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Is it ever okay to toss the stuff of a family member?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Background:

 

My husband's mother is a compulsive shopper and hoarder. He grew up with her being like that. She would often ask him to hide things in his room so that his dad wouldn't know she bought them, and give him presents to "keep quiet". Their basement was totally full of things she bought and never used.

 

Fast forward:

 

He complains that our house is always a mess. We have very little storage and what storage there is has things we don't use anymore. A lot of it is his stuff. Old game systems (and all of the games and accessories) that he hasn't hooked up in ten years. Hunting equipment that he doesn't use because the friends he used to hunt with no longer live in the area. Shoes that he will never wear again. I could go on and on. If I ask him if we can get rid of stuff he tells me to put in the the closet or a drawer and he will look at it later. Of course they are out of sight, out of mind so later never comes. I finally got him to remove the hard drives of SIX old computers we had sitting around so I can take them to the recycling place. Arghhhh...

 

I am trying to declutter the best I can, but if I don't have a place to put the stuff we do use then the house will always look messy. I feel resentful towards him because he complains about the way things look but he won't meet me halfway and get rid of stuff so we have storage room. I have tried the storage container route and have a few full of stuff but honestly I don't want to spend a hundred dollars on storage containers to hold junk we will never use (and he would say, "You spent $100 on WHAT???" LOL). I think part of it may be "this represents my old life before kids and added responsibilites" and he just isn't ready to let go of that. I used to be more attached to things but I've gotten practical over the years. :)

 

I need to find a way to make this work for both of us but it's hard if he won't budge.

post #2 of 12

i can think of two different approaches and i would try either one of these, depending on his personality and my frustration level.

 

the first is to give him a choice on all of the untouched stuff: either get rid of it, or rent a storage place, and baby is it worth $XXX a year to store all this crap for the rest of our lives?

 

the second is to pull out one box/bin at a time, and say, "you have three days to look through the box, pull out what you want to keep, FIND A HOME FOR IT, and whatever remains in this box after three days is getting donated."  put a post it note on the box with the good-bye date.  it might take a year or two.

 

another idea i've read here is to designate a certain amount of space (the attic, a room in the basement, a large closet, whatever) for the things the person can't let go of, and it HAS TO be contained in that space.  that way, the other storage areas in the home are available for the family's needs.

 

no, honestly, i don't think it's okay to just toss it.  but i do think it's okay to say, "i need space, and i am going to toss it at x point in the future if you won't deal with it."

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks.

 

He actually let me get rid of a couple of things tonight. Not big things, just a book for a car we haven't had in 5 years and the diagram to put together something I have no idea if we still have. Baby steps.

 

When I cleaned around his desk I found a bunch of bills stubs and stuff. Some of it was from TEN YEARS ago! I shredded all the old stuff without asking. He has two file drawers in his desk and another file cabinet but they are are full of junk. I cleaned out one drawer today so I can make some files and keep the paperwork organized and out of sight. That will help a lot with the appearance of the office area.

post #4 of 12

My dh is a little bit like this (I just started a thread on it). My father is a certifiable hoarder so I grew up like that and it drives me nuts. I have defined where dh can keep his stuff, and whatever fits in that space is his business. I hate looking at it, and it gets dusty and there are spider webs that I have to clean out sometimes. But it's his stuff.

 

His area is his side of the walk in closet, and part of the garage. Sometimes his stuff spills over to my side, and I just stack it back on his side of the closet, or I do a pick up of his stuff and put it in the closet or on his desk or on his side of the bed to draw attention to it. He gets mad but it usually works.

 

Now my dad on the other hand-- he is moving right now and unloading stuff on me. I told him I may keep it, I may donate it, I may toss it. Just wanted him to know before he gives it to me thinking I will store it for him.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

I understand USAmma!

 

He told me last night that I can toss anything.... as long as it's not his. LOL Thanks sweety!

 

He did consent to getting rid of the VHS tapes we have. We haven't been able to watch them for about 2 years (we had a DVD/VHS combo player but it broke), and I don't think VHS will be making a huge comeback anytime soon.

post #6 of 12

One thing that DH and I have done is we each have a storage space that we can fill with whatever we want and we can't say anything about what the other has kept, but we also can't have anything spill over in to other storage areas.  Give him a closet that he can keep some of these things to use in the future and the rest gets donated, recycled, or trashed. 

post #7 of 12

I totally know where you're coming from. My DH had been keeping a bunch of junk for the sake of memories. Old ratty t-shirts he wont wear, a plastic party cup to a new years party he went to, ticket stubs for movies where you can't even read the title off them anymore because they've faded so much. What worked for us was to talk about the item, letting him tell me everything he remembers about it and what it makes him feel like, then we take a picture of each thing and then I toss or donate it without him watching. I have never once seen him look at any of the pictures, but it makes him feel good to know that all his memories are safe.

post #8 of 12

I like the time limit box idea. Start small, like a book size moving box and give him a week. The next week make the box bigger. If he wants to keep it he has to find a real place to store it.

My husband likes a good purge, just not the work so I get everything together and then tell him about it.

post #9 of 12

If your hubby's mom is a hoarder and he grew up in a hoarding environment then he might have the same issues with emotional attachment to stuff. If that's the case then you could cause him to lose trust in you if you start chucking his stuff without asking. You might be able to get away with stuff like old shoes, which he may not remember, but he would most likely remember stuff like the old game consoles. You're the best judge of his personality - would he freak out if you got rid of things he hasn't worn in years and aren't notably special?

 

You could try gathering together all the things which are duplicated (like, say, sports equipment), and have him decide which ones to keep and which to toss. You generally only need one basketball, or soccer ball - even if no one in the house has touched the ball for years, this is progress.

 

What works for my (non-hoarding) hubby is for me to clean out a box or area, lay his things out, and then bring him in to make decisions. All he has to do is decide - I will take care of the rest, unless he wants to. I note the things he decides to keep and if they don't get used in the next several months to a year I bring them out again with another batch of stuff and emphasize the non-use. Usually saved things go within a year. It did take me about five years to get rid of one suit he had tailored for him before we met, when he was substantially heavier. Before he finally consented to get rid of it I had to point out that he'd been to numerous business meetings, weddings and funerals without choosing it, it didn't fit and it was now also irreparably out of style.

 

FWIW my DH insists on hanging on to an old Commodore 64 with questionable functionality. He wants to put it on display when we have a place with more space. I think it's a bit silly (I'm a big fan of things being useful or beautiful and preferably both), but whatever - if he wants that and is willing to let most other things go, then I'm willing to treat that like the rest of the sentimental things and just review its status every couple of years.

post #10 of 12

I would pick a room and put all of dh's stuff into it.Tell him it is his to clean and declutter.

 

I used a computer room and filled it 2 times with stuff. I donated all of it to a local cat shelter that was having a sale to raise cash.

 

I never get rid of dh's stuff anymore,because I hear it from him if he can't find a shirt or whatever.I bag it up and say," Here go through this.Find a place for what you want,and give me the rest to donate."

 

If there was a mess(that dh complained about) and it was dh's stuff I would *call him* on it and make sure he cleaned it up.If he did not I would again...bag up and put it in one room.Unfortunately most of the mess around our house these days is from the kids and me!

post #11 of 12

Well , I wouldn´t just throw his stuff away , but the truth is , that your DH sounds like he has some hoarding tendencies as well and somebody like that really needs professional help !

I know of a case in our neighbourhood and the whole family was trying , but couldn´t get anywhere with the person with reasoning and bargaining . I remember one time , the wife put away some of his old stuff , I mean like boots with holes in the heels and that sort of thing , REALLY useless and he went off the deep end .

So , maybe you should try to talk to somebody who specializes in that sort of thing and get some ideas on how to address your partner´s problem , even without telling him at first , and the see how it goes , and if that doesn´t work , you will have to sit down and "put the gun on his chest" and flat out tell him , that his things are a PROBLEM and that they need to be addressed .

post #12 of 12

I think it is very reasonable to de-clutter a family members stuff if they are complaining about the state of the house but doing nothing about it.  However, I suspect there is more than that going on here.  I think your husband probably has issues that non hoarders can not really understand (I'm not saying he has fallen into full on hoarding but still...), and in that case I think it is a much more difficult issue for him, and then consequently for you.  What I would do is try the one box at a time with the date on it, and see his reaction.  That will at least get the conversation flowing.  The things you have described him keeping see useless, so for him to work so hard at keeping them brings up a red flag, but after what he went through with his mom it is probably hard for him to see in himself, especially because he doesn't sound anywhere close to him.  Putting a specific box out will require him to face it head on, and then I think you will get a bigger picture as far as if he CAN'T get rid of his stuff, or if he is just being LAZY.  As far as you go, even if you are the one at home don't allow yourself to be belittled about the amount of stuff and the cleanliness of the house.  It is hard work, sometimes impossible.  If he continues to get on you tell him you are going to get a dumpster and clean everything, and you do mean EVERYTHING.

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