How can I help my mom with all of her photos?

southernsurfergirlMarch 31, 2007

Hi, my mom and I need help. My mom has boxes and boxes of photos, organized by year, from today to over 20 years ago when I was born. She also has countless stickers, albums, and papers. How can I convince her to combine all of these elements into nice photo albums? It's not like she doesn't have time. She works only 4 hours a week. I work a full time job and go to class and my photos are all displayed nicely. I wanted to make her albums for her as a surprise, but my dad thought she would be furious. So the blank albums and all the photos still stay in their boxes. What can I do to help her?

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Why not find out how she would like the albums. Does she want one with just you?

One with just her old friends and herself?
One with her and DH?
One of just her animals
One with just different holidays?
Just a few ideas. Then you can help her sort the photos out and get them in boxes or envelopes and the actual album making can come later on. This would be a start. And you wouldn't be too intrusive.

I did this recently and I just looked at one of my albums tonight of all the cats and dogs I've had through the years.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 8:36PM
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Well, first you can ask her if she wants this done! I'd be really ticked if someone took my photos and started doing things with them. I think your father is correct. Do not surprise people unless you know *absolutely* 100% that they will be pleased.

She has them organized. She's probably very happy just having them in boxes by year.

You are projecting *your* feelings onto your mother's life. I don't do the scrapbooking stuff. I don't enjoy it. And I certainly don't want someone else coming in and taking my precious photos and "doing" stuff to them, that I would then have to admire. Personally, my photos are all in boxes by year, and they take up less room than albums.

Ask her! If it's something she would enjoy having done, well then you both win. If she wants them left in boxes, it really is her choice. They aren't *your* photos.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 10:57PM
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My mom likes to scrapbook, she just has too many excuses not to. She used to sell scrapbooking supplies, so she has a huge surplus of items. She says she wants to make an album just of disney photos; what is preventing her from doing this? I would chalk it up to laziness. My parents both joke about her laziness but it does get frustrating sometimes.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:51AM
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Is this an April Fools joke question? Really, if it's not, your attitude toward your mom is quite disturbing.

Leave her alone. If she wants to do it, she'll do it. If she wants your help, she'll ask. You could offer, politely, if she'd like your help, but otherwise just stay out of it. How does it hurt you?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 12:57AM
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This is not an April Fools joke. My mom is a packrat and my dad is not, and they fight all the time. I figured that the photos albums would be the easiest to make because she's already got all the supplies.

It hurts me because I am put in the middle of their fighting. I usually take my dad's side, since there is no reason for all of her clutter. If we try to organize, she complains and rearranges it. If we throw something away, she will dig it out of the trash and put it back in the house.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:07AM
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I'm confused. She has the albums and bits and pieces for scrapbooking but she hasn't assembled the albums? What does she say about her intentions? It seems to me she has the photos organised just fine. (BTW I wish MIL had used boxes instead of ruining her photos by putting them in those nasty "magnetic" albums. They seemed a good idea at one time but they do deteriorate and leave a sticky residue.) I wouldn't touch the originals but if you really want to put together an album perhaps you could choose a category, eg Christmas gatherings, birthdays, holidays, schooldays, and ask to borrow the relevant photos to scan them and then use the copies to put together the album. Once your mother sees one album she may be inspired to create more on other topics. That way you can both enjoy browsing through the photos by topic while knowing that the originals are stored safely and in chronological order.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:26AM
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Went to load the washer and three more posts had appeared by the time I pressed submit. I'm still confused though. She has photos in boxes in chronological order. Sounds fine to me. She's into scrapbooking and has surplus supplies. If she has them stored properly and plans to use them that may be okay too. You say she's a packrat. What else is she hoarding that is maybe a bigger priority to get under control?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:36AM
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And not to be OT, but this is not just about photos. My dad is away on business a lot, so while he's gone, I run the household. My mom and I are close in age, and she treats me like a little sister rather than a daughter. So she delegates all the household tasks to me. I take my little sister to school, clean the kitchen, laundry, you know, pretty much do everything, plus a full time job and classes.

My mom just up and went to France for awhile, and left my little sisters to my care. She really needs to get a dose of responsibility. I am moving out the house next spring and I am afraid the house will fall apart if I leave. What if she jumps the country again while I've moved out? I can't travel across the country to watch my sisters. I was thinking about inviting my teenage sister (she's 17, I'm 20) to move in with me when I leave. That way at least I know she'll be okay.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:37AM
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You're right, macbirch, maybe I should look towards other things she hoards and help her that way. But I don't know how.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 1:40AM
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southernsurfergirl, check out the link below if you feel your mom may have hoarding issues. The lack of responsibility is a common theme for many who experience a hoarder in the household. The pictures are of the worst hoarding, but many personality traits are shared.

I can't address the photo storage or even that you feel you have adult responsibility while your mom remains the child. Just let me encourage you to continue with your quest to become independent and looking out for your little sis. That's a great relationship to have and I'm sure she's going to appreciate your help when she's older and realizes what you've done.

You can't take on the burden of the house falling apart when you leave. Your parents will have to deal with the outcome of their actions. This isn't just your mom's behavior, your father is also responsible here even if he does travel with his job. Maybe he's traveling to get away from the home?

We're glad you found us.


Here is a link that might be useful: COH website.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 2:29AM
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Gloria, with great trepidation I went to that link. Phew. I'm not that bad. But I recognise I've been allowing myself to go in that direction for too long. I'll have a closer look at that site sometime. I love this forum and I really value your contributions to it.

Southernsurfergirl, I'm sure you'll find being here helpful. I'm sorry you feel like you're in the middle and you have the burden of worrying about your younger sisters. I understand now that the photo issue is just the tip of the iceberg. If you feel like sharing some more about your situation I was just wondering what sorts of items your mother has retrieved from the trash. Just trying to work out what may be motivating her.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 7:00AM
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Thank you, Gloria. I did find the link to be helpful. Our house isn't as bad as the photos, but I realize that that is honestly what a few of my relatives' houses look like. I really want to help my mom. I will try to keep *my* areas of the house and my car as organized/neat as can be, and that might inspire her. I have compiled a list of things my mother keeps a lot of. I went room and room and find countless amounts of these items:

Photos, scrapbooking supplies, acid-free albums with no photos, magnetic albums with photos in them(which are ruining her old photos), stickers

vhs tapes, stuffed animals, puppets, board games, hula hoops, bubble jars/wands

paint: acrylic, washable, watercolor, puff, fabric

children's clothes, her clothes and even her high school uniform, construction paper, brushes, markers, free makeup samples and makeup bags, cassette tapes, record albums, felt,

pillowcases, bedsheets, coolers, towels, hawaiian leis, bottles of glue, boxes of photo frames

outdated school books and teaching manuals, spools of wide ribbon, flashlights with no batteries, purses, bags, shoes,
13 cereal boxes for 5 people and cookbooks.

These are the major problem areas. If any of these is thrown away, she will retrieve it.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 6:31PM
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Your mom's house sounds like mine. I'm lucky I live alone!!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 8:10PM
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Whoa, southernsurfergirl!

I *apologize* for the snippy sound of my post. I didn't realize you have to live with your mother - somehow I assumed you were out and independent already. And if someone came in and mucked about with my stuff, I really would be offended. But you have to live there also, which certainly gives you some say in how the house in run. I'm seriously sorry for making assumptions.

I'm not sure I have any helpful advice, other than to keep your own places neat and clean. Hoarders are really tough to live with.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2007 at 9:10PM
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It's okay, Mary. I wish Minet would apologize.

I didn't realize that my mom and her sisters (my aunts whose houses look like the photos) had a psychological disorder. I always thought she was "irresponsible and immature". It actually makes me feel sorry for her. Sometimes I'm afraid that I might end up like her.

I joined the COH website/forum/whatever and I hope it can help before my mom's house looks like her sisters'. I'm trying to figure out how to help her with her clutter without hurting her feelings.

I signed up with flylady after hearing about it on this forum. I think it will help - except I replaced "shine your sink" with "clear off my drafting table" and I can't get dressed down to my shoes as I don't wear shoes, unless I'm at work (I wear flip flops or go barefoot in my art classes, but it's okay, it's art class).

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 2:00AM
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Hmm. Anyone want to have a go at categorising that list. This is what I came up with.

Sentimental things. Photos of course. Are the leis mementoes of holidays? The school uniform. (Wow, I had a strong response to that one. I found myself wishing I'd kept mine! But then I realised I'm fine with what I did. After having my thick wool blazer taking up valuable space in the coat cupboard for years I realised that I could just keep the pocket with the school emblem on it.)

Necessities. Bedsheets, towels, shoes, bags. Are they disorganised, are there too many, does your mother keep ones that are old and ratty, intending to fix them one day? (Guess why I make that last suggestion.)

Art and craft supplies. A reflection of your mother's creative personality. Does she ever actually do anything at all? You said she isn't working on the photos. (I used to do a little crossstitch. Finished some tiny projects and had a half done cushioncover and some supplies in the cupboard in the spare room for years. Finally realised that the pink and green colour scheme I started as a teenager was never going to match the home I share with my family and besides, we really needed the space, so I was able to let go. I'd love to do something creative again but I know I can't until I declutter.)

Did I miss anything and does anyone have any thoughts on which category is easiest to start with?

BTW, I feel I should also apologise. It crossed my mind that Minet might have a point about your attitude. We didn't realise you share a household. I'm trying to think what made me stop and say this has gone far enough, I need to get this house under control. Actually it's rather complicated. I've done decluttering in some areas only to find that some other area becomes a problem Not always my fault. Having to reorganise clothes storage because the shower in your new house leaked into the walk-in wardrobe and the tradesmen are coming to rip it all apart will hamper anyone's efforts at getting organised. Not trying to escape responsibility there, just saying it's complicated. So I can't say this is how it happened and this is how I came to my senses and fixed it.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:41AM
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I think even if you share a household, you need to learn some boundaries. To protect yourself, mostly. But also because it's right.

True, your mom is too "lazy" to make those albums. But maybe that's just a pipe dream; maybe she thinks she "ought" to put photos in albums, and just can't admit that she doesn't really WANT to. That's often behind people's laziness--the fact that the benefits of that thing are just not apparent. If people don't do something, I believe it's because they don't genuinely WANT to. No matter what their mouth says.

(and frankly, there is NO empirical benefit to putting photos in albums w/ fancy paper and stickers. The fancy paper and stickers are make-work, and should be done only by those people who get some sort of artistic satisfaction out of doing it. Your mom obviously doesn't get enough satisfaction to bother with it. She's ALLOWED not to want to actually follow through on her albums. Of course it would be nice if she could be honest with herself and say, "I'm content w/ these photos in boxes, and I'm going to stop kidding myself that I'll really make albums," and then toss the excess scrapbooking stuff. But having only recently been through that process, I can tell you that it's not an easy one. It involves creating an entirely new self-image.)

I think you need to stop taking responsibility for "fixing" your mom--whether she's morally deficient ("irresponsible and immature") or ill ("psychological disorder"). You *can't* fix her. She's a grownup, and if she's going to change, it will be only because she wants to.

You can't even make her go to a psychiatrist to see if medications would help her (say, if she has OCD), because she is NOT your legal dependent.

I think you need to just NOT focus on her, and her stuff. No more going "room to room" and making lists of all the ways she is deficient.

I know you live there, but it's not your space. Focus your energy on getting out, and on making your life be what you want. Try to maintain calm and order in the places where it affects you, and then, regarding all else, close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears, and say "la, la, la!"

Try to have your own life settled so that if you *need* to "be there" for your little sisters, you can, but don't take on that responsibility too rapidly. A 17-year-old can watch over a 12-year-old, and your dad is part of the family too. Few people have actually died because the corners of the living room are stacked full of out-of-date textbooks, etc.

Also, you need to spend some energy, not on fixing things in your parents' marriage, but on getting OUT from "in between." Stop taking ANYBODY's side in any of their disputes or problem. LEAVE THE ROOM!

I'm not trying to be snippy. I'm just trying to make you see that you are reaching beyond where you ought to. And your basic assumption--that *you* need to "fix" all these problems in your parents' lives--is wrong. You need to "declutter" that assumption--toss it in the garbage. That assumption is YOUR equivalent of old issues of magazines, etc.

You can't fix those problems. So stop trying to. You'll find it amazingly freeing.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 7:01PM
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Southernsurfergirl, I admire your sense of responsibility, but really, you don't have to take this on. There's no way you can fix it. One of those things you always hear from AA is something about hoping to be able to change what you can and having the wisdom to know what you can't. This is one of those things that are beyond your ability to fix.

You can work on getting yourself out and being a friend and peer advisor to your sisters. They will be able to see you as an example. I don't think it is a good idea to take responsibility for your sisters either, i.e. having one move in with you while she is still underage.

And what Talley_Sue said...
RUN AWAY from your parents' marital issues. If nothing else, it is just not in your best interest. They are not children (even if they act that way) and have to have responsibility for their own relationship. Say to yourself, "I am their child, not their counselor."

Get out and make your own life!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 10:05PM
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Thank you, Talley_Sue and Susan, I really respect your comments. My mom just bought more scrapbooking supplies today, and I don't care. She's never going to use them. I realized that I am doing all of her responsibilities for her not to be her caretaker, but that she might be pleased and say "I love you". She has never said it before, and I don't think after 20 years I should still be waiting for it. So I'm not.

Next week I will become a "true adult" (my 21st birthday) and I am concentrating on my major and saving up for my own house. I will continue to use the organizing forum to help me with my areas of the house.

~* Surfer *~

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 1:32AM
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Happy Birthday!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 9:37AM
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Happy birthday too! Now that you understand your motivation maybe it will help you move on. I think getting out on your own sounds very healthy. Owning a house is wonderful but should you wait that long? Perhaps renting an apartment (taking longer to reach your goal of ownership) would be better for YOU. Sending you birthday wishes and lots of support!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 10:06AM
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Happy Birthday!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 10:44AM
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