My Mother is a Hoarder, How to cope?
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    My Mother is a Hoarder, How to cope?

    My Background
    Raised in a Home Filled with Clutter and Mess


    I was born and raised in a messy house full of clutter and never had a clue about organizing & decorating. My mother is a hoarder and she had so much stuff that limit my childhood life (me and my sibblings). We never invite friends at home because of embarrassment. Mom is seldom home and always go out because she hates looking at the stuff and she never made an attempt to clean the stuff she accumulated.

    My childhood bedroom is basically like a warehouse with boxes and piles of stuff stacking. I always have to tip toe walking because one wrong move then the stuff will all fall on the floor leaving a huge mess and mom would yell and get upset for days. She never made an attempt to clean the stuff and organize the stuff. She just left it there. All that clutter and mess drove my dad away and he left the house completely. It's just us and mom.

    She has a small pantry in her bedroom where she put her coffee pot and some small cups but the pantry is buried under piles of papers and the worst part is that I once find a small basket full of rotten spices and roots she collects "for later use". I have no idea how long they have stayed there along with rotten slices of lemon she used for her hot lemon tea and put in the same basket "for later use". The basket is also filled with cigarette ashes and small changes (coins) she accumulated from shopping.

    Mom spends time at her friend's houses or goes to the mall and always dread going home because she hates the stuff. I was always outside going with mom to her friend's house or to malls and parks. This is what I remember from my childhood years. My mom still lives in the same house with all the clutter and stuff. She always said that she will "fix the mess" but she never did.

    How it's affecting me..

    I never had a clue about organizing. I live alone now, in a rented room and I don't know how to arrange my own books. A friend helped me pick a book cabinet for my room and put my stuff. My room looks 60% messy + clutter and 40 % organized.

    I think, subconsciously I sort of picked up the hoarding behavior and assume it as "normal". The secluded lifestyle as well. Nowadays, i am quite embarrassed with my room and sometimes refuse to accept friends coming so mostly spending time in solace. I want to change this all. It's like being in some sort of "childhood inertia" in my old bedroom without being able to invite friends.

    I know that sometimes we get caught up in the patterns of the past, like I did when living with my mom. Clutter everywhere, as much as I hate it but as I look at my own room now it's full of clutter. Is it possible to change and become an organized person? How to learn it? Where to start? I want to be like one of the ladies who used to live near my mom, she has a tidy house, albeit simple and small, but so tidy and organized with no clutter in sight. Will I be able to accomplish that?

    BF and me plan to get married and I am afraid that I can't handle organizing our home. I really want to change. He told me that his mom (my future MIL) is very organized. How does one learn to be organized? Is it genetic? Sorry for the silly questions, but I am always amazed at people who can be organized, because I came from a household full of clutter. I really need help.

    Is there anyone here that grew up and lived in a messy cluttered home full of stuff? How does it affect you? How do you change? What makes you want to change?
    Last edited by lyra; 01-12-2011 at 02:44 AM.

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    The Hoarding Situation I witnessed in my child hood and How it Affected me

    Closet & Dressing area, Make up & Bathroom Area & Situation

    My mom's closet is jammed with clothes, drawers are jammed. If you open the closet door, stuff will fall down. Whenever she wants to go out and pick an outfit, stuff will fall down on the floor and she will yell and scream at the mess. As if it's the mess' fault.

    I remember looking for a dress I want to wear and having to dig the closet and drawer looking for the dress, creating a huge pile of clothes surrounding me and my mom would get so angry at me and accused me of creating all the mess. So I end up only wearing the same stuff over and over again to avoid her yelling and screaming.

    I think now that I am an adult, I realize that this is a form of some sort of mental illness (?) this is not normal.

    Make up & Toiletries Hoarding

    My mom hoards make up and always buys something new (powders, lipsticks, eyeshadows, blushes). She is also crazy about toiletries. She always goes out trying something new : body lotions, soaps, colognes, perfumes, hair brushes, moisturizers.

    Her make up table is an absolute mess. She buys impulsively without a list (never makes a list) and never use up the products she buy. She will use one brand of body lotion 2-3 times and just keep it there on the make up desk and never use it again. If I try to touch it, she will yell at me.

    She hoards boxes of soap she never use, because "they look so pretty". Some soaps are shaped like sea shells, flowers and she keeps buying them, collecting them but never use them at all. She has bottles and bottles of body lotions, sun tanning lotions all accumulated from 8-10 years back and some are already changing colors. She never uses them and "displays" them on her toiletries table. The table is a huge mess and one wrong move, all the stuff will fall down creating a big mess.

    How it affects me..

    When I live alone, I naturally follow her habit buying cosmetics and body lotions and soaps and shampoos and never use them up. Just piling them and collecting until one day, a conversation with a friend made me realize that this is not normal.

    I now have 3 bottles of body lotion and have used up all the lotions I accumulated before. 3 instead of 15-20. It has cut my expenses greatly. I will go on with more examples. I just need to get this out. I hope someone who also has been through a similar situation and live in a cluttered house hold can relate to my experience.

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    Hoarding Books & Papers

    My mom collects books and papers, pamphlets and leaflets and brochures and refuse to throw them away because "they might be useful later". Her handbag is filled with used up tissues (dirty tissues) and piles of papers, bills, receipts from grocery shops, restaurants, pharmacies etc.

    Whenever she opens her hand bag to get out her purse, the papers will all fall down and she will yell and scream in public. If I told her that the paper is too many and she should throw it away, she would yell at me and told me to mind my own business and shut up.

    She writes important stuff on those small papers and lost important details and addresses and phone numbers because of it. Every time she needs to find a person's phone number, she must dig into the small bill receipt papers in her bag and it will take a long time to get the stuff she wants. My dad once gave her an address book to write names and organize the numbers but she refused to use the address book.

    I always assume that this is the normal and proper way to live life but now I realize that this is absolutely wrong.

    How it affects me..

    At my working desk in my room, there's a small area with paper clutter which I dread to clean up because "they might be useful later".
    In my book & music area, there are envelopes filled with receipts I keep, some are receipts that I treat as token of memories from my overseas travels. I know they are just receipts and garbage but I feel somewhat sentimental about it so I kept them and they are just paper, they are piling up.

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    Registered User Pemberleyan's Avatar
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    I'm sorry for what you're going through and I hope you can get some relief. I am probably much older than you, and I can tell you that I've learned; you can't change other people. You can change your reaction to them. As an adult, you can refuse to be "intimidated" into certain behaviors.

    Check out Children of Hoarders. My situation was different -- I didn't grow up this way. My mother sort of fell into it late in life after all of the children had moved out (Dad had left years earlier). I did pick up the tendency -- it's a way of thinking, sort of a "can't stand to throw anything away that might be needed at some point in the future" kind of thing. Also, I have to fight the "but it's a fantastic bargain" thoughts when I'm in thrift stores, etc. I have to ask myself, am I really going to use this? The helps me leave lots of things behind.

    When we got her moved out of her large house into a smaller one, it really inspired me to do a lot of clearing out at my own house. To this day I am not naturally neat and live a very isolated lifestyle, but I love privacy and I don't think anything will change that. Clutter happens when things are not put away immediately and there is too much stuff.

    Keep us posted.
    Last edited by Pemberleyan; 01-12-2011 at 09:42 AM. Reason: additional thoughts

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    Ok, my place was pretty cluttered until last year. That's when I purged a lot of stuff. So I kinda know what you're going through. So here are my suggestions, if you're interested:

    1. You already hit on one by not buying more of an item when you already have some. If you know you have something (i.e. make-up/body lotion/whatever), don't buy more until you actually need it. If you have old stuff, toss it.

    2. If you buy something, put it away and toss out or reuse the bag. That was my main problem. I bought a lot of books and put them down, many still in the bag I brought them home in. Then they piled up.

    If you have to, be brutal and purge. I went through a lot of books and DVDs that I hadn't touched in several years, some over 10+ years. Even now, I have a bag that I've designated as my purge bag. If I find something that I'm probably not going to watch or read, I put it in there and will get rid of it when it's full. (It's full now so I'll probably drop it off at the local library over the weekend since it's all books and DVD's.)

    3. Do things a little at a time. Designate something as your purge bag/bin, fill it up over time, then get rid of it (see above).

    4. You might want to take an organizational class or talk to your BF's mother if she's willing to teach you tips.

    5. For your books, create a catalog or at least put similar books on the same shelf. This way you'll know if you have more than one copy of a book, CD or DVD. Since I started cataloging my books, I found that I had two copies of two books. One I think I realized I had two copies of, the other one I didn't. One is going to the local library, the other to a friend who I know will appreciate it. Do the purge bag if necessary.

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    Registered User krbshappy71's Avatar
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    Seek counseling for the attachment feelings you have towards stuff and for the fear of not having something when you need it. I don't know if you've ever watched Hoarders on A&E TV but they make it very clear that this is a disorder not something people can just wake up and fix themselves.
    "If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, march down there and light it yourself."

    Car loan (ugh, again!)
    Husband's debt to work on, mine is gone except car loan. w00t!

    Yah, I suck at this money stuff, I know. That's why I'm here.

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    Pemberleyan, I clicked the link you posted and read about the 'Children of Hoarders'. There is a tendency for children of hoarders to follow the footsteps of their hoarding parent, because they grew up witnessing the clutter and mess and always assume that it's just the normal way to live life. While it's not normal at all.

    As I'm typing this post, I am staring at the clutter I accumulated in my room. Boxes of cosmetic products I still keep "just in case I might need them later". I will throw them out first thing in the morning. I will sort out the mess. Boxes of rice powder I bought and never consumed. That will also go away. That is what I listed so far.

    My room is small and it's 60 % disorganized and filled with clutter. The 40% area is organized and neat. My closet is neat and tidy and small. I believe I can overcome this and defeat this. I also have tendencies to procrastinate, just like my mom when she looks at the pile of clutter and always say "I will fix this later" but it never happens. Part of me wants to change and realize that this is not normal, but part of me wants to stay in the "familiar childhood inertia-comfort zone" and the clutter remind me of my childhood years and in some distorted way, brings up sentimental feelings and a sense of familiarity.

    I really want to show myself that I can change, and I want to educate myself. I will keep writing about this here, as a form of therapy and to share what I have been through all these years, as a daughter of a hoarder.

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    I personally hate cleaning. Always have. I like living in a clean place. If my place is overly cluttered I end up more in a fog where getting started is really difficult.

    Try taking one step at a time. First organize your clothes, then find a place for your books, etc. You can also speak with your future mother-in-law for advice. Just keep in mind what works for one person may not work for another.

    I am glad to say I no am able to keep a clean place. Some times it may be disorganized but not enough that if someone came in I would be embarrased.

    It usually is best to have mini-goals each day. Once everything gets organized you can have a routine throughout the week to keep things clean and organized. Growing up we cleaned the whole house one day a week. Well, for me that is just to much so I now do a little on specific days. Not as overwhelming for me. Remember it usually takes about a month for something to become a habit.

    It is great that you see something you want to change. I think that is the biggest step you can take. Let us know how you are doing.

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    Registered User krbshappy71's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lyra View Post

    I really want to show myself that I can change, and I want to educate myself. I will keep writing about this here, as a form of therapy and to share what I have been through all these years, as a daughter of a hoarder.
    I think you should start a blog, then.

    You can change, but there is nothing wrong with seeking out professional help to do so. There are many addictions and disorders that afflict many people all over the world. As well, there are many doctors, counselors, and also medications to help them. But only if they are willing to seek the help for themselves. Best wishes.
    "If you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, march down there and light it yourself."

    Car loan (ugh, again!)
    Husband's debt to work on, mine is gone except car loan. w00t!

    Yah, I suck at this money stuff, I know. That's why I'm here.

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    Default my husband grew up like this..

    not as much the hoarding part but it was present to a certain point..however the home was just dirty.... I would go into details but really don't need to..He is now grown and it affected him the other way....he is a clean freak....ocd to the max...some days i am almost driven to insanity because its to the point where water droplets in the sink will bother him....but i have to pull back and remember from hence he came and just let it go...

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    Registered User Pemberleyan's Avatar
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    Lyra, I'm glad you checked out the site. There are links and there is a forum there which will have a lot of helpful things to read, people in similar situations. Fortunately, my mother's situation/house was not so dire as some depicted on the A & E program.

    When doing a major clean-out, I find it helps to get boxes and label them (literally or mentally) into a few categories; donate, trash, keep, etc. Lots of thrift stores take all sorts of things, so it doesn't all have to go in the trash.

    Over the years I've gotten more organized and have come to love labels on containers, but of course you don't want too many containers ;-).

    There's no shame in seeking help.

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    Another suggestion: make a space budget, like a money budget. You have a shelf for beauty products, say. It should be big enough for all your beauty products (or whatever backstock you think is reasonable to keep) to go on. When you have MORE than will fit on the budgeted space, purge the quantity of stuff down to what will fit.

    Most people would call me a hoarder. I am not really, I have a lot of issues relating to my house and having been abused,etc. in my house as a kid. I'm working through it. As I work through it, I go through the stuff. When I start to panic or get uncomfortable, I allow myself to stop cleaning/culling and just be. But I can budget space for something and get rid of the extra without it pushing my buttons. If I don't pay attention to my discomfort, I'm like your Mom, I just make an excuse and then don't "see" it anymore.

    IHTH!

    Judi

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    the books by sandra felton helped me immensely.
    baby step 2- see blog for actual amounts

    "stop being a victim, you are a perpetrator, taking things without paying for them is stealing, you are not a victim, you are a perpetrator. PAY THE PEOPLE YOU OWE, pray for the people you owe, and make it right. " hard nosed AA person, thumping his big book, addressed to me in AA meeting 7/30/2013

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    renmerc446,
    Thanks for the tips. They are very useful and I really need the ideas. They are very helpful to me.

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    zkrbshappy71
    I will try to look for counseling and find a person who can help me, teach me how to organize. Show me how to divide stuff and how to store them.

    I really want to build a happy home, organized & relaxing space. My mom was unable to provide that home for us, all of my life. Home was a huge mess. It was like a dumpster. Even dad walked out and left us alone because of the mess.

    I didn't know better. I thought it's the way it's supposed to be. I thought, you're supposed to have so much stuff and keep buying things, keep piling things. It took me years..a long time to learn & realize that this is not normal.

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