Hoarding disorder - any kids/family members? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 135 Old 08-02-2006, 02:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi, just wondering if there are any children (or family members) of hoarders around. We're dealing with this situation with my mom, and the more I learn about hoarding/squalor, the more I think that it is really common but nobody talks about it.

There is a terrific Yahoo group for children of hoarders, which I'm finding to be a great source of information and support. I wondered if there would be any interest in a thread here...? PM me if you're not comfortable talking about this publicly or want an invite to the Yahoo group.

For those new to this term, hoarding is a mental disorder, usually classified as a variant of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is a very informative site:
http://understanding_ocd.tripod.com/hoarding.html

Other great resources:
Here is a web forum dedicated to anyone touched by hoarding:
http://www.childrenofhoarders.com/forum/
And the ChildrenofHoarders web site has TONS of great info, including a link to join the COH Yahoo group:
http://www.childrenofhoarders.com/bindex.php
A list of links related to hoarding:
http://pub40.bravenet.com/freelink/s...17164082&cpv=1

ETA: I posted in this forum because I think many of us who know about hoarding are concerned with clutter in our own homes... especially those who grew up in those conditions.

Edited to add links.
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#2 of 135 Old 08-02-2006, 07:52 PM
 
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I think you are right that some of us are compelled to simplify b/c of our connection to someone who cannot let anything go...

My Mom is a hoarder. My grandmother (my dad's mom) was a hoarder.

My mother is what I would call a disorganized hoarder. She just needs to keep everything with no rhyme or reason to where or how. She often lived in what I would consider squaler:
Every room in her home was piled high with what I can best describe as CRAP. She had a small trail so that she could walk through, though there was one room that was actually completely blocked off. (we later learned that her cats were using some of the boxes in this room as a litter box ) She would buy new clothes because she couldn't get to her w/d, just pull the tags off, wear them and then add them to the pile. B/c she had dogs things would get covered in animal hair and she would throw a sheet on furniture to "keep it clean"; with one chair having 12 sheets on it (all fresh from the package and never washed).
We have cleaned her home many times. Finally, last year, we did an "intervention" of sorts. I told her that I could not allow her to live like that. I told her that if she did not let us help her clean her house that I would call social services on her, call the humane society and have her pets taken away, and that she would not be allowed to see her grandchildren. We took a week long "vacation", my uncle came and helped and we completely emptied out her house. (her house was so stuffed that we had to "camp" in a tent in her back yard for the first 2 days b/c there was no where to stay) We hired "1-800-Got-Junk" and they filled TWO trucks with stuff to go to the dump. My uncle & I regularly visit her to make sure that her house stays clean.

Through my own research, I have learned that hoarding can be precipitated by depression as well. I believe that when I moved out of the house and mom was left alone, things started to go downhill. Then when her mother passed away, the same year DH & I were married, things got really bad. I have encouraged her to get counseling; which she hasn't yet.

Actually, we are going there this weekend to visit. We haven't been in several months and I am TERRIFIED that her house will be really bad. Please keep your fingers crossed for us! :

My paternal grandmother also was a hoard. She died this past spring. My father and my uncles had to clean out her home. In her case though, she had piles, piles, and more piles. Stacks of magazines, newspapers, papers, etc. Sort of organized and in "order"; but her house was STUFFED. She always saved lots of stuff, but the piles didn't really start until my grandfather died 7 yrs ago.

I'm not sure that a whole board could be devoted to hoarding, but I definitely think this thread is a good idea. Many people think that relatives are just "messy" or filthy or whatever; but they litterally cannot help themselves. When I started being open about my mother, almost every one of my friends could list a family member of their own that has the same "problem". The link you posted is a fabulous resource for beginning to understand what is "going on" in their heads.
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#3 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 04:06 AM
 
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My great-uncle was a hoarder, my grandmother was a hoarder and my aunt IS a hoarder. It's all on one side of the family.
(The other side of the family is of the completely disposable variety : )
When my grandmother died, my aunt cleaned out her farmplace and took the majority of the items to her own house. Much to the chagrin of my uncle and her daughters. Then my aunt/uncle had to move and they had to clean out their house.
Same as pp said...she had "trails" through the house because there was so much "junk" stacked everywhere. They hired dumpsters and parked them out front and started cleaning. My aunt had a fit and would climb into the dumpster to "rescue" items that were meant for the "church, children's organization, etc"
That's how she'd ended up with so much crap, she'd cart stuff home thinking she'd find a better "home" for it and then it'd just sit there at her house and she couldn't justify throwing it away because "someone can use it".

Her daughter finally researched "hoarding" figured out how to effectively handle my aunt and they did manage to get everything cleaned out of the old house and move.
But, they made her promise that she didn't start bringing things home again, and so far she's been pretty good about it.
There's no animals involved, thank goodness...
That would be a much much bigger problem.

Summer: crafty mama to 2 little girls and wife to Bob
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#4 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 11:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by thedevinemissm
I told her that if she did not let us help her clean her house that I would call social services on her, call the humane society and have her pets taken away, and that she would not be allowed to see her grandchildren.
We are considering doing this, as well. Ideally, we'd like to get Mom in therapy and on meds for the OCHD, but she will never agree to that. No one has been allowed in the house for over 5 years, but we know it's very, very bad. She has lupus and many other health problems and is constantly getting infections which in her case can be life-threatening. Until her health started to decline, we were willing to offer help periodically but let her take the lead. Of course, she refused to even discuss the house with us. Now, we feel that her life is endangered by her living conditions. It's so hard to know what is best, because we fear she'll cut us all out of her life if we intervene, or do something to harm herself. We're consulting with a therapist to try to come up with a plan of action.

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Originally Posted by thedevinemissm
Actually, we are going there this weekend to visit. We haven't been in several months and I am TERRIFIED that her house will be really bad. Please keep your fingers crossed for us!
I'll be thinking of you. From reading the experiences of other COH (children of hoarders), it can get bad again pretty fast. Keep repeating to yourself, "It is a mental disorder. It is a mental disorder." I read that one of the reasons hoarding is so hard to treat is that it's a "successful compulsion." In other words, a hoarder really *does* feel better when surrounded by their stuff. I think that's why they resist treatment, and why a cleaned space can revert so easily.
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#5 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 01:41 PM
 
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My husband's mom is a hoarder. We 'inherited' (she moved out and we moved in, taking over the rent etc) an impossibly crowded apartment from her. She collected, among other things, some dangerous items, including used batteries (they had burned a hole through a plastic table and several storage boxes before we found them...the patio was low on our cleanup list).

I blogged about it a little bit but it is mostly just a rant.

She left it all behind when she "moved out" and knowing that she was simply incapable of dealing with it (that it was a psychological problem) is the reason we've kept a good relationship. That knowledge is certainly what kept me from being too terribly angry at the situation. We weren't just doing MIL the favor of cleaning her apartment, we were FREEING her from that stuff.

It certainly runs in families. All of MIL's siblings that I've visited exhibit it to some degree. One has 6 broken refridgerators and several exercise gyms amongst the general rubble that was once his garage, and has crowded an entire room in his house with boxes full of his 6 (now adult) childrens' outgrown clothing to the point where you can no longer enter. They are all like this. Her mother is too.

When MIL moved out, she moved in with her meticulously organized, clean, clutter-free new husband. He has given her some leeway to hoard useful things but has been ruthless about keeping her from crowding their space. She has a whole superlarge rubbermaid garage-shelf kind of thing in their storage room that holds nothing but shampoo, conditioner, and soap; I suppose her ability to hoard these things in a way acceptable to her husband keeps her from being totally frustrated in her tendencies.

My husband exhibits some tendencies towards this. He has all the psychological attributes that would indicate he'd do it. I've been rough on him, I know, in that I don't put up with it, not at all. I am certain he'd hold on to every last thing that passed through his hands "because we might need it" if I wasn't ruthless about getting rid of it. I MADE him whittle down his childhood memento type possessions to fit in a single large rubbermaid tub when we moved (his mom kept EVERYTHING....every scrap of paper he ever brought home from school, and I had to have HIM go through it, saying "I can't remember this" or "wow, I remember when Josh blah blah blah" and sticking it in the box).

I think my husband would be far worse if he hadn't had to live with his mom and wonder, on a daily basis, why the utensils were on the counter and her disposable chopstick collection (taken one-by-one from chinese restaurants) was in the drawer. Living with that kind of frustration gives him the perspective when I say that some habit of HIS is bothering ME.

Mama, homeschooler, midwife. DD (13yo), DS (11yo), DD (8yo), DD (3yo), somebody new coming in November 2013.

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#6 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 02:38 PM
 
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Both my DH's father and paternal grandfather are hoarders. The first year DH and I were together, I helped his family clean out his grandfather's house so that they could remodel the basement so DH's aunt could live there to take care of Grandpa. The basement was literally *filled* to the ceiling with stuff. Like 6 broken lawnmowers and 20 years of homemade jams. We knew his "spare" room upstairs also had become full of junk after his wife passed away, but we had no idea the downstairs was just as bad (or worse). It took us almost a 5 days working non-stop to clear all the crap out. He of course wouldn't let us get rid of anything unless we said we were taking it home with us. My FIL seems to have picked up his dad's hoarding, but not as bad. My IL's garage is so full of stuff you can't walk in there, or even move out the vehicles that are in it. He still owns his first car (a 65 Mustang) but it is now in back of the garage *completely* rusted and covered by a tarp. He just can't get rid of anything. My MIL has cleared out alot from their house since her kids left home, but there is still alot hidden in the basement. My DH sometimes wants to do the packrat thing, which I see as leading towards hoarding like his family. It drives DH crazy that his family is like that (he works for his dad's company and their business is just as a chaotic) and I know he truly doesn't want to live that way. We've had numerous discussions about it, but its still a struggle for him. I'm actually in the process of doing a major declutter from our house because the crap he's been collecting is starting to pile up again. So far I've been able to have him keep it mostly in the basement and garage, but we both would like to be able to use those areas so we plan on getting rid of 95% of the stuff there. I did not grow up in a family like this, so it is very hard for me to understand and deal with it.

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#7 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 02:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by momof1sofar
on meds for the OCHD
Be careful of the meds. My mom was on several different kinds at different times. Honestly, the side effects of the meds can be just as bad as the disorder...they once found my mom wandering the streets crazed b/c she couldn't find her way home (I didn't know at the time b/c I was younger and my family hid it from me), the meds made her dillusional. Another med made her gain weight, which just hightened her depression, "Not only am I crazy, but I'm fat too". Other meds just made her not care ~ about ANYTHING. She was like a zombie.

The problem is that we are dealing with people who's brains are already "out of whack" and then add drugs to that ~ no one knows whats going to happen!
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#8 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 02:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by celestialdreamer
My DH sometimes wants to do the packrat thing, which I see as leading towards hoarding like his family. It drives DH crazy that his family is like that...but its still a struggle for him. <snip> I did not grow up in a family like this, so it is very hard for me to understand and deal with it.
This sounds very familiar.

I think it is so very interesting that even when people (like both of our DHs) are aware of the problem, they STILL have to fight, and fight hard, against that tendency.

When we cleared out MIL's place, we had to assure her that most of it was being given to people we know, as Goodwill is just not good enough. When she helped HER mom move out of their old house, MIL shipped us several large boxes of clothing, knicknacks, etc, that we really couldn't use, at a cost that was more than what we'd have paid at a thrift store. And we just took it straight to Goodwill and told her so. It was getting BEYOND tiring at that point to be given so much stuff.

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#9 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 11:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by thedevinemissm
Be careful of the meds. My mom was on several different kinds at different times. Honestly, the side effects of the meds can be just as bad as the disorder...
The problem is that we are dealing with people who's brains are already "out of whack" and then add drugs to that ~ no one knows whats going to happen!
Thanks for sharing this, it does worry me. Our current strategy is to ask her doctor to increase the dosage on her Zoloft, which she is already on for headaches and seems to tolerate well. Our goal is to reduce her anxiety enough that she might allow us to help her get the house to a safe state. I don't expect to cure the hoarding, I'd just like to get ahead of it and provide a relatively safe environment for her.
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#10 of 135 Old 08-03-2006, 11:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think it is so very interesting that even when people (like both of our DHs) are aware of the problem, they STILL have to fight, and fight hard, against that tendency.
This is one reason I started this thread. There is good evidence that hoarding runs in families, and I think it's good to be aware of the tendencies and strategies for dealing with them.

I didn't grow up in a hoard house (it developed as we grew up and moved out), but even so I can see tendencies in myself. For example, I have a hard time throwing paperwork away... college notes, financial documents, etc. Why exactly do I need my class notes from Turfgrass Management?

A helpful book is Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding by Neziroglu, Bubrick, and Yaryura-Tobias. It's directed toward someone with full-blown hoarding disorder, but I'm finding it useful for dealing with my own packrat tendencies. I refuse to become a hoarder!
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#11 of 135 Old 08-04-2006, 01:10 PM
 
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My mom is definitely a hoarder. My grandma is as well, but she is very organized. It was difficult in some ways growing up because I didn't want to have friends over. Our entire family room was full of newspaper and boxes with just a trail through the center. As a teenager, this is very embarassing and hard to explain. As an adult, I go to extremes in the opposite way. I don't like to save anything. I would like for my mother to clean up my parents house so that it is safe for children, but I'm not sure that will happen. She did go on meds once and hated the way they made her feel. I support her in not going on meds. I enjoy my mom's company, but it does make it difficult for visits and such to her home.

My parents have a 3 car garage and no cars are parked in it. Half the garage is taken up with newspapers. My mom will not throw them away unless she looks through them. Obviously, that will never happen. You can't just throw stuff away for someone - that would be devasating. I think she is really trying to get rid of some things.
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#12 of 135 Old 08-04-2006, 03:36 PM
 
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MIL is a hoarder. Compulsive in general, actually. She's finally being seen by a psychiatrist b/c things got so out of hand & she was stealing in conjunction with the hoarding. It's been very frustrating & dh is just about the only family member who still has any dealings with his mom.

I'm glad this thread is here- i'll dig around for the thread i had in TAO about MIL's story a few months back.
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#13 of 135 Old 08-05-2006, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for sharing your stories! I'll reply more later (nak) but just popped in to add some helpful links to the first post.

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#14 of 135 Old 08-09-2006, 12:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by bobica
MIL is a hoarder. Compulsive in general, actually. She's finally being seen by a psychiatrist b/c things got so out of hand & she was stealing in conjunction with the hoarding.
Bobica, how long has your MIL been seeing the psychiatrist? Have you noticed any improvement?
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#15 of 135 Old 08-09-2006, 03:45 PM
 
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Hoarding "tendencies" run in the family, along with OCD "tendencies" (the only one I know officially diagnosed with OCD is my mom). I saw the hoarder link and sent it to my mom to look over. She and my sister are either very mild hoarders or very bad clutterers. No one in the family saves garbage or things like that, but it's more like "I can't throw this pile of papers away, there may be something important in it" and "I can't get rid of this, I might be able to use it for something" or "I can't get rid of this, it's worth too much.". On the surface those statements seem reasonable, but, well, you guys know what I mean. Times it by 100 more piles of paper, 100 more things that are worth something and 1000 more "possibly useful" items and you have my mom's house. And my sister's and my aunt's (though my aunt in general keeps a neat house. For her it's her basement, bedroom and "junk room").

I haven't been in my mom's house for years. My kids go there and are fine. I grew up like that though and now when I walk back in there I feel suffocated. I can't believe I lived like that. My house is cluttered and messy now but nothing like that. I guess it doesn't bother my kids because they didn't grow up in it. When I go to my sister's house it's the same. She has a small house but it's just her and her dh (and 1 dog and some cats). It's incredibly claustrophobic there. Hard to walk through because of the stuff. They seem to collect large pieces of furniture too - things that obviously don't fit in their small house but they hold on to because they are "worth something". Maybe they're saving the stuff in hopes of a bigger house someday?

My OCD tendencies are the least of anyone in the family and my cluttering is also the least bad. I still have a clutter problem but I'm definitely not a hoarder. I understand how it can happen though so I have sympathy. Especially with kids. I can't throw out that cardboard box because we can use it for crafts or mailing something or make-believe. I can't throw out that banged up gift bag because we can cut it up for crafts. Etc., etc. When dh cleans up I sometimes find myself going behind him and picking things out of the garbage :

I didn't have people over when I was a kid either. That's extended to now. I was just talking about this the other day. I've recently realized my house is just not that bad. I've had playdates with people whose houses were far more cluttered than mine and they had no problem inviting me over. I guess the feeling is left over from my childhood. I have this idea that I can't invite anyone over because the house is depressing and claustrophobic and they'll be disgusted. Really, it's not *this* house I'm thinking of. My dd recently asked why we never have people over, we always go to their houses. That's what started all this soul searching. So we're planning some playdates
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#16 of 135 Old 08-09-2006, 05:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Shannon, thanks for posting. I heard an interesting discussion recently about OCD and how it's starting to become apparent that it is a spectrum of disorders. I think this will help address the "hoarding spectrum," with clutter/collecting on one end and squalor on the other. I'll see if I can dig up some references to the discussion, I might have heard it on NPR...?
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#17 of 135 Old 08-09-2006, 11:53 PM
 
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My mom is a hoarder. Her home is "organized crap" She is in the process of moving and has decided to get rid of some stuff. She has sold most of her furniture but still has a ways to go. She says there is only a path through her apartment and no where to sit. I guess she better get busy since me and my ds will be visiting her soon!!

My grandmother was a hoarder. When she passed away, we ended up cleaning out her apartment. She had stacks of magazines from the 1960's! She had 2 or 3 of every item. Her stuff all smelled like smoke. She had a 3 bedroom apartment and 2 1/2 rooms were so full you couldn't close the door. You had to walk sideways to get through the hall. The only place to sit when visiting her was on 2 dining room chairs especially for visitors. It took 25 truckloads to empty it all out. When we were done we learned that she had a storage unit that was full of old clothes.

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#18 of 135 Old 08-10-2006, 12:17 AM
 
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with older folks, many cant or could just not let go of that depression era hoarding. My wifes grandfather was a horader and it was 4 fullsize dumpsters to get rid of all the stuff from the basement and garage. Grandma wasnt a hoarder but as long as the stuff wasnt in the living space she didnt say anything about it.

True there are folks that hoard and help to see whats going on can sometimes be the key.
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#19 of 135 Old 08-10-2006, 11:46 AM
 
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This might be OT ~ but I'm curious about the need to "aquire" stuff. I wrote about my mom above, but I wonder about my ILs too. My FIL cannot pass up something on sale, even if he already has 10 of them. They have a 4-br house w/2car garage. One full bedroom and 1/2 of the garage are completely devoted to "storage". While it all seems well organized on shelves & bins ~ some of it seems like really odd things to have so much of. He actually has bins (like the rubbermaid ones that are like 1.5'x1.5'x3') full of toothpaste, another one full of shampoo, etc. They have enough "toiletries" to last for the rest of their lives. He has CASES of car wash & wax. The last time we were there they had 12-packs of sodas creating a wall between the "storage" side of the garage and the side they park the car on. There had to be at least a hundred of them!!!!

Is it still "hoarding" if it is in a neat & orderly fashion???
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#20 of 135 Old 08-10-2006, 12:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thedevinemissm
Is it still "hoarding" if it is in a neat & orderly fashion???
I would call that hoarding, although a more precise term might be "compulsive acquisition." To me, it's not the messiness that defines a hoard, it's the inability to discard items and the compulsion to collect items beyond a reasonable amount. Hoards often do become messy over time, or as a result of physical limitations as the hoarder ages, but I suspect most start out organized.

This is an interesting excerpt from an article on hoarding animals in the Psychiatric Times: http://psychiatrictimes.com/p000425.html
Quote:
Frost and Gross (1993) define hoarding as "the acquisition of, and failure to discard, possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value." For this behavior to pose a clinically significant problem, Frost and Hartl (1996) suggested that living spaces have to be "sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were designed," and the hoarding must create significant distress or impairment.
To me, the acquisition phase is somewhere on the "hoarding spectrum." Hopefully, your inlaws never move beyond that point. There must be some compulsion there that is causing them to store things in such quantity, but it sounds manageable at the moment. Unfortunately, as their mobility decreases or they start having health problems, it could deteriorate.
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#21 of 135 Old 08-11-2006, 01:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just saw the trailer for a documentary on one family's struggle with hoarding disorder, called My Mother's Garden. It is gut-wrenching but SO relevant. The film is in post-production right now.

http://www.seethrough-films.com/mmg/
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#22 of 135 Old 08-11-2006, 01:56 PM
 
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That made me cry That reminds me of this site http://squalorsurvivors.com/index.shtml On the squalor survivors site it even says you shouldn't clean up someone's stuff behind their back because of results like that. For a hoarder, the crap (even the outright garbage) is some sort of safety net. It's comforting. To have it all be gone suddenly, without warning, can snap someone. Because really, the hoarding is a symptom of problems, not the cause. Even if you do clean it all up and they are happy, it's just going to come back again if the cause isn't addressed (whether that be emotional problems, OCD, whatever).

Though at the same time, I'm not totally knocking her kids. It said the house was going to be taken away from her by the city and they just didn't know what to do so they did what they thought was right.

As for neat hoarders, I think it counts too. It's still hoarding. My mom says my great aunt was a very neat housekeeper but had tons of stuff hoarded away, all neat and oraganized. She once showed my mom that she had a bunch of cans of coffee she bought because they were on sale. What got my mom was that Aunt and her dh didn't drink coffee so how is that saving any money? Maybe it was the need to acquire but it was also the need to have things on hand. I think it's like an alcoholic. Someone can have a good job, isn't driving drunk, isn't laying in the gutter, and still be an alcoholic. If they need to drink and can't stop themselves then they are still an alcoholic even if they aren't as dramatic and obvious as the person vomiting on their bosses shoes.
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#23 of 135 Old 08-11-2006, 04:34 PM
 
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Wow. That was so sad.

~Joan, Happy mom to 2 beautiful kiddos, one new puppy and 2 lovely felines
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#24 of 135 Old 08-12-2006, 12:07 PM
 
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I truly believe my MIL is a hoarder. Every single closet in her home is packed full of clothes (some over 40 years old), boxes of stuff, all kinds of junk. In an upstairs bedroom there are several shelves crammed with OTC medications and vitamins, some of which expired more than ten years ago. In the basement, more clothes, junk, etc. Not to mention two chest freezers and two refriderators filled to bursting. Some of the contents of the freezers has been in there for twenty years. There are shelves packed with canned goods-some of which are so old and have sat so long the contents have EATEN through the cans and leaked all over. Tons of packaged foods as well.

MIL subscribes to three daily newspapers and several magazines, most of which she doesn't read, so at any given time there what appears to be several feet of reading material piled up on the coffee table, dining room table, and sofa. It drives FIL nuts, but when he tries to throw them out or cancel some of the subscriptions, she gets very upset.

There is just sooo much STUFF everywhere. DH and his sibs joke about it, but don't seem to think it's a big deal. My own home certainly isn't the paragon of cleanliness and order, heck, right now it looks like a whirlwind went through it. I try not to worry about the ILs too much because while the house is packed to a the rafters, there aren't actually living in filth or anything. But I have said to DH in 20-25 years or so when his parents are gone, guess who will have herculean task of cleaning out their house? Then the color kind of drains from his face.

Jackie, Catholic mama to Elijah (6/07) & Gabriel (2/10) and our angel baby, m/c 7/29/12. Expecting someone new in October 2014!
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#25 of 135 Old 08-12-2006, 04:49 PM
 
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That made me cry That reminds me of this site http://squalorsurvivors.com/index.shtml On the squalor survivors site it even says you shouldn't clean up someone's stuff behind their back because of results like that. For a hoarder, the crap (even the outright garbage) is some sort of safety net. It's comforting. To have it all be gone suddenly, without warning, can snap someone. Because really, the hoarding is a symptom of problems, not the cause. Even if you do clean it all up and they are happy, it's just going to come back again if the cause isn't addressed (whether that be emotional problems, OCD, whatever).
This is so very true! I hadn't slipped over that very thin line from super cluttery to hoarding. I call myself a hoarder in my blog because frankly that's where I was headed and that's where I was psychologically--if someone had taken all my stuff away without my knowledge, I can see that I would have snapped. It's painful and frustrating and yes, heartbreaking.

I thank the deities that I don't have true squalor--I never got into saving cans or rotten stuff, but I have hoarded food (and found expired stuff...long expired, many packages of the same thing).

I'm on a two-week clutter busting binge and it feels great, which tells me that I picked the right time. If I hadn't been ready for this, I would be in bad shape in my head. Instead, I'm feeling light and airy and hopeful.

Be kind to the hoarder in your life...

Mom to DD1 (11/1999),  DD2 (07/2003), and DS (11/2012), all born at home and cloth diapered. 

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#26 of 135 Old 08-12-2006, 07:23 PM
 
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My mom is a hoarder. You could see the tendencies when I was growing up but until my dad died when I was 19, he kept things in check. But the house was still embarrassing to bring friends to and such. Now it is out of control. We cannot stay there. There is no room, even on a floor for us to sleep. My mom has a HUGE 4 bedroom house and cannot even get to her own bed. She sleeps on the couch. Often on top of newspapers and such. My sister also has a room in the house that is not just filled with stuff (literally, to the ceiling) but it is also rotting from the inside out. Her own apartment is OK though.... My mom wants to sell her house and move to a condo. The house is in great disrepair after years and years of not being able to get to the places that need repair. She also has cats that urinate everywhere (why does that seem to be a theme?). It is very awkward when we are in town. It is bad enough dealing with the embarrassment of bringing my dh into her house. But with dd still on the floor a lot, I cannot bear to have her there. The same thing happens every time. I resolve to be a good daughter and try bringing the whole family over to visit. But I only last about 2 hours before I come up with some excuse or suggestion for doing something elsewhere.

There is nothing to say or do that will change my mom. She does not see a problem. She will resolve to dig out a room. That will take months. Every time I will call her on the phone she will say she is "working on" a room. And it will be the same room for months before she names another one. But then we will visit and the stuff in the first room might be slightly moved around but all the same stuff, including the garbage, cat pee, and dust, will still be there. She seemingly cannot throw anything out.

She often sends me HUGE boxes of stuff she found around her house that she thinks I can use. Really gross stuff. Recently she sent me a toaster oven box filled with old paper napkins. There were napkins from every birthday party or holiday that ever occurred in our house. Plus random fast food napkins and regular store napkins. All of them slightly stained or mildewed. Some even look like they were used many many years ago. Several packages had moths. I have learned long ago to always open these boxes outside. Ironically, she knows we never use paper napkins, even for camping or parties. Of course I tossed the entire thing. But I cannot imagine spending an entire day sorting and packing these up, then spending $15 to mail it only so I can spend $1 throwing it away at the dump. I get a box like this at least once a week. Very seldom do I find something that I can keep for any reason. She doe snot have a job. This is what she does all day. My sister gets the same boxes. She got paper plates instead of napkins though.....

The ironic thing is that she has nothing from my childhood. She did not hoard cute pictures I drew. No dolls or old toys. No memorable outfits. Even the family photos were ruined and tossed years ago. I just do not get it.

Can you tell I am at my wit's end?

I can see the same tendencies in myself. But so far I have swung so far the other way that they have not had a chance to grow. Luckily we are broke and very busy so there is no time or money to collect stuff. I did note that when we moved the last time that my "save" pile was far too big. Dh and I quickly purged about 1/2 of our belongings. Dh is happy to do this as he does not want me to ever get like my mom. So far I have been able to funnel my OCD tendencies towards cleaning and decluttering. I can not handle things being out of place. I hope it stays that way.

Meanwhile I have nightmares at night that my mom is going to run away and leave my sister and I to take care of her molding house. ick.
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#27 of 135 Old 08-12-2006, 11:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm on a two-week clutter busting binge and it feels great, which tells me that I picked the right time. If I hadn't been ready for this, I would be in bad shape in my head. Instead, I'm feeling light and airy and hopeful. ...
I'm glad to hear it's going well for you! It sounds like you're doing great.

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Be kind to the hoarder in your life...
I agree with this, but I think children of hoarders also need to be kind to themselves. Especially if they grew up in a hoard house, they may never have learned to do this. It's ok to feel frustration, anger, resentment, and even disgust. It's also ok to feel compassion, love, understanding and worry. I feel all of these things whenever I think about my mom's living conditions. I understand she has a mental disorder, and try to keep compassion above all else, but to deny the other emotions are there would be a disservice to myself.

Also, there may come a time when family members feel they must act to preserve the health and life of the hoarder. I completely understand why the kids in the documentary acted, and may get there soon myself. I don't think any of us would undertake such action lightly. I agree with what you're saying about being compassionate and considerate of the hoarder's feelings, but sometimes there is no good choice.
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#28 of 135 Old 08-14-2006, 10:21 PM
 
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I was almost crying watching that.

My MIL was a hoarder (with cats). I did not visit her house before she died (of cancer - not related to the house) and my DH and his friend cleaned it up. I understand that it looked like the woman's in the movie but with more stuff outside and the house was much bigger so more stuff inside. She slept on a mattress on the floor downstairs. DH filled 4 dumpsters with her stuff. She def. got worse over the years as it wasn't like that when he was a child. After he became and adult, it got worse and worse until she didn't want him to visit, didn't have any friends over, and only very grugingly let him and his friend clean sometimes in the yard. She had about 30 cats that were indoor/outdoor.

While I understand how upset the mom in the movie was "Why didn't you help me slowly to do this?" there is no slowly. If you try to do it slowly, by the time you've gotten rid of some stuff, the hoarder has gotten just as much new stuff to replace it.

I do think they should have told her BEFORE she went home so that it wasn't such a shock. My heart goes out to that family, and to those of you here dealing with it.

Early intervention specialist and parent consultant since 2002.
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#29 of 135 Old 08-14-2006, 10:28 PM
 
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Yooper and Pikki...so sad.

~Joan, Happy mom to 2 beautiful kiddos, one new puppy and 2 lovely felines
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#30 of 135 Old 08-15-2006, 03:21 PM
 
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I watched the trailer too. That is very close to what we are dealing with. However, if it came to the township taking my mom's home, I think we would let them. It would be the same trauma on my mom except she can blame them instead of us. Does that make me evil? And you are right there is no "slowly". My sister I dream that the house will burn down (with my mom getting out safely, of course). She would start all over again with a different living space, but we would have a few years of almost-normal..... It is so sad. My dad designed that house. My parents built it themselves. And now it is just a giant litter box and garbage dump. Why can't she see that?!?!?!?!?

I was in the second hand stores (we have 4!) around town today looking for a popsicle mold (ours broke last week). I see myself drawn to the plastic knock-off tuppeware and cool retro luggage. 1970's waffle irons almost give me the chills. I have to remind myself every single day that I do not need it. None of it. In fact, I could probably go 5 years and not buy one single thing and be fine. I repeat this daily. I make myself check the second hand stores for things I need. I always have a list and rarely deviate from it. I do this because I need to save money, I hate causing more "stuff" to be manufactured, and often what I need is something I only need once or twice and can just give back to Goodwill afterwards. But I also do it to keep myself in check. I do it so I walk out of the store empty-handed and know that is possible.
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