If you are a child of a hoarder (COH), and you are older than fifteen years old, what do you know now about hoarding and being a COH that you wish you knew when you were fifteen?
Here is the original comment:
I'm fifteen year old and my mom is a hoarder as well. People have no idea how hard it is to grow up like this. We have pathways to each room of the house. My room, the bathroom, and the kitchen are the only room without useless clutter. I can't have my friends over, and I haven't had a birthday party since I was seven because of all this mess. I've known my bestfriend for SIX YEARS and she's never stepped foot in my house. Never once... It's very depressing. My mom is great and I love her to death, but this has to stop. I don't know how I can get it through her head! She blames things on to me when they ARE NOT my fault. "You won't help me clean the house! That's why it's like this!" Nothing in the livingroom is mine except for probably clean laundry that I don't know is in there.. She was never like this when I was younger.. She started renting a building, she always wanted to have a store. So she'd go to yard sales, thrift stores, ect. buying needless junk. She'd say "Oh, I'm buying this for my store!" Yeah right.. She's been renting that building for about six years now, $300 a month.. Ugh. I just don't know what to do. I'm going to be a sophmore in highschool next year. I'm going to be sixteen in September. I atleast want to have the house cleaned up and be able to have friends over... Sigh, I don't know what to do...
Here is what I wrote back to her:
Everything that you wrote sounds so familiar to me, right down to the part about mom saying, "You won't help me clean the house! That's why it's like this!" My mom used to say things like, "The house would be fine, if I could only get some cooperation from you people!" To her, cooperation seemed to mean sitting next to her for hours while she picked up a stack of magazines that the cat knocked down, stopping to read every one of them (or at least as many as she could until she got tired), and then maybe putting one or two (out of a pile of hundreds) into a recycling bin, which somehow would never make it out the door. I only let a friend in my house once as a kid, and I was punished for it. I never had a friend in the house as a teenager, and now, years later, some of my old classmates still think of me as "the kid who never let anyone in his house."What do the rest of you think? What kind of advice would you give to an anonymous, fifteen year old child of a hoarder?
When I was fifteen, I thought that I was the only person in the world who was growing up that way, and I was so ashamed of my house. On the bright side, you know that you aren't alone! While it's sad that there are a lot of us "children of hoarders," at least we can reach out and support each other!
There are a few things that I wish I knew when I was fifteen:
1) Hoarding is a psychological condition that usually is very difficult to treat. It's not a matter of a hoarder being lazy or sloppy. It's a matter of not processing information the same way that most other people process it, and it's very hard to change the way someone is "wired." Don't expect your mom to change her behavior overnight!
2) Someone on a support group for children of hoarders once said, "Remember, our parents living conditions never were, are not now, and never will be, our fault. We didn't cause it. We don't need to carry any guilt for it." So true! Since the worst of my mom's hoarding started after I was born, and I knew that when my older sisters were little, the house was messy, but it was manageable enough that they could have birthday parties and friends visit, I was convinced that the mess was my fault. It was quite a relief to learn later that it wasn't my fault! Unfortunately, even after learning that, it took me years to realize that I couldn't fix the problem by "helping" to clean up or fix up the house. Again, my mom has a psychological problem; she is not lazy or stupid.
3) You have a right to live your own life, to have your own goals, and to pursue your own happiness. Do not get caught up in trying to "fix" everything in your mom's house if there is no sign of real progress, particularly if you notice that trying to help your mom interferes with you doing important things in your life that you want to do.
4) I wish that I could say that there is a good chance of getting the house quickly to a state where your friends could visit. There probably isn't, at least not without support from others, including professionals. Also, to be successful, your mom has to want to change.
Update: After writing this post, I received a very thoughtful comment about it via email. It was so good that I decided to add a whole, new post about it!