Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What a waste. Literally.

Not surprisingly, we children of hoarders are well aware that our parents aren't going to live forever. Unfortunately, we're also well aware of what is going to happen to us after they're gone. Since burning the hoarded house down is generally frowned upon, that leaves us with the dreaded option of actually having to clean it out. Years ago, my brother and I decided that when our mom dies, we're going to go through the house, remove anything we'd like to keep (about two boxes of baby pictures, all told), and have a clean-up company come deal with the rest.

This plan sounds fine on the surface, especially as I mostly just try not to think about it. But when I consider that my mother has filled a 2100 square foot home, three storage sheds, and a two-car garage with total crap, the plan gets a little more complicated. (Hence the trying not to think about it.) It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to hire a company to clean out a hoarded home, plus all of the repairs that are necessary once the place is empty. But the alternative is putting our entire lives (and, most certainly, our sanity) on hold for months while we clean out thousands of square feet of junk. It is completely insane to think about the utter waste of time and money spent cleaning up a hoard like this (not to mention the wasted life that went into creating the hoard in the first place). And when I read something like this Newsweek article on what happens when a hoarding parent dies, I'm pretty sure my blood pressure goes up about 15 points.


  1. I lived with 3 hoarders, my mother, aunt and grandmother. My mother now lives in her own place. That left my grandmother and aunt, in the house. They were both put into a nursing home at the same time. My sister, who is my grandmother's POA, sold the house as is, to a contractor. We got what little things we needed out of the house (like my grandfather's ashes) and the contractor then took over. He cleaned the house out (21 full length dumpsters, yes, I said twenty-one) The contractor then fixed the house up and flipped it. It was the easiest, least stressful way of dealing with the situation. Especially because at this point, there were now dead critters in the house, and towards the end my grandmother was keeping her soiled adult diapers. Do yourself a favor, if it's this bad, do not hire anyone...just sell as is to a contractor.

  2. I had to let your post sit for an hour or two before I could respond, Elizabeth.

    We have lost so much during our clean-up over the past 18 months: income, health, our relationship has suffered greatly.

    One of us sees the waste, the other sees some value. I'm afraid there is no end in sight.

    Now, I have to set personal limits which I had let go in an effort to be supportive of my SO and his endeavor.

    Your plan sounds logical and effective; I wish my COH SO had taken a similar route. All my best to you, at least what's left of my best...

  3. Oh dear... yeah I try not to think about it toooo much. We've made so much progress with my parents' house recently, but it has been a TON of work (and money), and it's only happening because they're trying to sell it. I don't really want to think what will happen to the place they move in to. I hope it's tiny, I hope it's so small that even if they fill it up all the way it's still not a lot to deal with.

    Well what I really hope is my mom will get some kind of therapeutic help, but my dad doesn't want to label her as mentally ill, so... yeah we'll see.

    Ugh. Hugs to you from afar!

  4. I think about these things, too. It's, luckily, not the house that's filled but rather 6 storage units and a barn. I would simply let the storage units go and stop paying on them but I have things stuck deep in them that I would like to have (photos, mementos from my childhood, baby clothes that my youngest son wore before he died, etc.). I spend a lot of my time thinking about what I will do. It's overwhelming.

  5. I just read your post. I am in the process of cleaning up my father's hoarding house. After much research, discussion with some experts and listening to what I needed to heal. And, what my brother needed to be able to even deal with the house- I chose to hire a professional organizer who deals with hording to help us.
    She lead a team of us and I can't tell you how energizing of an experience it has been. tough, costly - yes but worth it.

    I have been estranged from my family for 18 years for a variety of reasons which gave me some distance from it all. What I realized about cleaning up the house was that it was exhausting, horrible at times and incredibly empowering to clean out the house. Because, I was able to look at it all and really understand it. And, most of all - I finally got to end the hoarding.

    For me, I have found the physical cleaning out to be a process to emotionally and mentally release all the clutter inside me left from the experience of my family.

    The professional organizer was able to navigate the family dynamics, help us stay focused and recover items. In five hours, the professional organizer cleaned out the floor of my parents bedroom while fishing out photos, papers with social security numbers..and this was a room that was up to our waste and no path when we went in. It looked better than I can ever remember it looking. While she did that, I sat outside and sorted pictures.

    When the hoarders are out of the picture, it is much easier than you think. That said, I thought I was going to upchuck every time I went to the house. I go again in Feb to do the next section of the house. And, I am actually looking forward to it - it is such a spiritually releasing of energy.

    I think the most important question to ask yourself is what do you need to heal and grow. You may need to walk away. Or, you may need to actually make all the decisions that the hoarder didn't.

    If you need to address the stuff or even recover important pictures, my suggestion is don't do it alone - get support. When we lived with a hoarder, you couldn't have anyone come in and help..much less know about it. So, start start by doing the opposite - get help. Get a team of volunteers together and hire a professional organizer.

    And, one thing I have found out about the professional organizers who deal with the real hoarding situations - crazy, but they are all very positive and love their job.

    Hope that helps. Good luck. It is a painful process..and can be a healing process.

  6. I've read horror stories about children of hoarders spending months or even years sorting through and cleaning out their deceased parents' hoards. Before you do this you've really got to ask yourself if it's worth the investment of time and energy that it will take. Even if there are valuables in the hoard, are they valuable enough to justify the time you'll spend to find them? For example, if you need to take three months off work to clean out the hoard, the valuables you find better be worth at least the three months of salary you lose or it's not worth it.