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#1 of 16 Old 09-10-2013, 08:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.


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#2 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 01:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by kblackstone444 View Post
 

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.

 

 

You sound more judgmental than a friend who wants help for a friend. Life is hard, especially for a single mom. Cut her some slack. Working and taking care of kids can really take a toll on you and the housework goes downhill quick. There have been times when I have struggled with keeping the house clean. It's certainly not filthy but it does get cluttered and disorganized. But, eventually I catch up. I can't imagine a good friend of mine calling CPS on me because I can't keep up with their standards.

-Michele

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#3 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 03:13 PM
 
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I agree with above. I think you put way too much energy into this. The only thing you can do to help is offer to clean, but you're saying you wouldn't physically do that anyway. If you don't think it's safe for your child to be there, stop visiting. Have them over to your house. Take her kids out for the entire day and maybe she'll get something done on her own.

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#4 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 03:38 PM
 
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I'd have to agree with the PPs. Invite them to your house when you do get together. Also don't be too pushy about trying to help her clean, unless she seems genuinely appreciative. I don't think I've ever let my house get to that point,I did have this friend who always wanted to organize my house for me and it drove me flippin nuts! Especially since I never asked for her help, she just figured I would love for her to come in and move all my stuff around! It was actually really awkward for me!
Maybe her house is not up to your standard but chances are she knows right where everything is. You don't have to live there, or even go over there to visit if it makes you *that* uncomfortable.

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#5 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 04:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by MicheleLea View Post
 

 

 

You sound more judgmental than a friend who wants help for a friend. Life is hard, especially for a single mom. Cut her some slack. Working and taking care of kids can really take a toll on you and the housework goes downhill quick. There have been times when I have struggled with keeping the house clean. It's certainly not filthy but it does get cluttered and disorganized. But, eventually I catch up. I can't imagine a good friend of mine calling CPS on me because I can't keep up with their standards.

-Michele

 

I don't want to call CPS, I'm not gonna call CPS.  My concern is, eventually, someone else will call CPS.

 

She doesn't work.  She's a stay-at-home Mom with alimony and child support.  Her children go to school full time and camp most the summer.  When they're at school, she plays Candy Crush or watches Netflix.  I'm not sure how you got me as being judgmental- I'm stating facts.  You said you eventually catch up- my friend doesn't.  It's gotten progressively worse in the last year and a half, thus, my concern and wondering if or how I can help.

 

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I agree with above. I think you put way too much energy into this. The only thing you can do to help is offer to clean, but you're saying you wouldn't physically do that anyway. If you don't think it's safe for your child to be there, stop visiting. Have them over to your house. Take her kids out for the entire day and maybe she'll get something done on her own.

 

When did I say that I wouldn't physically help clean?  I have, several times.  I took all her children for a 4 day weekend a couple months back, and there was no difference after the weekend.

 

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I'd have to agree with the PPs. Invite them to your house when you do get together. Also don't be too pushy about trying to help her clean, unless she seems genuinely appreciative. I don't think I've ever let my house get to that point,I did have this friend who always wanted to organize my house for me and it drove me flippin nuts! Especially since I never asked for her help, she just figured I would love for her to come in and move all my stuff around! It was actually really awkward for me!
Maybe her house is not up to your standard but chances are she knows right where everything is. You don't have to live there, or even go over there to visit if it makes you *that* uncomfortable.

 

If you had food on the floor and children were walking through it and someone picked it up, it'd make you uncomfortable?  Even if your guests baby was crawling through it, etc?

 

She doesn't know where everything is.  She's constantly buying the children new clothes and toys because they can't find any of their old ones.  There are many times where I have visited and the children cannot find ANY of their toys (no exaggeration) and are told to watch tv or play on the IPad instead.  (This usually results in a trip to the toy store for them.)


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#6 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 05:04 PM
 
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OP, you don't sound judgmental to me.  It sounds like your standards for your own home are very high and you are aware of that and you don't put that expectation on others.  It seems like there is a slight issue on sanitation if food is being left in other rooms.  That is more concerning than piles of laundry.

 

How did she react the time you cleaned her little one's room?  How you proceed would depend on her reaction.  If she was grateful then the door to discussion, especially since she is such a good friend, would be open to ask her how you can help.  If she seemed embarrassed, even a little, then I would let this go since the kids aren't in immediate danger.    

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#7 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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It sounds like you left some details out of your original post. Personally, I've struggled with depression since I was a child. There are days I don't even want to get out of bed, but I muster the energy to cook, do laundry and take care of my children. I know there are many times people have showed up on my doorstep and I have been completely embarrassed by the state of my house. Then there are days that I get it all done, the house looks nice but the kids get home from school and wreck it. I do have one with ADHD so keeping up sometimes is so daunting I just give up. I do always manage to find the motivation to continue at some point.

 

It sounds to me like your friend is depressed. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. Have a heart to heart with her and tell her you aren't comfortable coming to her house anymore with the state that it's in. Invite her to your house. If she refused then maybe this friendship isn't a friendship after all and perhaps you are better off cutting ties with her. Best of luck.

-Michele

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#8 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 08:06 PM
 
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I think your friend needs to get to a place where she reaches out for help herself. That way, she'll be ready to accept it.
My best friend raised and homeschooled three kids in cluttered squalor, but managed
to keep everyone fed and clothed.
The children were absolutely loved and
cared for, in her own way. It is not a way I
could live, but they functioned and even thrived amidst the chaos and filth.
It's only since her death last year that CPS
became involved. Her youngest is 12, and
the home became unsanitary (dog & cat
feces, mold, rotting garbage) and her father was unable to care for her and started drinking heavily.
So for CPS, the squalor was unsettling, but the health risks and parental neglect were much more important to them.

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#9 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 09:03 PM
 
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Nothing you've described sounds like hoarding to me. More stuff than they need? Almost certainly,but not hoarding.

Is she being treated for depression. A reactive depression following the death of a spouse can be expected to last about 3 years. She also has to parent three kids so it's reasonable to expect a longer recovery time I think.

I don't know what to suggest in the way of help. Probably the best thing you can do is just be her friends. Give her someone to talk too and a distraction from the very hard road she is walking at the moment.

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#10 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 09:22 PM
 
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You sound like my mom. :o She always harped on about how her best friend's home was messy (according to her standards) and how she wasn't a fit parent (again, according to her standards). Well, her kids turned out great, despite my mom's constant criticism. Your friend not vacuuming behind the couch isn't an atrocity.. Most people surface clean anyway. 

 

Your friend lost her husband to a heart attack four years ago. That may seem like a long time to you, but maybe it just seems like yesterday to her. She sounds VERY depressed. Someone that is depressed cannot see the point in all the little things such as picking up those crumbs, folding that laundry and organizing stuff in general. This is what most people don't understand about depression. A lot of people I know think a depressed person just sits there feeling sorry for themselves all day. They don't. They wake up and just find it an incredible struggle to do the simple daily things we take for granted (like getting out of bed for instance). She plays candy crush all day because she can't face the reality of things, so she continues to ignore (it's easier on her sanity). Her life has been turned upside down. The reason she did not accomplish anything on that weekend you took the kids, is because she probably couldn't muster up the mental energy to even begin. My heart breaks for her. You need to do something (obviously) but it needs to center around dealing with the depression. The clearing up of clutter will eventually happen, once she has depression under control. Perhaps you need to ask her about feeling depressed and go from there. 

 

And I'm sorry if my post sounds like it's attacking you - That's not my intention. From the way your post was worded, I saw snippets of my mom and that hit a nerve for me. You obviously care for your friend and I commend you for that. :Hug


 

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#11 of 16 Old 09-11-2013, 10:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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How did she react the time you cleaned her little one's room?  How you proceed would depend on her reaction.  If she was grateful then the door to discussion, especially since she is such a good friend, would be open to ask her how you can help.  If she seemed embarrassed, even a little, then I would let this go since the kids aren't in immediate danger.    

 

She was thrilled, talked about how it motivated her to want to clean the older kids' bedroom (which didn't happen).  She's not embarrassed by people seeing her house or me (or her sister) helping her out cleaning sometimes, she seems oblivious of the clutter unless someone's right there mentioning it (and I try not to 'cause it makes me feel bad)- she'll sit on the couch without clearing the stack of papers off first, etc.  I'm not really a pushy person and I try not to intervene with other people's lives, but what motivated me was, the first time I visited their house, the little one (the a very verbal almost 3 year old) gave me a tour, and when she showed me her room and said, "this used to be my bedroom, now it's the storage room", and then i had the opportunity to make her room "pretty again".

 

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It sounds like you left some details out of your original post.

-Michele

 

Yeah, it's hard sometimes to get all the information all in one post, especially with my own little one running around like a lunatic right behind me.  lol

 

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So for CPS, the squalor was unsettling, but the health risks and parental neglect were much more important to them.

 

That's good to know.  I worry about CPS, my friend worries about CPS, and the two older ones worry about CPS coming if their house isn't cleaner.

 

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Is she being treated for depression. A reactive depression following the death of a spouse can be expected to last about 3 years. She also has to parent three kids so it's reasonable to expect a longer recovery time I think.

I don't know what to suggest in the way of help. Probably the best thing you can do is just be her friends. Give her someone to talk too and a distraction from the very hard road she is walking at the moment.

 

I think she's on meds for depression.  She also has alot of guilt- they were divorced only a couple months before he died.  My fiance had a similar situation- his wife were talking about divorce when she was diagnosed with cancer, died 6 weeks later.  He's given me about the same advice you just did.

 

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You sound like my mom. :o She always harped on about how her best friend's home was messy (according to her standards) and how she wasn't a fit parent (again, according to her standards). Well, her kids turned out great, despite my mom's constant criticism. Your friend not vacuuming behind the couch isn't an atrocity.. Most people surface clean anyway. 

 

Your friend lost her husband to a heart attack four years ago. That may seem like a long time to you, but maybe it just seems like yesterday to her. She sounds VERY depressed. Someone that is depressed cannot see the point in all the little things such as picking up those crumbs, folding that laundry and organizing stuff in general. This is what most people don't understand about depression. A lot of people I know think a depressed person just sits there feeling sorry for themselves all day. They don't. They wake up and just find it an incredible struggle to do the simple daily things we take for granted (like getting out of bed for instance). She plays candy crush all day because she can't face the reality of things, so she continues to ignore (it's easier on her sanity). Her life has been turned upside down. The reason she did not accomplish anything on that weekend you took the kids, is because she probably couldn't muster up the mental energy to even begin. My heart breaks for her. You need to do something (obviously) but it needs to center around dealing with the depression. The clearing up of clutter will eventually happen, once she has depression under control. Perhaps you need to ask her about feeling depressed and go from there. 

 

And I'm sorry if my post sounds like it's attacking you - That's not my intention. From the way your post was worded, I saw snippets of my mom and that hit a nerve for me. You obviously care for your friend and I commend you for that. :Hug

 

I know about depression- I've suffered from it myself and so has my Mom my entire childhood.  I grew up in an extremely messy house and it kills me that my friend's children have similar experiences as I did, only more extreme (they can't even sleep in their own beds, for example- at least I had that.)

 

I knew her since kindergarten just reconnected with her when I moved back to MA a couple years ago.  We used to sit next to eachother at snacktime and trade off snacks.


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#12 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 10:17 AM
 
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Sometimes when you live in that type of situation you just don't see the mess. I grew up in a hoarders paradise, however I never realized there was anything wrong with it till I was around 10 years old...
I feel like I keep my home sanitary, although its cluttered to some degree... The clutter gets much worse when my personal issues (depression) set in. I sorta feel like "why bother?" Almost like "what's the point of shoveling snow in a blizzard?!" Kwim?

If the oldest kid is 13, he/she is old enough to take some personal responsibility. Like laundry, vacuuming, dishes, etc... Idk if she would enforce chores...

But I do agree that she isn't going to change until she reaches her personal point of "enough is enough!"

The rule we have in my home is, as soon as you're done with something, put it away. That way it doesn't get overwhelming for me.

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#13 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 11:20 AM
 
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i feel bad for your friend. it doesn't sound like hoarding as much as being messy. i have dealt with depression as well, BUT i have never had a husband die and feel guilt about a divorce either, so that is a different can of worms.

if she is open to help, maybe that is what she needs. can your SO watch the baby while you and your friends sister go over and help the whole family clean (like her kids too)? sometimes the old saying many hands make light work is true. wash all the clothes and fold them, do all the dishes, get the 13 year old in the bathroom cleaning, throw out the old broke toys. maybe get file folders for all the papers and a couple boxes for storage. you know the drill. 

sometimes a mess is so overwhelming that you have no idea where to start. 

if general tidiness is an issue for her and the kids, can she (money wise) have a cleaning service come in twice a month or something? just an idea. 

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#14 of 16 Old 09-12-2013, 02:35 PM
 
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 I grew up in an extremely messy house and it kills me that my friend's children have similar experiences as I did, only more extreme (they can't even sleep in their own beds, for example- at least I had that.)

That is sad for the little one. I don't know how old the middle child is, but the oldest is 13? Is it the mom storing stuff in the older kids' room, or do the kids just not keep it clean? If it's the latter, I would think that if having a clean room and access to a bed was important to them, they'd be old enough to make that happen...? Not that they, as the children, should have to step in to that degree to make up for a lack of parental guidance, but a 13 year old would be physically capable of it if s/he desired.

Lots of things from your OP wouldn't concern me, but all together it does paint a picture of an overwhelmed, possibly depressed woman. I hope she gets help.

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#15 of 16 Old 09-13-2013, 06:16 PM
 
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I vote hoarding. Just for background, I'm the child of a mild (when I was a kid) to moderate (when she was older and could hoard freely with no one else in the house) hoarder, and a participant on the Children of Hoarders forum.

Guys, I understand that you want to defend an overwhelmed and depressed mother, but....guys, what about defending the _kids_?

These kids are going to be isolated, because they'll have trouble having friends in the home. They may not have a place to do their homework. They certainly have no reliable place to store their things. They're not learning the most basic of household behavior.

And hoards are dirty. The food and crumbs? Sooner or later they will attract insects and possibly rodents. Maybe, like some children of hoarders, they'll cope by snatching freshly-washed clothes out of the dryer and putting them in Rubbermaid containers before the roaches can get to them.

At least, until the washer and dryer stop working and the mother's too afraid to call a repairman for fear he'll call CPS. Or maybe it'll be the toilet that fails first, so that it has to be flushed with buckets of water from the sink. Maybe the heat will fail, so that in winter there will be space heaters among the flammable heaps of hoarded items.

Guys. Guys. This is not about defending the mother. If the mother were drinking heavily all day every day, would you say to give her a break, she's just trying to cope? Hoarding is a mental illness, and it's a mental illness that is incredibly poorly understood and poorly treated. And the treatment that does exist doesn't really address the kids at all.

Hoarding affects every aspect of a child's life. These kids are suffering. And, original poster, there is likely nothing at all that you can do about it. I doubt that CPS would act, unless there are issues beyond the hoard, like insects, rodents, fire hazard, failed plumbing or heat, mold, that sort of thing.

And if they do act....the mother still might do nothing, might let her kids go out of her life rather than clean up the hoard. Hoarders have lost their spouses, their children, their homes, their health, even their lives, for the hoard. It's usually not a matter of not having time to clean, or not knowing how to clean. It's more like an addiction; the hoarder does not want to clean, any more than an alcoholic wants to stop drinking.

But the hoarder won't admit that. They'll blame the state of the house on all sorts of things--including the kids. Very, very often the hoarder blames the kids, sometimes to the point of raging and threatening dire consequences if the house isn't cleaned...and then they make it impossible to clean.

I'm not sounding very optimistic, am I? I guess that's because I'm not. Maybe later I'll feel less frustrated and angry and return with more useful advice, but right now I just want to put my head in my hands, seeing all these posts about the poor, poor mom and how the kids are probably Just Fine.

OP, one thing that you could do is give these kids an experience of a clean place, by inviting them to your house as often as you're willing. And if they seem to blame themselves for the hoarding, you can make it clear that it's not their fault, and that as children the state of the house is not their responsibility. Because I'll just about guarantee you that they think that it is.
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#16 of 16 Old 09-13-2013, 06:19 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by limabean View Post

, I would think that if having a clean room and access to a bed was important to them, they'd be old enough to make that happen...? Not that they, as the children, should have to step in to that degree to make up for a lack of parental guidance, but a 13 year old would be physically capable of it if s/he desired. .

Children of hoarders are often punished for cleaning, or even for moving the hoard. I doubt that the 13 year old would be permitted to create a clean room. Even if she were allowed to move the stuff, where to move it to?

Edited to add:


So I'm going to more calmly discuss why I diagnose this as a hoard rather than merely a quite untidy house.

- the kids don't have beds. Oh, sure, there are beds in the house, but they can't sleep in them. I really hope that no one feels that "a child should sleep in a bed" is an unreasonable and finicky housekeeping standard. I'd bet that most of the children of the posters here sleep in beds. Why aren't these kids worthy of that privilege?

Ok, ok, I said I was going to calm down.

- the entire floor of a hallway is sometimes covered in stuff. This is a tripping danger, a danger for escaping from a fire, a danger to fire and rescue workers.

- a child referred to her former bedroom as a storeroom. The room used to belong to her; now it belongs to the stuff. Message: the stuff is more important than you.

Calming down....

- the kids fear CPS. They fear losing their home and family. These kids are not OK.

So, some diagnostic questions:

- I don't care if the beds are ever made. I do care that they can't be used. If the kids were able to sleep in beds, I would ask if they have bedding (sheets? Pillowcases?) and how often it is cleaned. I would ask if they have accessible clean sleepwear. I would ask if they can safely get from bed to bathroom without (tripping or foot-puncturing) injury.

- I don't care if their clothes are folded. I care whether they're clean, appropriate, and accessible.

- I don't care whether the Legos are separated from the PlayMobils and the doll shoes. I do care whether it's possible to play with them at all, and whether there is any clean safe place to play. I care whether the older kids have a place to keep their school gear and a flat surface on which to do homework.

- I care that a 13 year old girl apparently has no place for dreaming and frippery and friends and treasures and the other things that come with adolescence. And speaking of this mother losing her husband, didn't this girl lose a father? Doesn't that matter too?

Odds are that nothing can be done. The law and the medical health professionals don't seem to care about the children in hoarded homes. But the fact that we can't help these kids isn't, IMO, a reason for reassuring ourselves that they're fine. They're not fine.

Yeah, the calming down didn't so much take...
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