Cleaning up a Hoarder's House

shaunJuly 11, 2008

My older sister (ever the hoarder) passed away last week. She's left behind a 5 bedroom home filled to the gills of "stuff". It's everywhere.

We have to go in and organize stacks and stacks of paperwork and get the placed cleaned out.

Any ideas on how to even begin? Nothing can even be cleaned until all the trash is separated from the important things.

Besides being sad, I'm overwhelmed and don't know where to begin.

Do any of you have any tips on how to begin with this?

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I'm sorry for your loss, shaun - my older sister passed away in April and I know this isn't an easy time.

There are businesses that will do this for you and hold a house sale but I understand if that feels too invasive. You can do it on your own but it is a lot of work.

I'm actually helping a friend with this exact situation in her mother's house. I recommend getting a friend in to help you - it does help to simply have the company but also someone to keep you on track. It's very easy for the loved one to get mired in the process or get constantly sidetracked and spin their wheels - that's what my friend was doing. Every time she'd go back she was retracing her steps and essentially just moving piles.

First thing - empty the refrigerator and get rid of all perishables and opened boxes of food in cupboards. Clean a place where you can sit and have a snack as you work, get bottle of water to keep there if you like.

Pick one room - I chose a bathroom because it's smaller and much in it can be tossed. I see no point in agonizing over half empty shampoos or any toiletries, makeup, hair brushes - toss it all out. IF there should be anything in the bathroom where you question disposal, like medications, have a box to put them in. Unless she kept jewelry in the bathroom, you can probably empty that space within an hour and move on.

At first, I recommend picking small areas. Maybe do the linen closet next, or the coat closet if there is one. Once you get a few areas started and finished, you won't feel so overwhelmed.

Call local charities that do pick up in your area (Sal. Army, Purple Heart, Cancer Federation) and set up dates for pick ups 2 weeks out, then 4 weeks out, then 6 ..... having those dates set is very motivating. And having multiple dates means you don't have to feel it all needs to be done at once - you move in stages. As you move through the rest of the house set things aside for donations, to be given to family members or sold if you are going that route.

Don't try and do it all yourself - it really is overwhelming and doesn't allow you to grieve. Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 3:02PM
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OH my gosh, your post really helps. I thank you so much for taking the time to type all that out. I'm printing it out.

I'm going to ask a couple of friends to help, as you said having strangers/businesses come in is too invasive, we dont know exactly where all her jewelry is stashed yet. We know it's here and there at this point.

Right now there is my niece, (her daughter) me and my other sister that have to do this.

I'm sorry about your sister too. It's so sad isn't it.

Thanks again.....

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 3:40PM
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I've been helping my MIL clean out her basement, so I have a sense of what you are facing. I agree with dlm200 on focusing on a small area and getting it done.

Individual trips to the dump take too much time and too much gas. If I were you, I would invest in a dumpster and large trash cans and heavy plastic liners. I used the rolls of Contractor bags from Walmart. Put a trash can in the middle of the room, put in a liner, fill it up, and carry the bag out to the dumpster.

Donating the stuff to charity sounds like a wonderful idea, but sometimes it is more important just to get it out of the house - and that means into a dumpster.

Check on county ordinances for handling stuff that can't go in the trash, such as oil-based paint, propane tanks, or fertilizer.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 9:15PM
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Thanks graywings.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 7:01AM
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I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. We almost lost my MIL due to a blood clog, but is doing better now. I agree with dlm2000.Start with the kitchen and then on the smaller rooms. One thing I wanted to mention. If the papers that you are sorting though don't contain person info. You might want to call Office Max,Kinkos, to see if all that paper can be cut and glued to make scratch paper.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 9:44AM
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Sorry for your loss. I'm a "classic hoarder" except I'm aware and trying to do something about it. I don't want to leave such a mess for my husband and children after I die. I'm not planning on kicking the nucket anytime soon. I really don't want to leave mountains of stuff for my family to go thru. Just a word about any medications you find. Don't dump medicine in the toilet,it contaminates the water supply and can be in injurious. Take it to any doctor and ask them to dispose of it. Don't try to donate it. Nobody wants second-hand medications, no matter how expensive. When MIL died, we found nearly full bottles of medication for her heart, blood pressure and breathing troubles. Also, a dumpster is a great idea if you can work quickly. We got a huge dumpster and had a lot of help over a weekend. All three of her childtren,their spouses and a few grandchildren showed up to clean her house. The two daughters did the deciding part, what to keep, what to chuck. All the rest of us worked as drones, carrying stuff to the dumpster. At the end of the second evening, when we finished, we all went out to dinner. It was tons of work but we got it done. The supplier of the dumpster came on Monday and hauled the now-full dumpster away.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 10:08AM
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My condolences on your loss. Going through her things will surely bring up many memories. It will be good to have close ones with you both to help and to share as you work.

I had to pack my pack-rat-inclined grandmother's apartment when she went into a nursing home. My mother, a classic hoarder, wasn't able to begin the task. She couldn't even throw out the newspapers or stop the subscription. Weeks of papers with rubber bands on them were stacked on the kitchen table. I began there, throwing those away and clearing the table.

Begin with the obvious rubbish and get that out of the way: old magazines, newspapers, piles of junk mail, and the like. That will open up space immediately which always helps your point of view.

Supply list:

I agree with having a dumpster, you will need it. And lots of heavy duty bags. Rubber gloves, dust masks (really, get these, they will save your lungs), cloth gloves.The usual cleaning supplies. Boxes, tape, Sharpies.

Try not to touch the same thing more than once. Make a decision about its fate right away: keep, sell, toss, donate. Set up areas for each of these.

For things you want to give away, unless you really want the donation tax deduction receipt, I highly recommend joining your local Freecyle group. They are nearly worldwide and you can find your local group on Post the things you have to give away. People will come to you and collect those things. It will save you time and trips to Goodwill. I posted things like: "Linen closet purge." and got many takers. I found it better than Goodwill for out of season things. Goodwill refused my 7 foot Christmas tree in a box but an elderly freecycler couple were thrilled.

Like your sister, my grandmother's things were completely disorganized and little treasures like old family photos were tucked in among year old junk mail. Everything had to be gone through so carefully.

I wish you the best! Let us know how it goes.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 11:21AM
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Eileen, thank you. Great advice from you too. I appreciate all the input and suggestions from everyone.

There are six of us going down there tomorrow; I'm taking boxes to put all paperwork in, not empty envelopes or junk mail but anything that looks important; bills, important receipts, Wills, yes her husbands grandmother's Will was found amidst the stacks and stacks of papers. And this Will must be so old, my sister's husband is in his 70's and it was his grandmothers! And there was also an IRS Return from 1955. Gosh oh mighty. Anyway we'll clear the paperwork off of tables, couches etc., and stick it all in boxes. Then we can begin to clean. My brother in law can go thru all the paperwork at his leisure, he's found the documents he needs for social security, etc., for now. That took almost a week of searching thru everything.

The dumpster is a great idea and freecycle, I hadnt even thought of freecycle.

There is a back bedroom which hasnt been used since the 70's and it's full of mail order packages that have never been opened either. Just stacks and stacks of boxes. Those will be donated to some shelter or something.

Ok you hoarders out there, please think about what your family is going to have to go through after you're gone. The sadness alone is debilitating but to have to do all this is just way too overwhelming. Get someone to help you clean it all up now and get everything organized, even if you don't throw things away, get it organized for your family. They'll be distraught enough - they don't need all this too.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 12:56PM
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My BIL passed away, though he wasn't a hoarder, there was a lot useless junk in the house. He smoked like crazy and the whole house smelled. My SIL went through and threw away a ton of stuff. Then she arranged the remaining stuff (some clothing, shoes, furniture, lamps, etc...) like a store. She held an estate sale and netted 1,400!!! I couldn't believe anyone would want what was in that house but there are some really poor, down on their luck people out there.

Nobody wants second-hand medications, no matter how expensive.

Not true! We were able to donate his opened medication to a group that send it to Africa and South America. Google medicine recycling.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 2:04PM
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Great suggestions, Eileen - I'd forgotten all the things I bring with me on these missions. Freecycle is wonderful - I've been going through one closet at a time this summer, photographing the contents and posting a link on our freecycle to my picassa web album so people can see the items and everything posted has been taken. Also found moving boxes there so my friend can pack up her mother's things.

Nothing motivates a good self purge (boy that sounds gross, doesn't it?) like having to sort through the belongings of a family member!

I'm not a hoarder but I do tend to save more than I need - just in case, you know??!! But major purges were prompted after my mom died, then 11 years later my dad, and now my sister. As Americans we all tend to have far more than we NEED but it never hurts to lighten the load a bit.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2008 at 2:39PM
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Sorry that I didn't think of this sooner, but here is a recent thread on the same subject on the Organizing the Home forum. Hoarding is a frequent topic over there.

Here is a link that might be useful: Preparing to Clean a Hoarder's Home

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 9:16AM
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Hi again. Well about 10 of us were there yesterday. The first thing we did clear/clean an area where we could sit down to take break and eat something (pizza delivery).

I assigned one person to the bathrooms, one to the kitchen, then I started in the living room and worked my way through the dining room into the family room. Everyone was so helpful. Someone brought a pick up truck and we piled all garbage (termite infested bars, tables ) into that and off to the dump he went. one person had broom duty and swept cobwebs from ceilings/walls and window sills. We made one bedroom into a "yard sale room", evertything of any value that still worked, went in there.

We worked from 9:15 am to 4:45 pm and got the whole front of the house done. There are still 5 bedrooms which are horrible, to go through.

We had our rubber gloves, disposable gloves, lots of rags and papertowels, buckets, step ladder, mops, brooms, dust pan, vacuum cleaner, shop vac. All this was very important to our clean up. Glad we had it all. Oh and a radio. The music was great, all Oldies and it was kinda neat hearing everyone singing along to the tunes and being busy as a bunch of bees.

Good feeling when we were done becuase it was a HUGE difference. My BIL was so grateful for all that we did. He was really almost in tears.

It was a good day.

Thanks for all the input on this.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 9:51AM
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It sounds like it went well thus far. I only had two bedrooms to deal with but they were both jammed to the ceilings with stuff, much of it not belonging in a bedroom, like canned goods and such.

And it was a walk down memory lane in terms of fashion. Few items of clothing, no matter how ancient or out of date had ever been disposed of. My mother, the other hoarder, wanted to keep my grandmother's lime green double knit polyester stretch pants in case she might want them again. I gave those bad boys a toss into the dumpster and burial under something even more heinous. No one was the wiser! It was my civic duty to keep those green pants from seeing the light of day ever again.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 4:06PM
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It was my civic duty to keep those green pants from seeing the light of day ever again.


    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 4:55PM
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Your posting really helped me and everyone's advice to you was also helpful for me to read. It was all so similar to what I am going through with a house my family owns. (My Grandparents' home)
In my case, it is my Uncle's who are the hoarder's in the family and it has gotten worse over the years. They tie an emotional/sentimental attachment to every object and item. It is very hard to deal with because although I have access to the house, I have always hesitated to do anything about the clutter because I feel that I need to get *permission from my Uncle's before touching anything in the house. I don't want to cause any anxiety for them, however a home needs to be cleaned! The house has remained a cluttered museum for the last 3 years since my grandparent's passed away. The house that I used to love to spend time at has become a disgrace and is completely unusable. It's basically, "Enter at your own risk."
I'm about to post my own forum on this site and what I want to know is would it be wrong of me to clean the house up without letting anyone know of my plan to do so?
Anyway, congrats on getting such a great start in cleaning out your sister's home. She would appreciate your hard work I'm sure.
Keep following the same system you've been using for the remaining rooms. Take it one room, one closet at a time and it will get done.

Great job & good luck!


    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:39AM
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Read this article:

It being a hoarder's house, you will have a lot more trash to get rid of, but the general principle is the same.

Here is a link that might be useful: DEaling with the stuff

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 8:25PM
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Oh Shaun, what a huge burden to bear in a time of such grief.

I think the dumpster is a great idea. You need to preserve the important paperwork into something, a big bin from the Dollar Store maybe. Other family members can come in and choose things they want want to remember her by, and while they are there they might want to do some digging and sorting, because what they don't take needs to be gone. No apologies needed later as they had their opportunity. Family members get all weird and greedy after a death, so let them in now and purge the rest. Set a time limit on what "now" means. Best of luck to you, and a message to us all.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 10:29PM
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Is any one of the family members helping U? If not throw out what ever U want. This is my former in-laws home. I have been doing this for the last 2 years. I am divorced and I go there one every day off to get rid of stuff. I sent off 3 American flags from the wars, discharge papers, personal photos, letters etc, to family members. I gave them to my X and they were still in the box in which I had given them to her. I had to take them back from her as she had done nothing to contact any of these people. I did, and went online and figured out where they should go. There was some aunt who was in a nursing home and was in her 90's. It was a sealed letter that she had written to her brother and he was killed before he was able to read it. The lady cried and died the next day as I had the return letter which was never mailed. My X would have just put it in the garbage. This takes a long time. They would still be sitting there in a box, with my X. It went back to the family where it belongs. I have removed 5 dumspters of junk and the decent was donated to charity. The major $ antiques are on consignment in a few stores 5 miles from there. I know the people who own them. My X get's the $. That's the way I do things. Good luck, as this is not an easy task. It's either a labor of love or a pain in the A**.

Best of luck!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 6:12AM
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My MIL always kept a neat clean home. She was almost "obsessively" clean. she had a fumigator in after she found four small ants in her living room. and once during dinner I dropped a pice of ice on the floor. She pulled out a can of spray rug cleaner and cleaned the spot where it had fallen. anyhow, after she died we found her "secret' hoard. It was an unused bedroom, where she had stored all her household paperwork. Imagine utility bills back to the 1950's and baptismal certificates of her long-dead parents! also every item of clothes she had ever owned, many with rips or stains that could not be donated. et me tell you, it took her 2 daughters 6 months to go through her stash. o even tho she was neat and clean on the surface, there was a nightmare beneath !. One good thing, when her children put the house on the market, it sold in one day because it looked so clean and well-cared-for. oj

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 11:46AM
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Very interesting thread - I read this because I think my husband has hoarding tendencies - and they run in his family. I'm the exact opposite - can't stand any sort of clutter. So, so far everything is under control in our home and we just have a growing number of boxes of stuff he can't part with in storage.

He doesn't seem to throw anything away - empty envelopes, junk mail, etc. Fortunately he doesn't care if I throw all that stuff away though every once in a while I throw something he wanted and he is not pleased about that. He also has a hard time parting with any old clothes - closets are getting so stuffed he doesn't even know what he has. I've convinced him we should go through his closet and remove 50% of the stuff that he hasn't worn in years - I'll just put it in a box in case he wants it later. And when he doesn't which I know he won't I will just donate the entire box. He keeps every old magazine he's ever had - has a room full of them that he never looks at. He also likes books - and we have a library - which is okay I guess. Both his parents have passed and he's collected a bunch of their stuff which he can't part with. He can't part with anything that has anything to do with his parents. I'm not talking about special things - I'm talking about things like old broken lamps. We're only in our 50's so I think I have to figure out how to get him to get rid of some of this crap or it will overwhelm our home(s). We have a weekend lake place so that's where I store boxes of junk he won't part with. I have a few places where I store his stuff at home - because he doesn't want me to throw anything away. When they get full I tell him he has to clean them out and get rid of some stuff. I watched him clean out his space once and he throws very, very little away - he looks at everything and then puts in it a box saying he needs to keep it. Interestingly he is not outwardly a very emotional, sensitive person but he does seem to be emotionally attached to every little thing and won't part with it - as someone above mentioned.

Anyway, I'm glad you have help with your project and that you're making good progress. In the meantime I'm working on keeping my hoarder under control.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:21AM
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My friend Eve lost both her parents and only brother within a year. She had to clean out both their homes, and they were all hoarders. She told me how terrible it was, so much work. I decided then would not leave a ightmare for my children to clean up. I retired 5 years ago and have been gradually purging every room. I've thrown out plenty, but there's still more to go. My own Mom is a hoarder. She never throws out anything. Yes, she "needs" a supply of old junk mail envelopes to she can use them as "scratch " pads.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 3:52PM
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A close friend's parents in Florida both died about the same time. Classic love story, he died, she was very lonely and died within 6 months. Anyhow, they weren't hoarders at all. They had moved and downsized to Florida to a small home in a Senior Community. Friend and his wife went down to FLa and spent a week going thru every item in the house. Lots of stuffed tossed, some sold to furniture dealers, anything "good" (the mother did collect Hummels) was boxed and shipped to the son's address. The freiends wife told us they worked 18 hour days. She was never so tired.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 3:05PM
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aedevm This post is coming a little late but having recently cleaned out a 2800 sq ft house stuffed with stuff, you may still be working on your project. If the dumpster gets expensive, take a look at this link. They are bags that you fill and then call and they come and get it. They fit as much as a dumpster but with significantly lower cost. Once I emptied one of the largest rooms ( the living room) that became my staging area for things that were donateable. We rented the largest Uhaul we could for 4 hours and packed it to the gills a number of times and dropped everything off at good will. Soooo much in the trash. 37 yard bags of expired canned goods in the basement. 9 yard bags of frozen expired food from the "spare" freezer, it went on and on. it was cathartic but EXHAUSTING! This is truly one of those times, that if anyone asks if you need help. Say yes and put them to work. Even if for only two hours, a fresh set of hands can really make a dent. Hope you can find peace through a very hard process.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 9:12PM
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1-800-got-junk will do all the moving, lifting etc. for you. if you can go thru and at least throw stuff for them into one room, that may help you a bit. i think you do have to pay them tho. I just like the idea that they'll come and get it and move it.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 8:03PM
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My Mom was a hoarder. (She passed away in January). My brother had been divorced and was living there in her house, and still is. He started cleaning out her house. She had a refrigerator-freezer in the kitchen plus two freezers in the garage. He has thrown out plenty of frozen food, whole frozen chickens dated in the 1980's and dozens of cans of soup-can you remember when Campbell's Chicken Noodle was 15 cents a can? I feel bad the food is being destroyed rather than donated, but would you eat a thirty year old frozen chicken? I would hate to be responsible for anyone dying from food poisoning. Mom had no conception that you can't keep food frozen forever. She would pull an old frozen steak out once in a while and cook and eat it. Just a reminder of the dangers of hoarding! Oh, I do "understand" her reasons. She grew up in the Depression (poor) and WW2 era (food rationing) so having hundreds of punds of meat in her freezer somehow comforted her. Think of Scarlet O'Hara "I'll never go hungry again !"

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 3:35PM
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I've heard much about hoarding from clients who face the same thing as all of you-cleaning up when loved ones have departed. My situation is slightly different. I closed my business after 15 years-housing bubble started my downward spiral.
In 2009, I brought home 781 boxes of things from the salon and storage. After I sold things in a "bazar" of all the years of displays from events we did, those boxes were what remained. I went from sparse to hoarder overnight, barely able to walk through my house. I'm down to the last 70 boxes and am overwhelmed.

It's difficult for me to do this and I've been doing it alone because the men in my life don't know what to do. My youngest son mixes his stuff into my piles. Working 2 jobs, I'm tired when I finally walk through my door. Sad thing is, within every box are the many items, certificates, letters etc of all our successes and also the bills and creditor notices of all my failures. Sifting through this stuff has landed me in several depressions. I'm beginning again, all over again at the age of 53.
Today, I cleared 10 boxes and they are stacked up empty. Now is the time for me to bring out empty large envelopes, markers, tape to write on and ledgers to record in. First on my list is to bring out an address book. I'll record all important addresses and phone numbers, then toss the pieces of paper they are written on. Next will be to record names and addresses of seasonal envelopes from family, clients and friends. Cards containing special notes will be put into a folder that will bear the appropriate label. The rest will be tossed. That is what I'm going to do today.
If I do it quickly, I'll begin tackling all the boxes of receipts so I can do the taxes from 2007 till now. I just got a queazy uneasy feeling in my tummy. That's where I am right now. Wish me your best. Everytime I get to this point, I end up an empty shell of myself, depressed and unfocused. My determination today is that I'll complete four boxes more and then be done for the week until I can get another 8 hours of uninterrupted time with the men visiting my space as little as possible.
My best to all of you who know what it is like to be overwhelmed by all the stuff.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 1:19PM
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Hoarding is a very serious issue that traditional house cleaning services are not prepared to deal with. Hoarding cleanup is a specialty cleaning service that a regular cleaning company just can�t do. Steri-Clean employees have gone through extensive training on hoarding and have successfully cleaned hundreds of homes. In just one day, a professional and courteous team from Steri-Clean will be able to make progress that one person just can't do by themselves.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 6:33AM
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Im fixing to get started on my inlaws house. It is filled with CRAP and the basement is full of stuff, too! Thank you so much for the information. I did not know where to begin!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 8:31PM
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Hello all. I am temporarily staying with a friend because I had surgery. Well she is a hoarder. I told her I would help her clean her house. Well I gathered all the laundry and began from there. Probably about fifty loads. She just keeps buying...I have organized and sorted, and folded what I have done so far. All she needed to do was put them away. I gave her piles of papers she needed to go through. Well she decided to keep most. I told her to go through them again. It was piles of her daughters Schoolwork from kindergarten. I convinced her to just keep written stories n drawings. Today I started on her bedroom. Oh my I took out the 14 totes and started on clothes. Only to find all the clothes I had just done scattered everywhere. At this point I am frustrated and could use some advice please.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 4:07PM
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My advice is to stop helping. Once you leave, the house will revert to the way it was. She will continue buying and piling.

Find an area of the house to call your own. Clean it up enough so that you can stand living in that area and try not to look at the rest. You can't fix or change your friend by cleaning for her.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 6:44PM
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My mother is a 91 year old cat hoarder/collector. She is barely able to take care of herself much less 10-18 indoor cats with only 2 cat boxes. Needless to say, they use the floor most of the time. The ammonia/feces odor is unbearable to us - she seems oblivious. I have tried cleaning her house and almost died from pneumonia. Dr said to not clean or go in to the house because of the exposure to bacteria, etc. Mom is not cooperating with out efforts to move her into a trailer close by where we can take care of her in a healthy environment. Will not give up any cats and probably has more kittens by now - 3 or 4 unspayed cats that she will not let me take to the vet. She is living in filth - says she hasn't been able to vacuum in 3 months. My stress level is showing in my pulse being over 100-120 resting day and night, (Dr says 'flight or fight' response and will eventually have negative effect on health) and having nightmares about abuse of cats that naturally comes in a crowded unsanitary condition. She has had literally 100's of cats that have died because of the situation. WHAT DO I DO. If I turn the situation in to the health dept. she would prob have a heart attack and I would blame myself. This takes a tole on my whole family and she doesn't seem to care. Please, WHAT DO I DO?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Call the Health Department and Animal Control. She is mentally ill and needs help, and the animals need to be rescued. Do it today.

If she has a heart attack, you are not to blame - her age and physical and mental condition are to blame.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:18AM
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Jasmine, I 100% agree with graywings.

I'm so sorry that you are going through this, but your mother and those animals are all in desperate need of help.

And if you aren't able to get some of that stress out of your life, you are also at risk of having issues with your heart.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2012 at 3:51PM
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I had been desperately trying to get a relative help for over a year due to suspected hoarding, mental illness & animal abuse. From interventions, to private conversations & seeking advice from professionals, there was nothing we could do until "something happened". 8 weeks ago, she was found nearly dead living in her car, her beautiful home could have been the worst episode of Hoarders & her animals were nearly dead inside & hadn't been let outside in months(1 did end up being put down). It has been an absolute hell. She is in financial ruins, has left a disaster behind & shows no remorse.

If you are in this situation, here is what I have come to learn since dealing with this.
1. Hoarding is typically a result of mental illness
2. No one has the right to live in filth and it is actually illegal
3. If you suspect something, do something about it, ignoring it will not resolve it
4. If the person does not get help, get ready for the ride of the situation repeating itself

In my situation, I contacted land use & animal control...both have been my angels. These are the people who can get things done in this type of situation. Don't wait for "something to happen", like I was initially told by the Health Dept & Law Enforcement. Land Use & Animal Control can make things happen (wish I knew this before things got so bad). If there is suspected animal neglect/abuse going on, you have to be the voice for those animals. I regret so much that I didn't force myself inside when I suspected something wasn't right with the animals.

My relative spent several weeks hospitalized (both in a medical hospital & mental institution). She is now in a nursing home that focuses on psychiatric care. She has been diagnosed with bipolar & dementia.

We have been up front with her about everything. We have told her how much we have thrown out, what she has ruined & that she now has nothing. It literally goes in one ear & out the other. She is very sick & will most likely spend the rest of her life in a facility...and she actually seems happy there.

Anyone who feels like saying "screw you" to your loved one, I totally get it because I've done it (my words weren't that gentle though), but it will not fix anything. Ignoring will not fix it. We have filled up 3 dumpsters equalling 70 yards of garbage, ruined furniture & clothing totally at least $50,000. The cleanup has cost our family $10,000 & that is with us doing most of the work.

Best of luck to anyone dealing with this situation.

It is an emotional rollercoaster, a complete hell and ridiculously infuriating to deal with, but it is what it is & someone has to deal with it. People who end up in these situations really need someone who is sane to just take over.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:44PM
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First, I would like to say that I am so glad to have found this Blog. Reading the posts has given me a lot of valuable information. Some I figured out and some I never knew or had even thought about.

I am about to begin the difficult task of cleaning up the house and yard of a dear friend of mine named George. George clearly is a hoarder. There are narrow pathways through the main part of the house and to the bathroom and kitchen. Most piles of "stuff" is chest high. He is in his mid 80's, has lived alone since his wife died about 30+ years ago and has 3 adult sons. He is responsible enough to continue living alone (except for the hoarding), I have been doing his medication with him over the phone, twice a day for almost 3 years and I go to the doctors with him as often as I am able. He has respiratory and heart issues.

For the past year, I have been gently talking to him about about the need to clean up his home because of his health issues, safety hazard and his wish to stay there until he dies. He is agreeable- so far. So, now I have called a family meeting with his sons in 3 days to discuss the method and approach I wish to take with this overwhelming task.

Before realizing this is an actual disease, my intuition told me it is very important to have George involved so that he won't feel out of control and/or violated. Now, the research confirms my thinking - I am on the right track. One of my questions is: How do I continue to include him in the process if he becomes no longer agreeable during the process? Everything is near and dear to him, always a reason why he needs to keep it including the timeless phrase I may need this some day?

Another questions is how do I control how it is done? When I contacted one of the sons about the "Family Meeting" his response was to simply bullishly go into his father's house and pull it all out and throw it away! I was horrified at his rational. Another of the 3 sons agrees with my approach, and a third does not appear to care and will doubtfully be a part of this. How do I bring the family together so that we handle this in a way that is not detrimental to their father, yet still get the job done?
I have been his Healthcare Surrogate for over 15 years and about a year ago George asked me to be his P.O.A. Once that was taken care of, I suggested that we write a letter to mail to his sons to notify them of it. His response was " well...lets wait awhile," I don't want to disrespect his wishes, but If the one son chooses to be bullish I am afraid I may need to play that card. Frankly I'm not even sure if I shoud. Yet I need to get the "bullish" son on board during this meeting. I need some help - fast, as the "Family Meeting" is in 3 days! Does anyone have any suggestion, or advice? Has anyone been in a situation like this before? I so appreciate any feedback and thank you.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:14AM
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Radenzel George is very lucky to have you in his life. This forum is not the place that will be able to give you the help you need, it's a forum about cleaning, not legal matters.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 6:56PM
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Three days isn't much time to change the bullish behavior of his son, but you might start by handing him a book about hoarding in hopes that he will understand that this is not about "the stuff." It's much more about his father's state of mind. Or go on-line and find some articles that you can print out.

I think it is time that you tell the sons that you have the Power of Attorney.

As for handling George, I don't think we know enough about the situation to help you. Even the professionals have difficulty dealing with hoarders.

While this is not ideal, you could offer to arrange to have him rent a storage locker for so-called important papers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Buried in Treasures

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:19AM
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So sorry for your loss. I would suggest if there are more than one of you, you each take a room and get started. Have a toss pile and a donate pile, that is the easiest way. Or if you are having an auction, clear an area and put anything that is getting auctioned into one spot.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 12:53PM
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Posted '08, and now '14. Are you still cleaning?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 6:03PM
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We moved on from the original OP to the post by Radenzel in March 2014. I wish Gardenweb would close out threads after a year - keep them available to read but no further posts, thus forcing people to start new threads.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:25AM
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My mother-in-law passed away about a year ago and my husband and I were left to clean out her house, mainly because his sister is already on her way to being as bad a hoarder as her mother. MIL was pretty much a hermit and her only interest after her husband passed away several years ago was making beaded baskets that were popular back in the 70's and 80's. We found literally hundreds of them stuffed into plastic storage tubs in her basement. She must have spent thousands of dollars on beads and crafting supplies, but must have never given a single one away. We had no idea they were down there. I was in complete shock when we found them. Does anyone have any ideas about how we can get rid of these? I hate to just pitch them, but not even Goodwill is interested in 70's era kitsch in this volume.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 1:08PM
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I'm actually rather glad the posts are all in one thread. It's all pretty much the same topic. You can always start a new thread if you think it warrants it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:06PM
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Mainecoon, I'm sure someone collects 70s kitsch. Try ebay.

But on another note, you're being a little mean to a lady whose dead. You said she was a hermit after her husband died. Maybe making those baskets made life bearable for her. It was her money to spend on what she wanted to spend it on. The baskets were hers to give away, or not.

I know cleaning up a packed house after a death is no fun. But people who are still alive are a little too quick to condemn. Your MIL is gone. Be nice. You never know what people will say about your housekeeping habits after you're pushing up daisies.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:11PM
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I'm not being mean to her, just being honest. There was nothing wrong with her housekeeping skills, her house was well kept. What was wrong was that she kept making this stuff but didn't share it with anyone who might have enjoyed it while she was alive. It was just stuffed into tubs in her basement and hidden away. No one knew it was there until she died. At the end of her life, my husband and I supported her financially and paid most of her her bills because we had no idea she was spending her money in this way, She shut out her family and wouldn't be honest with us about how she was living. My point was that she will never know the joy she might have gotten from seeing someone enjoy what she created if she had given it away while she lived. As it is, most of it will probably be trashed and that's sad.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Can you post a picture of some of the baskets? I'd love to see what they looked like.

Your MIL did what she wanted to do. If it made her happy, that was good for her. It wouldn't be the way you'd choose to spend your life, but it was her life and her choice. Maybe the pleasure she got was from creating the baskets. Now you can give them away to people and get pleasure from sharing her creativity. :)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:54PM
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