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How to tell her politely- clear up your mess!(61 Posts)
My MIL is a narcissist and hoarder. It's a nightmare combination. Recently she has decided that she wants to leave her rural bungalow and move into a retirement flat more central. Good for her I think. Except she keeps emailing saying that she can't sort things and that no one wants to buy her stuff
junk. Her latest email was that she should just lock up her bungalow, walk away and leave someone else to deal with it as "that's what would happen if she died". She has also sent threatening emails saying she is going to donate her bungalow and contents to a charity now so she can "wash her hands of it." How can I politely tell her, that as an adult, she just needs to accept that she accumulated the mess and she needs to take responsibilty for it and sort it out. We have made so so many offers over the years to help her and she wouldn't accept our help. She essentially needs a skip for a lot of it!! (40+ year old carpet off cuts etc). I find her attitude of leaving it for someone else to sort quite selfish. I want to find a way to tactfully tell her to stop passing the buck and take responsibility.
Hoarding is a serious mental health problem and it sounds like she needs professional help to deal with it. The stuff she is saying about walking away as that's what would happen if she died worries me, as those kind of statements can mean a person is suicidal and at least very depressed. I don't think she's being selfish. I think she's sick and needs help, it might not look how you would expect it to. A 'sane' person who is struggling will ask for help, but somebody who is suffering from a mental health problem will often have many barriers to being helped. Hoarders are often angry, resistant, secretive and overwhelmed by their hoards. Getting cross with them or dealing with it for them will not help them. I hope she is ready for some help. Does she have a diagnosis of any kind?
I don't think she is suicidal just aware of her increasing age and that if she doesn't move house soon, it might be too late as she is in her 80s.
She doesn't think she has a problem. We have tried to help in the past but get told that we waste our time cleaning and tidying and must have empty heads! When you get told stuff like that (for the record I have a cleaner once a week and an averagely tidy house!) it makes you feel fed up.
Oh absolutely hoarders are hard to help and it sounds like you have come to the end of that. I think you need to either leave it in her hands (which unfortunately could result in a fire or a fall or something dreadful like that) or see if social care can help. Is it a health risk?
If she's in her 80s with MH issues she's not going to just sort it like an adult.
Does she need to sell to move to the flat? In which case let an estate agent sell it as seen for a rick bottom price and someone else will indeed deal with it.
Could she put Some of it into storage and move? It is likely she will never deal with it all at that age, but if she needs to move she needs to move and that would at least mean that could happen. What would happen if she needed a Carer?
When my DM moved we used someone recommended by Age Concern to help her sort out stuff. This was a service she paid for, but basically a lovely lady came round, helped her sort out what she wanted to take and what she wanted to dispose of, and took stuff to charity shops. It really helped having someone non-family to go through potentially sentimental stuff, and as we lived 200 miles away we couldn't be around every weekend. Can't remember what the organisation was called, but definitely came via age concern.
Is there anyway you could persuade her to pay for someone professional to come in and help her sort through it all?
Perhaps now she’ll accept your help as she’s decided to move out? Before perhaps she hadn’t mentally moved out.
Does she have a lot of money? I’m not trying to be cheeky but would she have the funds to buy the new pad and move into the new place first with a few cherished things and give you the house to empty and get ready for sale.
With you keeping part of the sale money as commission for helping her or would she need all the money for her new place? She will get her house sold but the price will be low if people feel there’s too much work to do. Tens of thousands low.
If she needs to sell first before moving you may indeed have to get skips. If she lets you help.
Old people get tired. She prob just can’t face it.
I would personally offer her help by organising professionals to come in.
She's in her 80s after all! It sounds like she wants to spend her final years in more comfort and accessibility.
You wouldn't want to look back at this when she's gone and feel bad that you didn't offer her help when she's (in her own way) asking for it.
Bless her!! I can't even imagine how tired I would be at that age and the task would seem overwhelming I would imagine!! Don't think I could find the motivation now in my 30s never mind my 80s. She either needs the help and support of her family or she'll have to get some professionals in.
She won't sell her house for rock bottom as she she thinks it's too good and that locals can't afford it. It really isn't that special. We don't want her to give us the house (tax implications) as we already have a house. Also, she has rejected help for so many years and now just wants to walk out and leave someone else to sort it out as she can't be bothered. She says she is too busy but really it's lazy. She is constantly blaming us saying we should be there like other people's children but we live 350 miles away! She probably would put everything in storage and that would be a nightmare. She just needs to sort it and stop passing the buck.
When my mum had to sell her house, we got rid of a lot of stuff, but there was a mental limit for her. We rented a storage area for a year, stuck her remaining stuff into it, then after 12 months got rid of it as she'd moved on from that initial time and couldn't see a use for what she had stored.
Perhaps a halfway house type of approach would be a good idea for your MIL?
Lazy is the wrong word. Yes, she has refused your help for years and I understand your frustration. But now she is very elderly, overwhelmed and needs support. Of course it is too much for her on her own
She’s your mum. Discuss and decide on a plan to help her and get up there and make a start.
She’s 80. She had no energy. She is not lazy. She’s your mother.
She's my MIL. She has enough energy to go gallavanting across the country to various art galleries etc on the train. So much of her stuff is rubbish, but she won't let us hire a skip. It's going to cost up to get rid of things she things she should sell. She is only happy if we agree to hire a van and take most of her stuff to keep in her garage because although she doesn't want it, she doesn't want to part.
You expect an 80 year old to be able to clear a house on her own? Come on OP, you can't be serious?
It's not selfish it's probably too stressful to think about at her age, plus all the memories flooding back would be enough to finish her off!
Do you really expect an 80 year old to be manhandling stuff into a skip herself? I think unfortunately an elderly relative in her position is going to need some support to move.
OP, I understand exactly where you're coming from. I can see myself in your position in 5 years. I was advised by an environmental health specialist to try to take it slowly with her and do it shelf by shelf, but I have young DC and chronic illnesses and don't have the time and energy myself to do it. So currently attempting to ignore the problem
she has rejected help for so many years and now just wants to walk out and leave someone else to sort it out as she can't be bothered. She says she is too busy but really it's lazy. She is constantly blaming us saying we should be there like other people's children but we live 350 miles away! She probably would put everything in storage and that would be a nightmare. She just needs to sort it and stop passing the buck.
Well, she's not going to sort it on her own - she's talking about leaving it to you to sort!
So one way or another you will need to be involved. I appreciate it is your MIL, so your DH needs to step up.
Why not just tell her not to worry about it, lock up the house and move to the retirement flat and you will get it all sorted.
Then skip it all!
But seriously. You could take all the stuff she "can't part with", get rid of most of it on the way home and then just forget to find whatever she decides she needs in her retirement flat. If she's a hoarder she won't actually miss anything specific anyway.
What tax implications are there if you are given a house? If Mil lives for 7 years there is no inheritance tax to pay. It’s a good thing to do. We’ve just given DD a massive amount of money for a flat so we lessen our IHT liability. Why would you not have the house before her death? It’s better for tax purposes!
My family has been through this with one of my (very difficult) relatives. She's in a home now (against her wishes but she wasn't safe at home any more). Another family member had the unenviable task of sorting through and disposing of most of her stuff (much of it stained, broken, worn, etc etc).
The fact is, your MIL is free to live how she chooses. You can try to help (I did) but ultimately, she gets to choose how she runs her own home. That is, until she can't do that any more.
I agree with PPs saying that hoarding is a significant MH condition. I would listen as kindly as possible to her and offer support where you can. She knows she's running out of time to deal with it and is probably feeling really upset and scared. Could you help her to clear a couple of rooms to get her started, then maybe look at her hiring someone? Realistically though, she's probably unlikely to be able to deal with this all on her own. How about moving her out for a couple of weeks whilst you get the family to help clear it for her?
Just some thoughts.
@BubblesBuddy but she won't live there for 7 years- she want it off her hands so she can move into a flat so she isn't dependent on the bus and can get to the train station easily.
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