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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.


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.
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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:

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™ …

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Blogs by COH

Finally Talking About The Family Secret! Pin It To the right you will find a listing of blogs by sons and daughters of compulsive hoarders, and additional related items. Would you like your blog listed here? Please post it as a comment below, or write us. (While reading the comments, please be sure to scroll …

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Books by/about COH

For a complete list to include some not listed here, please visit this page in the COH Bookstore   Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding. By Jessie Sholl Watch trailer.   Dirty Little Secrets: Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been …

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Still Living In It?

Are You Living In It Right Now? Did you have an Elephant in the Livingroom? The information below was adapted from material developed to help children of alcoholics with the permission of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. This is what they tell kids who are growing up in an alcoholics home to help them. Maybe it …

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Stories/Info-sent in by COH

Stories-sent in to COH Site Would you like to read the experiences shared over the years with the Children of Hoarders Site? Please feel free to post your experience, if you choose, in the comment area below. “If You Want To Give Something Power, Keep It A Secret.”

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Suggested Reads About COH…

2/10/12: NBC San Diego Special News Report on Children of Hoarders 12/1/2011: Anderson Cooper Show featuring daughter of hoarder Elizabeth Nelson, organizer Justin Klosky & therapist, Dr. Rebecca Beaton. (Watch clip) The Hidden Lives of Children of Hoarders, Psychiatric Times-by Suzanne Chabaud, Ph.D. ABC 20/20′s Special about Children of Hoarders, hosted by Elizabeth Vargas. 5/12/11: …

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Articles/Student Papers re: COH

1/17/2012 Article: Children of Hoarders: Silently Screaming No More Quote: Hoarding has become quite the topic of conversations in the past few years. Hoarders have been featured on shows like Oprah and various documentaries (like the fascinating “Life of Grime”) and now there are several television series devoted to the topic. The most popular are …

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How Hoarding Affects Family

From the New England Hoarding Consortium Spring 2007 Newsletter: To help us learn more about how hoarding affects loved ones, 793 family members and friends of people who hoard provided us with information. Of these participants, the largest portion, 44% were children of people who hoard; 21% were spouses or partners, 12% were siblings, 4% …

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Is It Genetic?

Hoarding seems to run in my family…will I “get it?” An OCD Collaborative Genetics Study was done by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in March, 2007. Their findings suggest that a region on chromosome 14 is linked with compulsive hoarding behavior in families with OCD. Sanjaya Saxena, …

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In-Common: Our Parents, Ourselves & Common Questions

Our most common question: “The house is as bad as I have ever seen it. I can’t barely get in the front door and it’s dangerous! I would love to get her/him help, but they don’t think they have a problem! Does anyone have an suggestions as how to get help for someone who doesn’t …

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Research/Research Articles re: COH

11/2012:  Thank you to Hoarder’s Son for this information: I recently heard from Jennifer Park, M.A., that she is performing research into the “Impact of Hoarding on Parent-Adult Child Relationships and Family Functioning” as part of her doctoral dissertation in Psychology at the University of South Florida under the supervision of Professor Eric A. Storch. …

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Creative Expressions by COH

We are honored to display any and all creative expressions created by COH that you would like to share! 7/2009:The Things We Carry: Artists Confront Compulsive Hoarding Compulsive hoarding is usually a private matter. Individuals shut their doors and keep the public away from the mounds of stuff they’ve collected. But over the past few …

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Videos About COH

2012 2/12: NBC San Diego-Children of Hoarders: Special One group is trying to raise awareness about the lives of kids who have hoarders for parents. Rory Devine reports. 2/6/12: Anderson Cooper-“My Mom Is A Hoarder” 1/19/12: Bill Cunningham Show, “Families of Hoarders” Clip from ABC 20/20-COH-12 yrs later Escaping Hoarder Parents’ Legacy Part 3: Matthew …

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  • Sandy

    Would hoarding be a cause for social services to remove the children from a home?

    • ylime

      Yes. I’m 19 now and out of the house, but when I was younger my siblings and I were removed twice by Child Protective Services because the house was a “fire and health hazard”.

    • bex

      It can be, if the hoarding is at a level where the house poses a risk to the child eg. a fire risk, if the kitchen/bathroom cannot be accessed to an appropriate level, if the child does not ahve somewhere to sleep.  If you are concerned about a child contact your Local Authority Children’s Services and they can offer you advice.

  • Ahc688

    This website is incredible, I don’t know what to say, I am thankful that this organization has spent the time and effort to put this together. I would have not even thought about researching this sight if it wasn’t for my counselor. I am 22 and grew up with a parent hoarder and after reading this it makes me feel relieved that there are others who know what I went through. Thank you.

    • JD

      I totally agree – I just googled “children of a hoarder” on a whim, looking for answers, and found this. I’ve lived with this secret for 25 years, and my Mom recently passed away from a stress-related stroke (due to uncontrolled anxiety, most likely). I’m thankful to hear there are others who understand.

  • Laurie6930

    I didn’t grow up with hoarders, I married into them. I don’t know whats harder sometimes. In the 30 some years that I have been with my husband, my Mother has never been invited in to my Mother-in-laws home. Thats thru weddings, deaths, births, first communions, confirmations, holidays, etc. My husband doesn’t see anything strange about this either! This is a wonderful website. Thank You for being out there.

    • MIL ugh

      I too MARRIED into a MIL hoarder.  About 3 years ago my MIL fell and broke her hip.  It was at that time my husband FINALLY got her some help.  She was not allowed back into her apartment until she had made it “clean”….It cost us over $15K to clean up (and not all the way mind you) the apartment.  My MIL still does not feel she has a problem and is continuing to hoard.  I have stopped trying to help and have decided to just be there for my husband.  They both resented me butting in.  

  • Msaare

    The biggest pain is caused by the helplessness of the situation. My Father’s (he is 80) door doesn’t open inside any more than a few inches. I have no idea how to cope with this. He has about 1×1 m area on his bed and to go to the toilet you would have to climb over a pile of unidentifiable stuff. No need to go on describing, just – there is no remedy, only contempt by outsiders.

  • Fopojules

    I am in between homes now, and my husband and 1 year old daughter are staying with my mom, who is a hoarder.  There is a lot of mold in her house, and I don’t even think it is safe for us to be here.  It is hard to believe she lives in this on a daily basis.  We have 12 more nights until we can move into our new home.  Thank you for having this site, so those of us who feel helpless know we are not alone.

  • Richardsteehler

    I’m not sure if this was how I was brought up, but think it is a def. poss.. My parents were divorced at a very early time in my life. 1-2 yrs. old. He always said mom kept a very nice house and all I ever new was a perpetual mess in EVERY room of the house I always figured she was nuts when I was young, but have come to see it as OCD and severe depression. I am 60 and have often had a maid but also called antiques but can still walk around my house, easily 90% of the time. LOL, I think. I know I may be infected with the gene.

  • Anonymous

     I never realized this could be a product of divorce. I guess it is a sort of mental breakdown for the hoarder in that they may not want to lose something again and therefore keep everything resulting in this overabundance of garbage.

    • Happysailors

      My mother was a hoarder and I believe that it started after my father walked out. In her later years she all but stopped taking a shower. She was so nasty that when I did come to see her I stayed outside and would not touch her. This broke my heart… What’s strange is that my father re-married and  again walked out. His second wife also became a hoarder. Is it possible that my father was the switch that turned on the gene?

    • Guest

      I really think it’s not but that it is set off by that or by a situation like it. I lived with my mother most of my life who house never had a spec of dirt or a fingerprint on a window wall door or glass everthing was perfectly organized. AND now I know why my father is the exact opposite I stayed there alot as a child and it was somewhat clean just overrun with junk usless junk that he insisted he would need one day. Now its dirty too I can’t take my child there which is terrible and he wont come out of the mess to see her It breaks my heart everyday that this man I love can be like this I find myself saving useless things sometimes and then end up throwing everything in the house away just out of fear. It shouldn’t have to be this way no matter how clean my house is it still feels dirty. sometimes if I havent washed all the floors walls and scrubbed all bathrooms to complete perfection I dont want my childrens friends over just because i remember the terrible shame I felt having to explain it to mine as a child in my late youth no one even knew him because I was terrified Im still terrified to have to explain it to my children so they just dont see him anymore he was such a wonderful man and now he has reduced himself to such an unsafe enviroment Im affraid how it will end

      • Phoenixfeather08

        I too feel uncomfortable with the thought of having my kids friends over if everything is not “magazine” perfect. Once there friends are over, I realize if its not “perfect”, the kids are ok with it. Then I relax. I find I must work at the uncomfortable feeling I have. The more I entertain, the easier it gets;however, I very easily fall right back into these feelings. My house is comfortable and tidy so there is no reason I should still feel this way.

  • third gen

    this is an interesting website.  my grandmother was a hoarder with piles to the ceiling, my mom has “keeping” tendencies but is more organized and focused than her mom.  I also struggle with keeping things but get a thrill from emptying boxes or bottles if only to throw them away, it’s an exhilarating feeling to throw things away only to regret later that maybe I went a little to far.  I also have a hard time making decisions.  I am the one who cleaned/organized my grandmother’s house while she was alive just so it would be safe for her to live in her home, and now am organizing and making decisions about her things as she passed away earlier this year.  I feel like it is a part of me that I can’t escape, and that I’d be a different person if I had never known hoarding as part of my life.  I find comfort in reading on children of hoarders, I see myself and laugh out loud in relief, finding for the first time that I’m not the only one thinking this way about these things.  There are other people living with a similar perspective of the things that surround us.

  • third gen

    this is an interesting website.  my grandmother was a hoarder with piles to the ceiling, my mom has “keeping” tendencies but is more organized and focused than her mom.  I also struggle with keeping things but get a thrill from emptying boxes or bottles if only to throw them away, it’s an exhilarating feeling to throw things away only to regret later that maybe I went a little to far.  I also have a hard time making decisions.  I am the one who cleaned/organized my grandmother’s house while she was alive just so it would be safe for her to live in her home, and now am organizing and making decisions about her things as she passed away earlier this year.  I feel like it is a part of me that I can’t escape, and that I’d be a different person if I had never known hoarding as part of my life.  I find comfort in reading on children of hoarders, I see myself and laugh out loud in relief, finding for the first time that I’m not the only one thinking this way about these things.  There are other people living with a similar perspective of the things that surround us.

    • Ajc1

      Me too!!! I’m organizationally challenged because I grew up that way. I’m not a hoarder per say, but I do have issues with things too. I’m so glad I’m not alone!!!

  • Rad Dpw Mt

    Several years ago my young son & I were watching an Oprah show about cleaning some woman’s house. As we watched, we started shouting to each other, ” that’s Gramma!” over & over again. “Gramma” is my mother…. The reactions she had to having her house cleaned and her things forcibly removed was just like my mom’s. Until I saw that show, I had no idea that there was even a name for the problem, I just KNEW that what I had grown up with wasn’t normal. My childhood home was never filthy, just unbelievably cluttered. After my siblings and I left home for college, the clutter took over and before we knew it there were only pathways through the building.
    It is an incredible relief just to have a name for the disorder, not just ” she’s lazy”, ” she’s a pig”, ” she doesn’t care about anyone but herself”. My mother has a disorder with a name, and even if it isn’t readily treatable or even understood, for me the relief that I wasn’t the only one who experienced this lifestyle has been immense.
    I do recognize that I have to fight the tendency to keep things. For instance, clothing that I haven’t been able to fit into for 20 years are boxed in my garage!
    Currently my brother has been here for the last three weeks to help my parents clean their house. Our mom has stonewalled him to the point of standstill. He did manage to fix the toilet temporarily, so now they can use it without having to fill it with a hose to flush, but she wouldn’t allow a new one to be installed because she wanted to wait till they remodeled the bathroom! ( this can’t happen unless workers could actually come in to the house and reach the bathroom) Unfortunately he wasn’t able to clean the kitchen so that a working fridge and stove could be brought in. He did get the back patio cleared and the new washing machine installed. As a result there is now a large enough path that emergency technicians could make it in to the house to rescue her should that be necessary. She has a failing heart , the signs of dementia and we seriously don’t know if she will wake up each day! My father just wrings his hands and tries to cope by staying away and working longer hours. He could have retired many years ago, but that would force him to spend his days in the claustrophobic, shoulder high clutter. My mother strenuously denies that she is a hoarder every time a commercial for the ” Hoarders” tv show is advertised. ” I’m not like that!” she states forcibly to anyone within earshot.
    I have been tempted to report my mother to authorities, but I can’t do that to my dad and it literally would be the straw that killed my mother with her fragile heart condition. So my siblings and I are resigned to cleaning for months after she dies.
    My brother, a brilliant man, also recognizes that he has a problem with discarding things. But because he IS aware of it and he and his wife continually work on keeping his tendencies to save things at bay, I don’t think he will ever have problems to the same degree. My sister has gone to the other extreme and discards everything. She only keeps family photos if they’re digital.
    I fall somewhere between the two extremes. I pray that I never lose it to the point of extreme hoarding. I know the emotional damage it causes everyone, not just the hoarder.

  • Miss G

    Hi, This site is a real blessing. I am so relieved to find others who understand, even though I didn’t until now, not fully. I still feel very overwhelmed. It’s almost too good to be true. I am 35 and both of my parents are Compulsive Hoarders, Compulsive Shoppers and Compulsive Liars, and i learned all that from them. I want something more for my life but until now, honestly I held little hope. I mean how do you overcome something you’re not even aware of and all the dysfunctions it causes when that’s been your life. Thank you so much for this and I am hopeful for the first time that I can remember. 


  • Anne Smith

    I always thought I was the only person with a mother like mine. I’ll admit she’s not as bad as the “extreme” cases I’ve seen… but just over a year ago she had a diabetic attack that promted me to call 911. I was so ashamed about the mess and clutter with the paramedics arrived and how they couldn’t bring the stretcher into the house I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. I have struggled for years to keep a cleaner house (and I still have trouble). My 1st 2 husbands didn’t understand and would berate me for not cleaning properly but they never understood that I was never taught how to clean. It was for my own son that I began to learn how to clean and keep a house. When I met my current husband, I was ashamed that my apartment was a mess. Instead of making me feel bad, he helped me clean, taught me about getting rid of things, and helped me turn things around. Now we have a nice house & I’m not usually too embarrassed to have friends over (but it’s not as clean I would like it… but it’s nothing like my mom’s house.) My husband & I work together and keep the house clean, and neither gets upset with the other when things go wrong. We now regularly donate unused items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army including clothes and appliances. Sometimes I have a struggle with it, but once it’s done I do feel better. I’m just happy to know that I’m on the right track to not become my mom and that I’m not the only person who grew up the way that I am.
    I found out a few years ago that my grandfather was also a horder. The reason I never knew is because my grandmother would go though periodically and clean out the crap, junk, and trash. She did this until she accidentally threw away something that he really needed to keep (something to do with a bank account) and he banned her from “his room” (he had his own “den” space that he would stay in most day.) After his death, my family & I came together & helped clean out the room. We found advertisiments for business grand openings that had been closed and was now something else, bank statements on accounts that had been closed for years, gifts never taken out of their packages, and much, much more. Now knowing that I am fighting a battle from both sides of my family (my grandfather was my dad’s father) & that I can overcome… that I must be careful… and that… I’m truly not alone.

  • Mrs. S

    I always thought I was the only person with a mother like mine. I’ll admit she’s not as bad as the “extreme” cases I’ve seen… but just over a year ago she had a diabetic attack that promted me to call 911. I was so ashamed about the mess and clutter with the paramedics arrived and how they couldn’t bring the stretcher into the house I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry. I have struggled for years to keep a cleaner house (and I still have trouble). My 1st 2 husbands didn’t understand and would berate me for not cleaning properly but they never understood that I was never taught how to clean. It was for my own son that I began to learn how to clean and keep a house. When I met my current husband, I was ashamed that my apartment was a mess. Instead of making me feel bad, he helped me clean, taught me about getting rid of things, and helped me turn things around. Now we have a nice house & I’m not usually too embarrassed to have friends over (but it’s not as clean I would like it… but it’s nothing like my mom’s house.) My husband & I work together and keep the house clean, and neither gets upset with the other when things go wrong. We now regularly donate unused items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army including clothes and appliances. Sometimes I have a struggle with it, but once it’s done I do feel better. I’m just happy to know that I’m on the right track to not become my mom and that I’m not the only person who grew up the way that I am.
    I found out a few years ago that my grandfather was also a horder. The reason I never knew is because my grandmother would go though periodically and clean out the crap, junk, and trash. She did this until she accidentally threw away something that he really needed to keep (something to do with a bank account) and he banned her from “his room” (he had his own “den” space that he would stay in most day.) After his death, my family & I came together & helped clean out the room. We found advertisiments for business grand openings that had been closed and was now something else, bank statements on accounts that had been closed for years, gifts never taken out of their packages, and much, much more. Now knowing that I am fighting a battle from both sides of my family (my grandfather was my dad’s father) & that I can overcome… that I must be careful… and that… I’m truly not alone.

    • prekteacher

      I totally understand where you are coming from. I am fighting to not become a hoarder myself. I especially love to shop for clothes and purses. I too was never taught how to clean. I want a perfectly clean house. I think because of how I grew up so I put unrealistic expectations on myself. My house is never clean enough for me, but honestly, it is a fight for me to keep it even partially clean. I have struggled with depression for years and am currently going through a difficult depressive episode. It seems to be centered on my childhood and not feeling valued or loved. I have tried so hard to make things better for my kids. I feel like I have done a fairly decent job considering the very dysfunctional home I came from. I want advice on how to get past the pain from childhood.

    • prekteacher

      I totally understand where you are coming from. I am fighting to not become a hoarder myself. I especially love to shop for clothes and purses. I too was never taught how to clean. I want a perfectly clean house. I think because of how I grew up so I put unrealistic expectations on myself. My house is never clean enough for me, but honestly, it is a fight for me to keep it even partially clean. I have struggled with depression for years and am currently going through a difficult depressive episode. It seems to be centered on my childhood and not feeling valued or loved. I have tried so hard to make things better for my kids. I feel like I have done a fairly decent job considering the very dysfunctional home I came from. I want advice on how to get past the pain from childhood.

  • northern girl

    need some help to clarify.  without meaning to sound rude or ignorant, is there a difference between hoarding and just refusing to clean up the filth?  i grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with an alcholic father and and indifferent mother.  so many of the situations described here (doorbell dread) bring back bad memories.  my life and that of my brothers have been ruined because of my parents and the way we lived.  now i’m grown, married, have adult children and i’m addicted to cleaning and throwing things away.  it is never enough.  does anyone else struggle with childhood memories controlling their lives or is there a way to get over it??

    • COH relationship w COH

      I am a child of a hoarder that is also a paranoid sychophrenic(spelling sorry). I can not speak to her. She became worse after my step father died of alcholism. I now have a family and home of my own. I throw everything away. And I mean Everything! My childhood haunts me everyday of my life. I get depressed and stressed out. Especially when I think I might be loosing control. There are things that I want to hold on to but am so afraid to do. Praying we both get better with it. ( My boyfriends parents are also hoarders, and he has an issue with things not being clean enough)

    • Hello I’m ACA

      Attending Adult Childrens Anonymouse meetings has helped tremendously with these issues.

  • Beenthere

    Hoarding cost my family several hundred thousand dollars.  When my hoarder pop finally died, the family was left with two homes in gross disrepair.  Dumpsters to hold the trash cost $600 apiece, not to mention the dime cleaning and the fear that money or valuables were being tossed because pop would hide jewelry in water glasses and money in books.

  • Mariophyllis

    HOw do you approach someone about their hoarding?She has 2 young girls and they are starting to do the same thing.We have offer to help clean up but she does not want anyone in her apartment.We are afraid this will get worst.The problem is mostly clothes and products that are piling up.

  • Annette

    So thankful for this site.  My mother is an animal hoarder (cats) and my sister and I grew up in unspeakable conditions.  We thought we were the only ones who lived that way…my profound relief to find out we weren’t alone can’t even be described.  I know what it means to be afraid that someone would come in the house, what it means to have people smelling animal waste every time you come by, what it means to take a distant second place to the animals.  I am in my 40s and I still deal with anger issues over this every single day.

  • Fruity

    Sadly the effects on the relationships in the family can be devastating . If you’ve grown up this way you can struggle with what’s “normal’ because of being immersed in this lifestyle . Then you have anger,guilt,shame,with yourself and with the family member who does not see the problem.So you end up missing out on a crucial part of what makes you you and on the chance to have a true connection with this person.In this case it ‘s my mom .So i’ve spent way to many years trying to figure her out,help her,change her.I finally could not take the pain any longer.I’ve had no contact in almost a year. It’s helped me heal and clear my thinking , a sad but sometimes necessary piece to this puzzle that is hoarding.

  • ms

    Why are the mom’s always the hoarder?  My mom was also a hoarder – we also thought we were the only ones who lived in a house full of junk.  I also was accused of throwing important things away – I was the only sibling who really tried hard to make our house livable, ect.  Some of my siblings would not support me growing up.  I am 53 years old and have suffered in various ways over the years.  We all turned out pretty good – but I have had my share of problems and still do.  I used to dream of a clean room/table to play cards, ect.  I could go on and on – I want to try to help other young people who are going thru this – I need to do something meaningful with my life – to help people – but am not educated enough to be a  counselor, ect.    So I need to think on this – and take action with my life.  My mom also read the newspaper all the time – now I know why.   Will post more later. 

  • Hoarder’s Children Speak Out on Living in Squalor

  • N/A

    Why is the forum currently offline?  Anyway I have rediscovered this concept of being a child of hoarders a few times and as articulate as I usually am, I am taken a back of how perfectly this describes my childhood.  Not having friends over, being blamed for the mess, comparing myself to stuff.

    It’s been six years since I left home where both parents and extended family were all hoarders.  The decision to leave my so called family wasn’t easy and although I know I am clearly better off apart from the situation, occasions that oblige having a family like Christmas are still difficult.  Even with somewhere to go I feel anxious and unsafe around other families like a foster child.  I feel fortunate that I have loving friends, even when they don’t understand, but I hate feeling like I am burdening them with my baggage.  Although I have grown immensely these past several years, I guess I realized again tonight for whatever reason how much my life is still affected and will be affected for the rest of my life.

    Also for anyone reading this.  “Animal Hoarding” manifested itself in a different way in my house with the number of children. I am the oldest and my parents were in their forties and eventually turned to in vitro fertilization for a total of six, the youngest in their mid fifties.  What doctor approved of this to a barren woman is beyond me.  There were never enough beds or bedrooms, seats in the car, certainly attention, which I viewed us as merely multiples of things, no different than their hoarding of junk.  So yea its not just animals.  It can be people.

  • BeenThere

    The mom is not always the hoarder.  My pop was, and the emotional abuse he inflicted on my mom while he destroyed her childhood home was incredible.

  • Friend Trouble

    A person i knew had an issue with hoarding. We were friends, but not anymore. I tried to reason with her, that what she was doing wasn’t healthy, and other people had this condition, and there was a way she could find help. But she banned me from her house, telling me I didn’t understand, she didn’t have a problem, and I shouldn’t tell her her “treasures” were nothing but trash. I am much older now, and I still wonder if what I did was right and should have left her, or if I should have tried a more aggresive way of getting her help.

  • Anonymous

    I am 18 years old and currently living with my mother, a hoarder. She isn’t extreme, but it is bad enough to embarrass me. I get panicky when someone comes to my home, even a family member. I can’t have friends over because I am so embarrassed. When I do happen to get something cleaned I devote all my time to keeping it perfect and it becomes a daunting, exhausting task. Growing up I would watch movies and TV shows, and I would wonder why my home couldn’t look like the family’s that I was witnessing. Whenever my siblings and I try to help my mother clean up her clutter she becomes irate, and she tries to guilt trip us all. This past Christmas was the worst holiday I have ever experienced. Fights broke out everyday because my mom’s clutter is a constant negative reminder of the unhappiness that looms within our home. I understand that she has to have some type of underlying disorder, but it is frustrating that she can’t see how her problems are affecting everyone in my family. I don’t allow anyone to get close to me because I am afraid to have anyone over to my home. I don’t allow myself to have boyfriends, nor too many close friends because I don’t want them to come to my home and judge me, or my family. I love my mother and I want her to get help, but I don’t know if it it will ever happen. I’m just counting down the days until I leave for college and I don’t have to deal with her mess anymore. I’m just afraid that I have developed some issues of my own now.

    • alena

      This is exactly what I went thru 2 years ago. I only had one good friend and she came inside my home twice and my 2 long term bfs were welcome more often but from 4th grade to college, NO 1 went in our home and it really does affect social skills and I feel like I have trouble communicating and become awkward in some social settings. It sucks to know our HP put us through an abnormal childhood and it may have traumatized many of us

  • Claire

    I have felt and struggled with many of the things others have posted, but I also understood from a very young age why my mother was/is a hoarder. She was both a material and animal hoarder. After my paternal grandmother (who had lived with us for almost 10 years) passed away, my mother began hoarding materials. Before, she hoarded animals– we moved halfway across the country with seven cats and a dog. Then, when my grandmother died, she began hoarding things. I don’t blame her or feel anger toward her, but instead feel anger toward my maternal grandparents, who emotionally abused her throughout her childhood and well into her adult years. She always tried to be “the best mom” because her mom was so terrible to her. My grandfather has, in the last 20 years, made amends, but he also stood by while my grandmother practically tortured my mom. I feel so many terrible things as a result of growing up in squalid, disgusting conditions, but I do not blame my mother. I suppose that’s the difference with me. I feel so bad for my mom because I completely understand why she became a hoarder. Constant neglect as a child will result in trying to provide anything your child wants later in life, as well as fulfilling all your childhood dreams when you finally get the freedom to do so. I’m glad my mother realized her problems before an intervention was needed. She’s always felt ashamed and disgusted with her behaviors. Now all I feel is guilt about no longer physically being there to help her finally process the mess. All I want is for my mom to be happy and healthy and I wish so dearly that I could be next to her as she tosses everything into the garbage. She recognizes now that it’s time and all I want is to help. Too bad it’s five years too late.

    I also feel guilt over the fact that she asked for help so many times over the years and I just put it off. I always said I would help but I never did. That was wrong of me.

    I’m grateful for this site because I identify with many of the comments, but I’m wondering if there are people out there like me, as well. Do all of you blame the parent or do you blame the cause of your parent’s behavior?

    • Bridget

      My mother passed away 20 years ago. I am a senior citizen now myself. My Mother was a hoarder and it had a profound effect on my childhood. However, she was a loving kind woman and did the best she could in every other area of motherhood and life. She was a wonderful person with a disorder that is thankfully now being discussed and researched to help both the hoarder and the families that struggle with this problem.

  • Skye

    Yep, my father’s been a hoarder for as long as I remember. He owns five cats and a dog. Luckily I don’t see him anymore. I live with my mother.

  • Ciaraanna26

    It’s so great to see there are other people who grew up with a hoarder!! Can really relate to this page and I appreciate whoever set it up. My mom is currently a hoarder.. Growing up, I knew I wasn’t normal.  I don’t have many good memories, for the majority of my childhood was spent on was confusion. My friends wouldn’t be allowed to come over, therefore I lacked socialisation. I constantly got nappy rashes due to my mom letting me wear dirty ones for a long period of time.To make matters worse, my mom is deaf and ignorant. Whenever I try to explain her that her hoarding can be fixed, she won’t have it. She locks her room all the time, hiding the clutter away. We also have another house, which is full of clutter and insects. I once caught a mouse in my oven when I was a kid. My mom also lets our dogs lick the plates clean so she wouldn’t be wasting food… Due to this, I lived on tea. I rarely ate and my friends constantly accused me of being anorexic. If only they knew. Whenever I try to clean up, she nags. She also goes through the rubbish secretly at night. She lecturers my big brother to give up smoking, yet whenver she finds cigarettes on the street, she’ll pick it up and encourage him. I didn’t do so well at school due to the enviornment I was living in. My head was just full of frustration and nobody understood. I’ve never felt properly loved. Even when I was going through puberty, I slit my wrists a few times.. All my mom cared about was whether people knew why I was doing it. I had a disgusting childhood. I’m terrifed of having children in case I become like her. No child deserves to go through what me and my siblings went through. Hoarders should be banned from having children.

    • Tc_jj

      You don’t have to be just like your parents – their illnesses don’t have
      to become your illnesses. You might find that talking to a counsellor
      or therapist could help you to heal some of the wounds of your childhood
      and learn better ways to deal with the frustration you feel in your life. Let them help you find the path towards a mentally and physically healthy life. Don’t let your parent continue to have so much power over your life. You deserve to live it the way you have always dreamed.

  • Rachel

    I am a 43 child of hoarders and spent the last 4 months using every second I could to help my my now single dad clean up his apartment before he gets evicted and becomes homeless. The feeling that if you (an only child of course) don’t do these actions (calling in movers, spending time in this infested disgusting unhealthy apartment) your dad will be on the street with a  shopping cart is simply horrible. My childhood was awful, dirty, humiliating and unkind, and the feeling that you couldn’t bring anyone over, that you had to lie about your situation to all of your friends was torture. Being an adult and seeing that you have options is of course an improvement, but spending these 4 months back in the midst of this appalling condition has reopened some of these wounds. I keep thinking to myself, what would a “normal” child do? Would they put themselves back into this location, stepping on ladders to replace decaying curtains so full of carbon from the traffic outside and 30+ years of neglect they are crumbling in your hand and turning your hands, fingernails and mucous black? I don’t know what a normal person would do, but I guess my made my choice, and now, if he passes inspection, I am going to put it out off my head as best I can, until the next crisis. I would appreciate your feedback if you happen to read my post.♥

    • Tc_jj

      Giving up 4 months of your life to help a parent deal with their hoarding is an incredible sacrifice. Not everyone can or will be able to do that, and you have a right to say that you will not be able to help again unless your Dad keeps the place clean. “Help” would be helping him to move, or dealing with a part of the hoard that didn’t get looked after this time, etc. Not a top-to-bottom cleaning of the whole place again, because as you’ll see on this site, cleaning out a house for a hoarder who does not want to change is pointless. You don’t have to commit your time and emotional energy to helping someone who does not wish to be helped, especially since you say this is a long-standing problem. You do have to look after yourself. I’ll bet you won’t get any thanks for your work if he passes inspection, but know that you did a good thing anyway.

      • Rachel

        Thanks for your response. I really appreciate hearing an objective opinion about my situation. My father appears to have passed his inspection and the landlord will have to make very serious repairs to his unit, hopefully he/I won’t have to pay much of the bill.

  • Feeling Like Little Edie

    I moved back in with my mother to save money and to try and help her clean up after my father’s death (also a hoarder).  Unlike Rachel, 4 months turned into 4 years and I am now at my wit’s end.  The hardest part is knowing that underneath all the clutter and mess is a very beautiful and valuable home that is going into severe disrepair.  I don’t make a lot of money, and always thought that I could sell or live in the house when she is gone.  However I am watching this dream die and it is utterly painful.  I can’t afford to move into my own place, but this “Grey Gardens” lifestyle needs to end… : (

    • Rachel

      After reading many of the posts on this site, some people choose to live their lives separately from the hoarder parent and when they pass on, re enter the picture for major clean up and then sell the house for what they can. In a way, this affords you the possibility of getting on with your own life. My hope is that you will manage to eventually move into your own place, and distance yourself physically and emotionally from this unhealthy situation, you deserve it, you weren’t/aren’t the hoarder♥

      • Little Edie

        Thanks Rachel, your comment really helped me gain some perspective.  I’m more optimistic now, and it is true that I have to separate my life and happiness from hers.  As they say on the airplane, “Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then assist others.”  I hope one day I will have the money and time to help her again, but right now I’m going to move on and create my own dreams, fresh and removed from the family and the house!  : )

  • K Sarah55

    I grew up with my mom and she  was a hoarder. It was a nightmare. Does anybody else find a constant need to make sure that there living space is super clean and totally uncluttered?

    • Tc_jj

      Yes, to a degree I am very mindful of how much stuff I have and whether or not I need to keep it. I have a lot of possessions, but am becoming more and more aware of whether things are useful to me or if I am keeping them for some other reason (e.g. pure sentimentality, because it was a gift, maybe it might be needed one day, guilt). I am teaching my kids to learn to let go of things they no longer use or need, as I was never taught how to do that.

    • Sunshine

      Absolutely! I have come to find when my house is beginning to look even slightly cluttered, I become EXTREMELY anxious and feel I need to obsessively clean in an attempt to assure myself, I have not gone down the same road. Although I have never even told anyone about my family’s hoarding, I feel if anyone sees my house dirty they will automatically assume I’ve become a hoarder too and will write me off as an accomplished competent person. The worse part of it all is the shame. I carry around constant shame in fear that my boyfriend or close friends would find out and label both my family and I as a mental case. Its a CONSTANT emotional struggle. 

    • KC66

      YES YES YES!!. I absolutely MUST clean every day. Even when I’m sick I still clean, but worry that I’m not cleaning enough. I live in fear that if I ever let anything go for too long that that will be the beginning of my slippery slope down into hoarding. I dread Christmas because I know there will be so much more stuff coming into the house. It seems like every week between Thanksgiving and New Years I’m hauling car loads of stuff to the Salvation Army to make room for the new stuff. I have closets and drawers that are completely empty, but I’m afraid if I start filling them that I won’t be able to stop and will become my mother. Just this last week my (1) ponytail holder broke. I went to the store and they come in a pack of 20. I kept 2 and gave the rest to a friend. If I have 20 ponytail holders I may become a hoarder. I think I’m just as crazy as my mother, just in the opposite way.

  • Sara7880

    Thank you.  Thank you.  I am the child of a hoarder.  And I’ve finally come to terms with it.  My siblings still hide it, but I’m too tired of the game.  I’m too tired of the charade.  And I’m still angry.  I’m finally starting, with the gentle prodding of my husband, to consider counseling.  Our home growing up was always hoarded.  Dust, mold, stacks of newspapers, boxes of moldy romance novels.  Our utility room had clothes at least a foot thick on the floor.  Tripping over things and trying to navigate through the house was a daily chore.  Friends never came over.  I spent my junior high years as an outcast because I couldn’t have anyone over. I  couldn’t let anyone too close or they might find out I lived in a dump.  To my mother, the stuff was always more important.  It always came ahead of our needs.  It was a lifestyle of disgust.  I don’t even like to let her visit me now, as I feel like her punishment should be that she sits in that dirty, falling down house instead of in my nice clean one.  We each had a cup, plate, bowl, spoon, and fork that was ours.  We had to keep them clean ourselves.  The rest of the dishes were covered in a thick layer of black mold in the kitchen.  Occasionally my dad would demand that she clean up the mess and she would come to my room crying and saying it was all our fault.  We had to help her clean.  My brothers were immune to this manipulation but I was not and she knew it.  She knew she could make me feel guilty with a snap of her fingers and she used that.  She would tell me to start in the kitchen (by far the most dangerous and disgusting room in the house) and she would start in the living room.  About an hour into cleaning, after scrubbing nasty dish after nasty dish, some even requiring me to drag them to the carport to spray them with the water hose, I would peek in the living room and find her sitting in her normal “clearing” on the couch, watching TV or reading a trashy romance novel.  I was trapped.  When I went to college I walked out of the house and never looked back.  I harbor so much anger and hurt that she didn’t love us enough to clean up the damn house and get help.  She’s in denial about her problems, though, and until she admits that she has one things will not change.  They will die in that hoard. 

    I have hoarding tendencies.  I attach worth and value to things that have none.  It is a daily struggle to throw things away, but I do it because I love my children and want the best for them.  I want health and happiness for them and my husband.  I want the Norman Rockwell Christmases that I never had as a child.  I never had a childhood.  Just a dirty secret. 

    Thank you for this site.  It reminds me that I am not alone, and that the hurt I feel is legitimate. 

  • Guest1

    I’m grateful to find this site. I’m dating a hoarder.  We’ve only been together for a year and I’m just now realizing the extent of his attachment to his stuff.  He’s the kindest, most gentle, smartest person I’ve ever known except when it comes to his stuff.  We have separate houses & I know I could never live that way or make my daughter live that way.  My daughter has asthma and we can’t spend much time at his house because of the cat hair & dust.  I flip flop between wanting to break up with him and wanting to support him through his journey.  I cleaned out his daughter’s room and we painted it and at 16 years old she moved in with him for the 1st time in her life.  My hunch was right, her Mom’s house wasn’t a great place to be, she just never had her own space at her Dads.  He loves having her there & she seems very happy!  He fought me every step of the way to get that room cleaned.  It’s baffling how he could logically want his daughter there but resist the process of making room for her?  His logic doesn’t make sense when it comes to how to tackle the hoard.  I don’t know if he’s messing with me & doesn’t want to do it or if he really sees it sideways?  I have my own hoarding issues and I fight it every day.  I go to Alanon (not for this) and I’m so grateful to that program because it’s the only relief I get in my mind from this.  For me, loving a hoarder is similar to loving an alcoholic.  As the AA literature says, it’s cunning and baffling and powerful.

  • kittykittykitty

    It’s crazy to think that I’m not alone in this. My parents have always been extremely abusive. It’s pathetic. I’ve been removed twice and put into fosterhomes. It was “my fault” that I was removed and that they had to go to jail. For that, I grew up watching my brother get brand new everything he wanted while I was lucky to get a handme down or something from a local thrift shop. They’ve even ried screwing me out of my college career, but that is another story… Anyway, so when they die am I going to be responsible for the cleanup? 

    • Tc_jj

      I want to say first that I am not an estate expert or anything, but have had a small amount of experience about house cleanup when my MIL died. I think that the biggest factor would be whether or not your parents’ house was left to you and/or your brother in their will, and if it is not specified, what the laws are where you live regarding what happens to assets like this. Other things that would impact it would be mortgages/liens on the house or other debts that have to be paid by the estate. If your parents rent, I’m not sure how that would work. You could also just tell your brother he gets it all but if you are trying to get a share of the estate (assuming the will allows this) you might have to get involved in cleanup. The estate’s executor can bill the estate for cleanup costs if he or she has to hire someone to do the work, and that work can get expensive, and so it depletes the money that might get distributed.

  • Gpg9196

    My 73-year old mother has let her house literally fall apart.  The ceilings have all fallen in, floors are rotted through in some places, and at least one window has fallen out and is covered with plastic. The bathrooms and kitchen are barely usable (running water, but not sure if toilet flushes); seems to be no place to sit or sleep; only passages for walking through mounds of filth; many of the ceiling light fixtures don’t work, and the smell is horrific!  It is largely due to cats and a raccoon infestation. I can’t stand to even go in anymore, and I’m pretty sure it’s affecting her health.  She sometimes has a wheezy cough. She has to bathe, store and prepare food and do laundry and even store stuff at my house. She used to show up whenever it suited her, night or day, to cook or shower, with no regard for our privacy or planned activities, but that has subsided a bit after I put my foot down a few times. I feel bad, but I need/deserve privacy and control over my own home! I feel like she is taking advantage of me and I’m being punished by her lack of desire and ability, for whatever reason, to provide herself with a decent home, which she once had. Now she mostly comes while we are at work/school. She has to use her car for storage as well, and it’s usually stuffed to the gills with clothing, important papers, and other items necessary for living. I suspect she is sleeping in it.  The central heat at her house hasn’t worked in at least two years, but she can’t get it or anything else fixed due to the horrible condition of her house. You would never guess that she lives this way – she is a very active leader in her family, church and several community charitable organizations. She has a Masters degree in business admin from a 4 year college. She is very unreceptive to getting a little apartment. She clams up whenever I try to talk to her about it. My sister is no help at all; she won’t even bring up the subject to her, but it’s not her house that’s being used!

    • Anon

       Why are you allowing your mother to manipulate and use you?  Cut the cord.  Sorry if this sounds mean, but you’re letting her abuse you, and you’re an adult now, you have control over your own life.  Tell her NO!

  • Psych Nurse

    My story is very much the same with my mother. She denies the problem, states its not hurting anyone, and will not accept help of any kind. The house is in disrepair, has had an infestation of raccoon’s and I’m sure the air quality is poor. My sister and I haven’t been inside the door in years. She gets defensive and angry every time we express concern for her welfare. She has many health issues, and has fallen in the home. (She lives alone as my father passed 6 years ago). She cannot be declared financially or mentally incompetent, in order for us to step in and help. I have struggled with this for many years and have a great amount of guilt that my mother lives in these conditions. Worst part is I’m a mental health nurse and feel I have failed my mother as I cannot seem to help her. She has stopped talking to me in the past for long periods of time and at one point was going to write me out of the will. There is only my sister and I in the family and if we try to do something she will never forgive us and cut all ties….and if we do not help she is sure to die in these awful conditions. I have recently sought out help from a therapist for my own sanity, and to get an outsiders perspective. Wish me luck.

    • Loganview

      I too am a RN and feel the overwhelming guilt from my mothers hoarding.  To even express it makes me so uncomfortable, but the realism of it all needs to be seen.  For the first time I watched the hoarding program and I squirmed and was restless seeing the same issues I am going through.  I thank you for having put this out there and I’m wishing us and all like us the best of luck.

  • COH, in relationship w/COH

    Hello everyone, I am a child of a COH. I am now a mother of 2 girls. My mothers home is complete distruction. There are the usual paths to get to where you are going. She does dishes in the bathtub. She has to crawl over huge piles to get to her bed. My stepdad does nothing about it. When growing up we would try to help her clean, she would become angry and start throwing things at us. She was also very mentally, emotionally and physically abusive. She would constantly blame the mess on my sisters and I. That we would not help her. I would try but only to be screamed at and then later beat. I finally moved out at 17. I moved back in several times do to bad choices on my part. I called social services on my mother last year in hopes to get my sister placed in my home. This was because she had several health problems and rashes that I assumed was from the filth she was living in. I have tried over the years to help her. My sister below me does not see the problem and is a hoarder herself(no children). My younger sister finally moved in with me and is now struggling with hoarding. I however throw most of everything away. Except clothes! I have a hard time parting with clothing. I freak when a piece goes missing. I struggle with it everyday. Other than the usual fight with the abusive damage. I have stopped talking to my mother completly she was digging through our trash and freaked if I had a garage sale. If she ever game me anything she would constantly ask where the item was and if I could not produce it she would scream at me. So we stopped taking things from her and got a restraining order so she could not go through our trash. Recently I heard she was helping cleaning out foreclosers and storage units. I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t know how to help her. I have resentment towards her and feel I can never speak to her again. My situation only gets worse my boyfriends mom and stepdad are hoarders as well. He only hangs on to his LEGOS. But sometimes I freak being in their home. He also has OCD issues with things not being clean enough.

  • KC66

    I can’t believe how many of us there are. I am 45 years old and have just discovered that I wasn’t the only person in the world raised in filth and clutter. My mother’s hoarding began when my father divorced her in 1975. It became worse after I moved out as soon as I turned 18 and then worsened further when she retired. Adult Protective Services finally intervened in 2004 and I was awarded guardianship of her then. The first thing we did was clean out the house. My mother was so angry at my husband and I that she refused to speak to us. She passed away in 2008 without having uttered a word to us in over 4 years. I have battled so much resentment and guilt and sadness over this relationship. I am so worried that I will become a hoarder that I tend to go to the opposite extreme. Nothing fills me with as much pure joy as a full trash bag does! I only hope that my children find a happy medium between keeping everything and throwing everything out.

  • Wendybrownfoley

    Thanks to 20/20, I just found out about this site.  Oddly enough, I had what I thought was more trauma (from dealing with my very ill 84 yr old father) a few weeks ago-but in a way it was a breakthrough of sorts.  I had always blamed my mother for the disgusting mess me and my brother grew up in, but it is just as much his fault as hers. (she passed away a few years ago)  The fact that he put (me) through this, that NO ONE, and I mean NO ONE cared enough about ME to  take me in-my brother got to go live with our grandmother (who lived only a 1/4 mile away), our  dad’s mother (who was not a hoarder, by the way).  She hated me, and all of my cousins, aunts and uncles on both sides of the family hated me, but loved my brother.  My brother (who is10 yrs older than me) still resents ME because he had to take care of me as an infant/small child because my mother was too lazy to take care of me (and didn’t care about me, apparantly) It came to me that my dad didn’t really care either.  The house I grew up in hasn’t been cleaned in 50 years.  It’s so disgusting it makes me sick to my stomach to even think about it.  I’m so glad I’m not the only one.  Don’t laugh, but I since I had been in other houses in my state that were very dirty and cluttered (but not as bad as my parents) I thought it was a native vermonter thing.

  • Jack

    Children with lots of toys are not hoarders. No one wants to throw away their toys. You got to buy a new one to them to throw away their old one. If you have more than 100 dollars in you bank account, I can say you are hoarder of money. Same point… just don’t throw away children’s old toys. Go watch toys story 3. 

  • Brandi Woody

    Thank you for this web site. I wish I had this site when I was a teenager in a hoarder home. It helps to know that I wasn’t the only one who was forced to live this way.

  • Simon Birch

    I am very happy to find this website as I have just watched the 20/20 special and became aware of you then.  I of course know there are other people like myself who have a parent who is a hoarder but I didn’t realize we had a place to share…  About a year or two ago I sent a scathing letter to the show ‘Hoarders’ because I knew they were presenting a pretty false ‘look at your wonderful clean house now’ charade.  Over the years I have cleaned my mother’s house out three times, only to have it return to the ‘hoarders’ state but multiplied each time.  I found comfort in watching the 20/20 show in seeing other children who have decided to let go of their parents…  I am done… She can live in her world which I want NO part of!

  • Steve in Millcreek

    As a child, I believed the logic behind my grandmother’s large collection of washed cottage cheese containers, stacks of old newspapers, used twine and rubber bands; she lived through WWII, national restrictions on consumption and wartime policies toward extreme conservation and thrift.  Yet she continued to collect more of these items to excess for decades.  By 1995, my father and uncles tactfully moved her into a senior-center housing, donated many of her belongings to charity stores, and filled a large construction dumpster with stacks of clean newspaper and plastic food containers.  As an adult, I think of my grandmother as I periodically save a single-use plastic container for a specific use.  Collecting or hoarding: it is largely a matter of purpose and moderation.  

    • Ladyphnx

      Your description of your grandmother resonates with my understanding of my own grandma. Before my grandpa died, they used to love to go “garage-sale”-ing together. After he died, my mom & aunt found an entire storage room, sort of a small attic, full of multiples of appliances and things they had collected while bargain hunting. Her house is never dirty, but the table in the kitchen stays cluttered, and she saves lots of papers & things down in her basement & the spare bedroom.

      My dad was a hoarder of sorts, but as he was an electrical engineer, it was wires, speakers, “perfectly good” equipment that was being thrown out at work. My first computer in college was a cast-off he rescued, but it was so outdated, it was barely able to do what I needed. My house was never dirty or disgusting, but clutter was a constant, and we 4 kids imitated what we saw in our

      • Ladyphnx

        … habits & rooms: everything in piles, no organization.

        I am ashamed to say that when I moved out of my ex’s house 4 years ago & he told me he would throw away everything that had accumulated in our garage over 10 years & 3 moves that I didn’t take with me, my hoarder genes kicked into overdrive & I took enough stuff to fill a 10 x 5 storage unit. Maybe half of it was clothes that wouldn’t fit me or any of the kids, bags of clothes his daughter had over time put in there when she didn’t want them any more, clothes others had given us that didn’t fit at the time – but I couldn’t bear the thought that it would all get thrown away, because there was nothing wrong with them & someone could use them – classic, eh? 2 years later, after going through some stuff a time or two & getting rid of some of it, I decided I didn’t want to pay storage fees anymore & brought the stuff home, thinking that would make it easier to go through. Instead, my chronically disorganized self & kids

  • guest

    My mother is a hoarder and her mother was also. I am so afraid of this happening to me. My sister is well on her way to be a chronic hoarder. The biggest concern I have right now is that my mother will fall due to the hoard and break something or be unable to get help and just die in that clutter! I have tried to no avail to get her to let us help and she won’t hear of it. I feel that I have to just constatntly tell myself that she is happy with that lifestyle and know that I have tried. I have to stay focused so that I don’t allow myself to keep everything.

  • CM &A

    When the TV show, “hoarders” started, my sister and I watched stunned.  There were other people who grew up with what we did.  We joked about my dad being a “pack rat” but we felt alone and embarassed.  There were others who, surprisingly, knew how it felt to get yelled at for touching the junk or suggesting some of it could be thrown out.  We weren’t allowed in the basement, garage, den, or storage unit (that cost $30,000 since 1988 and contained only about $2000 worth of stuff).  We knew our dad would never get help or throw away one empty box, or sadly enjoy his hoarded belongings.  Everyone says the children of the Depression are like this, but the people on Hoarders are my age (50).  Back in the day, the warranty on TVs would not be honored if you didn’t have the box with the stirofoam packing.  Every box from every TV, coffeepot, toaster, stereo, etc was saved until no one could walk through the 2-car garage, basement or den.  My mom married a hoarder.  She likes everything labeled in a box, totally organized.  What a sacrifice she made being married to my dad for 51 years.  When he died, we started working on what we could never have before.  We hired a professional company to do a whole house cleanout.  They were amazing lifesavers.  But, it was so sad.  There were nice things we could have enjoyed for years.  The money spent on storage was a phenomenal waste!  My dad saved so many meaninful, beautiful things and no one could enjoy them, including him, because they were hidden under rubbish.  All I know is that when my dad died, he didn’t take one thing with him.  Not one.  It was all left behind.  Nice things mixed with horrible moldy stinky trash.  I wish for all of the hoarders out there that they could find pleasure in their stuff – enjoy it, look at it, smell it, share it, talk about it, and give it away to loved ones who will treasure it, but please please throw away the trash.  My dad was a lovely, caring, religious, sociable, intelligent, loyal person.  Now that the junk is gone, my family can seek to remember him that way.

    • Simonbirch101

      You know. I posted an email that I wrote to that show ‘Hoarders’ a while ago because the show made me angry with their ‘Look! It’s magic! you’re normal now’ approach, because the true witnesses to this activity know that it doesn’t go away…  In reading your comment above I started to feel different about the show which I only watched a few times because I’ve seen enough of it in my mother.  However, I realized in reading your comment (as I suscribe to this site) that the show is bringing us together in order to share and let go.  I have a lot of anger towards my mother and chastised her for years as I stood over the piles yelling and alienating others with my treatment of my mother, I just couldn’t get it into my head that I couldn’t get her to understand…  You made me remember that she has lost THREE storages over the years due to lack of payment because her shopping for more STUFF caused her financial difficulties…

      • Simon Birch

        P.S. You also reminded me of her famous excuse that she always gave, “I was born during the depression!” ~claiming the reason was because they never had anything ~ it’s just an excuse…

      • My husband always wonders why I watch “Hoarders,” he believes it is like watching a train wreck. But I have had a hard time understanding what could lead my mother to hold on to so many, many things (and keep buying things, too) and I have found some insight from watching the programs. I believe that there are some breakthroughs that happen during the filming, and probably more afterwards once the participants start to work with aftercare therapists. I also now believe that for most of them, though, it is a long, hard battle to overcome the urge to acquire and keep, not unlike someone struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction.

        I feel that the biggest benefit to the program is to those children of hoarders out there who think that they are alone. I’ve seen it mentioned in this forum, plus on blogs from many writers, that programs like “Hoarders” have shown them for the first time that there are others in their situation, too.

      • CM &A

        I’ve only seen 4 or 5 of the shows, but I always wondered how anyone convinced the hoarder to go on the show and get rid of the stuff because my dad would never have done it.  He wasn’t going to get help or admit he had a problem.  As I watched the show, I never bought into the magic part, and I don’t think the “help” they give the hoarders makes them feel better – it probably just causes the hoarder an immense amount of psychic pain.  That being said, I think the show helps many people (I had no idea how many) understand the disorder, find a way to describe it, and not feel embarrassed anymore.  It might help us COHs with that anger too.  One of the things I’m proud of and that I really liked in the 20/20 segment was the COHs not being embarrassed.  When the crew came to my mom’s house, I felt nothing but relief that they were there.  It wasn’t mine to be embarrassed about.  What I’m not proud of is that I never really tried to do anything about my dad’s hoarding.  Maybe I was being realistic that it wouldn’t have done any good, but I admire the courage and persistence of those who have made the effort.  

  • tightropewalker

    Thank-you for your site. My boys and I will enjoy your support group.  I am married to a hoarder that has increasingly became worse as he gets older.  In my research this apparently is common.  I struggle with knowing how to explain my husbands irrational thinking to my boys and juggling my hubands “rules” with daily life.  I have resigned to the fact that we will have to move.  My mother thinks I’m a saint for staying.  I used to think that ‘abused’ women just didn’t have the independence to leave a bad situation.  Now, I realize it is so much more complicated than that.  When I have to absolutely leave he will fall apart.  It’s hard to rationalize intentionally leaving someone to their own crazyness. I feel like I’m leaving a vulnerable adult to fend for himself.  I could “check” on him etc. but I do think the backlash of leaving will distroy any thread of trust.  So, as a result he won’t allow me to even be apart of his life, if that makes any sense. 

  • Buttonzonfire

    21 and just ‘woke up’ to see what my dad is, and what I’m becoming. Sad that watching hoarders, it didn’t click. But watching my extreme afflictions which mentions this site, is what did it. My home is falling apart.

  • Sashtirose

    My grandmother and mother live together now. My grandmothers house is filled with papers and plastic bags all over the floor.  She also had mice at one point.  My Mother is also a packrat as well and she obviously isn’t helping the situation much.  Can the fire department intervene being as though the house is a fire trap full of papers and plastic bags everywhere?

  • Jana881

    My mom was a hoarder, she just passed away Feb. 3 2012.  I have tried so hard through the years to help her, but to no avail. when she passed she left me with a physical and financial mess. I miss her, but at least she doesn’t have to live like that anymore. I cleaned up after her for years, only to receive her anger at trash and junk being thrown out.  We helped her move 5 times total, cleaning up 3 different apartments to keep her from getting evicted or when she would finally get evicted. her last apartment, we filled up 2 u-haul trucks FULL of trash. when she passed she was living in a house, which is in forclosure due to non-payment. she was not good at managing money due to spending it on buying all her stuff. the house is full of trash, purchased items(some still in boxes or wrappings unopened), food items, etc. I will always have issues as far as the doorbell dread, cleaning my house and so on. no matter how much i clean, my house is never clean enough for me, and i always have anxiety about having people over, even family. i had even gone to counseling with my mom, hoping ot would help somehow, but i gave up after several sessions, as she was determined not to even attempt to make small positive changes. she lived with my family and i for about 8 months before getting her house(after getting evicted from her last apartment), and it was the worst time of my life. My doctor told me if she stayed with me much longer i was going to have a stroke or heart attack. my blood pressure was high, i was having anxiety attacks up to the point of passing out in the floor several times. i was also giving her anxiety attacks by threatening to clean her bedroom. hoarding affects the entire family, not just the hoarder. it has also affected my kids as the result of seeing her live the way she did. i believe if she was not a hoarder, she might possibly still be alive, as she died form bacterial and fungal pneumonia and had skin and sinus infections. she had autoimmune disease that affected her lungs, and they could no longer take the daily assault of the bacteria and fungus from her environment. i have read books, articles and watched tv programs about hoarding, but i will never fully understand. all i can do now is do the best i can to clean up the mess and try to remember the positive times.

  • healing

    Until recently I never knew what to call what I went through as a child or that other people had to go through it. I know now that my mom is a hoarder.  Our family looked very “normal” on the outside. We all loved and cared about eachother.  Nobody entered our house and all of the windows were blocked. The items that were too numerable to count were the socks, newspapers/mail, and present bows. Once we had a tornado through our street and firemen had to come in and check our house. I never felt so sick with terror as when people had to come in or might have to come over. When us children tried to clean we heard “wait I have to go through that” or “I have to shread that paper” or “we can still use that” or “I want to give that away someday”.  When I got married 10 years ago and still to this day I have trouble noticing when things need cleaning.  I don’t even see the dust collecting or the toliet bowl ring until it is pointed out to me most times. I get overwhelmed when I have to organize or declutter a space.  I still have doorbell dread and feel very uncomfortable with people coming over even though my house is clean and nice.  I recently saw the 20/20 special on children of hoarders and I broke down and sobbed in front of my husband and children, they just don’t know what I have gone through. I believe that coming to know about what hoarding is, finding sites like this, prayer and talking with my mom I am starting to move forward with my healing and it feels so good. Thank you to everyone who has posted and shared.

  • Whogivesashit

    Why do our parents make us live in this hell???

  • Fred

    My mother is a hoarder. And I frequently entertained the idea of calling the CPS (Child protective) or the Fire department on her. Even knowing that that would have taken me away from my parents and my home. I was 9 years old when I started entertaining this idea. I have gone from anger, shock, grief, anger again, volitility/agression, to simply no longer wanting to engage with my mother.  I moved 2500 miles away. I do not like to enter her realm. I dont like to hear her excuses. And yes, Northern Girl, I am also compulsive about cleaning and throwing things away. I tell myself every trash day that it is okay to let things go. My COH friends tell me that they eventually found a happy medium between the hoarding life they were raised in, and a livable, non-extreme clean– one that is comfortable for them. I am still striving to find that for myself.

    • Simon

      I too Fred, have had enough, I live around five miles from my mother and haven’t seen her in over a year and really don’t have any intentions of seeing her at all…  The key thing you mentioned to me is ‘the excuses’ ~ they are what kill me most…  It’s like she tries to make it that I IMAGINE it’s a problem…  We’ve done interventions and all and nothing gets through…  It’s really like my mother just ‘isn’t home’ anymore and someone else is living in her body…  I wasn’t thinking earlier that I don’t believe I have called my mother ‘mom’ since I was a young child…  I don’t know the woman she is now and don’t see any memory of my mother and don’t want to know the person who she ‘is’ now!  I save the 20/20 episode that brought me to this website because there is a young man in the episode who has also, like I, said goodbye to his mother who is still alive and still functioning and seeminly intelligent… I saved it so I could always know that someone like myself was forced to make the same decision and ‘say goodbye’…  I don’t answer or return her phone calls.

  • I grew up in squalid home that was also cluttered but it wasn’t as extreme as some of the homes featured on ‘Hoarders.’ My mom probably has hoarder tendencies but mainly she’s just lazy by nature and indifferent to cleaning. She spends her time reading romance novels and watching television instead and makes no apologies for her indolence. Growing up, whenever my sister and I tried to clean anything she’d get angry at us and claim that we were trying to insult her and that if we weren’t happy with the state of the house we could move out. We were kids so that wasn’t an option. My dad wasn’t much help either. The inside of the house was mom’s domain and the outside was his which he kept immaculate. I never understood how a relatively organized and tidy man could tolerate being married to such a slothful woman.

    Anyway, I moved overseas 25 years ago and fortunately did not inherit my mother’s laziness and haven’t suffered too many side effects from my upbringing. My house is clean, tidy and have a one thing in one thing out policy in the home. I visit my parents regularly and sadly have seen the house go from bad to worse. They have dogs that have never been house trained so the place reeks of urine and you have to watch where you step. My once pristine bedroom is now full of craft supplies, cosmetics, fabric, appliances, clothes, books and old furniture, as is my sister’s. The basement is home to toys, stock piles of toilet paper, old Tupperware, firewood, appliances, exercise equipment and food items that were there when I was a kid. The smell of the refrigerator is enough to make you gag. The stove is covered with years of grease and cooking spills… I try to hide my disgust and not to judge them just to keep the peace but it isn’t easy.

    My sister has spent her life hating my parents and trying to get revenge but all that has done is destroy her. She is now estranged from the family and no one ever hears from her. The house will be mine one day which will mean a lot of cleaning and reopening of old wounds. Not something to look forward to at all.

  • Tragic Rabbit

    The obsession with perfection is part of the hoarding, stop aiming for perfect & just aim for clean if you want any chance of escaping this illness. Don’t feed the monster. 

  • Tragic Rabbit

    I thank God for this site. My grandma hoards cats, it all started when I moved in with my kitten to escape my abusive mom 7 years ago. Gram wouldn’t give me a ride to the vet so I could get my kitty spaded though I pleaded & begged. Came home from school one day & my grandma said the cat “got out”, she came back later with a belly full of kittens & so on & so forth. The cat actually ran away after 4 years to escape all her offspring. I still live here with her. I’m the only one who hasn’t given up on her, I spend all my money sending the cats to the pound, giving them away, or spaying/neutering … even though they make more kittens which she hides from me. I caught her hiding dead kittens & called Animal Control but they said 30 cats is nothing & they can’t do anything until the house needs to be condemned. There are dead animals, urine, feces, rotten food, broken furniture, garbage, junk, & never worn clothes EVERYWHERE, I don’t understand why they “can’t” help me. My grandma yells at me all the time now, she says I’m heartless & calls me “a worthless bitch” like my mother used too (which is why she does it). She is not the woman I remember. I mean the hoarding was always there but not the vicious uncontrollable anger. I battled depression & suicide all on my own since I was 9 years old, but you know what makes me the saddest? Hearing those innocent animals fight every night, seeing the bones poking through their matted coats, the look in their eye’s & the sound in their voice when they cry – it absolutely breaks my heart because they neither deserve it nor will most of them ever know anything but it. If I pray hard enough God will help us eventually.

  • missy

    I am 27 and until I moved out at 18 I never had a memory of living in a clean house. I always thought it was just my family. All I knew was I never wanted to go home. Because of my home life I started using hard drugs at the age of 13 just to stay out of my own head. I got sober 2 years ago and am now starting to deal with the pain and anger I fill for my childhood. Its so hard because I hold so much against my parents but I am still very close to them. I have never told anyone about how it really was growing up. My husband still has no idea. My brother is the only one who truely knows. Now I think about whats going to happen when my parents die. Will they have to be picked out of a pile of trash? I think about moving out of town so I won’t have to deal with the shame it would bring me due to living in a very small town. I just don’t know what to do. It would just be easier if I just hated my family and never have to see them again.

  • Shilgers

    My mother and brother lived together and were both hoarders,  My mentally retarded brother passed away in Dec 2011.  Mom had alzheimers, broke her ankle, then had to be placed in a nursing home this year. Medicaid approval is pending.  I have been told I have to put the house on the market now.  It is full of clutter and fleas.  I am over the edge and just don’t know where to begin with this problem.  I don’t have the money to hire anyone and don’t have enough time of my own to handle it all myself. The state of Kansas really doesn’t care about my problem.  I am ready to jump off a bridge! 

    • Is it possible to tell the state that you are unable to deal with the house?

  • Irish Lass

    I cried as I read this … some of the sentences could have been written word for word about my mother. Unlike some of the other commentors have written, my mum is an unhealthy perfectionist. Years of doing my fair share of housework and being told every day of what a mess the house was, how we couldn’t have people over due to the mess. I do have friends visit sometimes, our house isn’t in disrepair. She does not tolerate mess or clutter in the main areas of the house. We have a conservatory that doesn’t get used, only contains her carefully covered furniture and sofa. Her parlour is the same, covered sofas, crockery that only gets used at Xmas. My parents ensuite bathroom doesn’t get used as it is wedged with boxed appliances, towels with tags on, laundry baskets, shoes, etc. The spare bedroom has had expensive wardrobes installed to fill the overspill from her wardrobe, which is mostly clothes from the 80s and 90s covered in plastic or still with the tags on. I reckon it stems from growing up with little in her childhood. She has a wardrobe with clothes with tags on from the 80s and 90s, she’s constantly buying hooks and rails to hang more handbags and things on. I’ve gotten into screaming matches with her for making a throw away comment on the sheer volume of stuff. She’s very possessive of it – I’ve gone rifling through to pinch some wool jumpers and stuff and she’s gotten angry over it, but they’ll never be used otherwise!! I’ve made up bags of my own old clothes to go to the charity shop, and months later I’ll find them in the hot press, tucked under dozens and dozens of t-shirts from the 80s, keep there for “round the house” wear, but realistically, theres enough to clothe about 20 people 5 times over “round the house”. 2/3 of my brothers wardrobe is full of her things. The attic is full. The en suite bathroom in my parents room isn’t used as its housing old make-up, laundry baskets, carpets, towels with tags on. She has a parlour/”good sitting room”, that’s used to store crockery that only gets used for Xmas, or has lain in cellophane for a few years. The kitchen cupboards, half of them are full of crockery and “good” appliances that we aren’t allowed use, because they’re “good”.

    I’m reading this in shock, the hoarders on those programmes are extreme, but reading this list I could have written it myself about my mum. Years of being told our house was like no other, how we were filthy and lazy and the mess was all our fault. How she could never have anyone visit because of our mess. How when she misplaced something we would have to endure hours of looking for it and her screaming at us and when she discretely found it wherever she had left it she wouldn’t apologise or say she had found it. 

    The comment about not answering the door to let people in, there was always an element of embarrassment, my heart still sinks when I hear the doorbell. Our front door is always locked and my mum makes a fuss about finding the key and then makes a cutting remark to me asking if I was too embarrassed to answer the door (when the opposite applies!)

    Sorry for the essay, I’m just so relieved to discover I’m not alone. At the age of 23.

    • I understand your shock and relief – I was also amazed to discover so many others who lived like we did. Our mothers could be sisters, it seems. Not a lot of junk, but lots of mostly unused purchases around as if she has some image of a wonderful, tidy life just around the corner.

  • Catrinac

    My mom was loving and organized during our childhood, I am 40 and deeply grateful for a healthy upbringing. Only after her fiancee left for another woman 11 years ago did she began habitual shopping. I explained how the interest on her maxed out credit cards meant paying 5x the full price, but her OCD won’t allow her to make the connection when she is in the store. When im with her and she picks up stuff, i have her imagine where it will go and how it will be used and then if it will bring her happiness, then i demonstrate how easy it is to put it down, walk away and move on. She’s buried me and my sister with unwanted trash bags of BARGAINS! She bought her house for $60k in ’87, a steal! Now thanks to loans she owes 260k on a house worth 200k at best, about $170k is from consolidated credit cards. I’ve told her that I donate the stuff she gives us, she buys more stuff. I actually return what i can to reduce her current credit debts by giving them her card #. We’ve adamantly stated NO gifts for any occasion, not even a piece of gum! We just want her!! Her time, her conversation, her friendship, her guidance, her laughter. The trash bags still come. I spent two months cleaning out two of her bedrooms only to have them more full now, my sis and I are so disgusted and want to force her to deal with this illness. She likes her tomb, spending her dwindling retirement re-filling any spaces we clean out so we dont anymore. She refuses help even tho she can’t use her kitchen nor her 3 showers, and bathes from the last reachable sink. I have pleaded with her to call me before she buys us anything, she wont, then gets angry when we don’t accept the ton of crap. I was elated to get transferred out of state and begged my sis to come, we’re ready to disown her. We’ve even said that we’ll donate the entire house upon her death or burn it, we don’t want anything from it, nothing. I don’t want our relationship to disintegrate any further. Maybe I should take her on a lonnnng, lovely trip to a tribal country, live in a hut with few or no amenities, learn the peace close relationships and simplicity bring. To return home only after she’s used to living with so few things and is ashamed of her wasteful opulent spending on bullcrap, while those she just left had nothing! And while gone, her essentials would be moved into a small studio at a managed home. Then with trained help, syphon through the 3000’sq dumpster she currently lives in. UGH!!!! Our parents deserve better lives than that!! I want MY mom, not this nervous, chatty, stubborn, moody version of who I used to know. And because of her prideful facade, she’s becoming shallow and bigoted. I want to turn her in but she’s so unhappy yet prideful she may kill herself to avoid the public shame. We’ve told her that all her friends would find out after her death so this is something to deal with now with our help. JIMENY CHRISTMAS SHE’S SO STUBBORN! Btw, i detest the sound of crinkling plastic shopping bags, even when I’m just bringing in my own groceries (tho that helps me to use the cloth bags;) I also detest clutter because I’m paranoid about genetic tendencies. Giving and receiving gifts is a nauseating, dreadful event because we are convinced we will cause the same anger and oppression that we feel when tons of crap is dumped onto us. Thank you for this forum, venting helps a bit. Bless all of you who are dealing with this frustrating illness.

  • Gerbear2510

    Mine and my husband’s only car broke down the other day and we had to use my hoarder parent’s car. I was so embarrassed to have my husband get in this car. It smelled like trash and a thick layer of grim over every inch of it. I ended up spending like 2 hours trying to clean this car and it still smells. I love my parents but I’m so ashamed at the same time..

  • Mae12541

    I grew up with a very controlling hoarder mother who always made me feel like a bad person. I moved out as soon as I got a chance at 18. She wouldn’t even let me shower because it “ruined the wallpaper”(baths only). She never cleaned-my father would try-but the clutter was always there. On top of that, I wasn’t really allowed to have friends or spend time with friends I did have-she wouldn’t let me leave the house-only for school or work-you better believe as soon as I turned 16 I worked as many hours as I could!!!! This site is great, I know I am not alone in this. Now I am 32. It has gotten even worse with her retirement. On top of hoarding, both parents have numerous health problems including diabetes. My father has a bad heart and lungs. I worry constantly that the mold is hurting him, he will lose his heart medicine in the piles, or a fire will start. I live 20 min away in a neighboring town. I am still so embarassed thinking of all their neighbors, running in to them in public.  The entire finished basement is full to the ceiling, as the 2 car garage and spare bedroom, oh and dont forget all their vehicles-they hoard these as well. Meeting them at a restaurant in the parking lot is embarassing near their car. Most of it is stuff she has bought over the past 30-40 years. I think she just buys new clothes instead of doing laundry. Laundry room full to the ceiling with dirty clothes as well-a 10×10 room. The main rooms have pathways-just enough to get around to the rooms. The smell is horrible-the clutter prevents normal housecleaning. I realized last year I just cant go there anymore-I feel naseous and have a panic attack. My father is the one that has to “reaarange” all the junk to make room for more, or to move it around to find something she needs. It is too physically demanding for his heart. I cant take it anymore-she is killing him and there is nothing I can do anymore. No one understands unless they have experienced it.  I hate having “the talk” about my parents with a new boyfriend-why I don’t want them to meet, etc. And they never understand. I am starting to worry that all this will fall on me when they pass, and I make just enough to support myself-I could never afford or have the time to clean out the place. When I tried to talk to a friend about this fact-which is reality-she said I was selfish to worry about what MY responsibilities would be if they died. 
     Am I horrible for worrying about it???? 
     I guess I am lucky that she hates animals? She used to say to people-yeah, sure I like cats, dead ones-and then laugh. At least I didnt grow up with animal urine and feces all’s pathetic that is the silver lining:(
    Is buying and buying to feel “happy” part of our commercialized culture? Is that why this problem is now so rampant?

    • It’s not wrong or horrible to be dreading the day when you have to deal with the disaster your parents (and mine, and nearly everyone else’s here) have caused. I often say that I believe I will have no time or energy to mourn my parents when they are gone, because I will be spending time from my own life cleaning up after them. I also have friends who don’t believe what I’ve told them about my parents’ house and some who are bizarrely fascinated with the situation. This group is a good place to find like minds.

    • Annieb

      I just found this site – I think it will help me to know I’m not alone. My mother has been seriously hoarding for the past 25 years. She has multiple houses, she has literally filled 3 houses that I’m aware of. I live about 2.5 hours away and very seldom visit (have’nt been to any of her homes for over 5 years). My father is still alive but does nothing but complain. I am also getting very worried about their future, he has diabetes and congestive heart failure. And I’m concerned about what happens when they need help or die- how will this get cleaned up? I have 3 siblings, we disagree about what to do, one brother wants to bulldoze the houses when she dies and set them on fire. The anger I and my siblings feel is immense. No family get togethers (unless at my home), her grandchildren can’t / haven’t visited. I am 54, hoping to stop full time work soon and don’t want to spend my retirement cleaning up her mess.

  • guestSH

    My mom always had a tendency to collect little things for good occasions; nice dish ware, tablecloths, etc. Fancy dress clothes. however, she hates entertaining, and does not want friends in her house. She also started hoarding thrift store finds with the intent of starting a consignment shop. It’s saddening, because none of the things are fashionable, are not worth what she would think (I notice this a lot; she can’t price things for sale in a reasonable way. She always doubles or triples what I would charge for something if I were holding a yard sale). 

    So some of the house was ok, but whole rooms have been hoarded floor to ceiling with “things for her store”. I tried to help her set up and Ebay site. She wouldn’t go along. I’ve suggested re-gifting some of the things to charity; she gets mad because they’re “not for people; they’re for her store”. Not ironically, one of the main elements of her delusion is that her ex will “move back and help her run the store.” Absolutely not happening, as his income is in the 6 figures, and he provides both their insurance.

    I got into one of her rooms and there must be at least $10k in thrift store crap in there, squirreled away day by day over a decade. It’s disheartening because her house needs major repairs. Sinks broken for years. No washer or drier. The main bathroom has a major water damage problem and reeks of mold, which I’m shown to as a houseguest when I visit. Her house isn’t squalor yet, but she doesn’t seem to think cleaning is necessary. I don’t think she ever vacuums the whole house or cleans up after her cat. She doesn’t understand that small purchases add up over time, and she could have saved for 2 reasonable bath remodels. 

    The most infuriating thing is the rage. She can instantly start screaming and crying over things like a gentle suggestion furniture is not new and should be delivered to thrift stores.

    Then she apologizes by excessive gifting, which is also terrifying. I’m tired of getting $800 worth of Xmas presents when I know her finances are in a mess. She won’t give receipts or tell me the stores they’re from, so I’m suck with bags and bags of crap every season. I feel guilty, I have a hard time controlling my own belongings (majority from her). I’M starting to hoard just because I hold onto things to try to resell them, and at least get some cash back. I get sick trying to declutter my house of things I never even wanted. I’m sick of my house being her dumping ground. My friends think I’m ungrateful, but it’s because I don’t know how to put the brakes on this madness.

    Holiday breaking point: I had one box of vintage high end music posters stored in her basement, and she wanted to throw it away. Apparently my stuff has no value.

  • Jen Wiley

    My mother (and late father) were both hoarders.  Their house was full of garage sale/auction “treasurers” from floor to ceiling.   When the house they lived in was full, they added on, when the garage was full, they built a new one, when the barn was full they built a new one.  My mother always blamed it on my father….. my father passed in 1998 and my mom got rid of a lot of stuff and moved to a smaller home.  For the first few years, the house was fairly neat and normal….. then my brother moved in with her to “take care of her”.  He is also a hoarder who goes to the the Goodwill every day to accumulate stuff for a BIG ESTATE SALE he wants to have some day.  My mother’s once beautiful yard has turned into a junk yard.  Her once neat house has turned into a bug invested pig sty.  This past week I went to my mom’s determined to help her at least get her room organized (she is 88).  There are clothes piled 4 ft high along each wall…. most of which are the wrong size.  (Things she has picked up at junk stores or people have given her.)  I thought I had talked her into donating her un-usable stuff to a church, so they could be used by really needy people.  I told her sit on the bed and I would go through her stuff and she would tell me to keep or donate.   In less than 1/2 hour she was in tears saying I wanted her to give all her stuff away.  For the first time in my life I realized she has some type of emotional attachment to all her stuff.  I totally backed off and told her I know she’s not ready right now, but would help if she became ready…..before I drove the 8 hour trip home, I told her as gently as I could that her house is a fire hazzard becaue of all her stuff which which is flamable and could prevent her from getting out, and she couldn’t get out of the front door because of a recliner and table in front of it, and she couldn’t get out of the windows in her bedroom because of all the stuff in front of them. Since I got home have been doing some research and came across this site.  I sure wish I could help her….. but I’ve sort of realized…. she hoarded when my dad was alive…. kept things neat until my brother moved in with her and started taking control of her life.  I really think her “stuff” is the only control she feels she has.  Is there any help for her????

  • Jasmine

    Don’t know what to do. Mother is cat hoarder. 94 years old and can barely take care of herself. She has at least 15 cats indoors. The neighbors shot the ones that were outside – at least 12 at the time. We cleaned her house 3 years ago and I ended up almost dying from pneumonia. We found out recently that my husband, who has been ill for the last three years since the ‘cleaning’ (Dr. thought it was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) found out last week that he has been suffering from a bacterial infection (Cat Scratch Fever). Her house is getting worse and worse now – filthy with feces, and she still allows her females to breed – we try to take the kittens to the shelter before they become ill – some are not so lucky. She is stubborn, and very angry when we bring up a solution to the problem. She will not let us help her and she has a very bad heart. Any intervention I know would cause her to have a heart attack. I don’t believe I could live with that – it is hard enough to know that she is living the way she is by choice – and there is nothing we can do about it.

  • As the child of a hoarder mother who had Christmas trees up year-round, who kept a house so full I had to walk sideways down hallways for years, who has a mother who spent HUGE chunks of our family income at Goodwill and the Salvation Army, and has devolved into drinking 2 liters of Pepsi over the course of 36-48 straight out of plastic bottles, straight out of the bottle like an animal, I have to say that I think one of the only courses of action that will fix a hoarder if state-sponsored corporal punishment. 

    I think my mother, even at 62 years of age, deserves corporal punishment.  If therapy won’t help, a cane whip or a broken arm might.  So frustrated with hoarders.  Enough with the selfishness!

  • Phoenixfeather08

    My daughter recently took one of her friends to my parents house. Her friend lives in a house that is immaculate and I am not exaggerating. Before she picks up her friend, my daughter and I have a long talk about why she should not bring her friend to my mom’s house. I try to explain to my daughter why this will turn into a bad decison and of course she does not understand…how could she understand the shame and embarrassment this will cause her. She has not ever seen someone’s reaction to a hoarder’s house; she has only seen the family’s reaction to it. Well, she went anyway. She came home a couple of hours later and was quite shaken up by the whole experience-both her friends surprise and her grandmas embarrassment and also, I think for the first time she felt the shame and embarrassment this hoarding causes to family members as we have sheltered her from so much of the problems it causes. My daughter was so surprised that grandma was completely embarrassed and quite probably acted like a child caught doing something. But not to worry as grandma was out shopping the next day completely oblivious to the fact that the house is still “the house of horrors”.Yes, I have recently christened that large farmhouse with that name as it is so fitting. I too experienced much embarrassment as I will have to face the mother of this young girl (who I am sure will NEVER forget the experience of my mom’s house) and I hope that they will not blame me for the state of my mom’s house. It is impossible for someone to understand what being a daughter of a hoarder mom is like unless they have walked in those shoes. I have had extended family members on my mom’s side assume that my house is the same as my mom’s. They treated me like I too have this problem. Oh, what a feeling of satisfaction it gave me when they visited my home while my grandma spent the weekend at my home. They were so stunned that my home was actually clean and was nicer than there own homes. So I know that we are judged by our parents issues. I am not sure that I will ever be able to feel like my house is clean enough or that I am not a “second-class” person because of this.

    • TC

      I am pretty sure that my extended family also thought that my house was like my parents’ – I know how great it felt to hold a wedding anniversary party for my parents at my home and have so many of my mom’s family see that I am not like her. Just remember how satisfied you felt and stunned they were – clearly you are not a second-class person!
      The line I have used when people who know my parents comment to me on the state of their house is basically “my parents find it very hard to control how much they bring into their house.” Nothing about me, since it isn’t my fault. If they are ones who often give stuff to my parents (e.g. fabric, clothing, books, old appliances) then I usually ask them to stop doing so, as gently as possible. I say gently because they often think that they are doing my parents a favor – ummm, no, you aren’t.

  • ACs

    Does anyone have any advice on getting this tackled before it’s gotten really,really bad?
    My parents had a house fire five years ago, due to things stored too close to the water heater & furnace.
    My mom has realized that accumulating stuff is worthless – and she’s gotten better since the “wake-up call”
    But, since that time, my dad’s hoarding has gotten worse. The house is rebuilt, and once again, FULL.
    Things are clean(ish), in the sense that everything is in a box, on a shelf of some sort. But, it’s floor-to-ceiling maze-type arrangements in the basement again. And we are starting to see weird old mattresses and couches come in to the house, just to be stored. Whose were these? They’re probably loaded with dust and dirt!!!
    I could go in and just do some major clean-out, but I’d be met with rage. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!
    I think it’s set off by anxiety, of the social sort & of losing things again. But, who needs 20 remote controls to TVs that are no longer even in the house? Or 15 pairs of reading glasses – just because they were $1 at a sidewalk sale?
    Advice please – did you ever try cleaning this yourself? Did you have success with any approach over another?

    • TC

      Personally, I have tried tiny cleanups and gotten a lot of grief for it, so I am not going to touch my parents’ house unless they are incapacitated or dead. Sadly, I think this is the general consensus here – unless professionals are involved and your parents have decided they want to change, you’ll get more rage like you did before and no progress. If they don’t think it is a problem and the neighbors/city officials aren’t complaining, it will be pretty pointless.

      You might have some luck with discouraging the old mattresses and upholstered furniture by telling them horror stories about bedbugs, as well as reminding them about the fire and its cause. I’ve had minor success with that approach.

  • IMnotmymom

    My story is some what the same, yet different. We were a military family and only allowed to have so much stuff do to move after move. So when I was very young, I am the youngest of 4, the house was always clean. After my father retired of course things started to accumulate, but our home was clean. We as children were ignored, we got only the absolute BARE necessities and were fed; but my folks always got their stuff. AFter my Mothers Mom died; she started to hoard. She was treated so rudely, in the will, and falsely accused of so many things, My mothers sister took all the inheritance. That was the EVENT that started the hoard. After that she bought just to buy, Once social security kicked in it was like free money to her. My sister and I, not realizing we were hurting the situation, spent an entire summer and lots of money cleaning, organizing and throwing away trash. MOM WAS OUT OF TOWN. Well all we did was shock her system, she still accuses us of stealing stuff, then. The house was beautiful, my DAD was so happy. Well its been 14 years and the house is fuller than it ever was. She spends a fortune on stuff, Dad doesnt say anything because he then gets the wrath. When he starts to bitch about it; I tell him I dont want to hear it; I feel he enables her, by never saying anything in the last 35 years, allowing her to bring more and more shit in the house. We made him go to a therapist so he would have someone to talk to. We dont want to hear it, thats still our Mom. My oldest brother doesnt talk to my folks at all. My sister doesnt ever talk to MOM. I am on great terms with both. I talk to my Mom about safe topics I dont talk about the hoard; other than to educate my own children. I have often thought of turning her in; however: I think at 83 the stress could kill her, maybe thats a copout. The Hoarders show on TV has helped me; and thank you for having this website. Sorry to go on and on.

    • TC

      Yeah, I agree with you about your Dad – if you aren’t going to do anything about the situation, don’t complain to me.
      We love hearing others’ stories!

  • Patricia

    My father is 86 years old and has always been a hoarder and a perfectionist. it touches every part and every place of my life. if he did not have his two children in his life daily he would be neck deep in newspapers magazines and old bills. he lives with my brother who has lost at least one bedroom to old newspapers. my father has now taken over the breakfast area which now looks like a paper recycling dumpster. my mother was as neat as a pin and would throw away anything and everything at the drop of a hat. the two fought like cats and dogs their entire marriage to the point of gunpoint. I would like to be sad when my father finally passes away however all I can do is wonder “Lord, when are we going to be able to clean up his mess.” and why in the world did she die before him, he drink like a fish. if I dare touch is stuff he acts like he would pick up a gun and kill me. no amount of kindness or coaxing brings about the throwing away of even the most minor advertisement. so we have very bitter battles over his trash. my brother is very long suffering and rarely ever put his foot down with my father so I become the villain. Hopeless in Houston.

  • LF

    My mom is a hoarder. Both my single aunts are hoarders. These three houses are like hell to see. Let alone to live in. I live with my parents. Both my sisters live with my two aunts. All of us are very close to each other. We are used to this situation. But it only occured to us that this is somewhat not normal, when the police came to check our house because of break in. And someone just said this house looks like a pig house. Its an understatement to say this looks like a pig sty. So I started cleaning up this house. But everyday is a struggle. A struggle the fact that I shouldnt get rid of anything in this house. But when I did, my mom just kept bringing things in to this house. Its like no matter how many times I clean this house, shes just going to have something to replace for the space. Its been a month now, and I dont think I can ever make this house look like a house with her presence. I wish I could get rid of everything. Not even one thing in this house that I can appreciate anymore. Its just tough. My emotion, I just cant describe it. There are more things that I still keep secret. If I had money, moving out from this house is just easy. But for now, this is just madness. I realised theres no point cleaning this house anymore. Because as long as my mother lives, things are gonna go back to square one. Sometime, I wish she comes to her sense that her behavior is just sickening. It really is.

  • loni

    Hi, I am speechless for the help I had from You Therapist Oniha of the Everything has changed for good….no… for Great…I would never realize that I got back my Best and only LOVE after all the bad things I did and said to her… Well, I JUST WANT TO THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART AS I HAVE PROMISE TO SHEAR YOUR GOODNESS ROUND THE BLOG UNTIL DEATH TAKE ME,I AM INDEED HAPPY FOR ALL YOUR HELP AND PATIENCE… I will keep on shearing your goodness as long as i am happy !!! Thanks a lot for your help Therapist Oniha OF THE FOR I AM SO GRATEFUL.

  • Bethany

    My mother has slowly become a hoarder over the years. She has always “collected” things and a lot of it started when my father was stationed elsewhere in the Country and not living at home when he was in the Air Force. My mother would take her anger and aggression out on me and sometimes my brother for the amount of loneliness she felt. She shopped all the time and bought herself things all the time but not us kids and nothing was ever her fault. She suffered violent mood swings and at one point I became her punching bag for her anger and frustrations. Honestly, just simply being a bad mother shouldn’t be blamed on “hoarding”. Her hoarding is so bad now, she doesn’t throw much of anything away. She keeps shopping bags with the intention of recycling them or bottles to “reuse”… or just about anything that “could” be recycled or “could” be fixed. There’s junk everywhere. EVERYWHERE. My mother has become obsessed with her farm cats too. She puts them before her own children and everything is about them. They pee and poop and puke all over their house. Their home smells like rotting foods and cat feces and hair. Over 13 cats is unacceptable. My parents beg to have my daughter down there on their farm and refuse to acknowledge that it isn’t safe for children. Every single time I have sent my child there, she has puked and gotten very sick. Every single time I go there I get nauseated and I have issues with sinuses and head cold issues for up to 10 days at a time. I will never send my child/children there ever again. I just cannot do it. My parents are in denial that they live in filth. The monstrous piles of crap are everywhere. I’ve not seen that house clean since 2008. Personally, my house has been clean hundreds of times over since 2008… so my mother can’t say things to me like, “it’s not like your house is ever clean.” Yea, accept responsibility lady.

  • Terry Licia

    A country that has far too much wealth, a society that focuses on spending, consuming, owning and the accompanying burdens of anxiety for not being ‘like everyone else’ or for not being ‘rich’ .. added to an existing personality disorder …. IS there a solution that doesn’t rip out hearts??? I read the stories, hear how others feel but how do the people that hoard .. how do they feel when their hoard is gone? Does it free them? Or, do they miss it so much they start all over again?? This is such a huge problem and apparently growing .. I don’t see many answers but lots and lots of questions. I wonder if other countries have this problem?

  • bjh

    my son grew up in a clean home now after one year of never ask to come in, I went in and saw a house not fit for a child to live in, I feel so sad for my granddaughter that lives in fifth, what can you do with out making them mad, but this needs to be address when you just have a walkway in her house what should we do please advise us

  • Sierra

    I am 26 years old and I am the child of a hoarder. I think. I know that my mother was a hoarder–is a hoarder. But some of the literature doesn’t add up. My mom never cared about the things we kept–it was all trash. And it was all abandoned when we moved out–always before an inspection. The dishes, the furniture..everything. My mom suffers from depression. The hoarding always felt like it was born out of apathy and laziness. Anyway, I’ve moved out. But now I’m grappling with the implications of my childhood. Specifically, I’m trying to understand if I’m at fault at all. As a kid I was unaware that we lived any differently than others. The taped up blinds, the no-friends rule…it didn’t strike me as strange. But as I grew up I began to understand that it most definitely was not normal and was in fact incredibly abnormal..and unhealthy. I was 15. I knew better. Why couldn’t I just get it clean and keep it clean?! Was I a hoarder? Or just the daughter of a hoarder with bad (but conquerable) habits? I’ve never let myself live alone because I’m afraid to find out…Anyway, it feels nice to talk about it out loud for once. It’s not something I’m used to discussing but I would really value anyone’s input/experiences.