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    • Jojo the Tightfisted
    • By Jojo the Tightfisted 9th Jun 12, 11:40 PM
    • 24,241Posts
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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 2
    • pavlovs_dog
    • By pavlovs_dog 10th Jun 12, 3:34 PM
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    do you have a strategy in mind JoJo for how to tackle the task, ie room by room/ type of hoarded item so that you can see progress? Must be so hard to find the motivation to begin when you have such a mamouth task ahead of you.
    know thyself

    MFW 2018 #22 - 2180.08 /6,000 (36%)
    MFi3 v4 #29 target 75,000

    Nid wy'n gofyn bywyd moethus...
    • hermum
    • By hermum 10th Jun 12, 4:23 PM
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    Have you spoken to the council if they're going to evict her they have to give her housing advice. Their role is to prevent homelessness.
    They should be able to refer her to an outside agency who can provide support to maintain her tenancy. She may take it from someone else better than she will from you.
    • short_bird
    • By short_bird 10th Jun 12, 4:46 PM
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    From what I've read in books and online and seen on TV, whoever is cleaning up needs to make sure that whatever goes out stays out. So if there's a person with a vehicle to hand, locking the discarded stuff in the vehicle and taking it to a tip or charity shop seems to be a good idea.
    Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.
    • Byatt
    • By Byatt 10th Jun 12, 5:19 PM
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    JoJo, just wanted to say I feel for you and your mother. I'm a borderline hoarder, never used to be but after the traumatic breakdown of my marriage 7 years ago and having to move several times since, I now just seem to collect things. I do try and clear when I'm feeling better in myself, but it's such a huge emotional issue, I already feel the flicker of panic when I think of clearing my clutter. I don't know how you can help your mother without her having psychological support and worry you may be dragged down by it all. Such an awful dilemma for you.

    huge hugs. xx
    Hiraeth beckons with wordless call...
    • Justamum
    • By Justamum 10th Jun 12, 6:17 PM
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    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.
    Originally posted by Jojo the Tightfisted
    It sounds like quite an unpleasant upbringing. No wonder you have an abhorrence of untidiness and dirt in your own home.

    Anyway, have you tried soda crystals for shifting the grease? You can get it in a spray bottle. It's the best thing I know for cutting through grease.

    I know it's not much good, but I'm sending out hugs to you

    • cherie1122
    • By cherie1122 10th Jun 12, 6:59 PM
    • 403 Posts
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    You're brave Jo Jo. I was asked to feed birds belonging to an old friend while he was on holiday and his flat was so full of stuff and smelled so awful that I haven't been over there since. I'm sure it's a mental illness. It had definitely got worse since I had last been on feeding duty.

    He keeps inviting me over there for coffee and I keep coming up with excuses not to visit. He doesn't let many people into his flat but I suppose as I've known him for 30+ years he trusts me enough to let me in.

    Good luck with clearing up your Mum's home - I haven't got the stomach to clear up other people's mess so I think you're amazing.

    • whitewing
    • By whitewing 10th Jun 12, 7:20 PM
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    If it is such a health hazard, and has been going on for so long, you should be able to get some outside help with this. Perhaps the GP could make a house call and see the situation for himself.
    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.
    • flippin36
    • By flippin36 10th Jun 12, 8:08 PM
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    Good luck JoJo, I feel for you and you are not alone.

    My mum has always had a problem not only with hoarding but uncleanliness (beyond normal family mess). I left home when I was very young because I just wanted to have a nice house and a normal life, but I remember going back to visit every day because I was the only person who did any kind of cleaning. Not even washing up. I had this terrible anxiety that things would go rather squalid if I didn't keep on top of it. My sister urged me to stop cleaning for them as that is why they didn't bother. Sure enough as soon as I stopped going back to clean, things began to deteriorate. My mum never, ever throws anything away. However, I was lucky in that both my dad and aunty seem to have got it back into some kind of control. Their kitchen and living room are pretty tidy now, though the kitchen isn't to my standards by any means, its liveable. The three spare bedrooms are where her stuff is "contained". Basically she is allowed to hoard but it has to be kept within those rooms. Though she can't throw anything out, she seems to have stopped buying stuff. I think this is about as good as it will get and what my dad sees as a workable compromise. I think the difference between my mum and yours is that she knows that she has a problem and is aware of how it effects other people. People with true addictions/compulsions are usually incapable of seeing how their actions effect the people around them.

    Good luck with it all. I don't feel like I've been much help and was in two minds whether to post as there is no simple solution.
    Last edited by flippin36; 10-06-2012 at 8:21 PM.
  • gtx

    My aunt is the same and my disabled cousin still lives at home and we don't know what to do either - she is also very verbally aggressive about the whole situation and has been like it for the whole of my life(39 yrs) and was like it long before I was born apparently - she has multiple multiples of everything she owns, doesn't seem able to throw a single thing that comes through the door out and never cleans. i don't visit often and now the kids are in their teens they refuse point blank to go but eveytime I do go it's worse. my mum on the other hand is the complete opposite and actually decorates right through her house every year! I sit somewhere inbetween, closer to my mum thankfully.

    And like another poster I have looked after a neighbours house for the first time this year while she went on holiday and discovered that she is a major hoarder also - I was stunned, the outside of her house is immaculate and she's a nurse! but inside there is only one walkway from the front of the house to the back, the rest is piled above head height with 'stuff' - mainly papers, i didn't stay long enough to have a proper look - just moved her post so it couldn't be seen if someone looked through her door. but if she ever had a fire her and the kids would be goners!

    i also have a friend who is just very dirty and cba to clear up - she doesn't hoard, by this I mean she doesn't collect things or buy multiples but everything is just left where it's dropped, never thrown out and never cleaned - she knows it's bad but doesn't care. in a few years she could be in the same position just because nothing gets thrown out.

    I'm actually quite anti-social and don't mix well, so I think the fact that I personally know 3 and know of another woman who used to hoard(but has now passed away- the council cleared her house 3 times, she used to live a few doors down from the people I baby sat for) could mean this is an increasing problem and something that needs resources to support the people and their families - for all the advances we have, we do seem to struggle these days just to cope with daily life.

    I don't know what practical help I can offer other than; little and often - don't wear yourself out; ask the council for help - they must have some sort of support available; involve your mum in every step otherwise she'll just undo whatever you do as soon as you're gone.

    take care


    DFW#1062 LBM Aug 08 - DFD JUN '22
    • Justamum
    • By Justamum 10th Jun 12, 8:24 PM
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    but inside there is only one walkway from the front of the house to the back, the rest is piled above head height with 'stuff' - mainly papers,
    Originally posted by gtx
    It can get quite dangerous. There was a case in the papers quite recently of a woman who got lost in all the rubbish in her house and died, and it took a couple of weeks to find her body!

  • gtx
    Jojo - i don't know how to do links, so I've 'told' the flyladies about your thread and hopefully some of them will be able to share some real heavy duty practical tips for cleaning and clearing your mums place.

    Justamum - I seen something on our local news recently about a woman who died in a house fire because the fire brigade couldn't get to her because of her hoarding, which scared me for across the road.


    DFW#1062 LBM Aug 08 - DFD JUN '22
  • givemeavoice
    Jojo, my mum (she's 66) is exactly the same. I grew up in a house that no one could visit, where entire rooms are completely impossible to get into for all the towers of boxes and bags of just junk, where the smell never ever leaves you and when you enter it, you're filled with complete and utter dread.

    When I was in my teens I'd sneakily try and just clean up rubbish, (I wasn't brave enough to tackle the junk and the newspapers) just rubbish and food that had long gone off etc and she'd find it in the wheelie bins outside and bring it back in! She has years worth of newspapers, (I bought her a laptop for christmas one year to try and deter her from buying papers and finding any info she needs online, I spent hours and hours showing her how to use it, but I know she's never switched it on since!!)

    It was so bad I had to leave home at 17 and move in with my older brother. Until then I'd never eaten dinner at a table, never been able to just go into a kitchen and make a cup of tea without doing an hours worth of washing up and clearing surfaces etc to get to the kettle, never been able to say to a friend to pop over.

    I get the feeling my mum almost enjoys how she lives, that she's isolated, it's her excuse for keeping people away from her. I speak to her daily on the phone but see her once a year at christmas if I'm lucky, she lives far away and won't visit me and my family as she doesn't like leaving her house for too long and she never lets me make the journey up to her (unless it's christmas).

    I've spent my life trying everything imaginable to get her sorted, but there's only so much you can do for someone that doesn't want to be helped, it's so frustrating and demoralising. She hasn't had central heating or hot water in her home for years as her boiler gave up the ghost and she won't call out anyone to fix it, not due to money as financially she's pretty comfortable she just won't let anyone in her home. I say to her all the time to let me help her, that I won't force her to throw out anything she doesn't want to, I'll just help practically with lifting and carrying etc, but she won't allow it.

    Although in recent months I've really begun to worry about her on a whole new level and really am trying to persaude her to sort her situation out. She's had several attempted break - ins, (one from a group of about 5 of so men) one only a few weeks ago. This is due to her home looking so shabby that people assume the house is empty and trying their luck, plus her garden fence is falling to pieces from age and bad weather etc so anyone can just walk into her garden. Will she report them to the police? No. Will she get the fence fixed after I spent hours researching fencers, getting quotes etc? No. I know if I was to just arrange a plumber to go and fix the boiler or someone to do the fence that she'd be furious with me. But she did buy 24 huge plastic storage crates and ask me to look into prices for storage facilities a few weeks back and I really thought the penny had dropped for her that she can't live like this, but since then nothing's happened.

    I don't know what the answer is, I watch the Hoarder Nextdoor and think not even the slick Greek guy and those bossy blonde women could help kick her up the bum to do anything! You just need an endless amounts of patience, and somehow not give up hope. I feel sick just thinking about how she lives (she's restricted to living in one room now, in a large four bed semi) but I won't give up on her and I'll do anything I can to get her into a warm, dry, safe home - I don't even care if it's tidy anymore!

    You're not alone x
    • mmmsnow
    • By mmmsnow 10th Jun 12, 8:48 PM
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    I really felt for you, reading your original post. My gran is a hoarder and she has emphysema so the dust (which is everywhere) is slowly killing her. We've tried everything from a nice "sit down talk" through to cleaning/clearing secretly when she's in hospital. She's house bound and I'm afraid the house is killing her - mounds of stuffed toys, DVDs, thousands of VHS tapes (but no VHS player!). It really gets to you after a while. It's very claustrophobic and strange, like she's built a nest for herself out of everyday items.
    • Cheapskate
    • By Cheapskate 10th Jun 12, 9:08 PM
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    Jojo, what a desperate situation! I think you sound remarkably sane and practical, especially given what you've said about your upbringing. Please keep posting here, even if it's just to get things of your chest instead of losing your temper with family. I can't add any more advice than others have, though, but I do echo it all.

    We're all little hoarders in my family, except one sister, but I'm already worrying about my home. It's not a fraction as bad as the homes you see on tv, but it's bad for me. My brother is a real worry to us all; my sister and I helped him move a couple of years ago and it was horrendous! His 3 room, minuscule, flat had not been cleaned in over 3 years, anywhere, the fridge was a real mess, unwashed pots growing "stuff" in them, the bathroom..... My sister and I could have cried for him, and I later did! Various of us suffer from depression and we agree that our homes get worse when we're really under it - wonder if there's a link?

    I start a new job this week, on top of a very part time one, do a couple of voluntary things and have had some very black moments the last month - I REALLY want to stop them all and be a real stay-at-home housewife and get to grips with our home before I can't. I didn't want to read this thread when I saw the title, but I've done so and am glad I did - it's a bit like going to confession though!

    A xo
    CRAPROLLZ member #20 Cheapskate - Head of Hunting (family membership co-ordinator)

    Jan GC 27.05/300
    • meritaten
    • By meritaten 10th Jun 12, 9:22 PM
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    jojo - I am speechless! I have no idea how to help you hun.......and you certainly need help!
    I remember a 'How Clean is Your House' with a lady who was a compulsive hoarder and how difficult it was for them to get her to part with anything. I do wish they had shown how to do it!
    I suspect (as do you) that this is a mental illness - an obsessive disorder - but how to treat it and get your mums home cleared without her going into meltdown is difficult. all I can suggest is that you read about compulsive behaviours and try to get some tips from dealing with it.
    Jojo - I am concerned about the effect this job will have on YOU! you are on the opposite end of the spectrum to your mother arent you?
    Could you get help from Environment Health? because it may not be good for your health to start chucking this stuff? God knows what all this crud harbours? At least ring them and explain the situation - you may need to wear a Haz-Mat suit and Breathing Apparatus! a bit extreme I know - but council workers clearing a very similar home near me were wearing them!
    above all - Look after YOURSELF!
    • Alikay
    • By Alikay 10th Jun 12, 9:27 PM
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    Well done jojo for escaping the chaos and creating your own comfortable home. You've said yourself though, it's a mental illness, so although you're due to return, please don't invest too much of your time, and physical and emotional energy trying to make a difference: It's not appreciated and you know it won't change anything for more than a day or two.

    Must have been awful growing up in a home like that...I really feel for kids who turn up at school mucky: They can get such a hard time from other children, and I doubt that anyone comes out of a childhood like that unscathed.
    • PipneyJane
    • By PipneyJane 10th Jun 12, 9:39 PM
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    JoJo, I just wanted to send you a cyber-hug and my sympathy. I can't offer you any solutions - I just wish you luck and an easier battle next time.
    "Be the type of woman that when you get out of bed in the morning, the devil says 'Oh crap. She's up.' "

    C.R.A.P R.O.L.L.Z. #47 Official Brain Harvesting Body Counter
    • bossymoo
    • By bossymoo 10th Jun 12, 9:44 PM
    • 6,817 Posts
    • 87,056 Thanks

    What an awful situation. I can't imagine. But I do agree with a lot of the above. No matter how much you clear, it won't solve the problem. It will be too easy to collect mounds back up again.

    Don't make yourself unwell over it. No point in it controlling two of you.


    Away with the fairies
  • BitterAndTwisted
    Jojo's real problem, or rather her mother's is that the council have become involved now, so unless this mess is sorted somehow mother is going to find herself homeless before long. And where does she think another roof over her head is going to be miraculously found? No-one anywhere would be willing to give her a tenancy after this except a mental-health facility or sheltered housing of some sort if it can be found.

    I suspect the real gravity and the urgency of the situation is only being felt by one person: the one donning the rubber-gloves tomorrow. I fear that this is going to be one of those hamster-on-a-wheel scenarios. I'd have thrown in the towel about five minutes after entering that filthy house.

    If soda crystals don't work on getting an inch-thick film of grease off the cooker try bicarb and wire-wool after you've had a go with a chisel
    • Nile
    • By Nile 10th Jun 12, 10:11 PM
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    The posts about hoarders in this thread remind me of Hannah Hauxwell who featured in Yorkshire Television documentaries. Hannah lived alone on a 70 acre farm in the middle of nowhere with no electricity or running water.

    I was shocked to see how she hoarded........things like empty margarine tubs which she felt might be useful.

    She had problems with mice and rats in her house. The mice and rats could get into her cupboards, everywhere. Her only option was to hang her loaf of bread from a hook in the middle of the ceiling..............because the vermin couldn't reach the bread dangling from the ceiling.

    As others have said, I think many of us can be reluctant to part with things we value...............but others see as tat. I wouldn't call myself a hoarder but I haven't managed to part with my first 'big' bicycle, which I rode with pride aged 10 years old to school every day and to do shopping for my mum. It's still in the garage now.
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