Cohabiting couple struggle to open their ‘baggage’

Dear Amy: I am a middle aged man. My fiancee recently moved in with me.

Hoarding has been a problem in my family for generations. Long before Marie Kondo and hoarding intervention came on TV, I was in therapy and dealing with it successfully.

I’ve disposed of a lot of my ancestors’ trash to make room in my inherited house.

My wealth gives me happiness.

I am a design professional with lots of experience working with clients on their homes.

I understand that hoarding is an obsessive compulsive disorder, but I see compulsive clutter as a bigger problem as well. I’ve been inside houses that were nearly empty because of this.

While visiting a friend of mine who was downsizing, I realized how worrying stuff, boxes, and clutter made my fiancee. We had to end the trip early because she was so worried!

When she is stressed, she “purges” items and sometimes buys others, only to return or donate them. Some things I cherish have “disappeared”.

I make space for her in my house (by removing my stuff) and she leaves the space empty, but then complains that there is no room for her stuff.

We don’t have any photos or artwork on our bedroom walls because the visual dissonance makes her anxious and upset.

If something is not being used now (even if it may be needed or useful later), it goes out.

She donated an occasionally used old kitchen appliance and later that same day bought another one.

I’m not sure how to help her (or keep my stuff), as she says I need help with “hoarding”.

Please raise awareness about Compulsive Disorder.

How do I defend decisions on being branded a “hoarder” for useful/necessary/cherished items?

– R

Dear R: Several years ago, I sarcastically suggested that clutter expert Marie Kondo had a compulsive disorder (she sends a lot to the landfill!). And then earlier this year, Ms. Kondo announced that the pursuit of neat perfection had taken up too much space in her own life, and she was now rearranging her priorities in search of greater balance.

Compulsive clutter is similar to hoarding, in that excessive worry and compulsions drive the desire to obsessively put away “stuff”. People who suffer from this will get rid of things they will need later, then replace that item and then put it away as well. So yes, according to your description, your fiancee may be suffering from a version of it.

But she has moved into “your” house. Like every cohabiting couple, you’ll need to negotiate the issue of combining your assets and arriving at a lifestyle that both of you can manage.

It is important that he feels comfortable and at peace in his home.

Because the two of you have such opposing styles—and are quick to label each other as having a serious disorder—it will be important to sit down with a couples therapist to sort out, rearrange, and sort out the considerable baggage that you bring up. Can help you to do and open. In this relationship


Dear Amy: I must admit that I am often impressed with how you handle questions related to addiction, and I wonder how you gained this insight.

I hope this doesn’t get too personal, but I’m curious.

– curious

Dear Inquisitor: Addiction is an issue that I have studied extensively. Fortunately, I don’t have personal experience with addiction, but relationship problems resulting from addiction are devastating, and important to understand.

More from Ask Amy:

Ask Amy: Woman In Relationship With Young Man Thinks ‘She Needs A Boyfriend Or A Mother’

Ask Amy: My Siblings and I Are Happy to Help My Elderly Mother, Yet She Says She Feels Like a Burden

Ask Amy: My DNA Test Gave Up a Disturbing Result

Ask Amy: Ex-boyfriend’s persistence is troublesome

Ask Amy: Cancer survivor struggling with new identity


(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter.) @askingamy or Facebook.)

© 2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Leave a Comment