Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tracy's Story

A bit of COH history: one of the people mentioned in the recent New York Times article about children of hoarders, Tracy Schroeder, had a galvanizing impact on the Children of Hoarders community.

She shared her heart wrenching story about her mother's death in squalor in the private COH Yahoo Group, and she was kind (and courageous) enough to allow her story to be republished for everyone to read at the COH website. She also was interviewed on television for a local news program.

While my own mother survived her health crisis, it was a very close call, and my story very easily could have been the same as Tracy's story. Unfortunately, many children of hoarders have similar stories to tell.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some Comments on the New York Times Article

In addition to the New York Times article that I mentioned earlier, its comment thread is rather interesting and worth a look. I chimed in as follows:

While much of the focus is properly on finding ways to treat hoarders themselves, there seems to have been very little attention paid to the treatment needs of the children of hoarders. Indeed, children of hoarders are often mentioned by professionals as being obstacles and problems, rather than as being people in their own right who are hurting and need support at least as much as the hoarders. From the Children of Hoarders website (childrenofhoarders.com), it is plain that many COH (myself included) have been raised in conditions of harrowing squalor, and such children often suffer from social isolation, social anxiety, poor self esteem, and many other issues that can last far into adulthood. Given that hoarders tend to be rather refractory to treatment, as well as the lengthy time typically required for treatment of hoarders, I'd really like to see clinicians and other professionals thinking more holistically about the entire family, particularly since, from a utilitarian perspective, family members may well be far more open to and benefit more from therapy and support than the hoarder is likely to benefit, at least in the short term. The short term is particularly important here, since, for a child of a hoarder, the short term may well encompass critical development periods such as early childhood, adolescence, etc.

Dr. Randy Frost, the co-author of "Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things", responded to my comment as follows:

You raise a great point. Most of the research has focused on the people who hoard and not on family members. We've done one study of family members and have another under way, but virtually nothing has been done on developing treatments or support groups for them. I believe this will happen. There is such a great deal of research on hoarding now that it is only a matter of time.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Murphy's Law and Children of Hoarders

In an excellent example of Murphy's Law or the malign effect of Friday the 13th, the day that The New York Times linked to my blog is the same day that Google/Blogger had major technical difficulties, and several of my posts and reader comments disappeared somewhere into cyberspace. Fortunately, it looks like most things have now been restored, though a few comments and sidebar links still are missing.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Children of Hoarders in The New York Times

A very exciting day here for Children of Hoarders! The New York Times just published an article about the experiences of people who were raised in a home with a parent who hoards. Kudos to Steven Kurutz for a fine bit of reporting, one that avoids easy sensationalism and that fairly presents our experiences.

I almost dropped my coffee cup on my keyboard when I saw that the article contained a link to my humble, sporadically updated blog, even though I wasn't interviewed for the article. Either Mr. Kurutz does his research very thoroughly, or some of the other children of hoarders (COH, for short) must have mentioned it to him. In any case, thank you, Mr. Kurutz, for mentioning my blog.

For those of you who are new to this site, here are some links to a few posts that have generated a lot of feedback from readers:

  • An Open Door - My first post. It outlines the basics of the "children of hoarders" experience from my perspective. I wrote it less than a year after my mother had a medical emergency at her house, and her hoarding complicated her rescue.
  • The Hallway - The post that has received the most attention, likely due to the linked video that described the experience of finding my mom collapsed from a stroke and near death in her hoard. It explains a potential consequence of the "go slow" method of trying to help a hoarder to improve their living conditions when they are very resistant to change. That's not to say that dramatic interventions involving municipal authorities are "good" solutions; it's just that sometimes there aren't any good solutions.
  • A Trip to the ER - A post that gives an example of a curious speech pattern that many children of hoarders believe is related to hoarding behavior: just as hoarding seems to be driven by an inability to decide which objects are important/valuable and which objects are trash or unneeded clutter, many hoarders seem unable to identify which parts of a story are important, and which parts are incidental. As a result, what for most people would be a thirty second comment about going to the store or making dinner becomes a lengthy tale involving the neighbors, the cat, the guy down the street, and the green car that drove by the day before when told by some hoarders.
  • There are also a few posts where other children of hoarders and I try to come up with advice to a fifteen year old child of a hoarder. What would we have wanted (needed!) to hear when we were that age? See the comments to the individual blog posts for some great ideas. (What Would You Say to a Fifteen Year Old Child of a Hoarder? and Advice to a Fifteen Year Old Child of a Hoarder)

...which raises an important point, I think. The comments on my blog posts are at least as interesting as the posts themselves, so I encourage you to read them and learn what other children of hoarders are thinking.

A lot has happened in the last couple of years, particularly involving providing elder care / medical care for my mom, as well as the logistics of addressing a house that has fallen into stark disrepair after many years of a hoarder refusing to allow anyone inside to fix things when they break. Look for more posts about these topics soon. Pictures and video, too!

Finally, as a child of a hoarder, I can't overstate how useful the online support groups run by Children of Hoarders, Inc. have been to me and many others. Please visit ChildrenOfHoarders.com or their public Facebook page for more info. If you are a child of a hoarder yourself, check out their private Yahoo Support Group. COH Inc is also on twitter. Hey, I am, too!

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you will visit again.

PS. Be sure to check out some great blogs by other children of hoarders: Tetanus Burger, Inheriting the Hoard, Navigating Chaos, Nice Children Stolen From Car, RareNest, Jessie Sholl's Blog, and many others listed at the Children of Hoarders site. Also, if you use Facebook, check out the Children of Hoarders Facebook Page!