AIBU to push my mum to do a 'clear out' and stop her hoarding?

(80 Posts)
williaminajetfighter Sat 05-Oct-13 22:56:24

My 72 year old mum lives alone in a large house filled with 'stuff'. She is not like those people on the Hoarders TV show but she is fairly bad at holding onto everything she's ever owned, every magazine, every card she's received. I think at the heart of it she's just incredibly sentimental.

Visiting her drives me loopy with the piles of paper,knick knacks etc. she spends a lot of time 'moving stuff around' and dealing with filing and sorting her mounds of paper like some mad archivist. I think her life would be a lot easier if it was clutter free.

I have at times encouraged her to do a clear out, have a yard sale, get rid of unwanted things, put stuff on eBay and it always ends in tears.

Part of me is also conscious that if not done now her kids will have a lot to go through after her death, although this obviously isn't my main motivation.

I fear I may just be imposing my minimalist way of living onto her but I can't help thinking a clear out would be good for her.

So should I press get on this one or just let it go?? Just would like to get others opinions especially those who have faced similar situations.

RoonilWazlibWuvsHermyown Sat 05-Oct-13 23:02:47

Hoarding is often related to mental health so to push her to clear stuff out could be extremely distressing for her. I don't really know how you can get someone to seek professional help though as the only hoarder I know was me and I got help voluntarily.

SeaSickSal Sat 05-Oct-13 23:02:53

It's her house and it's up to her if she wants to have all the stuff. If she's always sorting through it she obviously gets some sort of satisfaction and enjoyment from it.

You are imposing your way of living onto her, it's not fair for you to push her to do this when it's simply trying to force her to conform to the way you like to live. If it always ends in tears she obviously doesn't want to do it. Leave it alone, don't force this on her, just because you like things a particular way doesn't mean it should suit her too.

You wouldn't like it if she came round your house and cluttered it up.

SeaSickSal Sat 05-Oct-13 23:04:27

Roonil she says that she's not like the people on the hoarders show so it doesn't sound like this is a mental health issue. It's a choice.

You might think that her life would be easier, but would she be happier? Have you asked her?
It's not up to you to decide how she needs to live her life, that's for her to decide, please don't try and force her to change her living situation unless she is actually asking you for help as she is ready and willing for change. If she is happy with the way she lives and this is just because it makes you uncomfortable, please let it go.

SavoyCabbage Sat 05-Oct-13 23:05:08

i think yabu. My best friend is a hoarder. It's not as easy as just de-cluttering. It's happening for a reason. There is no way a hoarder would just do a garage sale.

In what way is she not like the people on the hoarders programme? What do you/she think is different?
If it's because the house isn't full, it could just be because the house is big enough to take it! I am fairly sure that many hoarders have not admitted that they are hoarders either.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Sat 05-Oct-13 23:11:06

My dad is the same. I dread to think how much junk there is in his house. It gets worse as the years go by, but there's no debating it with him. I avoid taking DD there now.

RoonilWazlibWuvsHermyown Sat 05-Oct-13 23:12:47

seasicksal, you don't have to have six foot piles around the room like TV for it to be a mental health issue. I'm sure people thought my collections of every card I'd ever received, every gift I'd ever been given, tickets from every concert I'd been to, every stuffed toy I'd ever bought, furniture people gave me that I got sentimental about etc were just a choice because it wasn't dangerous piles. Keeping magazines, piles of paper and knick knacks might be a choice. It might also be hoarding in the mental health sense. The magazines is the one making me think DING DING mental health because why would you keep magazines? Why would you be sentimental about them?

RoonilWazlibWuvsHermyown Sat 05-Oct-13 23:13:55

Oh and I say that as someone who hoarded magazines because "I might want to read them again one day". Its not logical.

Viviennemary Sat 05-Oct-13 23:16:39

As long as her health isn't being affected and the clutter is causing a hazard I think you should leave her to it. Of course if she wants help sorting out and getting rid of stuff then that's different. But you shouldn't push her to clear out if she's happy the way things are and her home is comfortable and fairly reasonably clean.

Donkeyok Sat 05-Oct-13 23:21:08

If you can persuade her to part with it then it will help you in the long run.
I am currently caring for my 'horder' MIL in her large house. It took a couple of months of visits (all our spare time) before we could clear the 2 rooms we needed for bedroom and living space. Pile of paper clutter were the hardest to clear as like you so much seemed sentimental and relevant to family history (found a few squashed mice on the way). We have been living with her for 3 years now and I still make weekly trips to the dump and the charity shops as we gradually sort through it. We found moving it to the garage helped as it was out of sight. I resent the time it takes and occasionally my dh shouts at his dead father for his ocd amassing this state of affairs. My MIL inherited all her parents things antiques furniture Paintings books writings and collected clippings of every article she found interesting. It is like being in a living museum (eg when the school had WWII day I was able to send in her mothers blackout curtains saved in labelled bag and remnants of German parachute, with the christening dress and its cut out shapes.)
I hope we will finish in 6 months and I want to move I refuse to pay for it to go into storage. We managed to donate many books to the university library. We will have to get tough as I cannot afford a house with 3 large reception rools and double garage and 7 beds to store every thing in. The funny thing was they even extended their house and then moved more clutter (heirlooms into it). At Christmas a museum which housed the grandfathers' paintings closed and I cried as 60 large paintings of cows arrive into the living space I had laboured over to make nice. I haven't had any spare time to make my childrens mewmory books as I am protecting and cataloguing the past for dead generations it seems so futile. Ive told my mum and elderly aunts to clear out their atics because Im exhausted from this sorting out. I think its harder for me because I am ultimately not related as I am dil so I cant get hard on it. So it seems interesting and important family stuff.
I feel we will run out of time especially with the family photos and letters trunks and trunks of them. sad

TwoAndTwoEqualsChaos Sat 05-Oct-13 23:21:50

I am a hoarder and when I have hoarded most, I have been at my least happy. My house doesn't look like those on the television, but I have too much stuff and it makes me unhappy. I have recently had a break-through but, even though I have dramatically reduced what I, um, collect, there is still the risidual stuff to deal with. It isn't as simple as binning it all (I wish it was). I have achieved most when pregnant (some sort of motivator) and with the non-judgemental support of my DH. It's terribly tough and it has to come from the hoarder or it will merely accumulate again.

It can be a real problem when someone dies: it took my Parents a year to clear my Grandfather's house (and his didn't have six foot piles everyhwre but, by golly, it was full, a five bedroom house with just one man in it and all his stuff!!!).

williaminajetfighter Sat 05-Oct-13 23:30:49

Thx for everyone's comments. My mp doesn't hoard plastic bags or keep all her garbage like you see on hoarders but she spends a lot of time making and sorting piles. She also spends hours clipping out 'interesting' articles from papers and magazines and putting these in piles. These go back to the 1970s!

I'm a way this gives her a raison d'être and a lot of satisfaction but the piles of clippings and stuff is getting ludicrous. She has recently had a number of elderly relatives die and taken in a huge swathe of their household items and feels it would be disrespectful to get rid of any of their things. The house is becoming a combination of mausoleum and museum!

I'm probably imposing my values on her but frankly the way she lives drives me crazy. I also think clutter free is healthier and means a 'clutter free mind' as it were...

williaminajetfighter Sat 05-Oct-13 23:35:54

Sorry in my note above I meant to write 'mum' not 'mp'...

deste Sat 05-Oct-13 23:44:33

Could you go and visit once a week, say for two hours and get a pile of paper to be filed. Sit at a table and take each piece of paper out one at a time and see what it is. If it is important keep it and if not bin. It will take a bit of getting used to but when she does it will get easier. Ask her to choose what gets done every week. It could be that she wants a drawer cleared because its stuck or too heavy to open but let her choose. We do this every week with a client and have done for the last four months but we are very slowly getting there.

Donkeyok Sat 05-Oct-13 23:48:21

Williamiana Will you be able to apply your minimalistic approach to clear it quickly, if the time comes when your m may need care etc.? (She may amasses a lot more in the next 20 years).

I think it is her who is imposing her clutter on you, if you have to deal with it. It is ultimately selfish, as in our case so much time has been spent sorting and consulting her about it. In the long term
it has made me re evaluate the way I want to live and I don't want to do that to my dc. However in my mil case cataloguing paper piles became worse just before we had a dementia diagnosis. So she doesn't understand the implications of her hoarding With her needing a nursing home soon we have to find the most important objects for her to downsize county estate into a care home room!

Nanny0gg Sun 06-Oct-13 00:00:13

She is a hoarder.
Not all hoarders keep actual rubbish, they just keep stuff that is important to them for whatever reason, even when it is useless/broken/never going to be looked at again.

It is definitely an 'old age thing', although thankfully not all old people hoard.

I doubt she'll want to get rid of any of it, all I would suggest is that you help her organise it so that she can still function and that the house can be cleaned. If you push it she will very likely become very distressed.

georgettemagritte Sun 06-Oct-13 00:07:41

My mum is like this to a lesser degree and it drives me crazy (I'm more on the minimalist side of things and like nothing better than a good declutter). Over the years I've done loads of clearing sessions with my mum, but the likes do come back whatever you do if someone is like this - it's not easy to change. Agree that the paper piles are the worst thing - my mum's habit is to print out everything she looks at on the internet. Like everything. (She does family history stuff too and she has no idea how to set the printer up correctly so there are just piles of printed out random ends of web pages everywhere.) That and keeping receipts for everything, leaflets, piles of paper stuff in bags for life in her bedroom. It does make her unhappy, though she can't stop. Doing a big declutter of the bags is like waging through treacle - she is so resistant to even totally useless things being thrown out. Agh, I'm ranting now but it makes me want to scream to think of it. One good thing is that my nan was the same and my mum recently had to clear all her flat when my nan went into a home with dementia. I think it may have opened her eyes to the fact that if you have a hoarding problem, you are essentially dumping the stuff on someone else to deal with when you're no longer able to. (My nan used to keep cupboards full of broken electrical appliances because she wouldn't throw anything away, then get offended that family members didn't want them - seriously, like several broken hoovers from the 1960s with two-pun plugs are going to be "useful someday"?!)

I feel for the poster above who is having to go through this with their MIL. It isn't fair of someone to suck up other people's lives in that way sad

georgettemagritte Sun 06-Oct-13 00:09:07

*piles not likes :p

Donkeyok Sun 06-Oct-13 00:17:14

Thanks Georgette its good to have a silent scream together. OP useful thread (smile)

ancientbuchanan Sun 06-Oct-13 00:27:58

We had to do this for MIL but it was only effective after her death.

Both my husband and I are hoarders , but I have almost had enough. I do accumulate plastic bags, but they get taken to the charity shops that want them !

I would resent hugely someone doing this for me, whether or not I were unhappy.

As long as she is safe and of sound mind she should be able to live her life as she likes it. You may be able to help on some things like the recent accumulated stuff, giving it to charities you know the relatives would have supported, but you have no right to take over, IMV.

A lot of this is generational. People who were influenced by WW2 often put things away in case it comes in useful later. If you can sneak it out, usually to good causes, great. But it's not worth making her unhappy.

Ps, did you know there is a Hoover museum? I was extremely irritated to discover that only when I had thrown three prehistoric relics away. Ditto what must have been the earliest electric mower in existence.

ShakeRattleNRoll Sun 06-Oct-13 00:42:38

you want to watch Jasmine in this docu on BBC1 her mum was a bad hoarder and jasmine is a wonderful person who most probably you could learn from, good luck

ShakeRattleNRoll Sun 06-Oct-13 00:43:16

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sfbkg

ShakeRattleNRoll Sun 06-Oct-13 00:47:40

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sfbkg

this is a link to a hoarding prog on bbc1

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