Wedding Woes

This is a very long way to say there are 4 women in the world

Dear Prudence,

I am a middle-aged male in a relationship with a sweet, kind, successful woman who seems to suffer from a shopping addiction and who can never stop herself from taking home free food. When we first started seeing each other, she wouldn’t let me into her home. At first I thought this was because she wanted to make sure we had something real before I met her young daughter (I have children too), but when I saw her home I realized it was because she had a hoarding problem. At that point I already cared for her very much. I have very serious rescuer tendencies, and I know better than to follow such a path. Now we’ve been together for almost two years.

Last year, she bought a new home and recruited me to help her move. I pitched in but also gave her space to deal with the masses of shopping bags that had never been unpacked full of duplicate bags of chips and other storage bags, unopened Amazon boxes, stacks of old luggage, etc. I had hoped she would want to pare down on her own, but that didn’t happen. She ended up needing a later move-out date and became very distressed as we started moving stale and even decayed food to her building’s dumpster. We filled the dumpster and her new detached garage. Evidence of rodent and insect activity was revealed with each peeled layer. Nearly a year after this move, her garage is still stuffed, she hasn’t unpacked any of her wardrobe, and new boxes are starting to arrive. I spent a weekend organizing and rearranging her kitchen, but she never committed to the new setup. There’s not an inch of open counter space.

I’ve shared my concerns with her and have been accused of being judgmental and hypercritical. I am terrified that her daughter’s nascent compulsivity will blossom into the shame and loneliness her otherwise very sociable mother fosters. After an argument following the exhausting move, she bought self-help books. She seemed committed to cultivating some self-denial strategies. Last week, I visited her place and had my own stress attack when I navigated a cavernous path from her front door to her kitchen. Her attractiveness to me is waning. I love her, want to help her, want to help her child, but I am not a psychotherapist. We recently argued that I’m not moving fast enough, and my question, “Where exactly do I fit in your home?” remains unanswered. Should I stay or should I go? I’ve been dating on and off for eight years since my divorce, and I’m tired.

—Buried in Boxes

Re: This is a very long way to say there are 4 women in the world

  • My first thought was TLC show Hoarders :|
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    mrsconn23SP29
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    Run. 

    VarunaTTlovesclimbing
  • My first thought was TLC show Hoarders :|

    He needs to watch this show.  Then he needs to GTFO.  Because it isn't going to get better.  Especially when she doesn't see a problem.

    I used to watch it regularly, though I haven't watched it in years.  What I learned is that Hoarding is a type of obsessive-compulsive behavior.  Unfortunately, it is also a very difficult disorder to control and overcome.  It's not laziness.  It's not sloppiness.  It's a mental disorder.

    The only possible hope would be if she also recognizes the problem, wants help, and agrees to regular counseling sessions.  And regular counseling sessions for possibly years to try and keep her hoarding impulses under control.

    But obviously she isn't there yet and isn't ready to do that.

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    VarunaTTSP29
  • My first thought was TLC show Hoarders :|

    He needs to watch this show.  Then he needs to GTFO.  Because it isn't going to get better.  Especially when she doesn't see a problem.

    I used to watch it regularly, though I haven't watched it in years.  What I learned is that Hoarding is a type of obsessive-compulsive behavior.  Unfortunately, it is also a very difficult disorder to control and overcome.  It's not laziness.  It's not sloppiness.  It's a mental disorder.

    The only possible hope would be if she also recognizes the problem, wants help, and agrees to regular counseling sessions.  And regular counseling sessions for possibly years to try and keep her hoarding impulses under control.

    But obviously she isn't there yet and isn't ready to do that.

    I watch it when I realize it's on. They have a newer one called "Buried Alive"

    Other than the mental health cases that accompany these issues, one thing I noticed from watching is you either look around and have to clean OR you look around and think "enh it's not that bad"
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  • I watch it when I realize it's on. They have a newer one called "Buried Alive"

    Other than the mental health cases that accompany these issues, one thing I noticed from watching is you either look around and have to clean OR you look around and think "enh it's not that bad"

    I think that is what happened to me.  I never said something like, "I'm not watching this show anymore."  It just happened to no longer be on at the times when I was channel surfing.  Now I'm curious to see Buried Alive, I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

    To the bolded, I never said that about any of the episodes, lol.  But I would see different styles of hoarding.  Some people were actually very organized in their hoarding.  Like, most things were in totes.  But there were hundreds of totes in each room stacked to the ceiling.

    The ones I found really icky and would make my skin crawl were the ones where there was a lot of garbage and rotten food.

    I remember one episode.  Although it was the grossest one I ever saw, my heart went out to the lady and you could understand where her hoarding came from.  She was a child during the Depression and spent years without enough food.  So, as an adult, she hoarded food.  She'd been able to control it when she was younger and had a family to take care of.  But after her H had passed and her kids were long grown up, her food hoarding got out of control.

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  • There is a British show where they pair people with OCD level cleaning tendencies with habitually messy people, not quite hoarder level most of the time but often very bad.

    i can’t watch the hoarders / buried alive shows. It makes me so sad for those people. It is worse than Intervention to me.
  • I watch it when I realize it's on. They have a newer one called "Buried Alive"

    Other than the mental health cases that accompany these issues, one thing I noticed from watching is you either look around and have to clean OR you look around and think "enh it's not that bad"

    I think that is what happened to me.  I never said something like, "I'm not watching this show anymore."  It just happened to no longer be on at the times when I was channel surfing.  Now I'm curious to see Buried Alive, I'll have to keep my eye out for it.

    To the bolded, I never said that about any of the episodes, lol.  But I would see different styles of hoarding.  Some people were actually very organized in their hoarding.  Like, most things were in totes.  But there were hundreds of totes in each room stacked to the ceiling.

    The ones I found really icky and would make my skin crawl were the ones where there was a lot of garbage and rotten food.

    I remember one episode.  Although it was the grossest one I ever saw, my heart went out to the lady and you could understand where her hoarding came from.  She was a child during the Depression and spent years without enough food.  So, as an adult, she hoarded food.  She'd been able to control it when she was younger and had a family to take care of.  But after her H had passed and her kids were long grown up, her food hoarding got out of control.

    I think the food and animals is what always gets to me. After watching enough eps of Hoarders, I really want to be a minimalist.


    A friend of mine was - by every means of the word - a hoarder. Her place was awful.
    When she was pregnant with her son, her dad stepped in and tossed half the crap in her house to ensure it was livable.
    Unfortunately, she didn't care about her house because she worked so hard so her dad would notice her efforts. I don't believe he did and just blamed her for hoarding :(
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  • If you're writing to Prudie saying things like "shopping addiction" "hoarder" "rodent and insect infestation" "girlfriend" (i.e. not married) "I don't fit in her home" "accused of being judgemental and hypercritical" "attractiveness is waning"........you have answered your own question. 
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    short+sassyMissKittyDangercharlotte989875SP29
  • He needs to run. Beyond what's already been mentioned re: mental illness/disorder, the other takeaway from Hoarders is that most of those people are single and/or are not living with their partner - unless the partner is a hoarder too, they are usually having serious relationship problems. 

    I am (to a very mild extent) one of those "organized hoarders" - meaning i'll buy something that's a great deal or something I see that "could be useful to have," or I just hold on to stuff for too long. I'm also just lazy. (And consequently have too much stuff - although I have been making a huge effort to purge, and unless there is a very good reason for keeping something, i don't have issues letting it go.) 

    *However* I could never deal with the pest or decaying food issues because most of those houses, I would just burn to the ground. Ugh. I had a conversation about that with our exterminator - i couldn't do his job because i would not be ok with going into a roach infested home. It's bad enough that they live outside in the south. (FTR, we get a quarterly exterminator service *because* the roaches live outside in the south - and occasionally make their way inside. I don't want to see something in the house, but if it makes it in, I want a guarantee that it will be dead.)

    The worst ones for me were the ones with animal hoarding, people who were hoarding their pee/poop, and the ones with roach and rat infestations. 
    short+sassy
  • edited November 9
    *Barbie* said:
    I am (to a very mild extent) one of those "organized hoarders" - meaning i'll buy something that's a great deal or something I see that "could be useful to have," or I just hold on to stuff for too long. I'm also just lazy. (And consequently have too much stuff - although I have been making a huge effort to purge, and unless there is a very good reason for keeping something, i don't have issues letting it go.)
    I consider your type more of a "pack rat"
    Which isn't bad, but makes for some amusement later and you're asking the person "hahaha why did you keep this?"
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  • We are pack rats.   There is a room in my basement that you can't navigate without moving boxes.   That isn't the rest of our house and we know we need a purge-cation soon.

    This isn't the case for the LW or the SO.   He needs to run fast and frankly if she's not showing signs of seriously seeking help I would either call her close family or authorities.   Living in an environment with rodent feces and a possible hazard as you walk is just flat out not safe.   And if the person is suffering from a mental illness she may not be of the sound mind required to care for a young child.

    So screw the relationship and look at what's best for the person suffering with no possible outlet.   It's not about where the relationship is headed. 
    short+sassycharlotte989875
  • My mom is a pack rat who loves to thrift store shop. She's said she feels like she's get a great deal AND recycling.

    Like "these mixing bowls are brand new in the box and they were $6." I mean, ok, but you HAVE bowls. "These will be my back-up bowls." Queue sticking them in the basement and repeating this exercise multiple times. And she will not throw ANYTHING away "because she might need it some day."

    It actually kind of pisses me off, because I'm going to be the one to clean out her house one day. I know it's sort of a compulsive thing, but it's going to end up my problem and I'm a little bitter.
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    SP29
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    My FIL is a pack rat, in that he'll constantly spend his money ordering multiple sets of something. He had been living with my husband when we met, and then moved out before we got engaged. When I moved in, I had to help my husband clear out many closets. No joke, we found 8 of the same knife sets, all unopened! This went on and on and on. I will never need to buy a lint roller. Or a toilet brush. Or a flashlight. FIL didn't even want to take any of this stuff with him! He just left it all behind, and then moved in with BIL and started collecting all new stuff. 

    My husband also knows a family that was on Hoarders. The mother was hoarding and the sons were trying to help her. She had stuff in the house from a bar mitzvah she attended in 1987. The amount of stuff she had, how she was sleeping - it was just so sad. They cleaned up her house, and she went right back to hoarding again. Refused to get any help. 

  • GBCKGBCK
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
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    the Mr. knew a hoarder who used her hoarding to cover the fact that she was (literally) a serial bank robber. (they were neighbors when he was a kid)

    But that is it's own story :)

    Any time a relationship/future/etc is predicated on change, that's a damn scarlet field of flags.
    short+sassycharlotte989875SP29
  • MIL was a packrat.   Cleaning out her stuff was crazy and we didn't even scratch the surface.   When FIL moves or dies, it's going to be a long weekend of just bailing out. 
  • My mom is a pack rat who loves to thrift store shop. She's said she feels like she's get a great deal AND recycling.

    Like "these mixing bowls are brand new in the box and they were $6." I mean, ok, but you HAVE bowls. "These will be my back-up bowls." Queue sticking them in the basement and repeating this exercise multiple times. And she will not throw ANYTHING away "because she might need it some day."

    It actually kind of pisses me off, because I'm going to be the one to clean out her house one day. I know it's sort of a compulsive thing, but it's going to end up my problem and I'm a little bitter.
    It was super weird to me that in the last year, my mother has started purging things.  I had made an offhand comment about it and she suddenly is sitting me down for the "Honey, I'm at the end of my life," conversation.  And part of her worry is me cleaning out the house.

    Also, I was totally that kid that was like, I KNOW BUT CAN WE NOT TALK ABOUT IT, PLEASE?!?!
    MissKittyDanger
  • Pack rat here, also (raises hand).

    At first I just watched it for the train wrecks, but I have to give Hoarders credit.  Some of the techniques in the show helped me with my own pack-rat behavior.

    I learned to stop buying things just because they were an "extra good deal" and "maybe I would use it someday".

    It also helped to hear the hoarders make cases for why they should keep particular items.  And I'd hear them saying exactly what I did in my own head, when I tried purging:

    • "I paid good money for this."
    • "I might need this someday, I don't want to but it again."
    • "This is valuable!  I'm sure I could sell this on Ebay or CL."

    This excuse is more personally specific, lol:

    • "Yay!  I remember when I would wear this dress 15 years ago to go bar hopping.  That was so much fun and I was so hot back then.  I'm sure someday I'll lose 50 lbs. and be able to wear it again." - says the married, middle-aged woman whose partying days are happily long behind her.

    I still struggle and work on getting rid of items, but have become a lot better at ignoring my own excuses and just purge!

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    charlotte989875SP29
  • Pack rat here, also (raises hand).

    At first I just watched it for the train wrecks, but I have to give Hoarders credit.  Some of the techniques in the show helped me with my own pack-rat behavior.

    I learned to stop buying things just because they were an "extra good deal" and "maybe I would use it someday".

    It also helped to hear the hoarders make cases for why they should keep particular items.  And I'd hear them saying exactly what I did in my own head, when I tried purging:

    • "I paid good money for this."
    • "I might need this someday, I don't want to but it again."
    • "This is valuable!  I'm sure I could sell this on Ebay or CL."

    This excuse is more personally specific, lol:

    • "Yay!  I remember when I would wear this dress 15 years ago to go bar hopping.  That was so much fun and I was so hot back then.  I'm sure someday I'll lose 50 lbs. and be able to wear it again." - says the married, middle-aged woman whose partying days are happily long behind her.

    I still struggle and work on getting rid of items, but have become a lot better at ignoring my own excuses and just purge!

    I have this issue with clothes.
    Things I can toss, clothes I have gone back a year later to wear X and realize "Fuck. I tossed X last season/year"

    I often go through my clothes - not now for obv reasons, I just toss it all in a bag and wait it out lol - at the end of a season. Didn't wear that blouse often? Hmm .... could still wear in fall. Flip hanger, wait until end of fall. Hanger not flipped? BYE!
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    charlotte989875short+sassy
  • My aunt is a hoarder. I have a hard time even going in to her house, and it makes me sad for her kids, but what do you even say? She knows it's bad, she's embarrassed by it, but she just can't make her self doing anything with it. 
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
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    Our neighbor was a hoarder. Her house was full, floor to ceiling, of clothes, magazines, and newspapers. Two out of the three bedrooms in her house were just piles of clothes to the ceiling. No organization. I can only imagine how much money that was in clothes. She didn't buy off the rack, either. 


    image
  • Pack rat here, also (raises hand).

    At first I just watched it for the train wrecks, but I have to give Hoarders credit.  Some of the techniques in the show helped me with my own pack-rat behavior.

    I learned to stop buying things just because they were an "extra good deal" and "maybe I would use it someday".

    It also helped to hear the hoarders make cases for why they should keep particular items.  And I'd hear them saying exactly what I did in my own head, when I tried purging:

    • "I paid good money for this."
    • "I might need this someday, I don't want to but it again."
    • "This is valuable!  I'm sure I could sell this on Ebay or CL."

    This excuse is more personally specific, lol:

    • "Yay!  I remember when I would wear this dress 15 years ago to go bar hopping.  That was so much fun and I was so hot back then.  I'm sure someday I'll lose 50 lbs. and be able to wear it again." - says the married, middle-aged woman whose partying days are happily long behind her.

    I still struggle and work on getting rid of items, but have become a lot better at ignoring my own excuses and just purge!

    The bolded is DH.  He was really bad when we got married - he didn't even have room in the closet for my clothes.  It was really tough to get him to realize that he had too much stuff, and the excuse was always "I might need this [broken utensil/scraps of fabric/ old furniture/ multiple kitchen appliance] some day".  And darn it, there was ONE instance in which he was right, and made it so much harder to get rid of stuff!  Stupid salad spinner ...
    imageimage
    short+sassy
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