↑ Return to Being a COH

Print this Page

About Being a COH

“It’s never is about the stuff. The commonality that we had, it was the emotional trauma and the neglect and the lack of nurturing. It’s wasn’t the hoard,” Forbes said.

“It was the behavior around the hoard that was so damaging.”
-source/video: Group Reaches Out To Children of Hoarders

 

For/About Adult Children of Hoarders™

For many, growing up in an environment of constant chaos and disorganization means much more than not being able to have friends over. Our parents often hid behind closed blinds isolating themselves from the world outside.


Many of us hid behind those blinds with them, keeping the “secret.”
As adults, too many of us still do.

Adult children of Compulsive Hoarders just started in 2006 (view shared stories on our site in 7/06-1/09 archives), to use our voices to speak up about our experiences with parents who suffer from having a serious and very misunderstood disorder.

This is often the “elephant in the living room.” People who hoard often lack insight and will not admit, to having a problem at all. Children sometimes get blamed for the mess or told that the state of the house is their fault.


Many of us knew we were different from the other kids,
and had something to be ashamed of; we knew we had something to hide.

We only learned recently that our situation had/has a name. For most of our lives, we didn’t know other families out there were just like ours.

Even if it’s not true, to a child’s mind, it can appear that the parent suffering from this disorder values objects or animals more than the child.

Because this disorder is often fueled by anxiety, a Hoarder can express an extreme range of (usually negative) emotions when anyone tries to clean up, when things are touched or moved. This is difficult for a young mind to understand. In addition, unhealthy perfectionism is a large part of the hoarding disorder, and those standards are often hard to live up to.

Need for Control
Frost, et al found hoarding to be associated with an exaggerated need for control over possessions. Hoarders were less willing to share possessions with others or to have others touch or use their possessions. Unauthorized touching or moving of possessions can prompt extreme anger among compulsive hoarders. This need for control may be associated with other features. For instance, if someone else touches a possession, it may remove some of the safety signal value of the possession, similar to an object becoming contaminated. Because possessions are often believed to be extensions of the self, it may seem to the hoarder that he is personally being violated when someone touches his things.

 

Perfectionism
It also has been suggested that hoarders have a fundamental belief that perfection is not only possible, but expected. For example, Frost and Hartl described a woman who reported two concerns when trying to discard newspapers. First, she was concerned that she had not read them thoroughly, and second, she couldn’t remember what she had read. She believed that it was possible to read the paper and remember everything “perfectly.” Failure to do so seemed a catastrophe. Saving the newspapers allowed her to continue the fiction (erroneous belief) that perfect paper reading was possible and to avoid the failure associated with not reading the paper perfectly.

-Chapter 23 HOARDING: CLINICAL ASPECTS AND TREATMENT STRATEGIES Randy 0. Frost, Ph.D., Gail S. Steketee, Ph.D.


It’s not just about a mess or piles of stuff.
Many COH report identifying with the
Adult Traits of Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunction.

It is confusing growing up with an authority figure who has distorted beliefs about objects or animals. It is hard to understand getting in trouble for putting things in the garbage, being reprimanded after the item is retrieved. The reality at home often seems different from the reality at school/outside. Children struggle to process a lifestyle where they compete for a parent’s attention in a house overrun with animals.

Where hoarding is a symptom, often there are undiagnosed personality disorders as well.

Many of us held our breath at the sound of the doorbell-because we learned “you aren’t supposed to let people IN.” As adults, many of us still carry that shame with us, even though we’ve moved away. (phrase coined in our support group in ’06 for this: “Doorbell Dread.”)

Concern & Worry

 


Many of us worry about our elderly parents living in hazardous conditions that we can’t do anything to fix.
Most often, they won’t let us help them, or even let us in their home.

For those COH whose parents didn’t start hoarding until later in life, this can be particularly difficult, as they also adjust to the discovery/shock of the parent’s unhealthy living conditions.

The general public sometimes assumes that adult children of hoarders walk away from hoarding parents due to lack of concern …that we let them live in those conditions because we don’t care. It’s not that we don’t want to help them-often we try, desperately. Many adult COH have given up large amounts of time, energy, financial help-hoping to solve the problem. We don’t know how to help them…especially when they don’t believe they have a problem, don’t want any help, and vehemently oppose the suggestion.

However, sometimes the sacrifice is too much and we must put on our own oxygen mask. Sometimes, in order to cope, we must detach from our parent’s illness.

Many professionals tell us that “unless a person is a danger to themselves or others, they have a right to live the way they want.” We are told not to apply any “pressure” to improve the conditions in the home.

Often we must wait until there is a health crisis or their living conditions or animal neglect is reported by someone else. Only then are we allowed to even enter their home to help. It is a very painful thing that many of us must consider: reporting our own parents to authorities so we can help them.

When the time comes, the adult COH must carry the emotional and financial burden of cleaning up the accumulation. Cleaning companies can charge thousands per day to sort and clear out these homes. By that time, the homes are typically in disrepair and need major renovations.

Clearing these homes without professional help is extremely taxing, both physically and, emotionally. Seeing the conditions that the parent has lived in, can cause much guilt. We couldn’t force our parents to accept our help and professionals advise us not to do it, anyway. Still, we’re left wondering if (and outsiders often assume) we could have done something to prevent the situation.

Many of us don’t want to report our parents, the grandparents of our children, to authorities. We don’t want to forcibly intervene, cause unrest in the family, or petition the courts to have our parents deemed “incompetent.” These are very unappealing options, just so we can get them safe and out of squalor.

We need support in learning strategies to help our parents…and ourselves.


Our parents aren’t just “HOARDERS” on some television show, or “crazy cat ladies.”
They are family, loved ones, our parents who have a compulsive disorder.

Through this website, we hope to raise awareness about the impact on family members. Since 2005, Children of Hoarders (the organization-this site) has advocated for mental health treatment, support, and research that acknowledges the pain experienced by the whole family, but especially addresses the unique challenges faced for those children currently living with a hoarder.
Pin It


Note:
These generalizations come from common experiences shared in our online support group for over 5 years, (2200 members-37,000 messages), 5 years of discussion on the (currently offline) forums on the COH website (3,019 members, 11,916 messages and 400+ “growing up” stories sent in anonymously) and may not in many cases, represent the experiences of all who have a parent who hoards.

Related posts:

Permanent link to this article: http://childrenofhoarders.com/wordpress/?page_id=4270

  • Holylove Maria

    where are the strategies….?=)

  • I am from australia with a father who hoards, lacks insight in his disabiltiy.My father had 8 children yet I am the only person who visits him.My fathers home is very disgusting so much that I have none to talk or support.All the doctor will say Its a big job?I  just dont have the time to help my father[I have a mortgage and work casually]meet all his needs so i visit him weekly @resturant just to ensure he eats well.I have complained to the doctors but they wont help my father as they want me to look after him[its always cheaper to get the family involved]even though I live 200 km away.The community support worker who usually provides services for the elderly [they are suppose to provide for my father but instead told me why dont you be a fulltime carer for your father]In other words when someone is a hoarder in australia they encounter a lot of brick walls as all government agencies change the rules,ie my fathers house is a fire hazard and OHS risk[they refuse to provide any services]when i enquire about day centres for the elderly they want a medical cerficate from the doctor[I told the doctor who told me he hadnt heard of this rule before]now the day centre said there is a long waiting list[I bet my father dies before he gets his foot inthe door it just goes on my email address is jenny2late@yahoo.com.au

  • I married into a hoarding mother in law. It’s been my worst nightmare. My husband denies that there’s any real danger to our children at her house because “None of my siblings have died”. I don’t want my children to even be near this woman at this point. My husband on the other hand doesn’t think that her mindset of children being allowed to play in dog piss is any sort of problem

    She’s constantly trying to give us junk. I don’t want her junk. I don’t want anything that she’s touched. I don’t want it. Period. It’s useless to me. It’s getting so bad that I cannot take it anymore. It’s getting to the point that I’m about to leave my husband because of my hoarding mother in law. I don’t want to leave him, but I simply cannot have this kind of example around my children and I cannot have her filth intruding into my home the way it has been. She’s toxic in more ways than one.

    I have no idea how to cope with this. Has anyone else married into a hoarder? How do you handle it? I’ve literally had to teach my husband how to clean, how to wipe the counters, etc. If he won’t cut contact with her, I don’t know if I’ll be able to deal with it for another year? Ten years? Twenty? How long until it’s over?

  • Andrew Los Angeles

    I’ve been looking for a group like this. I recently had to move back in with my father and due to my circumstance will have to live in his house for the next year. I didn’t exactly grow up with it since my folks are divorced and I saw my dad on weekends. His problem has also gotten much worse since I was a kid. I’ll have to visit this site again and really want to hear from people who have called the fire department or gone through the process of cleaning up after their parent’s death.

    • Elie

      Andrew, I am in the same situation and I feel almost paralyzed by it all. Maybe we can support each other, I think a phone call in a time of frustration would be really helpful because I feel so alone. You can email me if you’d like: elie820@hotmail.com

    • healthnut

      Once I called the fire department and left a message asking them if it was ok that the front door was blocked with stuff. They didn’t respond so (when she was away for the day) I just removed the blockages on my own and put them into another room to free the doorway. My mom didn’t say thank you directly though neither did she say anything critical. As she walked into another room she quietly mumbled “I should be paying you for this.” The subject of the blocked door was never mentioned again. Sometimes with her I think there is some “prepper instinct” to save items for survival combined with a strong nostalgia that certain objects contain. It seems that I’ve followed the pattern of hoarding myself though I’m not buying the DNA genetic ancestry argument as much as trauma induced behaviors that can be controlled with cognitive therapy. Learned behavior through observation is another one. BTW – Thanks to children of hoarders for providing a safe and non-judgmental forum for COH to share their experiences and peer support.

  • Alice

    I have tried hard to get over my fathers hoarding, but since he fell down in his mess and was taken to a care home, I have been clearing it up.I get so angry, it took him to get dementia before I could loosen his iron grip on his empire of things.Such useless things, so much pain and trouble over these stupid useless things.When all this mess is gone, I will still feel dirty though I can not see that ever leaving me.

  • Kim

    I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, I grew up in a hoard. I am not a hoarder but clutter still makes me feel safe.
    strange… I know.

    • Christina

      I TOTALLY understand! My mother is a hoarder and I grew up surrounded by her crap. It got so bad that as a kid I had to sleep on the sofa in a room without heat because she had junked up my room so bad with her hoard. Now, my poor father has had to move to the living room sofa to sleep because he can’t even get in his own room because of all of her crap. It makes me angry because I can’t even go visit my own mother because of all of her stuff. Clutter makes me feel unsafe and extremely anxious, and I just cannot mentally handle being around all of that mess. I consider myself “fortunate” because I did not inherit the hording from her, but unfortunately, my mother won’t visit me at my house because she says my house is too clean and it makes her uncomfortable.

      • JCL

        I spent my teen years (age 13-17) living with my dad who was a hoarder. It’s a long story, and I’ve had many years to reflect, but my conclusion is that it’s a form of object substitution. Collecting objects and animals is so much easier than maintaining relationships, or so they think it’s easier. They are empty and overwhelmed inside and do not possess the skills to obtain what they really want – love, assurance, stability. They fixate on objects or animals as a substitution for relationships with people. The emptyness of the house makes them anxious, it’s a reminder that they are empty inside, without love. But they can’t possibly fill it up enough and be satisfied, and they can never let objects go, as they’ve attached some sort of lifelike significance to each object.
        It’s so painful for a child to realize she or he has been replaced by things. But notice that when you want to discuss it openly, frankly, they want to retreat.
        In the end, you can’t let them be the sun of your universe. You cannot accommodate or bend to unhealthy behaviors. You have to have boundaries – and by you setting your boundaries, they can learn how to relate normally, if even for 20 minutes, sitting and visiting in a park, away from the hoarding/chaos. Baby steps. But when they are reinforced, and your boundaries are defended, you can show your parent the way, with time, or at the very least, provide a respite from the chaos in their mind, and assure them that you love them, though they are struggling, you love them, despite their brokenness.

        • JCL

          I should add, to learn more about how to set healthy boundaries for yourself and your relationships, read one of the Boundaries series books, written by Dr. Cloud. In truth, everyone can benefit from reading those books. It makes you stronger, yet loving.

        • Susanna

          As a COH, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the condition. Your post summed up the condition so clearly and compassionately and actually helped me more than anything I’ve read before. Your comments about boundaries and helping the hoarder to relate normally by visiting them outside the home is so brilliant and important. Thanks.

      • Kristin

        Hi Christina, I get really anxious or stressed out around clutter also. So glad I didn’t inherit my mom’s hoarding behavior. Do you or anyone else worry about their elderly hoarding parent? My mom is in her 60s now, and I’m starting to worry about how I’m going to handle an elderly parent. She’s been a homemaker (kind of ironic since she’s been a hoarder for as long as I can remember) all of her life. Once my dad passes away, I have no idea where is she is going to want to live, but it’s going to be hard because she won’t be living with me. I think she thinks that might be an option. I don’t know if that conversation should start now or if I should wait.

        • Christina

          Hi Kristin, I certainly have the same concern especially now that my mom just turned 60. My dad keeps saying that she’s going to move in with me if he goes first, and I have told him repeatedly that she CANNOT move in with me. Not only is she a hoarder but she is very abusive when she doesn’t get her way. I am also certain that when he passes, her hoarding will escalate and become worse. I’m an only child, so there are no other siblings to “pawn” her off on, so I will have no support from anyone. She too was/is a “homemaker” and has no retirement, no savings, tons of stuff and tons of debt from acquiring all of the stuff. I feel guilty because I know she will be in dire straights and will expect to live with me, and expect me to support her when something happens to my father, but that just cannot happen. I have to keep reminding myself that: I am not responsible for the poor decisions my mother has made; I am not required to subject myself or my family to her illness since she chooses to not seek help for it; I am not responsible for her failure to plan; I am not obligated to endure her abusive behavior. As for your question, I suggest not have the full conversation now, but maybe ease it into a conversation gently if you can so she can mentally prepare herself for it. That is the stage I am at now with my mom. I wouldn’t say, “you can’t live with me” because that will start arguments and subject you both to lots of hurt feelings. I would just ask her if she thought about what her plans would be if something happened to your father. If she says that she expects to live with you, I would then begin asking her questions such as, “where will all of your things go if you were to move here? Do you really want to move all of your stuff?” Keep it to basic questions about moving stuff and where it would possibly go. It’s not saying “no” at this point, but it should get her thinking about the logistics of it all. Some of what I’ve noticed with this illness is that the hoarder needs to be with their hoard. They often don’t want to go anywhere if they can’t have all of their stuff, and they certainly don’t want to move all of their stuff because they are too embarrassed to have others see all of their stuff. Whatever you do don’t ever make it sound like she is unwelcome in your home even if that is the case. I suggest focusing on the fact that your home isn’t big enough for all of her stuff too and still remain healthy and functional. It is quite possible that she fully intends to stay in her home with all of her stuff and not go anywhere. You should probably also prepare yourself for her hoarding to get even more out of control as the death of a spouse is a strong trigger for this behavior to escalate. Regardless of what you say, it will be unpleasant conversation no matter what, but in my opinion it will be far easier to discuss sooner rather than later when you both are mourning the death of a loved one.

          • uncommonsense2010

            You come into this world through your parents but not for your parents. The generation of our parents could be part of the problem growing up with nothing and then finding everything is possible to have. so even a paper bag or used paper towel holds value when you live in the past thinking life was better back then, but those memories are enhanced when you can go back in your mind to your childhood with that used paper towel in your hand and say “look, I’m the rich kid”

            You’re not obligated to save them. I believe the problem you’re facing is this one. It seems people from that generation began to fixate on the objects and not relationships as someone posted a while back on this that I just read.

            So the problem here isn’t your mom wanting to move in with you and bring her stuff. It’s that a stranger is trying to convince you that you’re obligated to help this person when you once lived in their home.

            My parents feel like strangers to me. My mother is abusive and threatening and even though she’s not the hoarder, my dad is. Mom gets the living rooms, and regular areas of the house. dad gets all the drawers, stuffed cabinets, all areas behind furniture, all cabinets and cubby spaces in furniture, all areas under each chair and sofa, space under the beds and anywhere else he can sneak useless crap to validate himself.

            and it seems people of that generation who have convinced themselves they had it the worst are focused on themselves. thus no matter how much it hurt you to grow up with them they’ll never hear it. in fact it would upset them if you told them because it’s accusatory instead of seeing it as a way to move the crap out of the way and build the family unit.

            so what you’re feeling is years of being unable to communicate, unable to be heard, unable to even connect with them and realize that as difficult as it feels, or impossible as it sounds they simply love the crap more than they love you.

            And when a stranger says I love my junk more than I love you but you’re obligated to let me bring it to your house, you can’t help but return back to your childhood.

            You can’t help but feel like the days are back when you don’t have a place for your own things. You don’t have the ability to store anything without it being hidden, lost or broken. And everything you have of value will become lost in the mess.

            My mom used to joke about the day when dad passes that she’ll just get the hole dug deeper and pour all the junk into it with him. As awesome as it sounds it would never change how he feels.

            I grew up being unable to throw things away. Dad would always get on me about having stuff or having am mess when I didn’t have much space because by my early teens all space was filling up, then if i threw something out he’d dig it out of the trash and put it back into my room.

            in fact to this day he’s always gone through every bit of trash before taking it out. So he’s always the first one to the trash cans to enforce nothing goes out without his pickings.

            Odds are your mom could die first, But the truth is, and it’s hard to admit, the hope of a real family died long ago.

            My dad still complains that they lost all the crap out of the two storage units he was renting, while at the same time had a shed full at a neighbors house.

            And if they’re like my dad they think they’re the most generous people saying they save things with the intent on giving it to people who could use it. but should you ever take an item and give it away to someone as I did with a huge box of children’s clothes that were sitting around for 2 years just this past year you’re met with the reaction my dad gave me which was a verbal attack because he already had kids in mind he wanted to give it to.

            Children who were rapidly outgrowing the clothes he had for 3 years.

            So when you can face the fact that it’s not just a hoarding issue it’s a self centered I’m so good I COULD give something away issue, you realize the arrogance that is the cloud the abusive lightening shoots out of.

            And if she wants to take the stuff to be with you then she doesn’t love you as much as her stuff.

            So if you ever have the conversation again tell her “If you move in, we take 25 items and any keepsakes like pictures and antiques above that, that’s it. no hoarding, anything I find I throw out. if I get any objections you’re next to go..”

            If she gives you a full objection wash your hands of it, you said your peace. She can find a roommate or a shelter. And it’s also best to let her end up in a shelter with nothing because when you rescue her from that everything is gone.

            I also know what you’re feeling. you know the “emotional trauma” this would have on her. The truth is the emotional toll and trauma isn’t because of her losing the stuff. It’s because of her losing the power over the stuff. it’s not about losing you as a daughter, that died long ago. It’s not about losing family or feeling like everything she’s worked for fell apart, because you were probably raised to support her disorders and the focus on that generation of parents as on themselves I think.

            I have NEVER been given encouragement or praise by either of my parents. I’ve survived 17 trips to the ER and settled my own legal settlement. Survived 10 years in hollywood with no job and lived on a sailboat that i bought and fixed up. And yet never once have they acted like i ever did anything good.

            They can’t. they simply can’t love you compassionately in the ay they’re expecting you to love them. So until you see how one sided it really is you’ll be filled with guilt about this prospect of ditching her.

            People who love you wouldn’t put you through that.

  • uncommonsense2010

    i don’t believe it’s a compulsive disorder. i think it’s a choice. A choice to want to take up space for yourself with stuff so your family can’t. I think it’s also a way of marking territory. Of feeling like they have nothing so they use it to mark turf and say “this space under the chair is MINE. It’s like a flag on the moon in every drawer, every cabinet, under every piece of furniture, and if you throw it away you’re only angering them. why do they get angry? Because of two reasons. they love the stuff more than you and now you’re making them have to work twice as hard to fill those spaces back up.

    I moved in with my folks for a while and when I got there dad just started stuffing all my stuff into every crevice possible. Instead of cleaning out a specific area so I could have my stuff easy for work or moving back out. I finally started moving things around and two over two closets completely. It didn’t make him happy, in fact it pissed him off. If he loved me he’d have said “great, i want you to have space” He’s a great guy, but clearly the hoarding is someone who loves by choice, not by heart. He saves everything saying it could be fixed up and given to someone that needs it. But should you give something to someone that needs it he’s upset.

    Here’s just one example. He had a box of clothes for 5 years, some children’s clothes, 2 years ago he met a family near me he wanted to give them to, I moved from there. Then finally gave them to another family with a young child. he was upset because he had it in his mind he wanted to give them to that one family and yet those kids were rapidly outgrowing some of those items.

    Yet he won’t get out and go deliver things. He’ll always talk about how it can help others but never take anything to donate it. He’s afraid they’ll make money off it I suppose. He’s of the “everyone runs a racket” generation. grew up poor and thinks having old used but dry paper towels are a hit.

    My mom has always demanded he keep that crap out of sight, so he’ll fill up closets and spaces under beds and stuff but the central area of the house is fine. If she dies first it’s party time for him. if he dies then we can finally throw some of it out. And most of the stuff he has gets broken in the piles. So anything of value isn’t worth anything for long. Then he complains about that.

    Just think, to them every piece of clutter is your brothers and your sisters. Each one nurtured and loved. All while your attempt to remove it turns you into the one disrupting the FAMILY. it’s like you’re trying to throw out your own siblings, and that is why they react like they do.

    • Mulberry Field

      You are so right it is totally about territory. I live with a hoarder but I have managed to
      clear out the main living space. The roof leaks (can’t call the roofer because mister controlling thinks only he can work on the house properly) and the house is totally on the verge of being condemned. The hoard is in the basement, attic, garage and rapidly covering every inch of the yard. My boyfriend is territorial about his crap. If I fix an area up, he makes a point to go mess it up. He’s a control freak who was coddled by his parents. No one ever said NO or made him be responsible. There are now 8 dead cars in my yard.I’m constantly having to sacrifice things to accommodate his childish refusals to be responsible and do things we don’t like but little lord Fauntleroy has never had to do things that he didn’t want to do. He leaves shit around at his parent’s house for his 80 year old mother to pick up. It’s all about being a baby. No one held him accountable and to this day his only real responsibility is walking the dog which he from finds to be a huge burden.

  • Asha

    PLEASE HELP ME!!
    My mother is a hoarder… She is also morbidly obese and has COPD, sleep apnea, diabetes, and heart issues. Oh and she’s terribly forgetful. Because of her obesity her knees are shot. The cartilage is gone and when she walks it’s bone on bone. Her back is bad too. Recently her knees have been giving her terrible pain. She can hardly walk. She’s unable get in or out of her home due to stairs. Due to this recent change she’s gotten a small bed sore about as big around (but not as deep) as a golf ball. She refuses to go to the hospital.

    The thing is she worked from the time she was a teen until a few years ago as an LPN. She now gets Social Security Disability to the tune of 1100.00 per month. Because of her income she is unable to get Medicaid and get the in home health aid she desperately needs.

    Of course I’ve been begging her to sign up for section 8 to get her into an apartment for the elderly and handicapped. She claimed she did this months ago. I called about a month ago to check her status on the waiting list and they claimed they didn’t have her in the system at all. She STILL claims she did sign up and I told her they would have given her a receipt… which even if she did get she wouldn’t be able to find in the hoard. I was devastated. I was pissed. I pretty much cut her off for about 4-5 weeks.

    I brought a thanksgiving plate to her house. We went and ‘got’ her for Christmas Eve since she is unable to leave her home without help. The whole month-month and a half I avoided asking her if she had gotten signed up for section 8. I didn’t know if I really wanted to know. Part of me had a feeling she didn’t and I didn’t think I could handle the blow of knowing she didn’t.

    Yesterday she called me about this bedsore/wound on her rear. She was wondering about the protein powder I use. She said she wasn’t getting enough protein and that’s why the wound wasn’t healing. I told her she needed to go to the hospital and then they might send her to the nursing home or a rehab. Maybe then they would see how bad she really is (her knees, she weight, her other health issues) and give her medicaid. (She gets medicare but they won’t help her with home health until she’s 60) She says she can’t afford it. I explain to her she could turn in her ‘pay stubs’ and get her bill reduced drastically or completely but she doesn’t believe me. THEN I ASK… I ask her if she ever signed back up for section 8 after learning they didn’t have her on file. No. She didn’t. She didn’t do it. At that point I lay the phone down, walk away, and cry.

    I HAVE called adult protection on her but they didn’t act like they could do anything for us. I’ve called job and family services and she makes ‘too much’ and she’s not ‘old enough’ to receive any further care than what she gets.

    I don’t know what else I can do. She lives in a disgusting old trailer that’s falling apart. She can’t walk let alone get in and out on her own. I need guidance. She obviously can’t be trusted to sign up for help on her own. The government won’t help. I can’t help her obviously. Please email me if you have any information that can help me myizzybizzy@gmail.com (Please use COH in the title) Thank you!

  • Ames

    I grew up in squalor. I never had friends or family members over. I had to hide behind the furniture when “the men came to turn off utilities” (which they did every month since we were also in poverty). I had to FAKE like I was calling home for my mom to pick me up after any after-school activity, then secretly walk home. It was far, but we did not have a telephone, and I could not risk having anyone drive me home to see the squalor. I was constantly abused and bullied at school, partly because I had no social support system and nobody to turn to. I considered suicide on a daily basis. I cannot say “I Love you” to anyone because of my intense experiences with rejection and bullying. I JUST SAID THAT HOORAY FOR ME. Now I am grown, I have been in denial of how messed up I am. I am a super perfectionistic and anxiety prone individual. I have panic attacks before guests arrive. My house is nice, but I am really disorganized and I struggle to keep it nice. And before guests arrive…the perfection must occur. Wish I could change. I have survival guilt because I moved away at 18. I feel extremely guilty but I can’t help my parents, and I feel like people will judge me if they see how my parents live. People will blame me for not helping them since I am financially comfortable and seem quite perfect on the outside.

    • the one in the middle

      Ames, Why has it taken 17 days for someone to give you a virtual hug! Your experience was unique, but you are not alone. Go easy on yourself, girl. Perfection is boring, your flaws (imperceptible to us) are where it’s at.

    • Christa

      I completely understand, no one was ever allowed in our house either. I now have kids and am trying to learn how to not be disorganized. If I start to feel overwhelmed with the house I get angry and start throwing things away. I feel like my house has to be perfect for people to come over. About a year ago, I had to move my mother in with me who is a hoarder. Almost a year later I am still struggling for her to get rid of the rest of her hoard. We have made progress, and I decided to start looking for support for the type of life I lived as a child.

  • Dragomir_Bordei

    Every COH has their own story. I’m still living in it, I’m 24; soon I will move out I’ve saved enough money. My mother didn’t start acting like this until I was 16. I miss her, I want her back. This person is a shell of her former self.

    It’s so exhausting coping in this environment. I think I’m doing good by complaining to her, but it does nothing. Years have passed and nothing has changed in the home.

    How do I get her back? I miss her. I’m sorry for ever hurting her. I blame myself partially… I work so hard, put up with so many things. I can’t live like this anymore, I feel like atlas. Or sisyphus, condemmed to forever roll this boulder, only to watch it roll back.

    I think I’ve internalized being alone. I’m so numb, my whole life has been a struggle and I’ve run out of sympathy, though it’s an inherit part of my character. I numb myself through smoking, and gaming. I’ve pushed so many people away because I don’t know what it means to be happy anymore. My life has been chaos, and now I think I’ve grown to make it much the same.

    I take solace in knowing at least someone will read this.

    I’m seeing a therapist now, I don’t know what good it’s doing. But at least I feel a sense of connection with a human being.

  • Des

    I am now almost 28 years old and just discovering that my brothers and I were not the only ones who had to deal a parent that hoards. I can’t remember a single moment as a child that wasn’t surrounded by junk, garbage, and clutter. What I do remember is humiliation, fear, and pain caused by my mothers’ hoard. I thought for the longest time that I was the only child who suffered a completely unhappy child hood at home.

    As appears to be a common occurrence from reading these posts, not having close friends and constantly having to make up stories to keep people away from the house wore me down and caused me to resent my mom. I hated her. Sometimes, I still do hate her. I feel like I can’t introduce her to anyone. My partner and I have been together for 6 years and I have avoided all chances for our parents to meet one another.

    For a while I would spend Sunday’s planning out 5 different reasons why people couldn’t come over to my house. One reason for each day of the week, just in case. After some time, it became easier to avoid making friends and to organically end the few friendships I did have. Throughout junior high and high school I became an expert at building relationships with people that never had to extend outside of school activities. The one friend I did have that knew about the hoard also lived in a similar although less extreme situation.

    I can’t even count the number of times her children were blamed for the mess. “It was clean until I had kids” or “Because I decided to pay more attention to my kids, the house got a little bit messy” or even “The reason other people have clean houses is because they have bigger houses.” When I bought my first house, she commented again on how if only her house was as big as mine it would be clean too.

    I am constantly plagued by the thought of what will happen when she and my dad get too old or pass away. She bought some land and started a hoard there too and I know I will be responsible for getting rid of it and I just can’t have that kind of responsibility. If they die and I have to clean it out, I will never be able to remember her with anything other than hate and resentment.

    I recently found the book Stuff by Randy Frost on Audible and it struck such a chord with me that my younger brother and I have determined to find resources to give to my mom to help her find a way out of her problem. If anyone knows of therapists or resources in Northern Idaho I could reach out to I would really appreciate the info.

  • Dan

    I’m Dan.

    My father is a hoarder and he lives alone. I only lived with him until the age of 3 when my parents split. Since then, I’ve always lived with my mother who is extremely clean.

    I’ve never experienced the desperation that many of you have endured living with a hoarder, but my heart goes out to you. I wish I could give all of you a big hug.

    My father called me 5 days ago so I would take him to the hospital. He had an infection after a surgery. The infection turned septic (in his blood) and his kidneys failed. He is currently on dialysis and still in the hospital. I know he was, at most, 2 days away from dying. I know his living situation was the cause of his infection. He has been battling infections for over a year. He lives in squalor. He’s now 70 years old.

    His hoarding wasn’t that bad in the past. But, after a couple of deaths in the family, his hoarding escalated. It’s shocking and appalling.

    All I want to do is scream at him. It takes so much effort to hold it back and I just end up crying.

    After this incident with his kidneys failing, I can’t stand aside any longer. I won’t stand by and watch him kill himself under a pile of trash. He may hate me in the end, but he will at least be alive to hate me.

    My mother is coming out and we are cleaning his house – starting tomorrow. He doesn’t know. We don’t want to stress him out while he’s in the hospital. I took his keys from the hospital room and made a copy. I’ve organized everything. Sadly, I hope he’s in the hospital long enough for us to at least make a dent in his house.

    If he gets out sooner and stops us or hoards again after we clean his house, I’m going through the process to declare him incompetent. I can’t stand aside and watch him destroy himself. If he was addicted to drugs, I would stop him. I don’t see hoarding as any different.

    When I talked to the social worker at the hospital, she said there isn’t much I can do in the state of California to stop him if he is capable of leaving the hospital and going back home. She said the state will only step in if the the person can’t reach the stove or there isn’t a path through the house. She did give me information on Adult Protective Services – for 65 and older. She suggested that I apply for conservatorship of my father based on the fact that he is abusing himself. She said it is a lengthy process and doesn’t happen overnight.

    One thing my father fears more than losing his stuff is losing his freedom. That will be my last resort.

    You may not agree with my method or think I’m making a good decision, but my father almost died. He still may die. If I stand by, I will always feel guilty that I didn’t try my best to help.

    Also, I’m going to have a psychologist talk to my father while he’s in the hospital since he can’t avoid it or make excuses anymore.

    This is going to be a rough couple of weeks, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

    • Lisa Thomas

      Hi Dan,

      I really hope that things are settled for you and your father now. Your post really touched me as I’m going through a very similar experience now with my own 88 year old father. He’s been living in filthy conditions for so many years, battling constant health issues and violently resisting any help. Four months ago he had a massive heart attack and spent 7 weeks in hospital. I spent hours on the phone and at the hospital trying to convince healthcare professionals and Adult Social Care (I’m in the UK) that he was quite simply unable to look after himself. All they will ever say is that if a person has the mental capacity to make decisions, then living dangerously as a hoarder is a ‘lifestyle choice’, and they won’t intervene. I went through weeks of hell worrying about my dad going home again. His health did deteriorate in hospital, and he’s now in permanent nursing care. I feel so guilty for being glad he’s too ill to go back, and I’m now in the process of clearing out the house to sell. He hates the care home and resents me for ‘sticking him in there’ but I’d rather he hated me and was safe to be honest. It’s so hard to feel justified making the decisions we have to, isn’t it? Hope everything is better for you now. Lisa

  • Rachel Cataline

    I live in California, and my Mother and her husband have been hoarding for going on 17 years. I’ve made several attempts at cleaning out her house when she used to let me. I’ve given ultimatums for her to get help with mental help professionals. Unfortunately after a few visits she demonizes the Dr. creating accusations of all sorts thus finding an excuse to quit. I’ve tried giving them information for alternative living since they both have serious health conditions, all of my attempts have been made in vein it seems. It is around 3 years ago I finally decided to throw in the towel in hopes that if the situation escalated that she would finally decide to allow help. Now the situation has come to a critical devastating point where they have decided to cut off contact, unable to leave the house without digging their way through there hoard, and all entrances and exits being blocked, unable to shower or eat in the house I am desparate and at a loss. I recently decided to pay a visit to their Dr. hoping to get some direction. With his advise I called adult protective services only to find out there isn’t much that they can do except attempt to make contact. Is there anyone out there who has any advise for me? Any avenues I haven’t tried or suggestions?
    Any help would be welcome.

  • DC

    I have recently, through a family member, become aware of how horrendous this situation is , especially when young children are involved. good lord, and i have had 2 recent experiences with chronic hoarders, which ended very badly, i think in the end, they all end badly. u don’t hear of someone “seeing the light” throwing away all the stuff, re-decorating the house, and done!!!!. never gonna happen. might as well wrap “crime-scene yellow tape around the whole perimeter, and be done with it!!!!

  • So embarrased

    My story’s a long one. I do appreciate anyone taking the time to read it. My mother has been a hoarder my whole life(in my mid 30’s). Our house growing up was in such squalor, you walked upon 3 feet of trash to get through the house. She not only brought home useless things, she also wouldn’t throw regular trash away. I roomed with roaches, fleas, and mice. I was always forced to make up lame excuses to my friends as to why they never could come inside my house. If we ever said anything about it to our mother, we got “you kids are the ones who trashed the house to begin with. So start cleaning it if you don’t like it.” Every November/December, we (along with dad) would clean the living room so we could put up the Christmas tree(an all-day event). Once the holidays were over, more stuff would take over the living room again. Couldn’t use our sinks or stove. My sister and I were forced to wash dishes in the bathtub. Now, my mother has a boat-load of health problems. She can’t live on her own any longer. Her current home looks just like the one I grew up in. I live in a tiny 2 bedroom home that isn’t even 800 sq feet. That’s not enough room for 3 grown people. I work full time as well. Plus, I’d end up divorced because my husband wouldn’t stand for her trashing our house. My brother lives out of state and my sister made it clear she’s not living with her either. Any advice/ insight would be appreciated.

  • JenCragen

    I’m just exhausted by the sense of overwhelming evidence of the senseless need to keep things. I’m not at the same level as my parents, but I’m on the spectrum. Reading the comments here has opened my eyes to see my effect on the other people in my life.

  • Opening Space

    I grew up in a household with a Mother that hoards. The main rooms were relatively usable so that people could come over, stand in the doorway and not see the intense hoarded things packed away in the closets, under the beds, behind furniture, in cupboards and in the basement. When I was younger it was a bit better but got increasingly worse as she got older. She states that her Mother threw everything away as a child and it upset her deeply. I can relate to posts about not wanting to have friends over as a child, anxiety about the doorbell ringing and so on. I coped by being involved with extra-curricular activities, and going over to other kids’ houses instead. I tried to spend the least amount of time at home as possible. As an adult, I am not a hoarder but I can understand why they do it to some degree. I can also feel the compulsion to save things like napkins to use later.

    I find it interesting that no research has gone into the class/poverty issues related to hoarding. My Mother grew up poor in a rural area in the 40s and 50s. They had food and land, but they were poor. Many hoarders grew up with very little, and at a time when society has changed dramatically into a disposable, materialist, and often isolating culture, it doesn’t surprise me that people will become connected to things. It is a reflection of a greater issue in our society. More studies should focus on how to reduce waste while building community and environmental awareness, rather than blaming individuals with hoarding problems! Their behavior is reflecting a greater societal problem.

    One of the ways that I have been able to deal with my Mother is by reminding myself that I am not her. I am not an extension of her problem. I am my own person and I have the ability to create healthy distance to see the bigger picture and as a separate person I can feel compassion for the anxiety and pain that she must have been living in over the last decades.

    Personally, I refuse to get sucked into her pain and anxiety and repeat abusive patterns. I am working towards vitality in my life, and that means that I learn to love her, and the rest of my family that struggles with this, unconditionally. I am not a hoarded object, and my love for her will not be infused with her past pain and anxiety. By loving and accepting her, I do not insist on throwing things away, which has led to braking those patterns, and by doing so I see that she trusts me more. In building this trust slowly, it has enabled me to throw a few things out with her permission. Small steps 😉 Now that she is getting older and ill, this trust will be more important in the months and years to come.

    I have nothing to feel ashamed of because I am not her hoarding. I can
    talk about it openly with others now as a real and serious problem that SHE
    has. I am not her. If I do not allow myself to acknowledge it with others then it is the same as me continuing to HOARD her secrets. I refuse to be a hoarder! I choose to set them free. I will not continue the pattern! Those secrets are not mine to keep. They are mine to clean out of my mind, my life, my body.

    Unlike her, I can be patient. I can be kind. I can take a deep breath and draw in compassion for her lifelong problem. And very importantly, I can take time to disconnect from it and care for myself and nurture my feelings, like she was never able to do for herself. I have finally found a way to love my Mother despite the painful history. I am not her. I am not her illness. I am not her anxiety. I am free, and I am keeping this!!!

  • JennC

    Parents are serious hoarders and never maintained home for over 30years. My husband (we have 2 kids under 5yrs) broke our lease and used all our savings cleaning out and repairing the house. The agreement was to live there for 2-3 yrs so we can save up a down payment on our first house (been renting apt for 12yrs). We’ve been living here 1.5 months but worked about 4months on the house. They are slowly bringing back in their hoard from a POD in the driveway. The stuff is covered in cat piss, poop, and roach egg pods. We keep fighting over the stuff (we threw away 80% of my family’s possessions). Well over a fight over a chair my dad said we have “2 months to get our asses out”. The problem is we spent all our savings; we are self employed in the wedding industry so we always use it to pay bills during dead months (dec-march). Hubby is taking side jobs+uber but it’s not enough (he’s a HS dropout). Christmas was always spent together as family but I don’t see that being possible. My dad acts like we don’t exist–even ignoring his 1yr old grandson when he greets him home. Any ideas on how to spend Christmas. I don’t feel like we can celebrate it I this house.