Dear Barb

Dear Barb:

Hi, I have been dating my girlfriend for three months and we really get along great. Recently Dawn invited me to her apartment and I was shocked as her place was a complete mess! I could hardly find a place to sit down. I wasn’t prepared for this because she has always been well groomed and very attractive. Surprisingly, she did not seem embarrassed or attempt to make excuses for her messy apartment. I’ve seen a few of those shows about hoarders and I’m wondering if Dawn may be a hoarder. I know I could never live in this kind of disarray. I want to discuss it but I don’t know how to bring it up without offending her. Do you have any suggestions as to what would be the best approach to take?


Hi James:

Without a doubt, this is a tough situation. I think you realize that you are going to have to use a lot of diplomacy with this matter. Perhaps you could begin by discussing the subject of housekeeping and see how she reacts. You could casually say that you usually clean your apartment on Saturdays or whatever. This would get the topic underway. I guess from there you will have to see how she responds. She may make an excuse for her messy apartment, or she may say nothing. If she says nothing you could surmise that she is comfortable with the level of clutter/mess. You say that you can’t live in this type of environment, therefore it’s unlikely that Dawn is the girl for you. Moreover, if she is content in these surroundings, you may not be able to change her, and attempting to will most likely become a point of contention between you and lead to additional stress. Hoarding can be a symptom of something deeper going on within a person. Here is an online description of hoarding from the Mayo Clinic.

Ultimately, if Dawn is willing to go for counseling to discover the possibility of an underlying cause that may be contributing to this hoarding behavior, and if she is willing work through it, there may be hope for this relationship. Before you make a final decision share your concerns with Dawn and decide together what you want to do. Hope this helps.

Thanks for your question James.

Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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