Inside A Hoarder’s Marriage

… I have to disagree with some of the conclusions drawn in this article: Inside A Hoarder’s Brain. I base my conclusions on a long-term marriage to a  horder. [Ed.- please don’t ever refer to him a such. He gets cranky about it.]  You’ll never see a photo of my shameful garage or basement, his two assigned areas of daily operation.

“As odd as it may seem given that many hoarders’ homes are piled with junk and garbage, the disorder is associated with perfectionism, tied to a fear of making the wrong decision.”

Perfectionism? Well, he did chose a career that depends on precision measurements, but he has yet to shut a cupboard door after getting a dish or cup, close the backyard gate behind him or turn out a light when he leaves a room.  Also, there’s been plenty of wrong decisions made around here, both together and separately. Pul-lenty.

Without disputing that article point by point, let me tell you that I have concluded that Sami’s accumulation and retention of things are a direct result of the conditions of his childhood. I wasn’t hard to do. The things he puts prime value on are commodities that were absent or scarce in mid-last century Cairo: paper, plastic bags, batteries, light bulbs, butter, any mechanical thing that has parts to be harvested and most important of all – wood in any shape or form. Here’s a tip: if you should contract a terminal disease and want to take yourself out but can’t bring yourself to pull a trigger, try throwing out his bundle of baseboard molding scraps. He’ll kill ya.

Intellectually he gets that he will always be able to go out and buy batteries or a six-pack of legal pads but the ingrained memories of commodity shortage or absence is insurmountable. You see the same thing with senior citizens who went through the Depression. My mother had a collection of twist-ties and bread bag clips and made a habit of washing out plastic bags and saving them for reuse. Here’s two examples from my experience to show what I mean about reverence for paper:

  • When we visited his family in Cairo on our honeymoon, everyone made a big fuss for us and went to great lengths to make things special. One night the table setting included red paper napkins at each place. When the meal was over, I wiped my mouth, rolled the red paper into a ball and put it on top of the leftover food on my plate. Everyone – everyone!- at the table gasped out loud and those nearest me rose up from their chairs and leaned in my direction in hopes they could prevent the napkin from hitting the plate. Then silence. That was a lesson for me.
  • That same family came to visit us in New Jersey a few years later. It was summertime and in order to save dish washing, I had paper plates to use for sandwiches and snacks. One day, I came home from work early and found those paper plates lined up on the counter, freshly wiped with a damp cloth and set out to dry. They could not throw the revered paper away. Another lesson.

Well, hang onto your hats. Sami has started to clean out the garage. He’s been at it for two sessions and the only things thrown out so far are filthy rags, balled up supermarket bags and McDonald’s take-out bags full of damp napkins. But it’s a start. He went in there thinking that he could keep everything and just organize it, which of course, NOT. It’s a two-car garage that was last used for it’s intended purpose in 2000.

This is a random image I found on the internet. Note the bent antenna. It was a common affliction.

How do I know? Because the last car I parked in there – and the other parking bay was already filled with junk at that time – was our first Honda Cr-V (1998). It had an antenna positioned on the roof and you adjusted it by hand. Going into the garage was no problem if you forgot to reach up and push the antenna down, but when you backed out the thing snagged on the overhead garage door and bent or broke off. After Sami replaced it twice, I started parking in the driveway to avoid the accompanying lecture. We got the next car in 2001 and even though they wised up and put the antenna in on the hood, it was too late to get it into the garage. The parking space was occupied by junk.

Well, I’m planning on getting a new car by the end of this a year. An orange one. And by dammit I am going to park it in the garage even if a few nerves have to be shattered during the clean-out process. I want to relive the happy times when I could leave my purse in the car inside the garage, when I could get into a car that was neither too hot nor too cold, when the car was clean and dry inside when it was snowing outside. Is that asking too much?


7 thoughts on “Inside A Hoarder’s Marriage

  1. I’ve had some experience with a hoarder. It takes one with iron determination to succeed in cleaning their nest. Usually, they don’t have this determination and some help is required.

  2. Good luck on your garage quest.
    I, too, was tied to a small-time hoarder of weird things.
    Tip: every so often when no one is looking, put something in your car from the garage and place it in the nearest dumpster.

  3. Srdem 65 hit on one of my solutions. The other suggestion is park in the garage spot and let him park outside. Or slowly migrate the junk to his side of the garage.
    My daughter has a Santa Fe and it is great! Just the perfect size. She lives where no car escapes collisions with large wild animals and in 2 different collisions with deer the Santa Fe survived with amazingly little damage compared to a sedan.

  4. Fill the garbage can before the garbage truck arrives — then it cannot be taken out of the can and returned to the house. Most of the time the hoarder will not even notice that his TREASURES were thrown away!

  5. I must wholeheartedly object. In this disposable society, keeping stuff that occasionally finds a second use is a good thing. I was raised where jars were washed out and used to store stuff, electrical cords were cut off broken appliances before they were discarded and used to repair other appliances, etc.

    Of course, back in the day things were made to last and then be repaired. That’s why we still have my mother’s Osterizer to make margaritas in, e.g. The base is solid steel with thick white enamel and switches made out of bakelite. The glass is at least 3/8″ thick and the top is also bakelite. I have replaced the electrical cord twice, with salvaged cords from a toaster oven.

    Our garage compromise is that my wife’s side is always free for use by her car. My side is what it is, according to my needs. Right now it is full of guitar construction machinery.


  6. We’re the only people in our entire zip code who actually have our cars parked inside our garage. I’m the opposite of a hoarder. Hub’s sort of hoard-y. Finally got him to give up on a funky sofa he kept in the basement. When the Salvation Army won’t take something, it’s a clue.

  7. My dad would remove small amounts each garbage night. He’d also have the charity pick-up trucks come on his day off while everyone else was at school or work. Always a little at a time. Occasionally something treasured and meaningful would be tossed out, but for the most part, this tactic worked wonders.

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