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Client questions


Dear happy pea,

My wife and I are struggling with her newspaper collection. It’s taking over the house and garage and causing a great deal of stress and anxiety for both of us. I can’t understand why she doesn’t just let me get rid of all of them. She insists that she’s going to read them, but, there is no way that is ever going to happen. Should I just start throwing them out? I can’t imagine she’d notice.




Dear Oversubscribed,

No, you can’t just throw those newspapers out. They may seem like trash to you, but, they are your wife’s property and tossing them will feel to her like you have stolen and discarded something that is rightfully hers. Hoarding information sources is a common theme with people with hoarding disorder. You are not alone in this.

If you wife won’t consider treatment, the next best idea is to take a harm reduction approach akin to that used in addiction treatment. This is a practical treatment alternative that will allow you to work with your wife to ease your anxiety, as well as hers.

Principles of harm reduction include the fact that it is not necessary to stop all harmful behaviour, that no two situations are alike, that change is slow, and the “hoarding” family member is an essential part of the harm reduction team.

If you feel there is significant risk to you or your wife, and newspapers are a significant fire risk, then you can negotiate some harm reduction strategies. Each person is different, but, if you approach the problem with a motivated, respectful team of individuals, including your wife, you can effect some change over time. A professional organizer trained in working with hoarding disorder can be a great member of the team.

A wonder book on this approach is Digging Out; Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive Aquiring, by Michael A. Tompkins, Tamara L. Hartl, and Randy Frost.


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