children of hoarders interview series. Take it away, sir!
I am a software engineer, with a background in System Administration/QA, working at a Financial Services company. I am into video games, weightlifting, and keeping my own hoarding tendencies in check. I struggle to keep the balance, but have a great fiancée who helps keep me in check and level-headed. She's very understanding and helpful in the process of rationalizing interactions I have with my HP, when you can actually apply logic/reason to the situation. That's probably the hardest part to most of the interactions is that logic/reason don't apply in any way/shape/form. Sometimes I wish you could force a HP to seek out help, especially if they can't see the problem!
Which parent hoards? Mother
Do you have any hoarding tendencies? I think I have the tendencies, but under control for the time being. There's the ever-present "need to acquire new things" temptation that I fight with a lot. It's an ongoing struggle, but at least I'm fighting it/seeking help for it.
Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards? I would definitely say yes to a family history of hoarding, I can think of at least a few aunt's that have a lot of "stuff," and can remember them "collecting" various things beyond any sort of normal means. In a couple instances it's probably more the traditional definition of hoarding, where the rooms aren't usable for their intended purpose, whereas others just have a lot of stuff/large areas to store it so it's not as detrimental in that regard, but probably still in the financial aspect.
What are your hoarding parent (HP)’s favorite things to hoard? Household products, clothing, "gifts" for every friend/person she knows, but they never make it to the person. Kitchen supplies, food, and anything she finds at a discounted/bargain rate.
How is your relationship with your HP? What relationship? There hasn't been one in over a decade, at least. I maintained contact while I was still paying off some of my student loans in her name, but now she'll call every few months when she realizes she hasn't heard from me in a while. I'd say people/family hasn't been her focus for nearly 20 years now, at least. It's frustrating having to be the adult in the relationship from such an early age.
Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? No, I moved out for college at 18, never looked back.
Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? Yes, my sister (who moved out/back in at some point), step-dad, and nephew. They seem to be enablers for it, and I'd even go as far to say my sister will continue the hoard long after my mother is gone. The shopaholic tendencies, poor decision making, "thrill" of getting something new, and inability to get rid of things are a perfect storm for the hoard. They also suffer from anger/frustration issues, which I shared until I removed myself from the situation. Being unable to change/improve the conditions you are in is mind-boggling-frustrating. I've seen the issues first-hand from my step-dad/sister, and fear for what my nephew will be growing up in.
Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? I know quite a few people in the family know about it, but since she's a "user" of people and burned most of the relationships, I'm not surprised no one has stepped in/said anything (not that it would matter, given how stubborn she is).
When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? I'd say 1996/7ish, when we had a cross-country move and my real dad was stationed in South Korea for a few years. Things started changing and the inability to throw things out/let things go started to get worse. While I was in the house, it was a constant fight/struggle to keep pathways/areas clear so we could LIVE. Once I left/my sister moved out, the house steadily declined.
When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? I'd say college was probably the first time, I mean, I talked about it/spent a lot of time at friends houses in high school since it was not enjoyable to live in. I'm not really ashamed of it, more, frustrated/annoyed to see it decline instead of improve despite how she'll talk about it when I'm away.
Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? Yeah, I sought it in college a few times, and am currently seeking it on how to process/deal with some of the decisions I've had to make to survive the relationship/lack thereof.
Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? No, I have no hope of her ever stopping. With how much she works/isn't home, I imagine she'll drop on the spot at a job and that'll be it. My sister will continue the hoard or be unable to afford the house and be forced to sell it.
What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? Mostly when she would keep things I'd thrown out, that was when it really started to sink in there was larger issues at hand. I haven't really been around/in the hoard for some time now since just being in that atmosphere causes my allergies to act up and the frustration at the hopelessness to return.
What is at least one positive thing you were able to glean from living in a hoard and dealing with your HP? I'll never live in that sort of environment again, I've got my faults and issues, but will never let it get that bad. I couldn't put my fiancee through it or future children.
What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? I was able to keep my room in pristine condition. That and the internet, probably the only two things that saved me from the worst parts of it. Well, that and having a good group of friends to spend time with away from it.
Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? Don't try to change the HP, unless they want to change, your efforts will always be in vain. Get out of the situation as soon as you can, and seek help from a professional to get your head on straight. Living with a HP isn't living.
Thank you, Fury, for answering my questions so honestly! If you are a child of a hoarder and are interested in being interviewed over email, please shoot me a message!