Why I Wrote This Thing

Thanks for stopping by to read Inheriting the Hoard: Greg’s Story. My original intent was to find a high-profile “home” for it in some magazine, online site, or television program. But the rejections were starting to pile up for a variety of reasons… “we don’t accept unsolicited material from freelancers“… “it’s a fascinating story but it’s just not for us“… or “thank you for your interest in [fill in the blank]. Please do not respond to this email. We will contact you if your submission is right for our [fill in the blank]. But since Greg and Sidney were so open to sharing their story with me, I decided to go the “self publishing route” to share it with you. Hoarding isn’t just a “hot topic”… it’s a painful reality for those directly affected by it.  While there’s no shortage of tv shows highlighting the visual horrors of the hoard and its impact on families, there’s been very little light shed on what happens when hoarders pass away. The whole concept of “inheriting the hoard”  serves as a cautionary – and hopefully compassionate tale.  My hope (as well as Greg and Sidney’s) is that this article can help start – or advance- a dialogue among hoarders young and old, their children and other relatives, and anyone who might be interested in a peek inside the mindset of hoarders and those who love them. Comments/Feedback are welcome.

–  Hannah R. Buchdahl

Freelance Writer/Producer

contact: Hannahbuch@aol.com


p.s. August 2011: I recently met up with Greg and Sidney in Burbank (their home away from the hoarded home) and while they continue to struggle with the hoard and the upheaval its caused in their lives, they are also actively involved in a growing network of support for children of hoarders (especially adult children). Greg’s initial time-line of six months to clean out the hoard and get his life back to “normal” has obviously come and gone. He acknowledges there is still plenty of work to be done.

§ 47 Responses to Why I Wrote This Thing

  • Gigi says:

    I’m at my wits end with my 82 year-old mother’s hoarding. She was not a hoarder about 15-20 years ago.
    My father passed away a few months ago and I recall my mother saying the hoarding was my father’s issue. The fact is my dad was very clean and neat and the hoarding problem is my mother’s…I see this very clearly.She collects plastic grocery bags, newspapers, elastics, really everything. The concept of throwing anything away is foreign to her.
    Whenever I volunteer to help her organize and declutter by putting things in three piles- keep, donate and throw away and doing this one room at a time, she verbally attacks me.
    The exterior of the house is equally disorganized and cluttered.
    The situation is making me sick, do you have any suggestions.
    Embarassed and ashamed

    • Sorry you’re going through that. No need to feel embarrassed and ashamed. There are a LOT of people impacted by the same thing. You may want to check out the support group “Children of Hoarders” (at childrenofhoarders.com or on Facebook) for resources and guidance.

    • anonymous says:

      You could just focus on the donate side of things. Mention some charities that need stuff and ask her what she has available to donate. It might make her feel good about giving stuff away. It wont solve the problem but might reduce it.

  • Bree says:

    Thanks for reading my story 🙂

  • Kim says:

    I want to help a family that I love dearly who has been dealing with a mother who has always been a hoarder. She was married has 5 grown children, husband 12 years ago had a stroke while in bed paramedics could not get to him upstairs and when they got up to him they could not get him down the steps without holding the stretcher straight up. He passed away and since then she has not let anyone in the house her 5 children are not allowed she meets everyone out at other places or even everyone has to visit her in her driveway sitting in cars…. She is now in the hospital she has been throwing up something has been in her throat she cant eat or drink. I know that the house is killing her and I know things happen for a reason good or bad and I think this is the time for me to get them to go into her house while she is gone to see just what she has been living in etc etc. I want to help and I do not know the right way to do it without hurting anyone. I do not want her to be upset but she has given up her whole life family for her things. I want the family to be together and enjoy what they have together before it is to late. They all are afraid to say or do anything. But she is going to die in that stuff all alone. Please help me so I can help them… Thank you I also know that this is a illness and she feels protected by her things etc

  • I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. See my blog for details.

  • Bree says:

    Wow….A year ago my Mum passed away and left her house of hoarding to me and my brother…. I moved into the house because two weeks before she died, my landlord sold my house. As a result of sifting through mouldy dusty piles of mixed jewels and assorted rubbish, I ended up in hospital with bronchitis and severe asthma…. I was forced to stay in hotels with my inheritance money for 5 weeks until me, my cat, my brother and my Mum’s cat could find a rental property. Straight up we filled 54 cubic metres of skip bins… You still can’t really tell that we have started… I hired a professional concierge to help sort stuff…. I found letters from the Queen in amongst old chip packets, used tissues, magazines and jewelry… This feels horrible to write about my Mum, but it just overwhelms me and I wish there was some support… It’s a complex story and to be honest, it’s too hard for me to keep writing… All the best to my fellow Children of Hoarders 🙂

    • Bree says:

      It’s been 3.5 months since I wrote last. I’m now only working 3 days per week and have hired a storage unit just for family history documents and photos. My brother finds it too difficult to help so he pays for my wages for half of the time that I work on the house each week on my two days off. I have almost finished sorting stuff and throwing out obvious junk. This next stage involves getting rid of stuff that is valuable in some way or still in great condition and usable. I have set myself a deadline to sell the house in September…. I’ve totally had enough but I have to keep going because noone else will do it. One lady offered to sort the family history stuff in exchange for a place to stay. I warned her how bad it was and advised her to come and see it first. She walked in all confident, then after about one minute had left with what looked like horror on her face… It is so hard to accurately describe the situation to people who have not seen it before for real.

      • Thanks for the update. Sorry it’s been such a struggle. Hang in there.

      • Anonymous says:

        Its not worth trying to sort out and organise the “valuable” stuff. It is better to just give it all away to charity shops. Only try to hang on to very valuable stuff like gold jewellery. Dont waste time trying to squeeze out the full value of all the stuff, even if it is in a good condition. The time and energy lost and the health effects are not worth it.
        Dont even cling to the family history stuff as when you die (and from your account I am guessing that you are childless), the family history stuff will be of no use to anyone.
        Just try to get the stuff out of the house ASAP so that you can get the house and live a normal life.
        Remember that when you die you leave it all behind, including your own body and even your memories. So dont waste your precious time dealing with another persons junk, even if it is your mother’s.

  • Hoarder, yeah, I'm a hoarder says:

    I’ve got this thing. I’m a hoarder.

    Also — clean/sober in 12 step recovery. Bipolar disorder, living on SSDI disability, after long years career success, especially given where I’d come from, but it all caught up to me anyways.

    My mother a hoarder, not to the degree that Greg’s mother was but the tendencies were there; hers (my mothers) may have come from scarcity; my mother had almost nothing as a child, raised pretty much in abject poverty, and in their marriage my father had built and lost a few businesses. When I was in the household, when I was growing up, times were hard, financially, which seemed to crank up my mothers tendencies.

    My father — absolutely a hoarder, kept in line by my mother, once they pulled out of the financial hole they were in. If not for her keeping it in line — and that’s strange, too, as she also has it, or maybe his overkill hoarding kept hers in check — if not for her keeping my fathers hoarding in line, he’d have stacked ‘stuff’ from here to the end of time.

    I read about hopes of Craiglist and eBay. Ha ha ha ha. Give it up; that’s part of the deal, part/parcel of not being willing to let it all go. I’m not saying that it’s not understandable, at least not by a hoarder — I understand it perfectly, I’m living that lunacy my very own self — but it’s hard hard hard to really do it all, to really sell all of it on craiglist or ebay. I hired a woman to help me once, a pro in this strange land, and she told me that it’s very, very common amongst us to think that we’re going to be ebay giants.

    She also has had clients — more than one — who graduated from storage units to buying another house once they’d filled one up, and then proceeded to fill up the second one, also, filled with brand new items, much of it still in the shipping boxes from amazon or wherever else. I wanted to work with her but she absolutely would not / could not be patient with me at all, I watched in terror as she buzzed through what she saw as total piles of junk, threw things out that she saw as without value, regardless she told me that she would work with me. It seems for her it’s the reverse of what I’ve got going, she cannot stand to wait for even a second, she churns through like a hurricane, and that’s all well and good, but she threw out items that were valuable — to me at least — and I fired her ass. I’m not saying she was wrong, by the way, or that I was right, or anything of the sort; I’m just writing here what happened.

    My last girlfriend was only in my home one time. Once. And that after I worked and worked, trying to not show it totally, and still I felt like a scalded dog, regardless she did not hold judgment on me about it. We were together for three years, give or take, it was a relationship conducted mostly in her home, also in restaurants, on trips, on the telephone. I know I was a fool to have pushed her away, she was a real sweetie, is a real sweetie. I’m a fool, it seems I’m a fool. But that part I think goes pretty far beyond the hoarding, and I’m not going to write here of my foolishness in matters of the heart, I’m not sure there is enough room in the internet to store all of the words it would take to fully paint that particular picture.

    The terror of the knock at the door. I won’t let anyone in here. It hurts so bad. No, really — it *hurts* and it hurts bad. I let my next-door neighbor in — I trust her totally, completely, we are friends, she has never nor would ever make fun of me, she gets it, though she is absolutely a terror on any clutter in her life, and will not / can not stand for it. I love to be in her home, by the way, I love that order, that shedding of extraneous weight, and living in that weightless feel, clean and clear and cleared out, always.

    So yeah, I do love it, I love order; I know what I don’t have, and I damn sure want it. In fact, at various times in my life I’ve had it; last time my home was in complete and total order was over ten years ago, I guess eleven years now, though I’ve had semblances of order as recent as six years ago, and varying degrees of being lost totally and somewhere in between in those six years. Sometimes I’ll get on a string, I start pushing against the hill, against the tide, I set to rolling that stone up the hill, one. foot. at. a. time. but I’ve not been able to hold to it. Painful. It’s painful as hell.

    Because of my experiences in 12 step recovery and due to the people I’ve met there, I do have other people that I can talk to about it, though I am loathe to let any of them into my home, and won’t, mostly. Again — hurts too much. But being able to talk to others, who aren’t judging me — it’s salve on a burn. And I’ve been in therapy, and talked to therapists, and I know from long years talking to various therapists over those years that to hold anything back in there is a fools game, I’m paying for that non-judgmental attitude. Yeah, I’m also paying for their ear, and I won’t be there long if it’s not a good ear, attuned to things I cannot hear myself — I need their feedback. But without compassion in that relationship, I’m not going to be in it long.

    What else? Pretty much out of nowhere, I cleaned my kitchen night before last. Really cleaned it. To a place it’s not been in years. You’d probably be horrified by it but hey, it’s WAY better than it was. And I’ve continued on that, in fact brought some order to it this morning, as I made my toast, and started the dishwasher on a third load, the last one it seems. I always wonder if maybe this will be the time I’m able to continue rolling that stone up the hill, I always hope that it will be. Wish me luck.

    Don’t you dare judge us, don’t you dare, you don’t have any goddamned idea what it’s like inside here, none of us want to be here, we’re all of us bad ashamed of it, too. I’m disciplined in other ways, I’m appalled that I can’t just push myself into order, pound myself into it, shame myself into it, and in fact that did work for a long time.

    • hannah says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. Fortunately, there is a growing community of support for hoarders and children of hoarders – so there’s more helping and less judging. Best of luck.

  • FYI – a support group for adult children of hoarders, especially in the Spokane, WA area…

    https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=173840059351502

  • darkstar says:

    I went through this when my mother died twenty years ago. Fortunately I had the support of my fiance (now husband) who filled a dumpster making paths through the hoard. Since my mother had accumulated some nice antiques along with the junk we were able to solicit bids for the whole heap – all or nothing, baby! In the end, her antiques, meant to be my inheritance, managed (barely) cover the cost of clearing the hoard. I had to sacrifice some things I’d rather have kept, like the Revolutionary War era cradle in which I was rocked as a tot, but it was worth it to me to make the hoard disappear. Sad, that.

  • Hoarder's daughter says:

    Yep! That will be me too, chucking it out, and my brother moving himself into the house with the junk while it falls down round his ears, to postpone getting rid of it indefinitely, and making it impossible to sort out.

    AAAARGH the stuff of nightmares!!!

  • Rob says:

    Thank you for publishing this. It’s eerie how similar my situation is to Greg’s. I’m an only child, my mother hoards- but the difference at this point is that I don’t know how bad it is. I haven’t seen the inside of her house in 15 years at least. I can’t even imagine how bad it is. She doesn’t want me near it, and I don’t want to go there. At this point, I’ve cut contact with her, since I just can’t take the lie that our relationship is. I have so much anger and frustration over her problem… I know she’s sick, but the fact that I will be in Greg’s position cleaning up her horrible mess someday is so hard to take. I’m lucky that I’m not a hoarder, not OCD, have a healthy life and a happy family. But at some point this hoard is going to come crashing into my life, and I dread that day.

    Anyway, to all those out there, Greg and Sidney especially, thank you for sharing your experiences.

  • anna says:

    Beautifully written article. I hope this leads to further freelance work for you.

  • Melanie says:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this.
    My mother is like this. When my brother and I were little, there was a giant pile of stuff taking up about half of the basement. It was over 6 feet tall, and we used to climb on it like it was an adventure to discover what was in it. Totally unsafe, but we didn’t even really think about it at the time.
    My mother referred to it jokingly as being a pack-rat, and said she picked it up from her father, who picked it up from his poor immigrant parents. But for them it was a necessity, they saved things they really did end up using later. For my mother it was a disorder, and I think partly it was also a reaction to having her personal belongings thrown out by her mother and my father when they were still married.
    I have struggled most of my life with my own hoarding tendencies. It’s been very difficult, but slowly I’ve been getting it under control. While I still have a lot of things to sort through, I have largely stopped bringing worthless things home. A large part of this has to do with my husband.
    My husband’s mother also hoarded, while his father was very spartan and neat. As a result he himself has a low tolerance for clutter, and at times my hoarding tendencies have put a strain on the marriage. That has been a big motivating factor for me to understand my problem and work to overcome it. I can feel my attitudes towards “stuff” and “clutter” changing slowly but surely. It’s incredibly complicated and emotional.
    My mother hasn’t spoken to me in over five years. The last time I saw her, she had my husband and me get things out of her storage facility. I had a flashback to the pile of stuff in the basement of my childhood home, and suddenly I realized that my brother and I were going to have to go through all of this stuff when she dies.

  • Christen says:

    Thanks for writing this article. I can really relate to this, although my situation is no where near as extreme. I am very worried about what will happen when my father, who is 82, passes away. He collects newspapers, piles up every piece of mail that comes in the house and sometimes scours yard sales for “good junk” that he is “going to sell one of these days” when he “gets around to it.” I have not been in the house for about five years, since my mother passed away, despite the fact that it is less than 10 miles from my home. My mother kept it very clean and organized, even when her health was failing. My sister, who is developmentally disabled, lives with him and has lost the concepts of cleaning and personal hygiene, even though she used to be a very clean person. Not only do I have to worry about a house, but I know she will be unable to live there alone, even if I was able to get it into perfect condition. He also has a mobile home that he never sold because he had to “finish cleaning it.” Trying to talk to him about these things has gotten me nowhere. As in your article, they come to visit me at my home or we meet out somewhere, but there is an unspoken understanding that I’m not going in their house. My oldest child used to visit Nana all the time and has asked why we never go to her house anymore. However, since my dad’s van is a mini version of the house, he seems to understand. My two younger children have NEVER stepped foot inside the house I lived in for 7 years. I don’t know that this is the cause of my family’s disfunction but just one of many symptoms. I also know that one day I too will have some huge things to deal with, but for now, it just seems impossible to even get started.

    • Roberta says:

      Wow, Christen. Our similarities are utterly astounding. I can’t believe there are two of us. I suppose that’s the magic of the internet – you find you aren’t alone. Good luck in the years to come.

  • Liza says:

    I was married to a hoarder. We lived in Michigan and built our “dream home” in South Carolina. It was a huge house with an attached 2-car garage, and detached 6-car garage. Why did we need all this space? Why indeed.

    My husband bought a 12×6 covered trailer and began moving his stuff. It was a 14-hour trip one-way but he was determined to take everything. He was an alcoholic and I eventually filed for divorce and moved out. The “dream house” had to be sold but he’d live in it until that time.

    Fast forward three years. Ex-husband was institutionalized by court order (alcohol induced dementia) and his friends cleaned out the house (as in looted). Anything of value was gone but they’d left his stuff.

    The garages were piled with boxes and…mannequins, traffic lights, street signs, film projectors, handcuffs, old paychecks, school papers, a hospital gurney, 5 cases of terry cloth hand towels, lawn mowers…

    I sorted and sifted and sent a lot of it to the dump. Friends came to help. We split off to bag clothes. Golf shirts from thrift stores, business suits, tuxedos, neckties dating back to the ’60’s, shoes, jackets. It took 15 hours of human-power just for his clothes.

    I held a “garage sale” for contractors who were repairing the house – everything was free. They came with their families and the preacher and took whatever they wanted. The preacher left with a complete office; filing cabinets, a desk, swivel chair, printer still in box, desk top computer, lamps. And still there was more. It took 6 months to get down to the things I wanted to keep. I rented a U-Haul, and it was off to my home in Tennessee!

    The court ordered mediation over my stolen personal property (the friends). The mediator determined I would get compensated but my ex-husband insisted I return the furniture I’d taken. A moving van came and back it went, this time to a storage space my ex-husband had procured prior to being committed.

    Through all of this, my ex-husband wrote weekly letters accusing me of stealing his things. He sent long lists to attorneys trying to convince them I had his “jar of quarters” or his “silk kimono.” Our final mediation was held 7 years after I’d filed for divorce. I was awarded a cash settlement for my missing property and it was finally over.

    Six days later my ex-husband died. It seemed as if the pursuit of stuff is what had kept him going and when it was done, so was he.

    He was a very sick man and I am saddened by the tragedy of his life and death. I cringe when I think of the unplumbed depths of his storage space(s) and wonder how much of my “stolen” property is in there. I feel sorry for his heirs. I’m sure they’ll sort and sift like we all seem to do. Then all that stuff that was held so dear will move on to its next stop.

  • Roberta says:

    I understand, and really feel for you. My own parents are significantly this way (though not so extreme) and it definitely has odd pass-down effects on the kids. My younger brother is a hoarder, and has rubbishy closets full-to-bursting and overflowing surfaces and drawers. It’s a bit like an archaeological dig and a time capsule opening just to get a pair of socks out of a drawer. Going on visits back to the family home makes me feel tense and trapped, and I absolutely *dread* the Great Sorting Out that will eventually have to be done.

    I don’t seem to be a hoarder, but lean to the other extreme, afraid of the choking, immobilizing feeling of too-muchness. I never invited friends over as a kid, and when I got my own place, was resolutely minimalist, and made damn sure I never collected too much stuff. I also moved frequently, which helped in keeping things down to essentials.

    The only way for me to sensibly manage the desire to collect seems to be: “If I haven’t touched it in a year and it’s not a tool, take a photo and give it away. You don’t really need it.” I also root out paper once a year, to keep it manageable. I find that if it’s semi-scheduled, it can never get too daunting.

    The strangest thing for me to discover and eventually understand, is that even though possessions are so important in my family’s life, they are unable to find a specific item when they need it. All the useful stuff is buried and crowded out so that you can’t get to it or even find it, so they have to go out and buy new things (adding to the crowding). The hoard is in many ways a single, useless, faceless entity, because it is too difficult/time-consuming to separate individual elements. It cannot be appreciated or used, because it’s almost as if it’s melted together into one giant mass of junk. I can’t think of a better description of a monster.

    Good luck with your journey, and don’t let the monster steal too much of your time.

  • Aruguletta says:

    Reading Greg’s story brought me such pain – empathetically. While there is no hoarding in my family, I recently watched the TV documentaries and, bringing them up in conversation, have been told by two friends that their relatives are hoarders. To me this is one of the saddest and most devastating illnesses of our time – a volatile reaction between those susceptible to mental disorders and the evils of overconsumption. You would not see this type of illness in a third-world country, I believe, where stuff is not so readily available. And the level of defensiveness and anxiety that surrounds this issue is astounding. My heart really goes out to everyone who has to deal with this.

  • A says:

    Thank you for sharing this story… As the child of divorced parents who are both hoarders (yes… two houses), you would think they would understand the hardship it places on the children of the family after seeing the strain in put on my dad from cleaning up his mother’s house (also a hoarder). It was difficult with him because I believe that stuff just got moved from one place to another based on sentimental value. My sister and I on the other hand are the very opposite- our abodes will not even BEGIN to get cluttered. This makes a psychological, emotional, and mental impact on my life as I too know that I will one day have to deal with cleaning up after them, not once but twice. I really appreciate that there are others who have dealt with this situation and can shed some light into helping to alleviate it… Support is always needed. Thank you!!!

  • Katrina says:

    Thanks for sharing this. What a fascinating tale!

  • Mona says:

    I don’t have any personal experience with hoarding, but I enjoyed your writing.

  • NJDespres says:

    I was so glad to have found this story. For nearly a decade now, I have been working with compulsive hoarders and their families to assist them in the recovery process. Ironically, approximately three years ago, my suspicions about hoarding within my own family were confirmed, and I am now facing the same struggles and emotions as my clients. It seems that the hoarding tendencies in my family have a genetic component as well, having manifested in three out of the four living generations. Having just completed filming an upcoming episode of the TLC show, Hoarding: Buried Alive, I am pleased that their particular network does show the impact the hoarder’s behavior has on his or her family, without forgetting that the hoarder is a mentally ill individual, and not a spectacle. I know that with the increased media attention to compulsive hoarding and acquiring disorders, there have been numerous programs and support groups popping up all over the country to help clutterers. It would be fantastic to see more attention focused on those affected by hoarding who may have just as many emotional or psychological issues as their hoarding family members. If we can help to eliminate the stigma of this grossly misunderstood disorder, perhaps we can build a network of people like Greg, who can support each other through the physical and emotional challenges of “the family secret”. The biggest hindrance to getting help is fear. Younger children fear separation from their parents by social services. Spouses may fear public ridicule- what if work or church or _________ finds out? They may fear losing their home. Adult children fear confronting both their parents and the emotional baggage they left behind. We don’t have to be superheroes. We may never fix the lives of our loved ones. But we all have the power to control our own lives and our own destinies. We can choose to be victims or survivors. We can choose to see everything, as Greg did, or we can decide we’ve seen enough. Sometimes the time it takes to go through it all is more valuable than anything you could hope to find inside.

  • Sally says:

    Wow. While my extended family are not certifiable hoarders they do have the “flat surfaced must be covered” gene. Thankfully, that gene was not inherited by my mother, my sister and me. But I have helped relatives clean out and Greg MUST accept help from those he trusts to help him and give him advice. (Take a pic of you with all the tennis trophies, then get rid of them; give your grown kids all of their art work, report cards, etc and make THEM deal with it)Iyt is too overwhelming both physically and emotionally to do it yourself. Also, please make sure at least one person knows about hidden money, even if you’re not specific-we found over $10,000 in cash hidden in magazines hoarded by some in-laws after we threw out stacks and stacks. I know not to give away one cousin’s clothes without checking pockets (she hates carrying a purse and has $20 bills tucked everywhere)Anyway, the whole process is so overwhelming that he really needs to identify his deepest fear (throwing out family heirlooms, throwing out something of great value) and find someone he trusts to not break that fear.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. My father has always kept things “just in case,” in my childhood home. Though there are now TV shows about hoarders, I never felt like I could relate to them. Its sad to read everyone’s comments, but knowing that I’m not alone in dealing with this issue gives me hope.

    I am already feeling the burden of cleaning up after my father, and he’s as healthy as a horse. For me, I’ve struggled to let go of my personal feelings about the state of clutter in which he lives b/c its his life. I’ve tried to convince him to clean up, sort, donate, throw away all of the old stuff but he wont dedicate the time to do it.

    At this point, it is not hurting him – he’s healthy, he socializes outside of the house, and he is happy so its difficult for me to argue my point.

    But I certainly identify with Greg in that I don’t like going to the house, and rarely (if ever) do, and growing up I never invited friends over either. Relatives have commented to me that they no longer want to visit because of the hoarding.

    • hannah b. says:

      Thanks for sharing your comment. I’m constantly amazed at how many people are affected by hoarding and how many hoarders are resistant to change. It really is a mental illness and while it deserves a certain level of compassion, the burden it can leave on loved ones can be devastating. Greg was reluctant to push the conversation with his parents but certainly had second thoughts about that when he was the one left holding the bag, so to speak. His own compulsions make the clean-out process even more difficult… but having support, and knowing he’s not alone have certainly helped. At the very least, see if your father is open to reading the article and perhaps starting a list of where he’d like everything to go someday. You can make it clear that you certainly don’t need or want the stuff and that you’d hate to inadvertently trash things that might have particular value. And it’s never too early – or too late- to seek professional help from therapists and/or professional organizers. Family and friends mean well, but I think outsiders (like I was with Greg) can help the process tremendously. Best of Luck, Hannah

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you for your response, Hannah. I really appreciate your feedback and your comments. You’re right – its not too early to at least think about where things should be … and if I use your words, about not inadvertently trashing something of value, I think that will resonate with him. Thanks again.

  • Teresa says:

    I am struggling with how to break the news to my parents that they are hoarders. My brother and I both completely agree that they are, and by any measure from psychologists and psychiatrists, they are certainly hoarders. The problem is that they cannot (or will not) see that truth without a serious fight. My mother gets hysterically upset if anyone, including my Dad, tries to clean up anything. Maybe I will print out Greg’s story and mail it to them, but I doubt that they would get the point.
    They are both in their 70’s and my mother firmly believes that they will be able to modify their 2 story home so that they can live there instead of a nursing home if their health declines. Since an able-bodied person can hardly get around, I don’t see how they could ever manage with a walker or wheelchair. The only way would be to do what one of the earlier posters did – clean out the house without their permission.
    My brother has jokingly suggested that we set the place on fire after they are gone, but like Greg’s mother, my parents have valuables hidden all over. Trouble is, any valuables will hardly cover the cost of cleaning up the crap that surrounds them. I am dreading the day when the house needs to be cleaned out, more than I dread the day that they leave us.

    • Jennifer says:

      “I am dreading the day when the house needs to be cleaned out, more than I dread the day that they leave us.”

      Powerful statement about your own parents. I completely relate to it.

    • Axis says:

      I’ve made the same comment to my husband about my mother in law’s house as your brother made to you – can totally understand thinking it would be easier to just level the place and start over. Just the thought of the mess is absolutely daunting.

      • Rebekah C says:

        Same here. I’ve tried to speak with my husband about my mother in law, but it is such a sensitive subject for him, not to mention my mother in law. I am dreading that day, and I am angry that it will be our responsibility to deal with it.

  • Bill L. says:

    Thanks for writing this. I am a child of a severe hoarder. By ‘severe’, I mean that I have yet to see anything in any of the so-called hoarding shows on TV, nor in anyone’s internet descriptions or photos, which match the scope of problem my mother left for me to deal with. The only case I’ve found that was worse was the famous Collyer Brothers.

    Most people simply cannot imagine what it is like to set foot for the first time in a major hoarding house. It can be seriously dangerous to your health in multiple ways. It can be a staggering task to deal with, even in the most callous way – ie; throwing away everything. Even that takes time.

    If you know someone who is a hoarder, get them help – force it on them if you have to. Because someone WILL suffer, and suffered badly, because of it, and 9 times out of 10, it is NOT the hoarder who suffers, it’s whoever comes after them to clean up.

    We’ve been working on my mother’s house for almost five years, because it is in another state. I once naively believed the entire project could be finished in five years. That might have been possible if we were well off, and not regular working stiffs with no savings and precious little paid time off, but as it is, I fear we’ll be nibbling away at it for another five.

    A big old Victorian can hold an astonishing quantity of crap if you pack each room to its 11 foot ceiling.

  • Kathleen says:

    Thank you for publishing this. This story could have been my own. My mom is a hoarder and suffered a stroke while at work this past summer. She is recovered, but while she was in the hospital and rehab my siblings and I faced the daunting task of cleaning out her house so that visiting nurses, and she herself, would be able to go there when she was released. We did it in secret, until the week before her release when we broke the news to her. It’s been tough for her coming back to her things being missing, and for us having to deal with her animosity about it. But I have no regrets. If we hadn’t have stepped in the house could have been permanently damaged. She went the whole winter last year with no heat, using space heaters! She’s lucky she didn’t burn the place down. It was tremendous work and money, but I’m glad we did it now instead of after she was gone. It would have been so much harder, especially emotionally. I would never have done this to my mom if her health didn’t require it though, I do have to say. I would have continued leaving her alone letting it get worse and worse, because truly there is nothing to do if the hoarder themself won’t make a change.

  • Bernice Klein says:

    AS the child of a hoarder, I learned that my life would never be normal. As with Jennifer I did inherit the hoard. But I could not face it. I grew up in a house of piles, paths and never having a life. I had someone else deal with it. I wanted absolutely nothing out of her stuff. I have anxiety issues related to disorganization and can not seen to deal with the simple things some days, because my panic level increases, Right now I just moved and there are a few things to be gone through, but my anxiety level kicks in and looking at the stuff is too overwhelming, even though it’s not a lot to look at. Being the child of a hoarder is really hard to explain to people. THey think that they are lazy, but it is a mental illness and until the tv show I actually thought I was alone in this struggle.

  • Rachel says:

    Thank you for sharing your story!! My grandparents are hoarders, and have been since my mother was a small child. We (our family) are currently facing the inheritance of the hoard, with my grandparents being in their 80’s and diminishing health.
    I am currently working on an art project about how my grandmother’s hoarding has affected my mother and our family for my senior year at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
    It is difficult to find people that really “get it” when in comes to looking for support and researching hoarding, but you really do- and I really appreciate your sharing your story.

    Sincerely,

    Rachel

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this. You’ve captured exactly the “pull” a hoarder feels from the objects in the hoard.
    My biggest fear is inheriting my mother’s ever-growing hoard, and fighting with my sister, who inherited the hoarding gene, over cleaning it up. Won’t THAT be a story…two siblings who inherited a hoard: one throwing it away, and one standing in the dumpster fishing it back out…

    • Hoarder's daughter says:

      Oh Jennnifer

      Yep! That will be me too, chucking it out, and my brother moving himself into the house with the junk while it falls down round his ears, to postpone getting rid of it indefinitely, and making it impossible to sort out.

      AAAARGH the stuff of nightmares!!!

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