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what do you buy for the hoarder(s) in your life?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

so, my parents are hoarders. there is another thread on MDC going on now about a MIL who goes overboard with buying Christmas gifts, and it turns out, she (the MIL) is a hoarder. who apparently really enjoys buying lots and lots of Christmas gifts.


i didn't want to thread hijack... but to turn the question around: what do YOU buy for the hoarder on your list?


in my case, we have (in the past) purchased a large quantity of meats, had it shipped, and it turned out that they wasted it all. stuck it in their garage for "freezer" storage, since it was winter and cold out and all (and their freezer was already overstuffed full), and then forgot about it till spring, when it basically spoiled. but they still started doling out the spoiled meat to their children (including us, who got a spoiled ham. gee, thanks). we aren't doing that again.


another year, we got my mother a "fruit of the month" club, which was a $300+ gift from Harry and David. some of the fruit got eaten. but not all of it! some of it was fed to their horses. (bad for the horses, and a pretty pricey treat, anyway, at about $30 a month. some expensive grapefruits, YK?)


so i've settled on getting my dad an insulated flannel shirt each year, i know he will use it. but on the other hand, i'm sure he never gets rid of the old ones each year, and some day when it comes time to clean out their stash, their hoard upon hoard of stuff, i will be finding a LOT of insulated flannel shirts.


my  mom wants a framed picture of my kids, which is nice, and i am obliging, but i will bet that it never makes it onto their walls. 


i sometimes get her gloves, since she is ALWAYS without gloves in the coldest weather, and always with chapped hands in the winter. she's got to have so many pairs of gloves, but can't find any of them.


that kind of problem plagues them.


so,  how about you? what do you get for the hoarder(s) in your life??

post #2 of 25

My MIL is a hoarder and dh and I have given her a goat, and some poop from Oxfam. Seriously, she loved it.


post #3 of 25

How about a gift card to a dinner out, or would that get lost in the hoard?   If you live near buy turn that 'gift card; into a nice card with a 'coupon' for a dinner out for all of you (you, dh, mom and dad) and you and dh pick up the tab.  It doesn't have to be dinner, could be sunday brunch,  tuesday lunch. that type of thing.

Are they in desperate need of something fixed?  Tell then you will pay for the plumber on 12/28/11 type of thing.


My parents are closet hoarders.  Literally the house is spotless but do not open any closets, you can get hurt.  So I don't get them things,  they live 2k miles away.  I get them gift cards.  honestly they have yet to use one from my mothers birthday in June.  But they know where it is and are 'trying' to use it.


I was considering sending http://www.incredibleedibles.net/ but the gift card seems to be the way to go.


My father was/is/kinda likes to golf so for fathers day I might call the local club and get him a punch card for the driving range.


You could get them a gift card to the oil change place, if they still drive.


I realize none of these are super touchy feelie, lovey type things but the goal is to not bring things into the house.


OH my mother likes a gift card to the local spa in town for a manicure/pedicure thing.  Or to the haircut place, shes been going to the same lady for 20 some years.


Good luck but think about experiences and gift cards vs things.

post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 

thanks for the replies. but re: gift cards. NO. they lose them. BIG TIME.


IF those suckers never expire, that's a good thing, otherwise they will have THOUSANDS of dollars in gift cards floating around in the hoard.


last year, my DH wanted to get my mother a complete car detailing, YK, the $200+ kind. (since their car is such a total pigsty.)


he was going to get a gift certificate. i told him DON'T. (fearing it would go unused.)


instead i went to a quick detail place that does a pretty nice job for $30 (just the basics w/o "deep cleaning", which would have been a HUGE improvement anyway). we got them a gift card for that place.


It's lost. unused. their car is horrible as ever. they drive around with loads of garbage in it. it's embarrassing. what can i do? they just needed to get some laundry baskets, empty out the car of the stuff, and go in to have it cleaned. couldn't. didn't. UGH.

post #5 of 25

What about an 'experience' gift - like a coupon for taking them out somewhere for a meal or to an event. You are giving the gift of your time and the cost of whatever it is and there is nothing for them to take into the house except for their memories!

post #6 of 25

What kind of things do they hoard?  Paper, clothes, books, knick knacks?  We got my great grandmother a paper shredder for shredding all her papers.  We got her some nice boxes to put all her stuff in.  She actually put stuff in them for awhile.  I think we even gave her a burning barrel once... she burned things she shouldn't have.  However she actually used some of that stuff. 

post #7 of 25

My mom is a hoarder -- almost reality tv level hoarding.  I buy her things I know she will like and use.  I know that there are many gifts I have given her that are buried under the mess in her home, but I have learned to let it go. 


She has dogs and likes a fancy dog shampoo for them, so I'll get her that.  I give her baskets of nice things to eat.  Yes, much of it goes spoiled, but she likes getting the gift anyway.  I send her cut flowers or an evergreen centerpiece for the holidays.  I try to buy things that she use or consume right away.  


And I don't overspend.  In the past, I have bought her nice things thinking that she would appreciate them, but she simply doesn't.  Or maybe she does appreciate them...I don't know.  I know that it is hard for me to see something that I gave her being ruined, so I don't give anything expensive.  


Something small, something consumable, those are my criteria.   

post #8 of 25


I buy my mild-hoarder mother small, not-quickly-perishable, consumable things, like candy or decent but below "too-good-to-use" hand cream. Since I know there's only a 50/50 chance that the gift will get used, sometimes I'm driven more by what business I want to support, than what she'd like. Most recently, I bought her a pretty art-themed umbrella. This is because if she follows her pattern she'll use it four or five times before she leaves it somewhere, but at least it will be lost out in the world, where someone will probably find it and use it, instead of inside in the hoard.
I never buy her anything that would require her to change her habits or learn anything or do anything, not even the tiniest little bit. If I do that, demand resistance will kick in and there's no chance whatsoever that the gift will ever be used. For example, buying her a phone to replace the broken one in her kitchen would require that she unplug the old phone and plug in the new one, and that will never, ever happen. She would probably ramp up her complaints about the broken phone, even as she refused to use the new one, in order to punish me for... well, I'm not sure what, but I know Mom, and giving her a new phone would definitely be a punishable offense. (Edited to add: And she'd probably make a point of calling me from the broken one, to have the joy of the exchange of, "What? What? Mom, are you on that phone? Go use the other one! Mom, I can't understand what you're saying!" That, too, would be a fitting punishment, in her book, for the sin of buying her a new phone.)
post #9 of 25

Love Crayfish's ideas.


The way I analyze this:


  • Don't spend money you are not comfortable just throwing away.
  • Don't become attached to the gift in any way.
  • Don't have expectations that it will be used or help anything.
  • Don't try to hard to circumvent the hoarding. Just give something reasonably small.
  • Aim to give something that will at least be enjoyed in the moment of receiving it, even if it is never actually used.


While I am not in the situation of having to gift a hoarder, I can sympathize with what you are feeling. (I also have a hard time with gifts overall,actually). But remember that the point of a gift is to make the receiver feel loved and/or appreciated.


I think that if the hoarding is very bad, it almost doesn't matter if you give a physical object or not. Gift cards and such are great, but as mentioned, get lost. Obviously I wouldn't give anything ridiculous like a set of dishes, but I think at some point, you have to recognize that circumventing the hoarding is kind of pointless. So just get something you are comfortable getting and let it be. Soap, a scarf, whatever. Don't expect to see it used, let that be ok with you. And personally I would immediately stop spending that kind of money on the gift!


People hate feeling any kind of strings attached to a gift, or judgements. So trying too hard to make a gift non-physical might backfire. I realize you feel the weight of every item added to the home, knowing you'll have to deal with it at one time or another, but at some point it doesn't really matter. A nice soap and a scarf is just a drop in the bucket in the hoarding but might go a ways toward making your mother feel loved and/or appreciated. That's the way I see it anyway. (I wish people would recognize that loving and appreciating me means NO gifts... but at least I also realize that most people apparently do want gifts, even if I don't really understand it.)

post #10 of 25
Originally Posted by laohaire View Post

The way I analyze this:


Yep. Yep. Exactly. Another thing that I considered this year was giving Mom a discounted art book - she would never read a page of it, and it might eventually get chewed by mice, but she would, as you say, enjoy it in the moment of opening, and she'd feel complimented that I think of her as being interested in art. But the art-themed umbrella had the advantage of the same implied compliment and higher odds of actually being used, plus it will probably leave the hoard when it gets lost, while the book would be in the hoard forever.


Now, I am still considering whether I'm interested in making Mom feel good, or if our relationship has reached the point where me trying to give her a moment of happiness, when she couldn't care less about me, is just wearing me down. But when I decide that I'm at that point, I'll stop buying gifts; if I'm buying her a gift, there's no point in buying one that won't make her feel good. 




post #11 of 25

BTW, you folks with hoarder parents, you know about the Yahoo Children of Hoarders list, right? I highly recommend it.




post #12 of 25

Even though you can give the hoarder a moment of happiness when they open a physical gift, I think that's almost like enabling. Gift objects aren't inherently bad, but a bottle of wine isn't inherently bad either, unless you're giving it to an alcoholic. It is just a drop in the bucket, but if everyone uses that excuse, the buckets overflow.  I don't think showing love in a non-tangible form is being pushy or disrespectful to the hoarder's lifestyle.  Sure, you're not going to change a hoarder's life Christmas weekend, but you can teach by example.


For hoarding-type relatives, I give experience gifts that I am able to make sure they will experience- no gift cards, but rather, I take them to a restaurant, or a movie.  People like this are physically/mentally confined to their homes in some degree, and perhaps the offer of company/ a ride is what they need to redeem those gift cards.  If they needed their car detailed, then I would have the gift be that I would physically take the car in myself to do it. Instead of a spa gift certificate, take them to the spa with you for double mani/pedis. For people who have trouble following through or lose things, you need to make the gift more interactive on your half.  So long as you pick an experience that the receiver would truly enjoy, I think those types of gifts will give them a few more moments of pleasure than that of opening a package.  

post #13 of 25


Originally Posted by Oliver's Mama View Post

Even though you can give the hoarder a moment of happiness when they open a physical gift, I think that's almost like enabling.

I think that you may be underestimating a hoarder's determination not to be helped, in large ways or small, and underestimating the extent of their demand resistance. I've stopped worrying about whether I enable my mother with trivially small gifted possessions. She will hoard with or without my help, and she will not change no matter what I do. I cannot teach by example; she is determined not to learn.
The last time I took Mom to dinner at a nice restaurant, she mocked the menu, and made fun of the restaurant, and made fun of the waiter's responses to her questions, until she made me cry. My SO and I ended up calling the restaurant, a favorite of ours, to apologize for her behavior. Her stated reason? She "felt bad" that I was spending so much money on her. Exactly how it helped to not only allow me to spend money, but also to make me cry, I don't know.
The last time I bought Mom theater tickets, and took her to the theater, and made sure she got to her seat, even though I was unable to attend (I needed to be available in case I got a phone call about my emergency-hospitalized father, her divorced husband), she sat in her seat at intermission for a long, long time, until she decided that she had to use the restroom. She thereby managed to avoid being back in time for the second act, and had to watch the rest of the play from the standing seats in the back. Of course, she made a point of telling me this, repeatedly. What's the fun of going to the theater at your daughter's expense if you can't _make sure_ that she knows that you threw away half of the experience? It's also important to refuse to accept the hearing-impaired headset, and then to complain that you couldn't hear.
The last two times I took Mom to the theater and went with her, she actively disrupted other patrons, once by making remarks, once by placing her hearing-impaired headset in _precisely_ the position that the headseat-distribution person told her would cause it to produce an annoying feedback sound that could be heard by others. (Actually _use_ the headset? Remember the fun of complaining that you can't hear?) She also claimed to be unaware of even the existence of one of the main characters in one of the plays, one who was onstage talking for about a quarter of the play, thus demonstrating that she had paid no attention to the play.
If I offered to take my mother's car to be detailed, she would reschedule, and reschedule, and reschedule, and she would complain about my determination to get her car cleaned, and eventually I would be begging her to allow me to give her her gift. The gift that I intended to give her would be re-cast as me harassing her, as a favor that she was doing _me_, in allowing me to inconvenience her by stealing her car for a few hours. If I did manage to get the car detailed, I'll also guarantee you that she would find a muddy place to splash the car through, and arrange to "accidentally" spill something in the cleaned car.
Now, these things _do_ give my mother pleasure. Mocking my favorite restaurant, ensuring that I know that the theater tickets are wasted, disappointing expectations in any way possible, those things give her pleasure. But _that_ pleasure is one that I refuse to enable.
With many hoarders, the hoard itself is the least of the issues. I don't know if your hoarding relatives are different, or if they're sufficiently not-immediate-family that they mind their manners with you. But believe me, making the gift "more interactive" will accomplish nothing, in my mother's case, but giving her the joy of rejecting the gift in person.
My apologies if I sound angry. But believe me, the issue is _not_ that I haven't gone out of way my to try to make my mother happy. The issue is that she is determined to punish me for doing so - sweetly, smilingly, with a southern-belle drawl that makes everyone else say just how adorable she is, she will make absolutely sure that she throws every effort back in my face. So I'm sticking with candy, hand cream, and umbrellas; those make lousy weapons for her.
post #14 of 25

Take out to eat. Pay gym membership.  But I really have to go over it with them before.

post #15 of 25

What if this was a child. What would you do? If you brought your 7 year old to a play who saids she didn't have to go pottty and then did and then you all had to stand in back and she whined about it. What would you say?


This is where the child turns into the parent. Something I believe highly in in some situations which sounds like you're in one now. My mom was also a hoarder. When I got my grown up legs I had to start treating her now and then like a child. Ok we're going to this christmas dinner. You will not call your sister names. I would rather you not say anthing at all to her if you feel the need to be mean. You WILL be nice for 2 hours and then you can tell me about it in the car. That christmas my aunt called me and said I don't know what happened to your mom but she was nicest to me than she ever has before! And I simply nodded and smiled. I did not tell her that I scolded my mother like a child. And my mom was cute (in her own way) and when we got home she gritter her teeth and said I was nice all night long! And I told her what a goof girl she was and how proud I was of her.


It DOES work. Not saying treat them like an idiot but when that special even happens or what they are doing is not acceptable you have to tell them so and HOW they will react. If you mom complains say... SAY THANK YOU MOM AND DROP IT. and let it go. Some moms don't get it. Takes some training but eventually they will get where you are coming from.. could take years.

post #16 of 25

get her the picture or how about a wallet sized one? What she does with it is her problem. Or you could hang it for her.. Walk towards the hammer and nail and ask her Ok where do you want it?? and if she stumbles for words.. pick a spot.. Here's good!

post #17 of 25

I too am perplexed on what to get for a small gift for my hording sisters.  She is a shut in and cannot get out without hubby horders help.   In 10+ yrs i have not been in her house and they live a block away from me!    

She is obsessed with qvc so i am pretty sure she has everythign somewhere.  My neice told me they got a new tv..no sis said they bought it 5 yrs ago and just found it LOL   ahh cant make this stuff up... I have been reading alot of ideas and i think a book to read maybe 50 shades of gray ... 

post #18 of 25

In the past we've bought MIL:


Storage containers

Paper shredder

Rolling briefcase

Mops/brooms (that she asked for)

accessories for her car

things for her office at work


and other things to clean her house/organize stuff.


We're done. She gets restaurant gift cards from now on. No material objects. 

post #19 of 25

We always give family a 5x7 of the kids and a nice handmade card.  That's it.  Years ago I gave them all frames and every year we "fill" them with an updated photo.  I agree with the advice not to get attached with what the person does with the gift, and to me a photo is one of those things that they can put up and enjoy all year or just enjoy in the moment and treat as disposable and I'm not going to feel money or effort was wasted (since I'm giving all the relatives the same thing so it's easy for me).


I wouldn't even go to the effort of trying to give a complaining family member something they won't complain about.  It just isn't worth the effort to me.  But that's me.

post #20 of 25

My MIL is a bit of a hoarder, this year we got her a calender from Shutterfly with pictures of the kids. I think it will be our yearly tradition now!

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