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Hoarding behavior? TMI related

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm posting because I'm concerned for a family member (not my child) who is 14.  She has always been easygoing, kind of secretive, and raised without much direction...she has had much turmoil in the past three years of her life, changing schools in three states, diagnosed with Celiac, her mom remarrying twice, father several states away. 

 

Over the holidays I learned from other family members that her mother found used tampons - many of them, not just one or two - hidden all over her bedroom in various places.  The mom had gone into the room to deep-clean it for guests; the girl also had a very messy room with discarded, leftover food items and other trash stuffed under the bed, but they were aware of that issue and have been combating it "for years."  

 

How would you approach this?  I'm disturbed; I feel she needs some kind of help? I imagine the behavior is linked to the instability in her life?  but I have no idea what or how.  The rest of the family is pretending it didn't happen, but talking about it, and the mom initially yelled about the discovery threatened to "take her door off" as punishment, to lose privacy, but never did.               

post #2 of 9
could she be ashamed of her body and sexuality? I have a sexual trauma history and remember being terrified, not just slightly uncomfortable, at the idea of someone seeing my used pads or tampons in the garbage and knowing that I menstruated.
post #3 of 9

My eldest is 13 and ever since she moved into her own room it's been a train wreck. It's not so much "gross" as terribly cluttered. We can't even walk in it. There are times when we can't open the door fully. It drives me crazy but I know it's her little control thing. I try not to turn it into a power struggle but occasionally, we do require her to clean it up... totally. I've learned to let DH handle it because the father/daughter relationship isn't as volitile as the mother/daughter one at this point. We give her a fair deadline and then spell out the consequences. It's "going" but not the most successful. Like I said, I try to not fuss about it too much... about every other month I require a deep clean.

 

The tampons, well, it's gross but I know girls that age can be really odd and embarressed about that stuff. Everytime we use the girl scout campgrounds, I find used pads hidden all over the bathroom because they don't want anyone to know they are menstrating. I know I hid food in my room. I was embarressed of the lunches my mom packed me in elementary. Everyone got sandwiches and I had left-overs. I used to not eat them and hide them in my room for fear of getting in trouble. My room could be a mess too but that sort of 180'd when I left for college. I have some faith that the same will happen with DD.

post #4 of 9

At 14, I'd worry that she will be this way in adulthood if not treated now. Can you imagine having a roommate like that in your dorm room? The smell of blood and rotting food is gross under normal room temperature. Call the pediatrician and see if they have a reference for someone to help her.

post #5 of 9

I used to hide my lunches under my bed when I was growing up.  I hated to eat sandwiches, but it was what my mom sent, so I'd open up my backpack and toss them under my bed. I also had a terribly messy locker all through jr and sr high school where lunches would rot and juice boxes would explode. It is gross to me now, but when I was younger, I honestly didn't notice when things were messy or smelly, unless they were very very messy and smelly. Or my mom found my lunches and went postal.  And when I was menstruating, I became very secretive and would be very embarrassed if anyone found my used pads or tampons.  I was very careful to hide them in the garbage. One day they dog got into the garbage and drug things out. I was horrified. 

 

Soooooo I am a very normal person that has no hoarding tendencies. I like things a bit cluttered a design aestetic but I don't keep food under my bed, dishes . I would get really embarrassed if my mom would bring these things up in front of other people. Perhaps mom or other close woman needs to sit down with her and find out if anything is up. But I'd be careful not to go over the top. I honestly think that her behaviors, although a bit strange, have a very normal and adolescent answer and probably don't need the help of a doctor. Someone needs to sit down and talk to her, not just talk about her.

post #6 of 9

 

She needs a trash can in her room with a lid for starters, because this might be more about shame than hoarding.
post #7 of 9

I'm thinking shame, not hoarding.

 

My childhood best friend did this exact thing. She is NOT a hoarder. And she didn't do it forever, just when she was a young adolescent. She put her used tampons or pads (I don't know which she used) in shoeboxes and hid them under the bed. Her mom found them after a while, and told my mom about it. My friend would have no doubt been mortified to know that my mom told me. Sigh.

 

I didn't do this but honestly I can see the potential for it. I went to boarding school so if I needed pads I had to walk to the store and get them myself, rather than rely on mom buying them. At age 14, I would hang around in the store for a long time, waiting for it to be just empty enough to go and buy the pads. That sounds so stupid to me now, but I was mostly horrified by the idea of a fellow male student happening in while I was buying the stuff. When your period is new, it can be really horrifying. There is so much shame and secrecy about it. Heck, even now it's a little bit embarrassing to tell my husband I'm on the rag.

 

I would be really surprised if this wasn't somewhat common, like maybe 10% or 20% of girls do this on some level or another when they are young teens. I think the fix is not more shame and horror but just to install a covered trash can in the bathroom so the girl feels she might have more privacy. Or, in really bad cases, maybe give her disposable opaque bags (I'm a tree-hugger so this sort of horrifies me, but I'd still do it to help a girl) and let her "hide" the bags in the kitchen trash or something, if she's really horrified by the idea of her father or brother ever seeing it and knowing what it is.

 

Oh, I do remember one thing that sort of was nice for me as a young teen. Once my father was getting ready to go to the store and asked my mom what she needed, and my mother looked at me and said "do you need more pads?" I was horrified and blushed and probably said something stupid. My father caught on and assured me that he had NO PROBLEM buying this stuff, he buys it for my mom all the time and this is just more of the same. Then he told me a story that made me smile, that when he was a kid his MOM would make him go buy her supplies, and he admitted to being embarrassed then. But he says with all these years of experience, it's all old hat to him. Well, maybe that wouldn't work for every father-daughter pair, but it did make me smile and relax. I think just the idea that men know "our secret" and it's no big deal to them just made me feel better.

post #8 of 9

Yeah, I think the worst thing at this point would be for the behaviour to be pathologized or medicalized. Maybe try offering practical solutions to her, to make her more comfortable.

post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses and sugestions.  I have little influence in her immediate family's decisions, but I will do what I can.  As far as I know, only her mom confronted her directly about the discovery, but I'm not sure if she knows we were told of it.  

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