Hoarders don’t always live alone, they often live with someone who unconsciously gives them permission to be a hoarder. So, if your spouse is a hoarder, maybe you are part of the problem. There are many ways you can help someone with too much stuff reduce what they have.
Firstly, you may think it’s a solution, but don’t throw away someone else’s stuff without their knowledge, or they will feel violated and not trust you in the future. Rather, ask for their permission for every single thing you get rid of.
Moaning doesn’t help. Giving general statements like, “You need to get rid of all those boxes,” doesn’t encourage the hoarder to actually get rid of them. The person knows they need to get rid of the boxes, that’s why telling them doesn’t bring anything constructive.
Start with yourself. Reduce your own stuff and resist the temptation to say, “Look what I’ve done, why don’t you get rid of your stuff next?” Just silently deal with your stuff and lead by example.
Suggest a date. “How about we declutter the garage at the weekend?” Then keep to it.
Ask permission to get rid of everything. A hoarder may even still want pieces of paper, which look like junk to you. Hold up one thing at a time and ask, “Can I get rid of this?” That is much easier than asking which items can go and which can stay.
When they buy something new, help them get rid the same number of items. Three new pairs of shoes mean three old pairs to donate. Buy a new coat, and then give away an old coat.
Limit their space. If the hoarding is getting out of control, tell them they can store their stuff in the garage, but not the spare room, for instance. Remember, your spouse may be a hoarder, but you give them permission to do so.
Be positive and concentrate on progress. Look at what you have managed to get rid of and not the huge pile still left to sort. Look at the full garbage bags, or the car full of stuff to drive to the thrift store.
Remember that relationship is more important than possessions. Don’t let arguing about your stuff affect your relationship. Learn to work on it together, do what you can and take a break when you need to.
Digging Out: How to help a hoarder