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Excuses We Hear

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_
Drano bottles.)

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.”

77. 4/28/08:
“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…)

78. 4/29/08:
“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
like it.”

“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.”

Permanent link to this article:

  • From a member of the COH Yahoo Support Group:

    I think this is true, and it’s easy for outsiders to believe the justifications, because they only have to hear it once.

    I’ve watched the excuses twist around for over 20 years now. What looks
    like “creativity” is simply a person grasping at straws, trying to find
    any justification at all.

    • Mary

      My husband of 24 years is a hoarder. I’m managed (with a lot of struggle) to keep it mostly contained in his downstairs office and the hallway attached to it, although it is a constant battle – he starts to sneak the pile to outside at the bottom of the stairs. His office and the hallway are just shocking. You can’t walk in there at all. Mountains and mountains of papers and bags of stuff. He always has excuses like he’s working on it, it will take too long, he’s too busy, blah, blah, blah. He has always had trouble making decisions. He likes to keep things “just in case”. He is a perfectionist. He keeps the most idiotic things for sentimental reasons for no apparent reason – stuff he will never look at again if he lives to be 200 years old. 99% of his hoard is just crap. I find it very disheartening, since clearly the stuff is more important to him that the rest of us. 

      • Brett Benischek

        Divorce him. Especially if you have kids

      • Mel

        Please just keep loving him and trying to help contain the issue. You’re doing a world of good already!

  • Wendy

     Your father wouldn’t put up shelves.

  • Savannah

    After watching Confessions of Animal Hoarders it is sad for the children and families that they have to suffer the consequences of their parent’s hoarding.  It is very sad for the animals but I also feel sad for the parent, the parent of each family has suffered some traumatic episode in their life, maybe that p.t.s.d. needs to be looked at and treated.  They all seemed to have experienced some sort of neglect as a child, of abuse or even a death of a loved one in their life.

    I would be interested to hear other people’s view’s on this.


    • liz

      Every person in the world will probably experience death in their lives, how do we explain why some start to hoard and others go on?

      • Eli Newlander

        Did you hit the nail on the head, here, Liz. My dad died right after I had turned 10 (in 1981), and it was not until I was in grad school that I questioned my assumption that everyone “lost it” (for decades/forever) after losing someone. I observed an even younger widow spring back at a healthy pace, and I thought *she* was the anomaly. Nope. Over the years, I observed really everyone “come back” and lead normal lives. I am not saying they were not in pain, and I’m not saying that my mom perhaps did not receive the level of support these other people did–but I do know now from many, many situations that my mom thrives on misery (others’, as well as her own) and this behavior has really done a number on me. My mom was “educated” and somehow, her station in life served to pull the wool over my eyes that there was no way that someone like her could have mental illness (likely major depressive disorder, based on NAMI Family to Family classes I’ve taken) or be manipulative or abusive (She emotionally/mentally/verbally abused her father when he was in her care, and now I realize how long she has done this with me, through calculated words and actions.). I never would have thought she was capable of this simply because I reasoned, “She knows better.” I have finally screwed up the courage to cut off communication with her and am hoping to regain a healthier sense of self and the world through it.

    • h’orderve

      yes i think that my mother’s hoarding is very much the manifestation of a deep feeling of pain, abandonment, and lonliness, as well as severe self un-love.

      it’s sad, because she got all the stuff and the animals to fill the place where her friends and family could have stood, if there had been any room left for them.

    • Sea Span

      Everyone has trauma of some kind in their lives, it has to be deeper then that. Mental health in the US is just now (2014) beginning to get awareness ONLY because there have been a few school shootings. Now they just focus on getting rid of guns and not the real issues.
      My mom was like this since she was 2 yrs old according to my grandmother; “She was always a slob so we just closed the door and ignored it”. “She was the most stubborn child in existence, cound’t make her do anything she didn’t want to” grandma said.
      As an adult mom was married three times, two left because of her “sloppiness, laziness”. She lost two children had 4 more all of us with some kind of birth defect, we had three house fires, on and on. All of us kids have mental illness, had broken toes, throat, foot, and sinus infections etc.
      Is it learned or genetic or both? Don’t know! My grandmother was a hoarder but she was organised and clean so she was called a “collector”. I am a “minimalist” terrified to have anything! Fear of shopping, literally.
      Mom had many other mental issues, this was the most noticeable to anyone. There is no way that a hoarder is only a hoarder. They have multiple things going on but the children are the victims and they need to be protected.

      • Christy

        It is my MIL that is the hoarder. It affects my relationship with my husband because he has to spend time dealing with it and I’m very resentful about the situation we find ourselves in. I’m very angry with her, upset with how this has gone on a good part of her adult life (but not addressed with mental health.) I’m ticked off that we have to give up weekends to deal with her crap and how even having a conversation with her is a constant battle. I keep saying, “Be compassionate. It’s mental illness.” But then deep down I sometimes wish we could just drive away and never have to deal with it at all. I just feel like we’re the givers in the relationship and she’s the taker — especially of our time. We’ve been there for health emergencies for her and my FIL, but when we’ve had health issues she hardly even recognizes or talks about it. Again, there’s something much deeper going on (I wish we had a REAL diagnosis), but nobody addresses it head on. And it’s embarrassing. And I fully realize that what makes it hard on my husband is that he feels embarassed.

    • Kent Dorfman

      Well, when I was growing up in squalor in the 70’s & 80’s, I just blamed it on my mother’s selfish attitude and laziness. My grandmother on my father’s side was very critical of her and always in my ear about what a rotten housekeeper she was and what a bad mother she was in general. I had a lot of respect for my grandmother so I believed what she told me and I’m sure I wasn’t a pleasant child because of it.

      In recent years, my mother shared with me things about her childhood that I had never been aware of and it kind of explains a lot. She married young to get away from a bad home life. Father left before she was born. Mother remarried. She was the eldest of 8 (3 half brothers, 4 step brothers and sisters) & had to take care of them while her mother worked etc…. her stepfather’s brother molested her. When she got away from that, she didn’t have to do anything. She could just lounge around watching TV all day and it didn’t matter. To her.

      There is a lot of truth to the idea that many hoarders have experienced some level of trauma in their lives that drives their behavior.

      • Ilkar Seregon

        Ive tried to see from that pov but So what? Dick in my family was never a great warm father then continue pissing us off being a dirty hoarder. He doesn care ive allergies

    • june baddeley

      Hi. Im June Baddeley. Please read what I have posted. Mostly all of the hoarders I have met are my age group. Typically, losing their children, either to divorce, custody issues, no visitation rights, even death, is a pain so insurmountable to a grieving parent, that ANYTHING, YES HOARDING INCLUDED, ANYTHING TO KILL THE PAIN..

      Dont you see? The greater the pain, the greater the hoarding. Hoarding ia all about loss, grief, feelings of inadequacy, lonliness, feelings of worthlessness. If you could only feel our pain. what kind of painkiller would you tqke?

      Important and very valid point also. Hoarders are extremely aware of their hoarding idiosyncracies and hoarding practices. We may appear confused and have some ruffled feathers because we cant find something in our stacks of clutter. We even get down right frustrated with our clutter. It drives us crazy just as it does to you. We would love to come home to a wonderfully organized, beautiful home too. Just as you would like to.

      Hoarding is, in my opinin, a CIRCUMSTANCIAL sickness, norhing more and nothing less. I know for fact, that the more someone nags me about my hoarding, the more withdrawn I become, leaving me feeling worse than ever while bringing back the painful reason and/or painful memory for my hoarding.

      Please leave us alone. To exist and funtion at some level we need to remai vwry painful and private surroundings. Cluttered or not. Our intent is not to intentionally hurt, frustrate or anger you, our much loved children, or any family members. we are doing the best we can, for today. Please, I ask, turn a blind eye. Our pain will heall much faster. I promise you. we would then feel your support, and know that the whole world hasnt given up on us, just because we are sick. i then see a glimpse of a rainbow and feel a sun’s warm ray shine on me.

      Those warm feelings will help me replace my painful ones. I will start to blossom and watch, I might surprise you with, a clutterless home ❤ Im worth the wait, in gold.

      • Mary Smith

        “Dont you see? The greater the pain, the greater the hoarding.”

        No. My hoarder mother had no great pain. The first lost she ever knew was an adult and she lost her mother and father, 12 years apart. Yes she married an alcoholic, but again, as an adult, who had parents and an extended family who loved her and supported her and told her not to marry him, but she knew better than anyone else, she always does.

        She THINKS her pain is greater than everyone else’s, but that doesn’t make that true.

        And I’ve left her alone, let her buy and hoard, buy and hoard, and it just got worse. She that’s what you hoarders do. You blame everyone else. It’s out fault you can’t stop hoarding because we care for your safety, don’t want to see you homeless, or worse dead.

        What you hoarders need is to admit that you have a problem and quit cold turkey. This waiting until you’re ready is NEVER going to happen. Never.

        • Cyndi

          Amen. My mom hoards so much. I can’t wait to move out. I feel like crying everyday. I throw stuff out she gets it back in..every time.

      • Guylian

        June, I’m not going to dismiss your feelings of pain and lonliness – you feel how you feel, you can’t help that. But I wonder if it would help you to channel the energy you put into hoarding into something else, something outside your home that could help other people. Maybe look around for a local charity group that needs a hand, and try to get that ‘high’ you get from finding a new treasure from knowing that you’ve helped someone. If you are ill or housebound, there are charity groups online who need volunteer help too. Hopefully this could also lead to new friendships that will help fill the holes left by your missing family. At the moment, an awful lot of your Gold is buried behind your hoarding, because it is always with you. Let yourself shine.

  • Carly

    “We live in an apartment, there’s no place to put out excess garbage.” …There are 4 large dumpsters available to them in the basement. “Well the supers will get mad if one person fills them up too fast.” The supers won’t know it’s you!

    I’ve heard alllll the above excuses about “it’s all your stuff, you might want it.” No matter how many times I point out that I left it all there when I moved out at 17 for a reason…! “Well that’s just it, you stuck us with your crap.” I’m almost 30. There has been time to deal with it. Also, I’d love to have just gotten rid ofhas been it all back then, but my mom-the hoarder- wouldn’t allow it!

    The final one: “You might want it for when you have kids.” I have no plans or desire to ever have kids, and if I ever accidently do, I would never give them stuff that is 30-plus years old and has been stored in a moldy, dusty hoarding environment all those years.

    • hoarder’s sister

      So say “Yes Mom. I want the stuff!” Get a truck. Fill it up. And then take it all to the dump!

      • fenaray

        If only it were that easy……..

        • Sea Span

          it does not fix it for sure.

      • Sea Span

        i have done that!

    • Liz

      I totally hear you. I am 29 and hear the exact same things from my mom. You should see the horror-story-esque mouldy metal stroller she is saving for my ‘kids’. On a good day this is hilarious and she is a brave radical soul. On a bad day it is depressing and terrifying and I don’t know which of us is more stubborn or whether keeping it or throwing it out against her will would hurt me more.
      I am wishing you the best and I stand with you Carly!

  • ISeeTheLight85

    I’ve heard the “I’m too intellectual/real feminists don’t clean house/only doormat submissive Christian fundie housewives clean their house” too many times to count. I’ve known conservative Plain Mennonite women more feminist than my mother….and considering that I tend to love more traditional women’s activities (especially cleaning and cooking) I got bullied out the wazoo for it by her. Funny about the “I’m sick/ill and can’t do it” excuse–I have severe gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach and intestines; it can be life threatening in some cases) AND I work a 40 hour workweek, yet I still make time to keep MY home with my fiance’ and his family clean–it is often very difficult and physically painful (I rarely get good sleep), but I STILL DO IT.

    • buttercup

      You don’t need me to tell you, your mom is no kind of a feminist.
      There’s no rule about in ‘the book of feminism’ that says ‘thou shalt hoard’. That excuse is not only a flat out lie, it’s potentially psychologically damaging by itself!

  • Mglazier1

    I live 2000 miles away from my mother, and I rarely see her.  I told her I was flying in for business and might extend to be able to visit.  She told me “I can’t stay there, she’s up to her ears in boxes”.  I wouldn’t want to stay there.  The bedroom still looks like the same as when my dad was sick for 4 years there.  It stinks, his walker is still there.  But then again, my grandmothers wheelchair is still there and she died 40 years ago. 
    Not sure if she doesn’t want to see me, or if she doesn’t want me to see her house. 

    Just curious, if hoarding extends to financial issues as well.  She says she has no cash, and I think it is because she can’t sell an investment because of hoarding issue  Any opinions on this.

    • guest

      Your mother is embarrassed about her house and life.  She does not want to be told what she either already knows or knows she cannot handle.  However, she probably would very much still like to see you.  My mother loved my late grandmother yet would never let her in the house beyond the living room and then later when the house was worse not at all.  In the end the two of them would sit on the front porch when my grandmother would visit.  It was too hard to for my mom to let my grandmother in and my grandmother over all respected this just so they could have a relationship.  It is not a solution to your mother’s hoarding or your relationship with her, but meeting in a non-hoarding area could lend itself to a pleasant reunion. 

    • Susan

      I have the same problem of my mother not wanting me to visit b/c of hoarding and lack of cleaning. “It’ll never be clean enough for you.” It makes me want to cry. It definitely makes us spend less time together. We stay in a hotel, and it costs a lot to visit. Wish I could get in her house to make sure she’s okay and wish I could help her clean, but she’d never allow it.

      • windowclark

        That is a nasty dig. You can’t let her talk to you like that. I am sorry. You do not deserve that. Being clean is not evil or a sin. She just wants you to be sick also. Please make her respect you. Honey.

        • Sea Span

          my mom calls me a “neat freak”. It really pisses me off. she tells the nursing staff that i call her a hoarder because I have OCD and nothing can be out of place. to make it look like I am the messed up one.

          • Diana

            I am a “neat freak” because of the filthy hoard i had to live in. I finally in the last few years, have been able to leave a cup or plate in the sink & go to bed. For many years I would toss & turn, get up, wash & dry the cup or plate so i could sleep. I avoid going to friends homes that are dirty, I get anxious & start itching. Still, I would rather be a neat freak than EVER live in filth again.

            • Pippy Longstocking

              hi diana, what we all seem to have in common and what i find amazing is how much anger we hoarder’s children have inside. i try so hard to let it go, but the harder i try, the angrier i seem to get. the more i try to control the situation, the more hate fills my heart.
              i have to remind myself that her filth is just that . . . it’s HERS! not mine so i try desperately to let it go when i start to feel it.
              i don’t want to assume you get angry over her filth, but if you do, how do you handle your feelings? what do you tell yourself so you don’t blow? i go from wanting to blow, to having feelings of, who cares, which is still anger inside. for me anyway.
              this sounds bad, but i think her death will be a relief to all of us kids.

              • Diana

                Hi Pippy, I’m still angry at times. Hoarding is neglect & abuse to us survivors. I am angry I had to survive my childhood instead of enjoying it, angry because I had to raise my sister who is 9 years younger, angry of the fact she refused help, angry that I didn’t have a clean bed, clothing , hair or body because the tub was full of crap. The stench inside my “home” the adults that just didn’t care. Grandma lived with us. I was bullied by teachers & classmates, bearing the brunt of my family’s dsyfunction. 2angry abusive women under one roof is beyond the pale ! I had no safe harbor. You really raise yourself. I’ve had years of therapy Pipi, I feel it’s an anger we will always carry. I’m 56 & still spend sleepless nights, panic attacks, anxiety & have had horrible bouts of depression even as a child. I write & paint & do creative thing’s to purge myself …sometimes it doesn’t work. I kept my childhood vague. Now that these hoarders are being exposed I have opened up more in the last 15 years. I confronted my mother in my 20’s & whether she absorbed it or not, I unloaded on her about everything. life changed & I was free. My sister lived with her until she died 10 years ago, & became her co dependent cleaning lady. I kept a polite distance starting at 18. I was so neurotic about my house being clean that it began to interfere with my life & stressed me out. I had to learn boundaries & felt kind of like a feral cat, which put obstacles in my growth & relationships. I made it & had a successful career until I was 50…then came the nervous breakdown, all of my compartments collapsed, it really blindsided me & took away my career. I recovered, moved on to other things.I’m lucky to have a great husband & friends who understand. I let her be with her hoard & put a stop to her calling me to ask if I borrowed whatever it was she couldn’t find in her junk room (s) that would really piss me off. When she died, we threw away an entire dumpster of plastic flowers ! I seem to be more angry & resentful when i have to go back into therapy for this. It has taken huge chunks out of my life. In the meantime, let’s live “clean”that is the biggest victory.

                • Pippy Longstocking

                  wow, diana, this is so close to what my life was and is, that i almost fell over; because of it, i read it to a couple of people who know how hard it was growing up, they too almost fell over! hearing someone else as angry as i am was very healing to read this morning. thank you.

                  • Diana

                    You are welcome ! Fuel that anger into something that will benefit & heal you. WE have the right to be happy !

                • Liz

                  Thanks for sharing Diana!

    • windowclark

      I agree about the meeting in a different place. And it sounds like depression is set in. But a note on depression: I was a severe depressed patient. And as one who had the disease…I can speak…One has to want help. I desperately wanted help. I did not want to be like some in my family. I have crawled out of pits. I will not go back there. Just like an alcoholic. If they do not want help you can forget helping them. Some of these hoarders don’t want help…They also will attack their helpers. Be careful.

      • fenaray

        I’ve read that hoarding disorder is more akin to a personality disorder than it is to ocd. Having known people with personality disorders other than hoarding I have to agree. It’s a tough case, the hoarder often does not want help or they just can’t bear to accept help. I had to force my mom to allow me to help her. It was and is painful and unpleasant but I am very thankful that she allowed me to hire a company to clean out her house. It was expensive and of course I am the bad guy but the main thing is that she’s now in a safer living environment and close to family.

        • Christy

          I’ve read the same, but I don’t really understand what personality disorder is. I will say that people find my MIL very “odd.” She’s very distant in how she talks to people, even those closest to her. She can be very mean to her daughter, who has been very helpful and responsible — almost as if the mother is jealous of the daughter. Although I consider her a nice person her ability to experience true empathy is limited. Her children often speak of her being “not of this world” or “not connected to the present.”

      • Sea Span

        bless you for saying this! they do attack and yeah for you for getting the help you need!

    • gen

      Yes – that is it. My mom is a hoarder – she now has three vehicles, two full houses and farm properties that she inherited with others that the others would like to sell but she won’t allow (despite being on a fixed income with little money)

    • Connie Raeven Lenser

      I would bet money she wants to see you. She doesn’t want you to see her place because she will be humiliated. Financial issues affect the situation greatly. I haven’t been able to afford therapy co-pays that I need to start getting better. not having sturdy plastic bins or tubs that stack make sorting/ storing/ etc. very, very difficult. I spent hundreds of dollars of Christmas windfall one year on 25 bins. It helped me get started, and along the way for 5 years I’ve needed the tubs, since progress is slow. There are many aspects of this issue where not having much of an income, or fixed income makes everything worse. If you mean does hoarding sometimes mean hoarding money, or investments? Yes it does. Many of the same fears drive this.

  • Carrie in WI

    Wow, I made the list at #81! 

    • Pippy Longstocking


  • Jo

    My siblings and I cleaned out my parents house when they moved into assisted living.  We found things none of us had ever seen before.  My mother still had their tax returns from 1954.  Mom said she liked to see all the addresses they had lived in! 

    • Liz

      Yes. Taxes are a classic with my mom too. She is also into phone books from every place she has ever lived. One time she found someone through this method and it justified her habit. I kind of accept it, but I find it really hard to know she has her old stacks to mind, rather than friendships that might mind her back more warmly. xo

  • Pjlapine33

    I just discovered at 41 years old I am not alone……..I also it is not just my mom it is my dad too.

  • Loganview

    I had the hardest time watching the hoarders show for the first time.  I squirmed in my chair and at times just looked away.  My mother has been evicted 3 times so I bought her a house.  It’s the street over from my own.  I only help bring in bags from our Sunday food shopping and can’t go further into the kitchen than the door way.  I throw gentle comments about cleaning, she gets angry, shooting daggers of facial expressions.  I’m 50 years old and I keep a clean home and yet feel overwhelmingly guilty…..why?

    • susan

      Ditto. I’m not allowed inside. Parents are so sensitive based on my comments years ago. Sweeping the dirt up to prevent my baby from putting it in his mouth was pretty much the last straw for them. Wish I could get in and clean! Glad I’m not alone.

      • windowclark

        so think—what did they let you put in your mouth? You are such a survivor. So am I.

      • Sea Span

        god I never thought of this, what did we eat! eeeuw! dog crap on the floor all the time, we sat on the floor, never allowed to bathe . . . we were sick all the time!
        two years ago my dog got sick there so I stopped going. I told my mom and now she says I can’t come over cause they’ve not vacuumed. Ha! like that is the only thing. How do you vacuum a floor you cannot see? When I cleaned it last i found all kinds of pain pills on the floor that she’d dropped.

  • bmw122

    Wow-I don’t know where to start. I have heard all those excuses at least once. I was patient with her, until the rescue squad couldn’t even come in the door! I was pitching things out of the way with one hand, while I called 911 with the other. The EMT’s kept giving me a dirty look-as though I had any control over the situation. Social worker blamed me for the mess, that I had tried for many years to clean up.

    We moved her into an assisted living-it was a nightmare. The director stopped the moving company from bringing in all that she had planned. Said that we, her children, needed to get rid of it or Mom would have to leave. Worked several days, with tantrums all the time from Mom. She still wants the things that we took home with us to get out of her room. Still a lot of hurt feelings and tensions on both sides.  

    • I think that you should get that social worker and the director to visit this site. It surprises me that either one would never have had any exposure to hoarding before.

    • susan

      I know I’ll be in your shoes in a few years. Been dreading facing parents’ house one day. Makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one.

    • windowclark

      That Social Worker was a complete novice. I would go talk to her boss about blaming you. I have just an associates degree in SW and I know more about the “family” than that. Assumptions cannot be made about any family. First there has to be a very complete inventory made and then a long term study by a caseworker.

    • Sea Span

      oh you poor thing! when mom was in the hospital, mom was saving all the medicine cups, tp paper rolls, all the food stuff and more! I went in when she was in PT and tossed everything and told the nurse to tell her the cleaning lady much have done it. I let her know mom was a hoarder and they were so grateful I stepped in. Mom knew it was me but she couldn’t prove it. nasty looks are what I live for!
      when the emts came to get mom I was noo there, but ya know, when I was a kid, no one did a thing to protect us, so eff’m and their accusatory ways! I have no respect for their holier then thou judgments! We KNOW what you are going though! IMHO, social worker is a dumba** and she should know better, shame on her! I am really sorry!!

      • Christy

        I can so relate. When MIL was in the hospital she saved unused napkins. Then offered them to us when we left. Oh yes, and they made it into her bag of personal belongings when she got moved to assisted living.

        • fenaray

          At least the napkins were unused. I can’t get my mom to throw away “slightly used” paper towels or kleenex. She also insists on washing out ziploc bags. I find her “stashes” around the house periodically and toss them. I don’t go into her room except to grab the wastebasket but when I do I try to grab all her little bits of saved paper. She saves anything she perceives to have value. She washes out and saves plastic yogurt cups, anything plastic with a lid that can be used later, etc., etc. It never ends…….

  • bmw122

    Thanks-I was surprised also. I tried talking with social worker, and she didn’t want to listen.

    The director seems more understanding, but this obviously is a problem of long standing. 

    • Figure out who the sw’s boss is, and make it clear that her behavior was unprofessional and ignorant (in the true sense, of not knowing something).

    • windowclark

      she was incompetent

  • Marie

    I had to force myself to read this. It was very hard, since I have been trying to get at least two of my family members to recognize that their sloppiness/hoarding is a problem. My one relative has fallen a couple of times because things are not neat. It breaks my heart that some put safety and loved ones over things. I am very angered by it all. The solution is so simple, yet the mind so complex. Thank you for posting the excuse list. It helped me to vent my frustration today. 🙂

  • sluggirl

    I’m so glad to know there are others out there besides my siblings and I who went through the chaos of being completely surrounded by a parent’s chronic disorganization and refusal to get rid of almost anything.  I have moved far away from my family home into a tiny house and worry that I will become my mother with art supplies, etc.  I have a hard time visiting my parents as I clean and organize almost the entire time I’m there despite having a large extended family to visit. I will give her credit for letting go of some things every time I visit.  I have siblings who live nearby who appear powerless to make any headway with the large house, but I know it’s not for lack of trying.  I’d like to visit soon, but knowing I will be purging and organizing stresses me out, and I can’t not do it!  My poor dad hates their living situation and so appreciates my work, but good grief, will it never end?  She’s going to retire soon, and I fear the worst.

  • Holy molly… this list of excuses is so detailed and yet so accurate.  I have a friend who might have OCD hoarding… how could I share this her without offending her?

    • susan

      My shrink says we’re most hurt by negative comments that we know are true. My parents are so sensitive about the hoarding. I can’t say anything without making them very upset. Good luck. I’m looking on here for ideas of dealing with it too.

  • Gotta_luv_art

    Story of my life. I’m 20 and my house was constantly packed to the roof with stuff, most of which I have no idea what it is and I am not allowed to touch any of it. I keep thinking there’s no more room, I can’t even get through the doorway (I don’t have a door) to my room without turning sideways to avoid things taking up the other half of it. The grass in the backyard is taller than the cars and other crap that are packed into it. I have siblings in their 40s and they say it was the same when they were growing up. I moved out for a year to study, but had no choice but to come back when I had to drop out of the course due to depression. It sucks, you want to get out so you’re happier, you need money to move out, you can’t work to get money because the depression affects you too much, and around the circle it goes. Have to see a doctor, counsellor and psychologist to cope with it all, even then just barely.
    Hate to say it, but life was sooooo much better when I didn’t live with my parents…

    • Guest

      I was fortunate enough to have a friend who offered to share a place with me when I couldn’t afford to move out on my own. Now I live with two other people and I think I would rather live with a dozen more than share a house again with my father – the depression and danger is just too great (not just fire worries – the house was so bad (and worse now) that each day I would cut/bruise/trip myself from the junk). I hope that you too are able to find some people to house-share with, and that you can work through your depression. Best wishes.

    • Diane Bettancourt

      I’m so sorry. I hope you get out of there. would the older siblings let you stay with them until you get on your feet? or would the Psychologist be willing to stage an intervention & do a clean out? my thoughts are with you. 

    • susan

      Hang in there. My parents’ home was pretty awful and has only gotten worse since I left. I got student loans and went away for college. It took me a while to learn from other people how to be neat and clean, but I did it and have such a better life now. I hope you can get student aid and loans to allow you to remain in school and out of that house. My state college had psychologists at its student clinic. Maybe you could get help there?

      • Gotta_luv_art

        Thank you all. I am still living with my parents…grudgingly…but am working to move with a friend. She doesn’t mind that I can’t work or study until my health improves, so massively grateful to her for that. We’ve applied for a number of places but are yet to be granted one. Maybe I’ll tweak my details a bit and put my volunteer work on there so I don’t look like such a bum lol. I’m still kicking!

    • windowclark

      you are wayyy smarter than all this. I so hope you make a break and are all out on your own for good.

  • Ms. Red

    The only one of those I’d accept, even temporarily, is #5 – being overwhelmed & not knowing where to start. That person needs someone to pick a place, something small, limited & fairly easy, & managable/doable, & help them do it. Clean a small bathroom, for instance. Clean the stovetop.

  • Guest

    My father is the king of excuses:

    “It’s my filing system!” (his piles and piles of scattered letters and papers)
    “Don’t blame me that it’s broken! You kids are the ones who broke it!” (30 year plus broken furniture that he was going to fix but “never got around to it”)
    “I’ve lost interest in EVERYTHING since (pick one or more – “your mother went to church again”, “the council’s been f***ing me around again”, “you and your brother don’t return my phone calls (quickly enough)”, “nobody asks me or cares how I feel anymore”, “the neighbours trimmed my trees again” etc etc.
    “I just don’t care about doing anything anymore.”
    “Maybe I should throw myself out along with the junk too? Everybody cares about my stuff but nobody cares about me!”
    “I’m too far damaged for psychological help. Too f***ed in the head. The army/your mother/your mother’s family/the council/the neighbours/my sister/my parents/the job I got retrenched from 20 years ago etc made sure of that.”
    “When this first came out, it cost $$$. Now they’re just throwing it away.”
    “Well, when this one breaks I’ll have another one (more like TWENTY other ones).”
    “It works just the same as a new one (no it doesn’t!), and you’ve saved your money.”
    “I need a bigger house/car/shed.” (rather than throwing stuff away)
    “I’m still trying to find the right part to see if I can fix it.”
    “You don’t want it? Then I’ll just throw it on the street and run over it a few times with my truck. Then maybe you can run ME over.”

    and the best one of all..
    “They’re my sandbags. They protect me like sandbags in foxholes when your mother is off doing her own thing.” (like working three jobs to support his lazy ass!)

    Yes, my dad needs serious psychological help even over and above his compulsive hoarding (two full houses now), but he flat out refuses it. Instead, he believes that my brother and I should act as his councellors (our councelling being to sit listening for hours on end to him repeatedly complaining about everything that’s ever happened to him but mostly our mother and agree with him about it) and that at least some of his problems will be fixed as soon as my mother quits working so much (which she needs to do to support them both), drops all interest in her religion and stops communicating with everyone who has said or done anything remotely bad to him in his entire life (including her family, who she is close to). She also “needs” to spend more time with him (preferably in bed) and cook him better meals!

    I don’t think my father will change in his lifetime, and in fact he is getting worse. My mother has her own reasons for staying with him still. I am glad that most of my childhood was normal, compulsive hoarding wise (it was only confined to one room then). I remember how beautiful our house used to be.

  • Sad one

    I always was given the excuse” I have no one to help me,I was too busy raising you three kids,your father NEVER did anything to help(except make the mess worse) me,and the reason we could not bathe was WE (we were three children ) can not have anyone come in to fix anything because the house is too dirty WE will all get into trouble.

  • Dena in OR

    these are all my mother’s excuses.  Sad.  I do know that she was abandoned/ignored as a child, and grew up terribly poor.  She is saving my old doll house (my brother reported years ago that it was covered in mold) for my daughter (who is nearly 22).  This woman has a 2500 sq ft house that I am going to have to clean out when she dies.  She has one functioning appliance in the kitchen, because she won’t allow anyone in to fix the: refrigerator, oven, freezer.  She has a path and hasn’t slept in her bed for years – she can’t access her bedroom, or any of them.  I think she sleeps on the sectional couch.

  • Imperativa

    I grew up cleaning the house for my parents.Dad would sweep and leave a pile of dirt and vegetable scraps on the kitchen floor.(Everybody would walk through it, of course, so I would usually pick it up.  I got paid for sweeping by my dad, so I would do this everyday for 15 minutes before school. I started at six years of age.  My grandmother was the house servant, and she did all the cooking and cleaning, ocasionally, on Sundays, my mother would dust the living room and take all the junk–things she should have put into the garbage receptical, either to the attic or down to the basement, and upstairs.  The upstairs were always cluttered with books, papers, things they didnt want. Because she probably had ADD, she didnt know where to put the stuff. Here’s how it went the nightstands next to the bed were crowded with medicines, cassettes, keys, vitaminsm,eyeglasses, addresses books, journals, sunglasses, hair brushes, drinking bottles and drinking glasses. She owned a duster, vacumn cleaner lots of brushes and mops, too, and she used them periodically. As she got older she cleaned less and less. When I moved out my old room became the “junk” room.  The vacume and floor polisher were stored in there and numerous boxes of old towels, dishes, books, sacks of clothes to be donated (that never actuallly made it out of the house). She grew up with a mother that did everything for her, however that same mother, my grandmother showed me how to do many chores and to cook.  I have ADD and have the worst time organizing myself. I am in a support group for people with ADD and some of the tips have saved my job, my relationships, and some of my sanity.  It is soooo hard to be confused about organizing things. I have calendars, and planners, and I find myself always thinking about cleaning and getting control of my stuff. I dont want to live embarassed and not invite friends over.  That was my childhood, those ocassional times when the house was cleaned, everyone seemed to be happy.  I guess I connect being happy and wanting to clean all the time, and guess what it is not clean, it is impossible, only parts are ever clean. That is why I think people move often to get rid of stuff and start over.  I used to move but owing a house keeps me confined.  I feel that the hoarding of clothes, and shoes may go soon due to the work in the support group  I want to encourage children of hoarders to be loving towards yourself when you notice that you are may be like your parents in some ways!  It is frightening.  Keep working on less is more, its Zen to feel air and space and light, everybody likes it.  Open the windows from your small house and look out at a big world  (Confusis)

  • Leie

    All of us have moved out of the house due to Mom’s art supplies/ fabric/ clothes/ cleanliness habits.  The last 12 years I’ve worked to try to help her get better.  She acknolodges that she has an issue and really does want to do better… until something happens and goes through an depressive “aquiring binge”.  She goes through both good and bad spells – She’s currently in a bad spell.

    “I’m waiting for Dad to move back in and have him make decisions about how to redecorate the house.  This is only until that happens” ~he moved out 10 years ago and is now happily “with” another lady.

    Mom To Dad: “We can’t get divorced!  You haven’t come home to help me split up our stuff!”
    Dad to Mom: “If I haven’t come back for it yet; I don’t want it and you may throw it away.”
    Mom to Dad: “But you yelled at me the last time I threw something of yours away.” ~20 years ago.”
    ~~Mom and Dad are still married.  Dad’s girlfriend is quite bizarrely OK with the situation the last 8 years – after meeting us kids.

    “Dad has things [in that corner/ under that stuff/ in that closet].  I don’t want to see them.  Ever.” ~I took that stuff to him over 5 years ago.

    “I don’t want to throw out (insert one:) [toilet paper tubes, cereal box cardboard, (washed) styrofoam meat trays, concentrated juice can lids, etc], they make great art supplies.”

    “I was keeping everything for projects for when I retired.  Now that you kids are out of the house and I’m retired I can now sort through everything and actually DO things… as soon as I find enough space to [insert project].”

    “I can’t let go of that furniture suit.  I know it’s a non-traditional size that noone wants, and it’s covered in dust/mold/dirt… but it was given to one of you kids, and your kids might want it.” or “I’m waiting for you kids to decide what to do with it.”  ~noone in their right mind would want to TOUCH, much less SLEEP on that bed.

    “I might need that for my (art) class.”
    “I know that can of food has expired, but what if a famine were to happen?”
    “It wasn’t this bad last week!”
    “As long as the vents are un-covered, everything is fine!”
    ~all around the exposed vents are stacks 2-5′ high.
    “I haven’t catelogue’d that stack of [insert art supplies/books] yet.”
    “The storage spot for that type of item is full, so I have temporarily stored it in the floor in front of where it will go.” ~”I can’t get to the shelf, so I have to get new supplies.”
    “It’s too bright/dark/hot/cold/confusing/disorganized…”
    “I want to wait until everything is sorted out so I can be sure to keep only the best 3 – I can’t ‘weed out as we go’!”
    “I know that I already have 300 ink pens, but this one is New-Color!/Glow-in-the-dark!/metallic!”
    “I want to get better, but everything works on the Rabbit principle… It multiplies when I’m asleep!”

  • Shelly M.

    This list is fantastic. My sister and I have heard many of these and a great deal more…including, “I have to clean my contact lenses”,”I have to wash my hair”, “What I really need is a patio, or someplace I can sit outside and relax so I can get myself together” (there is no where to sit inside, and the backyard went feral Years Ago) ….We used to say that she was reaching into her “Excuse Bucket”

  • In the 70’s mom didn’t tidy up because she didn’t want to miss her soaps. Nowadays she can’t clean because needs to catch up on all of her recorded programs so she can erase them and make room for more. The irony is that most of the shows she records are about beautiful homes. She doesn’t mind that she is watching them in a squalid dump.

    • Sea Span

      i asked mom if she ever saw “hoarders”? If she could have stabbed a dagger into my heart she would have. Thankfully she’s too sick to get up now.
      My mom is the same about watching all these cooking shows, home fix it shows, you name it, they even got the house remodeled outside so it looks beautiful but INSIDE it another story! I wish I could meet all these children of hoarders! How come I feel so alone?

      • Kent Dorfman

        I never thought to ask my mother if she ever saw Hoarders. If she did, she probably wouldn’t draw any parallels between her home and those featured on the show because she doesn’t have any dead animals or piles of rotting garbage. Her home isn’t wall to wall, floor to ceiling stuff except for in the spare rooms and the basement. The bathroom, kitchen and main living areas are accessible – if they weren’t, my father would go on a rampage and throw everything out. Everything is just dirty and bacteria ridden because nothing ever gets cleaned. Her 2 dogs pee and poo all over the place and she doesn’t bother cleaning it up. When you walk through the front door you are confronted by the overwhelming stench of urine but she and my father deny it because they are used to it and can no longer smell it. The bathroom is covered in mould and other unidentifiable funk and smells worse than a port-a-loo on a 100 degree day. There is dirt, dust, and dog hair everywhere and just a thick layer of goo on the floor that makes going barefoot a significant health risk. Like your mother’s home, my parents house looks immaculate on the outside, but the inside is a horror story. If my father passes away before her, within months the house will resemble those on Hoarders. I won’t intervene though because she would be a nightmare to deal with. I live overseas and won’t attempt any sort clean up until she passes away or goes to a nursing home.

  • R D

    So thankful to have found a place to vent, and to know that there are other children of adult hoarders.  I live 2000 miles from my parents (my mother is the hoarder-my dad has alzheimers) and for months everytime I talked to her on the phone she whined, “I don’t have anybody to help me clean up…My house is such a mess…I paid for airfare for my son, (23, big and strong) and myself (with my bad back) to go help her clean up.  I paid for a hotel for us to stay in (as there was no way we could stay at her home), rental car, and 300 dollars to hire a hauling company to carry away the junk.  (I mean old refridgerators, stoves, old baby furniture-my youngest sister is 40…)  I get there and with limited time to stay, I wanted to start cleaning.  My mother glares at me and with the most hateful voice yells at me and says, “You can’t just come to somebody’s house and MAKE them clean up.”  Thats when I realized there was a problem.  By the time my son had to debate with her on why he wanted to throw away an expired hardware store coupon for a store that is not even in her area, and she has never been to, I received another confirmation.  Watching her (literally) have a tug of war with another relative that came to help, over a CHAIR WITH THREE LEGS-one was broken off, I was totally discouraged.  44 garbage bags later, not a dent was made.  All the crap I hauled out of the basement and took outside was waiting for the haulers.  I left the house to go to the ATM, and when I got back home, she was outside dragging as much crap as she could back in the house.  From what I can tell, her bedroom floor is now made of fabric, as she has so many layers of clothes piled up, you cannot see her floor.  She has a dresser and mirror set, but you cannot see it as it is buried in bags of purses and miscellaneous junk.  What makes me so upset is that I see the house being like this until, rest her soul, she is gone permanently.  At that time, I will be stuck not only dealing with her passing, but this death trap of a house.  Any thoughts on initiating a senior citizen wellness check at their house, kind of like a “narc”?  It seems like she needs to be put on the spot and forced to get rid of some (most) of her junk.  I could go on for hours with examples of her antics and excuses…

    • fenaray

      Been there. Sadly, I don’t think I would have been able to get my mother to go through with the cleanout if she hadn’t been in the midst of her second “investigation” by Florida’s Adult Protective Services. They are a joke but they have to investigate every single complaint. Also, the “case worker” or whatever you want to call the person who showed up to do the investigation obviously was clueless about hoarding disorder. She made several ridiculous statements to my mother about cleaning up the “mess.” In any case, unless the hoarder admits and accepts their illness you’ll have a hell of a time. If my mother wasn’t also suffering from cognitive impairment I don’t think I would have been able to push the issue without a legal fight. By that I mean having her declared temporarily incompetent. Thankfully I didn’t have to go down that road.

  • Lucie

    “I have to keep those things because these are family memories for my nieces” said my brother in law about his hoarding while my sister was 7 months pregnant and while the baby had no room and even no place to put a bed. 

    “If we keep all those bottles, papers and tins, it’s for ecology. We recycle.” said my sister about their kitchen which was useless. 

    My sister and her husband are hoarder and parents… 

  • Diane Bettancourt

    ” I work”….Look at (insert name) dusty house & she runs around with men”
    “this is your fault” I’m tired”  ” wash up in the sink, i’m too tired to get all that stuff out of the tub, i have dishes soaking in there” 
    “You are nuts” ” i don’t feel good”

    • Syndicalista

       I have dishes soaking in there… yup…. dishes soaking (usually in lysol or bleach because they had previously been dirty for weeks) that’s a weekly occurrence in our house. Also, my HP has the superpowers to block out things that may be bothering her. So things pile up, a typical person would begin to feel anxious, embarrassed, etc. and DO something about it. She just shuts down. And… “I’m tired”, “I don’t feel well” it’s every day

  • liz

    My Mothers excuses 

    The house is too small
    Your father reads out loud all day and so I can’t get anything done
    I had breast cancer
    I am cleaning it out, you just can’t see it
    Only I can sort through my stuff because I have to look at all the paperwork

    She has completely filled the house with crap. The closet doors have stuff hanging on them as do the curtain rods. She is now hoarding things in plastic bins and garbage cans outside. She recently got shelves for outside to store phone books because they aren’t going to be publishing phone books anymore. 

    She had to get a new chair which sat in the stores warehouse so long (She had to clean things out before it could be brought into the house) that they demanded she take delivery. When they moved her old chair they discovered mice had been nesting under the chair. 

    I have tried to get social services involved with no luck. I am at my wits end. 

    It was nice to see that I am not alone with the excuses. I understand this is a sort of disease but it is a selfish one. My Mother refuses to admit she has a problem so we haven’t been able to get her help. 

    • fenaray

      A selfish disease, interesting. It’s a disease that affects not just the afflicted but selfish? Not sure about that.

      • Kent Dorfman

        I think there is an element of selfishness in the attitude and behaviour of hoarders. My mother always treated the house as hers, not the family home and had little regard for the needs of others. The food was hers and all the space was hers. My sister and I are both tidy and clean by nature so living there was very difficult for us but she didn’t care – as far as she was concerned we were just temporary residents in HER house until we were 18 and she could show us the door. Whenever we would clean, it didn’t end well. She’d get angry at us for cleaning HER house without permission and then accuse of doing it only to steal from her and to try and make her look bad. She would invade our space by storing her fabric, books, Tupperware etc… in our bedrooms and then get hostile when we removed it. Many hoarding types do value their things more than their family and have no problem invading the space of others which is indeed selfish behaviour. I appreciate it is part of the disorder, but it is selfish never-the-less. I live overseas now and have little to do with my family. Mother complains that I never visit & keep her from her grandchildren. Not true, but I can’t be bothered spending big $$$ going all that way just to get treated like dirt. She can’t even be bothered to clean the house to accommodate us. She accepts no responsibility for her behaviour and I feel no moral obligation to visit her just because she’s my mother.

        • fenaray

          Sounds like she suffers from mental illness.

          • Kent Dorfman

            Agreed. My father and I have suggested she see a psychiatrist and even a neurologist, but she refuses. She’s always been apathetic about the state of her house yet extremely hostile if anyone dares criticize her about it. It’s worth noting that she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident about 25 years ago when I was in high school and that did nothing to help her mental state. She is more forgetful than ever and also gets confused easily so it’s just not worth confronting her about it. I just have to try not worry about it until the time comes to clean it up. It’s good to have a website like this to vent.

        • Exhausted & Overwelmed

          I can understand how you feel like your mother is being selfish my mother moved in with me 5 years ago and within 3 months her animals had destroyed my home. I just couldn’t get the smell of urine out of my new carpet even though I was cleaning it with an expensive machine daily. Her cats kept spraying the walls. There would be shit or piss on the floor and I would watch her walk right by it, even walking thru it and never pick it up. Once I sweated her out to see if she would eventually pick it up but three days later I finally snapped and yelled at her “why do you leave all this on me?” “That pile of shit has been there 3 days and you just walk by it” Her answer- why the hell would you test me like that! My ex used to do things like that and I hated it! besides its NOT just my animals”
          I have my own pets but before she moved in my house was always clean and I never had an issue with my pets. i finally decided to sell my house and move to another state with lower housing cost so I could purchase two homes. Unfortunately after a few months in her new home (wich she swore she was going to keep clean) she hadn’t unpacked a thing and had so much shit on the floor I used a leaf rake on her carpet to get it into a large pile to clean it up. Her depression was severe but she refused help. You need to understand that you mom’s behavior is from a mental illness issue, she really doesn’t understand how this effects you. It’s not that she doesn’t care, don’t cut her out of your life. Someday she will be gone and I can garuntee you that all you will wish for is the chance to spend one more day with her. Visit her and stay in a hotel, pick her up in the front of her home and go and visit at places away from her house, and don’t use judgmental words on her when you visit because it won’t change the situation and only make for hard feelings between you.

          • H

            Everyone’s situation is different. I never had much of a relationship with my parents after I moved out at 18, and I cut off all contact with my mom two years before she died. I have never regretted a moment of it. I spent that time building a life in another state with my husband, and it paid off. After my mom died I was emotionally and financially able to help my brother, who had made the choice to stay (he had the option to leave when my parents divorced, but chose not to) and had nothing.

            I sometimes wish I had known the person my mom could have been, but I have never once missed the person she was.

  • Tina Anton

    I have heard all of those excuses and even when I tried to use logic on my mom, she just didn’t hear it. She would say that it was “easier not to think” and so she avoided responsibility.

  • TXgal

    I’ve been married over 3 years now, and my husband still hasn’t been inside of my mother’s house.  His mother was a hoarder, too, and he understands completely.

    My mom is a WONDERFUL mom to me, but the hoard has gotten too overwhelming.  It is also very dangerous, and she has fallen many times when trying to fix something – she stacks items up to reach things high up because there’s no place to put a ladder.  She refuses help from me.  I’m very tempted to ask her best friend to help her, but I’m afraid my mom might get very embarrassed and be mad at me and not want to see her friend anymore.

  • NotMyName

    I’m 50 and my parent’s house has always been a pig stye.  None of my parent’s children visit my parents.  We all got together recently off site, and my mother was begging folks to come visit.  She told a willing stranger to warn her so she could tidy up.  She said the house could be a mess because one of her kids would come over, dig through things and find something we wanted but not take it.
    Odd – because none of us have been to her house in over 5 years!
    The last time I went, I cleaned six months or older of junk mail off the table and got yelled at when she came back from the grocery.  I made sure anything I threw away was postmarked half a year ago or later, but I’m still responsible for missed bill payments.
    It’s always been someone else’s fault. Never hers.
    Seeing my parents after all these years concerns me now because I don’t think they have three years left in them, and SOMEONE will have to empty that house.

    • Kent Dorfman

      This is an old post, but I can totally relate so I’m replying anyway. My parent’s house is a squalid dump and always has been. I’m in my 40’s and have lived overseas for 22 years. Every time I have visited, my mother has blamed me for the mess in her attic claiming she can’t clean it on account of all my stuff! My stuff is equal to one pair of ski boots that I purposely left behind about 15 years ago for my sister’s kids to use! Unfortunately they were never able to find them because they are hidden somewhere under the hoard. I don’t visit much any more because of her selfish behaviour and the blame game she plays. The folks health is on the decline sadly so the house will only get worse if that’s even possible. One day it’ll have to be dealt with but I’m happy to put it off for as long as possible.

      • Jean

        you know I keep telling my brother not to stress out about my Mom’s hoard…..f it we’ll deal with it when she passes…but he keeps obsessing about it….even knowing good and well my Mom ain’t changing and you could kill yourself cleaning just to go in circles…..what’s so bad about just leaving well enough be and deal with it when she’s not around to tell you why she needs the old mayonnaise jar…haha……I swear I think some COH are worse than the hoarders themselves…..accept the things you cannot change people

        • Kent Dorfman

          I agree. There is no point in trying to clean it up now because mother will just mess it up again. She doesn’t believe a clean, tidy house is any better than a messy, squalid house. My father is the only reason the main living areas of the house aren’t full of wall to wall garbage. I worry about what will happen if he passes before her. There is no municipal rubbish collection where they live – you have to take your garbage to the local dump yourself which my father does weekly. My mother is far too lazy to do that herself and too cheap to pay someone to do it for her so she’ll end up buried in rubbish. My sister ‘might’ help, but only if there is something in it for her. Ultimately I’ll have to deal with it one day, and I plan on throwing some $$ at the problem to have it dealt with quickly. No way I’m going through all of her stuff – she would probably come back from the grave to haunt me for throwing out that old can of Cheddar Cheese Campbell’s Soup that has been sitting on a shelf in her basement since 1977!

          • Jean

            haha god bless you Kent……I agree, deal with it quickly…..time is too valuable to waste… breaks my heart when I hear these COHs talking about cleaning out their parent’s hoard for years….in the name of all this is holy, you can’t do this to yourself…..I have a 3 month deadline to get rid of 3 houses and that is IT…..and let people help…..don’t punish yourself by obsessing over the hoard….we have all suffered enough, be free by fellow COH and God Bless

            • People have their own ideas about the ‘correct’ way to live. Mine is in a clean, minimalist house with no clutter. For people like my mother, it’s living amongst filth and junk. She doesn’t care what people think – she doesn’t try to hide it. It’s her house and until she passes on to the sweet hereafter, she’s free to live how she wants. I live in another country so I cannot intervene and even if I lived near her, I wouldn’t bother. Shows like ‘Hoarders’ prove that as soon as the cameras have stopped rolling and the aftercare has run out, the hoarder goes back to doing what comes natural to them.

              • Jean

                I’m with you Kent. I also put the M in minimalist…..if something has no purpose or hasn’t been used in six months it is gone to charity… mother, thank the hoarding gods, doesn’t hoard trash, just clothing, canned goods, collectibles, household goods…you could furnish three dozen houses with the unopened household goods and furnishings she has…I live on the opposite coast so I only visit twice a year and rather not be fighting with her…the house is functional and she really is good company and I believe a good person, so I’ll be damned if my last memories are going to be fighting over her 80 sets of dishes….I focus on doing things that she can’t do anymore…heavy yard work, cleaning gutters, waxing floors ( which can take a while because you have to move stuff…but you get the idea )…she has an open invitation to live with me which would make her life immeasurably better and yet she can’t let go of her stuff…..very sad, but I’ve learned to accept that this is part of the sickness…they choose their stuff over their own well being. And I know I’m luckier than most, these stories of dead animals and rodents are just heartbreaking, so there is that to be grateful for. Now if I can just get my brother to relax about the whole thing

  • Terra

    I’m the opposite of most of you.  My mother keeps absolutely nothing, throws everything away or sells it on ebay.  However, she is a dog hoarder.  She has nothing, because the animals have taken over her life and destroyed all her posessions.  I’m 7 months pregnant with her granddaughter and already the idea of my baby being around her uncontrollable animals upsets me greatly.  It has gotten to the point where I find myself hating animals, and I’m not like that.  I resent them, she talks to all of them like they are children and has nothing but criticism for me.  I used to love animals, but now………  I can’t even stand the sight of them.

    What’s worse is that my husband also has an animal hoarding problem.  He hoards cats, and I get stuck with all the work.  I am absolutely sick of being the bad guy in both these situations.  It’s not fair to me and not fair to my unborn child.  I feel like obviously I’m not important or of worth to either of them.  That I as an individual have less value, because both of them place more importance on their relationship with animals over their relationship with me.

    I don’t want these feelings of low self worth to bleed over to my daughter, but I can’t seem to get through to either of them.

    • Teresa

      When I was pregnant, I kept seeing info about how you shouldn’t handle cat litter, etc when you are pregnant. Maybe you could talk to your doctor about this and find out if this is a hazard. Perhaps that might get him to deal with or remove his cats. And if you don’t feel comfortable having your baby being around all those dogs, don’t get pressured into going over there. Meet somewhere else and let her know why.

      • Terra

        Hi Teresa.  I somehow managed to get my husband to put his cats outside, which isn’t too bad as we have 18 acres for them to play on, and it sure would help to have them doing useful things like catching mice so that we don’t have issues with snakes.  I went through hell to get him to take this step though.

        Then yesterday, several of my mother’s dogs ganged up on one of the cats and killed the poor thing.  As I buried the poor cat all I could think to myself is that they ganged up on  a small creature, that moved around and made funny noises.  What’s to stop them from attacking a baby?

        Now I have a husband whose using this as an excuse to bring in his cats again 🙁  and a mother who adamantly refuses to re-home any of her animals because she still thinks that “she can control them”.  *Sigh*   Sure would be nice to have an actual home, or maybe have someone respect me enough to compromise with me for once.   

        • Teresa

          Maybe it’s time to have that conversation with your mom again, now that you’ve seen what the dogs will do to a cat. If it’s not safe for the baby to live there, you may need to start thinking about finding a safe home for both of you.

  • C.A.

    Growing up I felt like my family was the only one living in this condition, and its good to know there’s resources out there. Does anyone have any advice on how to convince my hoarding mother that her lifestyle is not right and something has to be done? My dad has ignored it for 30 yrs and won’t speak of it. Our whole extended family knows something’s up but not the extent of the conditions. No one wants to speak of it. My mother does not see what I see ( four inches of dust, piles of newspapers, totes, garbage, little paths to walk). She admits she keeps things but she doesn’t think she’s a hoarder or OCD. I can’t let my parents live the rest of their lives like this.

    • I’m sorry that I don’t have any personal advice to offer (I haven’t been able to get my parents to do anything about their hoarding) but if you read through the posts throughout this site, you’ll see lots of suggestions. However, if you want to help them change, then your mom has to want to change, and it usually involves professional therapists or psychologists to help her understand why she does it and what she has to do to change. The more you learn about it, the more you’ll see that it needs to be approached like a mental illness or addiction. The hoard is just a visual sign of their internal turmoil.

  • Sparkie1501

    Hi I am glad I found this site, as I am not a child of a hoarder but a friend of one and your site helped me and her family tremendously in seeing the excuses she is using to prevent change. Her family called her weird or crazy, now they know it is an actuall illness and their mind does not view things the way a normal person does.

    Thanks for all your feedback, I am glad , you all really helped alot

  • Anonymous

    My dad is a hoarder and it has always been a constant source of pain and anxiety for me. He never listens to his kids and has been wholly consumed by his stuff. I find things that I threw out the last time I was in town. I am at the point where I would just love to not worry about him — my grandma was a hoarder until the day she died. They left the house for the last couple years while she lived in an assisted living facility to reduce the strain. 

    My dad is always close to losing the house and blames everyone but himself. 

  • Steph

    My mother always said “No one ever helped me clean it.” That is/was followed by a good dose of berating and deflecting.

    I haven’t been to my parent’s home in some years. I know that we (my siblings and I) will inherit all of it when my parents pass on.

  • Summerdee14

    My mother’s excuse is almost always “I don’t have time.” She is 71 years old and has not worked since 2003. How does she not have time? She spends her days reading or working on her craft projects, which are a huge part of the problem. Recently, she had a “craft show” at her house and filled the huge living room with things she made and wanted to sell. After the sale, she announced that she was going to leave them in the living room indefinitely until her next craft show. She also has tons of rotten food in the fridge, and the smell is so bad it makes me gag. I have also noticed that she is not flushing the toilet after she uses it. I have grown increasingly uncomfortable in her house, and right before Christmas I finally exploded. I told her it was hurting me to see her do this to herself and I was worried about her safety. She is currently not speaking to me. The worst part is, she went to one of my cousins and blew the situation way out of proportion, and now my cousin is threatening to file charges against me for elderly abuse. All because I spoke up and tried to discuss this problem with her. I fear for her safety but she is too stubborn to accept any help. And now I can’t go over there and talk to her at all because my cousin will try to press charges for fictional abuse. I have never laid a hand on my mother, and I don’t think that confronting this very serious problem is emotional abuse. I am beyond hurt that she would go to my cousin with this and refuse to discuss it with me. I have no idea what to do next.

  • Acterry81

    She says she can’t face it. Basically putting it on my shoulders. “Whenever I have time and feel up to it….but I’ll be too upset to face it myself.” Meanwhile she’s living with me and the hoarding has now started in the fridge (hubby and I have NO room in the kitchen for the food we want) hallway, her room, laundry room, deep freezer….it’s hard to stay sane anymore.

  • guest

    I don’t know if I should consider myself a COH, at least not like some of the people who had to walk through trails in their homes.  But as my parents age, their tendencies not to let go of anything seem to be getting worse, even though they should be downsizing.  Over 30 years ago when my grandma died, my Dad and his brothers divided the nice things, then my Dad paid his brothers so he could haul home all her everyday junk (it would have been disgraceful to have outsiders pawing through her things, my parents said).  Dad put everything in the back garage, where most still sits.  Multiple garages have been built over the years.  When a friend/relative dies, they take the deceased person’s things that no one else wants, even if they have to pay.  They are sentimental about everything, and within our family it’s as if once one of us have owned something, it has taken on a “royalty-like” importance. It’s a joke that you can’t tell my Mom when you’re getting rid of anything.  She’ll decide she wants it and take it home, then try to give it back to another family member later.  Last month she gave me a coat (it’s too large for her now, she says) that she says I gave her last year.  I looked at the ratty, smelly thing and finally remembered it was something I owned in the 70s!  Aside from the animal smell in their home (they’ve started collecting stray cats, then don’t have them fixed), there really isn’t a health concern.  I tell myself it’s their life, but I’m concerned too since this is translating more and more to difficulty dealing with other realities in life, making really foolish financial purchases for big ticket items they will never use,  (it is their money tho), and general difficulty making any decisions that would change anything in their lives.  Is this hoarding or something else?

    • TC

       Holding on to someone else’s belongings for that long, and having to build more and more storage spaces to hold them sure sounds like hoarding to me.

  • Toni

    “If it was the end of the world, you’d be happy to have it.” Has anybody else heard this one? My mother uses this statement to justify saving aspirin that expired 30 years ago, ranch dressing that expired 10 years ago, boxes of rusty nails, manual typewriters covered in rat feces, used candles and all number of things. She is set in her belief that there will be some sort of apocalypse and we will suddenly all become desperately in need of expired food and medicine and things that could be used when there is no electricity. She wouldn’t let me throw out my own walking shoe that I used once over a cast on my broken leg 20 years ago because of her end of the world statement. She admits that these items are not useful NOW, but assures me that there will come a time when one will be so desperate as to believe they have suddenly become useful. She adds that it is all done for me. She is only trying to protect me. I am not sufficiently stockpiling expired food and medicines for myself but at “the end of the world” I will be safe at her house and be provided for with all the unsafe foods and medicines I could ever need, assuming that I can choke down rancid ranch dressing and find some lettuce I suppose.

  • Buried

    Need a SOH group (Spouse). Might have missed it in the list, but one of my favorites: “We could make progress if I had some help, but you don’t help.” This means to her that I or anyone for that matter, don’t help in the right way, that is, under her control and watch at every moment, having endless discussion about every little thing. This conveniently ties up blame, excuse, and criticism in a nice, neat little package.

  • Anthony

    The best one I heard just yesterday was “I’m cleaning it at my own pace, now stop being a bully and let me do it my way”

  • hoardingcoping

    please add “This is the way I like to live!” and “I need to be sure it is garbage”

  • windowclark

    I am watching “Hoarding-Buried Alive” right now. If your ‘hoarder’ is a combative one–as most are, the daily grind of dealing with such a one is very very taxing and damaging over the years. The lifestyle defined is one of living on the edge of some avoidable disaster. True? Yes true! Denial, placing blame on others, feigning helplessness, lying and/or making excuses for a willfully dangerous lifestyle of self-defeating behavior does SO much damage to the parent/child relationship who tries desperately to free the parent from themselves through the decades of their stubborn gridlock.. The hoarding problem is obvious. But lurking close behind is usually: a prescription drug addiction and a history of issues with social norms. Stubbornness about not seeking psychiatric help–stubbornness about not keeping Dr.s appts—oh I could go on and on. And you get calls from this parent. They have fallen. They are having a panic attack, they are out of a medication. One of your siblings who is co-dependent who still lives at home is having a dispute with your Mother (in her 80’s)…But never will anyone go to counselling—get help and change like you HAD to DO to be SANE.. Not telling the truth about the family history is another hallmark of a hoarder. My parent exaggerated things about her childhood. She claimed things that over many years of hearing the same stories—They just DID not add up…I have been researching for years to try to piece together the REAL truth. Poverty was hugely exaggerated. Reasons for her parents divorce, etc. were way off. Her mother left her with a granparent who raised her. This was fine. But her mother moved hundreds of miles away. She was told it was because “she had to work”. Fine! But She did not grow up seeing her Mom much. Her mom remarried and remained distant. As a result my Mom was quite spoiled. Her mother did not have to move as far away as she did just to get a job. It was an elective choice. My Mother makes it out like there was not one job in half a dozen states. That is simply a lie. But her grandparents told her this because her mother left her. That turned into her way of using denial. It is a terrible thing to do—tell children lies like this. Children do not by nature do not want to be the ‘heavy’ and discipline their parents. There is no defined social role or acceptabile definition for “parenting your parent” unless your parent is a vegetable and you are doing respite care. But the hoarder/combative/arrested development parent (who usually is female/or the mother) seems to love the attention gained from trading roles with her children. She would rather get to be the ONLY sibling instead of the drudgery of RAISING her children (that is just too unrewarding). Am I right? But for the most part these battles are finally buried. She is getting quite feeble. She still lives with a great deal of cats. and 3 unmarried sons–It is better than it used to be.

  • key

    im on th edge of a breakdown, i am prettu sure i have reach the point where i would let go and distance from my mom. im sooo angry at this moment because she actually managed to turn the situation on me !!! even though i havent lived here for 10 years. this is no. way to live and im sick and tired of her victimizing herself

  • squirrel

    What makes it even worse for a COH like me, is hearing trite responses from other people I try to talk to or confide into like, “they’re just old/it’s old age/try to understand…” OMFG!!!!!

  • windowclark

    95. My Father was 85 when he died in 2011 from complications arising from rib fractures due to a fall, was confined to an upstairs bedroom for the last several years of his life. Upstairs?? The doctors would shriek! He needs to be in different circumstances! Move him out of that bedroom! Downstairs at least! My mother who hoardes 1000’s of books would not have it. Dad had to ply his way through a thin corridor to eat and sleep. He could not exercise. He lived in bed. Yet she said, “I love my little loft!” (speaking of the view)… Dad fell on a chair while trying to relieve himself with an enlarged prostrate. He was the best man I ever knew.

  • Sad

    My mom always blames someone else for her circumstances. It’s always someone else’s fault. And then she changes the subject.

  • Fiona

    My mother has always had a cluttered house, but over the past few years it’s become awful. You can’t walk through our living room, our dining room is full of garbage bags and the table is unusable, and the other day I found a cooler under piles of stuff, full of kilograms of rotting meat. At that point, I just broke down crying. The mess causes me so much anxiety. Anytime I politely ask if we can start sorting things out, she just freaks out and says that it’s my fault that the house is bad anyway. I have brought very little in, myself being a minimalist, in stark contrast. I hear excuse after excuse from her, and she always blames it on somebody else. My room and my brother’s room are the only ones that you can walk into properly. It’s beginning to make me depressed.

  • Chana

    One that I haven’t read here is (after filling up a room entirely that you can’t enter it any more) “I don’t have enough storage space”…


    I have been cleaning up after a hoarder relative (now deceased) for almost two years now. I am going it alone, although friends have carried away car loads of donated stuff for me. I am in NYC, so I am limited to the days I can actually put out trash, and I cannot afford a dumpster right now. I have done so much that I ended up with a medical emergency from the physical strain I’ve put on my body. I can only work here when I take time off from work — the house is far from my own home. (Many hours drive!)
    I go from sorrow to fury in a heartbeat. For years, this person actually blamed me for her messes, claiming that it was all my fault. A landloard once threatened her with eviction if she didn’t clean out. She told them it was all mine. I did the work, she took the credit, and filled it up again with “stuff,” including towering piles of magazines and newspapers for “research.”
    I can’t just toss everything out (wouldn’t I want to!!!) because I have found checks or valuable documents stuck INSIDE a ten-year-old utility bill.
    If you are a hoarder, I beg you — PLEASE get rid of your garbage. Your siblings or children do not want it. SOMEONE has to deal with it, and it has to be you. To leave it behind for innocent parties is a TRAVESTY!
    Your asthma is your own fault, because you sit in piles of dust. Don’t blame anyone else. Get off your duff and clean out around you. Then, maybe you can donate all that asthma spray that you sit and snort all day to a charity, because you’ll be able to breathe in your own house.
    A hoarder has stolen my freedom from me. I spend every vacation day I can take throwing out someone else’s trash. When I can’t be here, I sit and think of ways to remove it. I can’t imagine when this will every end.
    There is NO EXCUSE for this hoarding. I don’t want to hear psychological explanations. HOARDERS are SELFISH PIGS, and their TRASH can haunt you from the grave.

    • Cyndi

      Yes Psychological explanations are also excuses. I don’t wanna hear it either. But don’t get angry you’re hurting yourself. Just cry like me and keep de-cluttering. Little wins count

  • lorain domich

    For the horders who say wait untill I’m dead. That has to be the most selfish thing you could say. I’m going to make this mess untill I die and then you can spend the next two three years after then to go though my mess. Pray they leave the mess to goodwill otherwise it will consume your life too. Its all bull crap.

  • As someone who runs a hoarding support and skills group and a family and friends of those hoarding group, I’d like to offer this perspective with the hope that it helps the children who take their parents’ hoarding (and codependency) as a sign that their parents loved their stuff more than they loved their kids. I use the term “avoidance logic” instead of “excuses” to help clarify that the “reasons” for not letting things go has more to do with avoidance of very distressful feelings and a lack of belief that the person can handle those feelings than it does with the actual logic they are stating. People who fear something so strongly will hang onto any logic that helps them avoid a painful experience. They may even subconsciously (mis)calculate that the pain of being a disappointment to their kid is more bearable than the pain of losing their coping mechanism because their children can’t really give them consequences (until later in life). If you can listen for the fear and pain behind these statements instead of the surface irrationality, then you may be able to reach those that are so afraid, lonely, overwhelmed, and hopeless with enough compassion that they will open up and start to listen. If you help them not be so alone in this, they may find that they can handle more than they thought. I certainly do not mean to invalidate anyone’s experience of neglect and pain from growing up in a hoarder’s home; this is just another way of looking at the “excuses” that may make them less frustrating or hurtful.

    • Maggie

      Matthew, how do we get past the hoarder’s pain, though? For most CoH and Spouse-oH, it seems like anything we do to counter the avoidance logic only brings on more avoidance logic. Patience and compassion only seem to encourage hoarders to keep hoarding. And for those of us stuck living with a hoarder, there’s just a point where you can’t do it anymore–you want your house back.

      • Great question, and a very hard one. I would say that’s where consequences come in if you can live with creating them for the person and accept that their choice may hurt you. If they don’t feel the consequence, they don’t have the data point that helps them see how their distress coping is hurting them more than helping them. Some people never see that, unfortunately. Stating the dilemma to create a boundary with love and a true choice (not an ultimatum) is the tactic I suggest: “On the one hand, I see your point of view or hear your concerns, and at the same time, I really love you and I feel hurt/sad/afraid (vulnerable feeling) when you let anxiety take precedence over our relationship (or other action/choice). If you choose to go forward in that direction, it means that I have to take care of myself by not coming around (or other boundary consequence), and that hurts, too. What do you suggest we do about this dilemma?”

      • Maggie: I tried replying yesterday, but I guess that is right when the internet went out due to the storm in Atlanta. You ask a great question that is potentially a very difficult one. There is a distinction to point out about patience and compassion that might be helpful. You can love someone and have deep compassion without enabling or condoning certain behaviors. In other words, by stating the relationship dilemma that the behavior creates, you can set loving boundaries. It would sound something like, “I understand that this is very hard for you and that it possibly seems like the right thing to do (start with validation), and at the same time (no “buts”), when you choose to keep so much stuff (action/behavior/choice) it feels like you don’t care about me or yourself and that hurts or is scary (vulnerable feeling). So, to take care of myself, I have to stop coming around (consequence of the person’s choice), which hurts even more (more vulnerable feeling). What do you suggest we (team, not in opposition) do about this?” I don’t pretend this is going to magically bring every person around, but it is the most validating and most vulnerable approach I know of that will likely bring out the person’s tender side if done in a way s/he feels safe. If it doesn’t work, then the really difficult part is to decide whether you can live with the consequences you put in place, which may be a loss of your loved one in your life if they don’t make some changes (keeping the door open if they do change). If you can’t live with that consequence, then don’t put it out there and not stick to without change on their part. Another choice is to keep on hearing the hurt side and keep validating until the person softens, but that takes a lot of energy and self-care. The really hard part is that there are some people who may never come around due to deep hurt or lack of resources. You may be looking at a loss either way. If you can’t give up, you may signing up for a long road. If you can handle that, go for it because no one ever knows for sure what will happen. If that road is too long, ask yourself how much pain are you willing to endure? I think most people would agree that you’re not a bad person for taking care of yourself in the face of someone else making ineffective choices. I would like to hear other points of view on this because it is such a crucial question.

        • Maggie

          Matt, thanks for your response!

          I think for a lot of CoH (and SO of H, and Families of H, and even Friends/Roommates of H), part of our struggle is that so much concern has to be shown to the hoarder. To be very blunt, we’ve been victimized too, sometimes for decades, by our hoarders.

          In my admittedly-limited experience, CoH/etc. have usually been:

          (1) manipulated and/or bullied by their hoarder so the hoarder can get his way

          (2) shamed/guilted for not valuing the hoard the way the hoarder does

          (3) pressured to keep the hoard secret

          (4) emotionally and physically neglected by the hoarder

          (5) blamed for everything that doesn’t go right in the hoarder’s life–including the hoard

          (6) informed–directly or indirectly–that the hoard is more important than ANYTHING. INCLUDING THEM.

          In order to recover from compulsive hoarding disorder, the psychiatric research is telling us (so far, at least) that the hoarder needs one thing–to have a clean-up done in a manner that acknowledges his issues. That usually means an extremely slow clean-out as the hoarder works through his anxiety, recognizes and abandons his disordered thinking, develops new coping skills, works on his control issues, and so forth.

          But In order to begin their own healing process, most CoH/SO of H/etc. of hoarders need the exact opposite solution: to have the hoard cleaned up immediately, so we can reclaim their physical and emotional freedom.

          Being told that we have be patient *yet again* while the hoarder’s issues are addressed, and that we have to *yet again* think about our hoarder’s emotional needs–when for years the hoarder has pressured/manipulated/forced/bullied us into doing exactly that….

          Well, let me put it this way. In my head, I can absolutely see the rationale behind your suggested response. I can absolutely understand why that’s the right way to go.

          But in my heart? The heart says, “The hoarder has to come first *again*? Really? Don’t my needs count for something?”

          Like you said, sometimes the only answer is to give up on continuing to have that hoarder in your life. But that seems so unfair, when you’re also paying on a mortgage, or contributing to rent.

          I guess we just have to remember that mental illness don’t give a damn about being fair.

          • Elizabeth

            What Maggie brings up really highlights the facts of what it means to offer *real* support for a family member: acknowledging that our needs matter, that we have the right to assert them, and that we are not obligated to spend our lives perpetually adjusting to and accommodating the unreasonable demands of a mentally ill person. Many, many family members need to be reminded (and reminded AGAIN) to take a step back and consider what their needs are and be reassured that their needs are not only reasonable but healthy and legitimate.

            I find it very disturbing when the very first words out of anyone’s mouth re: support for families is a laundry list of how best to play therapist and “help” the hoarder. Most family members have experienced the scolding and reprimands from the hoarder telling us over and over again that we are just being thoughtless and mean for daring to touch the stuff, we aren’t properly considering what THEY want. What we hear now is the message from both the hoarder AND experts: your needs don’t matter, consider the hoarder, adjust to the illness, accommodate the illness, don’t violate this set of rules related to the illness, and in case you forgot, your needs DON’T matter.

            We don’t need any more voices telling us that we are wrong for demanding a healthier living environment or wrong for forcing it (I might note: in the exact same manner the UNHEALTHY living environment is forced on the families of hoarders). I appreciate that confrontation/intervention is not the recommended protocol for actually ‘treating’ hoarders, but that protocol also has absolutely nothing to do with providing support for families.

            The actual answer re: support for most family members is: YOU have rights, too. You cannot be a doormat, and depending on the level of illness your hoarder is suffering from, he/she may or may not be able to live with whatever boundaries you must set. However, you have the right to protect your SELF first, consider your own basic needs first. This is legitimate, you are not a cruel and insensitive person for thinking this way, you are NOT required to spend your life living on eggshells and living in a dump just because someone throws tantrums at the thought of anything different.

            I notice also that almost never does anyone ask the question, “How long have you been living with/tolerating this dysfunctional environment?” For many families, the time can be measured in years and decades, which is not acknowledged in any way at all, certainly not as evidence of how much the family has *already* accommodated and been ‘sensitive’ to the needs of the hoarder.

            I’m done hearing laundry lists of how best to live with a hoarder. I don’t know ANY family members who aren’t already terrorized by what they are and are not “supposed to” do when coping with this illness. The question of “What should I do?” is grossly misunderstood when the answer is “Consider the hoarder.” We are desperate for validation and what we actually NEED to hear is “Consider yourSELF.”

            • Maggie

              Elizabeth, thank you for adding so eloquently to my comments.

              You hit the nail on the head when you said, “I find it very disturbing when the very first words out of anyone’s mouth re: support for families is a laundry list of how best to play therapist and ‘help’ the hoarder.”

              I acknowledge that what I’m about to write is an extreme analogy, but to me that’s like saying to someone’s who’s been raped, “Well, please understand that the person who raped you is mentally ill and didn’t mean to do it; please be patient and be willing to work with him so we can help him recover and not rape anymore.” That’s very probably the right way to proceed, but that doesn’t really help the person who’s been raped, does it?

              • Elizabeth

                I think that analogy is pretty on point– we don’t usually characterize the person living in an abusive relationship as showing love and fortitude, either! The language is really mixed up because the whole discussion is framed so that the *ideal* is to sit still and allow yourself to be victimized in the name of “support.” As long as this is the admirable ( and “helpful”) choice, our interests and rights are diminished and marginalized. Is it any wonder that so many family members have internalized the duty to stay and responsibility for ‘fixing’ the dysfunction? The dirty little secret is that all of the touted methods of treatment and therapy for hoarding have huge recidivism rates and in cases of serious/severe hoarding there are no heart-warming success stories. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, families are encouraged to accept the unacceptable indefinitely. Too many books and articles have been written offering the same weak theories that it will be some time before new and better theories will gain traction. We all need to speak up about the realities of this, eventually people will ‘get it.’

                • Anise Leinen

                  I could not agree more. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread, but I still feel like I have to leave a comment and support. As for the question of how to conceptualize hoarding so as to come up with the best therapeutic modality? TREAT IT LIKE AN ADDICTION, TREAT IT LIKE AN ADDICTION, TREAT IT LIKE AN ADDICTION. This is not rocket science. Hoarding perfectly fits every single one of the qualities of an addiction. I do not understand why anyone even tries to treat it any other way. Nobody will ever get anywhere in treating hoarding as anything but an addiction. Yes, I’ve tried the “harm reduction” approach with addicts, yadda yadda yadda, but the truth is that it doesn’t work in the long run. In the end, the only approach that truly works is ABSTINENCE. (I’m an MSW with experience in community mental health and addictions, btw!)

            • Elizabeth: it is my sincere hope that my comments did not register with you as “consider the hoarder’s and not your own needs.” The two are not mutually exclusive from my perspective, but the predicament of how to effectively bring the two sets of needs together is extremely difficult.

              If asked as a professional by a family member what the family can do to get results from the person hoarding, then my therapist answer will be to consider the person’s emotional experience and meet the person where s/he is in her/his stage of change. That’s the best approach I know of besides keeping them in treatment. Most families that come to me have exhausted all the alternatives such as cleaning for the person, pleading, outrage, bargaining, ultimatums, hiding things, massive clean-outs, etc. It’s usually come down to no other alternatives but to either accept the hoarder’s pace or risk losing the relationship.

              Personally, I don’t think I could take what I hear from family members, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for exhausting all the other alternatives or leaving. But I don’t live with a loved one who is hoarding, and I don’t know firsthand what it’s like to be faced with this dilemma. Each person has to decide what amount of pain s/he can take, and I often marvel at how so many family members stick it out and put up with this. I am constantly touched by the amount of love and fortitude it must take to be able to endure such turmoil and seeming disregard. I struggle with treating those hoarding because I constantly ask myself if there is some method or trick that I’m missing that might make this go much faster? I strive to support family and friends, but I sometimes wonder if I’m keeping people in harm’s way by asking them to stay supportive. I don’t see a clear-cut answer to that because there aren’t a lot of effective alternatives. What are your thoughts?

              • Maggie

                > I struggle with treating those hoarding because I constantly ask myself if there is some method or trick that I’m missing that might make this go much faster?

                Matt, for what it’s worth, this is not an easy disorder to deal with from any perspective–not for the therapist, for the loved ones of the hoarder, and of course for the hoarder.

                > I strive to support family and friends, but I sometimes wonder if I’m keeping people in harm’s way by asking them to stay supportive. I don’t see a clear-cut answer to that because there aren’t a lot of effective alternatives. What are your thoughts?

                I think part of the problem is that act of compulsive hoarding causes pain for the hoarder’s loved ones, but it doesn’t for the hoarder. The act of hoarding comforts the hoarder, sustains them, allows them to avoid whatever pain/trauma is at the root of their behavior.

                Hoarders LIKE hoarding, in other words. Even when the hoarding is destroying their home, their property, and their relationships with the people that they love. They like it, even when their loved ones are obviously suffering. It can really feel like the hoarder enjoys inflicting pain on the ones he says he loves.

                As you say, there aren’t a lot of effective alternatives. Especially if for health or financial reasons you’re not able to leave your hoarder.

                I personally believe that letting the loved ones of hoarders know that it’s okay to say no, to establish boundaries, to say “I live here, too” is critical. And I think letting the hoarder know “Your actions cause great pain to your loved one, the kind of pain that many people would classify as abusive” has got to be part of their recovery.

                • Maggie: thank you again for your perspective and eloquence that seems to draw from a deep understanding and (I suspect) hard work on your part. Again, I’d like to use your comments with your permission. I’d also like to encourage you to start a peer-led support group if there is a need where you reside.

                  • “M”

                    “I’d also like to encourage you to start a peer-led support group if there is a need where you reside.”

                    So you’re … trying to give her MORE work to do?

                    When she’s already a victim of a parent’s hoarding?

                    • M:

                      I see how you can read my comment that way. To clarify, it was intended to compliment Maggie and encourage her understanding of this complex issue, her earnestness in trying to seek help for her parent, and her understanding of her own needs. I got the sense from her comments that she could be a help to others as well as gain support from others in a peer group. Leading a peer group can be empowering.

                      I understand that you are potentially in a very different situation than Maggie, and you are likely feeling burdened and unsupported such that any idea of more work on your part is untenable. That makes complete sense given what you describe in your other post.

                      My comment also comes from knowing that there are not as many therapists out there working with hoarding as with other disorders. And, the treatment that is there doesn’t always extend out to the family and friends of those hoarding. Therefore, like with Al Anon, peer groups can help fill the gap.

                      I suspect that part of the reason for this gap in treatment availability is because it is hard to sit in the middle of being patient and understanding with the person hoarding and being mindful of the family’s struggles. One ends up getting pushed, and sometimes blamed, by both sides.

                  • Guylian

                    Matthew there’s been a little bit of discussion here about compulsive hoarding being more like an addiction because it has many of the same actions and reactions, and so it should be treated as other addictions are – you wouldn’t accomodate your parent’s drug or alcohol addiction but the current treatment for hoarders is to accomodate their needs even as the hoarding destroys everyone around them. Have you or your fellow professional councellors thought about this view? I believe that hoarding being an addiction better sums up both the problem and the problems treating it, and think that like other addictions, the best treatment is to try and fix the problem as soon as it is apparent and before it becomes dangerous and overwhelming, not to ‘support’ the hoarder until they are ready to fix themselves.

          • Maggie: thank you for reminding me of this perspective. I can only imagine what you have gone through, and I don’t mean to suggest that the ones hoarding should come first–although it’s easy for me to emphasize their needs because I treat them. You have eloquently stated the predicament of treatment, and I’d like to borrow your comments to post on my website if that’s ok with you. I’d like to clarify that my comments are about one side of a two-way street. I run the family/friends group to keep the other side of treatment in mind and also to offer a place for those who are victimized to seek support and have a place to vent the inevitable frustration and resentment. I also like to have couples or family sessions (when the parties are willing) where a facilitated dialog is used to point out the patterns the two sides can get into that block connection and progress and to help each side express their deeper feelings and then try to come together to consider the needs of ALL involved, not just the person hoarding. I trust that the pain people like you feel is crucial to the motivation for change on the part of the hoarder, if that pain is expressed in a caring and patient way. That’s the broader context within which to place my comments above. Does that help?

            • Maggie

              Hello again, Matt!

              > You have eloquently stated the predicament of treatment, and I’d like to borrow your comments to post on my website if that’s ok with you.

              Yes, that’s fine. I had originally posted a good section of that comment over on another hoarding support forum, but I have no problem with you posting it on your site.

              > I trust that the pain people like you feel is crucial to the motivation for change on the part of the hoarder, if that pain is expressed in a caring and patient way. That’s the broader context within which to place my comments above. Does that help?

              It does help me considerably, yes, and thank you for clarifying.

              I guess what I would say to all of the various researchers and counselors and what-not involved in helping hoarders and their loved ones is this:

              When we look at the information about treatment that’s out there, there’s little-to-no information about attending to the emotional/psychological needs of the people who (for assorted reasons) have no choice but to live with their hoarder. Many of us have practically been held hostage by our hoarders and their hoards, and that’s led to its own forms of stress and (dare I say it) trauma for us.

              So much of the help that’s out there assumes you aren’t living with your hoarder for example: the early editions of Michael Tompkins’ book Digging Out was clearly written with the assumption that your hoarder lives one place and you another). Many times people have to live with their hoarder for financial reasons, health reasons, and so forth. That changes the interpersonal dynamic, as well as the needs of everyone trapped in that house.

              I encourage all therapists, social workers, researchers, etc. dealing with hoarding to not just focus on what the hoarder needs to recover, but the persons victimized by the hoarder as well. That idea should be on websites, in the first chapters of books about hoarding, etc., in training material for social workers, the works! As far as I’m concerned, therapists and social workers should lead with that, with the idea that EVERYONE in the house will be helped, not just the hoarder.

        • “M”

          “I think most people would agree that you’re not a bad person for taking care of yourself in the face of someone else making ineffective choices.”

          I think since you’re a man, even though you’re a counselor, you can vastly underestimate how cruel and rude and terrible and ostracizing “extended family” can be … especially when the hoarding parent is constantly calling & contacting them, and blaming YOU for their own choices.

          (Those familiar with NPD — and yes, I know it goes in and out of the DSM as an “actual disorder”, and I don’t know who else appreciates the irony that one of the reasons professional practitioners do that is what a challenge it apparently is to treat (just because you can’t deal with it, you act like it doesn’t exist??) — refer to those kinds of people as “Flying Monkeys”; and an otherwise popular and/or charismatic hoarder can be surrounded by those people. There can be hordes of them – npi – and if you are the child of such a person, they will attack and ostracize you; make no mistake.)

          Especially since you are doing professional counseling, it might be worth it to you and your practice to look into the phenomenon. Just a suggestion.

          • M:

            It sounds like you’re saying that some parts of your extended family “side with” the person hoarding in a way that ends up hurting you, and that this may be exacerbated by you being a woman, thus burdened with greater expectations of care-giving or something along those lines. I can’t say that I’ve experienced that directly, but I do understand how it could be an extremely difficult experience regardless of my gender. My oldest sister has described some similar experiences.

            When I replied with “most people would agree” to Maggie, I was trying to help her normalize her need to take care of herself and not judge it. I get from your statements that this does not apply to your situation because “most people” in your world are lashing out at you for trying to take care of yourself, talk to your parent about hoarding, or set up some healthy boundaries.

            I’ve not heard the term “flying monkeys” but I get the picture. I have not come across this particular situation in my work with hoarding and with the families of hoarding. This may be an understatement of grand proportions, but it sounds like you have to stand tall and strong against the very people from which you would normally seek support. Are there places to find support anywhere around you? You shouldn’t have to go through this alone.

            (Point of clarification about Narcissistic Personality Disorder: I don’t know of it going in and out of the DSM, but I know Axis 2 for personality disorders in general got reorganized into Axis 1 in DSM 5, but not removed. My view is that NPD is “hard to treat” because people who suffer from it don’t feel they need treatment. Trust me, therapists are not the ones who act like it doesn’t exist.)

  • fenaray

    I think it’s a mistake to expect that someone who is suffering from hoarding disorder is willing to accept the reality of the situation. It’s a mental illness and professional help should be sought. SO many of the excuses listed above I heard from my own mother. Still, she refused to take any real, concrete action to clear out her hoard, even after being investigated by Florida Adult Protective Services, twice. Living in Ontario it was almost impossible for me to be of any real assistance to her and I spent hours on the phone having long conversations where I was continually given the “reasons” listed above. Eventually she began just telling me what she thought I wanted to hear so I’d get off her case. Well, that was worse. The hoarder has to be willing to admit and accept that they have a problem, just like addiction. If you can get to that point then engage a professional.

  • Sea Span

    I can’t even bring myself to visit my mother anymore. I’ve cleaned her house so many times and each time I was sick for weeks with swollen glands and no energy. It’s no wonder she is too sick and tired to clean too!
    Last dig out we took 17 truckloads in 8 days (barely touched the surface) while she was in the hospital from falling, compound fracture to leg. She was in the hospital for several months because she had 6 different lungs infections and then contracted MRSA in the ankle. The toilets had been broken for over a year so they were breathing in those nasty fumes. “We keep the lid closed!” She had a UTI infections in her lungs as well as some other infections usually found in the bowels. “doctor told me the infections are not airborne” He told my sister they were. excuses excuses, they only satisfy those who use them.
    During said dig-out, I knew not to throw anything away that was truly not garbage (rotting potatoes, garlic, onions, rodent carcasses, and feces etc.).
    So we hung up all the old coats. She came home from the hospital and was unable to find her favorite red fleece coat she had gotten at the thrift store. It was the “best coat ever, it had a special logos on it that made it worth something and deep pockets with zippers!” But for some reason she would not talk to me for several months (not that unusual), she missed mothers day, my birthday, wouldn’t pick up the phone etc. she was ANGRY! I didn’t find out why she was mad till one of my siblings told me what mom had said. “You threw away her favorite red coat and she is mad at you” So I called and left a message and said “all your coats are in the coat closet”.
    IMMEDIATELY She called me back and said that they were not there. Even though i told her exactly where they were. SO I drove 2 hours each way to find it. the second I opened the coat closet door, there is was the first one on the hanger. “Is this it?” I said, trying hard not to look smug or angry. She never apologized, never acknowledged that she was remotely in the wrong.

    She really does love her possessions more then her kids. We never had a mom. To this day, it hurts. We had this person we called mom, but she never existed. we never went shopping together cause we were, “in the way”. She wouldn’t let us touch anything cause, “You’ll break it” and on and on why could not touch anything! She was so obsessed with her THINGS that her kids didn’t matter. Literally.
    I have no sympathy for her and that is sad. I really do hate her. She disgusts me and I feel bad about it. I am also angry at the people who were supposed to protect us as children. Teachers, ministers, neighbors! But all they did was not let their kids play with us, isolating us even more. The teasing was relentless and no one stopped them.
    I know we had to have smelled so bad. Kids said we did, but we didn’t know what to do about it, we were never taught to bathe! People need to step up to the plate and see that children of hoarders are victims and they need to be helped!
    Sorry for my rampage; I am really angry and hurt. My mother is sick and likely going to die soon and I really don’t give a shit.
    I know what my mom did was not my fault, but it sure as hell has affected me my whole life. it doesn’t matter if it was my fault or not. I was the excuse for it all the time.
    sorry . . . I am so hurt and angry right now. thanks for listening.

  • kitty

    As a child of a hoader I was horrified by the movie Toy Story III. What better way than to discourage children from getting rid of things that they have outgrown, by portraying toys whose feelings are hurt when they are donated.

  • William

    I’ve heard a lot of these excuses before and now I’m starting to realize that I may need to bring up these issues to my mother. I’ve known for a long time that there were some hoarding tendencies. “I can’t throw this out!”, “When I retire, I am going to start this project and I need all these patterns, buttons, ribbons… etc.” – retired several years ago.

    I was a bit taken a back when I entered my old bedroom to find it piled waist high with “stuff”. When I sort of crawled over things to open my closet, I found it too piled to the ceiling with “stuff”. These aren’t neat stacks. Things are seemingly thrown in there to make room or to “quickly clean up” if someone’s coming over. However, it’s now piling up. I then went to the basement to find it filled to the brim in several rooms. Now the garage, and lots of stuff outside. The main living areas are relatively clear. Does this make a hoarder? I don’t know, to me it does. I think if a few rooms are unusable due to “stuff” – whether they’re main rooms or not – is an issue.

    She does occasionally tell me that’s she taken several loads to Goodwill, but it begs the question: Where is that “stuff” coming from to begin with?

    I’m not sure what to do. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to bring these issues up in the past only to be confronted with a hand in the face and her walking away.

    I’m now realizing that what was maybe minor when I was young, was probably not that minor. I was just around to clean up things and now that I rarely go there, it’s out of hand.

  • Tif

    My mother has been a hoarder ever since I can remember. When I was in 1st or 2nd grade, my aunts intervened and had ber sent somewhere for professional help while they stayed with me, completely cleaned up the house and took care of me. I didn’t really know what was going on back then since I was so young. But I’ll never forget how furious she was when she came back. I couldn’t understand back then. I just thought, “Why is she angry? They fixed up the house so nicely!” I remembered being excited to show my friends. But the house soon got filled up with clutter after my aunts went home. Of course they meant well, and of course their method of help was probably too forceful and sudden. It may have actually helped if it’d been more gradual, but this all happened over the course of a month or two. My mother has never quite forgiven them.

    I’ve struggled living in a hoarder’s house since. My parents are separated, not because of my mom’s hoarding but because my father couldn’t control his temper about other stuff. He’s calmed down some, though he also has some mental issues (bipolar disorder). The whole family knows my mom hasn’t changed even though she always claims she’s working on the house.

    I just moved back in after two years overseas and it’s really hard. Supposedly we’re going to work on cleaning up together but I know it’s either a farce or ruse to make me less upset temporarily. We’ve tried before and didn’t get very far. My mother’s excuses are usually that it’s overwhelming and that she’s afraid of throwing out anything with her personal information on it. Um, do the unnecessary clothes and buckets and tissues have her social security written on them? Do all the gadgets she never uses have her mother’s maiden name on them, or do the plastic cutlery have how much she earns at her job inscribed on them? What about the 30+ not quite used up bars of soap in our bathroom? All the shampoo, soap, cleaner and drink bottles blocking the bath tub? All the brand new postal boxes sitting in my room? I’m not in Japan anymore and she’s far too stingy to be mailing a great number of items to anyone else. Even I keep getting snide remarks about money any time she pays for something. She never used to be this way about money.

    Anyway, I don’t think I can stand living with her. My grandmother offered to let me stay at her house if my mom’s got unbearable. I don’t want to hurt my mother by moving out. But I don’t have the emotional or psychological strength to try to reason with her anymore. I complained that I couldn’t breathe in the house what with the dust and she snapped and suggested I get hypnotism to overcome my allergies. What the…?

    I’m thinking of writing to one of my aunts to let her know it’s this bad. It’s especially hard for me to live here after living other places for the past 8 years. I’ve gotten over doorbell dread but there are still basic household chores I haven’t learned. I used to think the state of the house was also my fault … until I lived by myself and learned I was not like my mother.

    My mother has been a good mom in all other ways, at least. She saw that I got a good education, she drove me to friends’ houses and play rehearsals. She encouraged me to do my best in all things. She’s letting me regroup here at her place without charging any rent. So I really don’t want to appear ungrateful… but no one should have to live like this. As soon as I get used to driving again, I want to pack up and move out. Is that awful of me or what?

    • Jenny Islander

      Speaking as an alcoholic’s child:

      Your parent can love you, and also have a sickness that hurts you as well as them. If they refuse to address that sickness, if they blame and shame and make up all kinds of wild stories in an attempt to get you to stop telling them that they’re sick, if they continue the behaviors of sickness that are making you ill, then they are forcing a choice. The choice they have forced upon you is between helping them feel that they are okay, and actually being okay yourself.

      Filial duty does not compel you to injure yourself so that somebody else can pretend they aren’t sick. Even if that somebody is your mother.

  • NeverEnds

    My mum is a hoarder, when I was 15 I used to stay home from school to clean the house, she was always was so happy to come home to cleanliness but it never lasted. I remember once i cleared out junk to take to the second hand shop, and when she came home she moved everything back inside the house cus she needed to go through it first. I think that junk never left again.
    About a week later after I cleaned the house would return to its “normal” state of filth and clutter. I tried 2more times that year…then I gave up.

    I’m 22 now I’ve lived out of home but have moved back,and it is still the same. When I’m living with her I always feel so depressed that nothing has changed, my room is also a mess. I have filthy carpet with animal shit and dust and dirt, but I’m not allowed to rip it up or get new carpet, cus “the carpet is protecting the floorboards” and “the bedrooms are meant to have carpet”. There is always an excuse.And it’s not money cus I know she could save very easily if she wanted to.

    She always has said that she had to cook and clean from 13 when her mother died, and now she is sick of it, which justifys her situation now. I can see she has had a tough life, but I think the worst thing to do is to have that attitude of hopelessness.
    I think the worst thing about her hoarding isn’t the filthy house, the shame and utter depression it’s that she can’t see the problem, and she can’t see why it is wrong.

    • Seabeast

      Please, please, try to move out. You are risking your health staying there.

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  • Christy

    So many comments on here I identify with, not the least of which is, “Your FATHER wanted me to save that.” Or, “I’ll get rid of things when you go through them with me.” The last time we were with her — to play devil’s advocate (even though my FIL was appalled by her saving articles and paper) — we just said, “Well, he’s DEAD… for four years. If you were saving it for him, get rid of it.” Similarly, the kids have taken time off work to go sort and throw away, but she immediately goes out of her head and is paralyzed. She thinks things need to be consigned, or that “these are collectible.” Most of it could be thrown away or taken to thrift.

  • Richelle

    This is the story of my life.
    for as long as I could remember the house was always a disaster. of course being the type of person my mom is, she kept a lot of pictures. I saw her house when she younger; before I was born and then as a baby. I realized the hording started a couple years after I was born, her places where spotless before.
    As I got older, of course typically, I don’t want to do dishes, or sweep the floor(A.K.A goat path.) and at that point she began to blame me. It was my fault that the house was a mess. I couldn’t say anything about her buying 5 bundles of toilet paper every time she went to Costco or why we had 7 vacuums because to her, that wasn’t the problem. I was. I’m her best excuse.

  • ks175406

    I developed a severe case of OCD due to my mother’s hoarding. I was a perfectionist with an extreme germ phobia. Every time I asked my mother to clean, she told me that my expectation of cleanliness were unrealistic due to MY “mental illness.” When I moved out of the house and went to college, my OCD symptoms virtually disappeared! I have been off medication for 7 plus years. I want to take my daughter to see her grandmother, but my mother continues to insist that my standard of cleanliness is unrealistic and I need to get back on meds before I come home. In reality, I just want my daughter to be able to get to the bathroom without being buried in an avalanche of my mother’s possessions.

    • Cyndi

      You’re not sick. And you don’t need meds

  • Matthews

    “I’m a Sagitarian, we’re just not domestic”. That’s been my mom’s excuse for hoarding and refusing to clean her house for over 20 years.

    I believe that her behavior stems from both growing up very poor and mild depression. I have tried being kind and using positive enforcement, but the only thing that keeps her home from being swallowed up by filth and thrift store crap is to constantly throw away items, most of the time secretly. Sometimes she literally cries about missing items and about how said item was her favorite thing, but only until I just point out that she still has 2 or 3 of the exact same item.

    • Cyndi

      I threw stuff out and my mom picked them all up from the trash. I just wanted to cry

  • Tessa Rose

    This conversation is like balm to my soul. Hearing stories and feelings like mine makes me feel not so alone. I shared a home with a hoarding husband for 20 years. I became depressed to the point of being almost nonfunctional, especially after we became extremely poor. I’ve been trying to escape the trap of Poverty, Depression, and Clutter for many years, and it has felt like a bear trap from which there is no escape.

    Three years ago, we inherited and moved into his parents’ house, which was also packed full of hoarded clutter. The new home came with a brother-in-law who is attached to the parents’ clutter. But somehow, the sheer pressure of the situation and the moving helped me find the strength and the attitude changes necessary to begin improving the situation.

    After three years and a tremendous amount of work, I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m fighting hard to live in a decent home.

    I agree that asking victims to be compassionate, understanding, and patient with their abusers is pretty unreasonable and creates even more anger.

    • Guylian

      I think that hoarding needs to be treated like other addictions – that is, identify the problem early before it does too much damage and is harder to treat, and IN NO WAY should the family and friends living with the hoarder be told to ‘go easy’ on the hoarder or ‘accept’ their way of life. Hoarding destroys the lives and homes of the hoarder’s loved ones just as much as drug addiction does, and it should be treated the same. No therapist would tell a family member to ‘understand’ and ‘be patient’ with a drug addict, that just prolongs the disease and risks their lives (both the addict and their family/friends). Hoarders get ‘high’ on each new piece of junk they collect, and the hoard begins to control them, just like an addiction. They would rather keep their hoard than their relationships, just like an addiction. They continue to hoard despite the hoard making their lives more and more unhealthy, just like an addiction. I think there is more than enough evidence here for professional hoarding therapists to try treating hoarders like they would drug addicts under their care. The current hoarding therapy model does not seem to work very well for the hoarders and worse for the people who live with them.

  • Blumit

    My mother promised to clean the house when I moved out and got married. This was 4 years ago! She needs to look through things she says also she is old doesn’t have energy not money for a cleaning lady. I find cleaning ladies for her they call her age lies to them she has a cleaning lady. House is filled with urine smell roaches all over and old stuff she dies not need. I cannot visit with my bsby it’s not a safe environment. She would rather cut me out if her life than ckean. HELP!!!!

    • Kent Dorfman

      I feel your pain and frustration. Your mother has probably gotten used to the urine smell and doesn’t notice it any more – it’s amazing the extent of squalor people can stand to live in. When my daughter was a baby we went to visit my parents and had arranged to stay in my old bedroom. When we arrived, the first thing I was confronted with was a dog pee pee (training) pad soaked in urine on the kitchen floor so I knew it was not going to be a pleasant visit. When I opened my bedroom door, the room was packed with piles of crap and there was dog poo on the floor. I can understand my mother not making an effort to clear the room for me, but to not make an effort for her granddaughter was unforgivable. We stayed with my grandmother instead. I decided to let my mother babysit one afternoon & one of her dogs peed on the portable baby cot. Obviously I was outraged & of course my mother got upset declaring that I was overreacting. Shaking my head here. Just recounting the experience is enough to make me want to scream. I’m glad I live 10,000 miles away.

  • Seabeast

    One thing that always strikes me, on the rare occasions that I’ve watched one of those hoarding shows, is how self-absorbed the hoarders seem. I’m inclined to agree with the poster who said that it’s more like a personality disorder than ocd.
    Not sure my mother really qualifies as a hoarder to that extreme, but the house was always dirty and unkempt. Her excuse was “Well, I’ve got all these people to pick up after” This was still the excuse long after we all left home and it was just her and my father. Yet, she’d come over to my place and constantly make snide remarks about my place not being perfectly neat and clean – it was nowhere near as untidy as her home. Eventually I stopped inviting her over.

  • Sally dee

    “I’m starting up my new business as a birthday clown. All this stuff if for my act” and yet she can’t stand kids…it would be funny if it wasn’t so true.

  • Karl Otto

    53. “That’s an antique that will be worth a lot of money someday.”

    Oh my God. That resounds. My mom has a degree in art history and an encyclopedic knowledge of antiques. Growing up in that house–it was just her and me–we had antiques everywhere. She has an eye for acquiring the stuff, but not for selling it. Stuff got more and more cluttered and I gradually grew more and more resentful of it and apathetic to her interests. It often felt like one of those heist movies like Ocean’s 11 where there were all these laser sensors that you couldn’t touch, because “it might be worth a lot of money someday.” It’s a perfect trap for keeping things because “it’s an investment.”

    One “joke” that my mom always made when I was at her house is how she had so many chairs, but we couldn’t sit down on any of them. After more than a decade, the joke gets old and tired. Other times, she freaked out at me because I was eating with a silver spoon which had been intermixed with the regular dishware. Later, I got into an argument with her about how she shouldn’t use the spoons every day if they were an investment that were worth something. She said something to the extent of how it was “nice” to use them. She’s lived in poverty my entire life, but she can’t turn those spoons into cash? It’s ridiculous.

    I recently moved her from a dilapidated house where she was living for 15 years to an apartment 45 minutes away. It took me two straight months. (I also live 500 miles away.) She has two storage spaces in her old town full of antiques and collectibles that she sees as her “savings account.” Packing them up was a necessary evil for the move, but every time I think about them, it leaves my heart heavy.

  • Diana

    Well it’s your fault ! (I was 7)
    I’m too tired, sick, I work, the neighbor doesn’t dust her house, it’s not that bad, you don’t need friends over, insert any excuse. I’ve heard them all.

  • Exhausted & Overwelmed

    I’m so exhausted and tired from fighting this never ending battle. I’ve heard all the excuses and the one that bothers me the most is “well when I’m gone then you can throw out all my stuff” as she continues to fill up the house with unopened treasures she just had to buy. Not to mention the overwhelming stench of her animals shitting and pissing everywhere and it never being picked up. She walks around it and even thru it. I can’t go down to my lower level in my home without shoes on. I had to pull all the carpet and lay linoleum thruout the house. I spent all my saving trying to divide my home into separate living quarters for my own sanity but the stench still comes up thru to my level. If I say anything about it then she claims I’m just being mean because I don’t feel good. I have a disc disease that is slowly crippling me and yet she thinks it’s ok to just leave all this mess on me to handle after she is gone. It takes every ounce of strength and energy to keep my own house clean and take care of myself. How does she expect me to do all this when she is gone? I’m going to have to gut the bottom floor of the house to get rid of the smell. This is the fourth home of mine she has destroyed. I didn’t realize she was like this untill I was older. She moved to a different state when I was 18 and it started sometime after she moved. My guess would be after my stepdad left her because he was OCD clean freak so the house was always clean growing up. When I enherited a home in my early 40’s I asked her if she wanted to come back and live in my mobile home which she did. Whenever I came to pick her up to go somewhere she would always rush out the door when I pulled in the driveway so I hadn’t actually been in the place for several years. She had to stop working because of a medical problem and I could tell she was depressed so I asked her if she wanted to move in with me. It wasn’t until after all her stuff was moved over and we went back to pick up her animals that I saw the condition of the inside of the mobile home. My heart just dropped, the smell was horrible. When I asked her WTF? She claimed stray cats had been coming in the doggy door and spraying. It was only a few months before my house was destroyed and then she blamed it on my animals. I ended up selling the small house and moving out of state with lower real estate prices so I could buy two homes for what I sold mine for. She swore she was going to keep her new little home clean and for the few months she lived there I finally started to feel like I had my life back. Then I started realizing that she was again running out the door when I pulled up and when she had to go out of town for a few days I entered the house to find so much shit on the floors I had to rake it up. After only a few months her health went down and I knew if I didn’t do something she would be dead within a couple of years. I was in a new state, with no friends, and no ideas of what to do but move her back in with me into my basement apartment. Again she promised that she would never ruin “such a beautiful home” but yet again within months the house was trashed. She is my mother and my only living relative. She is all I have left, I can’t just abandon her but she has made my life so miserable. I have no friends because I’m to embarrased to let anyone know. I’ve been single for years again because I don’t feel I can have anyone over. I was so proud of this home when I got it and now it feels more like a prison. She has chosen to isolate herself from the world but doesn’t even realize she has pulled me down the same path. I just feel so lost and hopeless and don’t no how to get my life back before it’s over. She is healthier than me! She could out live me. I don’t want to live like this anymore but I don’t know how to change it. I’m afraid of bringing in outside help because they would not only take her animals (and she would hate me) but worse they could take mine because the house is not legally two homes so her actions directly effect me & the only response I get from her is denial and you can throw out my stuff when I’m gone. Of course I’m still expected to keep all her animals till they die. I’m never going to have a life and I don’t know how to change things. 🙁

    • Cyndi

      Am my mom’s only daughter and I don’t have a Dad. But when I move out I am not taking my mom. Your mom’s life is not yours. You need to be happy have friends and have family. That’s what I am going to do. You could end up depressed trying to save her or you could live your life and occasionally check on her.
      Necessary evils

  • Ames

    I am not cool with blaming hoarders for their “excuses.” They have a mental illness. They are not functional. It is exactly like telling a depressed person to “snap out of it” or a person with cancer “if you had enough faith, you can be healed.” Extremely *NOT* helpful. Better is to try to see: what pain do you have? Why do you have so much trouble concentrating? And realize the OCD, the anxiety, the problems with executive function are NOT an “excuse.”

    • Anise Leinen

      Hoarding was NOTHING but the tip of the iceberg for my mother. Nothing. Still, all of these excuses were constantly hauled out, and I WILL call them what they were: excuses. And I will blame her from here to eternity for her abuse, her toleration of OTHER people abusing her kids, her standing by and watching and doing nothing during the abuse, her *blaming the kids* for the fact that the abuse happened… we all get angrier and angrier and angrier when we are condescendingly told “not to blame.” Right is right and wrong is wrong, and my mother was wrong. Go ahead and play those “not blaming” games if it makes you feel better, I guess, but nobody should be blaming others for facing up to the truth about what really happened in abusive and hoarding families.

    • Jenny Islander

      It isn’t the abusive, neglectful, sick parent’s fault that they’re sick.

      It damned well is their fault when they refuse help, blame everybody else for their sickness, react with outrage to any hint that anybody else (like say a minor child) could possibly have been negatively affected by their sickness, and insist that the entire world change to accommodate their being sick.

  • what to do

    I hear “I’ll get to it. How would you like it if I threw out YOUR things?” Meanwhile, my father can’t walk in his room, in my house, to get from bed to bookshelf. I told him to clear out that part of the floor, and made suggestions for moving items off the one shelf he used frequently to a nearby table so he wouldn’t have to throw out the magazines and junk mail, and still nothing. I finally went in and did it for him after two weeks of waiting, and cleaned the table, and he said nothing but a few little bits of “I was going to….” which I’ve heard all my life.

    So I got bold and then cleared out the magazines from under the bed that were overflowing onto the floor where he walks, years old weekly news magazines, and would have gotten away with him not even knowing had we not gotten snowed in and the garbage didn’t come. He looked into the barrel when taking the trash out and then insisted on bringing the garbage barrel back to the garage and going through it, despite my telling him I only took years old magazines, that I left any glossies or newspapers of articles he wanted, or mail, or personal papers.
    He says he wants to see it first, but when I point out he’s had years to determine if ‘there’s something I might be interested in” within their pages, that this was weekly news from five years ago, he said it’s not for me to tell him what to do with his things.

    So, we’ve all heard these excuses….. so what do you say to it? Of course I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me, so how can I justify it to him? Yes, I gave him plenty of time to get it done, YEARS in fact, but he says I’m just being controlling and it’s elder abuse to take away all his rights like that.
    What should I be saying instead?

    • Ralla

      Oh wow… I know how you feel! I see it with my siblings all the time – don’t try to act by cleaning it up yourself. If my mom is any measure, this will feel like back stabbing for hoarders. What maybe works – just maybe – is a positive approach. Hoarders love items, their stuff, and if you add something which you invested time and effort in that product will be loved and cherished and appreciated too. I try to use this part of the hoarding to my advantage; what if you went to a thrift shop, bought some stupid old magazine rack or cupboard, fixed it up, painted it in your dad’s favorite color and presented it to him with lots of ceremony and enthousiasm? Then start enthousiasticly how all his magazines would fit in perfectly, how you love to help him get them in there – you know of course how straining it is on his poor old back, and you would never let him overstretch himself.

      It’s merely a foot in the doorway, but it might get you in if you get what I mean.
      What I tried for my mother was having a beautiful ring binder made with pictures of her grandchildren: “It was on bargain, and I couldn’t resist! And I know how much you love some magazine articles, so I immediately thought of you! How great would it be to cut out all of the interesting articles and put them in here? Like a Big Book Of All Things Interesting”

      *Big beaming smile, innocently ignoring any weary looks.*

      Don’t know if it’s gonna be succesfull yet, tried it recently so I am going to give it a few weeks. Anyway, I always try giving her something helpfull I handpicked and with some much love and enthousiasm she cannot refuse. She even feels compelled to start using it. Of course you need to act very disappointed if it isn’t used – so far it isn’t the best solution, but at least it brings us together instead of tearing us apart, what most actions tend to do.
      I hope you get some inspiration and ideas from this sort of approach, and I hope even more it will work for you and your dad! For now, good luck and remember – you are not alone <3

      • Get Real

        THANK YOU! Such a great response.
        I’ve tried the bookshelf thing, and the magazines are pouring off of it into a scattered, slippery pile in front, so that if he wants to reach his meds, which took part of one shelf, he would be balancing on them. That’s how I got him to move them to another set of shelves I gave him — the safety factor. He started, never got there, so I finished with cleaning it and moving the meds, then emptying boxes of books and magazines and putting them on his bookshelves.
        I think that deep down, they are happy for help to organize things. They don’t know where to begin, and are glad someone has done it for them. But the lack of control is a conflict within themselves, too, and then the fact that we would throw out things along the way, and they never would, is a stumbling block.
        My dad is 81. My parents used to scream about this. His apartments until he moved in with me became uninhabitable. He won’t change, and that’s one of the things we have to accept. Like any addiction or disorder, we have to learn to deal with the person who has it, not expect them to change. I think if they never know when we throw stuff out, it’s better.
        I don’t want to say the things that set him off into feeling like a defensive, trapped animal. He has to have a sense of control. I love your idea for the articles, and I hope it works for your mother. My father is cutting out articles to send to friends, which then never gets done, or he keeps the rest of the magazines because someday he might read something in there.
        There’s no logic to it, so it’s not just an organizational issue. I think he feels something irrevocable will happen if they go away. When my brothers cleared out his apartment when he moved in with me, they were in a rush, and ruthless. Some things of sentimental importance were thrown out with junk. He was depressed for a year after coming here, and I think a great sense of loss and hopelessness were part of that.
        That’s why I think when much of it is stuff that they don’t even know they have anymore, it’s the idea of having it, the clutter surrounding them that gives them a sense of security, if we secretly can throw it away, it isn’t wounding.

  • laura

    the church needs me to collect “instead what ever trash” for sunday school.
    ok sure the church wants to use roach pooh covered what ever ????

    My friend’s friends nebor house just burnt down. They need this box of rodent eaten sweaters from 80’s, but its to heavy to carry to the car. thats why its still sitting there 8 months later. hahaha

    Its to heavy to move – move something out and only take small bags to car to goodwill

    I lost my glasses and cant threw away anything till I find them, because they are worth alot of money. – hmm i bought you those glasses after you lost the last ones, that I found again durning one of the many many purging summers.

    I need 500 flower pens, that I spent all my time making instead of cleaning, to give away to all the cashiers and church workers. It makes them so happy to be remebered. – never mind the pens dont work because they are so old the ink dryed out. oh the madness

    You do a better job at cleaning my house dear.

    Im to tired, sick, cant sleep, have to pray for answer, to make dinner, clean, sign your school papers for college. ouchee mom thanks.

    If I could just move into a nice house like yours my favorite daughter, then I wouldnt have these problems. Not in a million years, Im so over being your mother, mom.

    I dont have a hoarding problem! wth? ok what ever you say

    I had a hoarding problem, but Jesus has cuired me, see I cleanned the kitchen. Her version of clean way so out of the normal its not even funny. atleast she kinda tries sometimes.

    my favorite one from my dad is she is who she is and I love her with all her faults.

    I dont need therapy you do. well mother I have spent many years in therapy to make up for all the abuse. love yea too.

  • caffinefreak

    Omg I am so relieved I’m not alone. I’m 26 yrs old now and I still live with my hoarder mother. I’ve heard all these excuses with her favorites being “I don’t have time.” “You guys never helped.” “Everytime I want to fix this place something comes up” I’ve been depressed with anxiety since 4th grade. My father left and got his own apartment and used that oppourtunity to live like a bachelor. Growing up I never had friends over. I would make up excuses as to why my friends couldn’t come over. One of my “friends” wrote in my yearbook, “its too bad i never got to see your house” I thought it was rude yes but my mother always said people are too nosy, that they would talk about our house. I couldn’t even invite my cousin over who was very depressed. He wanted to come over but i was so scared of being screamed at by my mother that I told him no. He committed suicide a few months later. I don’t have many friends and I have trouble keeping jobs. I’ve tried to move out twice but my anxiety makes it hard to leave this house and I’m depressed from navigating through the mess and not having a clean enviornment. The apartment is a fire hazard but she doesn’t get rid of anything. She gets very irate and anxious if she sees me throwing out anything. I’ve been throwing out my own things and she still becomes angry.I have to wait til shes at work to throw out things but it never makes a difference. I’m convinced its inherited because my whole family suffers from it on my mother’s side. Every sibling has a storage room overflowing. I live in a major city so its not cheap to pay rent and have a storage room.But they all just keep buying more and more items that will never be used. I’m just so tired of living here. It makes me sick to wake up to this day in and day out. I’m even noticing the pattern in myself and it scares me. I’m sorry for this long comment but I really have no one to talk to about this.

    • scruffy

      take care of yourself. Save up and work hard, get out of there. I got out of my mother’s place and it was hard at first but now i’m several states away and can talk over the phone with her but that’s basically it. Taking care of myself was the best thing I ever did. If you ever want to chat about it, I’m always willing!

  • confusedinchicago

    I am dealing with this now and I feel trapped. I have heard all of these exuses. My mother works two full tI me jobs and is working on completing a second Masters Degree. I always hear “when school is done.”

    • scruffy

      and she’ll probably keep enrolling in classes so she doesn’t have to deal with it. It’s her coping mechanism.

  • Stuck in the middle

    Cool, but what do you do when a hoarder starts to take over your fathers house because she has filled every other place she owns? What do we do with that? I don’t feel she is the victim, it’s my dad

  • Day

    ”Im going to start an etsy store!!”
    Hope animal carcasses aren’t on the product list.We have a few of those.

    • Cyndi


  • Child of a hoarder

    “I have holidays coming up – I’ll clean the house then.”
    “Clean up your room, sort out your room and pick pout the stuff you don’t want and then I’ll sort through it”
    These were just some of the lines my mother used. As a child I was never allowed to invite friends in because “the house is a mess – they can’t come in”. I suffered from asthma as a child (and still do). The asthma was exacerbated by all the dust within our home. In my mother’s eyes I did not really have asthma – I was just attention seeking and I needed a psychiatrist to fix me. I was about eight years old when she started telling me this and it took me a long time – well into my adulthood – to recover from these comments.
    My dad was in a wheelchair towards the end of his life. My dad had a new home built to cater for his needs. All the rubbish from the old house was loaded onto trailers and carted to their new house – no sorting, nothing thrown out. When my dad died my mother locked herself away with her rubbish. She had driven all her children away with her hoarding and her nastiness, accusing us of stealing her possessions amongst other accusations about us.
    She would not even allow her twin sibling into her house when he visited with his wife after my dad died.
    My mum passed away leaving her cluttered house behind. One of her children and their partner took care of cleaning up the house. I visit that sibling now and see much of the junk my mother collected now stored in their tiny house. And so the hoarding goes on. It’s not my sibling who is the hoarder. It is the partner who hoards. I do not understand how – after growing up with a hoarder – this sibling now lives with another hoarder.

    • scruffy

      sometimes when something is all you know, you unconsciously look for it because that’s where you grew up and feel comfortable (Even if you really don’t feel comfortable, it’s familiar)

  • Kishma95

    Both of my grandparents and my mom are hoarders, and I live with them with my husband and eight-month-old. They went on vacation for 3 weeks and before they left I told my mom I was cleaning the entire house for the good of my family.
    My Mom- “the only way you clean is you throw away everybody’s stuff.” (like the breadbag ties they collect)

    • Jean

      yeah but what happens when they come home…..the Return of the Hoarders haha… of luck to you I hope you can move soon

  • Vanessa

    All those excuses you listed are exactly what my mom had told me since day one. I feel you.. your not the only one.

  • Se4n

    “the house would be clean it I had somewhere to put all this stuff”

  • 3000 miles of serenity

    Good grief I have just learned that my financially irresponsible brother is moving in with my hoarder mother. He must be desperate. Now the fight is on as he is trying to throw things out to make some kind of room and she is of course questioning every piece of crap that is going to the trash bin, imaging 50 different uses for broken chairs and pet carriers for pets long gone ( I feel for the poor dope, although he has made this bed ). If it wasn’t so sad it would be really comical. I’m so glad I live 3000 miles away, so grateful I am finally learning to put away the guilt and anger and after 50 years am learning to put myself first. My mother’s and father’s dysfunction took a heavy toll on all of us, but it must stop. I have suffered enough and will not allow this madness into my heart and mind anymore. I deserve better. I am free. Wishing you all piece my fellow COHs

  • qwerty

    I think a lot of hoarding started with #39, the depression era mindset started a lot of people on saving every little thing, so they then taught their kids that same way of saving everything in a time where stuff became plentiful. It also seems that people who either purge children’s stuff (or threaten to do so) can make the child hold onto items simply out of the fear that someone might take them away without asking. My dad told me his mother would go and throw away anything he left out, including toys or unfinished models he was working on. When I was little my dad would threaten to take a bulldozer or a snow shovel to my toys if I didn’t put them away in his time limit, and I kept a lot of toys that I didn’t really need because I was afraid someone might take everything away. Then there are gifts… you hold onto them even if you don’t like them because “that was given to me by uncle mike”.

    Specific excuses I’ve heard:
    I need to finish [insert project here] first.
    I’m so overwhelmed
    But [insert event] is coming up!
    I need you to help make me do it- but when I do ask them to work on cleaning, they say they’re exhausted, or if they do clean, they make me do most of the work, and don’t get rid of nearly as much as they need to.

  • june baddeley


    Well let’s see. My name is June. I was an extremely organized person as far back as I can remember. I was 45 and an only parent, by choice, due to an alcoholic and abusive spouse. After being arrested and charged with assault, he was given a No Contact Order until his court hearing arrived.

    Our six year old son, 8 year old daughter and myself were evicted now. Two weeks after relocating to our new residence, he had spotted our parked vehicle while driving by. Unfortunately, the rest is history. As I am now feeling threatened, once again so soon, about receiving, yet another eviction notice from our new residence, due to our children’s ‘acting-out’ misbehaviours. I begged the resident manager, whose young daughter arm was scraped after being pushed into a wall by our son, to not evict us. She agreed but he refused to stop coming around. Their misbehaviours worsened.

    On July 29, 2005, with no alternative, the children and I went to the Provincial Court to apply for a Restraining Order. I explained the urgent need for the Order to Mr. X (Duty Counsel) but to no avail. Mr. X didn’t see any urgency. With matters only getting worse at home, on August 11, 2005, just shy of two weeks from our prior visit, we returned to the Provincial Court, to plead our case, that a Restraining Order be granted that same day. Finally the answer I needed to hear, Yes, however I was asked to seek Duty Counsel once again, prior to entering the courtroom that day. As luck would have it, Mr.X, male chauvenist himself and Duty Counsel for that day.

    In summary, Mr. X asked me why I wanted to talk to him again. I was explaining, as we walked toward a courtroom he was needed in. He asked me to wait there until he came out. When he returned from the courtroom he looked my way, totally disacknowledging me and started walking in a different direction. I called Mr. X but he continued to walk away. I was frazzled and dumbfounded. Yes, you could say that I may have “appeared” to look somewhat of an ’emotional wreck”. The children and I were now, tired and hungry and i was also confused. The children’s behaviours became questionable, as they began acting out. What to do now? Who to speak to? Which courtroom to go to? At what time? Where do we get lunch? Will time permit? My mind was spinning circles and I was emotionally exhausted.

    Out of the blue, unbenounced to me, or anybody else, an older woman and much younger woman approached us. My children were apprehended, taken by their hands and escorted out of the courthouse by the younger women (21) while the older woman proceeded to inform me that they were both social workers with the Ministry of Children. We never had any contact at all for ten days. My children had been babysat twice in their entire lives. Can you even begin to imagine the shock, trauma and pain we all were experiencing?

    Ten painful years have passed by, with my children never to be returned home. My 19 alcoholic abused daughter, placed and raised with abusive father and my beloved son, awarded to the Province of British Columbia, now having sole custody and guardianship.

    I am 55 as I type this. I became a hoarder i know why. After being ostrocized by even my best girlfriend since 15, family, friends, feel threatened they may lose their children too. Hoarding kills time and eases my everending pain. Hoarding is my drug of choice. When I am physically and actively performing the very ‘act of hoarding’ I get excited and become extremely stimulated. My mind begins to rush! My conscious thoughts become d; my thoughts have become subconscious. Yes! The high! The payoff for my hoarding comes to me as my mind ‘blacks out’ or enters that subconscious, ‘pleasure seeking’ state of mental ‘oblivion’. I have now become so overwhelmed, subconsciously, that I am now ‘oblivious’ or totally unaware of, my surroundings; if I am being watched or the amount of ‘stuff’ I had collected.

    Just like drugs and/or alcohol hoarding gives you a rush and gets you high, Initially, anyway.

  • Anonymoose

    I am experiencing this with my mother, it all became clear to me 5 yeara ago when we moved and we required a semi for all our things. I slowly began to calculate and see why we had so much and then i realize my mum has 50+ trash bags of clothes she hasnt worn in 20years, due to so much junk we even had a bedbug problem and i just feel this is affecting my mental health as well, ive had terrible thoughts and i just dont know what to do. Almost everyweek i approach her about cleaning up etc. and im always yelled at, i am 24yrs old and have to take care of my sick father since im his HHA otherwise i wouldve been left this shithole, our home is a biohazard and i dont know what to do… But cry.

  • Chandra

    I am living in my grandmother’s old house which is next door to my mom’s. My grandmother passed away 4 1/2 years ago and my mother wouldn’t go through anything and wouldn’t let anyone throw anything away- water damaged furniture, VCR player, 100+ quilts, nothing. We snuck things out for years, but finally it reached the point where nothing else could go without her noticing and getting very upset. I finally had a good reason to make her clear out 2 of the 3 bedrooms that were full of stuff because we have family coming to visit. It has been making me very angry that my house has become her storage unit even though I am paying to live here. I just got so tired of living around someone elses hoard when i am constantly fighting my own hoarding tendencies. I handled it well I thought by taking good care of all of it and by being super patient about moving it out but about half way through moving things out, she got extremely angry with me. According to her, I “don’t care about Grandma’s things or my mom’s things” and I think all their “stuff is junk”. Mind you, none of this stuff was thrown away, it just went and joined her hoard in their 1500 square foot junk room. I know this is just her way of dealing with her grief but she wouldn’t even look at me. I was feeling extremely hurt about it and wondering if I pushed her too far but this site really helped! I will have to point my siblings here too. She always blames her house because it’s not finished and the roof leaks or she says she needs more storage. She knows she has a problem but she will only take a little bit of help before we are all attacking her in her mind. It is just so hard to be put in that position! I love my mother when she is there and it’s not the psycho angry hoarder, but as time goes on, it seems like I see the latter more and more often. It’s so scary because I see the same tendencies in myself and I can see how one bad bout of depression could put me right in her shoes.

  • Rosie

    I just moved back home to my mothers house. I lost my husband last year and needed a place to stay.

    I feel so overwhelmed here, every nook and cranny is full of something. My mother and sister live here. Mom is 80 yrs old with severe. Rheumatoid arthritis. My 60 yr old sister is a hoarder in training! I am 54 yrs old and have not been living with family for over 35yrs now.

    Every door in every room has a clothes rack on it. You cannot open any door in the house all the way. It’s a fire trap. I cannot breathe here!

  • T

    Here’s another fun excuse I hear from my mom and grandpa (I live with parents and grandpa): “I don’t want to donate that to Goodwill, I want to send that to my family abroad, they might need it”. Their family members live in another country 10,000 miles away. The problem is, it costs about $65 per box to send, and they don’t exactly have the money to send all of that stuff. So the house is full of boxes and boxes worth of stuff to send to their family abroad. I know from experience that most of this stuff won’t be send abroad, because whenever they send boxes, they buy all new stuff to send to their family members. I’m a very organized person and an aspiring minimalist, so this gives me such anxiety.

    • T

      *sent abroad

      I hate spelling errors.

  • Hannah

    This list is very true. My brother and I have heard every single one of these excuses from our mom. My brother is 26 and move out of state just so he didn’t have to deal with her. I’m still stuck in the same town as her. We’ve tried many times to help her realize she has an issue but she won’t.

  • Emily

    My parents are hoarders, I currently live with them because it means I don’t have to take out loans while I am in college. When we were kids we knew our grandparents were hoarders, my mom wouldn’t let us stay with them because she was terrified their house would just explode, yet we didn’t realize that our parents were hoarders until a few years ago. All my life they blamed us for the mess, said we didn’t do our part around the house and we never threw stuff away. It wasn’t until now as a full-grown adult that I realized that while kids are messy, they learn their cleaning habits from their parents and my parents had none. Still as adults my sister and I struggle with understanding cleaning habits and behaviors. I watch other people my age who keep places tidy all the time and I do not understand it. I have to work at it constantly, do any other COH deal with this?

  • Ilkar Seregon

    Im from asia, and yea have a hoarder ocd father. When he used to collect some things got tossed but now nothing can leave the house! The unfair thing was when he argued must make space for HIS JUNK,ive never approved of it. So i threw away items here n there, the items are large electronic junk n now i notice newspapers too. I dun believe they cant help it,How many times have we made clear Fuck u dont move our things. Its so rude, he will clear our books n then make it like your fault if u confront him. I alw shout as i hate disorientation of things, tried to get help. But he denied. Mother has some fear dw to separate 🙁

  • Cyndi

    I’m frm Kenya. I have laughed all through these stories shared because I know it all too well. My mom makes me want to cry. We live in my granpas compound where there is a main house and 2 quarters. One for my granpa’s 2nd wife and another for me and my mom, my uncle lives in the main house. Though people mostly hang out in the main house. In our small quarters we have a microwave, 2 VCRs 2 TVs, two inaccessible cabinets, a sewing machine, a desk and chair, curios, necklaces, bottles. I threw away 10 trashbags worth of clothes last year and this place still looks like shit. Our socket doesn’t even work with all these electronics. She took all my granmas dishes and put them in this room because my new grandma’s kid is a thief . She stores food supplies in here too. She has so many business cards which she has not looked at in years. We have so many magazines and books and packed stuff. We have 4 water drums in here. There is so much clutter under the desk, under the machine. We have like 4 suitcases in this same room. There are just paperbags and paperbags full of things. I want to cry everyday. Ever since I was 14 I have cleaned this place all the time. I am now 23. The bathroom was always slimy when I came back from school. The toilet is never flushed with clean water. I want a job and I hope God will help me never come back to this place and her mess.
    This is just the start. I’m an only child and I would be fine if I don’t see my mom for even ten years after I get a job. She gets upset when I throw away her makeup and products she doesn’t use that have been here forever. But I will ruthlessly throw away every piece of Junk.

  • Royston Rogers

    its such a frustrating situation to be in and to observe over the years – my mother is a hoarder and up until recently wasn’t even able to throw newspapers away. Two bedrooms are just filled with crap now and we are no longer able to stay over when we visit as you can’t get into the bedrooms! Its getting way out of hand but we are supporting my mother to start throwing out papers she doesn’t need, its a small step but its a start. I would love to just hire a skip. throw out all the crap and actually organise her house so it is less chaotic but that’s wishful thinking

  • Tank MacInnis

    I just want to scream! My mom is a hoarder and we just sold the house to move across two states. We were scheduled to leave 4 days ago but I’m still waiting on her to pack up all of her precious hoard from over 25 years. She just asked me to leave behind some of my few things so she could fit her crap into the U-haul. I had to leave before I lost it. The move has cost us twice what it should’ve because of her crap.

  • helper

    My mom was a hoarder of garbage. She would throw it in the basement along with clothes she wouldn’t launder. She was young when she had my half sister and I and was an obese depressed alcoholic negligent parent. My sister used to sleep in a bed with rotten apple cores. Needless to say, we were removed from the home and went to live with our fathers and ultimately grandparents and get this, to this day my mom blames me for being taken away. At 11 I became a compulsive cleaner telling young friends ” nope can’t play today because I have to clean the house and make dinner.”

    For the past 20 years my husband and I have been attempting to clean his mom and sister’s hoard. We have had 8 yard sales and made mulptiple trips to the dump and made single donations that were the largest the organizations had ever received like a 3/4 ton truckload and that was after the yard sale.

    My mil passed away 4 days after last years sale and she was ticked at me right up until she died. this year we had the estate sale for my sil. I said do you think you are a hoarder and she said you’ve seen the show I don’t have that kind of filth. She also said I am not a hoarder you just have less stuff than me. At the estate sale person after person who came asked my sil ” we these people hoarders? didn’t you have a big sale last year? I am a button collector but I have never seen so many buttons.” Still she was unfazed and in denial. She won’t stop buying us stuff. Every time we had a sale we thought they had gone through everything but after my mil passed we found out the true extent:

    4 truck loads of vintage not antique junky buttons. Two top button dealers left one with one handful of buttons and the other 2 handfullls after going through the entire “collection.” All piled together no organization many ruined do to improper storage.

    Magazines ugh a common obsession. We had to rent a tent to protect all the crap but the magazines, the least valuable items were treated as if they were gold. She refuses to go digital let alone get a subscription to save money.

    Lots of old plastic containers and card box boxes. She’ll tell me those are your xardbox boxes take them but leave mine and I would say but mine are better than yours do you want them and she’d say no. Refuses to let go of towels, bedding.

    Baskets buckets trinkets truck loads of craft kits (unopened) drawing tablets ( blank) 50 books alone on making co-polymer figurines in the oven ( none made) quilting fabric enough to open a store 4 sewing machines and zero quilts ever made.

    We cleaned out the downstairs and garage and painted it looks beautiful and open. The first thing she did was put shelves and stuff in the floor in the middle of the room I guess to make it a smaller cozier space again. All she did was get rid of her mom’s hoard while keeping hers so not progress in my opinion. She is also furious about stuff she can’t find and seems truly depressed even though the garage was painted and she is getting new floors. Somebody tell me why she isn’t happy! She decided to go off sntidepressants and refuses to acknowlegde the problem. Is it okay to limit contact like stay at a hotel? I am not having another sale we told her just donate which she says she will but I don’t believe it. My husband who thankfully is a minimalist and not a big consumer is optimistic that she’ll turn over a new leaf. I believe she needs meds, intensive therapy and a professional organizer.

  • link07

    my mom….. She has pretty much emasculated my dad so he keeps his space tidy while she fills the rest of their house. Went over with my sister while my parents were on a trip and spent an entire weekend cleaning, and throwing away magazines and reciepts from the 90’s. When they got back my dad was excited and hugged us both. My mom cried and pouted. Everytime I see her she complains that she can’t clean because we threw away her vacuum. Nevermind that the vacuum was broken and over 20 years old, and I bought her a new one. She won’t use it though.

  • Karen Edith Davies

    tragically my Mum horded people junk and money … in such a possessive way it tore the family apart and sent me to the poor house … when she died she only favored people in her Will who were far away and not dealing with her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

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  • Letitgo

    I think my parents finally “saw” the light which I thought will never be seen at the end of the tunnel. I’d never utter the h word to her as I’m afraid she might go ballistic.With their blessing I get the chance to clean their house after several years of pleas and plenty of rejections and anger, especially from my mom. I cleaned part of the kitchen recently and the living room. I am getting somewhere while they take baby steps. It’s time for them to reclaim the house and I am adamant to make it happen. Reading some these stories made me very sympathetic because I too, feel the frustration and anger of getting my parents to realize tons of things need to go. No one should live that way.

  • Ali

    What really kills me is that she went away for a week. And I had this entire house SPOTLESS and ORGANIZED. It was simple organization, labeled and all. That was September. Two months later there’s pillows underneath our kitchen sink and just JUNK everywhere. But I can’t throw anything away, she “might need it one day”, even though she either didn’t know it even existed or hasn’t looked at it in months-years. So frustrating. I’m very organized and tidy. Everything in my room has a place, but her junk is making its way into my room. And I can’t even have people over because although my room is beautifuly clean, they have to walk through my mother’s “needs” to get to it.