Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I am in dire trouble and I don’t know what to do. One thing I am sure of is that I need help. The problem I’m referring to is not a new one, it has been in evidence since I got married and has only grown worse over the years. However, now, due to the coronavirus, it has mushroomed completely out of control.

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I have been married to my wife, whom I care about deeply, for over thirty years. When we first got married, I noticed that my wife never liked to throw things away. She would keep magazines, old newspapers, catalogs and sales circulars which piled up everywhere. When asked if I could help discard some of them, she would get quite upset. Being very creative, she piled them up on the floor between the couches and covered it with a tablecloth to make these piles into end tables. Whenever there was a sale on anything, she bought in quantity and managed to fill our garage to the rafters with paper-goods, cleaning products, housewares and the list goes on and on. It got so bad that my children were ashamed to invite friends over because there was stuff overflowing everywhere.

When the pandemic hit, she was euphoric. She stocked up on food-stuffs, canned goods and anything and everything she could get her hands on, sweeping things off shelves in the stores, just as soon as she heard that there might be a shortage. When the lock down was instituted, we barely had room to move. There were boxes and bags, cans and bottles everywhere you put your foot down and we felt like we were living in a supermarket, not a home. My sons had toilet paper stuffed under their beds and all sorts of drug goods and personal products competed for space in their closet and dresser drawers. My daughters had gallons of cooking oil, sugar, flour and dehydrated milk everywhere in there rooms. Our living room, dining room, bathrooms and attic are overflowing with enough product to carry us through till 2022.

No matter what we say to her or how much we beg her to stop, she continues to stockpile in the event there’s a famine or food shortage. “Then you will thank me for all of this, when everyone else in scrounging around for food or personal items that have been sold out – we will have enough to get us through,” is what she explains herself with. If ever there is a shortage, it would be because she cornered the market and cleaned out every item off the shelves!

Mrs. Bluth, we cannot go on living like this anymore and there’s no reasoning with her or having her see that she has gone off the deep end with this. Please tell me how to reach her so she can see that something’s gone terribly wrong in her thinking and to stop using this doomsday theory as an excuse for this madness.

 

 

Dear Friend,

Her madness does indeed have a name, it’s called ‘hording syndrome’ and I’ve seen this in a number of Holocaust survivors and people who have experienced trauma that had to do with loss of assets or extreme food deprivation. Your wife most definitely needs help and sooner rather than later, or you will be buried alive under all her ‘essential’ non-essential items.

Hording syndrome is a very real condition that stems from the fear of losing or being left without the necessities of life or losing the ability to live comfortably. Elderly Holocaust survivors and people who have lived through wars, lost everything and became displaced, experienced severe hunger and the loss of family and things dear to them often may suffer from this. Since you didn’t provide me with your wife’s background and I have no clue what manifested this affect in her, All I can offer you is the understanding of what appears to be the driving force behind her compulsive need to amass and stockpile anything and everything in her domain. She needs help. The pandemic only added to this deep-rooted fear and supports her dysfunction.

Make an appointment to a therapist specializing in trauma and get her started in therapy so she can first begin to see that she has a problem that is impeding on the well-being of the entire family. With expert care and supervision, in due time, she will slowly be able to feel secure enough to allow you to help her give off some of the things she will understand to be unimportant and, little by little, the clutter will lessen, there will be more room in every room and she will be able to make good and healthy choices motivated by logic and not fear.

I might also point out that all that stuff posses a fire hazard on top of being unmanageable and unsightly. Explain to her that it posses a very real danger to the family to be living in those conditions, were there, chas ve’shalom, a need to make a fast escape. I think once she is under care and understands the danger to herself and her family, love will take over and healing will transcend the need for hording.

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