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Partner of a hoarder; what can you do about it?

Living with a hoarder partner can be a complex challenge that significantly affects your relationship and home environment. Hoarding, or hoarding disorder, is a psychiatric disorder in which collecting and storing items, regardless of their actual value, leads to cluttered living spaces and reduced quality of life. In this comprehensive article, we explore the dynamics of living with a hoarder, provide insight into the progression of hoarding disorder, and discuss possible approaches to supporting your partner and yourself.

What is hoarding?

Hoarding or hoarding disorder is characterized by a persistent difficulty parting with possessions, causing an accumulation of items that renders living spaces unusable. This behavior is often accompanied by significant distress or problems in functioning. Someone with a compulsion to collect finds it very difficult to get rid of things. Unfortunately, such an obsessive disorder can ultimately lead to problematic situations.

Course of a hoarding disorder

Hoarding disorder often develops slowly and can worsen over time. The onset is usually subtle, but as time goes on, the urge to collect and keep things can escalate, leading to serious hoarding and, in some cases, house filth. Problematic collectors suffer from compulsive hoarding and even if there is too much stuff in the house, getting rid of stuff simply remains very difficult for these people.

Living with a hoarder

Living with a hoarder partner presents unique challenges. The house can become overcrowded with piles of old newspapers, empty shampoo bottles, or random bargains, making everyday life difficult. The situation can create tension within the relationship, especially if attempts to organize or throw away items are met with resistance. It may be an option to engage a practitioner. Consider, for example, a care provider from the GGD. This can not only help with getting rid of things, but can also help treat mental problems.

What can you do?

As a partner of a hoarder, it is important to offer support without judgment. Showing understanding for the condition and seeking professional help together can be the first step towards improvement. Organizations such as Altrecht, AMC, and GGZ offer specialized help for obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Can you help your partner?

Yes, you can help your partner, but it requires patience, understanding, and sometimes professional intervention. Using a professional organizer or seeking cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective. These approaches help address the underlying anxiety disorders and develop strategies to manage the tendency to collect.

Creating balance together

Living with a hoarder is not just about tackling the physical clutter, but also about navigating the complex emotional and psychological aspects that come with the disorder. It's crucial to find a balance between offering support and monitoring your own mental health. With the right help and approach, it is possible to find a way together to a healthier and more harmonious life.

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Help Center

How can I best deal with my partner's collecting mania?

Understanding and patience are essential. Try to broach the subject gently and express your concern from a place of love and support. Encourage your partner to seek professional help together without pressuring them.

Is it possible to help my partner get rid of his hoarding disorder myself?

While your support is essential, professional help is often necessary to effectively deal with hoarding disorder. This can vary from therapy to hiring a professional organizer.

What should I do if my partner's collecting mania makes our house unliveable? 

It is important to ensure safety and health in your home. Discuss together calling in professional help, such as a therapist or a specialized cleaning service, to make the situation safe and manageable.

How do I discuss my concerns about hoarding with my partner without hurting his or her feelings?

Choose a quiet moment to share your concerns, use “I” messages to express your feelings, and emphasize that you want to work together as a team to find a solution. Let your partner know that you are there for them and acknowledge their struggles.

Can hoarding be hereditary?

Yes, research suggests that hoarding behavior may in some cases be influenced by genetic factors, in addition to environmental factors and personal experiences.

What professional help is available for hoarders?

Various forms of help are available, including cognitive behavioral therapy, help from a professional organizer, and programs offered by mental health institutions that specialize in collecting disorders.

How do I maintain my own mental health while living with a hoarder partner?

Take care of your own well-being by also creating time and space for yourself. If necessary, seek support from a therapist or join a support group for partners of people with hoarding disorder.

What are the first steps we can take to tackle the hoarding problem?

Recognizing the problem is the first step. Afterwards, it is important to seek professional help together that suits your partner's needs. This may involve a conversation with a general practitioner who will refer you to specialized help.

How can I encourage my partner to accept help?

Focus on the benefits of seeking help, such as improved quality of life and reduced stress. Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Are there effective strategies for living with a hoarder?

Yes, setting clear boundaries, creating agreed-upon 'hoard-free zones' in the home, and scheduling regular check-ins to discuss progress together can help. However, seeking professional help remains an important step for long-term improvement.