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Readers Respond: Coping When a Family Member is a Hoarder

Responses: 18

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Updated September 23, 2010

From the article: Hoarding
Although the clutter and squalor caused by hoarding often does not bother the hoarder themselves, it can be very frustrating and distressing for family members. Among the most distressing aspects of hoarding for family members is the lack of insight the hoarder often has into the consequences of their hoarding -- even when threatened with legal action, eviction, or losing custody of their children.

If you have a family member who hoards, how do you cope? Have you found any useful strategies for helping loved ones to see the impact of their hoarding?

dad is a hoarder, sister too

my dad has been hoarding for my whole life. but my mom has kept it in check up until 2008 when she had to move for a new job after being laid off. I remember as a kid having to clean frantically whenever guests would come over, because otherwise my dad would not allow it. I'm told that he was a neat freak in college, but after my grandmother threw out wedding photos he snapped and was unable to throw things away. he justifies the hoard by blaming the other members of the family, and. saying that if we didnt want it we shouldn't have bought it. I'm in my 20s and still have baby junk in the baseny because he is unable to let go. the worst part is my sister, 24, has developed the same tendencies as he has, along with randomly collecting things from the side of the roads in people's garbage. She has gathered so many useless chairs and childrens things and just stores them in the basement and any other room in the house. Between the two of them they have made useless 90% of the house...
—Guest jb

cant take it anymore

finallynleft after 45 years when he threatened to hit me if i ever touched his stuff. he gradually filled up 2 rental houses, 2 double car garages, one single car garage, at least 5 good sized sheds, and has piles and piles of junk in the yard. Ileft but I cant really get away. I feel responsible to clean it up so our kids wont have to. He refuses to even acknowedge that there is a problem, and sees no reason for me to leave. I am afraid of him. He values stuff above everything. I am at the bottom of his priorities. It is absolutely hopeless adn costs us thousands of dollars to keep those houses unrented. and we can not even get insurance on them,. His hoarding has torn our family apart, i am 66 years old am trying to salvage some ofmy life. I had to leavemy homeand now live in an apartmentwhile he is filling up my house with junk. Hoarding is just one symtom of this very serious and destructive personality disorder. It permeates every aspect of his thinking.
—Guest rita

Ex-wife drives away everyone

When ww first married my wife kept our apartment immaculate. She even used a cloth to wipe mayonnaise on plant leaves to give them a healthy shine. In her 30's she started to hoard whole magazines because one article or one recipe was interesting. We moved into a new home and s I bought shelves and magazine cataloguing files to organize them and get them in the garage and out of the living area, instead she started stacking baby formula containers inthe shelving because our 1 year old son "might use them for art projects when he goes to preschool 3 years from now." The magazines remained and the piles grew. She bought clothes on sale for the kids in such volume that there were still hanging in the closet with store tags on them long after the children had out grown them. Laundry was cleaned but never put away. When I tried to clean or organize there would be a major fight but she always blamed me for the clutter. Her sisters, therapy, medication nothing has helped. We are divorced
—Guest Don

Husband, brother in law and their mother

My husband is a pack rat, he does maintain his stuff within his own space. His brother however is a full blown hoarder. He is single, lives alone and is buried up to his cieling with junk. The part that is unacceptable is his hoarding is spilling over to my mother in laws home. She was more of a pack rat then a hoarder. Never the less, it runs in the family. My husband does not deny his brother has a problem, the brother himself is in denial. How do I get help for this family?
—Guest Virginia Occhipinti

Is my dad's hoarding my responsibility?

I was recently found out that my 79 year old father has been reported anonymously to town officials due to the rat problem associated hoarding. His tendencies have worsened with age.....I can't get him even to throw away a drink cup now. My parents relationship was terrible and my sister and I had a strained relationship with my dad. My mom had a serious problem with depression that started when I finished college. My sister and I moved home, took care care of her, kicked my dad out for a while with a restraining order and cleaned the house so she could live. My father was very angry and within a few years the house was just as bad. 11 years ago my mom committed suicide, there was negligence in his part. Now the hoarding as at an even more serious level, he actually saw a mink in the house hunting a rat. I can't get him to clean up. Lots of emotional baggage and some apathy. Now we are being told to seek conservatorship and that this is the family's responsibility. Is it really?
—Guest Stressed Daughter

My Mother Is a Hoarder, HELP ME HELP HER

My mother is a hoarder, and its gotten so bad that the last time we had a plumber over here, he reported her house to the police, And they reported it to child services. i have nowhere else to go, but living with her in this filth, Im about to lose my kids. She has PTSD since my sister died in 08 of Leukemia, she has just gotten worse. she was always a hoarder, so is her mother. but what do I do? i dont wanna be homeless cuz i can lose my kids..but i will lose them if I stay..she is in denial so bad, refusing to even talk about it. we need some sort of emergency intervention. she has lost her will to live, and shes about to take the life of my children as they know it along with her..i dunno what to do anymore..every effort is in vain.
—Guest Desperate for Answers

22 yr old hoarder

My 22 yr old college student has collected and built model airplanes since he was a kid. He does extremely well in college at OSU, has a girlfriend, is social, etc.. BUT his room is so filled with these things (plus his "collectible" Star Wars, Anime', real WWII things he bought.. you cannot get in to clean it. The desk is crammed full..Theres dust on everything, but when I try to clean it, he just about has a melt-down..saying I'm going to break everything. He saw a therapist a couple yrs ago at school who said he had OCD tendencies. We have no other "hoarding" going on in the home. Does this sound like a typical OCD person w/hoarding issues?
—Guest johio

my aunt is a hoarder

My fathers sister is a hoarder. It has ruined his and his brothers relationship with her. When I speak to my father about it he blames it on the fact my aunt was very spoiled growing up. After my grandparents had my uncle and my father they had a daughter who was born with a heart condition that she eventually died from. My grandparents tried for a long time to get pregnant again and finally they had my aunt. They felt very grateful. They did spoil her. But now she had deep emotional problems. She was just out of high school when her father died and when her mother died she did not take it well. Today, she still speaks as if my grandmother just past away months ago but its been almost 20 years. My aunt hoards everything she finds. Once it was animals and she had over 20 cats that eventually died because she couldn't take care of them. To help a hoarder you must first figure out why they hoard. And then you must help them heal by providing support.
—Guest niece of hoarder

Too much time on insanity

The thing that I can't understand is the ability to deny the obvious. How on earth can anyone be so far gone is beyond me. I have tried everything under the sun to get my now ex to get help. Yes I gave up. The situation was way bigger than me and started causing me to become irrational. The impact of hoarding on everyone and everything associated with a person this mentally ill is astounding. At least my situation isn't/wasn't as bad as the ones I've seen on the TLC show. Good luck to all dealing with this major mental illness.
—Guest GivingUp

Ex-partner is a serious Hoarder

When I met my ex I didn't know she was a Hoarder. By the time I figured it out it was too late. When we moved in together we had to have a 3bed 2 bath home with a double garage for all her stuff. We both had jobs with 12 hour shifts with a lot of overtime. The extra bathroom was mine alone and I had my own spare room just to have a place that I wasn't constantly cleaning. We moved to another city for new jobs and the hoarding became worse. Now she had more stores for her compulsive shopping and if one was good then three items were better. I had to jump from the door to reach our bed. Everything was in bags and the laundry was always on the bed. The stress took it's tole on our relationship. While I was trying to find an anti-depressant to deal with her hoarding she had an affair. Every relationship after me has ended over her hoarding. I thought I could "save" her from herself. I know now all I could and can do is take care of my own mental health.
—Guest Shannon

What do all these people have in common?

My brother and sister-in-law are hoarders. This is a recent realization since my nephew is beginning to show signs of neglect. He is not bathed regularly for instance. My concern is for all of them but when my nephew is being neglected, we're talking about something else here so I'm beginning to look for ways to bring this hoarding issue out into the open so that counseling will be sought out. Reading previous experiences posted, it appears that causes for hoarding are never discovered therefore dealt with. The loss of a loved? Fear of loss? Lack of love? There's got to be a reason. What do all of these people have in common?
—Guest Realization

Husband is a hoarder

When hurricane Irene hit our home we lost everything. Picture a hoarder's home with 4 feet of mud and water in it. I've hidden his hoarding from everyone. So, people thought my reaction was nuts. I was so happy! I'm really worried about the cost of repairs. But it forced my husband to clean up. Over the years he's piled up clothes, paint cans, and tons of papers. Often bills would go unpaid, because he couldn't find them. Anything I forced him to get out of the house would get piled up in our back yard. I couldn't mow the lawn or walk back there. When I was recovering from cancer, I just couldn't keep up with cleaning. Things got totally out of control. The situation has all but destroyed my relationship with our 24 year old daughter. She's moved out and will allow us to visit her, but refuses to visit our home. I truly do love this man. We have been married for 27 years. He's in total denial. We tried therapy before. I am terrified he will continue to hoard in our rebuilt home.
—stuff2011

If they hoard your life away?

This is more of a question. My father has some hoarding tendencies, that are not visibly out of control. He has a lot of semi-organized useless stuff. He is a controlling father and as a 35 year old divorced mother, I feel as though he not only hoards me back to his home when I move out , but that he is under some misunderstanding that any and all of my possessions are also his, even when I have bought them through my own earnings and by my own choice. For example, I was recently in a car accident and as I am looking for a good deal on a car, he quickly becomes interested in ALSO getting another car though the four he already owns may cause a zoning problem or something. If I buy a car, I will likely have to move out for that reason so I plan to do so. Strangely, when I move out, my car breaks down so he has to help me fix it, problems begin to occur on my job. It's is almost as if he subconciously controls me and puts me into a position where I have to be in his sight. Help?
—Guest Anonymous 112

My Mom is a hoarder.

My mom is a hoarder and refuses to see that she has a problem. She has manipulated my dad and I against eachother in order to distract from her problems and I'm just now starting to see how distructive her behavior is. Recently, I learned that my dad is considering a divorce if things don't change and I absolutely agree with him. I am 23 now, so I don't live at home, but I can definitely feel his pain because it was the same when I grew up there. I am an only child, so it feels like me and my dad against my mom's hoarding issue. I feel like I'm the parent and she is the child who needs advice and help figuring out who she is. I cannot have a real relationship with my mom because every time I trust her, she loses my trust by lying or manipulating. I'm trying to put myself through college, paying out of pocket, and she would rather spend time with her stuff and buy more stuff than help me out. My dad and I are sick of it.
—NaviKate88

Trying to nip it in the bud

My 13-year-old is a hoarder. I clean out her closet once each summer when she goes away to camp. I usually take out between 5 and 10 large, black garbage bags full of stuff--everything from garbage to clothing to toys. She says she is glad to have the room cleaned out like that as she can't bear to do it herself. But what will happen when she is out on her own in just a few years? I need some suggestions on how to help her throw things away and give away or sell what she no longer needs.
—Guest GuestCarol
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