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Kids Rooms

One thing my wife can never accept is the idea that when a room gets too messy, it's probably an indication that there is too much stuff in it.

Here is a shot of my daughter's room from 2003:

You can see that the shelves are filled up, and there is basically no room for her to play.

My first concern is that it is impossible to vacuum the room.  I do most of the vacuuming, dusting, etc.

My second concern here is that I wanted my daughter to be able to learn how to put away her toys, and that was impossible, because there was no "away."  I thought it was an important thing to teach.  My wife did not agree, and she felt when I brought up the messiness that I was attacking her, and that usually brought on a long discussion about how I don't help with anything around the house, etc.

My counter-argument is that school teachers have lots of toys, and they have 25-30 kids each, and at the end of the day all the toys are put away because they have a place to go.  So the teachers make sure to make it simple to put things away.  This brings up something I don't understand, and that is I'm not permitted to purchase shelves or any other storage solutions for the items.

Anyway, in 2003, I was still working to accommodate my wife's concerns, so I proposed  compromise, where I would box up some of the toys, move them to our shed, and "rotate" the toys she had in the room.  This would not violate my wife's rule, mainly that toys have to be kept in perpetuity (my daughter is 16, and we still have many of the toys).

I spent 2 or 3 hours on this, and here is what the room looked like at the end:


I took a few bins of toys out of the room:

She gets really mad when I do this, and says I am having a "psychotic break" and that I need to move out, and get an apartment, because I am so neurotic.

Ten years later, we are still having this fight over the garage, bedroom, etc.  

I've started getting more aggressive about getting old newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes out of the house.  I used to hide these things in plastic bags in the car, but my wife started searching the vehicle, so now I shove the magazines and old clothes down my pants before I leave the house, then I recycle them at work or donate them at good will.

My daughter has had the same problem when she tries to get rid of things.  She began giving me things to smuggle out of the house.

My wife says I am neurotic, but I don't think that the level of mess in the first picture is appropriate.  When you can't move around the room, it is time to clean up. I don't buy the line about my being neurotic, because when my wife has friends over, she will clean up the rooms to the state in the "after" picture shown above. This is a huge undertaking - she will often have to take one or two days off, and we will hire a housekeeper to work with her.  

A few days after the visit, she usually starts filling the dining table, counters, and other rooms back up with the old junk mail, newspapers, etc.  They become unusable, and if anyone moves the items, they are in for 15 or 20 minutes of verbal abuse.

I don't understand why our family doesn't get to enjoy our home in the condition that her friends see it in.

Western44 Western44 46-50, M 1 Response Jan 29, 2013

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Your post reminded me of my Grandmother, who was a hoarder (only of items), and my mother, who hoards everything. When I was younger (teenager), I asked my Grandmother why she wanted our family to bring our old clothes to Europe when we came for summer visits. And, the reason I asked this was because my mother had started hoarding things after my parents divorce. My Grandmother told me that during WWII, times were very lean and financially devastating. She told me that when the Germans entered Greece, the German Military started going door to door, demanding housing. Those that didn't comply we're dragged into the streets, and shot. When they came to my Grandmother's door, she welcomed them, and housed them for months. Housing them meant food for her family and protection (little did they know that the Russian side of my family was Jewish, and had fled Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution, converting to Christianity when they arrived in Greece). She also knew that when they left, her family would starve. So, she prepared for their departure by hiding rations. It saved their lives, but she always remembered the times when they were starving and cold right when the war kicked off. She also mentioned that when her family fled Russia during the Revolution to Greece, her father left my Great-Grandmother (going to Canada), and they were very poor and hungry all the time. Two very devastating events that I believe shaped her behavior. When my father divorced my mother, it was ugly. My mother literally, at first, just stopped doing things (probably from the devastation of the divorce), and a few years after that, started hoarding stuff (when things started to get financially tight). My mother is not very clean, while my Grandmother was super-clean (my mother told me later that my Grandmother worked her like a maid when she was young-I could see that because she made my older cousin clean constantly when we visited). There are so many things that happen to us as children that shape our behavior. And, a lot of times we don't realize that some of our coping mechanisms develop into negative behaviors and attitudes as adults. Unless family members are aware of certain events, it's hard to rationalize what's happening, why it's happening and how to fix it. And, it won't get fixed until the individual is willing to address the underlying issues and causes.

I suppose my point is that when I later found out about everything, I realized two very important correlations that started or lead to the hoarding: devastation (ie-war, divorce, abandonment) and loss (ie-food, material items, housing, the loss of security). For my mother, who fits the typical "hoarder" picture, it was dealing with the loss of my father emotionally, so she left everything as it was when he left. Then, after a time of neglect and depression, when she realized things weren't going to go back to the way they were, she filled that emotional void with stuff-inanimate objects that can't leave, that will always be there, that won't disappoint her. Her behavior alienated people, but in her mind, people are unreliable, unpredictable and complicated. She refused to deal with it-we got into many a heated argument over her hoarding and neglect of the home. And, I ended up stepping up to the plate as a teenager and cleaning all the time, organizing and caring for my younger sister (which caused a lot of resentment towards her on my part). But, after almost 33 years, she has started to understand and comprehend what has been happening. She admits that the reason why she denied anything was wrong, or made excuses for the state of her home was because she was in denial and severely depressed. That specific things that happened to her as a child (physical abuse by a nanny, her being worked constantly by my Grandmother, my Grandfather's indiscretions, which were open indiscretions, that would lead to fighting and turmoil, and my Grandmother saying things like "If he leaves us, we'll have nothing, we'll starve like we did during the war, we'll be on the streets") contributed to her hoarding and depression when she got hit with my father's cheating, and eventual divorce. My father and mother ended up getting back together after 10 years (I had left by then), and things got better with her, but only after 20+ more years, and after she admitted to me certain things. I explained to my Mother that had she gone to a counselour 30 years ago, our lives and relationship over the years would have been very different.