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Thursday, August 28, 2014

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Downsizing a hoarder

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Dear Ella,

My wife and I have lived in our large home for almost 40 years. We’ve raised three children and have seven grandchildren. My wife has kept just about every memento, from baby teeth to artwork to report cards. Our bedrooms, garage, den and basement are packed with memories. We’re getting older, and climbing up and down our stairs is difficult. We need to move, but she won’t hear of it. How am I going to convince her?

Married to a Hoarder

 

Dear Married to a Hoarder

Compacting, discarding and choosing through a lifetime of memories may just seem too insurmountable to your wife. Where do you start? What’s important? Every item has a memory or a story attached. Just the thought of what lies ahead to get to your goal is daunting. But if you really want to get this done you can – together. Do a little research first so when you present the idea to your wife, you’ll have the solutions to all her objections.

If you look at the whole picture, it will be too overwhelming – almost impossible. So don’t take that approach.

First, talk about the safety issue. If you want any kind of control of your future, you’re better off doing this while it’s still physically possible and before there’s an accident, like a fall, which will force a lifestyle change.

Take one room, one closet and one drawer at a time. Separate your piles into items to distribute, donations, garbage and keepers. Take a photo of that Grade 2 report card or the finger painting, and store many of the memories on a computer. One of your grandkids can help with that. Make it fun – offer them an incentive to help. They’ll feel good about it and you’ll enjoy spending extra time together.

There are professional companies that can help. You’re not alone with this daunting task, but first you both have to admit you want to move.

Second, you have to be realistic about the work ahead, and third, ask or pay for help. Write down your plan and make sure each step can be executed. Create a rule, such as if you haven’t seen, used or touch something in a year, out it goes! Give yourselves a daily quota and stick to it. It took a lifetime to accumulate all of your stuff, and it will take time to downsize, but you’ll get through this if you keep your eye on the prize: moving to a newer, more manageable lifestyle.


Dear Ella,

One friend fails to tell me about singles parties and another “good “ friend fails to do me favours when I ask. Both gals are eager to contact me, though, to listen to their problems. I’ve always been a good ear and consider myself a good friend, but I’m disappointed in them and feel resentful. I’m considering cutting them both loose, as I just want  sincere friendship with people who have my back and look out for me.

Disappointed

 

Dear Disappointed

Loyalty and friendship go hand in hand. If a friendship is one-sided, it isn’t really a friendship. You have come across two gals with whom you have that kind of relationship.

First, look at yourself objectively. Are your “favours” realistic or are they a burden? Are your expectations of what you consider friendship too high? The way it stands now, you don’t feel the friendship scale is balanced, and if these two people are in fact close, you should be able to have that discussion. It’s not easy, but it may be a good investment in the health of your relationship with them.

Ultimately, this is your decision. If you feel you want to invest the time and emotional energy to fix things, then go for it. Right now, you feel resentful, so there’s no option of leaving the situation the way it is.

Some people are just more emotionally draining than others. They don’t mean to be, nor do they realize they behave that way. Some even try to listen to your problems, but really are only biding their time till they can jump in and turn the attention back to themselves. It doesn’t make them bad people, maybe just a bit needy.

I understand you’re getting frustrated and probably feel a little used. Don’t give up too quickly. Good friends are precious and are worth the effort.

Be prepared, though: you may be surprised to hear something about yourself you were not aware of either.

 

Readers may submit their questions to Ella at The CJN, email: ellacjn@gmail.com. Ella is not a professional counsellor. Her advice is not a replacement for medical, legal or any other advice. For serious problems, consult a professional.

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