Dear Annie: My husband loves to read your advice, but when it comes to my giving him advice, it's a different story. We were married in our early 20s and have somehow stayed married for over 35 years. We don't have very good communication skills.
We have a very cute house on a popular street. A lot of people comment on how nicely it's decorated from the outside. Little do they know that my husband is a hoarder.
I have controlled the main rooms in our house, but he has slowly taken over our basement and garage. The stress of all this stuff is starting to make me feel ill. When I bring it up, he just puts me down any way he can think of to stop the conversation about his hoarding. I definitely have accumulated "stuff" -- we've lived in our house for over 30 years -- but I don't have a problem getting rid of things.
He is a motivated person with other things but has self-medicated every day of our marriage. He has a normal job but is always so stressed out. He has zero motivation to get rid of all the junk because now it's out of control, and he continues to add to the piles. He spends countless hours in the basement, but nothing ever looks any different.
He has a very controlling personality and temper, so if you get rid of anything (for example, a huge garbage bag full of napkins or empty boxes he collects so he can fill them up with "stuff"), he starts slamming doors, yelling and throwing things. He shows more emotion about getting rid of that junk than he does about most anything else.
This is causing me to be depressed, angry and desperate. He would never get help for this, so what do I do? -- Bogged Down
Dear Bogged Down: Living with clutter can be very unhealthy, both mentally and physically. But understanding the psychology of hoarders might help you find some renewed patience with your husband and sanity for yourself. Hoarding is a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a condition your husband could no more control than any physical disorder. Accept that it's not only beyond your control but also beyond his and you'll feel surprisingly lighter.
Next, reach out to a mental health professional. If your husband refuses to go at first, then go on your own, as this disorder is impacting your life too (and poses a safety risk). For more resources, visit the International OCD Foundation's page on hoarding disorder at https://hoarding.iocdf.org.
Finally, you mentioned that your husband "self-medicates" every day. Assuming that means drinking, I strongly advise you to attend Al-Anon. Find a group in your area at http://www.al-anon.org.
Dear Annie: As is the case in many towns, there is a group of senior citizens who meet most days for coffee and a couple of hours of conversation at the local McDonald's. They are fortunate to have a place to meet. Most do not buy anything except for coffee. There are times when they bring in cookies, cake and other baked goods to share with everyone. Because McDonald's sells food, some of us don't feel this is appropriate. Most of them see nothing wrong with this. What are your thoughts? -- Another Senior Citizen
Dear Another Senior: I think that it's rude to bring in outside food to a dining establishment. But perhaps these folks are part of a community group and have an agreement worked out with the restaurant. As long as they're not being raucous and you're not the McDonald's general manager, why worry so much about it?
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