30 Good Ideas in 30 Days -- Helping a hoarder

December 23, 2013
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Dear Andrew,

How do you deal with a hoarder mentality?

I'm a neatnik, and my boyfriend is a anything but. He definitely has hoarder tendencies. From time to time, he'll ask me to help him bring some order to his home, but it never lasts long, and there are certain hard lines he draws that I just don't comprehend. For example, he has 50 pairs of the exact same tennis shoe, 1 that he wears, and 49 of which are worn out and dirty, but he refuses to part with.

Any thoughts or direction?

Rachel D.

Dear Rachel,

Thank you for writing!

You've got two challenges in what you describe -- one is your bf's tendency to hold onto things and two is that you're in an intimate relationship with the person you're trying to help.

In my experience, it's very difficult to make lasting changes when helping someone we are involved with -- whether that's family or partners/spouses. In your case, it's compounded by your bf's tendencies. There's just too much riding on each action and too much history so no action is absent someone's agenda or story.

I suggest YOU suggest outside support in the form of a very skilled organizer who can remain neutral and supportive AND clear and effective. This will get you out of the hot seat and relieve some of your frustration when things fall back apart.

If you're objectively describing the shoe situation accurately, he needs a kind of support you can't give him. His reason(s) for keeping old sneakers isn't rational in the way that you or I might view rational. But clearly, it makes sense to him, either emotionally or intellectually or both.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!


Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!