General chatter - hoarders




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lilybelle
12-13-2007, 03:51 PM
I watched a documentary on TLC last night about hoarders. I learned that I had been totally misinformed previously about hoarding behavior. I'm not talking about the "normal" behavior of saving our old clothes hoping we'll be able to wear them again someday.

I used to have a very good friend named Walt. The first time he invited me over, I was shocked at how cluttered his duplex was. From the outside, it looked perfectly "normal". From the inside, there was barely a path to walk and every piece of furniture, countertop, corner, whatever was packed almost to the ceiling with various stuff. He had gone through a divorce about a yr. previously and from what he said, this is when the behavior greatly increased.

Whenever I would go to his home, I'd naturally try to "help". I learned last night that my idea of helping was actually harmful to his psyche. I'd try to box things up, sort stuff, clean up, clear off furniture, and in general move his stuff. It was so frustrating cause on each future visit, I'd find his home was even more cluttered than the previous time. I offered to help him have a yard sale but he never did. He would always say "I'm saving all this stuff in case someone ever needs it". I simply couldn't fathom living amongst clutter in the hopes that someday it would be useful.

I was outside one day with him when he opened the garage. There was stuff piled everywhere to the ceiling.

Since he owned both sides of the duplex, for a while he had rented out the other side to a tenant. He eventually moved his tenant out of that other side and began to fill that side also with stuff.

Anyway, I learned that moving their stuff creates havoc and uncertainty in their lives. The best way to help is through them getting therapy and a professional organizer that is trained in helping people with this disorder.

After personally knowing a hoarder, I can now see and accept how it affected his family and his life. He had 2 beautiful daughters ages 6 and 12 and his XW called the DHS on him and refused to allow his daughters to visit because his home was so messy.

They did mention on the show that this behavior is often passed down to future generations. This behavior also often appears around the age of 40 and especially increases after a traumatic event.

I posted this so if anyone knows someone that hoardes or has a problem with it themself, that they might be able to help them or get help.


shananigans
12-13-2007, 04:29 PM
My mom is a hoarder, though not quite packed to the ceiling (at least not in all rooms :rolleyes:) it's gotten much worse since they've been empty nesters. I had no idea that it generally emerged after the age of 40, she was always holding onto stuff that someone “might be able to use” in the future, but it did get much worse around that age. We've been "threatening" to write one of those "help my mom" letters to Oprah for a while, but the potential public humiliation is enough to keep us from following through on that. She is starting to realize she has a problem (in part because I think the public is being made more aware of hoarding as a mental illness) but is not interested in professional help as of now, so we are kind of at a loss. It's kind of strange to me that everyone in the extended family just accepts it and doesn't say anything?

At least she doesn't hoard cats or dogs. Have you seen that show Animal Cops on Animal Planet? They've raided houses that have had 100 to 150 animals living in filth, right along with the owner. Unbelievable.

dixied
12-13-2007, 04:42 PM
I consider my mom a hoarder. What's worse is that she tries to give me stuff all the time. I'm lucky I live 4 states away and don't have to deal with it, much. Our house was never like that when I was growing up, just since I moved out and my dad died. My brother's MIL hoards animals (40 some dogs, horses, llamas, etc). His wife shows hoarding tendencies too. They'd like to think they're just unorganized, but I think they have a serious problem.

I think I'm completely the opposite because it freaks me out to be around that much clutter. I'm a neat freak at work, at home I'm not so compulsively neat, but I am organized.


lilybelle
12-13-2007, 05:46 PM
Shananigans, I'm glad you realize that it isn't an issue that can be forced. It really does take professional help and a readiness to deal with this.

Dixie, you bring up an excellent point. The show did emphasize that it often greatly increases when a person starts having an empty nest. I have seen shows about this on Oprah and I wonder now if that really helped the people or if it just caused them shame and humiliation for their secret to become public.

The show did say there are 2 million people with hoarding behavior.

I could always tell that Walt was embarassed of how his home looked. But, he was overwhelmed and felt it wasn't something he had any control over. Of course, at the time, I was uninformed and just thought he needed a Woman to organize stuff for him.

Heather
12-13-2007, 06:00 PM
Lily -- Actually, you just helped me. I know someone with extreme hoarding behavior who I know has been diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder). I never made the connection between the two conditions until just now. In fact, I always thought of OCD as being the opposite of hoarding, but something in what you wrote let me see the connection for the first time, and I understand this person a little better!

Chrysalis
12-13-2007, 08:39 PM
My grandma was a hoarder. She kept the living areas somewhat clear, but her closets, bedrooms, cabinets, storage area...any extra rooms other than the kitchen and living room...stuffed to bursting with stuff. She had a shed outside that you couldn't even step into because it was so full.
The weird thing is, she was poor. She didn't have the money to buy stuff, but everything she did, she kept forever. I remember visiting her while I was in college, and she had converted the spare office into a pantry. It was filled with canned food (by filled I mean exactly that -- two floor to ceiling bookshelves packed, cans stacked on the floor, boxes of cans). She lived with my grandfather, and that's it. There's no way they could possibly use all the food. To top it off, she didn't eat more than the barest amount she needed to -- she said after cooking for so long, she just didn't like food!
One of my fears is that I will develop that kind of obsessive, "have to have a full house" packratishness. My grandma did it, my mom did it (though admittedly my grandma was neater about it, my mom's house just became an unreal mess)....sigh.

lilybelle
12-14-2007, 01:27 AM
Heather, glad I could help. The show did say that this mental disorder is freuently associated with OCD . I really did get a better understanding of what my friend was going through by watching this program.

Dreamchick, your grandmother sounds a little like my MIL. Her home is tidy, but she has 3 large sheds on her property that are full to the brink and her garage is the same. She is alone now, but her pantry could about feed the Army. She has 3 refrigerators full of food in her garage, plus the inside fridge and a large freezer. Every time we visit her, she sends tons of stuff home with us. If we have any electric appliance go out, she gives us another. Our riding lawnmower gave out this summer, no problem she had 4 of them and gave us one. When our computer gave out last yr. she gave us another one cause she had 6 extra ones in her garage. She constantly goes to estate sales and buys things in large quantities. Last yr. she asked if I wanted some outdoor Christmas lights cause she doesn't want to go to the trouble of lighting up the outside of her house anymore. When DH brought the lights home, I was shocked. I could have lit up the whole dang street with all those lights.

scgirl32
12-14-2007, 09:09 AM
In my line of work, I encounter the "effects" of hoarders on a frequent basis. I'm an archivist, meaning that I acquire, organize, and provide access to documents of historical importance. At least once a month, I get a call from some person who's parent just passed away or moved into assisted living, and this person has been tasked with cleaning out the house. Sorting through all of the "stuff" to whittle it down to the documents of true historic importance is hard. Doing that while the "hoarder" is still living (and you have to delicately explain to them that, no, you don't need three copies of every local newspaper from the past 50 years) is even tougher!

My mom is a hoarder. I think that's why I do what I do. It's like I'm a professional de-hoarder. :)

aphil
12-14-2007, 09:16 AM
Lily -- Actually, you just helped me. I know someone with extreme hoarding behavior who I know has been diagnosed with OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder). I never made the connection between the two conditions until just now. In fact, I always thought of OCD as being the opposite of hoarding, but something in what you wrote let me see the connection for the first time, and I understand this person a little better!


I was just coming in to say that hoarding is a form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Someone who tries to "give their stuff away" I wouldn't really say has OCD hoarding.

I have OCD, and it can take MANY, many forms. Basically, it is an anxiety disorder. Everyone has little habits, fears, etc. but with OCD, they become exaggerated, causing extreme anxiety. One person with OCD might have an exaggerated fear of germs/contamination, so their obsessive thoughts about it lead to a compulsive activity to release that stress. It might be showering, handwashing, or excessive cleaning.

In hoarding, the exaggerated fear of needing something, or getting rid of something that you *might* need later, no matter how trivial it might be, creates the hoarding as the compulsive behavior.

It is definitely passed down through generations. Many OCD sufferers also have other anxiety issues-maybe depressions, anxiety attacks, or other issues. (The same thing that causes OCD, causes anxiety attacks, etc.) They are often medicated with the same way (Paxil, Prozac, etc.)

OCD is often hard to diagnose, simply because there are so many avenues that it can take-one person might organize and straighten things all day, someone else might hoard, and someone else might have to check things numerous times before they can leave it alone. Some people have multiple obsessions-you might have a fear of contamination with a fear of forgetting something...another person might have an obsession with numers (counting) paired with an obsession with neatness/symmetry.

Honestly, going on Oprah or Dr. Phil...or having a professional organizer doesn't help, unfortunately. Understanding and learning about the disorder is the first thing...learning about other cases, and that you are not alone.

Also, traumatic events can bring it on...but events such as trauma, puberty, pregnancy, and other dramatic changes can heighten or lessen it at times as well. Some simply have it from birth. Obsessions and compulsions can also change over one's lifetime. Hoarding is a pretty obvious one, if you go to someone's home and see it...but there is a chance that maybe years ago, it was still there, but in another form. That person might have previously been a "checker" or a counter, and no one realized it.

My grandmother, mother, and I all have it...and two of my children display signs already. :(

lilybelle
12-14-2007, 10:44 AM
aphil, thanks for your insight on the subject.

Eves
12-14-2007, 11:43 AM
I'm a hoarder. It doesn't get as bad since I move around a LOT, but it's definitely there.

And it really does run in my family. My father, who grew up dirt poor in a third world country, hoards everything. He even checks the trash and will save busted hair dryers, toasters, everything. Whenever we have something big to throw away we have to actually get it to the dumpster or the Goodwill, or it will be saved.

All of my siblings are also hoarders. My younger sister and I really aren't as bad as my older siblings. My older sister has barely a narrow walkway to walk through at her place. My older brother, well his house looks normal, but if you open up a closet or if you look inside the garage...it's scary how much stuff he has.

I never thought of it as OCD, or a form of anxiety disorder. Really. I thought of it as behavior picked up from my Dad. I guess I'll look into it more, since it's really embarrassing to have your husband ask why are you keeping 2 year old socks. Thanks for the info!

ennay
12-14-2007, 01:24 PM
I think there are 2 things and it is important to realize the distinction...there is OCD hoarding and then there is a more garden variety hoarding that doesnt get to the same extreme. Garden variety (GV) hoarding can be helped much more easily.

A lot of people who grew up during the depression had it, growing up poor also. My dad had it about paperwork and money. When I cleared out his house he had every cancelled check he had ever written "just in case they say I didnt pay and try to collect".

I have it to some extent about sentimental stuff and paperwork. My mom just doesnt want to see usable stuff wasted and she passed that on. I practically had a blowout with my dh who threw out a perfectly good coffee maker because I had bought a new one - someone could have USED that. GVhoarders can occasionally get rid of things, but they feel better "finding a good home for them". So a lot of times their home ends up looking like an OCD hoarder because they never get around to finding the good home, filing the photos in scrapbooks, hanging the cute stuff etc. etc. etc. The anxiety about wasting stuff makes us environmentally friendly at least. :p

But my mom drives me nuts because she gets upset that the magazines she buys for her grandkids havent been kept forever and ever. She subscribed my nephew to Ranger Rick for about 6 years and he is too old for it now and she is mad that instead of keeping all the issues and handing them off to my kids, they recycled the beat up ones and took the rest to a school for cutout stuff. They are magazines....I know what my kids magazines look like after a few months and dear god if he had given me a box of 72 magazines I would have flipped. She was mad because I didnt keep my 6 month old from ripping the magazines she bought for her.....

scgirl32
12-14-2007, 02:00 PM
I was just coming in to say that hoarding is a form of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Someone who tries to "give their stuff away" I wouldn't really say has OCD hoarding. (

I was referring to working with the relatives of the "hoarders." For the most part, I'm called in after someone has passed away. The first person hoarded for their lifetime, and I come in when the relatives are forced to empty out the house. It's sad to see on a number of levels. One that always bothers me, though, is the flippancy of some of these relatives. They basically tell me "take what you want, we don't care." I'm certainly not a hoarder, but I know that, if something were to happen to my mom (who is), there are certain things she "hoarded" that I would want to keep.

kaplods
12-14-2007, 05:36 PM
My husband and I have hoarding tendencies, I think. We don't mind, and tend to accumulate a little clutter, but our house isn't dirty either (his mother would disagree).

My husband's mother takes cleaning and "decluttering" to an obsessive degree. Her house has never looked lived in. It looks like a movie set or page from a home decorating magazines (in fact, many of those look less antiseptic and more lived in). She washes walls and the garage floor, at least once a month. I've never seen anyone's kitchen floor as clean as her garage floor. The last time she visitied our house, she was obsessed by a fraying edge of our living room rug. It's three years old, gets the most foot traffic and wear, and when she said something about it I agreed that it does need replacing or at least a good steam cleaning. This was about two months ago, and every single time she calls (at least a couple times per week) she asks us whether we have cleaned or replaced the rug yet. She wants to come clean our house (hubby says over his dead body). She's gotten much, much worse since her husband passed away about six months ago, so we're both trying to be understanding. She has had both hips replaced and really shouldn't be doing the kind of yard work and housework she is doing on a daily basis. Her doctor did persuade her to get rid of her snowblower and hire a snow removal service. Which she did, but she wa very unhappy with the job they did, and called them demanding that they come and redo it. She lives an hour a way, so we weren't able to see if they'd really done a substandard job, or whether it just wasn't up to her high standards.

She has also started sending tons and tons of religious spam. You know the kind, with a very sentimental poem or prayer accompanied by beautiful photographs and music, ending with emotional blackmail - something along the lines of "You are an evil person who hates Jesus and kills puppies if you don't send this to everyone you know, including the person who sent this to you."

glynne
12-15-2007, 08:14 AM
It was comforting in a way to read of the experiences of others here. My mom is a hoarder. It is so sad to go back and visit mom and dad's house. And sad to think of how they live. There is barely a path all through their house. Every room is filled up with stuff ~ and it is not organized ~ just stuffed in there. The overflow has even started to be placed in an old car out in the driveway. Dad would like to get rid of stuff, but mom won't hear of it. She has made the comments as others of you have said ~ that someone might need something and she will be able to help them. She has also said the thing about saving things because of how it was to live during the depression. People have offered to help her clean it up and she is resistive to that ~ says she is too tired (I can understand that). She says that she will get it done some time. I think that there is so much stuff ~ it is overwhelming and she doesn't even know where to begin, and even the thought of trying is exhausting. And it is sad her perspective of how long it has been like that. She will say, oh, it wasn't too bad until just recently, but actually it has been like that for 20 or more years. I feel bad going there ~ I get irritable ~ as I try to get from one room to another, you can't help but accidentally bump something which causes sort of an avalanch. I love them and want to visit, but it drives me nuts.

They have a 3 bedroom house, and all the room they have is a chair for each of them in the living room. They are both retired, and get on each other's nerves. It would help if they weren't on top of each other, but there is so much clutter that there is no where for one of them to be in some other room.

When I go to visit, there is no where for me to even stay with them. I don't know what is going to happen ~ they are getting up there in years, and when the time comes (as has for some of my friends) that I would need to go stay with them and help take care of them, I don't know what I am going to do. I don't mean to sound like a mean person, but I can't stand to live like that.

And, it scares me that I will start to be like that. The feeling tired part ~ I know how she feels. I often feel too tired and I am a procrastinator, so I could see myself ending up in her situation. Thankfully, we have moved a number of times in my adult life (because of my husband's job) and so have had to "go through" stuff and get rid of stuff so there was less stuff to move.

Thank you for listening. I have needed to share this with somebody. It helps being able to share it with others who understand.

aphil
12-15-2007, 08:41 AM
I was referring to working with the relatives of the "hoarders." For the most part, I'm called in after someone has passed away. The first person hoarded for their lifetime, and I come in when the relatives are forced to empty out the house. It's sad to see on a number of levels. One that always bothers me, though, is the flippancy of some of these relatives. They basically tell me "take what you want, we don't care." I'm certainly not a hoarder, but I know that, if something were to happen to my mom (who is), there are certain things she "hoarded" that I would want to keep.


I wasn't referring to your post. ;)

I was referring to lilybelle's original post mentioning professional organizers (while the hoarder is still alive, not deceased).

After the person is deceased, of course, someone has to do what you do. In my post, I was mentioning that for someone with OCD hoarding, a professional organizer doesn't really help.

lilybelle
12-15-2007, 10:01 AM
Aphil, I mentioned the professional organizer because this is what was recommended on the TLC special that I watched. It , of course, was done with the help of therapy. The organizer came into the home and would help the client determine which small area of the home would be necessary to tackle first. The organizer did not move the client's belongings at all. For example, one client that I watched was in violation of the city fire code and was needing to clear a path to a designated fire window. She was in danger of being evicted from her apartment.

Basically, the organizers job was to praise the client's efforts and give advice when asked about how to sort stuff. It was very much a stand-by and watch effort on the part of the organizer. Otherwise it would end up overwhelming and confusing the client.

It was a very long, painstaking task that took a great deal of patience. Some of the clients, it was a whole year of doing just a little bit at a time . I mention all of this cause someone may have read my original post and thought an organizer goes in, sorts and boxes stuff and determines what to dispense of. It is isn't that way at all.

I fully admit that I knew very little about what was going on in the brain of a hoarder. I was hoping to help others gain insight about what I had learned from watching this show.

I hope this explanation makes sense.

Heather
12-15-2007, 10:32 AM
I found these sites to be helpful.
http://www.ocfoundation.org/1005/m120a_004.htm
http://understanding_ocd.tripod.com/hoarding.html

One of the things I learned is that the medication that typically helps people with other symptoms of OCD is much less effective for people who hoard. A lot of the more effective therapies are cognitive/behavioral -- trying to change people's thoughts and behaviors about what they do. It IS time consuming.

lilybelle
12-15-2007, 07:49 PM
Heather, thanks for the links.