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When Hoarding Kills

Updated on February 25, 2014

Part One

When I moved out of state several years ago, I never imagined what I would be leaving behind. For the most part, I considered my family "normal" with only "normal" family dramas from time to time. It wasn't until I returned home for a visit that I realized just how wrong I was. MY MOTHER IS A HOARDER!

Not only is mom a hoarder, but she is suffering the painful physical affects of her recently diagnosed cancer. Mom is slowly becoming incapacitated and she is becoming more and more unable to manage caring for herself and her home.

The past year has been very difficult for my family and that of my siblings, but nothing like the heartache our mother is living. After what we have all been thru, I can safely say it out loud now. I can give this whole mess meaning. I understand. I can give it a name.

The "normal" family we were all comfortable in has just fallen apart at the seams. I believe that at least a few of us were disillusioned by mom's personae on the surface. Yet others knew and denied what they saw. Eventually nearly everyone who remained a part of mom's life was aware of her dysfunction, although most never mentioned their suspicions.

I remember the day I called my sister and sort of "felt her out" on the topic of hoarding. We discussed a reality show about hoarding which I had recently watched on television. I could sense that she knew more than she was saying, so I decided to just come out and ask her what she thought. My sister already suspected moms living conditions may not be good, although she lives out of state and had not seen it for herself. This sweet girl, the youngest sibling in our family of 9, was always shielded from truth and pain when it came to family problems. As were the rest of us, she was in denial.

Before long we were all talking about what we had discovered. I have said repeatedly that I don't understand. But in reality, I do understand what mom is going thru. I do not understand why no one did anything sooner. Moms problems progressed with her hoarding and filth, because of the hush hush attitude of our family.

It will never help mom to get angry and it will not change the fact that mom is sick. But I am angry. There, I said it. I am ANGRY! I have watched my mom become sicker, and watched the pain and all the physical changes she is experiencing daily, as she fights cancer and fights the mental anguish she is dealing with in her acceptance of the situation which her mind has created, called "hoarding".

Not only is mom a hoarder, but she is also fighting the painful disease of cancer. Mom's quality of life is not what it could have been had she not been a hoarder. I remember the mom of years past, who was conscientious of her family, her home, and herself. I am sad beyond belief.

I am writing this because I hope that someone, somewhere out there, who is experiencing the same things, may learn from this experience and do something before it is too late. From everything I have read on this topic, hoarding is a mental syndrome, mental illness, mental dysfunction, and it affects the entire family. Children of hoarders are left in a very helpless situation unless they take it into their own hands and just forge ahead and take charge.

In order to take the proper steps to make the necessary changes to a parent's living standards, one must understand that an uncooperative person will never allow any changes to take place. Don't ask me why, I really don't know. Other than what I have learned thru reading, I have no formal skills in the area of mental health issues. I will just make it simple and repeat what I have come to believe thru my own personal research of this subject.

Hoarders lack something in their lives, which causes them to fill their void with "things". I believe both depression and trauma play a large part in it. There is no room for blame if you plan to do something about a loved ones hoarding. It takes a lot of compassion as well as a firm loving hand and an understanding of the hoarders feelings in order to make any progress. All the literature I have read states that you can't clean their home without their knowledge of it. Apparently, that will only further traumatize the hoarder, and the problem will eventually return double-fold. The hoarder generally becomes even more depressed by losing those things which they perceived as a sense of security filling the original void. I agree with the concept, but in the case of mom, we simply had no choice.

I know I come across as somewhat wishy-washy in my statements, but that is because of the confusion hoarding causes within the minds of those who love the hoarder. Do we do what we have learned and raise the issue with mom regularly, hoping she will make the decision to change her lifestyle? Or do we go against the grain and every professional journal taking charge of this without moms cooperation?

I suppose I should go backwards in time somewhat and fill in some more of the details. I believe this all began about ten years ago. Mom was married to a wonderful man who suddenly past away. She loved him very much. He was her life. Our mother was going to retire in a few months and her entire life changed in a matter of months. Mom had worked hard in her lifetime. Between her family and her job, she never had much time left over for many close friends. Both grandpa and gramdma had died a few years earlier and moms other siblings had passed as well. All of moms children had married and we had children of our own. For the first time in her life, mom was alone. Truly alone to deal with the quiet.

Now don't get me wrong. Mom had beautiful grandchildren and wonderful grown children with loving spouses. Mom was not technically alone, but for the most part she was alone since she chose to remain at home the majority of the time. Mom hasn't driven in years and was more comfortable being in her own home than asking for assistance from others. Mom never wanted to inconvenience anyone. Mom has for the most part been very independent most of her life. As her children, we were all active in her life for the most part, until a few years ago. Mom chose to be alone.

I'm sure we all have different reasons for any relationship issues that may exist with mom today. There are a few of us who don't have any real problem with mom, but many of the others have had disagreements with her over the years which they felt were irreconcilible. I don't think it matters a whole lot what the issues were, only that they existed. Over time, mom just found it easier to hybernate inside her secure place, in her home, where she lived under the rules which she drafted and was bothered by no one but her cat.

Speaking of the cat. I have read about cats and hoarding. There is some connection there as well. A large percentage of hoarders have replaced their love loss with the love of animals. It seems to be so prevalent that nearly all hoarders seem to have animals, some having so many animals that they have actually taken over the home. My mother has 3 or 4 cats. She loves those cats like they were her kids. There you have it. I wrote it without even realizing what I said until I went back and read it. Mom needed to feel loved and she filled that void with unconditional love from her cats. By the way, I love cats! Do you think it's a problem?

My last statement raises another issue.

As I write this story, I'm shooting from the hip. I love to write and I often do. I generally sit here writing randomly about whatever is on my mind and rarely make changes to the final draft, other than grammar, spelling and punctuation. I guess this explains why I occasionally interject my stories with personal thoughts and don't feel guilty about it. It helps keep it interesting to the reader and I feel it helps the reader understand my mindframe. Let's face it. Either you like this style of writing or you don't. This particular style is meant to permit the reader the opportunity to feel my pain as I include every detail I can recall, hopefully gaining your compassion and your attention, and possibly helping you help your loved before it is too late.

I love my mother very very much. I consider our relationship functional, caring and considerably loving. I would like to point that out to you because I don't ever want anyone to misunderstand how much she means to me. I never comsidered my mother disgusting or pathetic because of her hoarding, but instead feel sad for her because I feel like I can truly see how she ended up this way. That is not to say that I don't think it is just plain gross, but my view of her is not that. It is of sadness.

To continue with my story, when I joked earlier about whether or not it was a problem to me because I too loved cats, I realized that while I was reading abpout hoarding there were many similarities in my mother and myself. This is something else I would like to point out. We ALL have the potential for becoming hoarders, regardless of how we currently live. I am a fanatic when it comes to housekeeping and my personal self. At one time, my mother was the same. This doesn't just happen overnight. It is something that occurs after years of depression and void, until circumstances evolve which cause the type of lifestyle which any one of us could slip into at any time.

From what I understand, hoarding is a mental state which cannot be easily controlled and before the person realizes what is happening, it is already out of control. It is an embarrassment to the person who is living in this nightmare and it is something which most times they cannot bring themselves to ask anyone for help with. A hoarder doesn't want others knowing they live this way.

Because of the social outlook on cleanliness and personal care, hoarders eventually find themselves becoming more and more reclusive, secluding themselves from everyone and everything, Obviously they cannot invite others into their home and let them see how they live. That's where the point of this story comes in. What if your parent were a hoarder and they became ill? What if they could no longer care for themselves and no one was allowed to enter their home? I'm sure you get the picture.

When mom fell ill, she knew she was sick but wouldn't allow anyone to share in it because she knew what that meant. Exposing her secret to everyone meant she would have to face it head-on and possibly endure ridicule and additional heartache. That's the mindset of a hoarder. I am not saying I feel that way, but a hoarder thinks along this line. That's how hoarding can kill. A hoarder may just as well allow themselves to die than face the music when others discover what they have tried so hard to hide. Mom could have died in that mess inside her home, but fortunately we saw what was happening and we acted on it before it went that far.

As I pointed out earlier, both medical and mental professionals warn against this. Quite possibly they are a point. But, I feel in moms case and the case of any other hoarders who are physically ill, you have to step in and do something or this person could and likely will die in the mess.

So how did mom get sick? Who knows what causes cancer? I surely don't. But the one thing I am certain of is that people don't get sick for no reason. Living in deplorable unsanitary conditions has got to play part in it. How could you not get sick from living like that? Filth doesn't cause cancer, but it also means not eating healthy and many times not getting the medical care necessary when you are ill.

By now, you are probably wondering where all the pictures are which you have likely seen on websites about hoarding. I already decided I am not going to humiliate my mother by posting photographs of her living conditions on here, although no one will learn from this story who she is. But in order to make my point, I am going to describe her home. Please take a moment to pay close attention to the things I am about to tell you, and later read my list of warning signs which are intended as awareness for those who may have a loved one in this situation. See if there are any similarities and decide for yourself whether or not to act on it if your loved one is showing the signs of hoarding.

When you first approach moms house, the porch is lacking in any kind of order. There are old plant pots scattered about and yard tools everywhere. An ashtray is flowing over with cigarette butts while several bags of garbage collect in one corner under a window. There are a few dirty coffee mugs and snack wrappers lying around, and for the most part it just looks like she needs to give her porch a good spring cleaning. Compared to the inside of her house, mom's porch looks clean.

There are sheets and such draped over most of the windows. There is a broken window in one room which she would never allow any of us to fix for her. We now know why. You can only see inside moms home if you step up on something and peak thru the one uncovered window which is quite high off the ground. She doesn't cover this window, but I imagine it is because she feels safe enough that nobody would go to the length to peek thru it, and besides, she needs some light in there.

As you open the front door, the first thing you notice is the stench. It is beyond anything in your wildest imagination. It has the odor of a combination of cat urine, feces, mold, stale air, and just plain ole filth. It will literally knock you over if you enter. It is unusually cold inside. At first you think it is because she didn't want to cause more smell by heating the place, but before long it is discovered that her furnace had not been working for a number of years. I'm sure you understand the ramifications of calling a repairman!

For as far as you can see inside, you cannot distinguish anything from anything else. There is so much stuff that you cannot walk thru the house. You can't even walk inside the front door without climbing piles of stuff. There is cat feces everywhere, and insects of some nature buzzing about in the mess. At first there is a feeling of disbelief and the thought that maybe she trashed only this portion of her home. It is really hard to accept that the entire house is in this condition.

The kitchen is to the immediate left. There are boxes brimming with who knows what, sloppily stacked to the ceiling in the entrance to the kitchen. She has blocked off the kitchen so no one can get in there. Right now, I am wondering who she thought would go in there, since no one was allowed in her home.

After removing dozens of boxes, I made my way thru the kitchen door. Immediately, I was faced with having to climb up and over more mess. I couldn't even see a corner or see across the room because the garbage was so deep. Reality begins setting in at this point. Moms entire house must be like this, and what am I going to do? Should I try to wade thru all this garbage and assess the severity of this situation, or should I just turn around and run?

I make my way thru the kitchen. There is more garbage in this kitchen than I have ever seen in my entire life. I am not exaggerating! There are literally piles of dirty dishes and empty food containers on every inch of the cupboards clear to the ceiling! The sink is sky high with moldy dishes and gunk. There is cat feces everywhere and mold growing from everything! I could not believe my eyes! How could mom live like this?

I got out of there as quickly as I could and made it past the living room to the hallway. Believe me, it wasn't easy. The hallway appeared to have a narrow path that she had cleared in order to get to the bathroom. I followed it to take a look. To my horror, the condition of the bathroom exceeded that of the kitchen! The toilet was brimming over with feces! There wasn't much actual garbage on the floor, but every inch was covered with cat feces several inches deep. The sink and tub were growing a thick black hairy mold, and the toilet lid which couldn't close entirely was growing more of the same mold. It was the most disgusting gross mess I had ever encountered in my life. I backed out of the bathroom and stood there for a moment and began to cry. All of a sudden all I could do was think of mom and what she must have been feeling every moment of every day in these conditions. An immense sense of sadness came over me and I bawled.

Within a few minutes I came to my senses and realized that since I was already in there, I needed to see the rest of her home and get out. I held my shirt up over my mouth and nose and climbed over things to get to her bedroom. Moms bedroom didn't seem to have the same smell that the rest of the house had. The door had been closed, so I imagine she may have kept it closed regularly because she didn't want it to be overcome by the odor and additional cat feces. The floor was stacked high with boxes and piles of dirty laundry five feet deep. I couldn't even see moms bed. I wondered for a minute if there was even a bed in her room. I kind of kicked some things over and moved some boxes aside, enough to see the bed. Moms bed was entirely covered with dirty laundry, books and magazines, old newspapers and who knows what.

There was not one inch of that small room where anyone could sleep, let alone sit down and rest their feet. I wondered where mom was sleeping. I turned around and shut the door. I walked back down the hallway to the office. Moms house is small but was at one time a very nice home. No one would believe this. I was in shock. Is this really the mother I have known all these years and what is this all about?

I went inside moms office. There was a desk you could barely see, and like the other rooms, the odor of cat feces just about knocked you out. This room was the same condition as the rest of the house. One room left to see. I opened the door to moms guest room and I finally discovered where she had been living. The bed had been removed, apparently because she needed the room. There was what appeared to be a brand new and gorgeous recliner in one corner, surrounded by garbage, cat feces, dirty dishes, and ash trays spilling onto the floor. I saw neat little stacks of books beside her lamp table and a small tv which had showed no signs of any dust on the screen. There was a half empty bottle of windex on top of the television, along with a roll of paper towels. It was clear she was attempting to keep "her area" clean!

I had to leave. I couldn't stand it another second. I knew I would break down if I stayed any longer. I left as quickly as possible and drove home without the radio playing, and ignored several calls on my cell phone. I was reflecting on the horror I had just seen, not knowing what to feel, who to tell, or how to handle it. I arrived home and immediately showered and went to bed. I needed to go to sleep and think about it the following day. It was just too much to absorb.

When I woke up, I lay there for a short time thinking about it and wondering if I had dreamed it. Was it real? Did mom really live like that? Then I thought maybe I should go back and take a second look so I have a clearer picture rather than possibly exaggerating as I explained to my siblings what I had seen. I didn't want to make it seem any worse than it actually was. But it was bad. Very bad. And I knew it was no dream.

I thought about it for another day or two, then decided to make the dreaded call and expose mom. I called one sister and told her everything. She said I must be exaggerating. I told her I wasn't; but I still think she believed I was, although she apologized and listened. Inside I was thinking that I had just relieved myself of this responsibility. My sister admitted she didn't know what she could do since she was living out of state. I figured I could leave it in her hands to share it with our other siblings, since I had notified her. I feel guilty today, because I too was in denial and I ignored it for months. I was scared. Who do I tell? What do I do? During that time I absorbed myself in reading anything and everything I could find on hoarding. I even got scared because I read so much about not taking charge, but allow the hoarder to make the choice to do what was needed. I believed it was beyond that point, but I was afraid for so many reasons.

I worried that mom's home would be condemned. I worried that she would end up in a nursing home or someplace she wouldn't be comfortable and that it would be the end of her. I worried about the dumbest things, but the majority of my fears came from what I read. Basically, everything states it has to be up to the hoarder to make the change. I worried about mom being embarrassed when everyone found out and I didn't want to be the one to do that to her. I suppose it could be compared to having a child on drugs and knowing about it but doing nothing. You don't say anything, because you don't want to be the bad guy, or the one who let's the world in on the problem. It is being co-dependent. Allowing someone to continue with destructive behavior, because you don't want to bring reality into it. So you keep quiet.

I'm not really sure how the rest of the family found out about mom, but it's probable my sister told someone, who told someone else, who told someone else, and you get the process. Thru the family chain. No one had gone in there yet, except for me. Everyone wanted to see for themselves. I wasn't too concerned for mom though, because the majority of us lived outside the area. I thought maybe I could talk to mom before any of the others did and reason with her in some way to leave there.

Months passed, and my siblings were still talking about it from time to time. By this time, everyone had done their own reading and discovered the same warnings I had. It seemed that all of us had the same opinion that mom had to do this on her own. We could not attack her about it because she may just reject all of us entirely and our efforts would then be futile. After all, if the professionals were saying not to take charge, they must be right.

No one had the nerve to say anything to mom, including me, For this I feel horrible. I think about it daily.

After a while, I came home for another visit. I called mom and non-chalantly asked whether her living conditions had improved any since the last time I was there. She asked me what I was talking about, and I decided to just change the subject. Months passed and there was no mention of hoarding, even between my siblings and I. Most of that time was spent reading everything I could find about hoarding, as it continued to rip at my heart.

About a year later, early one morning, I received the telephone call we all fear. It was my brother and mom had collapsed. Rather than thinking about moms condition, my first thought was where was she? Did the medics have to go in and get her? Who has seen her mess? I knew now that something had to be done. I started calling all of my siblings and insisting that we get together and do something about moms house. We were divided on it. Half of us agreed and the other half refused to, since the professionals warn against it. I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I called everyone every day for a week. The resistance was more than I could bear. I finally called mom and told her what we planned to do. She was irrate. She wanted absolutely no part in allowing us to enter her home or touch anything that belonged to her. For days following, mom would not speak to me. I cried again.

Another week or two passed and moms condition seemed to worsen. The doctors diagnosed her with cancer. We knew her time was limited. If it was the last thing I was going to do, I was going to see to it that mom spent whatever time she had left of her life comfortably and clean. After all, mom birthed and raised all of us and took care of us until we were on our own. Why shouldn't we turn the tables and take care of her now as she fights this awful disease?

Those siblings which agreed with me purchased airline tickets and made arrangements to travel home and meet with me to clean moms home. When the day arrived to get started, things took a turn. The disagreeing siblings (who lived locally) decided to take it upon themselves to take charge and leave the others of us out of it. I truly believe it was because of the embarrassment they were trying to avoid, once others outside the family heard about this and how several of us had to fly across the U.S. to come take care of things, and how the local siblings wouldn't participate. I believe it was all about saving face. At least in the beginning. I'm not entirely sure I believe that now, but I have mixed feelings on how it all came about.

I thought about finishing this story tonight, but decided that I will make a list now of "red flags", "signs of hoarding" next. I am prepared to continue with my story if I get any interest in what I have already written. There is a lot more information, including the actual details of how moms house was cleaned, moms journey to recovery from hoarding, and first and foremost moms fight with cancer.

Before I say good night, if you have read this far already, I must have held your interest or at least peaked it slightly. Likely you know someone who is a hoarder, or perhaps you are a hoarder yourself. I'm not here to judge anyone, but I am here to share a very sad story which doesn't have to happen in your family. My mom is sick. Very sick. I am so sad that mom lived like this for so many years. Never again!

"Red Flags" and "Warning Signs"

  1. Frequent purchases from HSC and/or QVC-obsessive buying of needless items in order to fill a void.

  2. Frequent UPS, FEDEX, and mail deliveries-excessive purchasing, again to fill a void.

  3. Curtains/blinds never open/sheets covering windows-not wanting others to see the condition of their home.

  4. Unsanitary appearance-not showering because the plumbing quit working or they just don't care any more to be clean.

  5. Wearing same clothes repeatedly-appliances aren't working or they don't have anything clean to wear because they aren't doing any laundry.

  6. Purchasing new clothes regularly-to replace the dirty clothing they don't launder.

  7. Knowing the delivery personnel by first name-they know them because they make excessive deliveries.

  8. Not allowing family members or friends to enter their home-not wanting to be exposed.

  9. Not answering the door when people drop in-they are afriad you will want to enter.

  10. Waiting until you leave after knocking and run out after you and pretending they were sleeping and didn't hear you knock-preventing you from seeing the house when they open the door.

  11. Piles of garbage or bags of garbage outside the home-their attempt at removing a portion of the mess.

  12. Personal odor-not practicing personal hygiene.

  13. Becoming reclusive-preferring to be alone and not feeling worthy.

  14. Not allowing a family a key for emergencies-insuring no one enters their home without their knowledge.

  15. Not allowing photographs of themselves-guilt due to knowing how they appear.

  16. Declining a friend or family member who requests to stop by-not wanting them to see the house.

  17. Never inviting anyone to their home-not wanting anyone to see the mess.

  18. Mentioning a broken fixture or failing applicance but declining help with repairs-not wanting anyone to see the mess.

  19. Making excuses-always having a reason for everything, but deceiving everyone because they feel they must or be exposed.

This is by far a complete list, but this is the list I have come up with as I sit here thinking back. I will include more in Part 2, if I get enough positive response for it.

If your parent or a friend is showing any of these signs, it would be in their best interest to keep a watch on them and see if hoarding is the reason. If the person is ill and is hoarding, they may just die in the mess if someone doesn't have the courage to step up and openly acknowledge the situation and take charge. If the hoarder is not ill, I may advise to listen to the professionals.

I believe once you read part 2, you will understand more of my reasons why I distinguish between the two approaches. I believe in moms case, taking the steps necessary to clean her home regardless of her wishes, is what has saved her life. Mom is alive. Mom is very sick, but alive. She could easily have ended up like many other hoarders and died in that mess. It may have been months before someone found her.

Please leave me an honest, detailed comment about your feelings on this story. I will be watching and working on Part 2, if anyone is interested. Please pray for my mother.


My belief is that it is an acquired trait handed down thru generations. Does that explain hoarding? No, not really. It is what it is but it is triggered by something. Perhaps a traumatic event in ones life, causing a depressive disorder and leading to a compulsion of collecting to fill the void. That is the best explanation I can come up with (and it's all mine, by the way).

It's a matter of possession as well. One loses something important to them and shortly afterward this person must find something new to hold on to. Its human nature, although it can be handled properly or misdirected into a slovenly lifestyle.

We talk about hoarding causing isolation, feelings of guilt and anxiety. These are all behaviors which are elements of the hoarder. But are the behaviors just acquired thru hereditary factions or are the behaviors the result of having this problem to begin with?

This is a rough topic for anyone close to someone who hoards. It's a vicious circle of which not one answer alone can explain it. Hoarding is BOTH a hereditary AND behavioral sickness. Kinda like the chicken and the egg. Which came first and which was directly affected by the other?

Hoarding is an emotional deficit. A reason for misunderstanding between family members. A cause of a families disintegration. The death of the family as it once stood. How sad.

There's really not one specific answer to any of it, yet the one thing I know from my experience is getting outsiders, strangers involved is the worst thing that could be done. Handle it yourself and get family involved. The hoarder needs support. They need to feel loved and they need to fill the void that the loss of the crap will cause them to experience, just like the yearning for a loved one, the death of a child or spouse, a beloved pet, a mother or father, a sibling.

This is not the only trigger but any means, it could also be due to a job loss, home foreclosure, car accident or serious illness. Any one of a number of "losses" could easily trigger this behavior. But the one thing I am certain of is there is a connection with having experienced a traumatic event and usually having to do with a loss of some sort.

It is my ideal that filling the void with love and support thus overcoming that loss, may just be the key to overcoming their need for hoarding.

You often hear people state how they had a falling out with their sibling or parent. The relationship may have dwindled to nothing and one day you hear the news. So and so died and it was discovered this person lived in squalor.

I feel like adding a new list here as more ideas keep flooding my mind.


1. A person who has experienced a serious loss, such as:

a.) loss of a career

b.) the loss of a loved one, parent, sibling, spouse, child or pet, by death or illness

c.) the loss of their home thru foreclosure

d.) a serious financial loss or loss of income

e.) a difficult "break-up"

2. A person who either lives alone (or with usually no more than one other person)

a.) someone living with a handicapped spouse or child (likely to easily ignore the behavior)

b.) someone with deep seated control issues (having the ability to "control" their living space, preventing others from setting the boundaries)


3. Someone who has experienced a life-altering event and never sought support.



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      Lara 3 years ago

      I am sorry, I typed email wrong. It is

      Thank you.

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      Lara 3 years ago

      Kathy, could you message me privately at I want to tell you of what is happening to me right now. I wonder if you have any advice. Thank you.

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      jo 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Kathy, you have gained invaluable knowledge and that mixed with your passion and compassion could be a fulfilling ministry for you that would honor your mom, she never wanted to be a hoarder and I believe she understands it all now from heaven and thanks you with love

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      kathyshouse 4 years ago

      I am so so sorry Melissa. What a painful event. Your mother was comfortable in her squalor and that is why she returned to it. ONe thing I have learned is that once you remove the person from the environment of hoarding, the hoarding will resume in the new location, if they haven't received some type of intervention. I keep writing about intervention in my responses, but I haven't truly figured out what intervention will work. That is so tough. I do know intervention is necessary. I believe that the closer the person is to the person, the easier is to get our loved one to listen. Im obviously no expert here, I have just lived the nightmare and done a lot of research searching for answers on the subject. Until it happened to our mother, I never knew of anyone ever living like this. Not that no one ever did. But my best guess is that prior to the show "hoarders" on the television, families were (here goes again) too embarrassed to let others know what they were dealing with. Who would want their best friend, uncle, clergy or neighbors knowing anything so disgusting? It was the silent disease I suppose, until one day when the television began sharing this troubled life with the public. The first time I saw it I thought WHAT ON EARTH??? Anyway, we all have regrets. We all say we wish we had known more. This is the common denominator between us. We all wish there had been better help available to the family AND of course to the sick family member. I am so sorry you lost your mother to this disease. I can feel your pain, believe me. There was something missing. It's all I can come up with. Something they couldn't seem to get a handle on and likely couldn't figure out on their own. Because of this, they seek to fulfill their empty hole with things. Those things eventually become their demise. God Speed. Keep loving your mother's memory.

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      kathyshouse 4 years ago

      Wow! I wrote this about my mother the hoarder, but never even considered adding more regarding my sister until I read this. You see my sister too is a hoarder and packrat as you state yours is. I don't get along with her very well and could really care less about how she lives, but I never really stopped to consider that hoarding could be "hereditary"....I doubt that is the correct word. But at least maybe there is a possibility that it runs in families, due to an "inherited hereditary factor" ...who really knows. I'm so sorry to hear of your sisters illness. I am speaking of her physical illness, also her psychological illness of hoarding. They are both horrible for the family to accept. It sounds to me like you have done much of what is necessary. I don't know if it is still necessary to answer your question, because it has been so long since I have been on here and only now noticed your question. I ask you, how is your sister now? Im so sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. Hopefully she is no longer ill and the family has found peace with it all. You being an addiction counselor might decide it is pertinent to seek educational resources and learn as much as possible regarding this disease. Your sister knew she had a problem. Quite possibly you may decide that hoarding has become so prevalent in this country without enough qualified persons to deal with it and seek to become a professional in the field. I am reading your story and I hear you so clearly. You say she wont listen to you. Maybe she would. I know that this is an addiction of sorts. I have read so much on the topic and you cant just turn a head to it, clean it up and let her go back home without some psychological intervention. She may never be ready to open up to a stranger, but I would think that you being employed in the capacity which you are would have a huge upper hand in attempting to get her to listen. You sound compassionate and caring and perhaps you have just what it takes to expand your career to include this type of intervention. Your sister being your first project, since she is the person who matters right now. BUt perhaps you could convince her how dangerous this is to her and she could actually die. I don't know really. I am kind of just shooting from the hip. I haven't even read what I wrote about my mother on here since I wrote it because it is too painful. But I can tell you one thing. The memories are clear in my mind and I know what happened. And I couldn't do anything about it. Maybe you are in a position to do something. I wont intervene with my sister for many reasons, but my mother could have used more appropriate help other than my sister who herself was caught in the same situation. Sorry Im rambling, its early and I haven't had my coffee. In a nutshell. They cant "just go home"...that's what mom wanted too and I feel if we had intervened a few years earlier when she got sick the first time and expressed those wishes, she may never have died such a horrible death of squalor. Sending hugs to you, and prayers for a long life for your sister. Please let me know how things are today. Again, my apologies for not getting back to you sooner. I just couldn't come back and reread what I had written since moms death. Thinking about it is still very painful. God Speed.

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      kathyshouse 4 years ago

      I'm terribly sorry for you and your family. I do know what you have been thru with your mother. It's the most difficult thing one can ever experience. You said it...she is living in denial! They all are. That is one of the major reasons it is so hard for us as their children to accept their being ill. They bring it on themselves, and obviously, to me at least, it is due to some sort of mental disorder or why would they do this to themselves? The one thing I keep hearing over and over is how these people die, generally alone, and of miserable and painful diseases and infections. Since mom died, I have had three very close friends lose their mothers. All of them lived a lonely life of isolation, and were hoarders. I never knew it was such a prevalent disease. and I feel as sad for you as I do for myself and my siblings, along with so many others too embarrassed to share their stories. The loss of our mothers was needless. I believe that so many could have lived much longer and prosperous lives, had they not lived in filth as hoarders. God Speed to you in healing from such an awful experience.

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      Melissa 4 years ago

      My Mother, 63 just past away suddenly, we think due to her hoarding. She lived in exactly what you describe here. 6 years ago we had her put in a mental hospital and then we she got out, we all took turns and got her house together, and sold it.. She lived in a group home for 2 years and we thought she was "cured". She bought a small condo.. and for 2 years things were ok, we would go over there pretty often and although packed tightly, she was not saving garbage and we was still cleaning the kitchen, bathroom and living spaces. Throughtout this wole time though she was obsevviley shopping for deals online all the time. She would call us constantly saying she purchased something for us. She started not letting anyone over again, saying she wanted to clean up first, but assured us it was not that bad. She preferred to go out to eat with us, and come to our house to see the kids. For the past few months on and off she would tell me she had a fever and was getting migraines. I made her go to the doc but they said everything looked fine. She stopped taking all her meds for blood pressure and depression (to see if it would stop the migraines) it did stop the migraines. She had this cough though that would not go away and was fatigued often adn still the low fever. She continued to see her grandchildren weekkly. Then a few days ago we kept calling and no answer, we found her dead in her condo. She was sitting on the toilet (it was broken, and she never told anyone, filled with feces). The lid was shut, it looked like she was getting ready for bed and collapsed, and died suddenly. She was overweight, and diabiets, but had stopped going to doc regulary or taking her meds. She had a weird green substance coming from her nose when she passed. We believe she died from some sort of infection from her living conditions or a heart attack, she was eating terrible because she could not cook due to her kitchen being too messy and stacked with items. We are upset that the counseling group home she left a few years ago did not educate us at all, we had no idea this would return, or that is was LIKELY to return, that is all I am reading about NOW, I wish I would have looked sooner, we could have saved her.. I am grieving now but I wanted to tell you that Hoarding CAN kill for sure. Its sad because outside of the hoarding she was the most loving, sweet women on earth and will be greatly missed.

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      Lori 5 years ago

      I just returned home last night from my sisters house after discovering she is a horder. We knew she was messy and a packrat and also a compulsive over eater. But until yesterday we did not know that she had become a total horder. She is in the hospital for an unexplainable infection. She almost died when her windpipe closed up and she passed out from inability to breathe while at work. This is not the first time this has happened to her, but it is the first time they had to give her a tracheotomy to breathe. It was also the first time in 8 years anyone in our family saw her home. Within going into detail, she fits the description of hording, perfectly, even the collecting of feces and missing animals. She will be in the hospital for some time. We have notified the social relations dept at the hosp and my sisters case manager. I am an addiction's counselor myself but she, of course, is not going to listen to me. My mom wants to just "clean it up" and get her a fresh start. My sister wants to go home alone and eat and smoke. (her words).. suggestions on my next step?

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      anon 6 years ago

      Hi Kathy, thank you for sharing such a personal story. It has given me some strength as my mum has been a 'serious' hoarder for many, many years. My sibling and I have gone through periods of giving up with her, then trying to help, trying to clean, then giving up again because mum was so resistant to any REAL help. She is living in denial about her condition, although on some level she is aware of it (eg. she shows signs of embarrassment) on other levels she doesn't register or acknowledge that her house is like a rat's nest, filled with junk, overflowing into the front and back yards, with few amenities left working. Growing up with her was not easy, she was a controlling, miserable, miserly, critical, psychologically abusive woman, and yet, she thinks she was the best mother, sacrificed everything for us, and loves us more than anything. After many years of my getting therapy to deal with the impact that her mental illness had on my upbringing, it now seems to be of little importance as I see her waste away in hospital from cancer. At the end of the day, she is still my mother, and there's a bond there that can't be denied. Of course I love her and have always wanted the best for her, but sadly hoarding renders those desires impotent. In fact, the same denial that keeps her hoarding an issue, is the denial that made her ignore her health issues for so long.

      I am sorry for your loss, but it was not in vain, not if your post is able to educate others and save a life, or lives.

      And to licoricecat, I send you love and best wishes, to be strong and somehow pull yourself out of your hoarding. You acknowledging that you have an issue is the first step, and already puts you in a better position for recovery than so many others.

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      kathyshouse 6 years ago

      Oh, and by the way. I am not promoting my hub by responding back to you with suggestions and concern. I am only doing just that. I am glad you reached out. I hope noone takes it wrong, I could care less if anyone says anything about my story as far as my writing techniques or its quality ever. I guess I believe that after writing it and then responding to you, I have found some meaning for moms death. Maybe in some way it will help me to heal by helping others in a similar situation by telling her story. Maybe as time passed I will feel settled enough to write the ending...Part II. But for now, I will be hanging in the shadows talking to anyone who wants to listen to me share what I do know. Again, good luck to you licoricecat! I'll be around here somewhere.

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      kathyshouse 6 years ago

      Since I had never replied to anyone or commented on here before, I didn't realize I had to accept your comments first and then use the reply button to respond. I guess I messed that all up. From now on I will instead "reply" to your messages.

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      author of this story to licoricecat 6 years ago

      Hi licoricecat!

      To tell you the truth, I had forgotten I wrote this story until today when your comment made it's way into my email inbox. I had to actually go back and read what I wrote, as I have been thru so much in the past year since I wrote this. My memory of it all remains fresh, but the details are fading some because of all my sadness.

      I read your words and understand you are asking for help. I wish I was in a position to help you. I have seen for myself what the "professionals" require as far as "fees" to help hoarders and families of hoarders overcome their problems. You're right. It's not cheap. And yes, you may just go broke if you seek professional help.

      It's very sad to me that your family is non-supportive and even abusive to you. That just is so hard to grasp, although there was some of that going on in my family as well with my I do understand it.

      I know you feel you need money and the support of your family to overcome your hoarding problem and living conditions, but I believe that if you believed in yourself and were able to regain some of your self-worth, along with the DESIRE to change and the WILL TO LIVE DIFFERENTLY, you could accomplish this on your own.

      Who says you have to do this on your own? If the mess is just too much for you to physically deal with alone then why don't you just call in someone to help? I know there are organizations out there that love to help in these situations. I have seen television shows that offer free help in cleaning and reorganization. I could do some research for you, if you like and post what information I find on here for you to use as you pleased.

      All you have to do is pretty much make up your mind to change and do it. I know I make it sound easy. I will be the first to say it is not. I watched mom for so long, and she could never make that choice.

      I don't know whether you are a christian or not or have faith in some higher power or not. If you do, I would suggest you grasp onto that really tight and pray like you've never prayed before. Ask for guidance. Go see the pastor of your or another church and ask ASK ASK for HELP!!! I can't see you being turned down.

      Forget your pride long enough to get beyond the mess. Think about it along these will be embarrassing for only a moment (which may seen like an eternity to you), but before you know it you will living differently in a newly organized environment which is clean and healthy. And those who you exposed yourself to will see a person who has pride in themselves because they had the courage to ASK! They will feel badly for your situation, which noone ever wants. But it will soon turn face into a situation which they encourage you greatly and help you because they can see how badly yo want this change for yourself. Pray about it and ask for help.

      WHen I read your commment, at first I thought someone was playing a horrible joke on me pretending to be my mother trying to get a message across to the family. Your situation is all too familiar.

      The reason I didn't take you seriously until I had read it and reread it, is because of the familiarity and it just felt as though it were coming from my mothers mouth. I thought it was possible that one of her friends had written this from their viewpoint of my mothers feelings and was trying to make a point writing it annonymously, yet appearing to all of us that it could be her writing these words.

      How did I know it was not my mother? Well, because my mother is deceased. I wrote this story well over a year ago and my mother passed away within a few months of writing it. I never could find it in me to continue my story once we lost mom. I didn't want her memory to be tarnished any further, I wanted to allow her to be dignified in death.

      I am no expert by any means. Like I pointed out in my story, I have just done a ton of reading and so much research into this subject that living thru it with mom was a lifes experience I will never forget.

      I can offer you advice, but it may not be appropriate for you. I would never want the responsibility of pushing someone over the edge in suggesting they do anything they weren't comfortable with. I believe my story pretty much details what I woud do differently the next time around, unfortunately for mom, there will never be a next time.

      I am bitter over moms death. I am sad over losing my mother whom I loved very much. I am sad for the way she lived her life for so long. I am sad for her sadness. I am upset at others for this problem to get this far. I am resentful to many of my siblings because of there attitudes and there behaviour thru it all. I am angry because my siblings had the power to do something, but chose not to. I am mad because my mother is dead.

      I'm not going to preach to you, but I am going to ask you to get some help. Please do this. You may feel as though you don't matter to anyone, but EVERYONE MATTERS TO SOMEONE...AND THAT'S YOURSELF! If others don't care, so be it. You have indicated you want to change to me in your comment and I believe you.

      If you care about these people who you feel don't think you are good enough for them and they are so abusive, please just let it go and get help elsewhere like the church as I earlier suggested. They won't turn you away. You don't need those people in your life who don't care about you and who abuse you. As you stated, this is llikely how you ended up in this mess in the first place. As for your depression, I know there are entities out there which offer free and near to free services for counselling. Please take advantage of that as well. You can generally find them listed in the yellow pages of the telephone book.

      You are important, every person is important and every person has the right to a peaceful happy existence. Since you recognize what you want and you accept you need help, please go out and ask for it. Set aside the embarrassment and do it. Get counselling, seek that and thru prayer and the church you should be able to get thru this. Please dont try to do it on your own. That is just too overwhelming. Mom said the same thing many times and that was her demise.

      When mom passed, out of all of us, I was the one who asked for moms ashes. I heard the smirks behind my back implying I may "hoard" them and they might surface many years from now....and yada yada yada. No, I am not a hoarder myself. I already explained what my housekeeping habits consist of. But I loved mom more than most and I don't take her life or her death lightly. I may be like mom, but I am NOT LIKE MOM! I despise them for that.

      I dont know whether you are a female or a male, or whether you are young or old, but whatever your gender and age, your life has plenty of living left and I for one will root for you to start fresh! I hope you are not in poor health from your living conditions and I hope you still believe in God. With those two on your side, I believe you can do it. Obviously your children have no intention of helping you and I promise to be here for you behind the lines in this comment box pushing you to learn to live again. I dont want to see you die like mom.

      Just so you know. My friend's mother recently passed away under very similar circumstances as my mother. She also had the cats, the mess, the purchasing issues and the lack of family support. She too was diagnosed with terminal cancer and died for the most part a recluse. I just can't get over it. You stated you had quit "acquiring" which is very important! If you can accomplish that, you can accomplish another baby step towards your future!

      Please keep in touch with me thru this comment box here, and let me know how your progress goes. Lean on me and others out there who have the compassion to help you thru it even if annonymously on the internet with lots of encouragement.

      Don't just lie there and let yourself die from some disease because it is happening far too much nowadays. I don't think you are a waste, I think you deserve a better life!

      When you leave messages here, I will see them and I promise I will respond back. I wi

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      licoricecat 6 years ago

      My hoarding comes from being rejected and abused by my family and children and never being good enough for people that I care about. I hold onto things because I either need my books as a reference for a job or I need papers to prove things.I stopped acquiring and know and want help. The problem is being able to find the help without going broke. Depression is what keeps me unmotivated and the lack of family support keeps me stuck. I am trying to overcome this problem on my own.


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