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Hoarder partner, how to deal with it?

Discussion in 'Supporter Discussion' started by mumstheword, Dec 7, 2017.

  1. mumstheword

    mumstheword Well-Known Member Premium Member

    So my guy has had a lot of trauma, innumerable murder attempts and threats, including getting stabbed in the neck at 18 and having his brains beaten in and left for dead at 26, which left him with a brain injury, his first long term gf was stabbed to death in a night club and his three children are born to two mother, both of which a borderline narcissists.

    One of his symptoms is hoarding. I am a sufferer also and greatly struggling at the moment. We have a house inspection coming up. I put out for some assistance and it's possible we could receive some clean-up help, but, of course, my hoarder guy, doesn't want the help. It's pretty intolerable living like this but he's my best friend, is very loving and kind, protective and honest, more caring than I've ever recieved and my health and symptoms are horrendous at the moment. I need hospitalization but have to wait a couple of months for that.
    Any suggestions of how I can get through this? Get our place sorted and not set off the traumatized hoarder man that I love and adore?
    Also he just gave up smoking so I'm very proud of him but his hyperarousal is triggery for me and my nerves are stretched to debilitating levels.
    Multitudes likes this.
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  3. Multitudes

    Multitudes Active Member

    This may be a dumb question, but do you have a spare room, attic, garage, that you can tidy out (not necessarily throw anything away), to provide enough storage space to pack stuff into?
    Also, do you have the motivation (perhaps driven by fear of the inspection) to work at it, and encourage your partner to keep at it?

    My only experience is of living with a hoarder for over twenty years.. I guess she felt she had so little control over her own life that this form of control over her immediate environment was all she had.
    We were never allowed to touch anything, even to move things off of chairs. But she would, occasionally, get into a binge-tidying frenzy - we'd straighten up the the spare bedroom and dining room, then pack stuff up and get it in there.

    It was the only concession she was ever able to make, but even that felt like a weight off of both our shoulders'.

    I feel for you over this.. it must be like pulling teeth. :(
    mumstheword likes this.
  4. mumstheword

    mumstheword Well-Known Member Premium Member

    He's filled the garage but I'm putting stuff to go, in there with all his stuff. We live in a small unit. My kids have a room each, my son still has loads of partner and his sons stuff in there, but his son has left. But no spare rooms, in fact we don't even have a bedroom.

    I do have a closet that's actually filled with my stuff, which I need to go through. I guess I'll just get on with my own side of things. I called off the help, because it stressed him out too much. I hate living like this but I.love my guy, what can I do?

    Thanks for the empathy and support @Multitudes :). I feel better for the vent and someone hearing me.

    My mother is a hoarder too, but my stepdad built her a huge shed for all her stuff; that's what we need, a rural property, instead of a town unit, with a huge storage shed.
    Multitudes likes this.
  5. mumstheword

    mumstheword Well-Known Member Premium Member

    Also, a lot of his stuff is industrial. He collects old computers, printers, TV'S, all sorts of machines to pull apart and use as electrical resource, timber, heaps of things like old sinks, old doors, unnecessary clothing, bedding and towels, we even have an old ATM at the front of our place; other people's junk is his resource to collect.
    I have no back yard for my kids, nowhere to put up the trampoline I bought because his stuff is in piles all over it.
    It's great (much sarcasm).
    Multitudes likes this.
  6. Ragdoll Circus

    Ragdoll Circus I'm a VIP Premium Member

    Ok, so he’s the greatest thing to happen to you in a long time and he has a stack of great qualities. That’s awesome. But in any healthy relationship, there’s always a need for good communication and boundaries and compromise.

    From what you’ve written, you’re doing all of the compromosing here. To the point where your kids lose their play space. Why is that? If he approached you and said, “You’ve developed a behaviour that is becoming a problem for me and I’d like us to address it...”, you’d take that seriously, yeah? So why is it that it doesn’t work the other way?

    Hoarding stuff in rental, even govt housing? Is a massive issue. Tenants get evicted for it. Apart from the very obvious health issues? It’s a great big fire hazard. And while your mental stamina might be resilient enough to live among his rubbish (and it’s rubbish, that’s exactly what it is - it’s not “great things that I’m going to do one day”, it’s rubbish), what about your kids? Is it right that they’re living in the middle of a junk pile? Is that healthy? What are you teaching them?

    None of that makes him any less of an awesome person. Even the very best people have issues. In my experience, hoarding gets worse as mental health declines, and pretty soon mental health declines because hoarding becomes an unhealthy obsession. So, you may be doing him a favour by bringing back some healthy boundaries, and making the place a healthy living environment again.

    He may want an ATM, but you live in a small rental, so actually? He can’t have an ATM. Can’t. Not okay. You guys don’t have the space, and it’s going to be a breach of your tenancy agreement to keep it. So, sorry good intentions, but we need some healthy boundaries here.

    Is he in treatment? If not, that may be something to consider...

    Hot tip? You aren’t expected to know how to have that conversation with him. Dealing with significant issues like this in a healthy relationship, how to have that conversation and follow through on it? Is definitely something your T could help you with. Communicating with him on this issue is a good thing:)
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
  7. Neverthesame

    Neverthesame A Mind The Dead Have Ravaged Premium Member Donated

    I've helped an ex, her mum and aunt clean up her grandfather's place.
    I guess it is sort of a dysfunctional family tradition for them. About once a year or so, they go in and clean house.

    I know it's rough on him every time they do it. But it's got to get done.

    I was invited to come after I mentioned a call I went on to the home of an obese hoarder with cardiac symptoms.

    What I understand from my experiences with this. Anyone who can live that way, has some heavy stuff going on in their head that they are trying to deal with.
    While certainly deserving of empathy and kindness. The living conditions they are in, are ultimately detrimental to their health, both psychological and physical. The same applies to anyone who is living with them.

    When the issues causing the hoarding behaviour, are left unchecked the living situation becomes a problem unto itself.

    For example. I assume your guy is somewhat antisocial on a good day, correct?
    When he is feeling sociable, he still doesn't have anyone over due to the embarrassment his living conditions would cause?

    The thing is, he won't clean up. It's not going to happen on it's own. He'd sooner spend thrice the effort building another floor on the house to get up over the mess, than to just dig in and clean.

    I think you need to look at the situation from a different perspective.
    You are asking how to prevent the stress of cleaning from affecting him too much?

    I think you need to look at how to prevent his stress from the cleaning from affecting you so much.

    It needs to get done.

    You think he's stressed now?
    Imagine if you lose the place, and someone comes in and carts the whole kitten caboodle to the nearest landfill?

    It sucks and I'm sorry to say it. But he's just going to have to cope.

    It sounds like you aren't in the same dire straights as the cardiac patient I mentioned. To which I'm glad.

    I can tell you a bit about what that person was living in.
    400+lbs non-ambulatory, had been alone for about two weeks after an argument with the only person who would still go into the house.
    They had been living in their own waste for the two weeks. Getting the gurney through the place was a nightmare. I'm surprised the place hadn't burned down. Every electrical socket was buried under trash. Bugs everywhere.
    I still feel really bad for that person. But their entire situation was ultimately of their own making.

    My ex's grandfather. He wasn't that bad either, but he had a waist high trash pile in just about every room. Not as many bugs, but he was able to get up to go to the toilet, so that mitigated that somewhat.
    He did however have a rather impressive mould collection on his kitchen table from what was at one time, a bowl of fruit.
    He also had several cans of food swollen from botulism. First time I've ever seen that, he a couple dozen. Good thing he never ate them.

    I feel bad for your guy, but that is not going to help him.
    Telling you to ignore the issue, for his short term comfort. Would be a cruel thing to say.

    It sucks, but it's gotta get done. He'll live. I would suggest after the storm is weathered, you two sit down and work out how to carry on for the future.
    Maybe you can find a way to balance the in and out of junk, that you can both live with.

    But for now. It needs to get done. Worry about how you can cope with his stress. Let him be stressed.

    That's my advice to you. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but there it is.
    I do legitimately feel for both of you. It's a rough situation to be in.
  8. Friday

    Friday Raise Hell Moderator

    This. 1000x this. Rules for living.

    Turn the problem on its head.


    Not sure as to his degree of hoarding (meaning it can be a symptom of maaaaaany other things, a coping mechanism for many things, or it's own deal... And even that one has a spectrum). So the following advice is super pragmatic & works with a certain wedge of people, but it won't work for everyone. Hopefully? You both will be in the group it works amaaaazing for. Regardless? In the very short term, it will get the job done, and long term adjustments can be made later. Plan on this process taking at LEAST a week, and very possibly a month.

    It's also not free, although it's less expensive than *actually* moving... Maybe the same org will be willing able to help with some of the cost? Basics = renting a storage unit for anywhere from 3months +, truck rental, boxes, cleaning supplies, & ideally a fresh coat of paint.

    The following is reeeeeeally long. You may already durn well know 99% of it... But I had to learning curve it, so wrote down everything I could think of... In case this technique is new to you, too.

    Beginning (before living... A fresh start)
    1. He gets to keep EVERYTHING. (For now) Just flat out start there. Every paperclip to ATM machine. No decisions as to what is to be kept or gotten rid of shall be made for (3mo, 6mo, etc.) after the home itself is spotless. Full stop.

    ((One of the problems people helping hoarders often walk face first into is disgust + wanting to throw everything away... Imagine someone just chucking out your most prized things, it would be crazy making, leave the whole "sorting" thing for later... Or attempting to force them into making decisions about everything, when even one thing is too much for them, right now. Ditto. Decisions later.))

    2. Pack what you want to KEEP in the home, from dishes to clothes... And make some serious -temporary- sacrifices. You'll able to add back in knick knacks, keepsakes, etc., as well as next season's wardrobe, later. Promise! Same, you'll be able to fetch anything you truly need, it just won't be in the home for awhile, and will need to be fetched. The achy "But I might need...But looking at these calms me...." Is something like o.oooo6% of what most hoarders/collectors/pack-rats/etc. feel at the idea of being separated from their treasures & safety-nets of stuff. I can all but guarantee this will be hard for you, because it's hard for most people. There's security in having what you think you may need soon, at hand. Hoarding, is a very natural human trait... Carried to an extreme.

    - Tip 2a >>> Pack like you're going on vacation to a place with a kitchen, or house sit in an empty flat, for about a month. A week's worth of clothes (no more than fits in a suitcase), toiletries, most used dishes, etc. Do not -under any circumstances- plan on "just leaving" one room as it is. You're going for a clean slate, and adding things back in slowly... LATER. Right now... Keep. It. Simple.

    - Tip 2b >>> Pack your stuff first. Both the stuff you intend to keep around AND everything else. Don't even touch his, ask about his, etc. Just do you.

    - Tip 2c) >>> While you doing you will probably take a few days, and will probably stress him a bit? Most of the people I've known kind of... Relax... After a couple days. It's the actions over words, thing. You aren't touching his stuff. You ARE making both your own sacrifices (but...You love those _____! Yep. I do. And I'll get them back after the house is sorted. No worries /// but we NEED the pancake griddle! -or whatever- We're not selling it, baby! And if we start craving pancakes that badly, we can fetch it for brunch and then take it back. This is only temporary.) You're being a living example of trust. You're doing this, too. And you're not worried.

    3. Once you've got your suitcase of clothes, box of cooking stuff, SMALL box of things you use everyday (laptop, fav necklace, etc.), & box of toiletries set aside? (In the bathroom, or even the tub, if it's the only space available... But some space all it's own for a day)... Go room by room and pack EVERYTHING (yours). Box it. Label it. Big label things you actually think might be needed soonish.

    - Tip 3a) >>> BOXES. Yes, they're more expensive than bags or liqure store freebies... But there's a visual-emotional thing that happens with rows of neatly organized & labeled brown boxes... That just doesn't happen with piles of bags and mismatched colourful things, and you need every edge you can get. You reeeeeally don't want your stuff (or his) "looking" like junk, garbage, or a mess. You want those clean lines, and you want the security of "keeping", not binning. Even if you know they're not being binned, just because they're in bags, it will still feel like it, at some level. Nix that. ((Ditto, even if price is no object? Do NOT do clear plastic boxes. You want what's in them out of sight. Not tempting you every time you walk by, nor snagging the eye, nor looking cluttered. Clearish boxes may come later, if that works for you, but not right now. Boring. Brown. Cardboard.))

    4. His turn.

    He may well not actually be able to help, at all, full stop. He may have started his side before you were done. He may need to physically LEAVE while his part happens. And that's okay. Yes, it's his stuff, and yes it's a huge amount of work... But you love him & this is a one time thing. The time to add more stress about being equal, sharing the work, etc.? Not this time. Later, again, once you two have a clean slate and a system in place, he can pull his weight. Right now? If he can help for even 2 minutes? Great. If not? He can "supervise" as long as he's not being a dick, or needing to be hospitalized. If either? Hotel, camping, friends, whatever. Or the hospital. It's an option.

    Same order to things. Suitcase of clothes, box of vital everyday, toiletries.

    Now... ??? Go to town. No such thing as garbage unless it's rotting food. Everything you both own boxed, ready for a moving truck.

    5. Whether you USE a moving truck, straight away, or not... Really depends on him. Some people do better living with (not in! Not out of!) the room of boxes for a few days or a week. Others really need them out of sight/reach pronto.

    6. Storage.

    - Tip 6a) >>> Also removing nearly all your furniture? Helps. Leave your bed, kitchen table, lounge, TV/stereo/computer ...but anything else? From end tables to lamps, only after thinking very very hard. Especially if any of them really could use a good cleaning. (It's always easier to clean an item of furniture bringing it INTO a clean house, than to get around to it while it just sits there).

    - Tip 6b) Do the research on storage units & truck rental... But DO NOT actually book either... Until everything is done. Not near done, but done. Even if a few boxes get broken into during a couple days weight, this prevents wasting money/ adding the stress of "rushing" / and people coming down with the plague. Or breaking an arm. Murphy's law. Even if you only have 1 more box to do? That's when you'll end up in A&E getting a hip length cast, or a free trio to Hong Kong leaving tomorrow, or whatever. Something will come up. Always does. Get done & then book stuff.

    7. Cleaning. Virtually empty homes are *always* filthy. Even if they were near spotless. They just are. It's a bizarre truth. Don't forget to wash the walls & steam the carpets. "Move Out Cleaning" is a service that's usually a fraction of the cost of any other maid type service -or 10x as much- depending on area. If you can paint? All the better.

    8. Now live like that for -to be honest- at least a couple months. It will be a challenge... And all but guaranteed, "stuff" will start coming home from the shops/friends/etc... Drive it out to the storage unit... Until you're ready to start bringing stuff home FROM storage.

    !!!! :eek: >>> AKA the above? Doesn't work. Can't even get up off the ground. Seriously consider hospitalization. Because the above is even LESS than you'd have to do if you both were moving house. As all you're doing is packing & cleaning... Not even sorting, or organizing, much less unpacking. If he's that deep in? He needs help. And you need space to get your home in order. Because it needs to happen. You know it. He probably knows it. But, like PTSD, sometimes people are simply too unwell.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2017 at 8:46 AM
    mumstheword and Multitudes like this.
  9. mumstheword

    mumstheword Well-Known Member Premium Member

    @Rag doll Circus, I was able to let him know the ATM machine has to go. We've started the big overhaul and sort through. I got the inspection postponed. The situation is exaserbated by our very narc neighbor, a very dangerous lady, who is stalky, completely pathologically dishonest and psychotic but in a sneaky BPD way and that is cause of the barracading with the ATM machine in an area where she would be dominating and utilising were it not for the machine, so I see his reasoning for keeping the machine where it is, at the moment. We are working on the NFH situation (neighbor-from-hell) and my protection and having his back around this is enabling our ability to work on the getting-rid-of-excess. Yesterday we took a bunch of stuff to a charity shop and binned it, we had a great time doing it. Things are shifting. Also housing told me they won't kick us out for the hoarding, but I want my place back!

    @Neverthesame . You see, I already helped my guy move out of his previous place and the amount of stuff that he got rid of was impressive. It's just unfortunate that he loves his electrical circuit building so much that he has to import old machines to pull down and extract parts from. If we had a work/storage shed, it would look a lot better, but we live in a town unit, so it's downright embarrassing. But I love him more than care what others think. I would just like him to pack it neatly and not be overboard in accumulating. My method has been lots of patience, support, a smidgin of gentle truth of the pain it causes me, encouraging his safety and security to enable the let-go. I do think we are getting somewhere. Pushing him into stress mode is only going to exacerbate, because we already have stress overload from the NFH. I know we are going to get some support around that soon too, though, she is out of control and we are filming and recording now, so we are confident we can catch her doing the sick shit she does on camera and take it to the authorities.

    @Friday I like where your going there! The problem is, he already has a storage unit full! Yesterday he mentioned getting on to it.
    Lately I have spent a concentrated amount of time with him and because he's stopped smoking its changes from how it used to be. We are learning to work together instead of dissociate and avoid together. I'm going to commit to this process and do my bit and keep giving him the security he needs to help him let go of the excess. It means concentrated care and focus but it will be worth it. He's been through insane levels of trauma and chronic acute stress and so it's going to take time to work on the safety factor and I agree, not pressuring to get rid of, is good. That stresses him to breaking point and the hoarding will get worse from that level of lack of security. It almost a full time job to address this situation and I'm willing to go the distance.
    Maybe when he gets into his storage shed we can talk keeping it for the spill over that happens here. I can't see him quitting his broken machine accumulating habit anytime soon.

    Thank so much for the support and wise words and suggestions and guidance! :) it means a lot.
    Ragdoll Circus and Friday like this.
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