I have a compulsive disorder...think Jack Nichols in "As Good As it Gets." Yep, don't step on cracks, wash the hands a gazillion times, get anal about the order of items in a closet or the way the knives face in their drawer. My sister even told one of our brothers-in-law, himself a compulsive, that my kitchen drawers were so incredibly organized. I like lots of empty spaces, too. OK, I know I'm a little odd.
My darling groom suffers from compulsive hoarding. I can't figure out how he got that way. His step dad who raised him was so orderly, but his mother was not. His family is pretty well off and seemed to fare alright during the Great Depression, so that's not the cause. He seems to have some sort of deeply rooted fear of deprivation. He's a "just in case" hoarder and he absolutely cannot stand to see an empty space.
Frankly, I've given up trying to deal with his issues while fighting to maintain order in the house. Want chaotic kids, give them a chaotic home, I always said; but, no one listened. I'm outnumbered and overwhelmed in my own home.
How I deal with things is to toss "stuff" out whenever I can and while he's away; and, it's not just his, also mine. It's a neverending struggle to keep things under control. I know that I've become a collector of stuff, too, I think out of reaction. It's an expensive habit.
I keep telling myself: rich people can park their cars in the garage and they don't have a lot of "stuff" because they keep getting rid of old stuff to replace it with new stuff. It's the "stuff" of George Carlin routines.
You're right - it's not just "stuff." There's something insidious beneath all the "collections" that is very difficult to control or understand, especially if you're married to a compulsive hoarder.