When does clutter turn into hoarding?
A friend of mine I think has a problem, but she is unable to see that she does. She's a single parent of three living in a 2 1/2 bedroom apartment. There is stuff everywhere.
The bathroom is only a little cluttered.
The kitchen is just very cluttered, mostly cleaned, although on occasion, she'll leave the pots and pans and dishes on the stove or table overnight and there are always crumbs on the floor and the kids' school papers and random toys on the table and counters and various clean and dirty laundry on the floor.
The living room has pillows, blankets, toys, papers on the couches and toys, papers, and sometimes food wrappers and used dishes and silverware on the floor or on the coffee table or book shelves, various clean and dirty laundry on the floor, behind the couches, on the coffee table and book shelves, etc. There are regularly crumbs on the floor, although my friend vacuums maybe twice a week- the kids eat constantly and the youngest, 5, leaves a trail everywhere she goes. (Vacuuming usually consists of piling everything on the couch and vacuuming just the rugs showing, not under or behind anything.) The three children sleep in the living room because the oldest two share a room and their room is often too messy to walk through and the youngest won't sleep alone.
The front hall has a pile of shoes and coats mixed.
My friend's bedroom is pretty clean, bed's usually made, not too much clutter, but she seems to get dressed, throw her clothes behind her bedroom door, and rinse and repeat for a couple days before she brings the pile downstairs to the bathroom hamper.
The upstairs hallway is a short hallway, maybe 5 feet long. It has storage boxes and cleans and dirty clothes on top of the storage boxes and on the floor, sometimes covering the floor completely. The oldest, 13, and youngest, 5 girls just leave their dirty clothes where they drop- in the hallway, in their siblings bedrooms, sometimes in the dressers- theirs, their siblings', even their Mom's.
The two oldest share a bedroom with bunk beds. There's a path to the computer and the rest of the room is clean and dirty clothes and toys and sometimes used plates, etc. They have a hamper, but the oldest just throws everything on the floor (when she looks for clothes in the morning, she literally empties her dresser) and once in awhile, throws everything, clean and dirty, in her hamper. They have bunk beds, but they are usually unmade (as in, no sheets, just a blanket) and they pretty much use the beds to store their stuff when they do clear a path in the bedroom.
The little one has her own room, which is a toddler bed (VERY small room, maybe 6x7 feet) and a path to get to it, and all her toys piled on the other side of the room and the remaining corner. She has piles of toys, broken toys, clean and dirty clothes, and God knows what else, 4 feet high in on corner of her room.
My friend suffers from severe depression and also denial- she doesn't seem to see the mess in her house, at least, not to the level it is. She invites people to her house, the little one has friends over, etc. I know I'm a neat freak- my house IS spotless, and I won't go to bed it there are dishes in the sink, but I like to think I'm aware that I have extremely high standards, especially for myself, but when people have stopped by while I've been there, I'm EMBARRASSED that I'm there in that house, that I bring my child into that house. I've tried several times to help her clean, but it's hard to do, because I have to bring my 2 year old son with me and the bedrooms I don't feel are safe or healthy for him. At one point, she had appointments with the older children, so I hung out at her house to get the little one off the bus, and it took me 3 1/2 hours, but I had the 5 year old's bedroom spotless... which lasted maybe a month before it was back to "normal".
Is this clutter and super-messy, or has this become hoarding? And what can I do to help my friend and her children, besides calling CPS (if I do that, she will freak out and fight it and then lose her children for sure- she already lost her husband to a heart attack 4 years ago, her children lost their Dad, I don't want them to lose their Mom, too. She's one of my best friends, I've known her forever and she was always a bit... laid back... about housework, but never to any point where I wasn't uncomfortable in her house, until about a year and a half ago when things started getting like this.