Dealing with a family of Hoarders...

groomingalOctober 26, 2007

how do you do it?

We purchased our home from DH parents- squalor is the word that comes to mind. Junk packed from floor to ceiling in every room, food that expired 7 years ago, animal urine and feces on the floor. Well when we closed they packed up necessities and thought they could just keep coming by whenever to get their other items (broken furniture, bags of trash, boxes of ?)We gave them an additional 48 hours to get everything- they still left stuff- we went through it and threw away the majority of the junk and called goodwill for the rest. It took us 4 months and 2 trash companies bailing on us before we could live without filth and junk. We ended up not speaking for 3 years due to this fiasco- his family said they weren't messy and they didn't leave junk behind.

Now we have been on speaking terms for about 6 months, they moved into a brand new home and it is already getting pretty nasty and the hoarding is in full effect. One parent blames it on the other and we offer to help them sell their items and put it towards new furniture- they refuse. They have 3 sofas, 2 tables- 10 chairs, and they save rocks (yes rocks)- the 2 car garage contains 1 broken vehicle, empty boxes, and rocks. HOA has ticketed them 3 times for parking vehicles in inappropriate areas.

I've tried to talk to them about the issue at hand and after they play the blame game, one will agree to get rid of stuff and the other refuses, then it reverses. In the end they decide not to get rid of anything.

Irony of it all, DH grandparents are hoarders and his parents complain about their conditions. The gp's conditions are even more severe- the house is packed and they have been renting 3 PODS for about a year now.

How do you deal with hoarding family members- we will not go to the grandparents house and if the parents home gets much worse we wont go there either. Any advice is greatly appreciated !

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I'm sorry to say that I don't think there is anything you can do or say that will change them. There are more people living like this than you probably realize. As bad as you feel it is now, it can get worse. They still let you in their house. So there must be some room to walk by all the stuff. In most cases, it will proceed to the point where they won't allow anyone in their house and it will be impossible to walk through the house.

Your inlaws don't think they have a problem. Their living conditions don't bother them. I believe hoarders are extremely materialistic and that is why they won't part with anything. But I also believe in addition to being hoarders, that they just don't want to clean or fix up things. Some people just don't want to clean their houses or make repairs on them. It always seems to go hand and hand. Just like with your inlaws, moving into a new house doesn't make a difference. They will revert to their old ways and junk it up.

I think if you keep trying to discuss it with them that it will end up with bad feelings. Nothing will ever change with them until they want to change and in most cases, they will never want to change. They will always come up with excuses for not throwing things out and cleaning. That is typical. I think you should accept the way they are and not try to change them. You certainly don't have to go to their house. They can visit you at your house.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 1:47AM
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Hoarding to that extent is a sign of dementia or alzheimers. Is this a possibility? What are their ages?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 6:55AM
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groomingal, we had a neighbor like that a few years back.

Premier is absolutely right on. Our neighbor got to the point after her mother passed that she had pathways through her house. Eventually she wouldn't let anyone in the house ( would stand at the door or come outside to visit)

I remember seeing her in the grocery store with carts piled high with *stuff* She lived alone and I often wondered what she did with all that extra food etc.

It's very sad but I don't really think there's anything you yourself can do. They need intervention but from a therapist. If they have been this way for years and years I really doubt things will change. It's so sad when it interferes with family that way.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 7:23AM
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Hoarding can also be a form of OCD.

I think it's less a moral failing (being materialistic, or lazy) than it is either a biochemical imbalance or deep emotional insecurity, perhaps even unrealized.

Their hoarding became a problem for you when you bought their house; next time, don't buy their house, LOL!

As for their NEW house, I don't think there's much you can possibly do. Certainly not in any SWEEPING way. You can't change them; they're older than you. You can't change your children much even when they're little, less when they're adult. And you can't change yours PARENTS at all! (I know they're your DH's parents, but they're still in the "parent" spot)

You can offer help on the biggest or most dangerous stuff, perhaps; if you're willing to sacrifice some time, you could come over and clean out the spoiled food, or do a few repairs. Or every time you go over, you check for animal feces, etc., and clean what you can.

If you do this, consider is a loving a service--a sacrifice you make on their behalf. And as such, it doesn't come accompanied by lectures or resentment. If you can't deliver it under those conditions, don't do it at all.

You might get furniture out of their house if you lie to them and tell them you know of someone who has nothing (a college student just starting out, or coworker fleeing her abusive husband, w/ 2 little kids, renting an empty house--make this 'person' as appealing and deserving of help as necessary).

But they may resist even that.

Most of all, I think you need to start saying to yourself, "I am not responsible here. It's not my role to change someone's personality." That's the truth--find a way to make it cellular, or this relationship is doomed.

If it gets so bad you won't go over there, then just make as much attempt to maintain ties as you can at your OWN house. It'll be too bad, but, well, that's the world they created, and it's not your job to save them from it.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 10:00AM
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I agree with Talley Sue. It's a big problem, but it's their problem. It wouldn't be healthy for you to make it your problem.

Be thankful your husband hasn't followed in the family tradition of hoarding!

We've had some discussion here in the past about hoarding. Here's one thread on the subject. In it, I linked to an AARP article that provides some insight into why people hoard. I don't believe hoarding has anything to do with materialism. The materialistic are out buying McMansions, and filling them with big stuff.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 10:42AM
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I think it's probably an insecurity. My grandparents were hoarders. They were so poor that the Great Depression didn't make things worse for them since they lived off the land anyway.

What finally happened in my grandparents case is that the city required them to clean up the outdoor properties. It may have been my aunts and uncles that called the city. I'm not sure. My aunts and uncles demanded to start cleaning the back of the property first so that my grandparents couldn't call the whole thing off once the front was cleaned. My grandparents were rewarded in that some of the junk like scrap metal could be sold for money.

The insides of several buildings on the property were stacked to the top. I'm not sure you could even get in some of them. The house was the same way, but with paths. My grandfather started having major health problems and people needed to be brought in for his care. Once again, the family gathered around to clean. My grandfather knew that if he wanted to remain at home and not in a nursing home, he wasn't allowed to acquire more junk.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 12:14PM
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Talley Sue and the others are quite right -- you simply have to find a "path" that you can live with ..... in order to deal with this problem.

Yes -- hoarding does seem to be a symptom of ongoing OCD -- in various forms, types and kinds. If things degenerate to the point where feces are involved -- well -- this IS a sign of sickness.

Since they are your inlaws -- what does your DH and the rest of his side of the family say?? Do they simply accept this mess as part of "family history"? Many times -- such strong family history does NOT allow for ANY changes --- since Change is seen as "betrayal" and "dangerous"

Just some thoughts!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 1:28PM
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All these stories have the same familiar sound. I just don't understand how hoarders can live like that. I do believe being materialistic and not cleaning are common personality traits of hoarders. It goes beyond having to much stuff or living in to small a house. Moving to a bigger and clean house doesn't solve the problem. Having someone clean up for them doesn't solve it. They revert back. They keep useless stuff which is broken or outdated. And they continue to acquire more stuff. They still go out purchasing more stuff even if they have the same stuff already which they can't find. They search tags sales for more possessions. The sad part is that they don't even use the stuff they have because the house is unlivable and they can't get through the piles to find their stuff.

And they don't clean. It is so common to have animal urine and stools in the house. What is the excuse for that? Their houses smell. Everything is dusty. The floors/carpets aren't cleaned because they are piled with stuff. Bathrooms are flithy. What is the excuse for the refrigerator being flithy? Dirty windows?

And they save useless things. Piles of newspapers from years past. Junk mail. Scrap metal. Broken appliances. The look is there inside and out. And they don't keep up with normal house repairs or landscaping like trimming shrubs and cutting grass. They save clothing from decades ago that is out of style and they can't fit into.

They all have excuses why they can't throw things out. They become emotionally attached to things. That is being materialistic.

Think of the people who just lost their homes in the fires of CA. I have heard on tv so many of them say that their house furnishings and belongings were just stuff and can be replaced. The only thing I hear people wishing for were their family photos and video.

Yeah I think these kind of people have some psychological issues but I still feel much of it is their own personality traits. They don't even keep their cars clean and clutter free.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 1:56PM
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A lady in Pittsburgh just got arrested for animal cruelty.
The landlord found intense squalor and the corpses of two dogs in the house.

The lady said on the news interview that she thought the dogs ran away in JUNE! Imagine how messy HER house is that she did not notice two dead dogs (not to mention the smell)....

I really can't comprehend HOW people can live under those conditions... but they do.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 4:23PM
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    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 4:57PM
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I have not been to see my Mom for over 10 years because of my hoarding sister living with her. So sad. My Mom is also a hoarder as I used to be. I got over it and HATE junk and clutter around me now. I was always a clean hoarder. My Mom is not as bad as my sister is even if she does have ,last time I was there, three huge boxes of empty pill bottles. WHY???

The hoarding is a sickness. There is a website. Children of Hoarders and another website Squallor Survivors that deal with some of this. One, COH gives information on trying to help with clean outs and live with the pain of hoarding families. The other, SS site tries to help the messy people clean up their act.


    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 10:36PM
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It seems like a vicious cycle that others have to deal with when hoarders are involved. Basically it boils down to being greedy and lazy.

DH parents are right at the age of 50, DH said over the years it has gotten progressively worse. Before they moved into the current house nobody outside of the family or close friends were allowed in- I wouldn't let anyone in my home if it looked like their did. DH has two younger sisters (20 and 22yrs old) that still live at home. One SIL ignores it and the other gripes about it.

I have really tried to instill small things I do when we visit and without trying to cause conflict. Conflict starts when they want us to haul big items from "so and so's giving away" house and we refuse or if they call wanting to know if we have an extra (?) when they already have 1 or 2 of the same thing and we tell them no. More conflict will arise as the mess gets worse and we refuse to visit due to it being dirty and a hazard.

We have tried to invite them for dinner, play cards, bbq, etc- and they end up calling the night before and include both SIL boyfriends, grandparents, aunt, unclue, 2 cousins and anyone they want to bring with them- THEY HOARD PEOPLE! We end up arguing because we don't have the space for that many people in our home- that's why we don't invite that many to begin with. So they get mad and tell us we are rude and they won't be coming by. We have told them it is rude to extend an invitation to others when they are not hosting. It has happened about 5 times in the last few months, so we quit asking them over- they never could bring just themselves.

I guess maybe instead of trying to help them better a situation that involves many people we will try to work around the situation or have nothing to do with it. It's a sad affair anyway you look at- people trying to help people that refuse to help themselves.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:21PM
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That brings up an interesting facet to this. If your sister is the hoarder, why does your Mother allow it? Is your Mother a closet hoarder or does your sister control your mother?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:26PM
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Premier- wait is this like a hypothetical or is it related to my post?

If it is my post it is DH family- Stepdad seems to be the worse and it fuels to the mom because she can't do things on her own, so she falls into step with whatever beat walks by. My DH is the oldest child and not a hoarder, 22yr old sister- hoards sentimental to her items, but she refuses to clean or live clean- so she doesn't agree with their reasons for hoarding but ignores it because she doesn't want to actively involve herself-- The 20yr old sister is a neat freak, but she only cleans her room and stays locked away in it or at friends houses.

It seems like Stepdad rules the hoarding and MIL is running 2nd and SIL 22 is just lazy about it.

Did that help or was I just confused and ended up confusing you?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2007 at 11:49PM
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groomingal My original question was really directed to shades of idaho's comment about her sister. But I do find the family members dynamics interesting so you comments about the family members is also interesting.

It is so much more complicated when there are other people living in the house. You would think in your DH's family that his sisters would get on their parent's case. They are both young and normally young girls have boyfriends and friends over. I would think that would be embrassing to them.

It sounds like your inlaws last minute invite a bunch of people over your house because their house is to junked up to entertain in.

It is very sad. Your inlaws are still young at age 50. Just imagine how much more they will collect in the next 25 years. You sound like a caring person and want to help them. A lot of daughterinlaws would not be as caring. I know it sounds uncaring but trying to help hoarders doesn't really help them. They will resent what you say and try to do. And even if you manage to make a little progress, they will revert. It is a vicious cycle. Very few hoarders ever change.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 12:07AM
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Premier- thanks for clearing that up! Boy was I confused.

The girls do have friends and boyfriends over they don't really care- it isn't as bad as the last house so to them life is good.

The same people that the inlaws invite come over to their own house- telling you- they hoard people.

I think the most part is being greedy, lazy, and rudeness. Inconsiderate, too! We will probably no longer have contact with them when they are elderly if the issue worsens to a severe degree by then. Dh said he spent the majority of his life in their mess, his family (me and kids) won't be subjected to their disaster, and he won't waste his time to clean up their mess when their gone.

I wonder if people that try to help hoarders maybe are trying to help themselves at the same time? I want them to have a safe and clean home so we can visit but at the same time we don't want to be burdened anymore after they pass away? How do you respect your family (or whomever) that hoards in living and in death? You don't want to be a part of the clutter to relate with them and you can't cherish them after they pass because you're too busy cleaning up their mess? URGH!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 12:38AM
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My sister lives with my Mom because sister is a useless piece of skin. She has always bummed off of someone and she is the REAL BAD hoarder. Packs things up sometimes and just keeps it. Even food until the bugs start crawling out of the boxes. CREEPS me out big time. Will not let Mom throw dirty paper plates away. Weird. I was never that kind of hoarder.

I really do not know why our Mom allows it other than Mom has never been assertive. I have offered to go and help clean it all out and she says no to that so I stay away.

Also family hoards people like groomingal's and does the same inconsiderate kind of things. My Mom was and still is a bit out of sorts because I did not go to my step Dads funeral several years ago. She said the family was going to be there. OMG This means SCADS of people. She was pleased to tell me there were 52 people staying there in a two bedroom house sleeping all over the floor with barely walking room between bodies. I am sorry but there is no way I can sleep on the floor for one. NO WAY am I going to put myself into the position of having to sleep with 51 more people on that floor. But this is the way the family was raised. I was not raised with them so am not used to this. I have no intentions of getting used to this either. If I had stayed in a motel I would have been in even worse stead with all of them because I would have been considered a snob. She lives 1000 miles away so it is not a quick trip there and back.

I think it is odd not being raised with Mom and sister that I was also a hoarder. There were many things we all did the same even though we did not know each other. After the flood my hubby and I were in I had no more desire to have things. When we walked out of the house not knowing if we were going to live to get through the flood waters to the neighbors house and safety. Leaving everything behind but a change of clothes I was carrying. The living room floor of our house floating up and down on the water and the house leaning over into the river we thought it was all lost. At that moment I had to just let it go. After that I had no more desire to have so many things. But this is not the kind of thing that happens to every hoarder curing them. It could have been the thing that makes them worse. Even my sister had a house fire and lost some of her stuff and she still hoards. Hoarding is a real sickness.

We lost a lot in the flood but it was not all lost as we thought it would be. The house did not fall over into the river it stayed standing. Leaning but standing and we jacked it back up and fixed it. Properly.

I think I started hoarding when I was young and had nothing and no money so everything I did get was a treasure. Even things that were trash to others. I would fix them or remake. I think to me seeing some one throwing something away that was still good was a crime and I would rescue it. Also I am an artist and can see the possibilities in things.

Anyway I am over it. I do not do it any more. I have done a 180. I still have lots of things but only the things I love and use. I have a few more things slated to go as I can get to them. Times have been very busy for me and I have had some health issues. I am doing the best I can and our house is nice and clean.

This is all probably more than you wanted to know.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 1:47AM
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From what I have read about hoarding, it is a deep psychological problem, and on a much deeper plane than greed and laziness.

It is not a matter of being too lazy to throw things away, it is a powerful psychological urge to hold on to things.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 6:49AM
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I agree with graywings. And I think it's interesting that Shades of Idaho apparently inherited the tendency to hoard. Chris, good for you for overcoming it!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 1:02PM
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graywings- we have noticed that everything DH stepdad refuses to get rid of he ties to "my mom(or dad) gave me that" DH grandparents have not been role model parents or grandparents. I'm sure that he ties the "gifts" to love or attention that he never received. I do agree that there is a psychological aspect to hoarding. I also think that hoarding can be a learned behavior (example being my MIL) but hoarding to me is equal to being greedy and accepting the lifestyle of living in filth and packed conditions is lazy.

Many addictions and obsessions in life can be related to psychological, but you have to be in control. You can get help but it is ultimately up to you to be in control. I think the hoarding starts and quickly becomes a downward spiral for many people.

Makes me curious as to how many hoarders suffer from depression? It can't be rewarding to live that way but then you have no motivation to clean it up. DH stepdad has become severely overweight since the hoarding started, MIL sits around like a lump on log and needs her "special tea" to get her through the day.

It's such a depressing scenario even from the outside and it really drags us down to be around them - it feels contagious. That's why I think maybe when you relate it to psychological vs greed and laziness- it seems to me like the chicken before the egg or egg before the chicken question.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 6:38PM
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Another question is--do any of you know somebody who was a serious and lifelong hoarder that suddenly went for the spartan, neat and clean look at home? Or even somebody who spent serious time in therapy or even a mental institution who reformed and now disposes of unwanted items immediately? I have never seen it happen.
The problem of the unwanted extra guests is a new one to me, that I haven't heard of before.
If you move again =--- considered a more distant move-- I realize this is your husband's family but it does influence you. For instance you bought their house and possibly were one of the few persons on the planet that would have done so
without insisting that they empty it first. That was a big help to them--they didn't have to clear out their own trash, and they didn't seem grateful for that either.
This is just my personality I guess, but I would be making plans to move to another state( or country) before they started wanting to have me store stuff in my garage.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2007 at 6:58PM
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but hoarding to me is equal to being greedy and accepting the lifestyle of living in filth and packed conditions is lazy.

Using terms like greed and laziness implies choice by the individual, when really the behaviors are driven by powerful psychological problems, possibly chemical in nature, similar to OCD and depression.

It is common to write off behaviors as personal failings. For example, people make derogatory comments when they see homeless people begging for money for food, and yet they are smoking. But many homeless people suffer from schizophrenia, which impairs their perception of reality, causes them not to be able to hold down jobs or sustain relationships with other people, and they end up on the streets. And studies show that schizophrenia also results in a very strong addiction to smoking. We condemn them for their weaknesses, yet if your or my brain were wired that way, we could be in their shoes. And dont even get me started on how Andria Yates was labeled as evil while her postpartum depression and psychosis were ignored.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 11:21AM
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Groomingal I was a hoarder but NEVER dirty in my hoarding. I carefully packed everything in closets and cupboards. LOL So tight it could NOT get dirty. I even had my hoard organized. I am a Virgo and have to have things neat and clean around me. I did have lots of what I consider clutter now, around me but I spent HOURS cleaning and dusting washing our house.

I was never greedy with my things. I do not think greed is part of it. For me anyway. It might appear so because when you try to take something away from a hoarder they hang on for dear life. If it is their decision to give it away you almost can not turn the item down they are so adamant. I always shared and unlike many hoarders if someone wanted a thing of mine I was happy to pass it on.

For me I think things were saved because of the loss and lack of love ,as your Hubby. From leaving home with the clothes on my back at age 17 never to return because that home lifestyle was horrible. Maybe to me collecting things was more of a sign of success. That I could make it no matter how many times I was told by parents,these were adoptive parents,that I was no good and worthless and would never make anything of my life bla bla bla. I honestly think things =success.

Yes at times I have suffered depression but never took meds for it. I do not believe in that for me. I just pulled myself out of it and make my own happiness.

Marge I am no longer a hoarder. I think the tendencies will always be there but I am able to resist picking up everything I think I want, unless it is for mosaics and then I am hopeless. I can not resist a pretty chipped dish I can cut up. I am enjoying the feeling of space around me. Enjoying being able to easily put things away and not have to re-arrange a whole cupboard to add something new.Usually when something new comes into our house something or many things go out. If I see one thing that will do the task of many I will get the one and dump the many. I do not want stuff just to have stuff. See the use it or loose it thread.

I have learned to just give the things away right away and not even think of what they cost me. Now the loom ,YES, I hope to sell it but it is not just a trinket or small thing.

Hoarding is a sickness. I think a mental sickness. It is not really well understood. Even by me a reformed hoarder. I just know when I was ready to let go I could not get rid of the stuff fast enough.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 11:35AM
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You would think in your DH's family that his sisters would get on their parent's case.

You don't get it.

THe daughters don't get on their parents' case becuase THEY KNOW IT WON'T DO ANY GOOD.

Just like groominggale, our original poster, they are never going to actually change their parents. It would be hard enough to change that in a child or sibling (it can't be done), but it will be equally hard to do that w/ a parent.

It would be effort wasted, and frustration multiplied. All the effort expended, bad feelings created--and in two weeks, it'll be as bad as it was.

Better by far to focus your energy on the things you can control.

The thing I'd be hoping for would be for the adult children to get out.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 2:32PM
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You are right on. Until a hoarder is ready to change within themselves it is not going to happen. Being a reformed hoarder I thought I could help another hoarder to clean up her act. What a wreck. What a waste of time and energy. Yes the hurt feelings were there too. She was a filthy hoarder so I understand groomingal's issues too. I was honestly concerned for my health trying to help her.


    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 3:32PM
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shades of Idaho- I think you are totally right, we are basically spinning circles to help them. DH and I have decided that it may be best just to communicate via telephone and meet in public places for gatherings. That way we aren't subjected to their conditions and if they want to bring extra people the restaurant can take care of the arrangements. I think we trying to plan for the future of all of us and make life as best as possible now- it's a mere hope to say the least. DH and I will enjoy our lives and when the future brings the inevitable for his family , DH said he wants nothing to do with their arrangements, possessions, and loose ends.

Chris when you explain your situation I think more of a packrat situation- organized and clean but just lots of it. Hoarding makes me think of trash, useless items, and deplorable conditions.

I appreciate the advice from all and DH and I are on to enjoy our organized lives!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2007 at 9:03PM
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Thanks for your insight and the websites. My BF is a hoarder, which is one of the reasons that we each have our own houses. Luckily, he is not a dirty hoarder. His living room is still managable and his kitchen sink rarely has a dirty dish in it, but his kitchen table is buried under a pile of papers and stuff 2 feet high, and his bedroom and den/computer room are out of control. He always comes over to my house as whenever I go to his, I have the urge to start cleaning and he starts panicing when I go through the stacks of papers and junk mail. I get frustrated and have to walk away.

Over the years I have offered to cover the costs for the rental of a dumpster, I honestly think that is whats needed, but I realize that it would be a bandaid and he would find a way to fill it up. I guess I just keep hoping that if I could get the crap out of there and make it neat and organized, that he could then learn to live with it that way, kinda like that clean sweep show.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Thursday Nov 15 Oprah show will be about a hoarder's rescue operation, it seems very dramatic, it showed the hoarder's breakdown at not being able to stop it, from the previews it seems the Oprah team decluttered everything.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2007 at 8:12AM
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grooming, I sure hope you were able to see Oprah today and tomorrow.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 11:15PM
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Brutuses- yes I caught the show! That home is very comparable to the grandparents home. The parents are were close to that situation when we bought their house.
It's amazing at how people live and you would never know it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 6:44PM
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Some of you seem very judgemental.

Hoarding is often a manifestation of Obsessive-compulsive disorder. So is compulsive shopping. These people need help, not condemnation.

I don't expect any of you to agree with me, but I felt sorry for her. She lost many family members in a very short time, just at the same time her children were leaving for their own lives. I see the "hole" in her life. She shopped, she collected, and it became her addiction.

I see it exactly the same as an alcoholic. They aren't born in a day - they drink a bit more, then a bit more each day. It's not really a problem, they aren't drunk, or doing anything anti-social. Then it very gradually increases to the point where they drink lots daily (or shop daily), and then it's a big problem. This is a progressive disease, and it's really easy for an alcoholic and family to live in denial.

It's just the same for a hoarder. The hoarder's family may recognize it fairly early on, but they think they are dealing with a "slob". So, maybe sometimes that is true, but not always. But the hoarder always has the best argument - I can't get rid of THIS! whatever this might be. It's a crutch, and they need to cling to it.

The woman involved has agreed that she has a problem, and will continue in treatment.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 11:37PM
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I don't think my inlaws are so much hoarders as they have an obsession with buying things. And they forget they have already bought the same things, and buy them again. Or they buy useless things that my kids don't want for christmas or birthdays, just cause the things were cheap. And now with the whole "lead - made in china" issue, I am dreading christmas.

Note, they were really poor growing up, and until the last 10 years or so.

They will stock up with like a dozen 2 liters of pop, cause they were on sale. Even though they have no place to store them, and then you go to their house and you are tripping over all these 2 liters in their kitchen...

or they will buy stuff at the grocery store on sale, then never eat it. 5 years later it is still in their cabinets.

Once we stayed with them for 3 months while we were having construction done on our house. After 3 weeks, I totally cleaned out all their cabinets and took out 12 plastic garbage bags full of expired and old stuff and re-orged her kitchen. Found 6 jars of open pickles in the refrigerator.

Literally, the only way they get rid of their stuff is through natural disasters.

DH has these same tendencies... but he does realize the error of his ways once in a while and purges... just doesn't happen often enough for my tastes, which is a problem. I just don't want my kids to get the idea that this is normal. Getting too attached to stuff you buy is NOT normal.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 2:24PM
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SC Gardner- I think we share in-laws, LOL! Last weekend I had to lecture 81 year old FIL about the dangers (and outright foolishness) of lining the cellar stairway with gallons of water. I mean, he's already fallen down that flight of stairs once! He buys water rather than use the filtered water from their brand new refirgerator because he thinks he'll wear out the dispenser. And he needs to have 12 gallons at all times, even though he uses about 2 per week. I could write about them forever. I love them, but the hoarding is a true hazard. He's even built a "lean-to" covered with a hideous tarp for the things he has "rescued" from people's trash, because maybe somebody can use it someday. The hard part is that he's leaving his kids to deal with the mess...


    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 4:22PM
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Good luck with them! MIL is actually the worst. She will not listen to anyone in regards to anything anyway. Unless it comes from her doctor.

And yes, they stack things on their stairs as well. One of these days they are going to kill themselves falling in that house.

When they moved out of one house, however, they went on a very weird "get rid of everything they own" kick. In which they did get rid of things they later regretted.

Like... a very nice and expensive wall clock DH and I had given them for their anniversary... they sold it at the house auction for like $20. Ticked us off royally. Then 2 years later, they bought almost the same exact clock for themselves, just a much cheaper, made in china version... whatever... they can do whatever they want.

I am convinced growing up dirt poor has a serious affect on some people.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2007 at 1:58PM
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HI! My name is Wendy, and I am a self diagnosed OCD Hoarder! There! I've said it out loud! Professional diagnosis is Bi-Polar Manic Depressive ... with OCD tendencies (i.e. Hoarding). We'll save the co-dependant, Adult ADD and angry in general stuff for later ... LOL
I made myself read through all of these posts ... part therapy, part not wanting to open my key board and insert my foot in my mouth (so to speak).
I always tell people when they comment on my good humor this one thing ...
If I don't maintain my sense of humor, you'll find me on a very tall building with a very BIG gun ... so I choose to laugh when I can.
Heriditary ... or being poor from birth ... not sure.
Know that I can't look at beans and rice on the same plate with out wanting to run screaming if that is any indication to you how poor I grew up. Know that my family tree is quite litterally littered with hoarders ... ha ha.
There is NO CURE ... except for self restraint and YOU can not do it for ME (i,e,"them")!
I am in the process of starting 2008 with a new mentality ... struggling HARD ... but trying!
I read something on here actually that I wrote down and stuck on the fridge and the cork board ... PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION ... It's gonna be my new motto!
I collect things ... irritates me to no end to see something perfectly usable on the side of the road if it just needs a quick sanding and a coat of Poly ... unfortunatly, I've "hoarded" so many pieces that I no longer have the room to DO anything with them.
Here's my new year plan ... and so far so good I might add!
1. Stop smoking in the house ... and I have only jacked that rule once so far ... and that was in the rest room with the vent on ... and the guilt 'bout did my whole day in, so it won't be happening again.
2. kicked the dogs out ... no sure when they became unhouse trained ... but was startled/appalled at the mess I found in the back of the house ... cleaned it up and vowed to not let anything like that happen again.
3. Have about 25 "projects" going on in/out of my home ... picked ONE ... pantry ... and it took me a week ... but I finished IT ... stuck to it ... and finished it ... may sound stupid, but is proud thing for me! It's now painted and almost perfect ... but the struggle to stay focused on it and actually FINISH it I can not even begin to tell you about!
One, (maybe more) of my neighbors has Code Compliance on speed dial, so you can use your imagination as to the condition of my life.
My point ... oh heck, what was my point ... (Adult ADD strikes again) ...
OH! Be kind, show tolerance, and quit trying to fix them/me! You can offer a helping hand ... but don't be surprised or offended if it is turned away!

A friend of mine offered to help me just a few weeks ago ... and standing in my foyer I spread my arms and asked her ... what can you help me with? Where would you START?!??!?! And she was at as big of a loss for an answer as I was ... so, she left feeling helpless and I was left here feeling hopeless.
That is when I started thinking of my new years plans ... and began taking action on them!
My oldest brother moved out and became freakishly neat and tidy. My second oldest brother married a woman that is a QVC'aholic, and he builds sheds and stuff to store her purchases. My younger sister, she hoards crafts and projects like that "for her girls" and her work.
Me, I hoard furniture, dishes, tools and things that need a new home with a little fixing, and it just got away from me. REALLY away from me!
2008 is going to be different! My next step is to have an "AS IS sale" ... BEFORE the end of February!!!
I'm going to take my treasures out in the drive and sell them for little to nothing just to get them out of here ... they cost me nothing so if they sell, they sell at a profit ... if I have someone show up that is in dire need of basic needs type stuff ... that person, I shall be taking under my wing and furnishing their place for free ... either as is or will teach to refinish ... we'll see. I love to educate about furniture refinishing and crafty stuff.
So, if you've read through this whole post ... you can see what a mess my brain is ... imagine my life ... and be kind to your neighbor ... in laws ... brothers/sisters ... whom ever you know that sufferes from this terrible and dibilitating problem ...
If you have never curled up under the blankets for a week just because you simply couldn't work up the gumption to get out of bed because you felt overwhelmed by something ... then you can not imagine this disorder ... or any of the many that I suffer from!
Go a week with out a shower ... that is what my mind feels like most of the time ... and it's a struggle for me to just get out of bed most mornings ... but I do it ... and I choose to fight ... don't stomp out my fight with your cruelty! Encourage my fight with your kindness and understanding.
MEAN PEOPLE SUCK! Thanks for reading my ranting. Wish me luck, and best wishes to you all!

I don't collect JUNK ... nothing I have needs more than a light sanding and coat of poly ... but I'm also a perfectionist, so instead of light sanding I like to disassemble and get all the knooks and crannies ... and make it ... PERFECT!>
This is where the PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION signs will come in handy ... I need more than paths through my house ... I need to be able to hold out my arms and spin and spin until I'm dizzy.
What was my point? I don't really know any more ... but I've said what I needed to.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 5:01PM
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picked ONE ... pantry ... and it took me a week ... but I finished IT ... stuck to it ... and finished it ... may sound stupid, but is proud thing for me! It's now painted and almost perfect ... but the struggle to stay focused on it and actually FINISH it I can not even begin to tell you about!

May I applaud you for this achievement?! How great that was, to finish it.

I love your idea for the "as is" sale, to weed out all those projects of stuff that just needs a touch to be useful again.

If your friend still wants to help, can you get her to help w/ that? And maybe to cart away (while you hide in the bathroom) all the stuff that doesn't sell?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 6:27PM
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wendy -- let me echo tally sue's congratulations on your pantry and encouragement to carry out the "as is" sale. Many posters here have reported that it's a tremendous relief to get rid of unfinished projects. Just think...if you get rid of a piece of furniture that needs a light sanding and a coat of poly, you've rid yourself of the object and also the guilt of an unfinished task. It's a double bonus!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 8:21PM
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I know one thing - the line between 'us' and you is so fine as to be almost nonexistent. I think you'd be surprised at how many of us (supposedly 'normal') fight every day to stay that way, not to cross the line, lose control, all of it, and if you factor in so many of the talents you have unrelated to this issue, what you may have is a very obvious 'problem' compared to what we hide, but is it really any worse or blameworthy than any of our problems? I'm afraid a lot of us are one step away, and that's all you may be from crossing the line the other way, but if you can't find the way, don't beat yourself up (or let anyone else do it for you) - just get on with what else you care about, want to do, etc. and stop fighting this one so hard... maybe relaxation is some kind of an answer (though to what I'm not sure :-)!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 8:27PM
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My parents were packrats and are now hoarders (living in filth/squalor with five inside dogs). It's become worse over time. Even if they want to change and clean up their lives, I think they've lost the will power. I do believe they are lazy and irresponsible (they blame each other for the situation) but also probably have mental illness to confound the situation. Additionally, they live like they are poor and mom has always felt like she had to scrape by on little or nothing. I do not actually know their financial situation but my dad recently lost his business and my mom refuses to get a job (that's not how she would put it but that's essentially what she's doing). They also have a bad marriage and seem to enjoy having heated arguments where they place blame and critcize each other. My maternal grandmother is also a hoarder (even of people--which I never realized was what she was doing until I read it in this thread, LOL).

I'm in my early thirties and, recently, it has really started to bother me b/c I'm worried about them and the way they are living; I know there is nothing I can do to change them. Furthermore, my 18 year old brother lives with them and I have no idea how he's being affected but he seems to have no happiness in his life, no goals, no plans, no nothing. He won't get a job and he seems to be a reluctant junior college attendee. He won't talk about it with me. I have two other brothers, both in their 20s. One is schizophrenic and lives in another state, the other is still in college and seems to have a large chip on his shoulder regarding my parents and how terrible they were. He often uses whatever opportunities he can to put our parents down.

I worry that some of the things I do are just precursors to early packrat behavior which may lead to hoarding one day.
I don't understand what's going on with them, or me, or what is considered "normal" vs. "wasteful". My mother thinks I'm wasteful because I donate perfectly useable things; she thinks I'm selfish for not letting her peruse everyhing I want to donate (in case she wants something).

Recently I saw she had a stack of at least 20 washed single-serving yogurt containers in her kitchen (along with a bunch of other disposable/recyclable plastic containers). I inquired what they were for and she said she wanted to give them to my son (he's almost three) to stack and to play with. I said no--he already has all the wooden blocks that we played with as children b/c mom couldn't bear to part with those when we outgrew them (and she was very pleased to finally be able to pass them along to her grandson). I can understand the blocks, they are special and my grandfather made many of them, but why the yogurt containers?

She also had a yellow scooter she proudly rescued from someone's trash. She wanted to give it to my son--who has a bike--and I said no. Later I found she put it into my car, we ended up putting it back into the trash because it had a large crack.

I've recently begun to discuss this issue with a counselor but, prior, I have lived in total shame that my parents live like this and that I have possibly similar tendencies.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 2:44AM
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Hi, first of all, if you didn't feel you had similar tendencies, I'd be very surprised! Most people are products of what they know, but it doesn't mean things are pre-ordained that they have no control over what happens to them. What is important (especially for your younger brother's sake) is that you get help for all of them, have social workers come in and sort out what to do and how to help him, then see what can be done for your parents, who are obviously overwhelmed and have lost confidence in themselves to cope.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 4:45AM
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I think you probably meant well but I disagree with you that I should get help for them all. I need to get help for me because I want help how to deal with it, hence I'm going to counseling. If they don't want help or want to change, and certainly that's what they've expressed, then they will likely be resentful of me trying to force it on them. Even my younger brother, who knows that not everyone lives this way, doesn't seek help. My mom even tells him to see a counselor but she exhibits hypocritical behavior and the example she sets is not the same as what she tells others to do. I do not want them to be resentful or think I'm trying to ruin their lives; according to my mother it's a problem for me not for her or them.

My counselor says it's judgemental to assume they aren't doing what they want and that what I think they should do is better. My mother has told me, point blank, that she's doing exactly what she wants. They're all adults, they love having five indoor dogs, they seem to enjoy shopping at thrift stores and looking through trash, and they don't mind living in filth or smelling like dogs wherever they go.

It's just hard to know that this is what's happened and how they're living. It scares me that it could happen to me. My advice to OP wasn't clear in the previous post but it was to seek some counseling on how to deal w/the in-laws. I don't think they can be made or forced to change. Something is unbalanced with the degree to which they want. I think it might be caused or exacerbated by emotional emptiness, possibly also by the stress caused by poverty (even if the poverty was fleeting or a long time ago). Guilt may play a part as well--sometimes I feel guilty if I recycle a perfectly good glass jar and lid (mom would have saved it for canning).

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 10:12AM
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I agree w/ you, mello_sacto, that you should not be seeking out counseling for other grownups.

You can provide encouragement, and you can set an example, and that's about it for trying to help them.

In order to do that, you need to focus on YOU, as you are planning. Like they say on the airlines, please adjust your own oxygen mask first.

But in fact, helping them isn't your job at all. (well, sort of it is, we are all supposed to help others, but it's not your primary job here)

I agree w/ your counselor, people will do what they want. And what the do, IS what they want to some degree.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 11:15AM
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Following the Oprah show on hoarding, I bought the book recommended on the show, "Buried in Treasures - Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding." I highly recommend it to hoarders and friends and family of hoarders. You can read excerpts from it on Amazon from the link below.

It helps hoarders who want to change with a series of questions and exercises that have them examine why they acquire and hoard and help them bring themselves to the point of letting go of objects.

It helps friends and family understand the extreme anxiety that hoarders have of letting go of things, and it warns against most of the logical things you might do to get them to change, such as trying to shame them into action or offering to declutter for them. The authors give advice on how to talk about hoarding with a hoarder, focusing not on the stuff but on their feelings about the stuff.

In the end, it's not about the stuff; it's about the way the stuff makes them feel. And until they want to be rid of the stuff more than they want to live with it - until the scales tip towards wanting to change - nothing anyone else says or does will work to change them.

Wendy - Welcome to gardenweb. Read this book, there are sections that sound like they were written for you.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 11:38AM
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One of the reviewers said about that book: "Real help for pack rats like me who are not over the edge yet, but are teetering."

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 1:22PM
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Melle- thanks for your post. It seems we have very similar families(mine are in-laws) and I can see your frustration. There are times when I see a cluttered spot or a mess and I just flash to visions of their house and think "This is how it starts!" It fuels my fire to keep a neat and orderly home.
I congratulate you for seeking counseling to help with your family.
However, DH and I don't feel counseling on our end will resolve the hoarding on their end. Yes we may understand it more and come to terms with how we deal with it- in the end it doesn't fix the problem at hand. I genuinely want to help them have a clean home but I don't feel the need to seek counseling because they refuse. I have come to the decision if they want to live that way, fine. We do not have to be a part of it. If they feel that they want to be involved with us as a family they will take the necessary steps.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2008 at 6:06PM
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