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Living with a Stage II Hoarder

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

I took the kids to a bookstore the other day to buy them each their "camp" book (the one book they get to take to camp, which we don't use the library for in case they lose or destroy it at camp).  I ran across "The Secret Lives of Hoarders" and began to thumb through it.

 

So many of the sentences describe my house and husband's hoarding issues.  I have known that he is a hoarder for a long time, but never really objectified it.  The book made it clear and concise.  He is definitely a hoarder, with a myriad of mental issues (which he refuses to acknowledge, let alone treat).  I would categorize him as Stage II.  He was never "neat", but now, well, it has gotten scary.  We have 40+ bicycles in the garage, shed and a tent in the backyard.  Probably 30+ sets of skis, boots and poles ("the kids will grow into them").  His "office" is only passable in a narrow pathway through and over the junk and papers.  The office clutter overflows into the hallway and bathroom right next to it (shower is stuffed with stuff). It is absolutely disgusting.

 

But, of course, it is not just his issue, it affects all of us.  We no longer invite anyone in or over.  My teenager is an OCD neat freak who refuses to let her dad in her room, and discards anything she is not immediately using, .  I am so sick of him bringing home crap that "can be sold", "stripped for parts", or might be useful to someone.  He sneaks stuff into the attic when I am not home.

 

And what am I doing about it?  Up until now, I have tried to manage the stuff - keep the common areas fairly clear and usable, and take stuff to church or Goodwill every so often when it might not be noticed.  However, his behaviour has degenerated and he is now prone to rages.  He goes absolutely apeshit ballistic whenever anyone touches or moves his stuff.  He refuses to believe that all this crap has created significant anxiety in everyone else in the house.  He refuses to consider counseling because "he doesn't have a problem, every one else does, and besides, all those guys are quacks and more messed up than their clients".

 

For my sake and the sake of the kids,  I am preparing for separation/divorce. Of course, hoarding is not the only problem.  It is just the most visible symptom.  

 

The very depressing thing is that, as I clandestinely prepare to separate by organizing my own stuff, I realize that the hoarding has been a bit contagious, and I have a very hard time getting rid of, say, artwork done by my kids, or things that might be "useful".  I am trying to be quite ruthless and get angry with myself every time I hear my brain say "hey, why are you donating that, you might need it someday!"

 

I have gotten some encouragement in reading some of the other threads with de-cluttering ideas, so thank you so far.  It will be very interesting to see what happens over the next year.  I honestly can't wait for the time that I have only my own stuff and that of the kids to deal with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 33

I saw something posted somewhere on the interent that said "save yourself, not your stuff"

 

Just keep believing it

post #3 of 33

Just wanted to send you some gentle hugs, it sounds like you need them.  Hang in there!

post #4 of 33
I forget who but one of the MDC moms does have a hoarder husband. She lives a fairly normal life because she does put strict boundaries on her hubby's stuff weeping into the common areas. He has one room, one basement and half of the garage, I think.


But yes, your life and the children's lives are not worth sacrificing to his stuff and his mind.
post #5 of 33

The book It's All Too Much will be really helpful for your own decluttering.  There is even a chapter to show your dh--maybe one last ditch effort to save the marriage, if he'll actually read the chapter and make changes.

 

If not, you've tried. The rages about his stuff would send me to divorce, too.  (And all that stuff is a fire hazard.)

 

 

post #6 of 33

i do hope you can save your marriage, but I can understand that living with this particular form of mental illness must be very, very difficult.

 

i agree that if you can contain his stuff to designated locations, then you'll be able to live a normal life, but if not. . . well, it's all very tragic really.

post #7 of 33

I just wanted to say: Good for you for refusing to enable the hoard and refusing to doom your children to live in it. It's very sad that this has to lead to divorce, and it must be incredibly hard, but the decision to live away from the hoarder is absolutely the right decision for you and your children.

 

Crayfish

 

post #8 of 33

I'm so sorry you are going through this. My husband is not quite that bad, but I feel we are 1 emotional drama away from true hoarding. Now we are just severely cluttered. But he doesn't make good decisions about what to keep and how to manage stuff. And I've determined that I don't organize stuff very well myself. 

post #9 of 33

That is so much to deal with all at once! The realizations about your dh, the maternal responses to protect your kids, the sadness about the marriage, your need for self-preservation.... and then on top of all that to ask yourself to confront your own relationship to objects... it just seems like too much to ask. I was wondering if you would help yourself by NOT immediately addressing your own decluttering needs right now. You could just get a storage unit and start moving things in there that you may or may not want to keep long term. Once you've got yourself and the kids in a clean, clear environment (maybe moving with the minimal needed to start over?) then you can slowly, and from a fresh home perspective, begin to address your own objects and desires. 

 

Just a thought, with lots of sympathy for the tumult you are swimming through.

post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LCBMAX View Post

That is so much to deal with all at once! The realizations about your dh, the maternal responses to protect your kids, the sadness about the marriage, your need for self-preservation.... and then on top of all that to ask yourself to confront your own relationship to objects... it just seems like too much to ask. I was wondering if you would help yourself by NOT immediately addressing your own decluttering needs right now. You could just get a storage unit and start moving things in there that you may or may not want to keep long term. Once you've got yourself and the kids in a clean, clear environment (maybe moving with the minimal needed to start over?) then you can slowly, and from a fresh home perspective, begin to address your own objects and desires. 

 

Just a thought, with lots of sympathy for the tumult you are swimming through.


Oh man - I would LOVE to do this!  But balancing the cost of a storage unit against the $$$ I am going to need to pay rent (assuming he won't agree to move out, which I am assuming because then he would have to move MOUNTAINS of stuff and he cannot/will not get himself organized to do that), feed my kids, buy gas, etc - It's just not going to happen.  And I do not want to move boxes of stuff that just have to be gone through again.  I am trying to pace myself.

 

The good news is that I recycled a huge bag of papers, shredded two more, took three big garbage bags full of kids clothes to Goodwill, three boxes of books to the donation center at the library and am working on the toys.  The bad news is that he got supremely pissed off that I moved a bunch of his sporting goods, then he brought three more pieces of furniture into the house and snuck some bags of stuff into the attic when he thought I wasn't looking.

 

I guess the bright side is that, in establishing separate residences, having two or more of every type of small kitchen appliance will be a plus....  ROTFLMAO.gif  (If I don't laugh about it, I cry, so laughing is better)

 

I see the attorney on Thursday - think good thoughts for me.

 

 

 

post #11 of 33

I can't help wondering - does he need to _agree_ to move out? I realize that you may have decided that you're going to be extra cooperative in the divorce, but it seems to me that it would be logical for the mother and kids to keep the house, and the father to move out. By judge's order, if necessary.

 

I do realize that he likely will be unable to move his own hoard, but if you have a judge's order, can't you just have it moved whether he likes it or not? I also realize that "touching his stuff" to move it may seem impossible, like sacrelige or like touching a high-voltage wire, but I just wanted to raise the idea. His stuff is inviolate and incredibly important to _him_, but you don't have to take it at his valuation.

 

If he does retain the house, and you own part of that house as marital property, surely he should be paying some or all of your rent? 

 

I would recommend explaining the Facts of Hoarding to your lawyer - for example, the fact that there are probably no consequences that will get him to move his stuff and clear the house for a forced sale, that he will probably wait out multiple court orders and possibly be jailed before he'll do it, or he still may not do it. (I'm making this assumption based on my experience with hoarders; perhaps he's less extreme.) If you want to get any of that shared marital asset, you may need to play pretty mean.

 

Crayfish

post #12 of 33
Thread Starter 

Crayfish - that is what the meeting with the lawyer tomorrow is for - to get all the ducks in a row.  Legally, I cannot throw him out of the house, and we both have claim to marital assets.  He will *not* agree to move out, if only to punish me for making this decision.

 

Until a judge (or mediation) says "this is yours and that is hers", it is all up in the air.  I KNOW that it will be a freaking nightmare to attempt to live in the same house while working toward dividing things up, not just because of the hoarding, but also because of all the other issues.  So, I am working toward finding a safe place for me and the kids while everything is in process.  The legal paperwork will be in place so that I will not be giving up any claim to joint assets (and cannot be accused of parental kidnapping when I take the kids with me), and several strategies in place to negotiate for the things that I am prioritizing as important.  

 

I would love to ultimately end up with the house (I have put a LOT of work into it), but if I don't, it is not the end of the world.  At least I will have a fresh start and a clutter-free place to live in peace with my kids.

 

 

 

post #13 of 33

Ah, I see. I thought that you were perhaps relinquishing your claim to the house long-term, which worried me.

 

One more thing: Have you ever heard of OCPD, or Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder? (Quite different from OCD.) Hoarding is a frequent symptom of the disorder, and "He will *not* agree to move out, if only to punish me for making this decision." sounds very much like OCPD thinking. If he does have OCPD, I don't know if having a name for his behavior would be at all useful - it might, potentially, have some predictive value for how he'll act, or convince you that he, not you, is the irrational one if you ever have doubts? Or maybe it would help the kids in the future to realize that it's not them, it's Dad?

 

It's essentially untreatable unless and until the person acknowledges that they have a problem and are willing to tear their emotional world apart to fix it, so naming it is no good for that. And I'm absolutely not recommending that you suggest to _him_ that he have the disorder, or tell the kids when they're young enough to possibly blurt it, because people with OCPD do not react at all well at being told that they have a personality disorder.

 

Anyway, if you are interested in reading about it, http://ocpd.freeforums.org/ has a forum and some links.

 

Crayfish

 

post #14 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweeetpea View Post

The legal paperwork will be in place so that I will not be giving up any claim to joint assets (and cannot be accused of parental kidnapping when I take the kids with me), and several strategies in place to negotiate for the things that I am prioritizing as important.  

 

 

Smart, smart!

 

Don't forget photos, especially of the areas where the hoarding contributes to lack of safety, like blocked exits, fire hazards.

 

Very good legal luck to you.
 

 

post #15 of 33
Thread Starter 

Crayfish - I has never heard of OCPD - thanks for the link.  I have been convinced for sometime that he is NPD, but appears to have characteristics of OCPD, too.  Doesn't really matter much either way.  He will never admit it or go for treatment.  Both are reasonably similar and it has already helped me to defuse some interactions just by knowing that it is "all in his mind".

 

LCBMAX - yes, I have photos from last year of his room and the spillover, but should take some recent ones as it has gotten worse.

 

Thanks for your good thoughts!

post #16 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by sweeetpea View Post

LCBMAX - yes, I have photos from last year of his room and the spillover, but should take some recent ones as it has gotten worse.

 

Thanks for your good thoughts!


Just wanted to add... photos need to show specifically not only the fire hazards or blocked entryways but the way the hoarding is affecting the children's normal lives. Can they still eat dinner around the table? Are their rooms clear enough to play in? Can they access the closets with their clothes or the fridge with healthy snacks? Is the bathroom safe from tripping hazards.... etc, etc. I think its important here to show the negative impact of the clutter on the children's daily lives.
post #17 of 33

I just wanted to offer hugs and thoughts as you go through this tough time! I believe you are doing the right thing for you and your children.

post #18 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by crunchymama514 View Post

I just wanted to offer hugs and thoughts as you go through this tough time! I believe you are doing the right thing for you and your children.


Ditto.hug2.gif
post #19 of 33
Thread Starter 

So I met with the attorney, who says she has experience with this exact issue.  She stated, unequivocally, that, based on her experience with people with hoarding and personality disorders, he will be completely unable to organize himself to move.   So I have to.  She was even more aggressive in how she recommended I prepare, physically and financially, for moving out that my own plans are.  

 

I have been looking around the house to determine what are the "must takes".  Honestly, there is not that much.  Important papers.  Clothes and beds/bed linens for the kids and me.  My business files. Some furniture I inherited from my grandma.  Some treasured photos and books.  Some of the kids' sports equipment (and I am not sure I really categorize that as must take, but they will).   Beyond that, it is all either "nice to have but not absolutely necessary", or "clutter/junk/crap".

 

Not sure when moving will actually happen, though.  It would be great to do it before school starts, but not sure I can make that happen.  Small steps forward, at least.

post #20 of 33

I just wanted to offer some hugs to you.  hug2.gif  This must be a very difficult process to go through, but it sounds like you're doing your best to protect your kids and yourself from a very bad situation.  Good luck.

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