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Help for hoarding parents

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This topic contains 39 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by avatar LisforLeslie 4 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #676948 Reply
    Anne Shirley

    My parents are 65 and 70 and hoarders. They are healthy and active but my father has had a stroke and has limited use of one arm, so he struggles with lawncare of their big house.

    They are well off and don’t need money, but will not pay anyone to mow their lawn, or even let me pay someone to do so. They don’t like people coming over.

    Their house is a cluttered mess, dusty and full of boxes and collections of things. It’s not like they have dead cats in there or anything and they have bathroom, kitchen and bedroom access,but it is defiantly hoarding and definitely unsanitary and unsafe. The won’t accept help.

    My mother still works and they keep up to date with bills and doctors. My father volunteers at a soup kitchen once a week. They are both in full possession of their faculties, it’s just their house is a storage facility and repairs are too much for them.

    I live 8 hours away for work and even if I lived closer I have been told unreservedly to mind my own business.

    I am their only child.

    I’m going to inherit this mess one day.

    How do I convince them to go on a cruise and buy a nice apartment and put their collections away in a storage facility and store them or sell them? Or give them away.

    I have autism and for me to deal with a horsing house after their death is horrifying for me. I don’t even want an inheritance as much as I want them to just enjoy their time together while they still have it without living in dangerous clutter and dust.


    #676949 Reply
    Anne Shirley

    *hoarding house. No horses.

    #676953 Reply

    They are fully grown adults capable of making decisions for themselves. I don’t think there’s really a way you can tactfully ask them to give up their life to make it easier on you when they die. Presumedly, they like their life the way it is. If you think they’d be open to talking about their plans, you should gently bring up their plans for their care, and maybe steer it towards the house and will.

    Really, when it comes to that time, you can hire someone or multiple people to help you or do it.

    #676959 Reply

    I spent the better part of the last year helping my mom move out of her house after my dad passed away, get the house cleaned out, and get it sold. It was definitely one of the least-fun years of my life.

    They’d been talking about moving to a senior community, but that didn’t happen before he died. It’s just as well that it worked out this way. Mom’s a very social person, and is thriving in her new community. Dad would have been completely, utterly miserable there. Like your parents, he liked his home and his privacy, and didn’t want people there fixing things or mowing or any of that stuff.

    Did it make it harder for me, that they stayed in the house past the point where they could take good care of it? Yes, it did. Would it have been easier for me if they’d handled the move, instead of me having to do it? You bet.

    Would I ever have asked them to give up their home and go someplace where dad would have been unhappy (which would have made mom’s life miserable), just for my convenience and comfort?

    Not in a million years.

    This is something you’re just going to have to deal with. They’re adults. It’s their home. If they want to stay there as long as they can, that’s their decision. You can’t ask them to sell their collections and other belongings just so you don’t have to deal with them after they’re dead.

    When the time comes, you don’t have to clean out the house yourself. Mom picked out the things she wanted to take with her, and the moving company packed it for her in a day. Then, we hired an auctioneer to come take what they thought they could sell for us. That took a half-day. Then, we hired a cleanout company, gave them the keys, and they hauled away everything that was left. We didn’t even have to be there for that. Then we hired Merry Maids, and they cleaned the whole house in two hours.

    And then it was done. And the house was on the market a week later.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 2 weeks ago by avatar Essie.
    • This reply was modified 4 months, 2 weeks ago by avatar Essie.
    #676965 Reply
    Anne Shirley

    I figure it would take about a year to sort out too, there is the house, several barns and a whole lot of cars and farm equipment type things. I don’t even know what is there. There is also asbestos, possums and snakes in the outbuildings!

    My husband and I talk about it, what will we do for work while we are sorting out the house, will our kids be ok to change schools for that time (hopefully they won’t be at school) – it’s a huge, scary year for someone who is prone to meltdowns and bad at organising things.

    Then there is a part of me that hates that I grew up in it, that my teenage life was abnormal because of it, that I was bullied for being the kid in ‘that’ house. Then I inherit it? They think they are saving stuff for me. They used to call piles of stuff ‘ your inheritance’.

    I would rather they blew the whole lot. I have a job and income and it’s just a whole big horror to look forward to on top of grief at losing them.

    #676970 Reply

    You seem to have a lot of feelings on this; have you spoken to a therapist about it? If not, I think it could help. Remind yourself that piles of stuff don’t have the power to fuck up your life any more.

    #676975 Reply
    Anne Shirley

    I had a therapist several years ago who I did discuss this with briefly. This therapy was more to do with having post partum mental illnesses that went away of their own accord.

    I have read a lot about hoarding and the effect of living in a hoardin house as a child – also as an adult there are always people who tell you YOU should fix it, and it’s not my mess. Yet.

    I have t been to that house for several years because I felt it was unsafe to go into and I was afraid of fire. My parents think the government listens through smoke alarms so they don’t have one and they have so many boxes that I just got too scared to spend any time there. My husband, who has no emotional connection to the hoard, agrees it is not a safe environment, and so my parents were upset for a while and then decided to visit us and it was so good to spend time with them and sit down together in a room with a table and lounges etc. they eat all their meals in their bedroom as it is the only spare place aside from the bathroom and kitchen that is not a storage space, so visiting them means having to socialise near to them but not at their house anyway.

    #677276 Reply
    Leslie Joan

    Please don’t imagine that you need to deal with it yourself -there are companies that handle estate sales, and this can include the cars and the barn contents. If you seriously think you need to do this all by yourself with your family, then you are going to drive yourself into depression. You were already scarred from growing up there; the idea of spending that much time to unwind it will overwhelm you. There are professionals to deal with this stuff; hire them.

    Your parents are not doing as well as you think they are. By definition, they have problems if they are hoarding and they can’t maintain the place. And as your parents’ health begins to decline still further, your hands may be forced from the outside. I know it is discouraging on the most fundamental level to deal with, but as long as they remain oppositional, you won’t be able to do anything as long as they appear reasonably lucid and can manage the bills, so you will need to resist anybody who tries to guilt you for not making them accept a solution. You can’t. Anyone who has dealt with such parents understands this. I’m sorry.

    #677342 Reply
    Anne Shirley

    Thank you Leslie Joan,

    It doesn’t seem to be getting worse for them, at least, just the same.

    I wish that some outside authority would come along and take them away from it and fix it up, but I have already spoken to doctors and social workers about that and they don’t feel that my parents are at a level where they can be removed against their will.

    I had not thought of getting outside help to look after it when it happens.
    I know that the time I should spend mourning my parents will be spent dealing with the hoard, just like the times in my life I should have had enjoying my parents I spent negotiating the hoard.

    People don’t understand it. It is a horrible upbringing to have.

    #677389 Reply

    And the time you should spend enjoying your parents while they’re alive is being spent obsessing over what you’ll do with their stuff when they die. Which, given their ages, won’t be for another 15 or 20 years.

    You’re not hearing what we’re saying: you don’t have to deal with their stuff. My mother spent months after my dad died stressing out about how we were going to clear out the staggering amount of stuff in the basement. I mean, stressing to the point of ending up in the ER with panic attacks and a-fib.

    You know how long it actually took? A grand total of two days. One day making sure there wasn’t anything in the basement that we wanted (it was dad’s tools and stuff they hadn’t used in years), and one day talking to auctioneers and the cleanout service. That was it. A week later, the basement was empty and clean. All that stress and worrying for nothing.

    #677396 Reply
    Leslie Joan

    Anne, thanks for responding. I meant that your parents’ physical health will inevitably decline, and as this happens, the physical state of the house will decline as well. And at some point, this may call for outside intervention. Good for you for contacting doctors and social workers. It’s too soon now, but keep tabs on the situation. My mother eventually wound up in a nursing home against her will, because she refused to cooperate with the home health care aides, and her care was too much for my dad to handle.

    You may feel a bunch of different emotions when the time comes. Anger may be one of them, for the effect that their actions have had both on your childhood, adult interactions with them, and their relationship with your own child. It’s okay to feel what you feel. It’ll all sort itself out in the end; just don’t lay any expectations on yourself. They have a sickness. Those who have dealt with similar situations understand it – everybody else, feel free to ignore, because they are clueless. And the mourning is a process that takes place over time, in any case – please don’t put any pressure on yourself to feel any one way. That’s just one more burden you don’t need to handle.

    I do hope that you hire some help, because I worry for your own well-being. You matter, and you carry an especially heavy burden because there is only one of you. I don’t know if you yourself are “perfectionist” – I know that my mom’s perfectionist expectations were related to the hoarding, and it took me decades to unwrap those and to learn to figure out and accept “good enough and DONE” as good enough. 🙂 That made it easier for me to manage what needed to be done.

    What complicated things a bit is that, even though I am not an only child, one of my sisters could be my mother’s twin. So some of the house contents wound up in her already overstuffed house, which needs certain repairs which can’t be completed because of the piles. Sound familiar?! I’m trying to work with her more patiently than I was able to with my mother, and am making some small progress, but I dread what we will face with her, as she is childless.

    The best thing about the professionalsis that they are used to dealing with this, and have the ability to sort the good from the bad and know what to do with it. And they have teams of workers with protective gear. Please don’t think about doing this yourself – it will damage you and your little family.

    You are not alone.

    #677403 Reply

    Dusty boxes of collections aren’t unsanitary. They may be dusty and not something you would want but they aren’t unsanitary in the way the term is usually used. They aren’t disease bearing.

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