Help! My husband is a hoarder!

This is one of the most common sentences I hear when people hear about what I do. I am sure there are many husbands saying the same for wives and other partners all the same but primarily I must admit that it is women asking me about their significant others.

The good news is though the advice is the same, no matter which family member in your home has a clutter problem.

Often, people bat the term “hoarder” around for anyone that finds it hard to let go from items. There is actually a big difference between those with recognised hoarding tendencies and those that just have a clutter problem and have gone blind to the “stuff”. 

It is important to mention this as if you believe your family member has true hoarding tendencies it is important to seek some professional advice as this is often not resolved through an organiser alone. If you are worried about this, I am more than happy to point you in the right direction.

So, what is the difference between a hoarder and someone who has gone clutter blind and struggles to let go of their belongings?

Photo by Madison Inouye on

A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value.

Hoarding is considered a significant problem if:

  • the amount of clutter interferes with everyday living – for example, the person is unable to use their kitchen or bathroom and cannot access rooms
  • the clutter is causing significant distress or negatively affecting the quality of life of the person or their family – for example, they become upset if someone tries to clear the clutter and their relationship suffers

Someone who has a hoarding disorder may typically:

  • keep or collect items that may have little or no monetary value, such as junk mail and carrier bags, or items they intend to reuse or repair
  • find it hard to categorise or organise items
  • have difficulties making decisions
  • struggle to manage everyday tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and paying bills
  • become extremely attached to items, refusing to let anyone touch or borrow them
  • have poor relationships with family or friends

(taken from the NHS website )

It is also important to note that hoarding can often be a symptom of another disorder and this is why professional medical advice should be sought.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

What if they aren’t a hoarder but the clutter is making you feel stressed and overwhelmed?

Well, the good news is, I have a few tips that may help you start talking to them about the clutter and start to see the benefits to decluttering and organising your home.

  1. Start with functional spaces – places like the kitchen and bathroom usually hold less emotional attachment to our belongings. Start with out of date food, empty cosmetic packages and broken items that are never going to be fixed.
  2. Start with your belongings – if you also need to declutter and you have an area of only your belongings, why not show them how much calmer a space can feel when it is clutter free. Your wardrobe can be great for this.
  3. Set a one in one out rule – If they are gaining quite the collection of any one thing then perhaps discuss a limit. Then if they buy another, one has to go. Although this may not reduce the clutter for now, it will help the situation getting any worse.
  4. Simply start a conversation – sometimes just sitting down and having a frank and open discussion about how the clutter is impacting you can be enough to see some positive change. It can be a great starting point.
  5. Show and tell – this is a bit of a tough love approach. Sometimes when clutter has taken over multiple spaces, they may not even know they have so much of any one item. Collating all like minded items from different areas in the home into one space may make them realise how much they have.
  6. Tough love number 2 – This one takes some good weather but get out all the belongings from one room (the worst one) and lay it all out in the garden. Cupboards can hide a lot and getting everything out can sometimes be enough of a shock. (Note please don’t take this on with the wrong mentality. This isn’t about shaming or embarrassing them into letting go. It is to show them their belongings in a different light. Not everyone will respond well to this, you have to know this will be received well to try)
  7. Create a clutter free zone for you – agree to have a space that is clutter free. Even better, create a specific zone or room for their clutter that is free from judgement. If you have your calm and welcoming space you will likely feel better and they won’t feel like they are losing their belongings.
Photo by Ann poan on

And here is the biggest don’t.

Do not nag, pressure, or diminish their views on clutter. What is important to each of you will be different and that is Ok. It is about finding the middle ground and compromising. Then when you have reached their declutter limit, you can still then introduce organisational systems to help keep a tidy and calm space.

Changing a whole mindset to belongings does not happen overnight. The first time you declutter you will find it way more difficult than your 10th time. Remember to appreciate this. It doesn’t mean they won’t be able to let go of more in the future.

I hope this has given you some food for thought and some little ways you can start to create a calm environment for yourself and tackle some of the clutter.

If you get going and your partner ends up really enjoying the process and you feel ready to tackle a whole project (a drawer, a cupboard, a room, the whole house!) then you can download my free declutter guide here. The 4 steps to declutter success.

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