Confessions of a Reformed Hoarder

A couple of years after I graduated from college, I bought a house.  I was the epitome of house poor.  I couldn’t even fill up all the rooms with basic furniture when I moved in.  My dining room remained empty for a good year because I couldn’t afford anything.  People would come into the house, and their footsteps would echo from the lack of furniture.

 

hoarderSoon after I got a new job, things started looking up for me.  The additional income allowed me to slowly start buying stuff, and I bought tons of it– stuff, that is.  Craigslist was my best friend, and I went wild.  My roommates and I hooked up multiple televisions so that we could watch sports while playing video games.  We had a kegerator, a pool table, a ping pong table and stereo equipment.  We were living the life as bachelors.

 

So Much Stuff

hoarderSlowly over time, my roommates would move out and some would leave stuff behind that they no longer wanted.  I had a variety of mismatched plates, glasses and way too many sets of tools.  I’m not saying that my house was a cluttered mess, but it was about ten years away from becoming a hoarder’s paradise.  Thankfully my need for roommates ended after I married my wife and so ended the residual junk accumulation from those roommates.

 

While I joke about it, this is actually a serious matter as 2-5% of the adult population are compulsive hoarders, and most of the time, this is evident even in childhood.  Those struggling with compulsive hoarding can be treated through Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  Just because someone has this tendency, does not mean they have to live that way.  

 

I think I had some childhood hoarding tendencies.  If my parents didn’t move houses when I was in college when I wasn’t able to salvage my stuff, I probably would have had a ton more junk to add to my roommates’ collections.  But I realize for others, it may be a much more deep-seated issue.

 

No More Hoarding

hoarderWhen I got married, my wife put an end to my hoarding.  My wife hates useless stuff.  After her mother passed away, she was responsible for sorting through her mother’s clothes and other items and then figuring out what to do with everything.  It took her a few years to finally complete that project.  It was definitely a stressful endeavor.  Needless to say, my wife has said countless times that she doesn’t want our kids to have to go through all that work.  Hence, her dislike of too much “stuff”.  

 

After my wife finished taking care of her mother’s things, her next project was to begin decluttering our home.  She started with my closets and quickly found where I had hidden my hoarding tendencies.  She would grab an item and say when was the last time that you used this?  If I didn’t answer quick enough because I was thinking, she would put it in the give away bag.  Needless to say, she has greatly reduced the amount of junk that I had accumulated over the years.

 

hoarderIn fact, this past weekend she participated in the community yard sale to get rid of stuff that we don’t need or use.  Her plan was anything that she didn’t sell, she would donate to the Salvation Army.  With that said, she made $150, which isn’t too shabby for the two hours of work that she put in

 

She tries to participate in our community’s sale twice a year.  Once in the spring and once in the fall.  This allows us to declutter a couple times a year which makes my wife’s heart swoon.  It’s only an added perk to get some additional cash in her pocket!

 

Thwarting Expensive Impulse Buys

hoardingIn order to decrease the amount of clutter in the house, my wife and I decided that it would be beneficial to discuss purchases over $100 with each other before we pull the trigger.  This forces us to have conversations about whether the stuff we want is actually a good idea versus a silly impulse.

 

We decided on the $100 figure because neither one of us really buys small nicknack type items.  Normally the items that we want are usually over the $100 figure, which is why we chose that number. 

 

I’ve read on other blogs that couples are provided a certain percentage of their budget to spend however they want to, and the other spouse has no say.  My wife and I discussed doing something along these lines as well, but since I know my tendency to buy junk that I will later regret, we decided against it.

 

Here’s looking at you, nicer tv in the basement that gets used once every other month.  I had these amazing plans that we would watch lots of movies and football down there.  It would be an awesome man cave for me.  But it’s so much more convenient to stay on the first floor to watch tv and not go down a flight of stairs.  And we tend to forget it’s even down there.  

 

hoarderSo, I asked her to start holding me accountable so that I wouldn’t frivolously spend money.  I think we would both agree that accountability is really important when it comes to finances.

 

For us, it has worked out really well.  I have been able to avoid impulse purchases that I would later regret.  My wife has also been able to also find the same things that she wanted on sale at a later date when she has had time to really think about it.

 

With that said, how do you keep your house decluttered?  Or are you at peace with the clutter?  Do you and your spouse have a purchase limit on items before you discuss?  Share your thoughts below.

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48 Comments

  1. I don’t necessarily buy a bunch of stuff and hoard things, but I do have some hoarding tendencies in that I don’t like to get rid of old things that have now become useless junk. Instead they find a spot in the closet and I forget about it. And by my standard, I think it has gotten bad. My wife, 2 yr old and I live in a pretty good sized house and somehow all the closets are full…it’s time for a cleanse. What time would it work for your wife to stop by to help out 🙂
    The Green Swan recently posted…Building Up CourageMy Profile

    • Hahhaha…we’ll swing by around noon tomorrow 🙂 My wife loves to organize so I’m sure she’s salivating at the thought of cleaning your closets!!! Thanks for sharing and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one.

  2. We have a quarterly scheduled trip to goodwill where we take all the excess. With young kids it doesn’t matter how we limit our expenditures as some relative is always giving the kids more toys. It feels nice to give back, and the tax deduction is not half bad either. We do have a similar limit of 100 dollars that we discuss if we do make a purchase.
    Full Time Finance recently posted…Should You Prepay Your Mortgage Instead Of Investing?My Profile

    • I can totally relate. We can tell relatives that my son has enough but whenever they stop by they always bring something with them. I’m not going to complain but it is funny how that works 🙂

  3. That’s great that you’ve worked out a system that keeps the clutter at bay.

    I moved a lot growing up, so for much of my life I depended on the periodic pre-move garage sale / Good Will diem to control clutter.

    Now that I’m married, with small kids, in a small home, the clutter is ridiculous. So I rely on my kidst and the small space as forcing functions to keep the clutter down. With so little space and so many baby items, every time something new comes in we have to find a place for it, typically by getting rid of something. We don’t have a strict one in-one out rule, but it works out that way at times.

    Definitely agree with your wife on not leaving too much stuff for your executor to deal with. When my grandparents passed, it took 4 months of my aunt being on site to sort through it all – inheritances, auction, donations, dump. It was a great opportunity for family to come together in morning and celebration of their lives, but it was a ton of work.
    Jack @ Enwealthen recently posted…Lending Club P2P Portfolio Update: Q3 2016My Profile

  4. Great read – Thank goodness your wife put the kabash on the hoarding – if not, you two would be knee deep by now! 🙂

    My step-moms mother got ill a few years ago. When she was finally put in the hospital my Dad and step mom took that opportunity to go in her house to assess the situation – it was dismal. The realtor they brought over said this once beautiful house in a wealthy Chicago suburb would have to be torn down as it was no longer habitable due to her years and years of hoarding. 3 dumpsters and 2 storage units later they put the house (land) on the market. Such a shame.

    I realize hoarding is an illness but, due to research, it is also predominately an American phenomena. We are so ingrained with consumption that buying is the only way to itch that scratch. In your case, your lifestyle inflation helped. More money = more things. I saw all my friends go through the same phase of pimping their pads out. Question – have you saved any momento from those days? My BF still has football helmets and a helmet phone from his college years…mind you, he has never played football in his life! I wonder how much I can get for those on ebay… 😉
    Miss Mazuma recently posted…It’s Payday!! Non Budgets & Allocations…See Where My Money Goes.My Profile

    • I’m so sorry to hear that the house fell into such disrepair. This so unfortunate to hear. Hopefully it’s an example to others if they see what choosing stuff will do.

      My wife basically got rid of everything except for my baseball card collection and my old Nintendo 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!!!

  5. My wife and I fight clutter by living in a one bedroom apartment…we don’t have much of a choice! When we were putting things on the registry before we got married we thought through what each thing would be replacing. If we couldn’t identify something that we would get rid of, we couldn’t put it on the registry. We’ve roughly stuck with that “one in one out” system since then.
    Matt @ Optimize Your Life recently posted…Why We Have Trouble Making a ChangeMy Profile

    • Since my wife moved into our home after we got married. She basically decided everything that I had must go and the wedding gifts replaced what I previously had whether I liked it or not. She has better taste than I do so I didn’t fight it too much 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Because hubby and I are in such a financial crisis ($600k of student loan debt) we talk about every single purchase we make– even going to the grocery store. It keeps us accountable/helps us make sure we aren’t spending money that we don’t need to. We both really like the idea of having “free money” in the budget like you described– being able to spend a certain amount each month no questions asked. We’re aspiring to that one day. Also, we are in the habit of selling our stuff around the house on ebay, amazon, and craigslist. If we haven’t used it in the last year or so, we list it! We’ve been really surprised by some of the stuff we’ve actually been able to sell.
    Amber from Red Two Green recently posted…Our Student Loan Debt StoryMy Profile

  7. None of us in the family are shopaholics, but I realised that since we’ve moved to our house from a small apartment, it got quite full pretty fast. I think our stuff are like gas, they always fill the space around them 🙂 Anyway I think it worth to have an overview on what you have in every other year and get rid of the things you don’t need anymore. I used to have a neighbour who was a real hoarder; I don’t wanna find myself in a same situation.
    Roadrunner recently posted…Rent or Buy? – Part 2 (Price to Rent Ratio)My Profile

    • That’s an awesome analogy “stuff are like gas, they always fill the space around them.” I’ll have to use that next time I’m talking to someone 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!!

  8. I have a similar understanding with my wife. If either one wants to buy something that would cost more than 100 bucks then we consult each other before buying. Though, we hardly ever buy anything that we don’t need, especially big ticket items.

    As for the house, we were in a similar situation as you and had empty rooms for a while. After 15 years we finally updated our living room furniture but that was after a long discussion as the old furniture was still usable, but looked very outdated.

    One area we do spend money is going out to concerts and plays. This week we went to Pet Shop Boys concert, few weeks earlier it was a David Bowie tribute concert and so on. So we still spend money on fun but not on unnecessary things.
    Mr. All Things Money recently posted…Do You Know What Success Looks Like?My Profile

    • I’m with you at this point in my life. I would much rather spend my money on experiences rather than stuff. Hopefully I can start to clutter up memories and continue declutter the amount of stuff that I have 🙂

  9. Admittedly, we aren’t the best at avoiding hoarding. I have all these free magazine subscriptions, for example, (courtesy of reddit freebies board) and for whatever reason, I always find myself hoarding these magazines, even though I never read them! Our household is working on trying to stop the hoarding. It’s not a messy house, but it is cluttered. We have alot of things all over the place.

    Also, we do a lot of dumpster diving, so our garage is a mess of furniture and stuff that I haven’t gotten around to selling yet…I’m not sure if that’s considered hoarding.
    Financial Panther recently posted…Do You Know How Much Your Debt Costs You Per Day?My Profile

    • Hahhaa…I have definitely been there with magazines. I use to get free subscriptions as well through Slickdeals back in the day. After awhile I started to throw them directly in the trash because I couldn’t even read the ones I already had.

      I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one to dumpster dive. Although my wife has a rule that if it’s not fixed or usable with a month that it goes back in the trash.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Miss RIP is sadly in the 2-5% of compulsive hoarders, and I have a couple of “problems” with books and boardgames.

    My solution is to allow ourselves to fill predefined spaces for our stuff. I have an Ikea Expedit bookshelf for books and one for boardgames. They’re obviously filled up till last bit of fake wood. For every new item coming in, one must be let go.

    It’s working nicely so far. Need to say that we live in a 55 square meters (590 square feet) apartment. I don’t know how to stop her in case we’d move to a bigger house 🙂
    Mr. RIP recently posted…Market timing and US electionMy Profile

    • I’m sorry to hear Miss RIP fits in that category. I actually had a friend that was so concerned about her hoarder issue that she forced herself to live in a small place in order to “control” her hoarding tendencies. Hopefully, things won’t get out of control for you two. Thanks for sharing!!!

  11. I’m with some of the others. Staying in a smaller house definitely helps. But we still have stuff accumulating. It’s amazing what can pile up even in a small house.

    And having junk all around just drains my energy. It’s kind of all sequestered to the basement of the house but I still feel its presence… Mocking me. My wife and I keep trying to do some things here and there, but I think we just need to buckle down one long weekend and do a thorough cleanse. These kinds of articles are a great reminder to just get it done. Can we borrow your wife? Thanks!
    Adam @ CrispyCabbage.com recently posted…Three Things to Fight Frugality FatigueMy Profile

    • Hahaha…my wife salivates at the chance to clean up 🙂 She clearly hates accumulating stuff, especially if it’s not being used. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!!!

  12. I think $100 is a good threshold. We tend to discuss anything over $50, but we never really set a threshold.

    Also I tend to every few months or even every year go on these spontaneous deep cleaning sessions where I typically end up getting rid of a TON of stuff. My desk in our office was the latest victim.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…5 Tips for New and Wannabe FreelancersMy Profile

    • That’s awesome that you are so focused. I hate cleaning and would like to do just about anything other than that. For me it’s out of sight, out of mind or worse. I forget that it’s there as I overlook it. Thanks for sharing your perspective!!!

  13. Our house seems so full of stuff that when I think about buying something, the thought of where I will store it quite often puts me off! I’ve just read the book by Marie Kondo which enabled be to throw out 29 tops in a single sitting and it felt awesome. I need to get through the other categories to slowly but surely get rid of some of the excess.

  14. It’s amazing the amount of stuff you can accumulate in a short period of time. We still have unused wedding gifts from 9 YEARS AGO. Our basement holds most of the clutter. We got rid of a good chunk of stuff last year, but we still have a ways to go. I have a bunch of DVDs that I mostly bought during college and just after. There are websites that will pay you for them and pay for you to ship the old DVDs to them, but they pay on average 10 cents a DVD. I’ll probably end up just donating all of them to the library. We both do a good job of giving old clothes away to goodwill. Neither one of us is a huge shopper but we always have old clothes to get rid of each year. We still have a ways to go to get rid of our unused stuff but it, but it always feels good when we knock out a small part of it!

    • Thanks for sharing your story. Isn’t it amazing how quickly things accumulate. My wife and I are like you in that we haven’t even used half of the stuff that we got from our wedding. We need to do another Fall cleaning, especially since we’ve acquired so much stuff since my son was born last year. Anyway thanks for stopping by!!!

  15. How about that show: Hoarders? That show will make you feel nauseated. My wife is more prone to hoarding and we constantly go around the house and pack up bags of stuff to give to goodwill. I have her watch that show to get her scared of becoming an actual hoarder and it has helped!
    PatientWealth recently posted…Distributing Wealth WiselyMy Profile

    • Oh man that show is AWFUL. It makes me more sad than anything to see how these people have let stuff ruin relationships.

      My wife is constantly giving away bags of stuff as well. Amazing how quickly things accumulate.

      Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. Neither of us are natural hoarders, so we don’t really have a clutter problem. We have related problems though. I have altogether way too many clothes. WAY TOO MANY. I don’t wear about half of them – that would be my best guess. I have really slowed down on buying new stuff since we started down the FIRE path, but I still haven’t got rid of all the stuff I do have.

    Our other problem is books. I love books. The problem is that unlike with most other stuff I really, really don’t like getting rid of books. The kindle is a god send for this problem. Though I still like the feel of physical books, the bulk of our book purchases are now on the kindle. We are determined not to have to purchase another bookcase.
    Mrs. BITA recently posted…A Frugal $10 WeekendMy Profile

    • Mrs. BITA I was definitely where you were with books. The best thing that ever happened to me too was the Kindle. Shortly afterwards I found out you could borrow books from the library with the Kindle and I stopped by books altogether since it was clearly cheaper to borrow and return 🙂

  17. Keeping clutter under control seems to be something most of us can relate to in some form. Like FTF above mentioned, we also schedule at least two trips a year to Goodwill/Salvation Army and donate bags of, I’m sorry to say, ‘crap.’ Sometimes seeing all the junk we buy on a yearly basis amazes me and like you it was time to get those impulse spends under control. Of course, one man’s trash can truly be another’s treasure and it does feel good to give away used toys, clothing, etc. Thanks for sharing your personal experience.
    DivHut recently posted…Recent Stock Purchase II October 2016My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing. It’s nice to know we aren’t the only ones that accumulate stuff in such a short period and have to donate multiple bags each year 🙂

  18. Stuff… We used to have too much, now we are done to a lot.

    A few years ago, my wife said the kitchen did not have enough cupboard space. I mentioned the theory that people always fill up all available space and then add some. Years went by… I came across stuffocation and we took action

    A lot of unused clothes were donated, we picked up a car full of items to a yard sale (and made some 75 EUR). We are now aware that we have too much stuff and want to declutter.

    We try to teach our duaghters as well. On her wish list, she has put yet more dolls. We told her she needs to get rid of some dolls before. Let’s see where this goes.

    • I dread the day that we move. Although we have done a really good job cleaning up things. I know there are things that are hiding that I don’t even think about. Thanks for sharing!!!

  19. At one point I was afraid to throw away any financial record at all because I had done so with receipts that I had needed to keep. Eventually the clutter gets to be so much that I can’t think, and then I do something about it. Maybe I’ll have better luck with an electronic system for filing things …
    John recently posted…How free apps get you (and what you can do about it)My Profile

    • I’ve been there before. I had shoe boxes filled with financial records. I finally took it to the shredder and haven’t given it another thought. Thanks for sharing!!!

  20. It gets extremely addictive to keep a clutter-free and organised home. I love it! When you sell things second-hand you truly realise how much the value is almost invisible. When we buy something from the store we are mostly just paying for the experience of buying something shiny and new – not the item itself, it’s so crazy to get your head around!

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most successful people seem to have tidy, organised homes with minimal clutter. A clear home is a clear mind 🙂

    Jasmin
    Dividends Down Under recently posted…The cost of investingMy Profile

    • Thanks for sharing Jasmin. I never thought about it but you are right tidy, organized homes with minimal clutter do seem to breed successful people. Thanks for sharing that tidbit it really makes sense!!!

  21. My wife and I joked when we moved into our new house that we should have a garage sale that very same day. It is amazing how much clutter a person accumulates over time. Doesn’t even seem like we buy that much! I think a lot of it is from the holidays and such.
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Faith in Human Decency Restored!My Profile

    • If my wife didn’t implement the one in one out policy when it came to acquiring things we would be consumed with stuff. Even with that said, my wife still participates in the spring and fall yard sales in our neighborhood 🙂

  22. I’m such a minimalist, that when my parents pass away, I don’t want to have to go through any of it because I’m afraid I might want to keep some things. My husband and I live in a ‘hotel room’, so we really have to pare down to the basics. When I started becoming a minimalist, I realized how much money I was effortlessly saving, so that is a big motivation. But really, I just like to be mobile. I dream one day of paring down to just a small backpack of stuff like some others have done. 🙂

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