Friday, February 23, 2007

Advice for the Mother of a Hoarder

Hi Everyone,

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,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!


Anonymous said...


What a difficult situation for you to be in. Sending cyber hugs to you!

I am a child of a hoarder, so my situation is different, but something that we've been talking about on our yahoo board is setting boundaries.

Can you limit her hoarding to her room only? This might involve telling her, if you leave your things where they don't belong, I will throw them away, kind of thing. I know it isn't easy, but it is also not fair to the rest of the household to live this way, as I am sure you know, and will build a lot of resentment on the rest of the family, as I am sure you also know. Setting boundaries is difficult, but in setting them you don't to reason with her, which you have found doesn't work. It is simply, you are living under my roof and this is how I want to live.

Can I ask why you can't ask her to leave?

There are a lot of good books on boundary setting and co-dependency. Melody Beattie is a great author. You can probably find her books used on or ebay.


Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you and what your family has been through because of this disorder. I hope you can try to take a little time for yourself everyday-even it's it's just 10 minutes, to just focus on yourSELF...whatever it is that helps you to relax. There is a saying in Alanon I believe, "you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, before you can help others". I know that looks good on paper, and not always the easiest advice to follow, but something to keep in mind.

I'm sorry for the loss of your husband.

Your daughter is young enough that she can conquer this with is being done-there ARE hoarders in recovery from this terrible disorder.

Even if you did have the means to get your daughter professional therapy-my understanding is that it is quite difficult to find those that are well-versed in treating this. (which requires a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist)

I have some recommendations for you.
Does your daughter have a friend that she listens to and respects that cares about her deeply? One that she will consider what they have to say and know they aren't bringing up the subject of her hoarding to "attack her"? Perhaps you could speak to this friend of hers and work together to explain to her that she has a that 1.4-2 million others have in the US alone, and she doesn't need to be ashamed to seek help for it. There are lots of things online to show her.

Have you gotten the books out about hoarding to help understand it all better? There is the Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding book, that explains the dynamics of Hoarding-it would be a good thing perhaps for you to read to understand your daughter and what she is going through. Perhaps your daughter could read a chapter at a time with you, once a week, or with her friend that she trusts and won't fear judgement from? This book has exercises in it that your daughter might consider doing to help in overcoming it. You can get the book here:

There is another book that just came out that I heard is better, I haven't read it myself yet, but it was written by the top researchers of the disorder. It's called: Buried in Treasures. Maybe reading this together would be helpful too?

There are Clutterers Anonymous in-person meetings around the country-those are free. Getting her to attend at first will be the hard part, but perhaps if she had a friend/trusted peer go with her she would be more apt to go?

You may also want to search for ClutterLESS Recovery Groups in your area, also free.

There are a scattering of Support Groups for Hoarders around the country, free of charge. You could check the page here for those groups and the Clutterers Anonymous meeting schedule/locations:

Categorizing and making decisions is hard for hoarders. Some organizers who work with hoarding clients put a white sheet over the piles so the hoarder can focus their attention on a small area so the task is not so overwhelming.

There are online groups for her that are free. She doesn't need to participate if she doesn't want to-she could just be a "fly on the wall" and read what others are saying if she wants. This will show her how not-alone she is in how she thinks about things and may learn tools to help her overcome those distorted thoughts:
Messiness and Hoarding:
Squalor Survivors:
Support Groups through the OCD Foundation:

I hope this will help you find help and support for your daughter to work on overcoming this.

PS-ther is a law firm in San Francisco that successfully faught (sp) an eviction for someone who is a Hoarder...please let me know if you would like the name of that firm to seek advice from? (not sure if that would be free though-likely not I'm afraid).

eushellygene said...

Hi, I just wanted to let you know that my husband watched the video of the hallway and it hit home. We have been looking for group to talk to and I found the Children of hoarders web site. This seems to have tons of info for us to use.
The problem is my husband wants to really talk to someone in the same situation. Has anyone thought of starting a group call on SKYPE ? Its free and you can have up to 10 participants on a conference call. I was just wondering if there would be anyone that would like to maybe do this with us and share how they deal with it day to day.
We have his mother on the path to talk to someone with us and we think this is a first step in the right direction. Thank you for sharing. Shelly

Anonymous said...


I'm a member on the COH website and my mother is an extreme hoarder. I'd be willing to participate, but I suppose it would be in a cautionary role. My parents are living with my sister and her daughter because their own house, a once lovely 2400 foot two story is filled to the ceiling in every room and uninhabitable. My mother has also managed to fill up a vacant property she and my father own as well.

You're very fortunate if your mother in law is in fact willing to listen. My own mother has estranged herself from me and my youngest sister because we express concern about the well being of both parents and now a sister and grandchild. Feel free to contact me.

Anonymous said...

Hi eushellygene,
I am not sure how to contact you so I thought I'd post a note to you here.
I asked the COH Yahoo Support Group about the SKYPE Group-they will probably post to you here if there is an interest in it.
I also wanted to mention to you and your husband that there is a chat room at where you can talk to others that understand in "real time". It's not SKYPE, but in case you would like to make a real time connection until that (hopefully) gets set up, please know that is available to you to use for free as well.

That sounds promising that your MIL is on the path to talk to someone! Best of luck to you all.

Anonymous said...

It is imperative that your daughter get help now to nip this in the bud. If she doesn't, she will have a life long disability and you will not help her if you enable her or permit the hoarding to continue.

A little tough love is needed now. Seriously, you must get help for yourself and you must get help for her. And you must set limits and rules in your home.

Ultimatums woman, and stick to them!

If your daughter wants to hoard she'll have to find her own place to do that in, not your home.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this helps so much to know others are dealing with the same issues, I am so glad you were able to help you mom before it was too late. My husband asked me if that was my mom's house when I showed him the looked so familiar... thanks for sharing, it helps others like myself.

Anonymous said...

These are links to the films I sited.
The 'My Mother's Garden ' is the easiest to absorb.
It will be around soon as its from the US.

The second one is Swiss, sorry, not german-- and its DIFFICULT!!
Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse
They have it on youtube, the whole movie! . Not feeling friendly, but very good for a hoarder to watch..(I think, the fear of what you will turn into) this is the true story and the worst case scenario and very real life. You all know!
I'm lucky here in Toronto I have access to things. Easch filmmaker wants to eliminate the stigma and shed light on the condition. Each were/are children of a hoarder.

Anonymous said...

I feel so sad for you. My former husband was a hoarder.

I would like to ask in all earnestness why you cannot put her out of your home. You could call the police and ask them to escort her out. Explain that she won't leave and you are too physically weak to force her to leave. Police are sympathetic to older adults being abused by their young adult children. You would need to have a locksmith on the spot ready to change the locks. Don't give her warning or time to pack a suitcase. You should pack a suitcase for her and have it ready to place outside the door when the police arrive. Tape to the suitcase a list of homeless shelters, soup kitchens, other social welfare points of contact. And an envelope of cash if you can spare it.

Did she co-sign the lease with you? Is that why you can't put her out?

If you need the money she contributes to the household, you could put her out, clean up, and sub-let to someone.

The other option is for you and your loved ones to quickly and quietly move out, leaving the hoarder in possession of the apartment, and leaving no contact information. Let the hoarder deal with the landlord. That takes advance planning. You will have to resign yourself to leaving almost all your own possessions behind, which is wrenching. I myself left my husband with 2 suitcases, nothing else, and started all over over again like a kid fresh out of college; no furniture, no dishes, no sheets and towels, etc.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I just don't understand why the same rules that apply to alcoholics don't apply with this.
Stop enabling. Leave. You can not stop them. They must stop themselves.
I have a cousin with this and helped at least 1000 hours and it all is useless, useless; they don't want our help, they want their stuff! And she was abusive and mean to me as if I was yanking a bottle of booze out of her hands! She ASKED for my help and was angry with me when I did help!
I tried to help and even tried to talk with her many times. Useless! I just put her out of my life. Why stay on a sinking ship?
If anyone says it is for love remember this: These hoarders do not love you or anyone as much as their possessions.
Staying helps nobody and only hurts the innocent. Leave. Period.
One more thing: I didn't say I don't miss her, but it isn't worth it trying to maintain a relationship with someone who is not invested in YOU only things.

ClimbingPyramids said...

Dear Kathy,

I realize that my response comes three years after your posting, but I just discovered this site.

I am a third generation hoarder and a recovering hoarder.

I am dismayed to read the most recent response from "Anonymous" (11-14-2009, immediately above).

I fully disagree that hoarders love their possessions more than their family and friends. Perhaps some do, but none of the hoarders I know. It is FAR more complicated and complex. I suggest "Anonymous" and others read the psychological, psychiatric and behavioral science research on hoarding, OCD, and related issues.

If your daughter or you need to speak to someone who is compassionate, intelligent (Ph.D.-holding full Professor), who has undergone therapy, who has read the research literature, and who understands the complexities and challenges of being both a hoarder and a family member of hoarders, please respond with details on how I we can connect.

In the meantime, I suggest your daughter look at one of the sites mentioned above:

Squalor Survivors:

The above site lead me to an active site by hoarders for hoarders:

Stepping Out of Squalor

The Stepping Out community has been immensely helpful and supportive to me. If you'd like to read my introductory story on the site, search for "How do you do it???!!!!" by ClimbingPyramids

I wish you and your family all the best,

Anonymous said...

mine is too. thing is she is set in denial. she keeps everything (newspapers, magazines, tax records from the 60's, receipts from then too, half cut cardboard paper, you name it. she has improved as she has stopped buying things to collect (no more spoons or a 50th dish set stack thrown in the cabinet next to film negatives from her whole life and random spottings of worthless pens that may write if you you consider writing making letter shaped hole sin paper)

she only stopped buying crap cause her financial situation pretty much forced it and I stopped giving her money with trust hunger/sense would win over and instead tell me what groceries you want, what thing you need etc and I will get it.

She is in denial blaming other peoples junk for making the house filthy. Many things are given to here (by bastards who know a quick way to make themselves have it easier) but she accepts it and used their things to make it the problem. not the 80% of the crap that originated from her.

I want to help her out but she is like an addict. She gets defensive and goes apeshit if you try to help. As much as I hate it for her I myself can't stand to pressure my own mom like that. May have to take her on vacation and look into arson and then getting her the smallest place I can find :)

edelweisspr said...

Being the daughter of a hoarder is frustrating, painful, irating, confusing, overwhelming. I had left home for College, and lived on my own for 8 years- I obtained a BA in SW and a JD, traveled around the world and lived. My apartment was the total opposite of my mom's... I would get up everyday to sweep and mop, and every weekend I would clean the complete 2-bedroom, 1bathroom. I felt happy breathing the clean air, being able to receive visits in my apartment... and to top it all, when my siblings came to visit to the area, they would stay with me instead of staying with my mom (a 45 minutes travel). They would tease me and call me "Captain Clean," or "the butterfly" (because I was in constant movement)... but I didn't mind because I felt so clean, so organized, and in turn, my brain was more organized and I felt much more efficient. At first, I'd come to visit every weekend...but since I was the last to leave, the house got much worse when I left. Understanding that she was depressed and feeling the empty nest syndrome (we were 5 kids, plus the friends who "adopted my parents because beside the mess, they were very cool), I would take my weekends to help her clean. However, the next weekend, it would be the same or worse. It would frustrated, as I felt that my efforts (while I was studying for my JD) were not appreciated. So I decided to stop visiting at all... anyway, when I left after a visit, I would feel down and overwhelmed... and the eternal question, "how can she live like that?," "how doesn't that bother her?" So they started visiting me and started hoarding my apartment and I had to lay down the law... which meant nothing to her. So after she left, I'd spend hours picking things up and had to put aside a space for the stuff she started to leave behind and I felt no right to throw away. After that, it was a constant battle.

Now I fell extremely sick (I need a transplant), and had to stop working. I needed to return to the hoNrding, which increases the depression and frustration of losing everything. I try to make plans to clean, but since I can't really help physically in a meaningful way, she ignores everything. And it amazes me how the mess doesn't bother her... she is not like other hoarders who won't let people inside the house. Ooooh, no, she insists on them coming inside to see the last thing she acquired.

My mom is crazy about crafts, and that has a great role in her hoarding. She chooses a hobby (i..e., sewing), so she acquires all she needs to sew (normal machine, machine for finishings, like 4 huge boxes of fabrics, buttons, etc), and when she has everything to start, she moves on to another craft (i.e., Scrapbooking). She has more than $5k in machines, adornments, charms, etc, to do great albums... but now she wants to do jewelry. Funny thing is that I both took a liking to Scrapbooking and jewelry, but she won't join me when I'm working on either... she always has an excuse.

The worse part is that I'm not eligible to a treatment that is suppose to increase my quality of life because the mess and dirt in the house. She knows it, but won't do anything about it. I don't desire this on anyone,