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Hoarding Help Message Boards : How to Help a Hoarder : Married a hoarder, may not reach 2nd anniversary
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Married a hoarder, may not reach 2nd anniversary

Posted: 23 June 2018 - 10:48 AM
Hello Ralph :)

Really great to hear from you again.
So very sorry that things have not been working out.
Wishing you all the best in the years to come.

Sincerely, Tillie
Posted: 23 June 2018 - 04:02 AM
Just one last follow up. Events shortly after my last post have led me to question any and all stories about abuse from her family. I now think many, if not all of it is a fabrication, or at least wildly exaggerated and embellished. She fabricated instances of abuse about me. Thank you all for the suggestion that I document everything. Otherwise I might be in jail right now.
Posted: 29 August 2016 - 03:30 PM
Hi Ralph :)

I understand what you are saying and am sorry it is so frustratingly difficult for you and your child too.
I knew a woman with quite similar control issues who's house was squalorous.
She finally understood and started working to get & keep it clean when she was shown how the house was making her husband and children sick from all the bacteria.
The only suggestion I have is that you try to get your wife to agree to couple's counseling and from there maybe she would agree to seeing a therapist on her own.
Seems she has a lot of childhood issues to process through.

Best wishes
Posted: 28 August 2016 - 07:24 PM
So my wife has left with my son a few days ago, after a lengthy argument about my "control issues" regarding the hoarding. I ignored her when she was claiming this because it seemed silly to me, as I have no control over the house or the family. Now that she's gone and the tension has left, I've been pondering the issue. Perhaps this is about her having felt powerless her entire life up to this point.

She grew up with a very controlling father. Her father was a Colonel in the army, and treated his family like another of his commands. When he gave her a cell phone, she was obligated to answer it any time of day, even in class or early morning. When I met her, she had abandoned the use of her cell phone because she was terrified of it being her leash. My mother-in-law is still under this control, and my wife discusses this pretty regularly.

So, where I'm going with this. The hoarding is an issue, yes, but there's always been something in the relationship that has blocked me from being able to offer assistance. Whenever I offer help, or offer to hire a cleaning service, or try to do anything around the house, I think she sees it as me attempting to exert control over her. If she can't control her surroundings, then she feels the same controlling influence of her father dominating her life. She can't hire a cleaner, because that cleaner would have control. She can't let me clear counters, even if that means that I'll finally be able to do the dishes, because that means that I'm in control of that specific area. The panic attacks are flashbacks to the abuse of her past.

Yes, she's a hoarder, but the hoarding isn't the reason we live in filth. The filth is her control issues coming out; her unwillingness to relinquish the little control she feels she has over her life, coupled with her inability to keep up with chores. And sadly, as with many abusive relationships, her powerless feeling turns her into the controller and the cycle perpetuates. I'm terrified for my son now, and what this means for his future.
Posted: 09 October 2015 - 02:56 PM
Hi Ralph :)
Glad to hear your child is gaining weight.
You, as the Father, must do whatever it takes to keep your child happy and healthy.
Sorry you have so many hard decisions to make.
Best wishes
Posted: 09 October 2015 - 12:49 PM
Sadly, we never met with the Doctor due to a scheduling conflict, and my wife hasn't taken any more effort to work on the issue since then. The situation has gotten much worse.

She had been ignoring our Pediatrician's advice about feeding our child, and our child dropped down to the 10th percentile in weight for his age. That's frightening because he's also in the top 99th percentile for height. We ended up getting CPS called on us, and I told the Pediatrician I was OK with that, but they never showed up. The threat of having our child taken away from us was enough to get my wife to agree to outside help to perform a cleanup, and to allow me to take an active role in feeding our son. We used to fight whenever I expressed those concerns. He started gaining weight afterward, so he's OK. I still worry about long-term consequences of his malnutrition at such an early age, and I'm wary of my wife's future conduct in this area. She has mentally re-written the Pediatrician's advice in recent months, at times making it sound like he was the reason our child was underweight (she ignores the chart that shows our child's move to formula being the start of a direct line of his weight gain up to the 80th percentile).

My Mother in Law had come over to help us organize the house. She bought us organizing tools, rubbermaid containers (which I'd offered to buy my wife before but she had refused), and a movable island for our tiny kitchen. The house was clean for a few weeks, at least until my wife realized that CPS wasn't coming. Once she realized that, there was a somewhat quick return to the clutter. I've been getting regular calls from our library telling me books haven't been returned. She blames the current mess on us having to tear out mold infested drywall in our bedroom, but the mess doesn't come from the bedroom. Her visits to thrift stores continue, and in this area there are plenty.

I feel like I'm failing my son by letting my wife do this. I've considered calling CPS myself to force her to deal with the mess. I can't vacuum, dust, or do any other cleaning in the house because of the mountains of clutter. We keep losing my son's cups and bottles in the clutter, and can't use the smell to find them over other stenches. I think I can get her to talk to a counselor, but I don't think it will do much good. She doesn't seem to want to resolve the issue. I will force the issue once we get back from a trip we're taking next week, but I want to do so in a way that actually produces long term results.

I heard recently of a form of hoarding that is linked to depression. My wife is a big fan of "Retail Therapy" whenever she is feeling depressed, so I think that's part of it. Although given what I've heard about hoarding, she has about every risk factor imaginable.
Posted: 25 January 2015 - 07:28 PM
Ralph, I'm so happy to hear this!

I bet you're totally right ~ having to move so much as a kid in a military family could easily be one of the reasons your wife wants to hold onto things now.

The best news of all is hearing that SHE contacted a doctor about her issues. Counseling on any level will be a help. I'm so glad she is open to that!

The fact that you're trying to be understanding of why she might be hoarding and have some compassion for that is definitely a step in the right direction. It opens the doors of communication, she'll feel she can trust you and hopefully be more willing to listen to how the hoarding affects you.

Maybe she'll come around to recognizing that you could use some help with all the responsibilities that you have. Communication, kindness, trust and love. I can't wait to hear more updates!

You've done a great job Ralph!
Posted: 25 January 2015 - 04:40 PM
That's great news Ralph :)
Posted: 25 January 2015 - 03:07 PM
I'm doing all of it, but at a diminished capacity for each task. I often slink out of work early to come home and take care of chores, or simply to get a breather. My wife will occasionally make meals for us, but I haven't been able to keep up with the dishes to allow that very often. She does most of the childcare, but that was a deal we'd made before we had our son. She wasn't very good with chores even before the pregnancy.

I didn't think about it until you mentioned it, but this could be indulgence in childhood fantasies. Growing up in a military family she probably kept very few objects because of the expense of moving them. She'd lived in something like 20 different homes when with her parents. It might be that now that she has a home of her own, one that isn't likely to be vacated in the year, she's going all out on all of the things she'd always wanted to do. She may not know how to limit herself, because she hasn't had the practice.

She's talking to me now, and has contacted a doctor about her issues. We're going to meet with the doctor next week. This isn't one that specializes in hoarding, but in my wife's earlier communications with the doctor several counselors were recommended. So I think she's open to counseling.
Posted: 24 January 2015 - 10:14 AM
Hey Ralph,

I totally understand about Depression Era thinking. My parents were very young during that time and greatly affected by the lifestyle. New Englanders had a saying ~ eat it up, wear it out, make it do. Then they dealt with WWII and the saying evolved to ~ use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

My father spent a lot of time on his grandparents' farm in Canada and farmers can be huge hoarders. Rightfully so in many cases because they did repurpose supplies. Things were of better quality then and nails could be hammered straight and reused, etc.

We grew up in a multi-generation household and I hated the restrictions. My father wanted us to use up the disgusting K-rations in grey-green cans that were years old. He had a cast iron stomach until his death in late age. Long before it was environmentally friendly he wrapped our Christmas gifts in the colored cartoon pages from the Sunday newspaper and tied them with twine. Any gifts we got in real Christmas paper had to be carefully unwrapped, folded and saved to wrap gifts for others. In spite of those complaints there were many good things.

My first real home when I left was on a farm. As my husband and I *moved up in the world* I was able to buy anything without regard to price. I also had lots and lots of space to keep it. I was able to indulge all my childhood fantasies with buying for my daughters.

Bottom line I was probably the worst type of hoarder ~ pretty much unlimited resources, organizational ability, space and the type of mental problems that could be camouflaged. After multiple traumas it became full-blown hoarding.

It's one thing to pick up attitudes from our elders in shaping our lives. It's another to be able to recognize which attitudes are helpful and when they become detrimental. For hoarders it can be extremely hard to see the difference. Ways of living become deeply engrained. Hoarders are very resistant to change. It can be forced on them but that won't give satisfactory, long-lasting results.

How are you doing keeping up with your job, animal care and household responsibilities? Do you do it all? I understand that infant care is a huge time consumer and the mother can be wiped out. Getting the right nutrition for breastfeeding takes some planning and as a first time mom your wife could be exhausted mentally and physically. But 5 months into it she should be able to get some chores done.
Posted: 23 January 2015 - 05:44 PM
I'd heard the word hoarder before that, it's just the first time I'd heard it referring to our situation. I think it was somewhere in the back of my mind, but something I didn't want to admit. Once I heard it, I couldn't stuff it back into that corner of my mind. That's why I'm actually confronting it now.

Her original excuses about the mess were that her grandparents, who housed her for a few years, lived through the great depression. "They never threw anything that could be useful away" is what I've heard her say. She claims to have picked up that attitude from them. When her parents remodeled their home, she had them drive all of the torn out lumber, windows, and other items to our house. Somewhat in her defense, we have used some of that to build rabbit cages. However most of it sits unused in our backyard or in our storage unit.

About the rabbit hides, I don't know how long they can remain frozen. I do know that some rabbitries use freezing as a step in the tanning process. I have a coworker who has been out of the rabbit business for years, but still has frozen pelts he plans on tanning.
Posted: 23 January 2015 - 10:12 AM
Ralph, fascinating info about the rabbits. It would never have occurred to me to set the pens far apart to prevent accidental breedings. Just my totally unknowledgeable thought ~ is there a point where pelts frozen for too long become unworkable? Does the skin somehow breakdown over time?

Since you just heard the word *hoarder* fairly recently you have much to learn about it. Read all the great links on this site to get some understanding. Google the word hoarder or hoarding and read as much as you can. If you have access to cable there are shows about hoarders you can watch. They show the worst cases but it is a very scary eye opener and has highlighted the problem for millions of people who were totally unaware.

When I was growing up (I just turned 63 this month) it was considered just to be saving or the person was a collector or a packrat if it was messy. But back then we also didn't have access to the insane amounts of stuff we do now. It is ridiculously easy to overbuy cheap but serviceable garments, order online and there are more thrift shops and yard sales.

Hoarding is now listed in the 5th version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). While hoarding was originally considered a sub-group of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder researchers have shown differences in the brain scans of hoarders and those with OCD. As a separate psychiatric disorder it is now becoming the focus for better treatment options. That can include meds and reimbursement for treatment from insurance companies.

I know, for myself, I couldn't care less what they call it. And it doesn't matter a whole lot to me if I can now point to research and say to others, see I'm not really a lazy, dirty slug ~ I have a mental disorder. Um, well yeah......

Through a lot of reading (check Amazon), learning from others (done online because you will find precious few people in real life who will admit to this problem) and help from a select few family and friends who have helped me clear, hoarding can be improved. IMO never cured. I consider it an addiction that always needs to be monitored.

Wow I'm getting way wordy as usual.

I didn't even consider the problem you would have with the rabbits attracting predators. Another aside, I have a lot of experience with dogs and some with livestock. Once they taste blood (not a nip but a kill) it's over. The dog needs to be put down or kept under strict supervision. If your wife has already experienced a warning from officials about the amount of rabbits she has learned generally there are no real consequences. It isn't until things are so far out of control that authorities really step in. And by then it can be serious crazy time.

Posted: 22 January 2015 - 08:54 PM
Thanks Dianne. I actually did feel like I had to keep things secret. I had all of my family in town for Christmas staying with my parents, and they wanted to visit me and see the house. I kept on coming up with excuses and never giving them a set date. The first I heard the word "hoarder", it came from my brother. Apparently he'd either gotten the idea by driving by the exterior of our house, or from one of the few family members that came to visit us a few months ago.

I don't yet know how to tan the furs, so they've been set in the freezer. I don't know how long the frozen meat can be kept, but my wife tells me indefinitely. I assume that means that a normal person will use it before it goes bad. Pelts are a bit more fragile than other furs. I've heard it said that if you can tan a rabbit hide you can tan anything. On a side note, male and female rabbits have to be kept in separate cages very far apart. I once had a pair breed through the wires of adjacent cages. Had I known about my wife's hoarding, rabbits are the last animals I would have let into my life.

We had a close call with the city when we had to call animal control. Our yard attracts loose dogs; it isn't enclosed and smells of rabbits. My wife was 8 months pregnant when she chased away a pair of pit-bulls that killed one of our litters. Anyway, we received a warning about the number we were allowed to keep (I low-balled the numbers we had to the officer). I used his threat to keep us from doing any breeding that fall. I think she still considers this just a minor pause though.
Posted: 22 January 2015 - 08:07 PM
Hey Ralph, it's good to hear you have your parents nearby who can help with your son.

I don't know anything about preserving pelts. Do they have to be frozen? Can they be staked out and dried? In caring for rabbits at a wildlife rehab center I was told their skin and fur can be easily torn and shed to avoid predators. Does that make the pelts more fragile than other fur? (Just my curiosity there.) How long can the frozen meat be kept? Since she has a legitimate reason for breeding would she listen to reason about how much meat, how many pelts, how many rabbits are *enough*?

It's good that you are keeping separate pens to prevent unnecessary breeding. You're absolutely right about getting a dog being another gateway. It will be your responsibility to train and care for the dog. Add chewing, peeing and pooping in the house and that's a huge stressor. You can be pretty sure one dog will lead to more especially if it's a small breed.

It was a very good idea to take pictures. Do that with the rabbits' area also. As a last resort you could call CPS, have them fill out a report which will force her into some clean-up action. That could backfire with fines from other agencies concerning the outside or amount or animals or you having to do even more work or the threat of losing your son. It could be her wake-up call or it could make her dig in further. Talk to an attorney first to find out how best to protect your chances for custody. The last thing you want is for her hoard to be blamed on you and lose some legal rights.

All this is only my opinion, I have no background in legal recourse. I just speak from my personal experience as a recovering hoarder, having lived with hoarders and being of an extreme mindset that contributed to great loss in my family. When I see young families headed down that road I want to scream STOP! Keep your head on straight. You will be made to think you are the crazy one and that squalor is no big deal. You'll have to keep things *secret*. It's like living in an alcoholic household and it does not get better without recognition of the problem and work.
Posted: 22 January 2015 - 01:58 PM
Hi Tillie,

Thank you for the book suggestion. I've got that in my queue. As soon as my wife starts talking to me again I'll see if I can get her to agree to see one of the local therapists. It's going to be an uphill battle, but I'm used to them at this point.
Posted: 22 January 2015 - 01:47 PM
Thank you both for your responses. It's nice to know someone is listening.

For the triplex we live in one unit, use one as a storage unit, and rent out the third. The property has a large yard (1/3 acre), so we keep the rabbits in the back yard and shed. The mess in the back yard is enough that our renters no longer venture outside. The renters are my wife's cousin and her family, so they'll put up with quite a bit more than any other tenant might.

The baby was left with me, but had just been fed. After a few hours he was getting fussy so I had to employ all of the techniques I know of to put him to sleep until his mother returned to feed him. I set someone to watch him, then drove around the city looking for her and talked to her local friends to find out where she had gone.

With all of the time I spend taking care of the animals, outside mess, my job and all household chores I haven't had much time to research anything relating to the baby. I'd mainly left that to my wife, but I don't think I have the luxury to do things that way anymore. My parents are retired and live in the area, so I may have to rely on them as a resource if I have to take the child away.

As for the rabbits, the hoarding is slightly different than other cases as she is raising them for food/fur. She wanted the fur for her crafting. So she focuses on breeding them. The city allows up to 4 such animals to be kept per household, but last winter we had over 60. I had to hire someone to help me limit the population down to just over 20. I don't have the stomach to kill/butcher the rabbits myself, nor do I have the time. Our deep freeze is overflowing with furs and meat, and she still wants to keep breeding them. Luckily she doesn't go out there to deal with them, so the breeding isn't happening because I keep them in separate pens. She gets upset at me, but that I can handle. I did get her to vocally agree to get rid of most of the rabbits if I let her get a dog, but I think that is just another gateway.

Slightly after starting my cleaning rampage the other day, I stopped myself so I could take pictures of the mess. I was already thinking about counseling or legal custody battles. Not sure how I'll get her to agree to it though. She doesn't see this as a problem. Her cousin, our neighbor, also has a household that is an extreme mess, so I think that reinforces my wife's opinion that the clutter is not a problem. She may actually look up to her cousin as an example of a good mother, compounding the issue.
Posted: 22 January 2015 - 12:09 PM
Hi Ralph, my heart goes out to you.

In your triplex do you live in one unit, use one as storage and rent out the third unit? If you have renters do the rabbit hutches affect the space the renters use?

When your wife disappeared for several hours the other day did she leave the breast-feeding baby with you?

From what you describe your wife definitely has issues that will need therapy perhaps with medication. She will probably strongly resist that.

Your immediate concern is your child. Talk to your pediatrician about supplementing the breast feeding. Five months is fine to be transitioning to solid foods as well as formula milk. There should never be a time when you have to worry about your baby's food intake if your wife should shirk her responsibility to feed the baby.

With the rabbits does she bring more home or are they allowed to breed? Either way that must stop as animal care is extremely time consuming and expensive. You are very kind-hearted to take such good care of them. Are you attached to the rabbits or do you just take care of them? Check your area for breed rescue groups or no kill shelters. Rehoming the rabbits is going to send your wife into a rage but I think you've got some of that in your future anyway.

Without help hoarders don't change. Forcing them to get help isn't effective and can boomerang in that they will return to hoarding with a vengeance as soon as they can. A hoarder must recognize there is a problem and be willing to get help and stay vigilant the rest of their lives. They can do that best with loving support, patience and no judgment. That's a tremendous amount to ask of a spouse who is adversely affected. It would be helpful for you to have some counseling as well or at least a safe place to vent (this board provides that) while you are trying to be a saint.

Try to see your life at your 5th anniversary or your 10th. Are you willing to have the focus of your marriage always be about the hoard? How will it change you as a person? Will you become bitter using passive-aggression as a way to have a little bit of control or to make her life as miserable as you are? How will your fighting about the constant mess affect the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual growth of your child?

Many couples continue their path basically unchanged. Their love holds them together. Some just stay stuck.

Your wife has already told you she would leave you and take your child with her. For whatever reason that is a very serious threat. For your peace of mind you may want to speak to an attorney privately and find out your options on retaining sole custody under the circumstances.

I don't mean to sound harsh. If there is any way possible I believe in marriage and families and working out problems. But in order to do that it's important to be willing to accept that it may take many months, even years to be on solid ground. There can be many sweet spots along the way. It won't all be drudgery. Any fundamental change is a process with ups and downs taking commitment, patience and loving support.

When you feel yourself at the end of your rope step outside and take some deep breaths. Maybe go for a ride. Don't make drastic decisions in the heat of anger or frustration. Vent here.

We'll do our best to support you while you try to support your wife thru hard changes.

take good care, Ralph ~~ Dianne

Posted: 22 January 2015 - 09:46 AM
Hi Ralph :)

I too live with a hoarder and understand completely all your frustrations and fears.

At the top of this page is a link "National Resources", click on that and then on your state to see if there are any counselors near you.
If you could get her into some therapy that would be the best way to go.
My hoarder refuses to get therapy and that is why he is still a hoarder.

You do have rights and there are also animals and a child who are affected by the hoarding.
I personally took on the battle to clear and clean the main living areas of the home.
I also took on the battle to prevent him from collecting any more cats since I am the one who must care for them all.

A good book for you to read is "Digging Out".

You are allowed to take a stand as to the safety of your home to protect yourself and your child.

On this message board is "The Daily Chat" where we all are allowed to post freely about our frustrations.
Also, you can contact Cory Calmers for expert advice

There is hope for you so hang in there.

Posted: 22 January 2015 - 12:08 AM
I'm the spouse of a hoarder, and I'm at my wits end. I only recently started looking into the disorder, as I've been married for less than 2 years and hoped that the situation would resolve itself. When this started threatening our marriage I started looking for help and a place to vent.

Before I met my wife she was the victim of a carbon monoxide leak in her apartment. She and her roommates each suffered some brain damage as a result, and none were able to keep jobs for any length of time. I couldn't identify clutter or hoarding when we were dating, as she was living with a cousin during that time and all of her belongings were in storage. We bought a house within two months of marriage, and within days of the purchase I realized there was going to be a problem. We had moved everything from my apartment into the home, but hadn't unpacked the boxes. Before we returned the borrowed trucks, she insisted that we go empty out her storage units. I asked that she wait until we put everything that was on the floor away, and she started to cry and complain that it wouldn't be her house as her stuff wasn't there. I conceded, and we haven't had a clean house since we got the keys. We live in a triplex, the third unit of which was being remodeled when we bought the home. It became a storage unit, some of the rooms now filled to the ceiling with clutter. In our home our floor still has boxes on it that we brought in almost two years ago.

She started hoarding rabbits as well, but won't actually take care of the animals nor let me get rid of them. I'm responsible for all of the feeding and care of the animals. If I'm sick and I ask here to take care of them, she agrees to do it. When I recover the next day and I go to check on them, I see that nothing has been done. I don't have the heart to let them starve to death, but I know they would if I didn't care for them. Luckily the rabbits are kept outdoors so the waste is mitigated, but I worry they'll soon become a public health hazard as I can't shovel the waste quickly enough to keep up.

If I try to move anything out to storage, I'm told not to do that, and that she'll take care of it. Months later I try again (often with the same item) and get the same response. I haven't been able to vacuum our living room for roughly a year. I am constantly stepping on her belongings, which earns me glares (I have size 13US shoes, I can't step around everything). I've bought her furniture and shelves to store/organize her items, but she just buys more and then brags to me about the thriftiness of her purchases. I haven't seen the kitchen table since before our child was born.

I've been recently getting more and more angry/frustrated at the situation, to the point where I ignore her complaints and just start moving things out to the storage unit. I blew up at her yesterday after an incident (long story involving sewage), and yelled for her to look at the mess. I told her I couldn't live like that. She walked out. When she didn't return within a few hours I called her parents to see if they'd had any contact. She's still breast feeding so I worried about having food for our child. When she finally returned, she told me that if I ever discussed our marital issues with her parents again that she'd leave me and take our 5 month old child with her.

She comes from a military family with some mild history of abuse from her mother and sister I assume some abandonment issues and misogyny from her father. She's very OCD about certain things, and claims she can't deal with the smelly jobs in the house because of her sensitive nose (I hear retching sounds when she goes anywhere in the house or yard that smells of the animals or dishes). She once claimed the mess was to get back at her dad, but I don't know how much weight to give to that.

Sorry about the length, I needed to vent, but I also need help. I can't live like this. I'm not a neat freak, but I'm tired of living in what I can only describe as a large game of Jenga that I'm constantly losing. How can I get her to recognize the issue?
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