Is My Husband a Hoarder?

By Amy Dickinson | January 6th, 2023

Wife is reaching the end of her sanity

an overcrowded garage full of stuff. Image by Joni Hanebutt. "Is my husband a hoarder?" a wife wonder. He collects more and tosses nothing – and she’s had it. See what Ask Amy advises.

“My husband doesn’t qualify as a hoarder,” his wife says, but he collects more and tosses nothing and she goes behind him organizing everything. And now she’s had enough! See what advice advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

My husband and I – now empty-nesters – live alone in a large four-bedroom house.

My husband doesn’t qualify as a hoarder, but maybe only because I am constantly trying to organize everything. He won’t throw anything away and forbids me from disposing of his possessions, even if they are broken or obviously will never be used again.

He buys anything that he considers a bargain, whereas I have become offended by over-consumption.

Because it is impossible to find anything in this mess, he buys a new item when we already have that item – somewhere! As a result, we have multiples of everything and our house is full of stuff.

We violate our homeowners’ association rules because our garbage bins won’t fit in our garage. The outside of the house is surrounded by junk – buckets of old golf balls, multiple grills, an old basketball hoop, etc.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to organize, inventory, box things, etc. If I didn’t spend that time, the house would be a junkyard, and I resent having to spend my time this way. As I look around, inside and outside the house, I feel rage.

Although I have three rooms I keep “sacrosanct” – no clutter allowed – on the whole, I feel like the walls are closing in.

We’ve been married for many years, and I guess this is a petty thing, but it bothers me more and more. At this point I almost feel like it’s a deal breaker.

What should I do?

– Desperate Housewife

Dear Desperate:

I disagree with your assessment of your husband’s behavior. In my view, he does exhibit signs of having a hoarding disorder. This is a persistent, compulsive, and distressing condition where people experience extreme anxiety when faced with the prospect of getting rid of anything – even when the item is broken, useless, or part of a huge collection. When combined with the compulsion to acquire more possessions, the pile grows and – yes – the walls start closing in.

Your husband needs professional help and mental health treatment. You need accurate and realistic advice about the impact of this on you and on your own physical and mental health.

Your husband may well refuse to seek treatment, and so you should seek to understand your role in the household and what things you might do differently to communicate your needs in a neutral and helpful way, versus what you are currently doing, which is heroically working overtime to hold back the rising tide.

The International OCD Foundation offers very helpful information for family members and others concerned about a loved-one’s hoarding. Check for strategies and support.

Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from a hoarding husband relationships to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

More from Boomer