First up for my children of hoarders interview series is Becky. Take it away, Becky!
My name is Rebecca. People call me Becky at my Dad's insistence, he said that Rebecca was from Sunny Brook Farms and did not want people relating to me in that manner. (I love that story!) I am 38 years old. I am the mother of 3 children. Two of them are now "legal" adults and my youngest is 6 years old. I have my own small in home Day Care business. I enjoy being around the children, playing with them, helping them learn and watching them grow. I live in NE Arizona in a small mountain community. I love it here. When my time is not spent with the children, I like to create things through crafts, and read when the time permits. I am also taking college classes to eventually get a degree in Early Childhood Education.
Which parent hoards? My Mother was the hoarder. She was quite good at it. I lived with her up until I was 13 when my parents divorced. My Dad then married my Step Mom and moved back into the house and my Mom moved out. My Mom died 10.5 years ago. She lost her battle with Cancer. We were not really close, yet not estranged. I would like to add that my Dad has been known to collect things. He usually has 2 or more of the same thing. He is not a messy or dirty hoarder though. And.. his house and space are accommodating to his things. Like, he is a mechanic and has 2 huge tool boxes. Filled with tools.
Do you have any hoarding tendencies? Yes. I would consider it an
organized collection of my things. I do day care out of my home so I
have a lot of toys. I also have adequate storage for the toys. A toy
box, and various totes for the toys to go into. I also do scrap booking
and just recently have organized it and all my craft stuff into plastic
roller drawers. My Non organized stuff has to do with my papers. Piles
of mail that I am not sure if I have to keep or just put in a pile cause
I do not want to deal with it. My house is clean though. (with some
Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards?
My Mom's Mom hoarded. (I was 13 when she died, and I do not remember
going to her house ever. I did see pictures. It was like the worst of
the worst on tv. My parents had 4 kids and all of us do not have a
Martha Stewart house.
What are your hoarding parent (HP)’s favorite things to hoard? For my Mom, she did not throw stuff away. I always thought that she just did not know how to clean.
How is your relationship with your HP? I moved from CA to OH when I turned 18. I am 38 now. I moved to AZ 11 years ago. (my Dad and Step mom lived here... they are now divorced 2 years ago. My Dad moved back to CA with my sister. He is 74.) Since my Mom has died we have a fantastic relationship, I talk to her when ever I want! (I have a sense of humor.. sorry) But before she died, since the internet had just taken off.. and everything was on dial up. Long distance was very expensive.. I lived 1200 miles away. Last time I saw her was 7 years before she died, due to me living so far away.
About 2 weeks before she passed away, I called her to ask a question. We ended up staying on the phone for 2 hours. A week later she was in the hospital, a few days later she was in a coma. I never got to go to her to see her to say good bye. But our phone conversation to this day means the world to me. She spent a lot of time telling me how sorry she was that she was not a better mother to me. I explained to her that she was a great mother and I have a lot of wonderful memories because she tried so hard... She did a great job to make it so we had life outside the house. She tried so hard. At her Memorial there were so many people who knew nothing about the conditions of her house. Funny thing is when we went to her Mother's memorial all those years before, we heard them talk of our Grandmother and kept saying to each other.. who are they talking about?? Some how a lot of the hoarders are the best people. I wanted to add this because I now know I am not ashamed of her, or what happened in her home because she was broken. I choose to live differently so my
kids do not have to experience what I did. I also want to spend the time with them instead of working out of the home. They also did not do a whole lot of extra activities. I am starting Cub Scouts with my 6 year old son. Maybe I can bring some of her great memories back to me.
Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? I moved out before I was 18 into my sisters house because I was pregnant. (Step mom moved my stuff out) I did not consider moving into my Mom's house because I did not want my child in that environment.
Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? When my Mom died, she lived alone.
Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? Her children, my Dad, her Mom (before she died), two of her friends, her Grand children
When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? For as long as I can remember I knew it was not right. So maybe 4? But, when I was told my friends could not spend the night. I would go to their house and it was clean, nice.. you could walk on the floor, find and play with their toys, clothes, etc. When my Dad sat on the porch on Christmas because he could not let one of his Cousins inside. I was about 8.
When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? When my parents divorced, I was 13. I was put into counseling. We talked about things in there. When I lived with my Step Mom and Dad.. she taught me how to clean a room. Where to start, what to do. I began cleaning my room/space better. I visited my mom Every other weekend and tried to clean her house, but it was too much.. and she would get mad. When I completely moved to Ohio and had my own house to clean, that was when I really figured out how to clean a house and get rid of things. When the shows came out about hoarding, I am able to talk to people about it because it is more known about, talked about now. So.. I am not sure. I recently came across pictures that were evidence in the divorce. I saw pictures of my room, the rest of the house. Part of me thought that the mess was just in my head and it was not that bad. As a parent, I look and I am floored at the conditions. I guess we all tried to down play it.
Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? I was placed into therapy by my Dad and Step Mom 25 years ago. I am not sure if we talked about the hoard though. It was the mess and the divorce. I do not think I would need therapy now to deal with the HP now that she has died. Living in the hoard was in my early childhood. I do know that some of my behavior toward my Day care and my son, and my older teens toys and room has to do with when I was a kid I could not play with my toys because they were never together. How do you play with a big plastic farm with no animals to go with it? Or a puzzle when pieces are missing? Or Lego's when you cannot find them all? So, I spend a lot of time re-organizing the toys so they are together and the kids are able to play with the items together.
Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? As far as my Mom, she died from Cancer. I am sure if she would have taken care of herself better, sought treatment sooner, she may have had a better chance to beat it. But she lived a life where everything was a secret and did not think that things were wrong when they were. Ended up dying at only 59 years old. I am 38 and I have had 3 mamograms already and I go to the doctor when things are not right with me because I believe if my Mom would have, things would be different. Also, I do not want my kids to go through loosing me because I was too scared to take a test. As for my Dad, he is a different kind of hoarder, or collector as I call him. He goes on missions to get items. Like, Pressure cookers. Now, all 4 of his kids have different sizes, with the different parts, and he photo copies the recipe books for all of us. He does not get things, to keep only for himself. He likes to share them with us also. So, I think there is hope for him. Besides, he is 74 he has earned the right to have an extra tool if he wants one.. as long as he is not tripping over it!
What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? I think for me being so young I experienced it differently. The basics to me now of disgusting is the refrigerator, no counter tops to cook in, the kitchen floor.. ew. Those are things that I clean off the most in my home. OH ... we had animals, and when I was small I thought dog poop was supposed to be white. That to me now is disgusting.
What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? My brother and I had rooms over top of one another, we put a rope out the window and a little box, and we passed things to each other. We also had walkie talkies that we loved to play with when we could find them and the batteries were not dead. I also spent a lot of time across the street at my friends house. Her mom later became my Step Mom. (I now say "be careful what you wish for") I learned to throw things that looked like trash away when my Mom was not looking. My Dad was a member of a Camping Club. We used to go camping one weekend every month during my entire life. That weekend we did not have to be at home.. fighting the mess. We were normal kids for that weekend. My Dad still talks about how he tried so hard to let us be normal. He had to let her go and the mess. I never saw a man cry harder than he did at my Mom's Memorial. He loved her truly but could not fix it .. those were his words. He is an amazing Dad. I am so lucky to have him.
Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? My advice would be to seek professional help for the HP. See if any one can help the parent or person learn a different way. As a child, I was angry with her. I did not understand why we did not have a nice clean house like my friends did. As a teen I learned that it was sort of a sickness that she had that I needed to accept. I did not want to. After I moved away I was not a part of it all. I did not see her home until after she died. By that time my siblings were asking me if I wanted anything. Then, I did not. Now, I wish I would have looked to see if there were anything small. Jewelry, ring? Something.. that I could hold that was hers. Now I only have pictures. Items that she had lost over the years I tell myself they were victims of her hoard. That I might still have my yellow Monkey named Sassy if I would have saved her. Now, I feel sad that she lived so alone. So in her world that she was trapped in. I was thinking about her yesterday. Wishing I could hear her voice again. I hope that others who have a parent who hoards can see past the hoard to who the person is. What they contribute outside their hoard, their home, their comfort zone. I know now that a part of the mind breaks and allows the hoarding to happen. That my Mom's broke when she was a young child and her father died when she was only 8. I know how much my Daddy means to me and if I were to loose him so young I would have been broken also. I feel sad that she broke so young. Now that she has passed and I can talk to her when ever I want.. I tell her how much I love her, and how I am glad she is fixed now. I forgive her for the way I grew up because it was not healthy for me to hold onto such pain. I wanted my kids to know different. I watch the shows, hoarding, Burried alive.. etc.. I record them so I remember and then I clean something. Organize something else. It is like my therapy. I wish at moments things could have been different for her then they would have been different for us.. but I would not be who I am today with out her, so do I wish she were different?? I am not sure. I just know that today, I accept that she had a problem that was bigger than she was and it is over. We are both at peace.
Thank you so much, Becky, for being brave enough to be my first interviewee! If you are a child of a hoarder and are interested in being interviewed over email, please shoot me a message!