Print this Page

Guilt-Healthy vs Unhealthy

From a member of the COH support group:

Initially I was concerned about some of the guilt that various people in the group were experiencing. It seemed like it wasn’t really guilt that they had done anything to deserve, so this post was the result:

Guilt is not necessarily a bad thing.

Guilt can be like pain.

Pain is nature’s way of telling people that whatever they just did is not something that they should repeat. Healthy guilt is a good thing, especially if I am listening to my inner voice. The majority of people have a problem with not feeling guilty often enough, especially in this day and age of “You don’t have any right to judge me.”

COH on the other hand have a tendency to have the opposite problem. Because our hoarders frequently blame us for their problems (see above paragraph), we often accept that blame because…. Well, let’s face it, we didn’t have the tools emotionally to reply back that the problem wasn’t that we weren’t doing enough around the house. We were dependent on our parents for survival and we didn’t really have any other option other than accepting the guilt.

Well, I am writing today on behalf of the COH Unhealthy Guilt Erradication team. I have very good news for everyone here at COH. Today and tomorrow are officially “No Unhealthy Guilt for All COH members” weekend. Now since many of us struggle with knowing whether a specific guilty feeling is healthy or not, I will provide a list of healthy versus unhealthy guilt.


  • -Murder
  • -Hurting animals intentionally(except for recognized pests)
  • -Child abuse
  • -Setting off nuclear weapons


  • -Not knowing what to do in regard to our hoarder
  • -Finding humor in the situation our hoarders have put us in
  • -Telling our hoarder how they have affected us
  • -Not telling our hoarder how they have affected us
  • -Calling the state to report our hoarders
  • -Not calling the state to report our hoarders
  • -Cleaning out the hoard without their knowledge or permission
  • -Not cleaning out the hoard

For the rest of the weekend, you don’t have to feel guilty. You have done the best job you knew how to. Venting your feelings here any way that helps you (sarcasm, laughter, ranting, anger, etc..) is a very good thing. There is no better or safer place to do that. We have been beatup, injured, and yes abused by our hoarders. Read that last line again. Your emotions are okay, whatever they are.

Enjoy the weekend. Your hoarder and your guilt will be there Monday, unless this is a massive cleanout weekend for you, and you probably won’t be reading this anyway. For those who are doing clean outs this weekend, the next 4 days after the cleanout are your No Unhealthy Guilt days (You deserve the double days).

Now, take the guilt off and put it down someplace out of the way. The back of the coat closet, or under the kitchen sink are two suggestions. There doesn’t that feel better? Enjoy!!

P.S.-That seemed to strike a chord with people so I decided it needed an acronym because the full name was too much to type over and over. So COHUGET was launched……. From now until the end of the weekend, the COHUGET (pronounced co- huge-tee) has declared a “No Unhealthy Guilt” warning. This is a warning, not a watch. That means that you need to stash your unhealthy guilt now and leave it stashed until Monday morning. The previous stash sites are acceptable (under the kitchen sink, behind the fridge), but the recommended unhealthy guilt stashing site is under the nearest pile of dog excrement. The nastier the better, that way you will be much less inclined to retrieve it before Monday morning. Notice that I did not say “your dogs….”. The ownership of the dog is irreverent. NO WAIT!!!! I am irreverent. The ownership of the dog is irrelevant. We hope you enjoy the weekend free of the burden of the guilt that you should never have been given. It wasn’t your fault, it isn’t your fault, and it never will be your fault!-Creator of COHUGET (Norse)

From another member of the COH group, on guilt:

I collected some of the observations I’ve made about guilt
over the years and condensed them…and at the end is what
I called a printable, wallet-sized list.

First, if your parent is a typical emotion-based hoarder
(not just an ADHD), and you are a typical COH, you
will ALWAYS carry the potential for feeling guilty. That’s because
just as the hoarder never has enough stuff, there’s never enough
anybody can do for him or her.

S/he feels entitled to an infinite amount of your attention, time,
energy, labor, and resources.

Consequently, if you are not a socio/psychopath without a
conscience and no regard for others, you will always feel
deficient. But you may be looking at the wrong side of the

It’s the hoarder’s expectations that are infinite, and nobody
on earth can ever meet them. Since it’s a normal human thing
to feel bad if we do not fulfill our parent’s expectations,
it’s almost inevitable to get trapped between the ‘normal’
child reaction and the definitely abnormal parental expectation.

Plus, if you’re still listening to outsiders’ opinions, based
on more normal family reactions and not at all on the hoarder
family dynamics, your guilt tends to grow and grow. Try to
forget these opinions unless they come from a professional
counselor or psychiatrist who is treating you. All they do
is complicate things and make it even harder to determine
what’s reasonable to do for the hoarder and what’s unreasonable.

(This applies to both positive and negative opinions, by the
way…somebody saying, “you’re doing too much” is just as much
clutter as somebody saying “you’re not doing enough”. If you
can’t tell and need an honest, objective opinion, get one
from your own counselor or psychiatrist.)

Remember, in most COH situations, the very fact that you feel
guilt pretty much means you don’t have anything to feel guilty
about. Feeling guilt means you have a functioning feeling
system…that you are not a narcissist focused on your needs
alone…that you are not a socio/psychopath or borderline.

This is not to say that it’s ok to delude yourself or to
provide an excuse for our own unreasonable actions. The point
is that there is a line somewhere between the hoarder’s abusing
you and you abusing the hoarder, and it’s up to you to determine
what it is, because in the hoarder’s mind that line is drawn
all the way towards him or her.

(As you try to determine this line, bump it a little towards
the hoarder, just to compensate for the fact that humans are
never objective about themselves…this will help you know that your line really is reasonable, and even a little more than reasonable.)

It might help to apply the golden rule or mentally reverse the situation or think of an analogy in a totally different situation.

Summary for the wallet card:

  • If the hoarder never feels s/he has enough stuff, s/he will
  • never feel you have done enough.
  • Don’t go by what s/he thinks is reasonable, because it never is.
  • Don’t go by outside opinions, unless offered by a professional
    who is treating YOU.
  • There is a line somewhere; requests or expectations below that
  • line are acceptable, and above that line, unacceptable.
  • That line may change and shift somewhat with time, but it’s still there.

Anything to add about this topic?

Permanent link to this article:

  • bandaid

    Thank you, thank you!!

    GUILT is important to address as a COH. It is like the elephant in the room that is easier to ignore, than address. Just like the irrational thought and behavior of hoarders.

    I am 40 years old, and still sruggle with feelings of guilt. Ever since I can remember, I have thought that I have the ability to bring my mother into a place in her life, where, I think she is going to be happy.

    I think mostly those aspirations have been drivin’ by guilt. Actually, I know, they have been!

    Somewhere, in my life, I took responsibility for my mother’s happiness.

    I’m DONE!! Good-bye guilt.