Typical behaviors seen in compulsive hoarding include:
• Saving far more items than are needed or can be used
• Acquisition of more items than can be used
• Avoidance of throwing things away
• Avoidance of making decisions
• Avoidance of putting possessions in appropriate storage areas, such as closets, drawers, or files
• Pervasive slowness or lateness in completing
-Obsessive Compulsive Foundation Hoarding Website
Heard from our hoarding parents, collected from members of the Children of Hoarders Yahoo support group:
1. My mom has specifically said that she was too much of an ‘intellectual’ than to focus on housework.
2. That she was “too busy taking care of the kids” to clean. Now the kids are out of the house and she’s still too busy.
3. She was sick, tired, achy, didn’t feel well, (insert favorite medical complaint here)… for SEVEN YEARS??
4. She was too busy at work to clean the house… but if she’s working so many hours, why is she still broke?
5. I’m OVERWHELMED I don’t know where to start.
6. I have had a headache for 3 days now.
7. I am so constipated I had to use a suppository again.
8. The phone keeps ringing with sales calls and it keeps distracting me.
9. I’m tired.
10. I don’t feel well *(this has been her excuse for EVERYTHING she doesn’t want to do since I can remember). *
11. I had a doctor’s appointment today and when I got home I was EXHAUSTED.
12. I AM working on ‘it’. It just takes me a long time to go through it all. You just don’t understand! There could be something valuable in there!
13. I took 22 trunkloads of donations to St. Vincent De Paul before I left Oregon!
14. I’ve made HUGE progress, but you just can SEE it because I’ve unpacked so much MORE now.
15. I can’t get rid of THESE things until you and your brother go through them ALL and tell me what you want. You know there will be SOMETHING in there because remember when I found ___fill in blank____ and you said you’d like to have it?!
16. *Regarding excessive compulsive recycling)*
I am protecting the planet for my grandchildren and their grandchildren by making sure that ANYthing that can be recycled or used is recycled or used. That is why I soak labels off jars and wash them thoroughly before I put them in the recycling bin. Imagine how much nicer it is for the recycling people when my
recycling is CLEAN.
17. My mom’s was always, I am working on it. I have a bag ready for (goodwill, salvatation army, take your pick. What can you say to that?
18) No time
19) Not enough money
20) I don’t know any better
21) I LIKE it that way!”
22. As soon as your brother gets his stuff out of here I can get organized.
23. Once I stop working I’ll have more time (5 years ago)
24. I just need to get through this medical issue (there’s always something)
25. My arthritis has been acting up
26. Big choir concert coming up
27. My dryer is taking too long to dry my clothes
28. I need some help carrying things out
29. I don’t have room to unpack my boxes
30. I just need to get organized
31. “I can’t get rid of this until your sister goes through it”
32. “I can’t clean out the closet until your Aunt comes over and tells me what she wants.”
33.”I can’t clean out the basement, your cousin in New York is convinced I was storing something of hers down there and that I threw it away because I can’t find it. Now, I can’t throw anything away in case someone wants it one day.” Regarding the “Cousin” excuse, I think it’s very likely my mom still has said object buried under years of junk.
34) I’ll get to it when I’m on vacation
35) I can’t do it now, my back and/or asthma is acting up
36) It’s all the stuff I bought for you kids when you were growing up.
37) I couldn’t do it when I was on vacation because (insert one) you, my mom, your sister, my sister, my friend, random person I barely know needed me because (inset one) they were sick, they were lonely, they are going through a divorce, they are in town only for a few days.
38. I’m going to have yardsale, so I don’t want to throw away anything until after that.
39. I grew up during the war when we had to “make do and mend”
40. You were so messy as a kid that I just got disheartened ( I’m 45 now and haven’t lived with her in more than 25 years!)
41. The place is in a mess because of that cleaner you insisted I have (huh?)
42. I have a hunger for knowledge (justification for hoarding books, newspapers and magazines and effectively a variant on the intellectual excuse)
43. I have to make a phone call.
44. I have to pay a bill.
45. I have to go get the mail.
46. That’s sharp/glass/corrosive/poisonous. I have to figure out how to wrap it so
the trash men don’t hurt themselves. (“Corrosive/poisonous”, BTW, referred to _empty_
47. I don’t know if the Goodwill wants those, but I can’t throw them away until I find out.
48.I can’t donate those while they’re so dirty, but I don’t know how to clean them.
49. I heard that there’s a really good consignment shop somewhere nearby.
50. “I moved from a 5 bedroom house into a 2 bedroom apartment, and this stuff is too good to throw away.”
51. “I’m saving that for someone else.”
52. “I’m going to be feeding that to the animals.”
53. “That’s an antique that will be worth a lot of money someday.”
54. “I can’t do it today, I have to go to Costco.”
55. “There’s too much going on right now.”
Always followed by, “After the holidays/birthday/ anniversary/ medical appt/summer/ start of school/football season/your father’s health is better/whatever. .. I’m going to start making some headway.”
56. “I’ll get around to it when everything is all squared away.”
57. “I paid good money for that!”
58. You don’t understand, maybe I could use it!
59. What if they stop making that medication and I need it later? Then I’ll be glad I have these bottles! (about expired meds from 8 YEARS ago)
60. Maybe the vet might ask what medication the old dog took. (referring to expired pet meds for a long dead dog, originally bought in 1974)
61. You just have control issues and can’t stand to see me enjoy my things.
62. Your brother might WANT those! What if he visits but forgets to bring any underwear?
63. I could use all those clothes for rags. I just haven’t gotten to sorting and cutting them up.
64. If I hide my stuff in drawers and just in that one room, nobody has to know.
65. My mother was an alcoholic and I lost so many things. I deserve to have all this now.
66. Well, if I remove my clothes/magazines/catalogs/photographs your father will just bring in more of his books/food items/gardening tools, and that wouldn’t be fair. He’s the one with the real problem. [Father has the same thing to say about Mother. They both have issues.][Maybe this keeps their marriage together?]
67. Here’s my mom’s excuse for filling up her 3 bedroom house to the rafters: “It’s all a big puzzle. I’m gathering all of the pieces. When I have all of the pieces of what I need for my house, I can begin to put them together and finally have the house I really want.”
68. Hey – don’t throw that out. I’m saving it for; a) church b) a quilt c) the nurse who looks after me d) you.
69. I can’t start on any projects. You kids might need me.
70. “I can’t throw this away. It’s a collector’s item.”
71. “You’ve never walked a mile in my moccasins! You can’t understand what my life is like!”
72. “It’s stupid to throw things away that I might have to buy again later (said about items in a room she hasn’t seen in 13 years). ”
73. “When summer vacation is over and the kids go back to school then I will be able to tackle it.”
74. “I’ve got a lot coming at me.”
75. “Mother’s reasons for hoarding: Your father drives me so crazy I can’t think straight and can’t make decisions about this.” (howdidyouhear: boston globe article)
76. “I only feel safe surrounded by stuff. Birds make nests and you don’t humiliate them. I just want to live all cozy inside a space filled with things I want, that I like, that make me feel safe. My stuff protects me.”
“All this stuff belongs to you kids – we can’t throw it out!”
(I found 1 dress of mine from high school in an entire room that was packed and 1 box of yearbooks of mine in a packed pole barn…)
“YOU never helped me.”
(My mother’s house has been covered in garbage and things since I was born)
message: “I have to find the right e-bay storefront. Do they list themselves in the phone book?”
message: I don’t have time, and overworked — she hasn’t worked in over a year since she divorced my father. She’s living off of the money from the divorce, the sale of the old house (which was also trashed and we got little money for anyway), and child support payments. It’s your sisters job.
And the best of all: The women’s liberty movement. Women don’t have to do anything anymore. Men should do it all. Women have been doing all the work since the beginning of time. Now it’s the men’s turn to see what it’s like.
message: “I was so abused and deprived as a child that I now have ‘abundance issues’. Your grandmother was a child abuser and alcoholic and druggie and now I’m going to have the childhood I missed out on.” (How having mounds of papers and clothing and never cleaning up cat vomit on the floor could make up for a crummy childhood, I never understood.)
“I’ve read part of it!”said about every self help book she owns(she owns over 280 no joke)
Me: “Why are you keeping that ad? it’s expired.”
Mom: “They might do the same discount again.”
Dad: “Why can’t I throw away the years-old newspapers? It’s old news.”
Mom: “There might be a recipe in there I want to try/There might be a historic article/I accidentally put money between
“It’s for a baby shower for someone at work!” (Really? You’re going to give this person that whole truckful of toys, baby books and diapers?) P.S. This is a household where there have not been children in well over 10 years.
My mother has come home from a yard sale already with something totally useless and when I ask her why she bought it she says, “I’m going to sell it at a yard sale!” Umm yeah…that makes sense.
The Yard: “I’m making oxygen for the planet “(the weeds are over her head).
The House: ” I’m helping the planet by not filling the landfills.”
My mum usually starts a conversation with “I am in utter chaos, the house is a mess and I have started to attack the bedroom” (that’s if I am coming over to her house). If she comes to my home she will screw her nose up in disgust if I have dish washing detergent congealed on the nozzle of the bottle.
It’s as if the house is a living entity and it is making life hard for her, a huge mountain to try and conquer in stress, anxiety and pain.
(34 year old child) “You can’t afford to keep all that stuff.”
(Hoarding father) “I can’t afford not to. What does it cost me?”
(Child) “It costs you the use of your house, your relationships, your career, and it
may cost you your life.”
(Father) “I’ll think about that.” (10 years ago)
“When I’m dead then you can throw it all away. That’ll make you happy.”
“I made a little clearing, but I’m the only one that can tell it.”
“Jane those are MY THINGS, leave MY THINGS alone. This is MY house and I
“Your grandmother is in her 80’s confronting her will hurt her feelings lets
just wait till she dies the we’ll claen out the house! ”
“Your father won’t let me throw that out. If he knew I threw that out he’d have a fit, and I can’t deal with that right now.”
“My neighborhood association doesn’t allow yard sales.”