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Seeking help managing when staying with a hoarder...

(72 Posts)
chillywindows Tue 12-Nov-13 18:50:09

My MIL lives in extremely dirty, depressing conditions. She is a hoarder, with additional elements of serious disrepair and squalor. (I know not all hoarders are squalid, but we're talking bits of rotting food on the floor and in the fridge, unbelievably filthy, black slime encrusted kitchen sink etc) She is also very, very difficult. My DH and I will be staying with her for nearly a fortnight over the Christmas period, between our lease ending, and moving overseas to live.

This sounds dreadful, as we are on the cusp of moving so far away, but I have insisted to DH that after the first couple of days we go away for a few nights, as I cannot cope with the filth for two weeks (I'm pregnant, which is definitely affecting my tolerance levels, usually I'm quite stoic) I also cannot cope with her passive agressive (escalating to aggressive) behaviour when we are in her company for extended periods i.e. more than a couple of days. However, she is desperate for us (especially DH) to stay, particularly as we are moving so far away. DH would not countenance a B&B for the entire period, but I know that she will not be able to cope with us for the duration without having a very unpleasant meltdown at some point. She will not be able to visit us, as she is not allowed to fly. But it is the last time we will ever stay in the house, as once the baby arrives I would never be able to stay in such unsanitary conditions with a small child.

I don't even know the purpose of this post, really. Just that I'm upset for DH - and MIL - that she has this dreadful illness. And for my own part, how do I survive Christmas in her house? Any coping tips from children of hoarders (or anyone else) much appreciated!

SteamWisher Tue 12-Nov-13 18:51:59

Would she agree to having a clean - letting your DH clean maybe - small areas of the house? Eg kitchen, bedroom and bathroom?

There's no way I'd stay there and amazed you've agreed! It normalises it - which is isn't.

Fairenuff Tue 12-Nov-13 18:55:22

There is no way I would stay there. Book yourself into a B&B nearby for the whole two weeks and let your dh decide for himself where he wants to stay.

Why can't she fly?

Twinklestein Tue 12-Nov-13 18:56:09

I wouldn't even try it tbh, it's not going to work.

You're pregnant, your husband should not get to veto a stay in a B&B. (What happens if you get food poisoning?) Stay there and visit her daily.

This is not a slightly batty relation, she's full blown seriously mentally ill.

I would put my foot down now.

SweetCarolinePomPomPom Tue 12-Nov-13 19:02:06

I think I would just have to put my foot down and refuse to stay there if I were you. Let your DH stay there if he likes - he's obviously developed a stronger stomach over the years than you! Go and stay with your own family/friends or just overrule your DH and pay for a b&B and tell him it's non-negotiable. You don't have to tolerate such appalling conditions, you owe her nothing. Especially as she doesn't even sound very nice.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 12-Nov-13 19:05:10

Hoarding is a complex disorder that is made up of three connected problems: 1) collecting too many items, 2) difficulty getting rid of items, and 3) problems with organization. These problems can lead to significant amounts of clutter which can severely limit the use of living spaces, pose safety and/or health risks, and result in significant distress and/or impairment in day-to-day living.

What is hoped to be achieved by such a visit; why has this been mooted at all?. Is it out of a combination on your DHs part of fear, obligation and guilt?.

Your DH frankly needs to put you and your unborn child first now, not his mother.

Neither of you can or should actually risk staying there at all under such circumstances; you and your DH could both get ill as a result. Your own health comes first particularly now as you are pregnant as well. You cannot go into such a frankly unsafe environment.

Sleepyhoglet Tue 12-Nov-13 19:07:02

I would not stay there. I completely understand. I also have to put up with similar at mil

WhoNickedMyName Tue 12-Nov-13 19:08:30

Book yourself into a hotel and leave it up to your DH to come and go between her house/your hotel as he pleases.

There's no way I'd stay with her, no way at all.

Holdthepage Tue 12-Nov-13 19:09:20

I wouldn't stay there either. Book yourself into a nearby B&B, but don't stop your DH staying with her.

AttilaTheMeerkat Tue 12-Nov-13 19:11:55

Her residence could be actually unfit for human habitation as well as being a fire risk. I wonder if any of these factors have been considered.

firstpost Tue 12-Nov-13 19:21:05

Child of a hoarder here ..

I would put some boundaries in place for what is tolerable for a short stay.

For me, now I have children I need a cleanish only slightly cluttered room for us to sleep in.

I need a cleanish bathroom.

I need use by dates to be looked at for meals that me and the kids are eating (they take pride in eating very out of date food shock)

I reserve the right to 'move' stuff, this can be a massive issue for hoarders but if its in toddler reach and unsafe I move it.

I will never ever understand hoarding but my kids benefit from a really loving relationship with my parents. It's worth a bit of compromise if you can bear it and it doesn't put your health at risk smile

cloudskitchen Tue 12-Nov-13 19:42:26

I'm feeling very anxious for you reading your post. There's no way I could stay there and as you are pregnant I really don't think you should be staying there. You need to think of food poisoning but also all the other germs that are festering. You really dont want to get sick while pregnant sad

BettyBotter Tue 12-Nov-13 20:15:19

My MIL was the same to the point of serious health hazard. I am too horrified even to tell you anonymously what was found in her house when it was cleared up after she died sad . So believe me I know what you mean.

I agree that you shouldn't stay there. Stay in a nearby B and B and visit daily -- and take her out for meals-- . Apart from other considerations it can be as stressful for a hoarder having guests as it is for the guests to live in a hoard.

Olddear Tue 12-Nov-13 20:40:35

Wouldn't take the risk of staying there. It is a very unhealthy environment for you. Think you may have to put your foot down re staying in B&B. If your husband wants to stay with mum, that's up to him but I wouldn't be able to stand living in that squalor!

gastrognome Tue 12-Nov-13 20:54:53

I too would be concerned about catching something unpleasant or indeed dangerous for the unborn child (you don't mention animals, but toxoplasmosis comes to mind, not to mention listeria...). Don't put yourself or your baby at risk.

FlossieTreadlight Tue 12-Nov-13 21:00:15

I just wanted to sympathise - I also have an obsessive compulsive hoarder for a MIL. It's awful on so many levels.

I agree with others re not staying there but I wonder if your DH is insisting you all stay because he feels guilty for moving away?

I really hope you get this sorted out and manage to have a happy Christmas together.

chillywindows Tue 12-Nov-13 21:23:56

Thanks so much for your posts. Please forgive if I answer generally, as I'm on a tablet now and the bloody thing won't let me scroll as I type...
She won't be able to fly to us ever, as she has a health condition which would preclude it (serious risk of clotting).
DH is under no illusions as to her difficult nature. But he is, however, 'hampered' by a terrible pity for her, which I too feel. It would absolutely devastate her if we stayed elsewhere just before leaving the country, even though she doesn't cope well with us (me really) in the house for any length of time.
I like the idea of boundaries, but strangely the condition of her house is the elephant in the room. DH was packing up some of his own books over the weekend, and taking his bike to be packed for shipping, which he'd been storing there. He then took some of his old, old clothes to the charity shop, and she was furious and tearful about it. She yelled, 'Why are you getting rid of everything?' (um, old sweatpants??) I said to him 'Why did you not say, 'Because if I don't, I'll end up living in a space like this!' But he would never say that. So how do I establish boundaries about clean spaces when the filth of the existing space is never acknowledged?

MrTumblesKnickers Tue 12-Nov-13 21:25:50

No way would I be staying, either. I would rather cause offence now and set a precedent rather than have the same issue crop up when you have a small baby and she wants you to visit.

Mumsyblouse Tue 12-Nov-13 21:34:25

Don't stay, have you not see 'How Clean is Your House?'- when they do the tests for bacteria etc, these hoarders houses, sadly, are teeming with them, including faecal matter over everything, rats and mice droppings, food that is actually dangerous, not just a bit off.

Sorry, but there is no time in two weeks to sort out his mother's life long issues with hoarding and while you might feel sympathetic to her, that doesn't mean you should risk your own health. If she has any animals whatsoever, double the risk, but even just the unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and bathroom are bad enough if you are pregnant.

Lie if you have to, say you still have morning sickness and don't want to be ill in someone else's home, but don't feel pressured into staying in an unsanitary environment, if it's as bad as you say, and if you wouldn't ever take a child there- you are carrying a child!

Fairenuff Tue 12-Nov-13 21:39:57

Would your dh agree to you staying somewhere else and him staying with his dm?

chillywindows Tue 12-Nov-13 21:47:08

Fairenuff, DH would never leave me alone in a B&B. I've actually been extremely ill with the pregnancy (which is why I've lost my 'filth coping' mojo), and he wouldn't leave me at the moment (I've been having all night vomiting sessions, which have completely freaked him out). After her behaviour this weekend, I think he would be more amenable to the B&B idea. But the idea of telling her is making me feel quite anxious. His DB and family live just around the corner, and I don't think SIL has been in the house for years, far less their children. However, MIL seems able to rationalise this away - she would never accept it's because of the state of the house. The whole situation is surreal.

Mumsyblouse Tue 12-Nov-13 21:56:12

Ok, if you have been that ill, you have the perfect get out clause, for both her and for your DH (who is obviously conflicted). If your SIL won't visit, you should not either.

firstpost Tue 12-Nov-13 22:11:25

It's really hard because denial is such an intrinsic part of the condition.

Apparently it's the hardest OCD to treat with the highest rate of recidivism.

Can you get your dh to be very clear and specific with her? It needs to come from him really.

It's hard because the odds are this will be a life long issue with no quick fix hmm

Twinklestein Tue 12-Nov-13 22:15:53

This is actually your husband's problem not yours, it's for him to deal with his mother. Expecting you to stay there is not only unreasonable but actively dangerous.

It's all very well talking about 'boundaries' if the hoarder is your own relative, but you cannot establish those boundaries yourself, particularly given your pregnancy, and it may not be possible even from your husband, as hoarders are so emotional about anyone touching their stuff.

That SIL has obviously put her foot down is good news, because it shows your husband that this is a reasonable line.

theoriginalandbestrookie Tue 12-Nov-13 22:18:23

I wouldn't stay there. You have been suffering from sickness and more than likely are exremely sensitive to strong smells.

We went to BILs when I was pregnant, meant to stay there 2 nights. The whole house stunk of his cigars that I felt instantly sick, but when I went to be sick in the bathroom, there was an ashtray in there and it was worse than the rest of the house. I lasted half of one night, ended up sitting in the car at 5 am as I couldn't cope with it any more. DH had to make excuses and we left.

Could you compromise and find a holiday rental for a couple of weeks and ask MIL to visit you for a bit?

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