My friend, Donna, spent her summer vacation cleaning up her mother's home (with her mother's permission).
I grew up as the son of a compulsive hoarder. For many years, this had been my secret, lonely shame...but now I know that I am not alone—and that there is no need to continue feeling ashamed.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Friday, February 23, 2007
Advice for the Mother of a Hoarder
Kathy, a mother of a hoarder, left the following, heart-wrenching comment on The Hallway post below:
I'm a 52 year old widow...boy does this hit home...
My deceased husband had this problem, and left a large mess with 2 large piled storages also..toys,toys toys, books, magazines and on...
And what is now horrible now is my 23 yr.old daughter has this disease, and put my apartment in hell she has no place where her bed was cause of the mess, and sleeps next to her sister. And is ruining my 2 other children's lifes along with mine... This has destroying our lives...
I can't reason with her, i want to die when i look at this stuff... And none of it is functional... I am afraid the manager is gonna kick us out because of it... I think she has every beauty product in the world, and all it does is pile up... And jewelry, etc...
I don't have the money to get her help...There is no one i know that come here and help...I can't even kick her out. My husband passed this bad habit/disease on to my kids!
If anyone has constructive advice to share with Kathy, please comment on this posting, or send an email to me at h0arders0n at aol dot com, and I'll add it to the comments.
Thanks for your help!
Friday, February 09, 2007
Too little, too late.
"Don't let this happen to your parents."I admit that Jaclyn's comment stung a little when I read it, but once I got over myself, I realized that I could have been a little clearer about what I intended when I said, "Don't let this happen to your parents."
How can you say this over and over. They do it! I didn't do it to my mom's house, she did it! Don't let it happen is too little too late.
Since YouTube only allows 500 characters in a comment, I'll respond to Jaclyn here:
Hi Jaclyn, I absolutely agree with you -- it really is too little, too late, and it's not the child's fault that the house gets uninhabitable. Unfortunately, when one is a child raised in such a situation, it is hard to figure out how to intervene -- or even if it is possible. When I was a kid, I so badly wanted someone to take me out of that house, but I was too terrified to do anything about it on my own.
It is such a twisted, tormented situation, and the parent will often push every psychological button the kid has. So many years are lost to useless churning and frustration, and I guess that's my point: SOMEONE needs to intervene sooner, rather than later. In my case, I wish I had the courage and the knowledge to do so for myself twenty five years ago!
PS. The "this" I was referring to was the "letting the situation get so bad that the parent is found dead in a pile of trash and then the child is left to deal with the hoard." When you're a child, it's almost impossible to do anything about the situation, because you don't have the resources or capability. When you're an adult, however, you do have a choice between taking (probably very painful) action or walking away. I guess we each have to weigh which approach hurts the most.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
The Empty Nest
I know that this may be very difficult to understand for people who are not familiar with OCD hoarding, but I guess that's one reason why the associated behaviors qualify as symptoms of a disorder -- they do not make sense; they are not rational behaviors. In this case, a person with more than adequate financial resources, with far above average intelligence, with a high degree of social functioning outside of the home, seems utterly incapable of distinguishing between "important" things and "trash" -- leading eventually to living conditions of abject squalor. Attempts by others to help to clean up or at least to manage the clutter can be traumatic, with the hoarder refusing to allow the removal of almost anything that most people would regard as trash, insisting that things will somehow get "squared away" eventually.
Many health care professionals advocate taking a slow, non-judgmental, low-pressure approach to resolving such cases. While they are almost certainly correct that different methods may be too traumatic or may prove unsuccessful at providing permanent solutions, I believe that other factors should also be weighed when considering treatment or assistance strategies:
- What is the impact of "go-slow" approaches on other family members, particularly on juveniles who are raised in squalor?
- Even if there is significant relapse after more aggressive intervention, what happens when a "go-slow" approach fails to generate adequate progress before the hoarder becomes elderly or infirm, when the likelihood of progress is dramatically reduced and the likelihood of injury drastically heightened? (See The Hallway for the result of "too much patience".)
I am not saying that a "go-slow" approach is necessarily wrong; indeed, it probably should be the first thing to try. However, it must be balanced against the impact of hoarding on the entire family and the prospects for the long-term safety and well-being of the hoarder.
I've been inspired by another child of a hoarder to get off my duff and upload some video I took at my mother's house last summer. It's a warning about what can happen when one waits too long to intervene. I wanted to clean up the audio a little, but I could never quite get up the energy to edit it -- it's very, very painful for me to listen to my own narration and to see the surroundings -- how could we not have intervened earlier?
Of course, many children of hoarders know the answer -- our hoarding parents have meltdowns, they threaten to kill themselves if anyone gets involved, and they push every emotional button that they've identified in us since we were toddlers. Ugh, I feel so raw now -- such a mix of sadness, guilt, anger, and relief that at least some of it is out in the open. A big part of me wants to take down the video and go hide under a blanket, but if keeping it online helps one person prevent a life-threatening crisis for a loved one, I guess my pride is a small price to pay.