messheap will never be cleaned up. He says it weighs on his mind. He wanted to make an offer on the house, contingent on his selling the one he owns- but I feel sure that will just never happen. If he had cleaned up and sold his house five years ago, we would have already made almost $500,000 in equity on the new home.

Anybody have any ideas? Tough love? Set it on fire and collect the insurance? Oh - and don't suggest counseling... he's a psychologist.

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Hey... even shrinks need help some times!.. I know.. I am married to one!.. On my part at your rental place I would just start dumping stuff... just do it around your place and see how free it makes him feel... then maybe he will let you get into the the other house and start to work on it. But honestly.. the chance that he is going to change is remote at best... you just have to decide on how you are going to deal with it.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2006 at 11:40PM
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First of all you are asking him to sell his house. Why don't you start out slowly getting it straightened out. You are living elsewhere so it can't be impossible. The Katrina survivors managed to clean up some of the houses.
Start with one room. Bring dinner over at night and while you are there you can clean the kitchen and do the dishes together. You aren't even cooking there, so that should be easy. If he has a fireplace, go start the fire, have a glass of something, wine, cocoa, whatever, and throw in some of the paper scraps. work up to the magazines & newspapers.
As far as your house goes, you get to straighten it out. He hasn't taken over the den, you just haven't been orderly there. I don't care if he is a psychologist-the next time he's busy reading, start gradually throwing out newspapers, not his professional magazines. But get organizers for those.
Take a look at what he is hoarding, is it papers he is going to read? Is it clothing?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 12:41AM
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If the problem is as bad as you say it is, then you and he WILL need a professional. Even if he is a psychologist, he cannot treat himself, just as a surgeon cannot operate on him/herself. Unless you get to the root cause of his problems, and he wants/learns to change his ways, whatever you clean up will only be cluttered again in a very short time.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 1:42AM
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You can either establish boundaries or this is what life will be like at your house. Give him a room to do as he wishes. Be very clear that anything left anywhere else will be thrown out. Can you stick to your guns?

It sounds like you had fair warning with this hoarding. From what I've been able to read, it's like dealing with an alcoholic. Establish boundaries and maintain them. It's a lot of work. One of those boundaries should be that he seeks professional help.

As far as the other house, why not just hire someone to clear it out and get it ready for sale? If he is still an active hoarder, he probably will not be able to assist. He'll just haul it all over to your house.

You have my sympathies.


    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 2:57AM
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I was under the impression that psychologists/therapists/psychiatrists must undergo periodic counselling themselves as part of their job requirements to make sure *they* are in tip-top shape to be doing councelling.

Maybe not in the state that he is licensed in? Even so, he, or the two of you together, can work this through with the help of a councelor.

Maybe he just needs a *coach* to help him get organized? The two of you can hire professional organizers, and that way there is less of a chance for him to blame and argue with you.

You are throwing money away if you are renting a place to live while owning a home that has become unlivable. How much are you wasting on rent when you could be living in the home he has? How much is being wasted on the property taxes and utilities for a house that is not used for anything but junk storage?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 3:10AM
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Fori is not pleased


I also think you need a third party--if you can hire someone to clean out the old house (like those guys that do estate sales maybe?), it might be worthwhile. If he has any kids, they'd be perfect victims. I mean volunteers. Gently give him a deadline to pull out the stuff he wants to keep (and SCREEN it) and then spend what it takes to get it cleaned. It'll save you money in the long run unless you hire Martha Stewart herself.

His house is just money wasting. Your house is your sanity, and that's more important since it isn't yet a lost cause.

Where you can, stop the junk from coming into your current abode. Are the newspapers things he wants to read later or do they just not make it out to the trash? One thing my family did to help with the mess is CANCEL our newspaper. Yup. It's online, so why not? (We were getting the local paper and the WSJ--local paper is free online and WSJ is cheaper.) It helps tremendously, suprisingly. We still get the Sunday paper for weekend lounging. If he gets tons of stuff from investments, stop getting that stuff. If he really wants to view prospectuses and annual reports, he can do it online.

Waste baskets in every room. Limit magazine subscriptions, and toss the old one when the new one comes. YOU know these procedures I bet, but HE's gotta learn it or at least accept it.

Of course, it all depends on your guy's personality. Does he recognize he has a problem, or that he's making you crazy, or that it's fiscally silly to have the abandoned house? Or is he a stubborn "ain't-nothin'-wrong" type?

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 10:27AM
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If only it could be that simple! He refuses to see a counselor and refuses to let me help clean up the old house. Twice I strong-armed him (There's a nice term for a new wife!)into letting me go over there, but after hours of cleaning I discovered two things: 1. there was actually a full sized pool table under the heap of stuff and 2 he was taking the bags not out to the trash but hiding them in the back bedroom. He will not let anybody into the house and the city regularly gives him ultimatums to paint, cut the grass, move his 7 old cars etc. The house has not been cleaned or maintained for 22 years, including the same curtains hanging in the front windows. The saddest part is that it is in a fairly nice neighborhood and has a huge lot- he could sell it for a lot of money or fix it up. "Otherwise" I couldn't ask for a nicer husband -loving, fun, considerate, everything I could want. There are a lot of women out there who have to deal with worse, I guess.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 4:05PM
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1-800-gotjunk or some similar service may help with the existing house. Hire someone to empty the house because it sounds like 1) it's too big a job for just you; and 2) your new husband isn't going to do it.

We had to do something similar when my parents moved. My father was very resistent to throwing away things. So, he and my mother had to move first. Unfortunately, none of us lived in the area, so we ended up hiring (for a substantial fee) a company to clear the house before putting the house on the market.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 6:23PM
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If he won't consider counseling and can't tolerate the idea of anything leaving the old house, you really don't have too many choices. Just pretend that house isn't there and give up on the idea of selling it in the near future.

In the meantime, you definitely need to take a stance on "your" home. Start a daily routine of clearing his clutter--forget giving him "space" to feel at home because look what's happened after only 2 months! Multiply that by six, and that's what the house will look like on your first anniversary. Wake up one morning, declare it Official House Cleaning Day, and just go to it. If he wants to take his things in trash bags to his old house to store there, let him do it--your first priority has to be getting the home you both live in back to reasonable order before you lose your mind.

I can understand you wanting him to be comfortable in "your" place, but his idea of comfort is obviously WAY different than yours. Maybe he would consider joint counseling, or you could go without him? I'm sure there's a right way and a wrong way to deal with OCD people, I just have no idea what it is. You're handling it well now, but at some point you're going to end up wondering why he values piles of newspapers more than he values your marriage and future life together.

Let us know when you have that Official House Cleaning Day and we'll be your moral support!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 8:10PM
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Scarlett--you said he wasn't taking bags out to the trash, I hope at least they were full of paper and not garbage.
I don't believe that counseling is such a magic solution.
get him used to your clean and comfortable and neat house. I hope you have lots of relaxing routines. A glass of whatever in front of the fireplace or t.v. and dinner at the table where you can talk and listen to music. You will gradually be changing his life. Let him help with the dishes, or at least clear up the table together. He now has clean clothes, neatly folded. After 22 years this has got to be stuff he has not had before.
Why should he sell his house if you have only been married 2 months. Give him time, for all he knows you are going to sell it and dump him and then where will he go with his papers? Was he a bachelor?
Give him time to adjust --but it wouldn't hurt to check the basement and see whats down there under the piles of papers and garbage. Dont go down there alone with just a flashlight either. I think I saw that movie.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2006 at 10:14PM
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He must get professional psychiatric help or what will happen is that the property will get so bad that it will become a health hazard after years of neglect. Then it will become condemned, then you will end up paying legal fees that the county incurs when they end up going to court to force you to demolish the home because it has gotten so bad it is unsaleable (it may be already!).

It happened to a property around here. I know of what I speak. This person hoarded old washers and dryers and refrigerators and air conditioners and stored them in his yard as well. At one point, the roof caved in while he was still living there. It took years of legal action and he was eventually evicted and the property sold and cleaned up.

I am sure a psychiatric or psychological professional can give you tips on dealing with a possible obsessive-compulsive disorder. This behavior is not going to change overnight that's for sure.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2006 at 10:51AM
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Scarlett, the kind of hoarding you are talking about is a psychiatric issue on the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum.

Your husband needs medication. It will change his life, and yours. Without it, this problem will only get worse with time, and, I hate to say it, destroy both of your lives together.

You MUST get him professional help, from a psychiatrist with experience with this problem.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 7:52AM
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Why don't you go to counseling without him first. I think it will be helpful for you. I think its more a serious issue than cleaning routines will fix.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 10:26AM
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I would recommend not selling "his" house until he's either on the road to recovery or has decided he does not want to get better. First, you don't need the stress of selling that house to add to things as they are right now. Second, as it is, "his" house likely is not considered "marital property", so it's not at stake if you two part ways and it gives him someplace to "be" (however dirty and cluttered it may be). A lawyer could advise you on that last (I'm not one), but you might want to consider financial implications of that house.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 10:47AM
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Jocelyn Bowers

It sounds as though his 'hoarding' has gone on long enough that he doesn't know where to begin. One of my siblings is now trying to 'dig out' her home after 19 years of hoarding & cluttering and she says she feels less encumbered and happier with each bag of useless (to her) old junk that goes out. She is selling her home ready to retire & plans to have an auction as well. She too is in the mental health field and sometimes has just been too physically & emotionally drained to tackle her own problems. Good luck, have you tried to give some items away rather than sending them to a landfill site?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 12:11PM
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You will find the help you need there. These people have dealt with what you are experiencing.

Check out the photo section

Here is a link that might be useful: Squalor Survivors

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 10:04AM
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Okay, a few questions:
1. OCD? I thought that was when people are compulsively neat?? Or count the cracks in the sidewalk, etc.

2. There is a medication for this? You mean, like a pill?

3. I have heard of 1-800 Got Junk but I don't know what it is.
Thanks, everybody.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 6:34PM
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Here's a resourse for you. It's the Children of Hoarders website and they have extensive links to people and areas of study with hoarding. It will give you lots of information. Squalor survivors also has information, but it's from the perspective of the hoarder, which usually isn't how those of us affected, but not hoarding ourselves view the stuff.

OCD doesn't mean excessive cleaning, it's just that's the group which got lots of notice because they couldn't keep the behaviors hidden very well. It's any type of excessive behavior which turns into a compulsion or anxiety if not done. The trouble with OCD and hoarders it that it turns into a huge excuse. "You know I can't help it. I've got OCD." A double edged sword.

Medication is not entirely effective for all OCD. The person has to be really motivated and needs therapy with meds.

1-800-JUNK is a company with compactor trucks. You make a big pile of crud and they pick it up and haul it away.


Here is a link that might be useful: Children of Hoarders website

    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 10:56PM
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Just a thought as I was reading this - how about a storage unit? If he really does want to sell the house, could the stuff be stored somewhere else? Would that be cheaper than having a whole house stored with stuff? It would be harder to get to the "stuff", but then, how much of it does he actually get to now? I agree with the people who said to give it a little time, but I was just thinking in terms of the cost of the extra house.

As far as piles of newspapers at your house, I made a habit of putting all day old newspapers in the recycling bin each morning. The recycling goes out once a week. So if we really need something, it will be there until then. But that doesn't happen often. That alone made a huge difference in our house.

Good luck - sounds like you've got your hands full.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2006 at 1:59PM
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I knew about this condition when we were engaged,

how long were you engaged ?

call dr. phil and try to get him on the show, just kidding..............

I think you've been offered a lot of help; does he keep old clothes also?, is he well groomed?; sorry to be so blunt but it seems that leaving the old house as it is and transferring his compulsion to your rental is avoiding the issue until your rental is in squalor condition.

I sympathize with your plight, let us know if you make any headway whatsoever. I guess preaching by example can go a long way but once you've been married over a year and will no longer be in the honeymoon phase, old habits might resurface faster than you think.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2006 at 7:51AM
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My husband is exactly the same and I'm sure you will all agree it is a huge problem. He is OC anyway and refuses to see a doctor about medication. He doesn't want to appear weak, I think. I'm positive it is a sickness.
AND both of his parents were the same; the result of living in the Depression and having five children and the necessity of stretching every dollar.
He didn't show this behavior when we married. AND he tells me how to do EVERYTHING! He retired at 46 and has been home with lucky me for 16 years! I work to get away.
It is enough to divorce over...
When it is going on with him, I laugh inside my head and think, well, you ol' crazy thing... a lovely say to live.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 2:08PM
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P.S. When he was in the Navy we HAD to move, his clothes from high school and his little collections in cigar boxes, etc., went with us! He's been retired for 16 years and MUST keep ALL of his uniforms although there are several duplicates.
I'd like to move too, but you know the story. Our house is a bit crowded with furniture; nothing like the houses prepared to sell on that HGTV program. Makes me furious!!!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 2:18PM
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I know many many people in your DH's field,,,,they are some of the most hard headed people around.

If you don't install both feet in cement until it dries with determination, and insist that he get help he won't.

Hoarding is a mental disease that can and will kill you. How you might ask? Hoarders don't see what they are doing, their brains block it out. This means that they block door ways with stuff, clutter areas around heating elements, etc. etc.

This is a very serious issue. I hope you have the guts to deal with it.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 6:14PM
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Thanks, everybody for your input, advice, the web sites and sharing your own experiences. You cannot imagine how much your support means.

Today the Salvation Army is coming to pick up quite a lot of stuff. I have to be at work, so by mutual agreement Dave is home in charge of it- we'll see what happens! (I just hope he doesn't convince the truck driver to LEAVE anything instead of picking our stuff up...and I am only half joking here.) BTW, I live in a community property state. Does anybody know if half of his junk is now my junk? Because if it is, I could get rid of half of the problem right now. Why can't we have the usual marital issues - money, sex, in-laws, etc.? All those areas are just fine.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 4:49PM
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Good for you! I hope the Salvation Army pick up was a success and you start to see "holes" in your house where the clutter used to be.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 6:58PM
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Why can't we have the usual marital issues - money, sex, in-laws, etc.? All those areas are just fine.

Heh. My ex and I never argued about money or sex. We didn't argue much about in-laws, either, though some parental "issues" are what finally did us in. I think every relationship has the stuff you have to continue to work on. Good luck with SA; let us know how it works out.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2006 at 9:07AM
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Well, after the Salvation Army took the stuff, he was very sad the rest of the day, so I felt bad, which was harder to deal with than if he had been angry. Then yesterday, he went out for a paper and I just began to vacuum and clean up the den, expecting him to be annoyed when he came back, but he pitched right in and helped sort and recycle the old newspapers. So, he IS trying. Of course, a lot of it today is just the same old stuff in neater piles, but we'll see how long that lasts. I'm trying to be loving, but persistant.

Mollie, I feel for you. Are you able to discuss this with him at all?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2006 at 4:15PM
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"Does anybody know if half of his junk is now my junk? Because if it is, I could get rid of half of the problem right now. "

Theoretically, you would never get to the end of the junk if you gave away half of his junk, then got rid of half of what was left, then half of that, over and over.
You'd always be left with half of whatever was left.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 2:23AM
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"He says it weighs on his mind." At least that means he's somewhat aware of it. I would start by setting boundaries. That would mean that the piles would have to be taken to his house. Don't allow them in your house. Tell him that you need to maintain your sanity & you can't do that with piles of newspapers around. Maybe you could present this to him as your own form of OCD - that you must keep things clean & neat.

I'm surprised that he isn't seeing someone for counseling. Bringing up what Bud said, psychologists, therapists, etc. that are licensed in my state must go for therapy themselves. I work for a mental health company. All this must be documented for our therapists to continue seeing patients.

The others are right - this is a serious mental health problem. Stay persistant in your cleaning & keep urging him to see a therapist.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 8:45AM
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Just saw this on ... Paxil helps hoarding disorder.

He's NOT crazy, he has a biochemical imbalance.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 6:14PM
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Unless he is going to stay on it for life, I would NOT recommend Paxil. I was on it for depression, and while it helped that, it completely zapped my sex drive. And when I did have sex, it was like I was numb - not exactly satisfying.

When I tried to get OFF Paxil, it was awful. I had taper down very, very slowly over a period of a month or so, or else my brain would get these weird and uncomfortable feelings, like electrical jolts. At the end I was cutting the pills into 1/8ths, no easy feat. Many, many other people have had the same problem getting off of Paxil. Some people resort to getting liquid Paxil during their attempt to taper, since it is easier to measure the small amounts. There are websites devoted to it, and there have been lawsuits. On the other hand, my friend who was on it did not have a problem. Go figure.

I switched to Wellbutrin, and it is great. No side effects, and I even went 4 days without it once (stupid pharmacy and doc) with no problem. With Paxil, I skipped a day once, simply forgot to take it, and by the next day I was already feeling those weird brain things.

For awhile after I finally got off of it, probably 4 - 6 months, I was getting just horrendous instant headaches, um, in bed. It was like flicking a light switch - one second I was fine, then the next, BANG, a crushing pain in my head. (sorry if that is TMI, but I wouldn't wish the withdrawals and lingering side effects on anyone.)

And sorry for the hijack. I wish you luck and success with your hoarder. At least he is willing to try, that is a good sign.

Paxil Withdrawal

Paxil Withdrawal Forum

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 9:52AM
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Good Grief, that Paxil thing sounds scary! I just want to clarify - Dave is not the kind of psychologist who counsels people or anything like that- he is an industrial psychologist and crunches stats, helps find better ways to get employeees to be productive, sets up better work environments, etc. I'm not even sure his problem would show up in any kind of evaluation...unless they came to his house to give it!

So the latest is that the city has now given him a sort of ticket for his house. He has to paint it and cut the grass within a certain amount of time, also remove some of the old vehicles on the property. I'm hoping this will carry over a bit to the inside. We went somewhere Saturday in his car and I pulled down the sun visor on the passenger side- and a sheaf of papers fell into my lap. That is where he keeps his important papers. Sigh......

Meanwhile someone sent me an article about this woman- she was a college professor- who had the hoarding disorder so bad that the community made her sell her house. She had not had working plumbing in it for YEARS and used the backyard as a bathroom. Meanwhile she was a very respected member of the faculty at a state university. Just goes to show you.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 4:28PM
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My brother also had the withdrawal issues on Paxil, but I didn't have any problem. Getting used to it initially was the problem for me. I was prescribed it for depression and severe anxiety. I still remember the day it kicked in tho. I felt good mentally for the first time in years. It did sap my sex drive, but my doctor okayed a "holiday" ocaisionally. My sex drive did return quickly and I had no withdrawal symptoms. Guess I was unusual in that regard. The really good news was that I went off of it after 2 years about 5 years ago and the anxiety never returned.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 8:06AM
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