Archive for the ‘Hoarding’ Category

The Dirty Little Secret About Hoarding

October 20th, 2010 1 comment

The subject of hoarding seems to be a hot topic these days.  I can see why.  Growing up with it in my family left me ashamed and confused.  I didn’t want anyone to see the conditions I had been raised in.  I was confused on how to deal with it.  It was a dirty little secret I didn’t feel like I had any control over.  How many people can relate to this?

My parents lived through the depression.  My mother was raised in a very poor situation in Oklahoma.  They had dirt floors in their home.  Her parents were farm hands.  My mother could run mule teams by the time she was 7 years old.  She could  Knock a squirrel dead, out of a tree, with a rock.  Her hunting skills helped feed her family.  Even though she was a dead eye with a rock, there were many nights her family went to bed without anything to eat.  Did she feel the need to hoard because of her child hood?

My father lived on several farms in southern Iowa when he was growing up.  His father was a farm hand until they moved to town where he became high school custodian.

My father’s family has kept the furniture my great great grandfather made.  It traveled down the Ohio river with the family when they moved to Iowa after the Civil War.

When my grandmother passed away, they moved all of her things into their home.  They couldn’t stand to part with anything!  Their home was, literally, filled to the rafters!  Obviously, my family loves their stuff.  When does “loving your stuff” cross over into unhealthy hoarding?

Each of my siblings and I had spoken to them about getting rid of some things.  That was as well received as a nuke at a peace rally.  If you have ever known a hoarder, this is a very sensitive subject.  My parents were obsessively attached to their stuff!

My parent’s hoarding had become extreme.  They had been living in their home since 1963.  They kept everything, from junk mail to bags of old walnuts which were probably 10 years old, or older.

When my mother’s health began to slip, there were numerous ambulance rides.   My parents home had become so cluttered that the ambulance drivers couldn’t get a gurney through to her bedroom.  They had to take her out in a sling type of cot.  When she arrived at the hospital, the trip through the house had been so perilous and close that she had a piece of one of her house plants stuck in her hair.  This issue had gotten to critical mass.  We finally had no choice, but to deal with it.

After the first ambulance trip, while my mother was in the hospital, we moved like a united front. We swooped and cleared away the paper and trash.  We filled a dumpster numerous times.  I don’t know if the way we did it was correct, but it had to be done.  My parents were not happy with our actions, but what could they do?  This, however, did not stop the hoarding.

As my parents continued to age, they were less able to care for themselves.  I became the one who helped them pay their bills, among other things.  Then it dawned on me.  They couldn’t make a decision about what mail they should keep and what they should throw away.  Could one reason for hoarding be a lack of decision making skills?

While I was dealing with their mail, they would appear nervous, but also relieved.  I disposed of what they didn’t need.  When I first started doing this, I had to take the trash completely out of the house to keep them from wanting to retrieve it.

They have now had to relocate to a full nursing care facility.  We are in the process of going through their house preparing it for sale.  We have found many treasures, and lots of junk.  And, yes, to answer the question I know must be in your mind, great great Grandpa’s furniture is still in the family.

I am doing research on this subject for a project I am working on.  I need your help.  I would love to have you leave me a comment and tell me your stories.  How did you deal with it?  Where did you go for help?  Thank you in advance for all your help!

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