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Comments From COH

Please use this space to share with the general public/professionals/social services, what you would like them  to know about your COH experiences, by posting your comments.

Below you will find comments from COH attached to the New York Times article: Children of Hoarders-On Leaving the Cluttered Nest.

First, here is a good idea/comment from a member of the COH Yahoo Group:

I would like to encourage those on the board to “recommend” responses that the COH here have posted as the more recommendations they have the higher they will be on the “Reader’s Recommendations” tab, which sorts out responses by number of recommendations. It would be nice to get COH posts high up on the list so that they will get read by more people.

Here is the direct link to NYT article comment page:

These links will take you directly to each of these comments where the “recommend” button can be clicked (a little bit of each post is pasted to give an idea of what it’s about.) If there are any comments inadvertently omitted, kindly bring that to our attention if you would-thank you:

Daughter of…

To Trudy, who asked if the kids are pitching in, It seems apparent that you have very little understanding about what hoarding actually entails. It is a mental illness, a compulsion. We are not talking about parents who simply lack basic cleaning skills, we are talking about people who will go through the garbage whenever cleaning is done in order to rescue old newspapers, worn clothing, and often times things that are unhygienic like used personal hygiene products or old food containers…

My mother was a horder and I appreciate reading others comments above. It took my brother and I six months of cleaning out her place after she died suddenly, and still needed to use a storage unit for 5 more years until we finished and could part with most of it. My mother was very intelligent and I am sorry she died without knowing that others had her disease…

Oakland, CA
As the child of a hoarder, a clear, clean counter is one of the most cherished …

oakland, ca
i haven’t read through all the comments, but – haven’t seen many yet from people who might be hoarders, or worry about becoming hoarders. anyone like that out there? esp. since it runs in families? i know have the hoarder genes – i’m ADD and quite sure i get it from my father. he’s a packrat, and the only reason our house wasn’t a hoarder’s house is probably because of my mom…

Dr. Frost, please respond to post #115. I am interested in your opinion. What is more important — the feelings of the hoarder or the health, SAFETY,…

My husband’s parents are hoarders. They do not think of themselves that way, and neither did my husband until our last visit to their home…

Atlanta, Georgia
This was an excellent article. My siblings and I are currently dealing with our aging parents and my father’s hoard. We love our father,…

Los Angeles, CA
Our house wasn’t dirty or unsafe, but my mother’s refusal to throw away anything that might have a future use turned what could have been a beautiful home (a showcase, even) into a virtual warehouse…

One Wee Spark
Spokane, WA
I am also a COH. The fact is that some people are having success. Almost two years ago, my mother truly hit bottom–emotionally and physically. She was removed from her home after losing consciousness and being in delirium. The…

Blue Ridge Mountains, NC
To Kris, #135–Why my father wouldn’t do something about our situation (my mom is the hoarder)? I can remember one time they went to counseling at the church and it upset my mom too much, so they never went back.
As we got older, he would ask us what was he supposed to do? We were kids… uh, maybe be an adult and…

Burbank, CA
I found this article from the COH website. Today is the one year anniversary of my hoarding mother-in-law’s death. Her only son is just now recycling the thank you notes and pallbearer cards the funeral home supplied him/he paid for…

Child of a Hoarder
Syracuse, NY
My mother who suffers from both bi-polar illness and hoarding made my life a living hell. To this day, I wake up with nightmares that center on the shame we felt having to live in such squalor…

Portland, OR
My mother is a hoarder who refuses to admit that anything is wrong. She has boxes of cereal and crackers from the 1970’s still piled in kitchen cabinets that one can barely open, host to generations of grain moths. She also hoards…

new york
Despite the fact that my mother’s hoarding started to spiral out of control in the 1980’s, when I was still living with her, and the fact that I was one of those children who feared having friends visit the home, it was not until after her death in 2006 that it finally dawned on me that the appropriate label for her behavior was “hoarding.”…

Daughter of…
As the daughter of an extreme hoarder I an attest that there is a constant fear of turning out like my hoarding parent, and a steady struggle to resolve my frustration with my love for them…

Upper Midwest
Child of a Hoarder, here. I am reading with interest and am truly amazed that out of five pages of comments there is only one mention of hoarding as child abuse…

HIGHLIGHT (what’s this?)
Dr. Frost, as the child of a hoarder, there’s a question, or category of question, that I’ve wanted to ask for some time, in order to clarify my understanding of the advice of the experts:…

HIGHLIGHT (what’s this?)
I am forty-three years old and have spent the last thirty years believing that my brother and I were the only kids who grew up in filth and stench…

After my father died, my mother became somewhat of a hoarder. She had always saved things because they were “good.”…

Child of a Hoarder
Syracuse, NY
#112 — THERE IS NO AMBIGUITY IN MY MIND — IT IS CHILD ABUSE! Like you, I am in my 40’s and although I feel pretty well adjusted — and consciously choose to live my life differently than my parents, I look at my own kids and can’t imagine subjecting them to the craziness I was…

Mary Jane
New York, NY
Dear Dr. Frost, I am an adult child of a hoarder and I have noticed that my own hoarding tendencies (and general difficulty with organization and executive functioning) worsened quite dramatically after the death…

Joe P
Pittsburgh, PA
My mother, nearly aged 70, is a compulsive hoarder who remains in denial about her problem – despite increasing physical frailty and ill-health worsened by destructive lifestyle choices like poor diet. Her mother was a hoarder as well….

Elizabeth Nelson
The families most desperate for help are dealing with hoarders who totally lack insight, will never be willing candidates for the recommended treatment options. I have never read any speculation about what percentage of hoarders ARE willing candidates for treatment-…

HIGHLIGHT (what’s this?)
Princeton, NJ
I am the daughter of a mother and father who were hoarders. I also grew up in an affluent town that made the pressure of everything looking right on the outside very intense…

Expert opinion:
Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
3:53 pm
I can certainly understand your reactions to having grown up in such a home. One thing you might try with your mother is to see if she would be interested in learning more about the role of possessions in her life. I have found that people who hoard, in addition to usually being very intelligent, are often very curious about their hoarding behavior. This seems to be true at the same time that they deny a problem to others. A first step is to be able to see yourself in what others describe. I have had a number of people mention that they can see themselves in the descriptions in our book “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.” If you can get her to take a look at it, she might begin to open her eyes. If she is more computer savvy, you can send her to the International OCD Foundation website and read what is there about hoarding. It is never too late to give up. We have people in their late 80s who have done marvelously well in our self-help groups.

I am surprised no mention of traumatic experience plays into this discussion of hoarding. My father and my mother-in-law grew up very…

Reply/from Expert:
Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
5:50 pm
Actually, we do know that people with hoarding problems experience more traumatic events than most people, although interestingly, they do not develop PTSD any more frequently. We don’t think the traumas cause hoarding, only hasten its development.

Also of interest, we have found no evidence the early material deprivation causes hoarding.

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
6:52 pm
Jumping off from what Dr. Frost said about this comment, I have found, anecdotally, that often someone with long-term clutter problems, an inability to organize, and/or compulsive shopping will enter the realm of true hoarding after a trauma. In my mother’s case, it was the death of a boyfriend that set her hoarding in motion. If you watch “Hoarders,” the behavior almost always seems to be set off by some kind of loss – in most cases a loved one. Sometimes I think the possessions are meant to fill the void left behind by the person who was lost.

Jersey City
This is such a fantastically complex compulsion, I’ve been trying to unwind it—and to some degree to cope with it—for years. I definitely agree that hoarding has a strong heritable component and have often wondered if many hoarders would, if carefully screened, be found to fall somewhere with in the Autistic Spectrum of Disorders (e.g. Ausperger’s). My own mother, along with much of her family, are hoarders to one…

Reply from Expert:
Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
5:58 pm
You are certainly correct that this is a fantastically complex disorder. There is a lot we have yet to learn. For a somewhat more in-depth treatment of it, you can take a look at “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things.”

We do tend to find more hoarding in people on the autistic spectrum, but most people who hoard don’t fit that categorization.

Hoarder’s Son
Northeast USA
While much of the focus is properly on finding ways to treat hoarders themselves, there seems to have been very little attention paid to the treatment needs of the children of hoarders. Indeed, children of hoarders are often mentioned by professionals as being obstacles and problems, rather than as being people in their own right who are hurting and need support at least as much as the hoarders…

reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
6:04 pm
You raise a great point. Most of the research has focused on the people who hoard and not on family members. We’ve done one study of family members and have another under way, but virtually nothing has been done on developing treatments or support groups for them. I believe this will happen. There is such a great deal of research on hoarding now that it is only a matter of time.

Thank you for this article. I’m the granddaughter of a hoarder and rather close to being one myself. I often worry about the effects that…

Question though: our young son, it seems to me, is also starting to show hoarding signs… He sets up these huge collections of toys, paper, junk etc… I try to explain to him that some stuff is trash, that it has to go in the bin and STAY in the bin. I don’t mind him playing with non-toy stuff, it stimulates his creativity and all, but at some point it needs to go. He also sets up these collections, just for the sake of having collections.

Reply from expert:
Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
6:05 pm
Yes, you can help your son. You seem to be doing just what you should in terms of providing guidance and being a role model for discarding. When children develop hoarding problems we see a great deal more emotional upheaval when they are forced to discard. We also see a personification of possessions that is extreme. If he displays either of these, you may want to consider consulting a psychologist who specializes in treating OCD. They will be most likely to know how to treat him.

Between #7 and #8, this Frost guy said, “You are right that we have no cure, in part because we don’t yet know what causes this problem.”

Okay, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realize it’s got some OCD component and some depression component.

My dad and brother were hoarders and I’ve known others. What’s the huge mystery?…

Reply from Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
6:06 pm
Yes, it used to be thought that hoarding was a subtype of OCD. With research in the last few years, it appears that hoarding differs in a number of ways. While I don’t have space to go into all of the distinctions, perhaps the most apparent is that in OCD, the obsessions cause considerable distress and are never associated with any kind of pleasant emotion. In hoarding, however, the acquisition and often the finding of treasures among the piles can be a source of considerable pleasure. In some ways, this makes hoarding look more like an impulse control disorder than OCD. Indeed, one of the components of hoarding, compulsive buying, is considered as such.

Baltimore, MD
I grew up in a 3 bedroom home that literally had a path from front door to back. My mother could not bring herself to purge 40 years of…

Reply Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
6:06 pm
You are right that there are more than one or two problems here. In most hoarding cases, we don’t see squalor. In that ones we do, it is not clear why the home has deteriorated in this way. We’ve just started investigating squalor in hoarding, so it will be some time before we know anything about it.

Palo Alto, CA
My parents (mostly my father) used most of the rooms to store their junk: tiles and paints that were meant to fix and decorate the house, broken furniture that was also going to be fixed eventually, broken computers that “could be fixed”, etc. All of the materials needed to fix that house are somewhere in those piles, unseen for years! My father …

“Me too” – child of a hoarder. I had no friends growing up. Part of that was because I was a shy nerdy girl, the sort to get picked on ALL the time in the 1970s. But a lot of it was because no one could ever come over. When you don’t invite…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
60 – Some people with hoarding problems come to a point of realization late in life that the things they’ve collected have little real meaning. But the problem has gotten so out of hand that cleanup is almost impossible. Difficulties with ADHD as well declining cognitive and physical functioning with age leave them unable to help themselves. At that point, many are able to let others help out.

Many people assume that hoarding problems stem from basic laziness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s not laziness, but an inability to put any kind of effective plan together. That includes the hard task of getting rid of things, and even more difficult task of organizing an effort to clear a hoarded home.

While we’ve found depression in over half of people with hoarding disorder, we don’t think the depression is the cause of the disorder. However, it certainly makes dealing with it more difficult.

Thank you for this article. I am the child of a hoarder and, at age 52, no longer visit my mother’s home as I find it disgusting and sad. I expect…

Been ThereDone That
Sick of It
Since when is being inconsiderate, lazy and messy a mental illness?
I guess when there are pills and therapists to “treat” said illness.
My mother was/is a hoarder… she wasn’t/isn’t crazy – she just values…

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
I do agree with you that living in a severely hoarded home is abuse. And I understand your frustration with adult children of hoarders not being able to let go – but it is very difficult. We love our parents and want them to be healthy and happy. That’s a normal desire. In my case, due to a combination of physical and mental effects from dealing with the hoard, I did finally let go of the idea of “fixing” my mom. And we’re both better off for it. But everyone is different, and at different phases in their lives, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to lump all children of hoarders together.

I’m not sure, when you say “since when is being inconsiderate, lazy and messy a mental illness?” if you’re referring to all hoarders or just your mother. Because hoarding is most certainly a mental illness and not laziness – in fact many times what holds a hoarder back from organizing and cleaning is perfectionism.

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
6:51 pm
First, let me say that you sound like a great friend and I’m sure your support is a great help. I am not a therapist, but here’s what I would do: talk to her, absolutely, and try to suss out how aware she is of the problem. (Many hoarders lack insight about the severity or even existence of their hoarding.) Is she willing to see a therapist? Perhaps someone who specializes in compulsive hoarding? What kind of support system does she have, other than you?

Secondly, I would seriously consider calling child protective services. Four children should not be living in filth or going weeks at a time without having their hair combed. That is what I would do.

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
3:52 pm
Interestingly, research on hoarding has recently concluded that it is not a form of OCD but a separate disorder. There are some cases of clutter that may be OCD, but only if the clutter consists of things that are not thrown out because of another OCD symptom such as a fear of contamination.

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
5:46 pm
I know it seems like you are stuck, but there are some low-cost things you can try. If you have a friend who is sympathetic, ask if they will simply sit with you as you sort and throw things away. They don’t need to do anything but sit and talk with you. Second, you can contact Dr. Jordana Muroff at the Boston University School of Social Work. She may have an ongoing study of hoarding that may provide free help. Another option is to get involved with the case management program that I helped to set up. If you email me I can give you more details. It does cost, but not as much as therapy.

Montvale, NJ
As one of three children of a hoarder – my mom, I can agree that the tendency to hoard is there. I am the oldest of three children and I still get…

Upstate New York
I grew up in a house with a mother with a different set of problems. What I love about this article is that its focus on being the child who grew up in a hoarder’s household instead of the usual focus on the hoarders themselves, which usually treat family only in terms of how much patience can they muster when they come to visit after they’ve grown up and moved away…

united states
I’m the child of a hoarder. This article brought up a great deal of anger and resentment in me…

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
2:49 pm
Maybe the one positive is that you have siblings for emotional support in this doubtlessly difficult situation. I hope, anyway. From what I’ve seen, support is an essential part of letting go of some of that anger and resentment. I know you weren’t asking for advice, but the best thing I did, in terms of dealing with my mother’s hoarding, was to join the online Children of Hoarders support group ( Tracy mentioned the same thing in the story. I can’t overstate how much the group has helped me. Good luck.

Sandy (#14) – It’s not that simple.

If the child is the executor of their parent’s estate, then they have a legal obligation to dispose of their parent’s possessions — either pass them on to the heirs or sell them. Unless the hoarder’s house and all it’s contents are inherited by one person, then the executor has a legal obligation to deal with the contents of the house…

jane doe
Excellent article and comments. Hopefully this helps to shine light on an issue that is still so widely misunderstood, with, sadly, so little compassion for the individuals impacted by it. .The lack of dignity and respect that one experiences when forced by circumstances to live with another’s filth and debris is emotionally exhausting and debilitating…

Like #3, I wish my parents had “hoarded” just a little bit. When they retired and moved out of the house I’d grown up in it was a surprise move. When they said they were not bringing anything except their bed and some books and kitchen stuff to the new retirement house, I…

Boston, MA
I come from a family of sentimental collectors. It is only now, 7yrs after my mom’s passing, that I can finally let go of a lot of the stuff she…

Jill Kemerer
I read Jessie’s book last week–what a powerful memoir! I hated to put it down, and indeed, read it in two days. Her love for her mother really came through–even as her, completely understandable, issues did. I appreciated the way she explained the different causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for hoarding. It never read like a textbook, yet I was much more informed about the disorder after I read her book.

This article came at just the right time for me! Excellent!

Child of a hoarder, niece of several, sister of one. Hoarding is probably genetic. As part of the family that had to clear out their spaces after death, and in one case after admittance into a nursing home, I…

Why must I be the one to clean out my mother’s house?
1) She’s leaving it to me.
2) In amongst all the cr*p, are the family heirlooms… hand embroidered textiles from Russia nearly 200 years old. *somewhere*…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:08 pm
This is the question we get most often from family members, and it’s very tough to answer. One of the biggest problems is that family members are often not in the best position to help. The history of conflict around clutter and the condition of the home colors any discussion that might be productive. I can tell you what we have found to help. First, we have developed a form of cognitive behavior therapy that helps most of the people who get it. The difficulty is that not too many therapists know how to do it, and many people with this problem are not willing to seek help. Second, we have been experimenting with self-help groups and our initial findings are quite promising. Despite coming into our groups being ambivalent about addressing their clutter, most people leave the groups with much improved homes and enthusiastic about change. Stay tuned for more on this because we are just now submitting the findings. A good place to keep in touch with this work is the International OCD Foundation web site ( The organization is a gathering point for not only people who suffer from hoarding problems, but family members as well. Third, an outgrowth of our self-help approach is an effort to develop communities of people who can help each other. Most of the people in our self-help groups are eager to help others with this problem.

A good place to start in your community is to find out whether there is a hoarding task force. There are over 75 of these across the country made up of people from various agencies (e.g., health departments, elder service agencies, housing officials, fire officials, etc.). They can be instrumental in setting up self help groups. There are instructions on how to do this on the IOCDF website.

One final suggestion — we have found that one simple event helps to keep people working on clearing clutter. That is to visit their home as often as you can, and encourage other people to do so. Clutter problems always get significantly worse when someone is living alone with no visitors. When people come to visit, even people with the most severe hoarding problem will spend time trying to clean and organize. It isn’t necessary to talk about the clutter or the hoarding problem, just visit.

The more work I do on our therapy and the self-help project, the more enthusiastic I become about being able to develop ways of helping people with this problem. Good luck!

My childhood home was never ‘hoarder level’ packed with stuff, but I had doorbell dread and resented my mother for it from the day I was born. As far as inviting over guests, “Anyone who cares about how messy our home is–isn’t a true friend.”, she says.

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
12:17 pm
I hear you and can imagine how hard that must have been. I don’t have children, but I know that children of hoarders who do have kids struggle with teaching them balance — after all, they didn’t have an example. At least you’re aware of how you were affected by your parent’s problem and won’t continue the cycle. All the best.

been there
I participated in the Johns Hopkins study and can confirm that hoarding does indeed run in my family – 4 of my 5 siblings have that tendency to some degree and 2 to a great degree. Our life was…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
3:58 pm
The feeling of being alone with this problem is quite common. Many people with hoarding problems as well as their family members have told me how they felt like the only ones in the world with this inexplicable problem. A number have told me how relieved they felt when they learned it had a name, and that people were studying it. I think this is one reason why our recent efforts in developing self-help groups has been so successful. It amazes me how the people in our groups connect and begin to support and care for each other. Even people who are quite ambivalent at the beginning…

joe smith
huntington beach, ca.
My step-father was a terrible, pathological hoarder. My sister and I were constantly embarrased by our unsightly yard. As an adult I…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:10 pm
You are right that we have no cure, in part because we don’t yet know what causes this problem. Until we know that, we can’t be sure we have found a cure. Most of the people I have worked with who were successful in conquering this problem must continue to be vigilant about acquiring and discarding. Yet it can be done…

shelley h

Can really relate. Was in my mother’s make-up, maybe her mother/family before her? All children — me + two brothers, have it to some degree. Me, the worst, or so it seems.
As the family ‘memory keeper,’ though death, catastophes, crises, I am paralyzed as to where to begin…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:10 pm
Certainly our culture is partly to blame for the remarkable explosion of this problem. However, in our research we find only a small correlation between the trait of materialism and hoarding. There is much more to this than an acquisitive culture. Interestingly, when we examine the reasons behind acquiring and saving things among people who hoard, we find they are the same reasons we all acquire and save things. Some things have sentimental value, some instrumental value, and some we just like for their intrinsic qualities. The difference is not in why they save, but in the fact that they assign these values to a wider variety and large number of things. In a sense, people who hoard have a more complex way of viewing possessions (not “objects” since this way of looking at things seems to apply only to things one owns). They pay attention to the things the rest of us ignore (e.g., the shape, color, texture, etc.). It may be that this is a special form of creativity or a kind of intelligence that most of us don’t have. The problem is that although it may be a gift of sorts, it is also a curse since it gets in the way of living…

A clean house

Never had any interest in watching Hoarders – clutter holds no fascination for someone who has escaped it. But very glad to know…

Jacksonville, FL
I am the child of a hoarder and am currently performing the extremely difficult task of clearing out my parents’ home. While it is exasperating and exhausting, I think it is important to remember that hoarding is the result of an emotional illness or a chemical imbalance in the brain,…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:11 pm
I certainly agree with your hope that people with hoarding problems come to be seen with compassion and sympathy rather than morbid curiosity. In order to understand this problem, we must be able to walk a bit in their shoes. Once we understand how they see the world, we will be in a better place to help them.

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
12:18 pm
I’m surprised that you read the article as one-sided; I didn’t get that sense from the story at all. I absolutely 100 percent agree that hoarders deserve compassion – they didn’t choose to be hoarders. No one would. That said, every hoarder, and every child of a hoarder, is different; there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to whether that child needs to avoid the home or not.

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
12:18 pm
This is a good question – believe it or not, there actually are some states that have filial laws that hold a child responsible for providing financial support to care for indigent parents, and I’m assuming that includes dealing with the clean-up costs of the deceased parent’s estate. From what I know, these laws are rarely enforced, but it’s enough to scare some of us. About your larger question of WHY we feel the need to clean up after our hoarding parent has passed away, I can only speak for myself. I’ve let go of the idea of getting my mother’s house clean, but the bottom line is that someday I will have to deal with it — I can’t imagine simply walking away. That just wouldn’t feel right to me.

Thank you so much for this article. I am a child of a hoarder, and your paragraph about “doorbell dread” opened my eyes to another aspect of why I am paralyzed with fear at the thought of entertaining…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:11 pm
Yes, “doorbell dread” is quite common among people who hoard and their family members. The best way to get over it is to ask your friends to drop by as often as possible unannounced. The more you hear the doorbell, the quicker your emotional/physiological response will habituate.

Unfortunately, hoarding has soured many family relationships and feelings of guilt are common. As I’m sure you are aware, these are things you had to do to help your mother. We all do the best we can, sometimes under difficult circumstances. Being so emotionally dependent on Stuff is indeed a curse.

Those who haven’t experienced a pathologically cluttered household may think this article is risible or incredibly self-indulgent, but reading it practically moved me to tears: this was my childhood. There’s even…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:12 pm
Yes, we have found ADHD to be linked with hoarding. In our recent study, nearly 30 percent of our hoarding group had full-blown ADHD inattentive type while only 3 percent of our OCD comparison group did. Many more have ADHD like symptoms, but not the full blown disorder.

ligeia m.
Brooklyn, NY
I am the only child of a single parent and grew up in a very, very cluttered home. Besides Mom, there is a family history of being overly sentimental and of keeping worthless antiques (aka old junk). Even though I have been on my own for many years now, I still have a problematic relationship with “stuff”. I do not know how much is…

HIGHLIGHT (what’s this?)
I am humbled and rebuked by this article. My wife grew up in the home of grandparents that were hoarders, and with a father who, while not a hoarder per se, is certainly quite cluttered…

Reply-Jessie Sholl
Author, “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding”
May 12th, 2011
2:47 pm
Aaron, you sound like a great husband and I’m sure your wife appreciates your understanding. I’ve met lots of children of hoarders with wonderful, supportive spouses and it makes such a difference! That’s great that this story helped you understand your wife better. I applaud your open mind.

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:12 pm
Interesting observation. We have found a correlation between hoarding and death anxiety, although the sample we used was very small so we haven’t published anything on this yet.

Carolyn Egeli
Valley Lee, Md.
The children are sometimes mired in their own neurosis from having had to live with
it. It should be recognized as an addiction/illness so that it can be treated. Painful experience and fear is behind it. Understanding it is challenging for…

Reply-Dr. Randy Frost
Co-author, “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”
May 12th, 2011
12:12 pm
Yes, this is a very difficult problem not only for the sufferer, but for family members as well. Hoarding is under consideration as a new entry in the diagnostic code for mental disorders. It will be located in a group of disorders called Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders along with OCD and a few others. While it looks like an addiction, we have found no clear link with alcohol or drug abuse or dependence. It is more closely linked to depression. Over half of people with hoarding problems are clinically depressed. Nearly a third suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a disorder characterized by worry, and nearly 25 percent suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder.

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  • From a member of the COH Yahoo group, posted with permission:

    That’s a really important point
    when children under eighteen are involved. How much of who we become is
    determined during small windows of time when we are children?

    everyone is being patient with a hoarder, is a child being teased
    relentlessly about the condition of their house, about not being able to
    have friends over, or about wearing dirty/smelly clothes?

    Is a child running and hiding when they see someone walking towards the front door?

    Is a child learning how to lie routinely and to make excuses to cover up the hoarding problem?

    What kind of self-image is a child developing when
    the vast majority of the energy in the household is focused on the
    hoarder’s needs and the hoarder’s things, but not on the child’s needs?

    What example does it set for a child when the
    hoarder gets attention and support from adult authority figures and
    professionals, but everyone else in the family gets ignored or finds
    their needs marginalized?

    The therapeutic “be patient” approach actually
    intensifies those problems unless specific therapeutic attention is not
    also paid directly to the child!

    etc. etc. etc.


  • ruth

    I remember pulling my stinky, moldy clothes from piles on the floor so I could wear something to school when I was a kid……I still have doorbell dread and I am 46. I’ve been in therapy for the better part of 25 years and my life is free of clutter.
       Last year, my elderly mother took deathly ill and the doctor said if she lived she wasn’t to live alone again. So, I hired some help and we threw out everything……….. it took 6 construction dumpsters and my mothers life went to the garbage or  

  • Additional comments:

    Julia St. Charles

    Southern US

    May 15th, 2011

    To #132, “Too Much Stuff.” I am the adult
    child of a hoarder. Our house is not “spotless.” It is tidy, and it
    looks “lived-in” but I can find anything I need in just a few moments —
    five minutes at most. Tools are in the …

    HIGHLIGHT (what’s this?)

    Hoarder’s Son

    Northeast USA

    May 15th, 2011

    @ #171/tc “Whether it’s the extreme compulsion
    to be uber-neat or to never throw anything away, the behavior is a
    manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which most definitely is
    genetic.”Not quite true. There is significant evidence that
    hoarding is a distinct condition from OCD. Among other lines of
    evidence, individuals who hoard seem to have different patterns of brain
    activity than most OCD patients, and medications that are successful in
    treating OCD conditions are generally not successful in treating
    hoarding. It is true that some OCD patients hoard, but it is not yet
    clear if their hoarding is coincidental, or if it is somehow different
    (biologically) from hoarding done by people who do not have other major
    OCD symptoms.Indeed, there is a reasonable likelihood that
    hoarding will be included as a separate disorder from OCD or OCPD in the
    next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and
    Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, aka DSM-V.

    COHInc note:
    More information about the DSM V revisions:

  • Additional comments made:

    Julia St. Charles
    May 15th, 2011

    To #132, “Too Much Stuff.”  I am the adult child of a hoarder.  Our house is not “spotless.” It is tidy, and it looks “lived-in” but I can find anything I need in just a few moments — five minutes at most.  Tools are in the …

    Hoarder’s Son
    Northeast USA
    May 15th, 2011

    @ #171/tc “Whether it’s the extreme compulsion to be uber-neat or to never throw anything away, the behavior is a
    manifestation of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which most definitely is genetic.”Not quite true. There is significant evidence that hoarding is a distinct condition from OCD. Among other lines of evidence, individuals who hoard seem to have different patterns of brain  activity than most OCD patients, and medications that are successful in
     treating OCD conditions are generally not successful in treating hoarding. It is true that some OCD patients hoard, but it is not yet clear if their hoarding is coincidental, or if it is somehow different (biologically) from hoarding done by people who do not have other major OCD symptoms.Indeed, there is a reasonable likelihood that hoarding will be included as a separate disorder from OCD or OCPD in the  next edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”, aka DSM-V.

    COHInc note:
    More information about the DSM V revisions:

  • Notyou

     I just discovered that I am not alone. I saw the NYT article this past week and sat in shock that there are other people out there like me, and that “doorbell dread” is a real thing! Thank you, everyone, who have shared your experiences on this website. I am amazed to know that others are dealing with the guilt, anger, frustration, and weirdness of it all. I don’t know you but feel a connection to you and that gives me strength. Thank you.

  • somewhereinMO

    My father has certain items he insists on keeping right now he “collects” cook books.  He probably has over 500 hundred of them even though he rarely makes anything himself.  He has the local library contact him whenever they were getting rid of old books and they are stacked everywhere.  Unfortunately that is not all…he also enjoys watching food decay in his home.  Once I thought he had a pair of black socks hanging in his kitchen but they were actually old, old bananas.  Another time I threw out an old pumpkin sitting on the carpet and he was furious.  He hasn’t let me in his home for over 3 years now.  We are supposed to help him move to a new house my brother bought him.  I’m scared to see what we find last time I was there he had a tiny goat path to the couch and his house was filthy.  You might call him eccentric if he wasn’t so nasty about having to clean it up or throw something out, but the truth is he is just a compolsive hoarder who refuses to get help.  

  • Vicki

     My sister told me about this article, and I had to comment – I wanted to connect with other people outside of our home who know how it feels – our mother is a hoarder; she refuses to admit it. She jokes it off and says she may be a little bit of a pack rat, but it’s more than that. When any of us tries to tell her reality, what we see, she gets angry and defends herself. We tried helping her organize once and that wen’t… very badly. I remember her screaming at us to put things back where she had them, except that we only tried to organize the pile that fell over while she was gone. It was top heavy, taller than us. It could have hurt someone. But she thought differently, I guess. Mother knows best, right? I was always afraid to touch her stuff. I often felt isolated, neglected as a child, like I didn’t matter. Her stuff was more important than mine. Her stuff flooded our rooms; it felt like she was blocking us in. For someone who doesn’t drink, almost all of her boxes were alcohol boxes, from our grandpa’s bar. Try explaining that to guests. I can remember always being too embarrassed to bring anybody over, except for one cousin who was my best friend; she accepted us, that her aunt was “different” but I couldn’t bring any of my friends. It was too painful. Reading other people’s comments on here really helps me to feel better. I’m 25 now. I’m not as embarressed anymore.

  • BP

    My fiancee  sent me the NYT article.  Like a lot of you, this is the first time I even knew something like this existed, a sort of therapy for “victims” of hoarders.  My mom is a hoarder.  My brother and sister have both moved on with their lives and live on the other side of the world…but I am still finding myself tied to home (although I have a house with my fiancee).  I am afraid of leaving my dad alone with my mom.  My dad sleeps on the living room couch with the dog, and recently I “took back” my room, by throwing all her garbage out and declaring the room my dad.  For the first time in 40 years of marriage, my dad has a desk, bed, and closet to put his clothes.  Now I am afraid that if I don’t continuously visit and stick around, she will take that space and privacy from him. 
    I love my mom, but at this point, if my dad left her, I would be sad, but happy for him.  What are children of hoarders supposed to do ????  What are we supposed to do….I feel helpless and tired….and so sad for my dad.
    I myself now understand why I purge of my things, and keep my possessions to a minimum.  I am also an artist, I write new music, and I my work is the most reduced music I have ever heard,,now I know why…….and although it is nice to know why,,it makes me feel even more helpless…

    • Defziggy

      I sympathize with you. I am not involved in the situation, but I have make an observation: why do you blame the condition of the house totally on your mom? Your dad lives there, too.

  • Pandamanimal

    I just had a wonderful morning getting yelled at for throwing out a few empty dog food containers that my mom “plans to use to make soap in.”  I’m sorry mom, but I am acutely aware that you never follow through with these plans and these pieces of garbage you see as tools will just sit around in another one of your ever-growing piles that has taken over the house that was supposed to be a home for your loved ones, but then our home is just a storage unit to you, your family doesn’t even come into consideration.  I, like many children of hoarders, wonder why you care more for your piles of stuff than the people you constantly claim to love…I wish I had followed through and brought my middle school principal over to show the house you forced your kids to grow up in and have ended up in the foster system.  At least then my life wouldn’t be dominated by your garbage…

    • Natalieinohio

      I know how U feel!  my mom saves everything to save other things in but turns around and buys hundreds of food containers, totes etc…..  I cant understand, never will, and an empty thing that we throw away food cans etc she keeps and they are more important to her.  I moved back in w my mom when daddy died, she was really bad then but got worse, my life has been H^&* ever since and when I do go all heck will break out cuz she sees me as her possession, when I was 28 and moved out to get married she actually called cops on me for trying to run away, I was almost 30 yrs old.  Im sorry you and all of us go thru this til yesterday I thought I was alone in this the only person who dealt with it therefore my fault, mom tells me that all time and I am now working on convincing myself it is not my fault, hers and hers alone, I told my sis when I leave I wont look back, I cant my health has suffered as have my kids, at point I can not walk much or stand.  And if I see an empty can now and mom not home I throw it in my sons trash down the st, lol…  Mom will go out to trash can and go threw it humiliating!!!!!   Take care I hope it all gets better  🙂  but u know we are all here

  • Defziggy

    My parents are hoarders. I am glad I have moved out. When I was a teenager, my brother left his polyester pants on the floor heater, which was surrounded by stacks of old newspapers, there were about 4 stacks that were each about 5 ft. high. I was the only one home because I was exempt from an exam that day. My arm burning because it was near the hall door woke me up and I had to climb out the window in January. After the house was cleaned and restored, it slowly became just as messy as it had ever been

    I suffered a lot in my childhood, but I do have compassion for my parents. Our society is lacking in structure and compassion.

  • Natalieinohio

    I cant seem to stop crying.  Several months ago some one tol me of the Hoarder shows, I watched and couldn’t believe that others were out there who knew how it is. I look up everything on the net yet never looked for a site like this as it never occurred to me that anyone would know let alone understand my position which in a word is Hades!!  Every story told here, every comment fits like a puzzle.  I really love my mom devoted last 10 years to her while me kids needed me, my fault, on the other hand sometimes I hate her so much.  Her hoarding and the dirty house as well as the stress and her always screaming at us has aggravated a physical condition of mine to point it hurts to even walk and always crying, always  Every story I have read on hear there is something in it that applies, until yesterday I truly thought I was only person who dealt w this even my bro and sis who know say I blow it out proportion and to ignore moms problems and they go about their lives it wasn’t til yesterday they really knew.  Moms landlord is giving her a month to get rid of everything  and clean up, so finally my sibs jump in.  I spent 10 hours straight in the awful heat wave our country is in working non stop only to have mom come home from work and bring it all back in house and unpack while screaming at me throwing things and cursing me calling me every name there is, my bro and sis called and heard her, I have told them many times how it is and they got mad at me for upsetting mother, after hearing mother at her “best” cursing me calling me a witch with a B, on and on they have apologized to me but still aren’t here to help.  It kills me knowing that My kids have been thrue this, we keep our rooms clean looks like a diff house, BUT still no friends, no company, no holiday visits.  What really struck me is I read on her that kids have :TORTURED AMBIVALENT FEELING” for their parents who are hoarders, it helps a lil knowing It is not me it is not my fault.  I will have to keep telling myself that as for 10 years that’s has been drilled in my head by mom, and by others who dont know the inside story.  She has come home mad I cleaned and threw all clean dishes in the drainer into sink and then called several ppl every time to tell them that after working all day she came home to sink full of dishes, a flat out lie, cant tell u how many ppl at her church, work, relatives look down on me and even hate me for doing this to her.  2 her friends at work know for sure they have been here and have heard her talk to me.  Thank you so much for starting this site and thank you so much to others for sharing their stories, it solves nothing but it does let others know they are not alone  and not their fault, thank you for being brave enough to tell the world in efforts to help ur self but others as well!

  • MaryJaneSmith001

    I used to think that I was all alone, afraid to invite friends over because my parent’s house was so messy. I felt bad for not being able to have my friends over and always having to make excuses to meet them places or go to their house to study, play video games, do anything, etc. The home I grew up in felt like a prison: I couldn’t have any visitation, no special holiday parties or visitors; I couldn’t have any big possessions (like a chair or a table) because they wouldn’t fit through the front door (which wouldn’t open all the way because of my Dad’s hoarded piles of stuff).

    They few times that friends had to give me a ride home, I remember lying to them telling them that the house was a mess because my parents were remodeling. I felt so bad for lying to my friends, but I was so ashamed. Now it pains me because I feel helpless because I don’t know how to help my parents. I am so thankful for a place where I can finally share this secret dread, pain, etc., that I never thought anyone would be able to understand. Now, I’m out of my parents house (happily married) but my father’s hoarding has gotten worse as has my relationship with him. Now that my mother is only working part time, she will be spending a lot more time at their house that is so overtaken by Dad’s piles of hoarded junk that you can’t even see a path into some rooms. I see storm clouds on the horizon in their relationship because of my Dad’s hoarding. I welcome any advice and thank you all for your support and understanding. – MaryJane

    • Teresa Cooper

      I’m not sure that I can offer advice, but some thoughts on your parent’s situation. I’ve seen adult children try to get involved in their parents’ relationship problems and it usually ends badly for everyone. If your Mom really can’t take the home situation, then she alone has to decide what is important to her – a clean house with her husband or without. It is hard to know what people will accept in their relationships unless you are in their position. My father hates my mother’s hoarding, but lives with it because he would be lost without their relationship. You could encourage her to see a counselor or therapist, but telling her what to do beyond that could be costly for your own relationship with her.

    • Stramirez26

      hi mary jane!! my name is summers and the first thing you need to do is STOP feeling ashamed!! please email me at… i have some things that will change your life and the life of your parents if you guys really really want it. hope to hear from you

  • Anna

    I do often worry that I will be a hoarder, and because of that I will not allow myself many belongings. I frequently go through everything and discard or donate. My house is bare with little decoration and almost all items serve a purpose. My father is a hoarder, and I remember going to his parents house as a child and there was barely room to turn around. When my grandmother passed it took months to clean out her house from all the junk, and I’ve always sort of known this was a family trait.
    Just recently, my boyfriend of over a year went to my dads house the first time, and even though I tried to prepare him it was still really embarrassing when he saw it and made a few quiet comments to me. I have a brother that is pretty bad with it too, and what’s crazy, his live in girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind as she is a hoarder herself, they are a match made in heaven. And I have heard my other brothers house is almost inhabitable, but I have not been to his place in years. My stepmom said she couldn’t even bare to walk through his door which is ironic since she lives with my father.
    My oldest sister however seems to share in my OCD of constantly purging belongings. While her house is not as barren as mine, it is extremely neat and orderly. It’s like we both know what could happen if we aren’t aware of the quantity of our belongings.
    Just in the past few months I’ve learned about a movement to own less than 100 items as a way to declutter, and aside from clothes (which is my own guilty pleasure) I have gotten under 100. Sometimes I look around and wonder if I have gone too far in the other extreme, but I would rather my home be spotless and empty than too full to think. All that said, I am going to clean out some closets, I get such a sense of peace when everything is meticulously organized and I know it is because of my family history with hoarding. It is so apparent that I am mentally overcompensating with my OCD, but to me it is the lesser of two evils.

  • Teresa Cooper

    I’m curious what those 100 items are – would you tell us?

    • Anna

      It is really just an idea that you can live with 100 items or less. It don’t believe that includes clothing or toiletries, but if you are going for the extreme you could include those items. In my head 100 items is alot, maybe because of my adversity to hoarding, but I have my living room down to less than 10 items right now and absolutely LOVE IT! everything is so open. I have two couches, a tv, dvd player and cable box a couple candlesticks and 1 end table. You can decide what 100 items you can’t live without

  • iam2nd!

    please comment on my blog in the blogs by COH tab.