Dating & Marriage

My wife has a hoarding habit

My wife has a habit of shopping and accumulating things. Our home has become so cluttered that when guests come, they have nowhere to sit because there are things everywhere and I must physically shift items to make space. I am too embarrassed to invite family or friends over. I have spoken to her many times to change her habit of online shopping and buying things even though the items she buys are educational such as books or good toys for my young children. We are financially very comfortable so there is nothing to curb her shopping habit. We have given some items away but she then acquires other things and we are back to square one. Is a hoarding habit something serious or is it just a personality thing? I do not want to pick a fight with her because she is overall a good mother and wife and God-fearing.

Too much stuff

At The Well

Benny says

Dear Too much stuff,

The accumulation of things in excess is something associated with our modern times. In the past, people were living with meagre resources and there was less acquiring of things that were of little practical value. With increased means, many of us have gone beyond just getting what we need but what we want, desire or feel that we must possess.

The hoarder not only acquires and collects multiple sets of the same item but has difficulty getting rid of them. The amassed items begin to get the better of its owner and spill over and occupy one’s home and life. In extreme cases, when common spaces like sleeping and dining areas are filled, sometimes from floor to ceiling, it is deemed as a mental disorder. The hoarder loses control of their behaviour, cannot deal with this oppression rationally and argues with those around them over this issue. To deal with this problem, you and others can consider the following:

 

  1. Talk with your wife and get her to agree to regularly clear out items. It may begin with removing a bag or two once a week and then every other day. Work with her on this as it may be difficult for her to let go. If the items were bought for the children, get them to help decide which is no longer needed and therefore to be given away or discarded. Do not be discouraged if your efforts are met with some resistance. Some clients have been seen retrieving items at the rubbish bin after throwing them away. But keep at it.
  2. Identify undiagnosed anxieties and address these directly. In one case, an elderly widowed woman was concerned about her dwindling financial savings and in another it was her loss of social contact and loneliness.
  3. In helping your wife with this issue, do not make it your sole preoccupation or point of contact with her. Involve her in other pursuits such as care of others (such as grandparents, nephews or nieces), attending fellowship groups, doing voluntary work, etc. Meaningful engagements in these new activities may then compete for the precious time and energy in her life.
  4. Last but not least, pray. Ask God to free her from this obsession and its related anxieties. Pray for love and patience to see her through this phase.
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