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

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

this is a link to a hoarding prog on bbc1

georgettemagritte Sun 06-Oct-13 00:54:21

Oh god how I wish I'd known about the Hoover museum before we gleefully threw the things out! My nan would have been proud etc.... ;)

Sunnysummer Sun 06-Oct-13 00:55:54

I'm with donkey. The people who are saying it is her problem and not yours have perhaps never had to deal with the horrendous clear out that has to happen after a hoarder passes away - just when the family are trying to deal with their grief, they also have to work out what on earth to do with all the mounds of stuff left over. Often in the end much of the stuff will get thrown away (or shoved in an attic to be thrown away by the next generation!), because there is simply no time to go through drawers and drawers working out what is and isn't worth keeping.

That said... I don't think that you should be doing it from the perspective that because you enjoy minimalism and clutter free living, she should too - she clearly doesn't share those values. But maybe you can at least help her to start sorting through what she feels is most sentimentally or financially valuable, and keeping that to one side and tidy, so that if she eventually does have to downsize to move to a retirement home, or reduce clutter to help her when she is less mobile, or when (hopefully in the far distant future) she passes away, her most important things are not lost.

There are some great resources online about how to do this sensitively, or if you have the resources a professional organiser with experience with hoarders can be a fantastic resource and also take some of the strain off the family relationship. All of this will only work if she agrees - and if not, then often the best thing to do is back off, only see the family member outside their home, and focus on enjoying your time together.

My parents are both 76 yo.
I'm 100% sure that my mum's hoarding is a distant remenant of the happy times of her childhood ( after the war and rationing) but of course they couldn't get things then even with the ration books.

She goes through 'phases' of collecting things. But it's not selective pretty and useful. It's anything that fits the criteria.

Someone gave her a huge (and ugly) plant when they moved. So she buys and grows plants. Every suface is covered in them.

Cruet sets
Starts with a couple. Then buys from charity shops.
Then she rescues anything that is being thrown out. Kitchen stuff.
She buys fire damaged bedding to see how it washes. She doesn't need it.

Then it was clocks. OMG The fecking clocks. At one point over 240 of them. Everywhere, None telling the right time.
It was like a creepy film.

And when I was 13-14 she decided to paint the walls white.Which can work with the right decor. But it didn't , it looked stark and clinical.

I got rid of nearly 100 and she agreed not to buy more. For about 6-7 years fine.
Now my aunt (who knows fine well how untidy and hoarding my mum is) has given her a clock. So it starts again.
"I've bought a clock...."

ancientbuchanan Sun 06-Oct-13 01:11:09

Yes, I have had to do it. I used approx 500 black bin bags. The oxfam bookshop refused to take any more books. All the charity shops refused any more curtains, furniture, bric a brac etc.. The local am dream company had a field day for costumes. There was an amazing bonfire. The house clearers got all sorts of things. It was exhausting. I had to inch through the doors of three rooms, it was a triumph when I could open the door fully. My hands and back didn't recover for weeks.

But my MIL had a right to live her life as she wanted, not as we found convenient, tidied away. It was infuriating. I too wanted to scream. But it was her choice.

NoComet Sun 06-Oct-13 01:12:37

My DDad has heaps of tools and models and stuff. Every time he goes to Aldi he buys more stuff. He drives my mum mad, but it keeps him happy.

He's well aware of his own mortality, no way would I start suggesting he down sized his junk. It's non of my buisness.

Only trouble is DH hordes similar type stuff so when he dies I know where it will all end up.

I went to a patients' house a while back.
The house was clean, nothing dirty or smelly but so much stuff.
The stairs had boxes and bags on every step.
The hall had heaped up boxes. Furniture was piled high.

I have no idea where they slept.
Only one room was accessible for me to work in.
There were empty wrappers from fresh foods with dates more than a year old.

I just thought "What if there's a fire. They'd have no chance" sad

Lazysuzanne Sun 06-Oct-13 01:31:11

Interesting thread, and for me a wake up call to keep my own (quite minor) hoarding tenancies in check.

I suspect that this can be a problem which snowballs?
ie, past a certain point a person becomes overwhelmed by and unable to deal with all the clutter, the resultant stress could then trigger more hoarding?

mrsspagbol Sun 06-Oct-13 01:55:49

^^yes i think so too lazy

WhenSheWasBadSheWasExhausted Sun 06-Oct-13 08:09:37

anyone else live with a hoarder

Hi don't really have any advice, this thread in relationships is an old one but has a bit of interesting stuff on people doomed to live with and love hoarders.

Ememem84 Sun 06-Oct-13 08:23:42

To a lesser degree my mum is like this. She will not throw anything away. I moved out of home when I was 22 after coming home from uni. I saved up wages for a year sand bought a small flat. 3 years later I sold flat and bought place with my now dh. Mum has a radiator from first flat in her loft (which never worked she was going to take it to the dump) in case I need it. Had to go up in loft the other day and was shocked. So many things is asked her to take to charity shop were up there. Boxes from new tv in case they ever move house and need boxes. Old suitcases. Every single piece of school and college work I ever did.

I don't think yabu as I'm itching to clear all the stuff out

fuzzpig Sun 06-Oct-13 08:53:29

I don't think it needs to be as bad as the hoarder programmes to count as a mental health issue.

I have hoarding tendencies but they aren't that extreme. However I have serious issues and anxiety around stuff. Major panic if I think somebody has thrown away something of mine etc, I will cry. I have a preliminary diagnosis of OCD.

And you absolutely can't help someone with this until they choose to help themselves. I reached my 'rock bottom' in the last year, and it's taken a physical disability to make me realise how much harder my life is because of my fear of letting to of things.

cheerup Sun 06-Oct-13 08:58:25

A subject close to my heart. My mum is the same although she lives in a flat rather than a large house. One of the rooms (mahoosive living room, the selling point of the whole flat) is inaccessible as piled high with boxes from when she moved in 5 years ago. The kitchen has boxes all over the floor and no surface space for food prep, the living room has piles of paper everywhere, there was a large bag of saucepans in the bathroom last time I visited as well as clothes hanging permanently in the shower cubicle as no space left in the bedroom. She's never been minimalist and when I was growing up I was always surrounded by 'stuff' but still had a life - friends, interests, things that made her happy. Since my grandma died two years ago it has got worse as her stuff has been incorporated into my mums and my mum's not been well (recently diagnosed with two chronic health conditions). Oh, did I mention the storage unit she also rents? This is all from memory 6+ months ago as I can't go there without saying something and tbh she doesn't invite me any more. I'm really sad that my children can't go to grandma's house, I'm really sad that she spends all her days moving things from one pile to another and trying to find things, I'm really sad that all this stuff is not making her happy and I'm scared that her health issues will worsen and she will still be living like this and then she will be not only psychologically but also physically incapable of sorting it out. Is hoarding really a choice if someone is depressed and unwell? I am but it's been made clear that she doesn't want me touching anything or helping in any way. We are very different, I tend to be very unsentimental (cold?) and (brutally?) rational whereas she is much more emotional; I like to 'do', she likes to 'think'. Fair enough, it's her life but mice and a dustbuster to deal with the 'fly issue'?

RooRooTaToot Sun 06-Oct-13 09:06:22

I'm not sure if this is a good suggestion, but could you go round armed with a scanner and a memory stick and encourage her to hoard the paper clutter electronically? Probably wouldn't work with family letters, but could perhaps with the 'interesting' articles?

She could catalogue them in different folders for 'recipes', 'crafts', 'important events' etc. then the paper version could be thrown away.

Once the paper is sorted, other things could be photogra

RooRooTaToot Sun 06-Oct-13 09:07:09

*photographed, perhaps with an accompanying text file that documents its history.

DorothyMantooth Sun 06-Oct-13 09:23:30

The OP describes to the last detail the situation between my DM and DGM. DGM (70 yo) is a terrible hoarder - she lives alone in a 3 bedroomed house but still has to have a storage unit to hold all of her stuff. She used to work for John Lewis and every year would buy masses of stuff in the sale, which she's never had any use for, so you can find 10 year old tops that are 4 sizes too big that still have the tags on. She also keeps papers, newspapers, magazines, jam and coffee jars, etc. One of the bedrooms is completely inaccessible and in another there is only a small pathway to the bed.

My mum is infuriated with her house and is in an ongoing battle with her to get it sorted. Sometimes my DGM allows my mum to help her to get started but it always ends in rowing. DM often complains to me about this but I was always of the opinion that it might be annoying to her (DM) but that DGM has the right to choose how she lives. The posts on here are really terrible and I understand my mum a bit more (TBH she and DGM have never got on and I thought DM was just trying to find something else for them to argue about. That said, I don't know what the solution is (if there is one).

In an added twist, both myself and my mum are hoarders by nature and we're both trying to keep it in check - however, when I was recently moving my mum offered to take some stuff to the charity shop for me, and I've recently discovered that she went through the bags and kept loads of it!

MisForMumNotMaid Sun 06-Oct-13 09:44:05

I'm a hoarder. I've recently downsized significantly with my DH and three DC to a house with under half the square footage of our last house.

I hate waste. I can't bare to throw things away which have function, or even potential of function i.e. are repairable or some of the parts might be useful.

There were some bits that were easier to clear.

I don't mind giving things away so for example I found a shelter that does kits for people setting up home with nothing and sorted out sets of cutlery, odd glasses, excess mugs etc.

Some magazines went to the DC's schools for cutting out. I wonder if some of the old ones of your mums would be gratefully received by a fashion class or similar at a local college?

There were some big ticket items I needed for the new house like an oven so I worked out what I needed and sold stuff on ebay to raise the cash.

The problem is I need the motivation. I need something to spark the declutter. I don't see it building. Like carrier bags now. Having moved from Wales to England free carrier bags have novelty value and I've ammassed a crazy amount in a few months - you never know when you'll need a bag! Its sort of a relief to see upthread someone saying give them to charity shops. I can cope with that.

Could you create a need for an item, maybe once a month, that needs to be decluttered. Even create flyers but with genuine contacts for the relevant organisation?

My Mum is hoarder. She lives in NZ.

Family don't want to go around and therefore she isolates herself more which probably contributes to her loneliness, which contributes to her collecting.

Yes to the shifting piles of papers, bags of wool, old food containers that could be good for plants. She got a new garage made with some inheritance that she's filled to the brim with crap.

She's kept her mother's old gravestone (it was replaced to a joint one when grandad died) It's sitting in her garden looking ghoulish. But we can't possibly let something like that not be kept.

My brothers and I have an agreement that we will turn up with a skip after she dies. But the mice thing just made me boak.

Donkeyok Sun 06-Oct-13 10:42:47

shock Your gmothers' grave stone! Holey Moley.

We are accumulating some good stories here rather than clutter.

That reminds me FIL ashes are in the living room makes clearing around that area a bit gruesome!

Was is William Morris or the Fly Lady who said,
"have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

In fact subscribing to Flylady might become a new collection of challenges for her! Perhaps a bit optimistic?

I think the suggestion to photograph some objects before parting with them is helpful as you can store them digitally and catalogue the files. Donating collections to relevant clubs (our school drama and art dept have been very grateful).
I myself struggle with getting rid of some of her more antique and interesting items as they are a historic record of past times.(detachable collars and studs) But I know I cant use 200 wooden cotton reels and bobbin and all gggm lace and unfinished sewing. I will have to find a home for that beautiful vintage sewing machine. My dd screamed last week when we were going through MILs mothers vintage clothes. She came running in 'there's a dead monkey in the bag!'
I approached it carefully with a stick after all I have found some very strange things. It turned out to be one of those fur wraps with the claw sticking out. We found 3 more in that bag YUCK.

Lazysuzanne Sun 06-Oct-13 11:07:45

I also hate to waste things but I like to try and be efficient and I hope that would save me from spilling over into full blown hoarding.

It does sound as if the death of a relative and subsequent acquisition of their possessions was the tipping point in lots of cases?

Lazysuzanne Sun 06-Oct-13 11:19:26

Reading through the living with a hoarder thread (very interesting!) it strikes me that when one of a couple hoards it might be to do with a struggle for control of territory?

Imagine if both people were hoarders sad

Jan49 Sun 06-Oct-13 11:24:20

OP, if your mum isn't willing to get rid of stuff, then I think the most important thing you can do is keep an eye on her to make sure it doesn't get out of control. As long as she keeps her kitchen clear for cooking use, her bathroom clear for washing herself, and her bedroom clear enough that she can sleep in the bed, then that's manageable. But if those places get piled high with stuff so she can no longer use them then she'll be neglecting herself. Also of course, making sure it doesn't become a fire hazard, such as if the hallway is blocked.

CajaDeLaMemoria Sun 06-Oct-13 11:28:42

I hoard.

I'm 23, and I'm not sure if it's mental health related. I keep magazines, cards, wrapping paper, clothes, teddies, food.

To be honest, it's probably because I grew up not having anything, so getting presents etc is very new to me. I hope it will fade with time. My DP is very good at going through and throwing things away, but I know it frustrates him. I find it really distressing, too.

Whatever you do, do it carefully. And forcing your minimalist ways on her probably won't work - she'll just start to hoard again.

mrsjay Sun 06-Oct-13 11:28:51

just because your mum isn't keeping milk cartons and plastic bags doesn't mean she isn't hoarding iyswim

My mil was the exact same as your mum she kept everything and never threw anything away just incase it was needed, I wouldn't tell your mum she has to clear her house ask what does she want to do with all this stuff and could she donate or recycle some of it, but tbh she probably won't

Flossyfloof Sun 06-Oct-13 12:01:35

My Dad was not a hoarder but would never have binned anything of my Mum's or relating to their past together. A few years before he died we did empty the loft but most of the stuff ended up in one of the 4 bedrooms. The place was full, full, full - not a hoarder, but a keeper I suppose. Clearing the house on my own was horrendous and I regretted terribly not making more of an effort to clear the house beforehand. My Dad's mobility was poor and he didn't really go into the 3 spare bedrooms at all. As his sight went he didn't really use the study. I know people will disagree violently with this - but can you sneakily get rid of anything? Even a bag every visit would help your heartache later.
A neighbour cleared the garage for me. I know he helped himself to loads of my Dad's tools and stuff but to be honest the thought of going through a full double garage on top of a large house was just too much.
It is not a matter of trying to make your Mum live like you do, but it would make it so much easier to deal with when the time comes.

williaminajetfighter Mon 07-Oct-13 09:27:34

Thx everybody for all your very useful comments. My mom lives in North America and I only get to see her (and her house) once a year, so understandably have panic whenever I see it and feel obliged to do something in the 2 weeks that I am there. I have raised it with her but she's taken it very badly. I think I need to 'warm her up' in advance of coming and get her agreement about what we could go through and review/bin.

My father died a few years ago and she has not gotten rid of any of his things, ranging from files to socks, so this might be a good place to start... or just seeing if we can start on a particular room... Will tread carefully as others suggest.

SilverApples Mon 07-Oct-13 09:33:39

I have the opposite problem, everyone in my house is a hoarder and neither of my parents are.
Mum manages to cope, but my father used to vibrate with the desperate need to clear and tidy and hire a skip and throw stuff out. He too was convinced that our lifestyle was A Bad Thing.
You do sound opinionated, virtuous and convinced that your lifestyle choices are vastly superior to those of your mother's.
Ah well, at least she lives in the States. My parents live far closer. smile

SilverApples Mon 07-Oct-13 09:34:57

'When the time comes'?
When she dies, hire a house clearance firm and let them deal with the problem.

sarahtigh Mon 07-Oct-13 09:44:18

I don't think your father's things are a good place to start too many memories etc she may think you are trying to erase his mark presence in house

my MIL hoards my suggestion is start with things that probably do not have sentimental value bags. boxes suggest she reduces magazines by 1/3 or 1/2

start on kitchen all long out of date food though a tin of peas two weeks out of date is fine, clothes that do not fit to charity, did this with MIL tried everything on if it fits in wardrobe if not charity

if you only see her for 2 weeks a year I would suggest first 3 days do nothing then maybe 5-6 days of clearing out and then finish time together with a few days out again so the whole holiday and you visiting are not about decluttering

ReallyTired Mon 07-Oct-13 09:48:16

My father and brother are horendous hoarders. I don't know how my mother puts up with it.

We can not lead our parents' life. When they pass on it will be easier for us to get rid of their junk when they are not around to complain. There are companies that you can pay to clear a house.

I have hoarding tenancies, but I think its easier to get them under control when you are young. Certainly my parents were not as bad when they were young.

TrueStory Mon 07-Oct-13 09:51:12

perhaps this change is due to your mothers age and declining powers? i noticed this with my own mother, her sudden piles of paperwork everywhere.

perhaps you should consider suggesting a power of attorney now? this is a very important document. there's lots of stuff on the internet plus mumsnet's elderly parents section.

SilverApples Mon 07-Oct-13 11:31:29

Power of Attorney, because her daughter is a neat freak?

ReallyTired Mon 07-Oct-13 11:44:07

You can't enact a power of attorney over someone just because they are hoarder. Whether you like it or not an adult can live however they please. It would be an abuse of power to chuck all the belongings of a hoarder.

Power of attorney are for situations when you have an elderly person who is mentally incompatiated. The bar of enacting a power of attorney is pretty high.

Beastofburden Mon 07-Oct-13 11:46:50

Giving things to charity shops is usually less painful than throwing them out. Some charities will come and do a declutter for you.

SilverApples Mon 07-Oct-13 11:48:11

Exactly RT, otherwise my dad would have done it to me years ago.

TrueStory Mon 07-Oct-13 11:49:21

calling the OP stupid names is not helpful, nor is dismissing my personal difficult experience.

OTOH adding to the bigger picture might help OP. of course may not be her situation, but who knows it may be a contributing factor, esp if her DM is 72 and struggling in some ways. legally, power of attorneys btw need to be done before people are seriously struggling; but if you knew anything about the subject you wouldnt have replied with such a stupid post.

honestly MN does seem to attract some unpleasant thickos atm. i think i need a break from it.

kalms1971 Mon 07-Oct-13 11:55:00

My PIL's are literally storing up a huge pile of problems for us when they pass on. They are 84 now and have no intention of clearing anything despite us offering to help. Loft full of old wedding dresses that MIL bought to sell on but hasn't. Formica furniture, damp and peeling in shed - will not throw away as it was a wedding present. No use to anyone as wood is rotten. Lots of tools, gardening equipment which they cannot use going rusty ( what a waste) 2 spare rooms crammed with stuff that's never used. Going to be a terrible job for us to sort it out. Makes me angry because they know we have our hands full with our SN ds

ReallyTired Mon 07-Oct-13 11:55:20

The court of protection exists for people who have not appointed someone to take power of attorney. If you are concerned that an elderly relative is seriously struggling then adult social services can help.

My father gave £500 to a ballif for a debt that was not his. I was desperately concerned that he had been bullied into handing over money for a debt that was not his. He is frail and has very poor eye sight and I did not understand why he gave money to the ballif. Social services were prepared to investigate possible financial abuse, but we had to respect the fact that he did not want help. (Even if I do question his mental competance)

I do empathise with the issue of having hoarder parents, but there is littel we can do.

TrueStory Mon 07-Oct-13 12:02:34

grr... power of attorneys- not suggesting this so OP can chuck things away, absolute idiocy to suggest i ssid that! its more the case of raising possibility that it was an early sign of struggling that OP needed to consider. her DM is 72 after all. or not.

signing a PoA is not the same as registering it. its just a back-up when parents start to get old. I suggest you look online or mumsnet's elderly patents section to get some more info rather than the dangerously ignorant remarks on this subject.

over and out. hope this is helpful to others even if not OP's situation.

TrueStory Mon 07-Oct-13 12:13:47

the court of protection is NOT advisable in normal circumstances, very stressful and very expensive. often the court of protection only have to get involved because a PoA was not organised whilst ageing person was in full control if his or her faculties to make this decision. you should really get your facts straight.

of course not every ageing person wants to make a PoA with trusted relative or friend, which is their prerogstive. but thus can be shoring up big ptoblems later if they suddenly become incapacitated physically or mentally.

Trazzletoes Mon 07-Oct-13 12:20:41

I feel your pain, OP. My DM is a hoarder. She is living with us at the moment and it is slowly killing me. I'm not minimalist but every time I set myself an objective she goes full out to sabotage it.

It doesn't need to be as bad as it is on TV to count as hoarding.

NameChangerExtroardinaire Mon 07-Oct-13 12:38:59

MIL is like this. In a three bedroom house, there's only her bedroom that is habitable to sleep in as the others just have so much STUFF.
I've helped to a certain extent, as in they're looking a bit better as all the rubbish has gone, (she was willing to do that) but there's still piles of STUFF that she needs to sort through as I can't just go chucking her possessions away.
She says she'll "get round to it" and we have actually put lots of stuff to put in binbags to take to the charity shop.
There's sackloads to take but she'll come up with a million and one excuses why she can't take them right now.
Then in the next breath it's "my house is making me so miserable, it gets me down" well why the f**k won't she let me help her then?
I'm here to help.
She wants the small people to stay over occasionally, but they can't while the bedrooms are out of action. You'd think that would be a big enough incentive, but no. sad
Argh! Sorry for the rant, but I just want to help her and have not got a clue how to go about it when she says she WANTS to clear it, makes a start but won't do the rest.

WetGrass Mon 07-Oct-13 13:01:51

Yy - why not get her into technology.

1) scanning things (& then boxing for storage or chucking - but getting it out of her living space).

2) could she do a 'living history project' and either video or audio record her explaining her favorite objects. It could be a wonderful family history heirloom - and it could re-direct the sentimentality in a more constructive direction. Also a natural way of sorting rubbish & treasure.

Trazzletoes Mon 07-Oct-13 14:29:01

Ah wet if only it were so easy.

In the case of my DM... Scanning in is no problem. But need to hang on to paper copies in case this new fangled technology breaks down.

I know - back it up. In her world everything could fail at once.

Paper is nice and safe.


RoonilWazlibWuvsHermyown Mon 07-Oct-13 19:17:35

well why the f**k won't she let me help her then?

She probably wouldn't even be able to find an answer for that herself. It's not as simple as her deciding not to let you. If she's a hoarder for real, its a psychological issue. On one hand she might be desperate to get rid while at the same time she can't quite let go. Its a horrible situation to be in. She's probably desperate to have your children stay but she can't override a mental health problem just because she desires something. Threads like this make me so so so grateful for my patient family who took the time to read up about hoarding and the mental health side of it and had so much patience and time for me to help me overcome my hoarding without making me more ill on the way.

deste Mon 07-Oct-13 20:20:16

When we empty a house we take everything away because if you don't it will find its way back in.

Beastofburden Mon 07-Oct-13 21:43:18

Worst case- you leave it as is. When she dies you pay a house clearance company.

I got someone in this summer and said I felt bad as I had so much junk. He told me he had a client where he had two vans up there for a week. The family filled fifteen skips before they called him in.

They are brilliant, and most of it is recycled or resold.

Maybe the thing is to let them hoard within reason, just keep them safe and (fairly) clean and stay at the nearest B&B?

williaminajetfighter Mon 07-Oct-13 22:10:54

Thx everyone for your comments - interesting to see that others face similar situations.

But, um, Silver Apples what exactly is your problem? You describe me as 'opinionated, virtuous and convinced that my lifestyle choices are vastly superior to those of my mother's' as well as a 'neat freak'. Seriously!? There was nothing in my original post that suggested that but, guess what, it's a forum and everyone has an opinion, hence you could mark anyone as opinionated. Why do people go onto forums and then complain that people are opinionated? Um, forums are for people to express their opinions --- which is what makes them interesting.

And guess what else? Most people think their lifestyle choices are generally preferable or else they wouldn't live that way! I certainly think clutter free is better than a house filled with junk and stuff that gets in the way.

BTW North America doesn't necessarily mean the USA.

MyBaby1day Tue 08-Oct-13 04:01:22

YANBU, I try and live as minimally as possible too and it doesn't sound like it's good for your Mum's health to be keeping all this lumber. Try and help her with it. My Mum is a bit of a hoarder and now she is getting rid of more and more (we only live in a small flat so that but try encouraging rather than taking over. Also if it's sentimental as you say, maybe tell her such and such a person (who sent her the card) wouldn't want her keeping everything and would be happy if she had a clean and tidy house instead. Maybe keep a nice photo of the person instead but not cards from every Birthday, Easter etc. All the best.

Eastpoint Tue 08-Oct-13 04:24:29

I think when people say get a house clearance company to deal with it after she's died are missing the point. My MIL had a fire in her house & the firemen couldn't enter it wearing breathing equipment as they couldn't open the front door wide enough. Luckily MIL was outside but if she had fallen asleep inside she would have put them at risk if they entered the house looking for her. The police & fire brigade locked her house & refused to let her back in as it was too dangerous. She moved to Dsil's house, my DH spent weeks clearing her house so it could be cleaned & repaired. In the end she moved to a smaller house.

She then had another fire, this time at night. Luckily the tv exploding woke her up & she escaped again.

Does she really have the right to live how she wants? She does not have dementia.

Beastofburden Tue 08-Oct-13 08:07:22

east ironically my throwaway "keep her safe" comment was originally going to be "as long as she doesn't burn the place down!" but I thought it might come over as disrespectful.

It's about more than just her rights, isn't it? Her neighbours might get burnt out too. I would say she has crossed the line where she no longer has the right to live as she likes. You wouldn't allow an adult with learning disabilities to do this- they would immediately get taken into residential care, or have some kind of compulsory care package put in.

No idea ow the system works with NT people (if indeed she is NT)....

shewhowines Tue 08-Oct-13 10:18:34

ancient I read a while ago, that there is also a lawn mower museum somewhere too.

ReallyTired Tue 08-Oct-13 10:23:05

"She then had another fire, this time at night. Luckily the tv exploding woke her up & she escaped again.

Does she really have the right to live how she wants? She does not have dementia."

Provided she is in a freehold property she can do as she pleases. She really does have the right to live as she wants. As I said earlier the bar as which you can enact ensuring power of attoney/ court of protection is incredibly high.

Ultimately its her life and you can not live her life for her.

sarahtigh Tue 08-Oct-13 17:09:45

obviously UK rules on power of attorney do not apply in USa/Canada or where ever, however in UK there is a difference between financial and welfare powers of attorney

it is best if signed when person is mentally capable of signing financial / welfare POA . Financial powers can be enacted at any time however welfare powers a can be signed in advance but will not be acted upon until a doctor etc decides the person no longer has capacity to make their own decisions ie their mental state is such that they are incapable of giving consent this is a very high bar much higher than the finance one

the OP's mother is obviously not incapable of deciding welfare issues so there is no way if she was in UK that OP would have POA in regard to welfare / hoarding etc

if a person will not sign POA or does not want to; when deemed applicable it can be applied for via courts of protection who will decide a.) if POA is needed and b.) who should be appointed

No advice but watching with interest as your post sounds very much like my mum, although she is a bit younger!

StepAwayFromTheEcclesCakes Tue 08-Oct-13 17:39:21

unless its a serious health or fire risk just leave her be, its not really affecting anyone is it? its her life and its making her unhappy to be told its got to go. My Mum is 85 and I would hate to upset her by suggesting anything in her home should not be there as I would be hurt if someone suggested it to me. I know I will have to deal with it when shes no longer here but hey so what, its her life and long may it last.

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