This is a picture of my Mom’s tub a few years ago. I live several hours away and only visit a couple times a year. I don’t stay at her house; there’s no room for me and my wife. It is a 4 or 5 bedroom house with 2.5 bathrooms, architecturally. Functionally, it is a 1 bedroom house with 1.5 bathrooms and 5 storage units. I don’t drop in randomly, and my Mom knows I have judgements about her hoarding. My sister and I have offered to help clean it up. Since this picture, I’ve pleaded with Dad to get professional help for Mom, I’ve offered to go to counseling with them, repeated offers to help out in any way I can. I’m totally ignored.
Denial is such a huge part of hoarding. It seems to be what puts it firmly in the ‘mental illness’ category.
In the official signs and symptoms of hoarding, spaces in the home unable to be used for their intended purpose are a key sign. Now, if this tub were the only area of clutter, that may be understandable. But at that time it wasn’t, and it still isn’t. Here’s what the garage looked like that day, and I’m sure it’s the same now (6 years later) if not worse. There’s definitely no car in the garage, and hasn’t been for over 20 years (since I got in trouble for organizing it enough to get 1 car in the 2 car garage).
I understand that some people do projects in their garage, such as setting it up to be a woodworking shop or art studio. But I don’t think this qualifies as even modern art (cardboard sculpture?).
I’m pretty certain my sister and I will end up cleaning this up. It has been like this for years, and it would be amazing if it wasn’t full of spiders. If mice get in there, it will be horrible. Of course, this is a fire hazard. The main circuit breaker is behind this pile on the wall. It appears that most of these are empty boxes, but in standard hoarder fashion, they are mixed with full boxes, shopping bags, old clothes, some furniture from grandma’s house, and who knows what else.
I’m sharing these pictures partly to help myself process the situation but also to let my readers know for sure that I come from a real hoarding background and am still struggling with how to “Help Hoarders Stop Hoarding” in my family.
I haven’t heard a peep from my Mom or Dad about my concerns or offers (I’ve done this in writing and on the phone). But it was my Mom’s birthday a few days ago. I couldn’t bring myself to send her any physical gift, so I sent her an iPad game via e-mail and called her for a chat. She has a huge collection of glass–blue glass, red glass, etc. Years ago I was excited to give her a blue glass vase. I think it disappeared into the hoard. There’s no room for her to really display things nicely and store other things appropriately.
When I asked Mom what she did for her birthday, she replied that she’s “really into” St. Patrick’s Day this year, and had gone to a new antique mall in town to buy some green glass. “Really into” means “buying more crap” by the way. Christmas decor must be 10-20% of the hoard. Other holidays are probably catching up. Oh joy.
I learned many of these behaviors: procrastination, collecting, impulse buying, leaving piles of stuff around until you don’t even see them as piles. But I changed. I worked on myself, I worked on my hoarded areas. Now I treasure order and organization, and take care of clutter and piles quickly. They make me uneasy, and clear areas make me happy. This took reprogramming my emotions, anxieties, and priorities.
It feels so good when spaces are open and able to be used for their intended purposes!