View Full Version : Question for those with OCD

12-07-15, 10:56 AM
I'm afraid my husband may have some OCD tendencies.
My question is:
how do you discuss this without being hurtful?
the problem I have is that he does not like to throw things away (in case they may be used) and also is very much an environmentalist (I am totally on board with this!)

But there are things to recycle and he would want to rinse them out etc (nothing icky - spice containers, cleaning products with a tiny bit left etc) but it's just entirely taking over the kitchen and it's really, really bothering me. I've asked him before and now I see it's bothering my son as well. We were making Xmas cookies yesterday and there is simply no room. I've done better with putting away the things I leave out etc that bother him; I just don't even know how to bring this up without hurting his feelings or sounding like I'm nagging! but if I go through it all myself sometime when he's not there, that 's disrespectful and he will freak out because I might have gotten rid of something he really wanted to keep (and sometimes he's right, I tend to just get rid of stuff).

thanks :)

12-07-15, 11:19 AM
I don't have OCD (to the best of my knowledge; I can be slow to throw things away, esp clothing)... but I've found the best way to bring something up to anyone is to keep the conversation to your own experience, and avoid making it wrong for him to do what he's doing.

ie..."this really bothers me"...."I find it difficult to work around".... and then request that you discuss a compromise that meets both of your needs.

If you really think about it, it's not necessarily 'wrong' that he does what he does (not judging; it would drive me nuts too.) Maybe you could open with "I'd really love if we could declutter these things before Christmas, as we're going to need a lot more space around here."

To be honest, I'd have very little fear that you would be hurtful in broaching the subject with him. From what I sense about you, it's not in your nature.
I would be more worried about whether or not you will get this important need met, out of pure kindness/ avoidance of hurting his feelings.

I like to practice the "beginning with the end in mind" technique on these kinds of issues. Initially spending a little time on your own, imagining what the kitchen might look like if it was more to your liking.... Imagining that the conversation already happened last week/month... and imagining the harmony between you all now that it's sorted.

I find such imaginings put me in a good mental place to create a more relaxed atmosphere before opening such subjects.
(As opposed to automatically imagining tension or conflict before the event, and thus beginning the discussion from a more fretful place.)

12-07-15, 12:02 PM
I realize I've made this sound worse than it is - small kitchens in Europe!
We have lots of cupboards but practically no counter space. this is the first time I've actually had a kitchen big enough to walk arouind the kitchen table.

12-07-15, 01:01 PM
I'd start with the problems that the hoarding and cluttering are causing you (nicely, but as Delphine said, I honestly can't imagine you being anything but nice). Maybe you can come up with a plan of areas where you are free to get rid of anything that makes your life more difficult (such as maybe the kitchen) and areas where he can decide on what will be kept.

I often go overboard as well with hoarding and cluttering (and hubby is exactly the opposite) and sometimes I also try like crazy rinsing out everything to get to the last bit. Maybe you could make a rule that any container that is almost empty can be thrown after a day or something like that.

12-07-15, 01:29 PM
thanks to both of you!
I would rather say something before I become "not nice" (it happens, believe me...)
the only areas I really care about are the kitchen and part of the living room. I am terribly messy myself.

12-07-15, 03:54 PM
As a person with OCD (though not ADHD, that's my DH & son) I find I take personally anything related to it, though I try as hard as I can not to. If you have plenty of cabinet space but not so much counter space, could you have a cabinet where he can keep things until he is ready to get rid of them? And once it's full it's time for him to take the time to put in the recycling whatever belongs there? Basically having a solution already in mind when you broach the subject, if he is open to that type of conversation. This is a tactic that works in our house pretty well. Usually :p

I suggest that because then your conversation could be similar to: I have a problem, it's hard for me to do X (make cookies, wash dishes, whatever) because Y (there isn't any space on the counter). Do you think we could put these things here until you have time to deal with them?

12-09-15, 11:04 AM
The way you describe his behaviour makes me wonder if it's more of a hoarding behaviour than OCD. The "he does not like to throw things away" part is what stood out for me in particular.

As far as advice goes, try to avoid attaching a diagnosis in your discussions with him, and instead focus on what solutions would be practical. It sounds like you already understand some of how he feels, and that empathy will go a long way.

Basically start the conversation with the impact the items are having, stressing your understanding of his feelings about them, then looking for a solution that works for both of you (e.g. working together to rinse out the containers once a day, giving you permission to deal with the containers while he's not there so he doesn't need to see the process)

If it is hoarding, it's a complex set of behaviours, so getting a third party involved to support the family might be helpful. Simply forcing him to get rid of the stuff might make the situation worse in the long run, not better.

Ultimately if he's holding onto the items anticipating a future use, than one deal you could make with him is that he can hang onto items that have an identified, planned and scheduled use. In other words, he can't just hang onto something that he "might" need in 6months, it has to be something he "WILL" need for the project he will be doing on Friday.

Another strategy is to see if an organization will accept the items as a "donation" so he can feel the items are being used, even if ultimately the organization simply recycles them.

There also reaches a point where the accumulation of items interferes with not only your quality of life, but also his ability to use the items. Not only this, but often the accumulation causes damage or infestation that renders the items unusable anyway. By limiting how much he keeps he can ensure that he can make use of what he does keep.

I know someone who hoarded items that she intended to give as gifts to friends and family. She had collected so many that many of the gifts were crushed and broken under the weight of others. When supporting her in reducing, she had forgotten who she had bought half of the items for, and there were some that had been in her apartment for 5+ years. She was also determined to "fix" the crushed items or find a use for them rather than dispose of items that were clearly beyond use or repair.

In short, sometimes the strength of a person's feelings and the process they adopt interferes with their ultimate goal. In my opinion, the best support you can give is to honour his reasons for "collecting" as best you can by working through his feelings and reconciling them with a logical and practical plan.

12-09-15, 07:07 PM
That sounds more like hoarding than OCD.

12-09-15, 07:18 PM
Hoarding has normally been considered a symptom of OCD. It recently became it's own disorder. It still appears to be related or intertwined.

Researchers have only recently begun to study hoarding,[5] and it was first defined as a mental disorder in the 5th edition of the DSM in 2013.[6] It was not clear whether compulsive hoarding is a separate, isolated disorder, or rather a symptom of another condition, such as OCD, but the current DSM lists hoarding disorder as both a mental disability and a possible symptom for OCD.[7][8] Prevalence rates have been estimated at 2-5% in adults,[9] though the condition typically manifests in childhood with symptoms worsening in advanced age, at which point collected items have grown excessive and family members who would otherwise help to maintain and control the levels of clutter either die or move away.[10] Hoarding appears to be more common in people with psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).[11] Other factors often associated with hoarding include alcohol dependence, paranoid schizotypal, and avoidance traits.[12]

12-10-15, 10:15 AM
It may have started out that way, but having worked with people with hoarding behaviours and people with OCD, they certainly seem to me to be different in how they develop and in how we support them.

In the end, though, regardless of the diagnosis, it's a situation which needs resolution. I hope you find one, Stef!

12-28-15, 07:49 AM
My mother-in-law has the same kind of tendency. I shouldn't even go as far as to say "hoarding" (like in those reality shows) but it is genuinely "not throwing something away because it might be useful". I see this more clearly as we spent some time at her apartment.

The OCD type thing has always been like that though; I think it's 2 seperate things but the not sorting through things is often due to just knowing that it's gonna take him a long time, and he would rather not spend time doing that.
Whew! thanks again everyone :)

06-09-16, 12:04 PM
My mother-in-law has the same kind of tendency. I shouldn't even go as far as to say "hoarding" (like in those reality shows) but it is genuinely "not throwing something away because it might be useful". I see this more clearly as we spent some time at her apartment.

The OCD type thing has always been like that though; I think it's 2 seperate things but the not sorting through things is often due to just knowing that it's gonna take him a long time, and he would rather not spend time doing that.
Whew! thanks again everyone :)

I have this tendency. What doesn't help is when the worry is realized. For years, I've kept all the paper inserts for prescriptions. I had over 15 years of them just taking up space. One day, I got really brave and threw them out. Next thing I know, I missed out on a reimbursement because I did not keep the papers.

My fiance helped me out by just throwing things away when I wasn't looking. Out of sight, out of least for me. Some people might think that is mean, but it really does help.

06-09-16, 01:37 PM
Ican do that with things that really can be discarded or recycled, ive done some bits on the weekends recently and it makes a huge difference.