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PERSONAL STORIES FROM PEOPLE WHO KNOW SOMEONE WHO HOARDS.
My Father Hoards.
My Husband Hoards.
Family of people with OCD.
Adopted By Hoarders.
My Mother Saves Sentimental Items.
My mother saves bills and bank statements,
some have never been opened. She refuses to throw them away. If anyone
tries to clean for her, bills and mail goes in a separate pile and will
stay there for years. Now that plastic storage bins are so popular,
she crams stuff in those until she has rooms of those. My mother is
also paranoid. She thinks that SOMEONE will read her mail. On the rare
occasion that it gets thrown away, she must do it a particular way.
First, the name/address must be torn off and then run through the
shredder. Next the remainder of the pages are th be torn in tiny pieces then
run through the shredder. This must be done even to coupons and sales
circulars addressed to "Current Resident" She has gone through more
shredders than I can count--none of them have been thrown away. My mother
is to the point that nothing gets thrown away and she blames everyone
else for her mess. She is now addicted to local auctions, flea markets,
thrift stores, and the like. I am also worried about her gambling that
is "just for fun." There is always an excuse.
My Father Hoards.
My story is somewhat different in that I do not have an OCD, but my father does. I thought I could share my personal story of what it
has been like to live with the OCD known as hoarding.
Ever since I can remember my dad has always had "stuff." When I was
little, I didn't think much of it. The way it affected me in my childhood
was that it seemed like an issue anytime I wanted to have my friends
come over. In fact, we have a large family who get together often, but I
can only remember a few times when a large group came to the house
because my mom was embarrassed. I didn't understand it much back then, but I
fully understand it now as I am 25 and have been away from the house
for 3 years now and his problem has gotten worse since me and my older
brothers have moved out.
Let me back up a little and just explain what I mean by "stuff." My
biggest pet peeve is how when I tell people how my dad is, they quickly
associate the word "packrat" when his problem goes beyond that. My parents
have a ranch style home and it appears nice on the outside (at least the
house itself) and is nice for some rooms on the inside. It used to be
that my dad had junk in the basement, garage, part of the kitchen, part
of the back porch and his car. Now that us kids have moved out, there
is more junk in the basement to where there are narrow paths; there used
to be a narrow path in the garage, but now there is none. Junk has
spilled out into the backyard, back porch, the shed in the backyard is
filled to the brim and scattered throughout the backyard are 3 non-working
lawn mowers, a boat with a trailer (these are separated though), an old
back end of a truck that is to be used as a trailer (but he's never used
it) and miscellaneous items such as boards, metal rods, poles,!
old fences and those are covered by used waterbed pads to be protected
from the weather.
Not only does he have these things at the house, but a few years ago he
bought 40 acres that has a house on it with a few sheds that he claimed
at the time, he was buying it so he could move all his "stuff" down
there. Well he did do that - he moved alot of junk to this place and the
sheds on the property, however over the years, the empty spaces back at
my parents home are now filled plus some. So let's take a toll of
where junk resides currently: parents entire basement, garage, back porch,
most of the backyard, parts of the kitchen (now including the kitchen
table), his Club Wagon van (he has to clear a spot if someone wants to
ride with him in his 7 passenger van), the place in the country, and now
I've found out he has a "few" items over at his brothers house. What
worries my mom and I is that he also does not see that this is all a fire
hazard as well.
With that said, let me point out a few additional things that makes
understanding this illness, very hard. My parents do have a clean/sanitary
house, so this is not a matter of things being dirty, there is just
alot of stuff everywhere. And let me say that my father is the nicest
person in the world-always has been. He gets along with all sorts of
people, loves to talk and appreciates his family. He has been the best dad
and would do anything for his children. This causes guilt because it's
like, my dad appreciates his family...but we SEEM to not appreciate him
by confronting him with this problem. I just wish he could try to see it
from our point of view, but he views it as "we don't love him" or
"can't accept him for the way he is." We can accept dad, the person, but by
now, we can not accept his problem only because it is affecting our
lives (not so much mine and my brothers lives, but my mom's life). She
feels she can't deal with his living conditions anymore and is in t!
he process of finding another place to live. She said she does not want
to divorce him after 33 years - she can't live with HIS problem
anymore. Seeing my mom unhappy, makes us kids unhappy.
The other thing about this OCD is not just having things, but the WAY
my father lives his life. It's like because he HAS to have so many
things, it also affects how he is with shopping and eating. For example, at
any given time, he has multiples of everything. He shops at the
inexpensive, money saving stores and because it is "on sale" he got a good
deal and that's why he bought 10 jars of mustard or 20 bottles of dish
soap (and I'm not exaggerating). It doesn't stop with those items - I joke
and say that if there was ever a war where we had to live/stay in our
house - we'd be the only family surviving because we have EVERYTHING
imaginable (supplies that is). Shopping also entails garage or yard
sales. These are the worst when I know that he sees someone is having one
because it is a compulsion - he HAS to go and he always comes back with
something. Heaven forbid that someone else be giving something away or
throwing something away. He has even gotten things out of people's !
trash. Or when he knows a friend or a store is getting rid of
something, he is willing to take the item.
As far as the food thing, I won't go into how or what he eats (he eats
some weird combinations of food), but every time my family goes out to
dinner, my dad most of the time will not order anything for himself. He
claims he is not hungry, but then when someone can't finish their
plate, he is willing to finish it for them - we also joke about this calling
him a "human garbage disposal."
This illness is not funny though, but we have to find humor in it
somehow. The last thing I am going to point out about how this illness
trickles into other aspects of a person is the following: I can remember one
time when I threw away my deodorant because you could literally see the
plastic at the bottom. A week or so later, I had to use my dad's back
bathroom and while I was in there, I noticed my deodorant. I could not
believe my eyes. This meant not only did he dig this out of the trash,
but also that is was MY deodorant (a female's) AND there was hardly
anything left. I believe I did ask him about that and his response was that
is was still good because he could still apply the deodorant that was
left with his finger. It doesn't stop with deodorant though. Anytime you
try to throw something away, he claims it is "still good." We now have
a system where we'll take stuff to a dumpster somewhere and sneak to do
I don't know what is going to happen at this point. My mom says she's
moving out and my dad feels like he hasn't been given any chances to
change, when in fact, he's had 3 major chances. My mom has left him 3
times in the past for "hoarding" ONLY and she has come back 3 times after
he said he would change. The last time was when I was in 6th grade and
my mom moved me, my 2 brothers and her into a 2 bedroom apartment for a
year. I had my own room, while my brothers shared a room and my mom
slept on the couch bed in the living room. My dad said he would change
because he loved all of us so much and wanted us to come back to the
house...and here I am now writing this story.
Since my mom's recent threat to leave, he says NOW he is going to start
going through things, finish painting the living room after it's
already been 6 months with the all the furniture in the center of the room,
but I have told him seeing is believing. Sadly, I truly believe,
especially all the research that is out there about this OCD, he will not
change. He has to want help and deep down, I don't think he does (mostly
because as I said, he feels we should accept him for who he is). And not
only does he have to first want help, but the behavior therapy possibly
accompanied by medication, I don't think it would be very effective for
a 64 year old man who takes all kinds of other pills as it is. I point
out his age because the research says, the older the person is and the
longer they have been that way, the harder it is to change - and he's
been this way for over half of his life.
I don't know if I made any sense, but if I can get any point across it
is that I love my dad and I wish I could understand this illness, but
it is hard. To us it's junk, to him - little treasures? I guess.
As far as my opinion why he is like this could be chemical and was
learned, plus the time he grew up. I say chemical because it's like he has
ADD. He can't stay focused on 1 thing/project. He'll start 1 project,
then start another and so on, but he rarely finishes them. I'd say it
was learned because from what I can remember about his mother is that she
had alot of little things, BUT everything was in it's place and
organized (perhaps so much so that my dad felt he had to be the opposite?
meaning have things, but no organization). Lastly I'd say time made a
difference because when you think about it, my dad was born in 1938, so
while he was growing up I'm sure with his 8 brothers and sisters, things
were "tight" in their household - they probably had to be careful with
money and to not WASTE anything. Who knows for sure, but these are my
I just hope that more research can be done for this and all of the
other OCD's. In addition, I hope that by telling my story, I have touched
someone else's life, only so you know that there are others out there
that either have this problem and maybe those that do, can see it from my
point of view OR those that are dealing with a family member or friend
who has this illness-you are not alone.
My Husband Hoards.
I am writing anonymously about my husband's hoarding. I hope you do not think it unfair for me to do so. I'm not doing it in a "point a finger" fashion but after having read the information
available on the internet about hoarding, I have read a few passages which seem to reiterate the thoughts I've had about his hoarding over the years.
My primary reaction to his increasing hoarding has been the
manner in which he is isolated from the world. It seems he has been strategic in isolating himself in the stereo parts, speakers, amps, wires, empty boxes, tools, circuit boards, empty boxes, empty boxes to store all these in, boxes of bubblewrap, boxes of boxes, boxes of plastic bags, plastic bags of plastic bags, plastic baggies of twist ties of various types. When you enter the room he spends most of his time in, its contents are shoulder high, you must step over several boxes and take a few steps (one foot exactly in front of the other because 2 feet won't fit side by side) to the chair where he sits in front of a roll top desk. You can rotate around in his desk chair but you cannot move forward or backward for the things on the floor and behind and in front of the chair on the floor. There is only about a 8" square surface area on his desk left to work with what I though was a hobby many years ago.
He still spends most of his time in this room. This room has been full to the brim for so long that it has not been dusted, vacuumed, aired out, painted in almost a decade. He smokes 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day and I would guess one of those packs gets smoke in this room every day. He
has a workshop in the backyard that is full. Our garden shed and wood shed are full. Two of the three bedrooms upstairs are full, including closets, under every bed. I could write here much more but I'm so
astounded and overwhelmed by the amount of territory he has taken over with this junk that I don't know . . . he also rents 3 rental spaces for his stuff, paying approximately $275/month. I think I need help. I'm scared. I've never thrown anything of his away. Initially because I wanted him to take responsibility for it but it's
all so much worse now and I'm afraid if I do clean out, he'll explode. It has gone too far. He won't discuss it.
When we got the call that Social Service and the Humane Society were forcing my great aunt (that I had only met once as a child); who lived in a different state into a nursing home. I volunteered to go out and evaluate the situation and help pack her up. I had no idea what I was getting into. She had 132 living cats and
about 40 dead in her home.
She also had 537 litter box (yes, we counted them). She refused to dump the litter pans. So instead would just go buy new ones. Stacking the new one inside the old. We found one stacks of litter box 27 high.
We also found that she was covering the feces
covered floor with old cat food sacks. Using it like new carpeting. The
floor was about 2 feet deep in feces, trash, and cat litter/food sacks in
She also kept ever individual cat food tin and she used them
as bowl for dry cat food. There were 1000's of them.
She saved every article of clothing, newspapers, piece of mail, rcpt, bill, and personal letters she had received over the last 40 years. Of the 12 bedrooms in
my aunts home all but 2 you could not open the doors or trash ceiling high would come falling out. She did subscribed to a trash service. When the trash man came to start hauling away everything. He informed us he had been her trash man for 5 years and she thrown nothing away but rotten food and some cat litter the entire time-not even in sacks. Even though that is almost hard to believe because her 3 car garage was one
giant compost pile. She even referred to the garage as "the compost area".
I'm surprised she parted with anything. The house was a complete loss. The city ruled it as unfit to live in and it was condemned.
I found homes for about 20 of the cats and brought another 6 home to live with me.
Unfortunately, the remainder had to be euthanased by the Humane Society since they were completely feral, sickly, and starved.
Family of People with OCD.
My 12 year old hoards food. I find food in
little baggies all over the place. She is ADD and has learning
disabilities. She cannot leave the house without taking a baggie of food.
She has problems throwing away clothes that no longer fit. She becomes
attached to them. (I finally have gotten her to allow me to toss these
out. She now even gives them to me.)
My Mother's house is a pig barn. She could never decide what to throw
out (you will need it sometime soon) so she keeps ever piece of paper.
She has keys to things she does not know what lock the key fits.
My sister loves to go to thrift shops. She buys tons of old furniture.
Her living room has 4 sofa's. She loves getting her dead relative's
old furniture. She loves old thrift shop stuff and just collects
everything. Her house, while not trashy, has no room to walk. It is one big
Me - I am on a mission not to clutter up my home. I have taken time to
throw out what is not needed. However, I was a collector of dolls. I
used to collect all these ornaments for every holiday. I have bills in
organized folders from 1982 (will be throwing out soon.)I now watch
everything I buy and focus on not cluttering up my new house.
Yes, my family has OCD big time.
Adopted By Hoarders.
I am an adopted child in a family of four. I am
now 22 years old and have returned home after living on my own for 5
years. I am writing about my family members whom I believe, after visiting
this web site, have this most serious and overlooked illness.
Growing up in a house peopled with hoarders is unspeakably frustrating
to one without the biological make up of a hoarder themselves, and
living in filth and clutter has at times made me so depressed as to border
on being suicidal. Not understanding the nature of the illness or
indeed recognizing it as an illness at all led to guilt, shame, and despair
as I too became so sucked into the futile state of the house that I
gave up. After I moved away from home there was a tremendous feeling of
relief because I could control my own space and become the organized and
tidy individual that I am by nature, but also guilt because I was
leaving the people I loved the most in an environment that I knew was doing
harm to their physical and psychological well being.
To give an example of just how harmful, the year after I moved out the
house became terribly infested with mice. I keep in close contact with
my family via e-mails and phone calls but not once was this mouse issue
raised, and so the first that I heard about this problem was when I
visited at Christmas time and woke up to mice falling onto my head from a
missing panel in the basement ceiling. The mouse population was allowed
to grow for over a year until I phoned the exterminators during one of
my visits and got rid of them myself with poison as the exterminators
suggested. It was so fast, easy and inexpensive to do and I didn't
understand why three people couldn't have figured out to do it on their own.
That was over 2 years ago, but to this day if you open any drawer or
closet in the house it will be filled with mouse pooh and mouse urine
soaked odds and sodds. My boyfriend tries to tell me that they're happy the
way that they are and that they'll never change, but I can't !
accept that because I know that they're not really happy, and I love
them too much to let their problem go unheeded. I have known for some
time now that an intervention of some sort is in order, and with the
discovery of this website perhaps this families long journey toward recovery
My Mother Saves Sentimental Items.
My mom keeps items of people who have passed on
because (I think) she feels it's all she has left of them. My brother
died 15 years ago in an army accident, and she kept everything exactly
the way it was in the trunk the Army sent home. Even his sweat socks.
She finally got rid of the old uniforms, but cut the patches off them
and keeps them. I don't understand how that could possibly be a good
memory for her.
Mom still has my dad's baseball mitt from when he was a kid. She found
a handball glove, and didn't know whether it was my dad's or my
brother's, but wanted to keep it.
She has so many crucifixes it is frightening. She has every kind of
religious document, cross, icon, picture, wall hanging, etc. She has 3
generations of papal blessings. There are so many, when I tried to
hang up some pictures and things on a wall behind a door -- just to get
them off the floor and be able to vacuum -- she made me take them down
because even she admitted it looked creepy and she said it looked like
some type of shrine. But she wont let me get rid of them. My Great
Aunt was a Nun, so when she passed last year, Mom got all of her stuff
too. Thank God Nuns don't have much stuff, but she got a few more
crucifixes out of it.
She has other things she keeps too, but I can talk her into purging
them, so in this sense, she seems more of a "clutterer" than a hoarder.
But I can't get her to budge on these sentimental items.
If I tell her I'd like to have something, she'll usually let me have
it, if she believes me that I will hold onto it.
Any advice? We're moving her into a smaller place in a few months. We
have to move 3000 Square feet of overflowing junk into 880 square feet.
I'm willing to rent her a storage garage to hoard whatever she wants,
but I can't bear the thought of 880 sf being as cluttered as her current
A Concerned Daughter.