Hello Forumites! However well-intentioned, for the safety of other users we ask that you refrain from seeking or offering medical advice. This includes recommendations for medicines, procedures or over-the-counter remedies. Posts or threads found to be in breach of this rule will be removed.

Hoarding...not just on TV

Jojo_the_Tightfisted Posts: 27,228 Forumite
Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
edited 16 September 2012 at 11:53PM in Old style MoneySaving
Welcome to the Thread

This is a friendly, supportive thread for anybody who is affected by hoarding issues. Hoarding isn't just untidiness, it isn't laziness - it's a genuine problem, and it can affect generations of families, all in different ways.

Some of us are the product of an environment where somebody else's hoarding affected us deeply, some have much loved partners, some have the condition and are trying to deal with the emotional and practical issues involved. Some are the exact opposite and just want to help. Everybody is welcome.

So, if you would like to post, whether once or often, lurk quietly in the shadows, never saying a word, or if you have an interest in understanding why this is happening to somebody, please, come in, take a seat and someone will be popping in to say hello.

We don't hide our thoughts or our opinions - it isn't a thread for agreement, if someone thinks another poster is making excuses or avoiding the real issues, we will say so in a fair, calm manner. We're not going to tell you that hoarding is OK. But we do understand it's more than tidying up. We've seen it, we've experienced it one way or another. We are unshockable, so don't hide your problems, thinking we'll judge you.


Through the course of this thread, we're realising just how much hoarding confuses our lives and our emotions - and hoarding is inextricably linked to emotional pain, loss and unresolved feelings.

A poster has asked the question - what happens next? This is her question and the reply I gave - it may help somebody else;

I am also dragged down by fear...what happens when I've de-hoarded...what happens if I'm still unhappy and lonely...?

You feel the same emotions, but

you are capable of finding clean clothes,
a pair of socks,
of sitting down on any chair,
of going to bed without having to take your life in your hands going upstairs,
of inviting someone round who wants to see you and could make you feel less lonely without concern for their opinion or personal safety,
you have more money as you aren't spending it on 'stuff' to fill the hole in your heart.

You aren't harbouring mould spores,
dust mites
and various other nasties that can sap your strength and make you or your loved ones unwell.

You have space to think,
to adjust,
adapt to the uncomfortable feelings,
as you aren't hemmed in by distractions such as a pile of things over there that are threatening to fall over.

You can find different things to do that can give you pleasure - having a lovely colour on the walls,
finding a beautiful picture, having it framed and putting it on your wall where you can see and appreciate it properly,
going out and starting other activities,
inviting friends round without worrying,
not stressing about the gas man,

It doesn't solve everything. But it makes the day to day so much better, easier, smoother. Which gives you time and space to deal with the harder stuff.


This is the post that started the thread off:

You know those people on telly? The ones with years of accumulated things up to the ceilings, in every room, filling the bath, on every stair?

I know someone like that.

My mother.

Anyhow, having been banned from her house years and years ago, repeated visits from what sounds to be a rather unsympathetic minion from the council offices, she let me in early this morning.


The first thing I had to do was find the back door. During this process, she was snatching stuff up, squealing that she had to keep it and stacking it on a chair. I wasn't even throwing stuff, I was just going to pick it up.

It took an hour to get the door open.

Four and a half hours later, I had cleared the central part of the floor, scrubbed muck and filth of twenty years off the bits I could reach and scraped it off three cupboard doors, the cooker and the washing machine.

I did not manage to reach any of the three refrigerators or the freezers, the corners of the room, the tabletop, the hob, the top of everything.

She now has a large IKEA bag full of rolls of foil, greaseproof and cling film, although there must be hundreds more in there somewhere. There is a crate full of washing powders, one of cleaning materials and cloths (all unused, obviously), and pots and pans.

Oh Lord, the pots and pans. If I could find space to put them in the garden, it would look like a Tinker's Yard. I have seen 17 frying pans thus far, there could be hundreds. Electric knives, chopping gadgets, lock N lock containers.

Food out of date years ago, as she wails that it's all new and fresh, her voice tails off when I show her the use by dates of a decade ago.

I managed to get to the bathroom sink and gave that a quick scrub, stepping over 3 toilet seats stacked up beside the loo and tons of bottles and towels and boxes and things.

She says she can't afford a skip and we stand surrounded by thousands of pounds worth of stuff. She then says all I need is 10 bin bags and the council will take it away for free. Then it would be silly to get a 2 yard skip before I have done anything much. She needs a nineyarder about ten times, I reckon.

I'm going back on Monday for another half day.

But I don't know if I can do this. There's just so much stuff, so much dirt and filth and crud and muck. Cleaning would be easy, I'd be more than happy to do that, but this is so much more than cleaning.

I came home exhausted, itching and I took one look at my house (which is bring decorated at present, so is untidy) and the fear welled up in me so much, I promptly went and threw up the one drink I had all day as I couldn't begin to consider consuming anything in my mother's house. And I had a 20 minute shower and a lie down like a complete drama queen, I felt so ill.

You see the fly lady thread, the decluttering thread, even the oh-my-house-is-really-bad thread. But nothing on how to deal with this. It's a mental illness, it's a health hazard, it's cleaning where star drops doesn't even begin to scratch the surface layer if filth.

I'm not the only person here in this position.

But it feels like it round about now.

So please, let's have this as a thread for all of this, where we can understand what it feels like to see a fully grown adult snatch a rusty tin tray that used to have a cat picture in it, clutch it to her chest squealing 'that's my pus sy cat' and all you see in your mind's eye is Gollum wanting his Precioussssss, to be forbidden from throwing anything else today, you mutter darkly as you return to the Tupperware that you'll just go back to rearranging the deck heirs on the Titanic then, shall I?

I can't be the only one.
I could dream to wide extremes, I could do or die: I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch the world go by.
colinw wrote: »
Yup you are officially Rock n Roll :D


  • short_bird
    short_bird Posts: 3,669 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
    edited 10 June 2012 at 12:12AM
    Hi, I know exactly what you mean but have been lucky enough to avoid full on keep everything mode in my family. Hopefully these links will work. There's some of information about the effect that hoarding has on families which may well be pertinent.
    click on the link on the left hand side to Greg's Room.
    I can recommend, for tips on how to dismantle cars,
    as they've removed 18 tons of scrap from their property.
    Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
  • kittycat204
    kittycat204 Posts: 1,824 Forumite
    All i can give you is my deepest sympathy, i hope that Diagnostic and Statistical Manual recognises this disorder, sooner rather than later.
    Opinion on everything, knowledge of nothing.
  • Barneysmom
    Barneysmom Posts: 10,123 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    We're away at the seaside on the 16th of June for a week, but I have the week after off if you want me to come and help you sort some of it out?
    I'm not bothered by stuff so let me know xxx
  • kittycat204
    kittycat204 Posts: 1,824 Forumite
    Barneysmom wrote: »
    We're away at the seaside on the 16th of June for a week, but I have the week after off if you want me to come and help you sort some of it out?
    I'm not bothered by stuff so let me know xxx

    very kind.......
    Opinion on everything, knowledge of nothing.
  • Barneysmom
    Barneysmom Posts: 10,123 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    My mom's pretty similar.
    I know I can't solve the emotional thing, that's better left to the experts, but I'm not scared to get stuck in.
  • BitterAndTwisted
    BitterAndTwisted Posts: 22,492 Forumite
    First Post Combo Breaker
    Bloody hell, Jojo. You're a brave (and possibly a much more sympathetic and loving) woman than I am. I'd have washed my hands of it a long time ago. Cleaning my own muck is bad enough, but to take on someone else's years-old squalid filth quite another. Even your own flesh and blood's.

    Unless she's able to face the truth and actually change her ways, whatever you do for her will only be temporary.

    Do you know where to get flamethrowers cheap?
  • SnowyOwl_2
    SnowyOwl_2 Posts: 5,257 Forumite
    Combo Breaker First Post
    That tv presenter Jasmine Harman's mother is like your's. They did a documentary about it some time ago, and Jasmine has subsequently launched a website about hoarding, hoarders and everything that goes with the condition. It's here. Maybe it'll give you some ideas about how to tackle this issue with your mother.
  • theoldcynic
    theoldcynic Posts: 247 Forumite
    Jojo, you have my every sympathy.

    Hoarding can be similar to OCD, and can also originate from anxiety and depressive related issues, or possibly be a sign of dementia as well as related to a host of other issues.

    It sounds like your mum needs some help away from just the tidying and cleaning. It may well be that whatever cleaning measure you take now will only be temporary, or perhaps your mothers issues will manifest themselves in other ways.

    It is interesting to me that a lot of what you described that your mother is hoarding are cooking/cleaning/hygiene related stuff however there is so much of it, that it appears that with the sheer quantity she has that they are causing the opposite problem that they were created and bought for to resolve and actually prevent cleaning/cooking and encourage more uncleanness and mess. They appear to be more nurturing type items perhaps but ironically she appears to be neglecting herself and her home with the quantity of them.

    I wonder too if there is a related issue with the purchasing of these items in the first place and whether there is some kind of personal reward she is getting whilst purchasing them.

    Unfortunately until your mother admits and is willing to get some help it is unlikely that you will be able to help her apart from to keep encouraging her to get help. I would be looking at some form of psychological help or intervention perhaps through counselling/psychotherapy maybe CBT starting with a trip to the GP to see if it is anything related to dementia or a physical cause.

    I am unsure whether the fact that you were banished from her home was because you tried to force this issue before with her before, and like Gollum closely guarding the ring in the Lord of the Rings she wanted nothing to get between her and her precious and prevented you from doing that. Perhaps her finally allowing you into her home now is a good sign, I guess you and her need to be clear though as to exactly what she and you are wanting from your visits and what you are prepared to do.

    I wonder if your reference to your own home being untidy and reaction with being ill was a fear that you may be going down the same road or that you could? I am unsure, however it is bound to bring up some very mixed feelings and at least you are recognising it as an issue which I guess is different to where your mother has been all this time.

    Are there any other members of your family that can help with this? Or have they been banished from the home too? Perhaps she contacted you because she knew that you would not shy away from it or collude with it.

    Anyway, this is all speculation and things I would be thinking about. I hope you gain more support and help through this thread x
  • hilstep2000
    hilstep2000 Posts: 3,089 Forumite
    I had this with my Dad. It's so hard, and takes a lot of time. She obviously has an issue that isn't resolved yet. If you could get her out, maybe you could get some friends and tackle it, if not, I'd advise see her GP and tell them, you may be able to get her and you help. ((((((((HUGS)))))))))
    I Believe in saving money!!!:T
    A Bargain is only a bargain if you need it!

  • Molly41
    Molly41 Posts: 4,919 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic First Post
    Jo - what a coincidence that you started this thread. My husband and I were only talking that my hoarding instinct was becoming a little overwhelming again - although tbf nothing like those on the TV or your mum as you describe her.

    I agree it is a mental illness. Perhaps you could contact the programme and they might put you in touch with the psychologist or the professional declutterers.

    Mine is a safety blanket and becomes worse when I am poorly (physically). The visual noise of the clutter is overwhelming and adds to my agitation so no wonder you needed to lie down in a darkened room afterwards. I have been tackling a little bit when I can as I know my husband will just take over and wont pander to my obsessions.I know that my issues are minimal in comparison but every single one of us has the potential to hoard so really hope there is some constructive advice offered x
    I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. When it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    When the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
This discussion has been closed.
Meet your Ambassadors


  • All Categories
  • 343.1K Banking & Borrowing
  • 250.1K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.7K Spending & Discounts
  • 235.2K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 607.9K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 173K Life & Family
  • 247.8K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.9K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards