My World

For the Hoarders

Hoarding’ has become a much talked about phenomenon… there are quite a few shows on television regarding this .   I happened to notice a few books on the subject in the library when visiting there recently.  I’m talking here about the compulsion to hoard… most of us hoard stuff but not to the extent that it takes over and possibly endangers us.  I have been known to hoard books and cd’s in the past but having moved house more times than I can count, hoarding this stuff becomes an issue and I eventually cut my collections down to a manageable amount.

 

Let me start by saying that my uncle is a hoarder, he has several properties and most of the houses and parts of the yards are full of stuff.  He is the oldest sibling on my dad’s side and has been a teacher during his career and later on a chicken farmer but now he has retired and sold the chicken sheds.  He doesn’t see his hoarding as a problem, but others in the family and the local community do.  The council has him in their sights but he doesn’t seem worried about that, despite the fact that he is facing substantial fines if he doesn’t clean up.  I took a few quick snaps with my phone camera  of one of these houses on a recent visit to my uncle.  He was sleeping in one house and using the bathroom facilities in another.  We don’t live that far from him now and the issue has been widely talked about within the family and wider friends of the family for ages. 

 

 

A friend of mine recently admitted that he too had a problem with hoarding and has diagnosed himself as suffering a loss.  From this loss he knows he has been trying to fill the void with stuff.  He is loathe to get rid of advertising material, newspapers and all manner of building material such as old bricks etcetera.  Now, these are not stupid people I’m talking about, they are actually quite intelligent, they both have university degrees and such.   However, they cannot see past the accumulation of stuff and gaining more stuff.  If and when they do try to do something about what everyone else can see as a growing problem, it soon gets too much for them and they let it go.  They will usually not allow others to really help them remove the multitude of items, it becomes a highly charged emotional issue for them. 

 

This obsession ruins relationships, the partners often leave because they don’t want to live in that mess anymore. If they stay they have to be extremely strong and establish ground rules such as areas where no material is to be placed.  It is sad to see someone struggling under the weight of material goods going to waste.  They sometimes see it as a storage problem not a compulsion/illness/disorder i.e something that could be treated and resolved.  I guess it’s like drug addiction, once you’re addicted it’s very hard to break the habit.

 

I have seen several other examples of this disorder but my uncle has the widest problem by far.  His hoarding covers several houses and quite a bit of landspace.  He has had some medical issues more recently and the family gathered around to try and help in his recovery, but as soon as he felt he was on the mend he returned to old habits and the problem since has grown.  He recently bought a truck, a truck that he doesn’t have a licence for and he now has it parked in the front yard still with the for sale sign on it.  When asked what he was going to do with it, he just laughed and said “I don’t know, just drive it around the property”.  It has a battery problem but he can’t move it as he isn’t licenced for it.  It is just one example of many purchases that he has made that we would see as crazy.  He has other cars, caravans and tractors on this property as well.  He has sheds full of tools and other equipment, most of which he’s forgotten about and when he can’t find something he goes out and buys more usually on sale. 

 

There are several issues with Hoarding, often the mess becomes a refuge for vermin such as rats, mice and other things.  Sometimes the properties become targets for thieves, squatters and/or vandals.  My uncle has caught people on his property going through the stuff and walking off with it.  He has soo much stuff in places, there probably has been many more occasions and he hasn’t even noticed that goods are gone.  We worry about his health, the time when he might fall surrounded by the mountains of stuff and not be able to get up.  It would be almost impossible if he had some medical issue for the paramedics to be able to extract him from inside one of these properties.  These issues have been raised with him but he either ignores it, laughs it off or just tells people off for having a go at him.  He often says “it’s my life and this is the way I want to live”. 

 

Most neighbours may see it as an eyesore but are very reluctant to complain, even to the relevant authorities.  They don’t want to get involved but are more than willing to sigh and shake their heads.  It is in these cases where there is clear danger to the person themselves and possibly damaging to housing prices in the neighbourhood as well as the spread of vermin that local councils should get involved and force the owners hands.  It seems to be the only way to get through to these people that they have a problem and that the community is willing to work with them but that certain standards should apply.  I realise that one defence to this is that “A man’s home is his castle” and it’s up to him/her what they do with that property.  They must realise that we live in a society and society has these norms often for a reason.  Most people can tell the difference between serious hoarding and general untidiness if they really look at it.

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glen | Reply 31.01.2014 10.58

Very well written. It is so sad when you see a close relative go through something like this, yet being unable to help them.

joan | Reply 30.01.2014 20.54

A sympathetic view of the hoarder while recognizing the impact this has on the lives of the family.

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I have stood by and watched a with concern and love. I admire the way you have handled yourself and the situation. My love with you. In admiration. Fly

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Well, come back the TOG you old git. We will love you unconditionally there.

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Spread your wings you dodo, you might be able to fly.

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