How can I stop my live-in mother-in-law from shopping us out of space?

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She has lived with us for over two years. She loves to shop online and in stores every week. She has a bedroom, bathroom, and a large storage closet that we emptied for her. She filled up the storage closet, most of the bathroom, and most of the floor space in her bedroom with stuff. Last week she bought three large new items including a sewing machine and a printer. She has no space left, but can't stop collecting bargains. She even gives us stuff we do not need.
She refuses to believe there is anything wrong. She has osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis, and her room is full of tripping hazards. We do not want to throw her out. We hired an organizer who came in and helped for a few months, but mother-in-law decided she no longer needed that help.

Answers 1 to 10 of 24
I had this problem with my mother when she first moved in.... only it was with dollar store stuff! She has a bedroom and large closet but the bathroom is a shared downstairs bathroom. The only way to stop it was to get firm and say no more... my house is decorated the way I want it... I told her emphatically that unless it is something that she wants or "needs" for her own room that's fine but nothing else is acceptable... unfortunately, it did not stick until I started throwing out stuff she bought for elsewhere then her room... it was tough to do but now we are at peace.
My Mom does something similar. She buys so much stuff especially clothes she never wears. She constantly orders things and returns them. Since she's in assisted living and doesnt drive I have to take either them back to the store or UPS.

She constantly buys things for me as well. Often it's just junk, that looks much better in the catalog or on QVC than in real life.

It drives me crazy. I wonder what others say.
Top Answer
If you have a parent that really likes to shop, ask a school if she can adopt a class. Assign her a certain amount of money each month to spend.As a teacher, I would have loved help. We all buy a lot of what goes in our rooms. Treats, help at holidays, decorations, posters, coloring books, etc. are always welcome. Perhaps this will help to develop an interest other than shopping for a parent if she gets to know the teacher and class.
How does your husband feel about this? Can you enlist his help?
Wonderful suggestion from the teacher. Also maybe she could volunteer at a local hospital, reading to ill children or working in a library during story hour or in a classroom. She needs something to make her feel needed and useful. If she sews, there are a number of groups who make everything from hats and pillows for cancer patients to blankets for children and elderly patients. Serrapeptase will do wonders for her arthritis. I use the Doctor's Best Brand from Take it on an empty stomach with a full glass of water. It took 4 days to work for me and can take up to a month, but I no longer have the debilitating pain. Check it out on line!
Judy, that is great idea if she was a volunteer before, or at least an outgoing person. If however, she was not. . . I know that I will likely be volunteering in my last days as I did so for most of my life, but I have never ever been able to convince my husband to, and so he sits at home in front of the boob tube and drinks his beers and smokes his cigarettes and has decided to be miserable. My mother is a shopper and not a volunteer. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

And if she has always been a shopaholic, you really really have a problem. I have a friend who may very well be homeless soon, partly due to this problem.

If it were me, I'd take away the credit card. After all, it's her house that the MiL is causing a problem in. I just took away my husband's bank card because he is causing a problem in our joint account with his extra beer/cigarette purchases. Fortunately he knows he is wrong and gave it up willingly if unhappily.
RLP That is a Fantastic Idea!!!! As long as she is financially able, that might work. Working, (campus security), and volunteering in schools for over twenty years I know first hand how teachers would be absolutely THRILLED with this! She might want to see her gifts in the classroom, maybe pics or a visit Scottch?
That is a wonderful idea to have her shop to help others!
It sounds like she is a "hoarder".
Take a hard look at her behavior patterns.
Does she prefer to sit amongst her stuff, or does she come out of her space and mingle freely with family?
Does her conversation contain pleanty of referrences to "saving or stocking up stuff just in case" and things that are scary in the world; or things that are magical thinking?
IF she tends to spend more of her time alone amongst her piles of stuff, she is an emotional hoarder--it is a mental/emotional problem...
....that means, she somehow does not feel safe without piles of stuff around her
...afraid of running out of something;
...afraid of having to do without supplies.
Also, it could be she is a pathological buyer
...discovering WHY she cannot control her buying sprees, needs to be learned, in order to find effective method to curb her buying.
Hoarders usually have bad experiences in thir past that drive excessive buying--it does not matter what they buy--cheap or expensive is immaterial--it is the act of buying, stocking up, being in control of things...even if it may not appear as that on the surface.
One has to understand the underlying causes, to effect a good change in behavior--she needs help to effect a change, and you need help to cope with it.
you are faced with living with a hoarder who's habits can and will take over your whole house; it can endanger the health and safety of the entire home and residents.
We lived with my mother for 6 years.
I still cannot imagine how I could have been so deluded as to think she would change her behaviors simply by having to live within a tinier space, and being among supportive family...we even well understood why she did it.
BUT, her mental conditions blocked any help or change.
We finally managed to stimulate previously unhelpful other siblings to take her in. Bless 'em!
It was an ugly transfer, but we were literally lucky to get out of it with our lives--how intact or restorable our emotional/mental health can be, remains to be seen.
Mom's choices and behaviors nearly destroyed us financially, emotionally, physically, and nearly got us evicted.
No 2 people could keep up with her behaviors, expectations, and habits.
We were prevented from finding her other more suitable living arrangements for 6 years.
I highly recommend you do NOT wait that long!!!
IF your Mom-in-law cannot stop herself from buying stuff,
and you are seeing signs that it is not going to change,
and if there are no other relatives to bless her behaviors onto,
it is time to seek assisted living, or, her own tiny place by herself.
Might check into your local area's version of "Area Agency on Aging".
See what senior resources are available.
Do not wait until you are so stressed it becomes an emergency.
Oh--and BTW--
DOCUMENT all her behaviors, at least on a calendar or in a diary
....comments that indicate she is not thinking straight, things she does--daily.
IF there is ANY hint of violent anger issues, document these, too,
and, if overt, call 911 to get them into a police report.
If there is any hint that she is not thinking straight, you might need that documentation to get her declared incompetent to handle her finances,
before she loses all her money that is needed to pay for her care.
Our Mom did away with $250K within less than 2 years
--egged on by my other sibs.
Because of that, she was not able to afford to make a modest home for herself, nor pay for care she might need.
She should have been declared incompetent long ago, but, because my other sibs were helping her pass as normal, literally blocking reporting her issues to Docs, we were hogtied for getting her constructive help.
I tried to get more history and documentation of her behaviors from sibs, one of them questioned why I would need to report her historic alcohol and substance use to her new Doc..!!! [duh?!]
BTW--a hoarder will NOT likely want to buy stuff to help others
--they are about accumulating stuff to help "protect" themselves.
While they might do a little bit to help others, they mostly hoard for themselves--regardless of what they might verbally state to the contrary.
Hope this helps.
You have your hands full. IT is important for you to set limits on her buying madness....MAYBE, with help, you can convince her to limit her buying to helping others...but it is not likely.
Under NO circumstances should you allow her to start renting more storage, or placing storage buildings in your yard...tell her that it is against the rules in your neighborhood, or something official, to place larger limits on her behaviors than what you can personally impose.
Since she is savvy enough to buy online, it might be possible to install a "net nanny" program to make buying online suddenly not work?
But she WILL get angry at anyone placing limits on her behaviors.
The best process is to get her to understand how unhealthy her habits are, that she must understand that you need to protect the health and stability of your home and family, that her habits are endangering that.
Make "I" statements about your feelings and needs.
Your Mom-in-law may be mourning losses, and covering those feelings by pathological buying and hoarding...psychologically, that helps her feel she still owns things and is in control of her life--even though that is in reality, false/distorted thinking.
Hope this helps!

Chimoger...excellent suggestions!
Wow, Chimonger, that is some heavy stuff. You have been through the mill and my heart goes out to you and your family. I hope you are all getting some counseling as to how to put the pieces back together.

Hoarding is a disease. It's like dementia, only it's a mental illness. You can't just talk them out of it.

Scott, I think you might have posted about this before, I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I think you have to take some firm steps to stop this. It is your home and if your MIL is ill and it shows up in her hoarding, then you should ask yourself if you can live with this or not. How does your wife feel about it. That's important information for us to understand.

I don't know how old your MIL is or what her other health issues may be, but more information would be helpful.


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