children of hoarders interview series is Diane. The floor is yours!
I am 40 years old and going through my midlife crisis, husband supported. I play video games/board games and spend time geeking out with a friend of mine doing math. We even took the mensa test for fun at one point. I am a full blown computer nerd. Capital N. I don’t have pets or kids because I hate having someone or something depending on me. My mother always depended on me.
Which parent hoards? My mother. It was only her and I growing up.
Do you have any hoarding tendencies? Hmm. No, not really, though I lived messy for quite some time. I thought it was normal to live that way and clean up for company.
Is there a history of hoarding in your family? If so, who else hoards? I am not sure but I think my grandparents did. They had a huge attic that was full of things. And one bedroom that was stuffed as well. It didn’t take over the whole house though.
What are your hoarding parent (HP)’s favorite things to hoard? This is a hard one. She liked to save everything. Mail/papers, food, collectibles, clothing, cat litter (used and new) and.. well basically if you can name it, she kept it. She loved shopping and had 80k in debt at one point and had to declare bankruptcy.
How is your relationship with your HP? Feb 2009 we broke contact. I have had little contact since then. She faked a stroke (at least, we believe she did) but has since had a real stroke and memory loss, though she is good at not paying attention so we still aren’t 100% sure about how realistic it is. She faked the first I believe to stop working and come live with us. I found out when we went to her house to get her pets how bad the house was. Dog had to be put down, cat came to live with us but was starving and living in filth there. She had also used money I had given her for her mortgage payment to purchase more exercise equipment. This was the final straw for me.
Do you still live at home? If not, when did you move out? No. I am 40 now but I went away to college at 18, came home for summers for two years, then took a year off and moved out. So I was 21.
Does anyone besides your HP currently live in the hoard? If so, who and how are they handling it? No. My mother actually doesn’t live in the hoard anymore. After the second stroke they moved her into new housing and wouldn’t bring the hoard.
Who else, if anyone, knows about your HP’s hoard? My family and friends know. I haven’t kept it a secret once I found out how bad it was. I try to use it as a way to explain some of my weirdness.
When did you first realize that your HP’s behavior was abnormal? After I started leaving and coming home from school. That was the first time. It would be a mess and Prior to that the mess was contained in a few rooms and the garage. But I would come home, and suddenly it was everywhere. She was always cluttered, but I don’t believe hoarded until I completely moved out.
When, if ever, were you able to disassociate yourself from the shame of hoarding and begin opening up about it? So, I had this experience where my then boyfriend (now husband) and my best friend came to my house and kept offering to help me clean up. I wasn’t hoarded, just messy. I would clean for company but they surprised me a couple of times. It was then that I started opening up about it.
Have you ever sought any kind of therapy for dealing with your HP and living in a hoard? Therapy yes, but not for the hoard. More for the narcissistic mother I had.
Do you have any hope that your HP will eventually stop hoarding? Why or why not? Like I said above, I think she was forced out of it by the second (or real) stroke. Now other people are managing her care, and they won’t allow it. She is bad enough that she doesn’t fight them. Or doesn’t remember.
What is the most disgusting or interesting thing you encountered in the hoard? Oh man… when we first discovered how bad the hoard had gotten (she hadn’t let me in for a few years) we took video in case we had to involuntarily commit her. On rewatching the video, I saw poise pads everywhere. Her toilet in her bathroom didn’t work, but there were two others in the house, however, I believe she was using the poise pads to pee instead of the toilet. They were EVERYWHERE. Bags and bags and bags of poise pads (new) I didn’t see any used, but honestly I didn’t look that hard either. Also the cat litter. She would put used cat litter into bags and stack it up in this large box (think 4 ft x 4 ft) and just keep piling and piling. It was almost to the ceiling. Yuck.
What is at least one positive thing you were able to glean from living in a hoard and dealing with your HP? I know how unimportant things are. I know that memories are more important. I take pictures of myself with anything I think of as a memory piece and unless I can display it in some way normally, I donate it. Get the junk out of my house! :-)
What are some ways you coped with living in a hoard? When it is all you know you sort of get used to it. It wasn’t as bad when I was young. It really took a downhill turn when my mothers mother died when I was 16. Then I moved partially out at 18. Then my mom lost her cat (this weird, symbiotic relationship where they would talk to each other) when I was about 21. Then she pretty much went full on hoard where you could barely walk through the house and had a few goat trails. It was bad in parts of the house before (2 car garage full of stuff, office you couldn’t open the door to, bedroom closet that couldn’t be used) but it really went off the rails after the cat died.
Do you have any advice for others currently living in a hoard or trying to cope with their HP? My only advice: get out asap. Learn to keep a clean home so you feel normal. Use any method that works for you. Realize you are never going to be more important than the hoard. It is sad, but true.
Thank you, Diane, for sharing your experiences! If you are a child of a hoarder and are interested in being interviewed over email, please shoot me a message!