As mentioned previously, I am starting a children of hoarders (COH) interview series. To start things off and to break the ice, I thought I would answer my own questions myself. I've mentioned some of these details here and there throughout the blog, but I thought it would be nice to have them all here in one place so that it will be easier for others who are interested in learning more about my past to find that info.
I have a few interviewees lined up that I will be posting soon, but I'm definitely looking for more COH to talk to! If you're interested in being interviewed, shoot me an email and we'll make it happen.
Without further ado, here's me interviewing myself (which was admittedly a little awkward):
Which parent hoards? My mother is the hoarder.
Do you have any hoarding tendencies? No. When I was younger, I would hold on to things because I thought that it was normal, but as I’ve gotten older, I am pretty adamant about fighting clutter and keeping things neat.
Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards? As far as I know, my mother is the only hoarder in the family.
What are your hoarding parent's (HP’s) favorite things to hoard? My mother loves to hoard clothes, mail, newspapers, and food.
How is your relationship with your HP? At this point, I barely have a relationship with my mother. I see her a few times a year, usually for holidays and family events, but otherwise, I don’t go out of my way to see or talk to her. Because relating with her was just too painful and stressful, I put that ball in her court a few years ago and have barely heard a peep since.
Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? No, I do not. I moved out when I went to college when I was 18.
Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? Thankfully, no. My brother and I both lived with her after the divorce when we were young, but once the hoard started to build back up in our new place, my brother moved back in with our dad. I moved out for college and since then my mother has been living alone.
Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? My brother, my sister-in-law, my dad, a handful of my friends, some of my sister-in-law’s family. The word has slowly been spreading.
When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? I think in the back of my mind, I always knew that our house was different since my friends’ and relatives’ houses were clean and tidy in comparison. I don’t think it was until the hoard got so bad that I couldn’t invite friends over anymore that I realized that there was something wrong about the situation.
When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? Outside of two or three people that I told in high school while I still lived with my mother, I didn’t really start talking about it to other people until I was in college and had some physical distance from the hoard. The more I talked about it and lived on my own, the more I realized that the hoarding was my mother’s problem and not mine.
Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? Yes, a few years ago, I went to therapy for about 6 months or so to work through some issues, including my childhood and my relationship with my mother. I highly recommend therapy to any COH.
Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? At this point, no. My mother still lies about the fact that she is a hoarder, so I don’t see any hope in a behavioral change until she can admit that she has a problem.
What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? The most disgusting thing I found in my mother’s hoard was when I came home from a summer away working at a resort and found the toilet full of feces and maggots.
What is at least one positive thing you were able to glean from living in a hoard and dealing with your HP? I learned a lot about resourcefulness from my mother. We learned to make do so much that it became a natural thought process for me. I’m also content with having very little because I’ve seen the dark and ugly side of having too much.
What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? I think I was lucky in some ways because I was able to escape from the hoard every other weekend to visit my dad. I also had friends who liked to have sleepovers. I really savored any time I was able to stay in a normal household and tried to recharge my batteries that way. I also kept my bedroom as neat as possible so that it felt as though I had a type of haven when I just couldn’t handle all of the decay around me.
Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? It will get better. I would encourage you to get out of the hoard as soon as you possibly can if you are still in it and then try to find a way to deal with your parent(s) in the most guilt free and painless way you possibly can. That might mean severely limiting or cutting off contact with them. This is okay. If that is the only way you can love them and stay sane, then that is what needs to be done.
For more info about my past, you can check out this post.
If you would like to read more children of hoarders interviews, Becky and Deedee were both kind enough to volunteer.