His Mate Hoards Junk

Q: My girlfriend is really great except she's kind of a hoarder. She's really sweet to me and doesn't care if I go out with my buddies to the bar. But when I try to get her to go places with me, she's always got stuff to do around the house. But it never gets done! She says she's going to clear out her old clothes but then leaves them in piles on the bedroom floor. She swears she'll figure out what old furniture we can give away that's piled up in the garage, but then she always has a reason she can't get rid of something. And then she goes to yard sales and comes home with more almost every weekend! It's really embarrassing when people come to the house because it looks like 20 years of stuff has piled up. We only lived here for 4 years. How can I get her to clean up her act and go out sometimes? I'm starting to get really worried how this will turn out. --Warren, 37

Dr. Susan: You're right to be concerned over your girlfriend's hoarding. When storing up stuff, and not being able to get rid of clutter, get in the way of living, that's a problem. She won't go out with you, but only by herself to garage sales? It isn't likely to get better on its own. She needs help! Either from a counselor, an organization expert, a batch of books on decluttering, or from you, if you are up to it. We had friends whose house always looked like what you're describing. We liked them so we didn't judge, but it was hard to ignore the huge mess. In their case, it was both partners who were unable to make a serious dent in their stuff, so it didn't necessarily lead to relationship difficulties.

Face it, though. She isn't going to turn into a neatnik overnight (or ever). You can try making it a joint project, with you setting up boxes for her to sort things into (keep, donate, toss). You can try to get her to promise "no more garage sales" until the house is clean and mostly clutter free. She is probably trying to fill some deep hole in her psyche with all this stuff, and if so, this is not something you can simply talk her out of.

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