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She was a class 5 hoarder, with trash 4+ feet throughout the house and so full she could no longer get in. We rescued her 8 months ago, got her cancer surgery, and established in a memory care unit near our home. Her house was like this for at least the last 30-40+ years.

The town she lives in just gave us 2 weeks to move the cars off her house lot, and the inspector found two more in the bushes, total 3. There is one very poor man whom I paid to mow the grass all fall, so I have left him a message to see if he wants anything he can haul off on the outside, including the cars.

I have a lot of shame because I grew up there and was blamed by narcissistic mom for the mess. I know in my heart that was not true, because I have 6 children, 5 at home and who are home schooled, and I live on a small farm with all that entails, and my house is clean.

I am embarrassed I have not been able to get the place cleaned up even just on the outside. I plan to hire a hoarding specialist in June, the first oppty I have to spend significant time 5 hours away from home.

I could use significant amounts of encouragement at this time!

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Thanks for the input, Surprise. I'll pass that info along to my hubby as it's his step-mom and he will need to address it with her. I've decided to stay out of the situation as my involvement would only add to the confusion and complicate things more.
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Happyjack,
Don Aslett is a great cleaning guru, and somewhere in his writing says that storage units are used to store junk. Anything that has not been needed long enough to go in the unit is really not needed. In college, I thought I was supposed to keep everything. When I read Aslett, it gave me permission to let those things GO!!

There are shows on TV about the auctions of the contents of storage units when renters don't pay. Your MIL may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of going through the stuff. You could ask if there was anything specific the heirs needed to know about in the unit. That thing might need to be rescued before dementia sets in and they forget to pay, causing the junk to be sold.
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The second house was my grandmother's, who (Thank God!) raised me while my mother cared for my father for 5 years until he died. My grandmother had everything in great order AND had a cook/maid - no obvious OCD or hoarding issues. When Grandmother went to the nursing home, her house became another storage unit for my mother's auction junk.

Sadly, Grandmother had beautiful real antique furniture that my mother ruined. Mother locked a big dog up in the house, and fed it and let it run in the yard about once a month for a few years while Grandmother was alive. That was to "protect the house," but all it did was to ruin what was there and to abuse another dog.

My only reason for even looking in that house is to find a photo of my grandmother. I have none, and I consider her my "real" mommy. I barely remember what her face looked like, but I remember her hands clearly. :)
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I had to step away from what my husband and his sister's were doing with their mom's stuff. There are 4 of them and they haven't asked for any help. I have gladly, stayed out of it. I do have my own Mother to worry about and I will have to go through her stuff, quickly. I am going to dump what I can and people better stay out of my way. Good uck.
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My MIL has some hoarding issues as well. She is trying to go through things but due to her poor health, she is very limited as to what she can physically do. She has hired someone to come in but that person hasn't been there in a long while. My in-laws have been paying on a storage unit since 1988 - can't imagine what could be so important yet stored for 24 years!

My concern is when my in-laws pass my MIL's 2 daughters and my husband (immediate family) will need to go through all the "stuff" and one of the sisters has already stated that there isn't a need to go through things quickly. My concern is that an empty house is not a good situation. Also, the sisters live only a few minutes from in-laws house where we live an hour away. Any suggestions?
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It appears you've had two generations of your family struggle with this. I truly think that hoarding is an outward manifestation of inward trauma and bottled-up feelings. You didn't cause it and you probably can't fix it for someone else. All you can do is apply the Serenity prayer - decide what you can do and let go of what you can't, including the guilt and the past. You can't change them; all you can do is decide how you move forward and make a better inheritance for future generations.
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Just FYI, so far as the cars are concerned, Teen Challenge is an organization in many US states that takes donations of old cars and will take care of hauling them off in any condition (running or not) and give you tax credit receipts. There are probably other such charities interested in them, too.
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For me it's making my bed, if I can make my bed, I feel very accomplished, so I never even get out of my bed until I have made it first. Yep, it's quite the trick.
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Surprise, youa are one brave and smart cookie! Best of luck at the scence fair, have a lovely Easter. Oh, and write youself a prim and polite little speech in case you run into anh of those "leading families". "I know you understood about mom, s mental illness and am so glad you tried to help". Say it without snark. It'll make them feel their shame, properly placed.
Placed. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
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Surprise, youa are one brave and smart cookie! Best of luck at the scence fair, have a lovely Easter. Oh, and write youself a prim and polite little speech in case you run into anh of those "leading families". "I know you understood about mom, s mental illness and am so glad you tried to help". Say it without snark. It'll make them feel their shame, properly placed.
Placed. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
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What a blast form the past!! Flylady taught me to shine my sink, even if nothing else gets done...some days nothing else DOES get done, but my sink doesn't stink.
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The city is going to check to see if the cars were moved on Mon, just so we can do something else if the cars etc have not been moved. The city manager is being really helpful, and is willing to give us referrals to people who will be glad for the work. Apparently the unemployment in the area is about 15%, so this huge burden on me is going to be a blessing on at least one family!

I REALLY need to think of how this can be a blessing, because it has never felt like one before. I love FLYlady, she is who taught me to look for the blessing, and I just have to take babysteps!
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Please shake off the shame NOW! Your mom has/had an illness that created this situation and it wasn't until recently that we even learned that hoarding was considered a mental health symptom/illness. You did the best you could for your mom and her problems, all while trying to grow up, get established and start your own family. Pat yourself on the back for what you have done. Your mom is safe, more or less healthy, and you are doing what you can to satisfy the town's requirements per their codes. You have done a good job. None of this is easy.
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Positive: If I have a mask on, no one would recognize me.... My asthma is not going to allow me in the house at all. I am thinking easy up in the parking lot, U haul truck ready to load anything worth keeping, and dump trucks flowing to the landfill while the hoarding crew brings me stuff to examine. If I have to do this, I am doing it in as comfy way as possible.

My mother bought enough "antique" furniture (old, dilapidated) to fill up one side and the entire upstairs, plus a tenant house she had moved to the back I forgot about, and I suspect her mother's house is full too. She always said that when I grew up I could have my choice of furniture, but she would only part with the worst furniture when I got my first apartment.

I talked to the lawn mowing man tonight, and he asked if he could have one of the 5 doors he moved into grandmother's house last year! Doors, for crying out loud!! I said NO- one thing at a time. He is taking ALL three cars Saturday, and I am joyful!
I have talked to so many people today trying to figure this out, and I was so hoping this man would come through. I do not mind him benefiting from this at all - he is a sharecropper on 30 ac, and grows a 10 ac market patch. That is his income plus the odd jobs. If he can be blessed by those nasty cars, I am all for it!

I would not have gotten through the day without you ladies helping me. Thank you. Now I have a concrete plan!
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I know how you feel, surprise. One thing that I ran into a lot the two years that I was clearing my mother's house was her absolute state of denial. I was lucky that she was not a hardcore hoarder. After 3-4 months of talking to her about getting rid of things, she finally let me start donating and trashing. I was able to reclaim the kitchen and dining room fairly quickly. The frustrating thing for me was when I cleared a space, she would put something else there. At least you won't have to deal with that happening.

It is sad, because still to this day I can't clean the house. I tackled some of the closets and got them orderly, but some of them are so jam packed I don't know what to do with the stuff. And the whole house is filled with big furniture. Her solution to needing more storage room was not to get rid of the old, but to buy another piece of furniture for storage. I would love to paint the house and clean it until it shined, but I can't work with all this big furniture covering the floors and walls. Hoarding is frustrating for everyone around but the hoarder.

There is no shame for you. Just be sure to keep your mask on. Big hugs as you work through this.
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And yes, there are two houses, just one is in really bad condition, and the other just needs the saplings cut back to make the town happy. The second one was my grandmothers'- my mother hoarded the whole house and contents there too. No idea how deep it is.
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Sadly, the owner is financially liable for cleaning up the place. Does not matter if we hire a private co or the city comes in, we have to pay, or pay interest on the bill. I'd like to have something left for me when all is said and done and not spend it all on interest. However, forget about bringing it up to code! I lied!!

There are 3 places where there might be things of interest. A curio, with my baby photos and school pix from childhood; a "wardrobe", with boxes packed in 1972 from her move; and the special room I was never allowed in, and which was cut off from dog traffic too, that contains all my father's "stuff" from his office etc. He was stricken with a stroke in 1968, and I never knew him, nor was allowed to see anything. Now that I am in charge, I am going to get that stuff and look at what was protected more than me.

I hope the fire department will agree to burn it. Otherwise, I plan to sit in the parking lot and cheer when the bulldozer comes in. But first, I have to clear the yard to even have a place for a dumpster. I guess that will go where the better car is in the driveway. She had been pottying back there when she could not get into the house, so it would be a good place for a dump-ster. Just don't tell the clean up crew! :p
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I am glad you are printing! :)

Now, you didn't say; did you want the house? Because if it were me I'd just walk away and flip off the city. All those people who never even Tried to help? Let them deal with it. It seems like a whole lot of work and a TON of money just to clean it, never mind bringing it up to code. And you have to wonder, once you clean it, can you even get all those nasty smells out? Probably better to bulldoze it to the ground and sterilize the earth somehow.

Yeah, these boots were made for walking. . . *grin*
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Thank you all so much for giving me this support today. This afternoon she called, and I was able to answer the phone and be detached. Of course, she wanted to go home, and I told her that would be fine once we get it up to code (I was lying). She was shocked that there might be holes in the ceiling, much less 5 feet wide! She did not know anything about the floor being out one of the bathrooms! Horrors! All my fault because I was keeping her here.

She suggested she could go live in her mother's house (also full, but I don't know how bad yet). I said we would have to get a certificate of occupancy to get the power turned back on since she had it turned off after that fire. She remembers nothing about a fire, and that was about 1985, so I minimized that.

I said did not know what would be required for the inspection. We would need to have it treated for termites though. Well, she had this done already! :) Why, when the fat man went under the house to do it, he had to pull out all the heating vents. She "had him stack up the junk pipe in the parking lot because she was going to put it back under there herself, then it got grown up with weeds and she gave it to somebody for scrap because she forgot what it was for." That was about 1980, she is living 30 years in the past!

I praised her to the highest, that was great, we needed to change the pipes and get a new heat pump with a/c, and get rid of that old oil furnace! This was really starting to bother her now, since I was talking about "real money," and she decided maybe she did not want to encourage me anymore in fixing up a house for her. :D
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I knew a man who went through a similar experience. Except that his sister had the house crammed with new stuff - new unwrapped. Towels, blankets, sheets, small appliances, etc.

He would get one room cleaned out and find another door that had been blocked with packages.

He was 70ish, himself and the job was over whelming.

They had 3 days of sales just from one house. He kept saying 'Why did my sister do this to me?" Yikes. I think that I would have tried to sell the house "As is" and you get what is inside. The $$ he made, wasn't worth the clean up.

I think that I would refuse to take ownership of a home, even if it was left to me.
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Bless your heart, dear Surprise:) We are beside you and behind you. Big Hug!
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IT IS NOT MY FAULT IT IS NOT MY FAULT IT IS NOT MY FAULT
Printing....

Thankfully, my mother is no longer living in the home, and it is the only house on the block, without even across the street neighbors.

I feel a lot of anger at many of the "leading families" in town, all who live within a couple of blocks, who simply turned away from the problem especially when I was a child living there. Now that she is out of town, they finally want something done, and now. It seems like it would have been more helpful a few decades earlier!

When we rescued mother, hubby took her to the doc and I walked around the house taking pix for our guardianship case. The bushes are completely grown up 20+ feet high, so no one can see into her private retreat from the world. She had a couple of brown kiddy pools full of mosquito larva, broken plastic chairs all over, garbage bags she changed her mind on throwing away, full (!!) bottles of ?? and empty food wrappers, you name it. She even had a little storage building for tools, but then the lawn mower was pushed under a porch. I also found one of her dogs she had lost and had been looking for, under a tarp where she covered it when it died. The car(s?) is/are full up to the windows, and there were mouse feces on the dash. Ew.

I will gladly pay someone well who can clean this up for me so when I hire that professional hoarding cleanup this summer, I won't have to see the garbage on the outside!

I guess I don't like being told I have to, NOW, since we have the high school state science fair this week, and Holy Week next. I will not be able to be there - maybe that is better. I completely understand about the town wanting it cleaned up, and now is probably better than when the mosquitoes start again.

Christina, you are right about the toilets. Ooh bad memories deleted here!!!
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I know what you mean, Christina. My mother taught daycare when she got older, so egg cartons, chicken pot pie shells, TV dinner trays, etc. built up. Nothing was thrown out. Food never went bad in her mind, even if it was 20 years old. Cans and boxes of food climbed to the ceiling. There was no cabinet or table space available.

Christmas stayed all year, just got moved to my old bedroom for most of the year. We had to plow a path to get through the bedrooms. Now there is only one room that is hoarded. It has my mother's old clothes -- racks and racks of awful, worn out things. She won't let me touch them, though. I guess they are who she is, so I leave this room alone.
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Hugs and hugs to you - you have received wonderful support in above posts - so sorry you have had to deal with this sort of thing. How and where we are raised is out of our control. Take care.
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Ditto, JessieBelle:) Some of the hoarders lived through the Depression, which Used to be given as a reason for saving a bazillion plastic margarine tubs and extra lids. Now I am absolutely certain that was a convenient excuse. For my Mother, at least:)
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I'm the child of a hoarder, so I know how bad it can be. There is nothing to be ashamed of, since you haven't been living there. A hoarder loves to buy things, but doesn't like to throw things out. Sometimes it is because of laziness -- it's easier to just stick something in the back room than it is to properly dispose of it. Sometimes it is because everything has the potential of being needed again. Trying to convince them to get rid of it causes an unbelievable amount of anger and anxiety.

Hoarding is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder. There seems to be a genetic component, but if it hasn't shown up yet in you, it probably won't. I have the opposite tendency -- I often donate or trash things before I should. The idea of clutter is terrible to me. It is probably because of what I saw with my mother.

I hope the cleanup goes quickly, surprise. And I hope you find some good things amongst all the clutter.
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We had to get a company in that specialized in order to get my in-laws home taken care of too. I think it was paid for by money that I found stashed in drawers all over the place but my brother in law arranged for it. We felt really ashamed too, though Mutti, who had chornic severe untreated mental health issues, had been the one to refuse all help and threaten to call the police when help was sent anyways. The nice city social worker who helped place her when things finally completely fell apart for them, after Pop died of his aneurysm he refused treatment for, understood that we felt bad about it and wished so badly we could have seen the end coming and done more somehow. She smiled and said she saw a lot of this sort of thing, and even that she'd seen worse. We thought the roach swarms and various odors and hazards and taped over covered over rooms and furniture that had been urinated on were bad enough.

My mom's place was OK for an estate sale company to come in and do most of it. I still had a fair amount to prepare and pick up afterwards. My cousin, whom I admire, did most of her mom's place herself, but she had only lost housekeeping ability and become a hoarder for the last 7-10 years. I came up and helped with the bathrooms and she had some friends help too. It was not done overnight. There were hundreds of full trash bags (the big kind) involved, she had to divvy it up and not put them all out at once.

Maybe you could donate the excess cars? There are a lot of charities who want cars, and even if they are just parts for scrap it could be of some help.
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I'm sorry Surprise...but I totally agree with PamelaSue. This is not your fault. As much as it hurts to know that this was how you lived and how she lived for many years. Your mom is sick...it is a disease. Not one that is inherited. So you cannot blame yourself. The situation of clean up can not be done by you. She would have to come to terms of letting it go before anyone could do anything. It's better that it happens like this. It's out of your hands. I work for someone who is borderline hoarder. She was divorced and then lost both of her parents around the same time. I clean as much as I can, but I cannot throw things away. So corners of her house there is stacks of mail, clothes, and lots of stuff. It's really hard for me to leave things this way.. but she would regress to worst conditions if I were to remove the mess. So as much as you would like to take the blame. It's up to her to get the help. Don't blame yourself.
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Surprise, you are your own separate soul, mind, personality. You are ordered, sane, and caring.
I think hoarding must be a type of mental illness--I am not diagnosing it, it just seems that from those I have experienced who do it, there is usually the other crappola that goes along with it: Fear, paranoia, and too much self-awareness.

I would not be "surprised" if they never flushed their toilets. ( I do not mean to be gross, just illustrating my point:)

They want to hang on to everything that is "all about them," because they are empty, shallow souls who cannot get out of their own way. It is a sad phenomenon, but it is a crazy world anymore, and people seem to develop strange behaviors as coping mechanisms.
Instead of reaching out to others in a helping, giving, productive way, they retreat and gather garbage. How can that be healthy or normal?

It's a shame and it is embarrassing, but it's not how you are. Those who are sick never think there is anything wrong with them.

Surprise, you are fine. Take deep breaths ( but not around your Mother's house) and focus on the task at hand, knowing you are handling the situation out of duty, not shame. I'l bet we could eat off the floor of your lovely home:) Take care, xo
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read this OUT LOUD as many times over as you need to believe it: IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT. IT'S NOT MY FAULT.

Honey, I want you to print that up, hang it on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, the computer screen, and wherever else you might be paused. You did not do this. It was a life your mother chose, NOT YOU.

I am so sorry that you are stuck with this mess; is there anyway of getting out of it? It sounds to me like you already have enough on your plate. How is the house Your responsibility? Do you want this house?
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