Hoarding: a Resource Page

I’ve been dealing with hoarding my entire life. It was a problem without a name for most of my life. I knew from a relatively young age that the house I lived in wasn’t “normal,” but it wasn’t easy to define why. I knew we had a lot of stuff…more stuff than was normal. I knew our house was messy, and that it was impossible to clean it because of all the stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to know where the line between “messy” or “cluttered” crosses the line into true hoarding – I was in my twenties and in therapy before I really started to understand that in my specific case, that line had been breached.

Enter TV. The first time I saw an episode of “Hoarders” on the television, it was like a brisk slap to the face. Suddenly, there were other people in the world who had lived through similar situations…lots of them. I’m grateful to shows like “Hoarders” and “Hoarding: Buried Alive” for getting a dialogue started and exposing this problem to a broader audience. But I’m also a little angry – where was help when I needed it as a child? No one talked about hoarding then. I can help but wonder – what would Child Protective Services have done if they’d seen the house I lived in? If what I’ve seen on TV is any indication, they would have removed all of us from the house and condemned it as unfit to live in. I’m sure back then I wouldn’t have been a fan of the idea.

Hoarding is a complex problem. The Mayo Clinic describes it this way:

“Hoarding is the excessive collection of items, along with the inability to discard them. Hoarding often creates such cramped living conditions that homes may be filled to capacity, with only narrow pathways winding through stacks of clutter. Some people also collect animals, keeping dozens or hundreds of pets in unsanitary conditions.

Hoarding, also called compulsive hoarding and compulsive hoarding syndrome, can be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). But many people who hoard don’t have other OCD-related symptoms, and researchers are working to better understand hoarding as a distinct mental health problem.

People who hoard often don’t see it as a problem, making treatment challenging. But intensive treatment can help people who hoard understand their compulsions and live a safer, more enjoyable life.”

I get a little conflicted here. On the one hand, I recognize that it’s a problem. On the other hand, I have a hard time not seeing it as an inherently selfish problem. I know my dad didn’t hoard with the intention of making the rest of us miserable; hoarders aren’t inherently bad people. But the truth is that hoarding is a problem that affects everyone in the household. Hoarders see the (real or percieved) value in their items – the people around them sometimes can’t.

I’ve had a difficult time getting rid of things in the past. I went through lots of phases where I wanted to save everything that had any sort of sentimental value – even fast-food restaurant cups, if there were specific memories attached to them. But I also went through phases of wanting to get rid of everything, because the suffocating clutter of my house was unbearable. As I got older, and the mouse/rat/mold/bug/rot problem in my house got worse, I started trying to save things because I was afraid of losing the things I identified as parts of my past. To make a long story short (I’ll flesh it out in separate posts), I moved a lot of junk around from place to place after I left home.

Learning about hoarding has helped me face the anxiety associated with getting rid of items, but it’s still a struggle. It has helped to a certain extent to understand the logistics of my parents and their hoarding. I want to be sympathetic, but I’m also angry – where’s the sympathy for what I went through because of hoarding? I’m just learning how to grieve for the childhood I lost amongst the clutter.

More information on hoarding:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hoarding/DS00966

http://www.childrenofhoarders.com/bindex.php

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