- Imagine It Done
6 Simple & Effective Tactics to Use if Your Partner Is a Hoarder
With the new year well underway, you may be working on some personal goals you set for yourself. Or maybe you are simply seeing where this new year takes you. Either way, this is the time for goals and resolutions. And of the most popular resolutions in the last few years has been getting organized.
This is a noble, albeit overwhelming undertaking as it depends on the state of your home and what type of organization you want to implement. But this resolution can become more difficult if you live with someone who is a hoarder.
There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to declutter things your partner refuses to let go of. Even when you both know it has not been used in years.
So how can you get organized for the new year if your partner is a hoarder?
Here are 6 tips you can follow if your partner is a hoarder and you want to get organized
Do your research
One of the first things you should do is understand hoarding. There is a difference between holding onto things for sentimental purposes and a hoarding disorder. Before you can approach your partner about this matter, you need to take the time to understand what it truly means.
Psychiatry.org describes hoarders as people who have difficulty getting rid of possessions. The mere thought of it causes them severe distress. The level to which they feel attached to these items varies from person to person, but in most cases, the idea of getting rid of something can lead to instant anxiety.
In order to best learn the level at which your partner is, study their patterns for a few days. Compare what you see to what you read as this will help you determine how to approach them about it. Are they at the level where they may need professional help? Or can you help them with a few simple tactics?
What matters most is taking the time to understand why your partner hoards what they hoard. It is the only way you will be able to move forward without added stress or risk to your relationship.
Offer to help them organize
In cases where the hoarder does not require professional help, one thing you can do is offer your assistance in organizing their things. If you have organized all of your stuff, but find your home is still messy, gently suggest helping them organize theirs.
And we mean gently! Hoarders will not take kindly to your aggressive suggestions. It is important to offer your assistance in a way that allows them to turn it down. If they do, accept it and try again another time.
If they accept your help, do not force your techniques onto them. Listen rather than tell. They may have an entirely different way of organizing than you, and that is fine. So long as things get organized that is all that matters.
Use methods for helping them let go of stuff
If your partner is a bit more willing to let go of stuff, use methods to help ease the burden a little bit. It will be hard for them to just let you take something out the door without a second thought. So try using one or several of these tactics to help them let go of their stuff more naturally.
Set aside a bin for all the items they are letting go of. Tell them you will keep the stuff in this bin for three months. If they do not remove it or ask about it during that time, it will be removed from the house at the end of the quarter. This is a great way to teach them the “out of sight, out of mind” rule.
If they are having a hard time getting rid of something that is broken, consider replacing it with something new. Do not go overboard and replace every single thing, but maybe replace a mug or two. Sometimes having something new is enough to help them let go of the old.
Implement a “shared space” rule
Sometimes your partner will be adamant about keeping their stuff, and you will have to accept that. But one thing you can implement is that every shared space in your home must be clutter-free.
Dedicate a section of the home for their stuff — be it a room or a part of a closet — but every other shared space must be organized. This includes the kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and any other space you share together.
Doing this is kind of sneaky because living with someone means sharing a lot of space. And ensuring that those areas are clutter-free will show your partner the benefits of organized living. However, if they are too attached to certain things, giving them their own space for it all will make them appreciative.
But make sure they promise to keep that area safe and hazard-free.
Start with small encouragement
If your partner is more willing to become organized, one thing you can do is start with small encouragement. This can be as simple as sitting down together to make a plan. Ask them what they want to accomplish by getting organized.
Do they want to declutter as much stuff as possible? Do they want to find more effective ways of storing their possessions? During this conversation, feel free to offer your own advice. But remember not to overstimulate them with ideas. You need to let these encouragements sit and build.
What small encouragement will do is give your partner the chance to decide what stays and what goes on their own terms. Say you will be there for support if there is something they are stuck on. But let them decide.
Your goal with this tactic is to give them the space they need to figure things out on their own. But still being present if they need a helping hand.
Celebrate anytime they declutter something
As we mentioned earlier, depending on how severe your partner’s hoarding disorder is, getting rid of stuff is a huge accomplishment for them. That is why a tactic you can and should do is to celebrate anytime they declutter a possession.
It does not matter if it is a mug, an old piece of paper, or a tattered jacket. Every single time your partner gets rid of something, celebrate. And no, we do not mean throw a party or offer to buy them something new. Little celebrations can be just as rewarding.
Go to the movies or schedule a couple’s massage. Try to make the reward an experience rather than an opportunity to bring new stuff into the home. The more you celebrate these little victories, the more your partner will see how improving their quality of life is affecting both of you. And that is what you ultimately want.
You want to live in a space that is healthy, comfortable, and warm. To prepare for this, make a list of celebrations you can do. Alternate between them and let your partner know that every time they declutter something, they get to choose what the reward is.
It can be hard to live with a hoarder, especially if you are someone who thrives in an organized and clutter-free home. But as someone who cares for this person, you can use your knowledge and skills to help them improve their life.
What you do not want to do is force your methods onto them. That, in and of itself, is difficult. But if you learn about the disorder and take the time to hear your partner out, you will be able to offer your assistance better.
Hoarding is a struggle that may require professional help. Our staff is eager and ready to help manage the situation. Sometimes giving your partner simple support can lead them down the path of recovery. With you there guiding them, your relationship will only grow stronger.
Have you ever lived with a hoarder? Did you try helping them get organized? What was the hardest part about getting them to accept an organized life?