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Please will you kindly support and advise me, as I try to help a friend sort out his home?

(723 Posts)
EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 17:48:11

Yesterday I started to try to help a friend sort out his home. If I tell you that it took me nearly 3 hours to clear a space on the bathroom floor about 3ft x 4ft, you will probably understand how things are. Today I did a little better. In about 2 hours I cleared another space the same size, which meant I could open a cupboard. Two shelves were almost empty, so I was able to clean those and use them for storage. I will carry on next time with the other 2 shelves and continue clearing the bathroom floor.

It was very satisfying to get rid of a whole binbag of rubbish yesterday and a half bag today, plus a bag and a half of recycling, and a small bag of confidential waste to shred. There is a folding storage crate of things to keep so far, but I'll go through that again to see if I've missed anything that should be thrown out or recycled.

My friend has got into this situation after many years of serious illness and close bereavements, has no family left and few friends, certainly not really close ones. He has been at the stage for several years where he doesn't have visitors. He needs many repairs and much decorating doing, and is getting to the stage where carers visiting would be helpful. I am hoping to get him to the stage where that will be possible. He is such a nice guy, and it's a shame that life has gradually got smaller and smaller for him over the years. It must be terribly lonely.

I feel honoured that he has trusted me with the truth of how things are. I can't talk to anyone IRL as I know it's essential to protect his privacy, and I have changed my username in case anyone makes the connections. I could do with some mumsnet wisdom and support! I have never felt such a sense of achievement over a bit of floorspace 3ft x 4ft, but equally the enormity of the task hit me.

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ScrambledMeg Tue 14-Aug-18 18:01:23

What a wonderful friend you are. I'm not sure what to suggest. Possibly watch a couple of those hoarding programmes and see what advice strategies they use?!
I think your key issue is time/progress. How much time can you devote to this? How capable is your friend of continuing without your help? How will you manage your own feelings? Is he paying you? What happens when you burn out? Who in real life can help? Lots of questions!

SingaSong12 Tue 14-Aug-18 18:12:14

With your friends agreement take some photos. If your friend is a hoarder he might like formal counselling and would need to show what he hoards and how. Even if there are no issues you and he can celebrate progress as you go along.

As PP says you are a great friend smile

EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 18:44:03

Hi Scrambled. Thanks for replying. I don't see much telly, but I remember watching an episode of a programme like that some time ago. It's an idea though. I suppose I'd rather spend a couple of hours making some progress, rather than watching someone else do it on telly, but you're right, it might give me some ideas.

As a very busy mum and carer, I don't have much spare time or energy, it's true. I am a little worried, especially after yesterday, about how much it will take to make very significant progress. I have been honest with my friend about that. I have said I'll do what I can, when I can, for as long as I can, but that it might not be enough or forever. I don't have a magic wand, unfortunately, and I think that's what's needed!

No, he's not paying me. I wouldn't want that. I will let him cover my expenses such as bin bags and cleaning materials, and I'm sure he'll need to pay for a big skip at some point, probably more than one.

Realistically he can't do anything much to help at the moment. In a way, it's better he's trusting me to get on with it, as there's no difficult or time-consuming discussions or tussles, and there's less embarrassment for him if he's not with me as I work through all the horrors. I am keeping him informed of (slow) progress, and have taken him up to see what I've achieved both times. Possibly when I get to the stage of going through the mounds and bags of paperwork, he'll be able to help then. At the moment it's straightforward, but I'm certain there will be things he needs to be the one to decide about too as I progress.

I'm not sure how realistic it is, but I'm intending to try to protect myself from burnout by only doing a couple of hours at a time, (it's all I can spare anyway), and then putting my feet up for 10 minutes with a cup of tea and a sandwich or biscuit. I would like to be able to dedicate a couple of weeks full time to it, but it's just not possible with my other commitments.

I do feel slightly emotional about it. A cross between an archeologist and a forensic scientist in the depths of somebody else's life, and Mrs Mop, springs to mind.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 18:57:42

Thanks for replying Singa. At the moment he doesn't want anyone to know, and wouldn't contemplate counselling, but I suppose that could change at some point. I'm reluctant to ask about photos, although I can certainly see from your post that they might be useful. I think he'd worry someone else might accidentally see them, and I'm wanting to tread very carefully so that he doesn't get over-anxious and put the brakes on.

I don't know if he's actually a hoarder or not. How is that diagnosed? The house looks that way, but I can understand why it's got to that state.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 21:31:34

I've just popped back to do half an hour, on the basis that every little helps. Unfortunately I had to give up because it got too dark. I discovered there's no light in the bathroom! Hopefully it's just the bulb, but the ceiling is very high, and the only stepladders available are too low. I considered trying to balance precariously on them or work by phone light, but realised both options in different ways were a bit ridiculous! A job for another day, taller stepladders or a basketball player!

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Lindah1 Tue 14-Aug-18 21:35:29

What a lovely thing to do, he's lucky to have

mybrainhurtsalot Tue 14-Aug-18 22:23:22

There is a clutter rating scale to help gauge the severity of the hoarding:

TooExtraImmatureCheddar Tue 14-Aug-18 22:27:24

Carers will have seen all sorts and will go into most houses regardless. I wouldn’t worry too much about it being fit for them! They genuinely won’t bat an eyelid, and will do their job anyway.

EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 23:30:25

Thanks Lindah. Sadly I think that if I'd been a better friend, (and others had been better friends/family too), to him over the years, he might not be in this situation now. I'm sure some of what is motivating me to help now is guilt, if I'm brutally honest.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 23:33:51

Thanks mybrain. My phone phone won't let me download that, but I'll try on another device, hopefully tomorrow.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Tue 14-Aug-18 23:39:16

Thanks TooExtra. I'm sure you're right, but I think it's his issue. He doesn't want carers coming in the way things are, (pride, possibly), and he's worried about being referred on to other agencies or having to leave his home - he really doesn't want that. He worries about gossip too. Not all carers are professional, unfortunately.

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Cardiganandcuppa Tue 14-Aug-18 23:42:32

Is there a second bedroom you could designate as a holding space and fairly quickly chuck a load of stuff in there so he can use the bedroom/bathroom/kitchen/lounge more easily? Then you or he could work through that at leisure as a sort of phase b?

EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 00:04:38

Thanks Cardigan. It seems that he's had that idea himself over the years, as both spare bedrooms are full, and I can't get to them until I've cleared the landing! I think that whenever someone was going round, or he attempted to start a clear up, everything went in there.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 00:18:52

I really didn't know where to start! We agreed the bathroom because I can get on with it without disturbing him too much while he gets used to the idea, and it's one of the smaller rooms so I thought it would be easier and show results faster. I thought that would be a motivator to carry on, and as it's a reasonable size would also provide a temporary storage area at one end while I work elsewhere. I need somewhere to put things (to keep), until they have permanent homes, and because there isn't a shed or garage. I did wonder about asking him to get a shed, but it's the cost, including of hardstanding, upheaval, and he's worried about damp and slugs getting into his things.

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CherryCherryCherry Wed 15-Aug-18 00:21:20

True hoarders have difficultly letting go of things so he may not be one? Perhaps just got overwhelming and didn't know where to start perhaps. You aren't responsible for his lifestyle so it seems sad that you feel guilty when you are being such a fantastic friend! It's a lot for one person to take on though. Know you said he's a private person but isn't there anyone else who could help? If you explain that it's too much for you on yr own but still want to help plus it would be quicker if more people helping?
As for carers they have to be able to work in a safe environment so could be a problem there. Maybe you could just do one day a week rather than a few days all at one? Better in small chunks for you mentally. Must be exhausting. I wouldn't put it all in another room. In the hoarding world according to programmes I have watched this is known as churning and doesn't solve or help the problem. He is lucky to have you as a friend. Don't beat yourself up with guilt. Not many people would even attempt to help someone who has got himself in a bit of a pickle. star

CherryCherryCherry Wed 15-Aug-18 00:24:41

Oh just re read thread and see that he had put stuff in another room! Will he not agree to a skip? Realise that you prob have to tread carefully no pun intended...

EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 00:39:07

After clearing the bathroom, I thought phase 2 would be the stairs. Again, a smaller area, easier to do (allegedly!), and to see results as a motivator to keep going. I think there are good safety reasons for doing the stairs too, in making it easier to carry things up and down. It might be possible to put some small storage boxes on the stairs temporarily once I've cleared them and if it seems safe.

Stage 3, the landing, again so I can use it for storage as I do the bigger rooms, and so I can get access to the 2 spare bedrooms.

I think the double spare bedroom is so packed that it will need to be left to the end, (if ever!), but I wondered about stage 4 being the spare single bedroom. Again it could be temporary storage while I do the rest, or he could possibly use it as a temporary bedroom until his is done. I think all the beds need replacing.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 00:53:50

Thanks Cherry. He has agreed to a skip and even to skips! They were quite expensive when we had them at home for our renovation work, and the companies wanted them back quite quickly. I don't want to order the first one until I've got enough ready, or nearly enough, to fill it. At the moment I'm nowhere near that, so it's just going into the bin and recycling. The bin is very limited and fortnightly, but they'll take unlimited recycling if I sort it into plastics/glass and paper/card. There's nothing suitable for the charity shop yet.

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EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 01:12:30

Just off to bed before the DCs wake up, and I want a bit more energy to try to attempt a bit more tomorrow. It is tiring, both emotionally and physically, but I hope this will improve as I get a bit more used to dealing with the issues. Will try to answer your other post tomorrow Cherry.

Thanks to all so far. flowers

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mybrainhurtsalot Wed 15-Aug-18 08:50:54

You can get things called hippo bags which come in a range of sizes. I’m not sure how they compare to skips price wise.

Wallywobbles Wed 15-Aug-18 09:44:51

Not rtft yet but...

With the paperwork there is a list of things you need to keep. Like bank statements for x years, etc. I used it when I moved (but I'm in France). Everything else got burnt.

I kept some memory boxes too. But also cleared out all the old Birthday cards etc. Just kept a few important ones.

Would he be able to sort some of the paperwork himself? Even it's just all the bank statements into one pile. Each utility bill into a pile. Preferably subdivided by year so you'd know that all utility bills over 5 years old could be chucked etc.

EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 16:32:34

Thanks Wally and mybrain. A late start today as up most of the night with a poorly DC, and busy since. Just off to do a couple of hours continuing with the bathroom, and hope to be back on the thread a bit later. Wish me luck. smile

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StealthNinjaMum Wed 15-Aug-18 18:38:01

You sound such a lovely friend.

I was going to suggest the kitchen as it is very easy to throw away food that's gone off, there's less of an emotional attachment but actually it sounds like you already have a good plan. My only other suggestion is does your friend have a favourite room, one that perhaps he reads in or does a hobby? It might also be motivating for him to keep up your work if suddenly he has a clear desk or area for a hobby - or even just to chill in.

EatingTheElephantInChunks Wed 15-Aug-18 19:36:27

Thanks Stealth. Just a quick post while I stop for a cup of tea and a Jaffa cake! Should have gone by now, but I'm darned if I will until I've finished today's segment of the bathroom floor! It's been harder going again today and I have to admit that a space about 4ft square has nearly defeated me! I'm hungry, tired, my back and knees ache, my eyes and nose are irritated, I need a shower or a soak in the bath with something strong, and I'm missing the DCs! It's possibly been harder today because of the bad night, there had been a spillage of cat litter at some point in that area which had got over everything, and not much light was coming into the room. On a positive note I've had the lovely cat for company, I can see some of the floor, I've got a full bag of compacted rubbish to put out, more recycling, and my first pack of Dettol wipes is empty!

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