Hsinchu man divorces obsessive hoarding wife

By Wang Chin-yi, Tsai Chang-sheng and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Fri, Dec 21, 2012 - Page 5

A man in Hsinchu City has been granted a divorce from his wife after her many years of compulsive hoarding filled their house with trash.

The husband, surnamed Tsai (蔡), told Hsinchu District Court that his wife repeatedly brought plastic bags, paper and cardboard boxes home, cluttering up the house.

He said the living room, bedroom and kitchen were strewn with heaps of old, dirty clothing, shoes and broken items, seriously affecting her family’s quality of life.

Tsai said that despite repeated requests, his wife refused to sort out the clutter, flying into a rage when he arranged for trash collectors to remove some of the material.

“This is my house. If you don’t like it, you can move out. It’s my way of living. If you want to live here, you can stay. If not, you can go live somewhere else,” Tsai quoted his wife as shouting.

Tsai said his wife’s sisters also lived in the house and would frequently malign him.

He eventually filed for divorce with the local court.

In her defense, Tsai’s wife said all the items in her home were useful, but because she was busy with work, she did not have the time to sort them. She said her husband was too fussy, allowing himself to get upset over small matters, but she did not want to divorce.

Tsai’s son also testified, saying: “Many things pile up at home, especially clothing. Mother always leaves old clothes lying around haphazardly. Sometimes, she will try to organize things, but her way of organizing is chaotic. The whole house is dirty and messy. I haven’t spoken to her about it, because it would have been a waste of time.”

In his ruling, the judge stated that as a result of the wife’s behavior over many years her family’s quality of life had sufffered.

The judge said that while both parties had tried to communicate about the issue, the wife’s repeated refusal to change her behavior had led to disagreements and conflict, with the wife telling the husband to move out.

This indicated both parties no longer had the mutual trust, affection and understanding needed for a marriage, the judge said.

Therefore, the judge granted the divorce.

National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) head of psychiatry Chen Shih-che (陳世哲) said some people like to scavenge and hoard, some going so far as never throwing anything out.

“From the viewpoint of ordinary daily living, these people have lost touch with reality. They suffer from what is called compulsive hoarding syndrome. Sufferers of this disorder do not see anything wrong with their behavior, and justify their actions with their own reasoning. They will not seek help from medical professionals. However, such behavior can often affect living conditions for other family members,” Chen said.

He urged families of sufferers to seek medical help for the person affected.

Psychiatrist Chan Jen-hui (詹仁輝) of NTUH’s Hsinchu branch said people with compulsive hoarding syndrome collect things that are frequently useless, obtaining a peculiar “state of satisfaction” through such behavior.

He said that some hoarding behavior can also occur in people suffering from chronic depression or other mental illnesses, so each case must be judged on an individual basis to determine if a person is suffering from compulsive hoarding syndrome.