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    • Jojo the Tightfisted
    • By Jojo the Tightfisted 9th Jun 12, 11:40 PM
    • 24,095Posts
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    Jojo the Tightfisted
    Hoarding...not just on TV
    • #1
    • 9th Jun 12, 11:40 PM
    Hoarding...not just on TV 9th Jun 12 at 11:40 PM
    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.
    Last edited by Jojo the Tightfisted; 16-09-2012 at 11:53 PM.
    I could dream to wide extremes, I could do or die: I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch the world go by.

    Yup you are officially Rock n Roll
    Originally posted by colinw
Page 1
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 10th Jun 12, 12:09 AM
    • 1,885 Posts
    • 26,567 Thanks
    • #2
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:09 AM
    • #2
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:09 AM
    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.
    Last edited by short_bird; 10-06-2012 at 12:12 AM.
    Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
  • kittycat204
    • #3
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:19 AM
    • #3
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:19 AM
    All i can give you is my deepest sympathy, i hope that Diagnostic and Statistical Manual recognises this disorder, sooner rather than later.
    • Barneysmom
    • By Barneysmom 10th Jun 12, 12:20 AM
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    • #4
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:20 AM
    • #4
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:20 AM
    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
    Barney is my border collie.
  • kittycat204
    • #5
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:31 AM
    • #5
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:31 AM
    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
    Originally posted by Barneysmom
    very kind.......
    • Barneysmom
    • By Barneysmom 10th Jun 12, 12:42 AM
    • 9,452 Posts
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    • #6
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:42 AM
    • #6
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:42 AM
    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.
    Barney is my border collie.
  • BitterAndTwisted
    • #7
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:53 AM
    • #7
    • 10th Jun 12, 12:53 AM
    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
    • By SnowyOwl 10th Jun 12, 3:16 AM
    • 5,120 Posts
    • 14,801 Thanks
    • #8
    • 10th Jun 12, 3:16 AM
    • #8
    • 10th Jun 12, 3:16 AM
    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
    • #9
    • 10th Jun 12, 4:37 AM
    • #9
    • 10th Jun 12, 4:37 AM
    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
    • By hilstep2000 10th Jun 12, 7:41 AM
    • 3,035 Posts
    • 17,709 Thanks
    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!!!
    A Bargain is only a bargain if you need it!

    • Molly41
    • By Molly41 10th Jun 12, 7:44 AM
    • 4,458 Posts
    • 37,847 Thanks
    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.
    • Moorhen
    • By Moorhen 10th Jun 12, 8:55 AM
    • 940 Posts
    • 13,135 Thanks

    I have just read this and have nothing but admiration for you.

    I have no advice to offer but I send best wishes and good luck for all you decide to do, for you and for your mum.
    • kte
    • By kte 10th Jun 12, 9:05 AM
    • 230 Posts
    • 381 Thanks
    Good luck with it. These links for sources of help are on the 4oD website with the current 'Hoarder Nextdoor' series
  • aliasojo
    It's a mental illness.....
    Originally posted by Jojo the Tightfisted
    That's exactly what it is, sadly. Has she always been like this or can you think of something that triggered it in later years?

    I think people can be prone to hoarding generally and then something happens to exacerbate this tendency and it develops into situations as you describe.

    I wish you well, you're going to need all your patience and strength to deal with this.
    Herman - MP for all!
    • Justamum
    • By Justamum 10th Jun 12, 9:34 AM
    • 4,685 Posts
    • 35,888 Thanks
    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
    Originally posted by Barneysmom
    What a lovely person you are

    • miffy257
    • By miffy257 10th Jun 12, 10:53 AM
    • 875 Posts
    • 7,647 Thanks
    Jojo I really feel for you, sorry I can't offer any more advice than you have already been given. If you any family or friends who can help I would rope them in to, it will be so much easier with more hands on deck. Hope you manage to get your mother to the GP and that you get some help. Hugs to you.
    180.00 in 'sistercas'fund
    Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.
    Samuel Smiles
    • whitewing
    • By whitewing 10th Jun 12, 11:17 AM
    • 11,543 Posts
    • 48,331 Thanks

    I agree with watching some of the channel 4 documentaries. My dad is dreadful but has got better. We once threw out an old wardrobe and bashed in the back. He spent half a day mending it and took it back in.

    It is going to make your mum very emotional to get rid of the clutter, so maybe think about how you are going to help her still feel in control of the process. Maybe a rule that out of date food can be binned without consulting her, but you would have to be extremely careful not to throw away anything that is in date (or doesn't fit within the agreed rules).

    Newspapers and magazines and paperwork in general again can often be hoarded (my dad does this). This can take up a lot of space so getting rid of these with agreement can make a difference to keep motivation up.

    If there was somewhere you could take stuff to be sorted that can help break the emotional bond to it. A box of tat in your own house can have huge psychological significance. The same box of tat on somewhere else's kitchen table looks more like tat.

    Having a charity shop pile can make the aftermath of hoarding a little less painful as someone is getting some use for it. If it is taken somewhere where it can be giftaided too, then you'll get a letter or email from the charity after the end of the tax year saying how much they raised on your donations. Amazing how it adds up.

    Your mum is very brave letting you in. There will be tears along the way but she must have a glimmer now of the future she wants to lead. I hope you can get her some specialist support, maybe even to know she is not the only person with this problem will help.
    When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of "Me too!" be sure to cherish them. Because these weirdos are your true family.
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 10th Jun 12, 11:42 AM
    • 1,885 Posts
    • 26,567 Thanks
    All i can give you is my deepest sympathy, i hope that Diagnostic and Statistical Manual recognises this disorder, sooner rather than later.
    Originally posted by kittycat204
    Found this: so yes, it is recognised for the first time. Or will be, when the book is published.

    Oh, and there's a very good book called Stuff;compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things. Jojo, PM me your address and I'll send it on.
    Last edited by short_bird; 10-06-2012 at 11:46 AM.
    Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
    • babyshoes
    • By babyshoes 10th Jun 12, 2:49 PM
    • 1,703 Posts
    • 3,325 Thanks
    You've had some good advice on here. My gran was a hoarder, though at the time it wasn't really recognised as a mental illness - and had a huge house so it wasn't as much of a 'problem' as it could have been in a smaller house - a few rooms were pretty clear, as she confined the bulk of it mostly to her bedroom (there were narrow paths through the head-high piles of boxes to get to the bed and dressing table), 'sewing room', pantry, storeroom and one spare bedroom. My aunts went in and did a big clear out of her pantry and kitchen once while she was away on holiday, as they were afraid she was eating such old food she would get ill. This was before the days of 'best before' and 'use by' dates, but when they lifted up some of the tins, the bases had rusted onto the shelf and the contents had almost evaporated so the bulk of the can just lifted away from a rusty mess with gooey food congealed on it! You can imagine the anger that caused, and the rift in the family took ages to heal.

    The problem finally got solved when she ended up needing to go into a nursing home. My parents put up a shed in their garden for her to fill with 'carefully selected' things that she wanted to keep - the rest was sorted into junk and useable stuff - which got sent off to the auctions. That funded about a year of her stay in the home, if I recall correctly. It was hugely distressing for her, but having the shed helped, I think - and as we knew what was in there, we stopped her buying things like soap and shampoo as she had enough to keep her and the family going for years. Perhaps having a space where your Mom could put anything she really wanted to keep, no questions asked, would help to ease the trauma? It can always be sorted through later on. Knowing it was a small space like a shed might also help her to prioritise the stuff that is really important to her.

    I was also going to suggest you joined your local freecycle on her behalf - if she feels her 'stuff' is going to needy local people, she may also find it easier to part with. You can give away almost ANYTHING on freecycle, from things most would consider junk like a box of jam jars or a pile of old newspapers to clothing, to (edible) food. Just don't let her see what others are offering, or she might end up getting more things to replace the ones she has given away!

    Good luck.
    Trust me - I'm NOT a doctor!
    • Jojo the Tightfisted
    • By Jojo the Tightfisted 10th Jun 12, 3:20 PM
    • 24,095 Posts
    • 95,005 Thanks
    Jojo the Tightfisted
    I'm sorry I can't reply to all of you in person, I've loaned my laptop to my eldest for the weekend and I'm relying on my phone.

    Thank you all so much.

    She's always been grubby. My nickname in high school was the rather fetching Greaseball because she didn't believe in washing more than once a week. She's also always been aggressive and abusive in private, but a delicate little flower in public.

    Believe me, I am not feeling loving. More pity. Tempered with resentment, but I do believe holding onto that will tear me apart whilst having zero effect upon the source of the feeling.

    She's only doing it because the council have threatened to evict her. And even then she is trying to get around it by saying they can't kick her out.

    Everyone else in the family is nowhere to be seen. I think she chased off my half sister when she offered help. There aren't many people who will tolerate someone brandishing one of her five rolling pins at your head as you crawl around on your knees fishing plastic lids out from under a table that used to be white.

    I'm not scared of her, though. Haven't been since I got taller than her and realised I had control and could choose to not hit her back, but if I did choose, I would flatten her. But I chose not to.

    I'd happily douse it all with petrol and send the whole house up. But I suspect the next door neighbour and the council might have something to say about that.

    So, like dealing with a stroppy, nervy cat or dog, I'm ignoring most of it.

    But I have no idea how I will manage to physically clean this. She's 75 and it looks like I will be there for the rest of her life. More likely if she keeps waving weapons at me, there are far too many big knives laying about for my liking.

    Even the slightest bit of disorder in my house upsets me. It's never good enough. I look at the paint trays in the spare room and shudder. I am terrified I might wake up one morning and find out I am, as she insists, absolutely just like her. Mind you, she also says she was a natural mother. The physical scars belie that one. But the fear is there.

    It's going to be a long job. I don't want this thread to be all about me, I think it should be for tips on getting an inch of grease off the cooker that star drops can't touch, support for all of us.

    I know there are others out there, come and chat.

    That's normal, to chat, even if the conditions we see aren't normal at all.
    I could dream to wide extremes, I could do or die: I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch the world go by.

    Yup you are officially Rock n Roll
    Originally posted by colinw
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