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moving into the home of a hoarder

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
We bought our inlaws home, my MIL is a major hoarder ... broken furniture, dollar store "treasures", knick knacks, paperbacks, newspapers, gifts from people she has never used, dolls, tons and tons of dishes, etc etc etc.

Anyways, they are moving out and we are moving in in three weeks. She is not motivated at all to pack, donate to charity, garage sale, nothing. She feels she has lots of time. It's a good day when she packs a box, or takes one trip to charity.

I am panicking feeling that I am going to be inheriting all her junk as well as the house. She has already brought up the idea she could store stuff in what will be our basement until she figures out what she would like to do with it. I fear she will never part with it. She also would like to sell a lot of her things, like the broken furniture, dollar store knick knacks and dolls that are full of mildew from sitting in the basement, at an auction. She has a belief that she will get lots of money for these things.
post #2 of 60
I'd set firm boundaries against her using what will be your house to store her stuff.

I don't think you can cure a hoarder that doesn't want to be cured (any more than an alkie, etc.) so I would go ahead and get rates for a local storage unit. No, not for you to rent on MIL's behalf (no WAY) but just so that when she's like "but I have nowhere to PUT IT!!" you can give her all the info. Oh, and maybe get a rate on a local, one day uHaul.

Tell her upfront, so she has time to absorb this and act on it: "Hey, MIL, you had mentioned (or hinted at) storing some stuff here, but I really don't think that's going to work. We're going to need the space for our work projects/own stuff/whatever. I just wanted to give you a head's up so you had the opportunity to make plans for it. There's a storage box just down the way and they only charge ___ a month if you need temporary storage."

I still think there's a good chance she'll still leave it and say "well, I'll get to it next week/month/year/whatever." Now it gets tricky. You could consider - if your health and circumstances allow - telling MIL "Remember what we talked about, we need to get this stuff stored. I am willing to rent a Uhaul for the day, and DH and I are willing to help you with the moving. All you need to do is call ___ (shove phone number on paper in front of her) and get an account for a storage box. Let's arrange it for Saturday." No, you shouldn't have to deal with it but your choices are kind of to let it slide or deal.

Either that or don't buy your hoarder MIL's house, but I assume that ship has sailed.

Good luck.
post #3 of 60
I forgot to mention... I would do an ultimatum "get rid of it or we'll trash it" only as a very last resort.

If things get that desperate, I would rather rent a uHaul and drive it to her new place and leave it at the curb than actually trash it. Keep that as your ace - "get a storage unit rented or we'll leave it on your curb." Harsh, yeah, but still better than trashing it.
post #4 of 60
Are you sure we dont have the same MIL?

Seriously though, I hope I wont come across as mean in this post but if she is at the same level of hoarding as my own MIL then you will completely "get" what I am about to say.

She is not going to pack this stuff up, she is not going to find a new "home" for this stuff, and she is not going to take responsibility for the large mass of "things" in that home. If I am getting the picture right we are not talking about a u-haul load of stuff we are talking multiple u-haul's full of stuff. Am I right?

The problem is that she most likely has no idea how to sort through in her mind the valuable things from the trash. Not to cut on people like our MIL's they are who they are. I dont think that deep down they want to be like this. Its just somehow, someway over the years they started attaching either sentimental value or a feeling of stability on/through their possessions. Imagine your mind your most prized/loved possession be it your wedding gown, baby's scrapbook, your wedding photos, whatever and now imagine feeling that way about EVERYTHING that ever passes through your hands. Deep down inside you know it is a problem, you know something has went wrong but you just no long feel capable of making that distinction and you are terrified of getting rid of something that will make you feel lost forever without it. And what is worse you feel resentful and angry towards anyone that tries to take away your treasures.

We bought property from our in-laws as well and when we realized that there was no way around it dh had to make the decision for her. He packed everything up and moved it to storage. Period. No fighting, no yelling, no begging, just "Mom, we have given you plenty of time and I love you but I am packing everything up and moving it out." She was NOT happy. But she did get over it. There really was no choice. We had learned from experience that if she asked to keep a "few" things at a location it quickly turned into boxes and boxes of things and that just was/is not fair to our family.

So as unfair as it may be to you guys I would give a time limit and then rent as many storage buildings as it takes for ONE month and move everything to it. Tell her the building locations (make sure they are close to were she lives so she can not claim they were to far away) give her the keys and all the billing information and be very very serious with her that other than that first month you guys will NOT be paying the bill after that. We were lucky and my MIL had an extra house that we put everything in at no cost but had we been stuck without that option I would have totally been willing to pay a months storage bill to get rid of the stuff.

So it may sound mean, but its that or be content with the idea of moldy dolls and broken dollar store nik naks in your house for at least the next several years when ultimately you will have to move it out anyway.
post #5 of 60
I strongly recommend hiring a cleaning service before you move in. It takes you out of the equation for "touching her stuff", removing you from liability in your family. I agree with a PP that a storage unit could be obtained, but I would suggest MIL arranges it. After all that junk in the house it could use a good scrub, and it'll save you a whole lot of angst if you don't have to clean up after her. It's a lot easier to say "the cleaning crew will be there on ____ date and time. let us know if we need movers for your things too" (of course after your official closing date, etc.) It might be a tad pricier than you'd like, but honestly worth it.
post #6 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by leigh09 View Post
We bought our inlaws home, my MIL is a major hoarder ... broken furniture, dollar store "treasures", knick knacks, paperbacks, newspapers, gifts from people she has never used, dolls, tons and tons of dishes, etc etc etc.

Anyways, they are moving out and we are moving in in three weeks. She is not motivated at all to pack, donate to charity, garage sale, nothing. She feels she has lots of time. It's a good day when she packs a box, or takes one trip to charity.

I am panicking feeling that I am going to be inheriting all her junk as well as the house. She has already brought up the idea she could store stuff in what will be our basement until she figures out what she would like to do with it. I fear she will never part with it. She also would like to sell a lot of her things, like the broken furniture, dollar store knick knacks and dolls that are full of mildew from sitting in the basement, at an auction. She has a belief that she will get lots of money for these things.
Have you considered calling one of the hoarding shows or clean house or clean sweep? At the very least, you will have the help of people who are accustomed to dealing with people who are like that.
post #7 of 60
I say trash everything, hire a cleaning service. and painters. I just could not be in that environment with all that stagnant chi and negative energy from the whording, so toxic

Stay strong mama
post #8 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by NewDirections View Post
I say trash everything, hire a cleaning service. and painters. I just could not be in that environment with all that stagnant chi and negative energy from the whording, so toxic

Stay strong mama
I believe legally once the title transfers the home is yours... whatever is left in the property or on the premises is yours to do with as your please.

BTW where is MIL moving to? Ideally she should be 'on her way' to that new place by now. taking things over there daily.
post #9 of 60
She will do nothing, or next to nothing. I hate to predict this, but I'm pretty near certain of it. You should assume that when the day comes that you take ownership, almost all of her stuff will still be there.

In fact, you should assume that she will resist your moving in, that she'll want "one more day" and then "one more day", forever and ever. She will complain that she didn't have enough time, that she was prevented by a sore foot or the church picnic or solar flares, that you're being cruel and unfair, that you don't respect her stuff, that you hate her... she will use every trick in the book to get you to delay your move-in. Forever.

You're going to need to move her stuff out and your stuff in against her vehement protests. SashaBreeze's plan sounds like a good one.

Edited to add: Do you already own the house? Just so you're not blindsided, you may also want to make sure that she doesn't now have the status of tenant, so that you'd have to evict her - or, if you get softhearted and give her a few "one more days", you may want to get legal advice so that you don't accidentally let her become a legal tenant.
post #10 of 60
I have had a similar experience, except in my case it was when my hoarder mother (and my three younger mini-hoarder siblings) moved in with me. I had a two bedroom apartment so the arrangement was supposed to be very temporary while she moved out of her old place and into her new. She had tons of stuff and told me it was difficult to pack everything and still have the place livable for kids. Okay.

But it was a week later and boxes and boxes of stuff kept showing up at my home while I was at work. I did some digging and found out that my mother didn't have "a new place" and apparently planned on just living with me. With all of her stuff - that wouldn't have all fit in my apartment anyway!

Umm. NO. I ended up renting a storage unit for one month - making sure to explain that I was renting it in my mother's name so they wouldn't expect me to pay for it - and moving all of her stuff (from her old house and my appartment) to the storage unit. It was a lot of work, but so worth it to be able to walk through my home again.

I still had to deal with four extra people in my home, but the stuff was gone. I had already spent years before this trying to help my mother learn to let go of stuff and failing so I didn't see any other way to get through the situation. So I guess in my rambling way, I say go with SashaBreeze's plan too!
post #11 of 60
Are you planning on having a cleaner in to do a real deep cleaning before you move in? Even if money is tight or you think you don't need it, you might want to consider it. Painters too. In the one case of hoarding that I personally know of (my best friend's MIL) the house was full of mold and mildew and really gross. There was only a little bit of black mold and that was easily removed, but overall the place was just gross and uninhabitable.

And then I would tell MIL that you have the cleaners and the painters coming on a certain date, and everything needs to be out by then. And make sure her friends and family know too, so that they can help. And then, operating under the assumption that she'll do nothing, quietly book a U-Haul and the storage units and arrange for everything to be cleared out the day before. I like the idea about paying for one month.

You might also want to warn any siblings-in-law generally on what is about to go down (depending on how much they enable her, either the whole plan or just what you're telling her), so that they can come through the house and collect anything they want.
post #12 of 60
I would set a date for her to basically clean out and move on. Whatever is left will be separated into donate, trash or sell. It is important for you to have a fresh start.

I speak from experience and though her feelings may be hurt at first, it is important to take this stand.
post #13 of 60
Thread Starter 
you are all right the house could use a good cleaning. my mom has offered to come over and help me do it, she is one of those women who is basically a professional cleaner in herself like you would not believe ...

my MIL is moving to an apartment because it's time to downsize her home. she can't keep up with it anymore (it's a large, two storey home). we have a date set when things are to be done by. she says she feels too overwhelmed by it all and doesn't know where to start. we make suggestions like just start with one room, just start in one corner, we've offered to help, etc.

you have many great suggestions. we have come up with this idea to present to her:

she may have a certain area in the basement for 6 months. only that area, nothing else. and not past 6 months. the intention is that is for things she would like to have sold.

she feels too overwhelmed to arrange for selling things, donate, trash, and moving all at once now and we would like to be sensitive to that. so attempting to take some stress off, allow her to sell things at a later date. but with a deadline. we also have presented the idea of selling everything at an auction house. they will take 20% commission and charge to dispose of anything that does not sell, so be sure to only try to sell things that aren't junk. everything that remains in our basement past 6 months is being shipped to auction, if the result of the auction is a negative bill it is her bill to be paid.
post #14 of 60
Just sayin', the 6 months in the basement sounds good but it's going to be dragged out and then you'll have to deal with it all over again (and again).

You could acheive the same release of pressure for her with a storage unit - without having it continue to be in your life.
post #15 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

You could acheive the same release of pressure for her with a storage unit - without having it continue to be in your life.
I agree, she is going to drag it out- and even will try to add to the amount of space she is taking up

Far better to move it to a storage unit where it will be off of you, and the storage people can be the bad guys

I would offer to help pay for it even, if that was feasible, but you really *have* to get it out of your house...you are dealing with someone who has an illness in this regard; a person without this illness would not need 6 months
post #16 of 60
I'm really sorry, but I agree with the two previous posters. She's not going to be "ready" in 6 months either, and then you'll be stuck with the stuff. And it will be ugly, and it will just upset you. I would move it to the storage facility now and offer to pay/split half for six months.

I totally get that this is a no-win situation and you're really up against a wall here. But I think you have to take definitive action right now or you'll be living with this stuff forever.
post #17 of 60
Any way to do one of those little storage "pods" and a dumpster? he reason I ask is that when my dh's grandmother moved out of her little 1950's cottage they (MIL, FIL and dh) disposed of 11 of the 12 foot roll off dumpsters full of G-MIL's "stuff". She knew it was happening, wasn't happy about it but was thrilled with her new (clean) little place. Otherwise, truly, your MIL will think that everything belongs in your basement to be sold because it's so precious to her.....
post #18 of 60
I am going to have to make a few assumptions based on the information you have given, and if I am wrong please know I meant no harm and accept my apology.
But...

If she has a level of illness that my MIL has then the 6 month basement idea is not going to work. I say illness because that is what it truly is. This does not make her a bad woman or any other negative feeling that mental illness sometimes brings to mind, it just means that she is not always capable of making decisions that are in her and her loved ones best interest or/and that she has difficulty rationalizing what we see as a simple/obvious problem.

You indicated before that your MIL does not understand the true monetary value (or lack there of) of her possessions. I completely understand how frustrating this is to watch. With dh mother we found absolute "treasures" (his grandfathers war medals, an original Kim Ward Hollywood figurine!) mixed in with boxes and piles of absolute trash. It was heart breaking for my husband to realize that his mother had gotten to this point and even more so to realize that in the long run there was very little he/we could do about it.

So when she is left with the problem of deciding what to sell, what to take with her, and what to trash or give away I think her statement that she feels too overwhelmed is probably very very true to her. It is not as simple as start in 1 room or 1 corner. It is far more complex for her. Each item she touches is a memory or a feeling of completion/security. So perhaps she does start to pack and then gets "lost" among her things and then the feeling of being overwhelmed sets in and then..... well nothing gets done or at least very little.

To pick out things to put in the basement for later selling you run into another problem. Great aunt Sally's old Avon perfume bottle "might" be worth something, but it is highly doubtful that it is will be worth even a fraction of what she would be willing to sell it for. Add from that problem on how much is too much. Is two inches over the line you guys set to much? How about "just" 1 extra box? And if both of those situations are ok then why not 1 more box or just 2 more inches??? When does it stop?

Ultimately this is something you and your dh will have to work out. I do however caution you, like the previous posters said, to NOT allow things to be stored in the basement.

I know how unfair this sounds. If you or I or just about anyone we know needed a place to stash a few things for a little while to sell then it would not be a big deal. But in the long run that is not what we are really talking about. What will end up happening is that your basement will become a permanent storage facility for your MIL's memories trapped behind rotten cardboard and broken glass. Too sad of a thought for anyone to have to deal with.

Perhaps I am wrong though, and I hope I am. Perhaps your MIL has not taken her hoarding to the emotional level that my MIL has. If that is the case then your plan sounds very reasonable and I hope all the items sell very well. IF however she has come to the place that my MIL has.... well, unfortunately the basement idea will not work.
post #19 of 60
Thread Starter 
you all do have some good points, i should very much reconsider. especially as i know she won't sell things for what they are actually worth. off to look at the pricing of storage rentals ...
post #20 of 60
My parents aren't huge hoarders, but when they moved, the moving company did a first run move for all the necessities to get them set up in their house. They did a 2nd visit to get any odds and ends. They were able to live in the new house with minimal stuff, which made purging easier to do.
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