WIBU to buy PIL a copy of Marie Kondo and save them £400k?!

(105 Posts)
allthatissolidmeltsintoair Thu 07-Jan-16 09:02:54

Regular but NCed for this. I am prepared to be told I am being unreasonable, and that I need to butt out and mind my own business!!

Apologies for length - I didn't want to drip feed.

Context:
- PIL (aged 70) currently live in a very well designed 3 bedroom house (it really is lovely). They also own a currently unoccupied 3-bed bungalow, which they don't really like in terms of layout. As this might suggest, they are not without resources financially!
- FIL has mobility issues, and has refused to have surgery to correct these (he's frightened of the anaesthetic). Sadly, his mobility is now severely impaired, and he will probably need a wheelchair before long. However, the design of the house means there is room to modify it to suit his needs, e.g. stairlifts, large corridors. The bungalow is already set up for a mobility-impaired resident, but requires cosmetic decoration.
- However, the interior decor of their current house doesn't allow those modifications to be made. Both PIL are hoarders. The house is overly full - there is literally twice as much furniture as will fit, including stuff that simply doesn't work (ancient stereos, uncomfortable collapsed beds etc). Everything is rammed in, and there is no room to move for a person without mobility issues, let alone a wheelchair. However, they really, really struggle to throw things away.
- MIL is clearly struggling to manage the existing space in terms of maintenance and cleaning (FIL doesn't/can't lift a finger). They are, however, very resistant to getting in help, despite having plenty of money to do so.
- MIL has become irrationally obsessed with the neighbours because they are simply polite, rather than wanting to be bessie mates with PIL. They say 'hello', but they don't stop to chat. She is incredibly enraged by some plastic cladding that they are putting on their house, and the fact that they don't mow their lawn as regularly as PIL. I am actually quite concerned about this as an overreaction in its own right (she goes purple when talking about them). It's a push-factor in the idea of moving, but I can't imagine future neighbours really wanting to have a closer relationship.

Problem:
- PIL rang up last night to ask our advice. Rather than downsizing, they want to upsize to a bigger place. In fact, they want to sell their house and buy the bungalow next to GFIL's and knock through to make a 7 bedroom bungalow. The whole reason for doing this rather than simply moving or modifying their existing house is to hang on to all the junk they own.

My concerns:
- MIL isn't managing the 3 bedroom space she has. AIBU to think that a 7 bedroom space would make this problem even worse, even if there are no stairs?
- AIBU to think that having more space will increase the tendency to hoard, rather than solving it?
- AIBU to think that the new space will be really expensive to heat and maintain? The current house is already cold at times because they don't want to put the heating on.
- The floorplan of this new dwelling would be huge. FIL already has extreme anxiety issues - I think the size if it might raise issues of security in his mind, where he's at one end of the place worrying what is happening at the other.
- There is no real market for bungalows with more than 4 bedrooms in their area. I'm concerned that should either of them need to move in future, this will make it difficult to sell.
- I've not seen many knock-through dwellings, but I can imagine that it would be difficult to design a 'happy' architectural solution.
- Larger and nicer dwellings are on the market for less than the cost of the two bungalows combined (£600k), without the large additional cost (£100k??) of the work of knocking them into one. PIL have form for having building work done that is expensive and doesn't really solve problems. Very recently, they spent £80,000 installing a new utility room which is never used and has become a store for excess glasses and pots and pans that they couldn't bear to throw out.

I should add that DH and myself, and BIL and his partner, are comfortably off and not at all in any need of money. My concern is purely that this is not a practical solution to their circumstances, and is likely to prove another mistake (like the utility room) that doesn't solve the root problems and therefore necessitates a further move in future, to a more suitable place. I'd really like the advice of people, especially if you have relatives who have downsized or upsized at a similar age.

DH is thinking of buying MIL a copy of Marie Kondo's book as a way of raising what we believe to be the real issue here, which is the hoarding. Are we being unreasonable or failing to understand the issues they are facing, though?

DyslexicScientist Thu 07-Jan-16 09:08:04

Expect everyone to say mind your own fucking business. But yanbu its giving advice to people close to you.

Their money, their decision though. Even if the money has come from owning multiple properties.

19lottie82 Thu 07-Jan-16 09:09:42

I think a serious talk with MIL would be a better option. Giving her a book seems a bit patronising. And if she a serious horder then a book, or indeed a "serious talk" isn't likely to make much of a difference!

Tokelau Thu 07-Jan-16 09:14:29

I don't think a book will work at all, it will just add to her 'stuff'! I feel your pain, my DM is also a hoarder. My parents' house is full of stuff, and they also have two barns which are full too. My mother still goes to markets and buys rubbish that they don't need, but it was a 'bargain' apparently. I don't think you can change this way of thinking, I think it's all to do with growing up with rationing after the war. My DM seems to need to collect lots of stuff. It's quite sad, she won't listen to anyone if they suggest getting rid of anything.

MoMoTy Thu 07-Jan-16 09:19:13

If it's possible I think you and dh should discourage them from doing so. Otoh if by age 70 they haven't learnt the meaning of what's important in life then any advice to not go ahead will fall on deaf ears. Taking on a huge renovation at their age is just pointless and they have lost sight of it all.

BertieBotts Thu 07-Jan-16 09:20:22

It's worth a try, but ultimately I don't think it will make a difference. If they are so far down the rabbit hole that they are actually considering buying a bigger place to put all of their crap in, a book is unlikely to help.

That said, it's a fiver. Worth a try.

GloGirl Thu 07-Jan-16 09:24:43

Don't buy thr book. Just quite forcefully explain to your parents that their age is declining, they will need more help at home and if they persist in getting a property so large no reasonable person could manage then you won't be able to help them later when they need help cleaning, gardening, etc.

SoupDragon Thu 07-Jan-16 09:34:03

The book is a daft idea. Do you honestly, truly think their level of hoarding is going to be addressed by a book? Or rather by that book.

I think some research into hoarding and how to coax the hoarders out of it is a better approach. Have you watched the Hoarders programmes that were on TV not long ago? In the cases there, all more severe than your PIL sound, there were root issues that had caused the hoarding which needed to be solved before the actual hoard could be tackled.

You are not wrong to want to tackle it though.

GruntledOne Thu 07-Jan-16 09:35:14

I will admit to being a bit of a hoarder. If someone bought me a Marie Kondo book, I think it would be the one thing I would find extremely easy to throw away.

I agree to talking to your MiL, she is the one who is most likely to get some sense into FiL, and she is the one on whom all the work will fall.

Mumberjack Thu 07-Jan-16 09:38:18

Get the fire service to give them a visit and scare them into seeing how much their hoarding is a fire risk.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Thu 07-Jan-16 09:40:11

There is no point buying a book - they won't read it.

My in laws have a nice but impractical house accessed by steep outdoor stone steps which I wouldn't want to carry the weekly shop up even now, and was not that happy walking up and down when pregnant - I suspect one or other of them will end up housebound once they are very elderly simply due to those steps - there is no way to adapt the access to avoid them as the house is basically built into a mountain side. There are also steep, narrow stair cases within the house.

It/ could be 5 bed, if 3 of the bedrooms weren't full of what is basically MIL's hording but tempered by FIL not being a hoarder at all and making her sell stuff on ebay periodically, and by MIL being super-housewife-woman and keeping her vast collections of stuff very tidy, and dusting around them, even though there is only a one person sized path into each of the 3 "storage" bedrooms (there is also a "could be a study" on the ground floor full of stuff, and a basement...

Every 3 or 4 years MIL starts worrying about their old age and they put their house on the market and go and view others, claiming to be going to downsize - but it always turns out MIL wants to downsize on price but upsize on actual space - garden, storage space, maybe an outbuilding... which is impossible as they already live very rurally so can't move to a cheaper location... so they will in fact never move.

It is very likely your in-laws will simply stay where they are, especially given they have so much stuff. Is the bungalow they want to knock through to even on the market?

tiggytape Thu 07-Jan-16 09:41:39

The fact that they've asked your advice must means they have some doubts about this solution and they probably do realise many of the flaws you've spotted. Since they have asked you, I definitely think it is O.K to tell them that you just think it is going to make other matters worse and explain the security and other concerns you have.

BestBeforeDate Thu 07-Jan-16 09:47:28

If PIL's mobility is getting worse, could an OT or some other medical professional come and give them advice, such as 'This house could be adapted easily if you de-cluttered'. They might take advice from someone outside the family better than from you and your DH.

DoJo Thu 07-Jan-16 09:54:14

DH is thinking of buying MIL a copy of Marie Kondo's book as a way of raising what we believe to be the real issue here, which is the hoarding.

Am I the only person who read this as the book being a way to open up the conversation rather than the OP believing that reading it will magically fix their problems. The conversation has to be started somehow, and opening with the beginnings of a potential solution rather than focussing on the negatives seems like a good idea to me...

Jessbow Thu 07-Jan-16 09:55:36

Given that they own both, I'd suggest they move into the bungalow with what they need now, essential stuff with the rest to follow....sometime.
Yes that would be a lot of hard work for who ever helped, but it might be a short time pain for a long term gain ( in that the rest can be ditched after they are gone to the bungalow) As for extending it...... Yes good idea , ''but not though the winter/ not while XYZ/ Lets look at that next summer if you still need more room/ .ie put it off and put it off and put it off

chillycurtains Thu 07-Jan-16 09:57:38

As they have asked for advice they are obviously in conflict about it so YANBU to offer advice. I wouldn't just give them a book though. You could offer to come and help declutter or DH could but just one room at a time probably or just offer your honest advice about the 7 bedroom property and don't mince it too much. It sounds like they need truthful advice to avoid a very costly error. They have asked you.

It sounds like a tricky situation OP. I hope it all works out for you all.

ChinUpChestOut Thu 07-Jan-16 09:57:44

DParents are hoarders. I've told them/suggested to them/hinted for over 20 years that they need to 'sort out' their stuff before they get old so that they can either a) move if they want to, to a smaller place or b) have easier access around the house if their mobility is limited. You can guess the amount of success I've had. They're now 80, Mum has severe osteoporosis and finds it difficult to manage stairs and get around the furniture, and Dad is grumpy and scared of moving and won't countenance it.

My advice to you though, would be to tell them to go for it, if that's what they want to do. Yes, seriously. And then very helpfully ask if they have any builders in mind - do they want some quotes, ask who will project manage it, what kind of door handles do they want, what light fittings, do they want the light switches at a lower height, a specially adapted bathroom, what kind of sink do they want, etc, will they go over every day to make sure they're not being cheated, will the building site be secure every night, will they also go over in the evening, which company will move them, do they know which piece of their stuff will go where - get them totally bogged down in the mind numbing and exhausting details of renovation and moving. If they still want to do it, then so be it. It won't end well, you know that, I know that, but as adults they can do what they want.

Jessbow Thu 07-Jan-16 09:59:15

is the one next door avaialible anyway ?

PennyHasNoSurname Thu 07-Jan-16 10:02:38

I wouldnt buy the book but I would discuss practicalities with them. Could you suggest a lock up/long term storage facility? So sell the idea of an easy to maintain house to MIL, and at the same time,a safe place to store all of their junk prized posessions.

BarbaraofSeville Thu 07-Jan-16 10:03:46

Moving into the bungalow and leaving the stuff behind could be a good idea Jess if the PILs use the opportunity to see how nice it could be to live in an uncluttered space and declutter the other house at their leisure.

An ideal version of the 'if you haven't used it in six months/a year, you don't need it' philosophy. They remove stuff from the old house as a need for it is identified and after a period of time, declare everything still in the old house as surplus and sell/bin/donate as appropriate.

However, if they go onto fill up the currently empty bungalow with new crap without clearing the old one that would not be so good sad.

Buying next door and knocking through seems a bad idea and unlikely to reduce the combined property in value due to lack of demand. Would they need planning permission to do this and maybe it would be refused anyway?

BarbaraofSeville Thu 07-Jan-16 10:06:12

likely to reduce value of combined property. Oh for an edit facility.

HipHopOpotomus Thu 07-Jan-16 10:11:58

I think these kinds of books need to be bought not given.

So talk to MIL about the book and Kondo's ideas by all means - but if you just give her a copy it will never be read.

Fizrim Thu 07-Jan-16 10:16:49

I also wondering about swapping to the bungalow without all the stuff, but I suspect they will fill it up sad

I don't think YABU to point out the flaws - especially the neighbours. I suspect your MIL is focusing on the neighbour issue (not that it's really an issue!) to avoid the more troublesome issues of your FILs health/mobility and the state of the house.

Could you perhaps all meet up and present a united front with your BIL? They are likely to feel defensive and upset, but I don't think a 7 bedroomed bungalow is the answer to their problems.

LadyLuck81 Thu 07-Jan-16 10:28:24

If they are proper hoarders then a book isn't going to fix it. Serious hoarding is a psychological thing and the person who is doing it needs to see that there's a problem and want to change. It's not rational.

I speak from experience of family (who simply will not change and live in fewer square feet every year as more is stacked high with crap) and a good friend who is working to change her habits with support.

A book and a stern word are unlikely to fix it I agree their plan sounds crazy though. I don't think you are BU to want to try and help and make them see that their idea is excessive but I think you're stuck.

I also hope I'm wrong and if you talk to them they do listen.

NightWanderer Thu 07-Jan-16 10:36:55

Someone my parents know died. Their children hired a skip and threw everything in it. All their belongings, photos, clothes, ornaments, furniture, just everything. It really shocked my parents so they have been madly decluttering since retirement. I don't know, but perhaps your in-laws need to think more about what is going to happen to all this stuff once they pass.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now