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


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.

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.


1 2 3
I told mom NO when she asked for more clothes. "If you put one more thing in that closet, it will explode. You have to get rid of something first." and I have stuck to that. She's got more stuff than the Salvation Army for crying out loud.
Helpful Answer (0)

There are great books on hoarding at the library. I tried having my Mother place one or two objects a day at her side in the nearest pile, then she could enjoy it for a day or two before deciding which ONE item would be taken directly to good Will. My brother had to be the "heavy" as she listened to him just to keep him from losing his temper. I also gave us the gift of going trhough things from many years ago, sharing a story about the items and then placing in a box to donate.
Helpful Answer (1)

Your mom is buying all this stuff to make her feel safe and in control of her life. Help her to channel it into helping outside the home.
Helpful Answer (0)

My mother got hooked on those machines that have stuffed animals in them and collected Hundreds of the, My sister gave them to police and fire departments and hospitals. She felt important "collecting them for the children". Unfortunately after a number of years that ran its course and now it is lottery tickets. Gotta find her a new "hobby". We used to deplore the darned stuffed least they were cheap!
Helpful Answer (1)

It sounds like some counseling may be in order. Heck that is what they do on the TV Reality show "hoarders"! : - ) You haven't provided a lot of info on your MIL. How old is she and is she able to pay for all of these things w/o your financial support. And does she have transportation to the stores and a credit card? Obviously, it would be wonderful if you could get her to stop buying (Think getting rid of credit card. Or stop taking her to stores) Does she use the items or are they piled around in her room? Maybe, they can just disappear? (Think return them to the stores if she keeps them in the bags with receipts. )

My MIL started to show tendencies to hang on to everything. W/o a credit card or access to stores, it was holding onto every scrap of paper, note, receipt, newspaper article that she cut out, open food items, containers that came from her restaurants (facility), etc etc. When Hubby and I visited (not often enough) we simply removed items. It was great if she had to use the bathroom during our visit as we could really move things out then! LOL. My offer to help her 'straighten' out her closet resulted in quite a donation of clothing that she admitted she would never wear. I also got the vacuum cleaners out as her mobility wasn't great and housekeeping services were in use. 90% of the time, she never knew we had removed anything!

We JUST moved her closer to us. ALF We streamlined her belongings. YET, other family members continue to bring things, many are ridiculous. Who would bring a 95 year old woman who gets 3 meals a day and 24 hour snack service a 2 pound container of chocolate covered blueberries? The list goes on. Between my husband and myself, we are there several times a week. Out goes the rotting banana, the unwrapped (now hard) brownie, etc etc. My feeling is you have to be somewhat ruthless. It just isn't safe. You can't remove everything but try to stop the incoming and don't be afraid to return things especially the local stuff. Good luck!
Helpful Answer (0)

We are picking up the pieces.
But to stop the madness that pervades my family, it also meant mostly cutting off communications with them. I have not totally shut those down, as I know they might need to communicate things when she dies...
but I am not holding breath that they would let me know that, either.
...just weird family dynamics.
It has taken me over 60 years to "get it" just how dysfunctional they are, and to be sternly proactive at setting limits on their access to me
--I know how effectively they can disassemble my mind and wellness, taught well by Mom for their lifetimes. Having stayed far away for so many years, meant that I got mostly away from all that, until the last 13 years or so.
I have been mourning loss of family all my life, not understood that was what it was...until now.
Now I know what it is, I can work to process that.
Severe chronic depression, anxiety, fear--all that was indoctrinated by that half my family.
So much so, I actually feared going to live with the --other-- half my family, fearing I'd never see Mom's side of family again
...that might have been so, but no one explained any of that to a child, back then.
They let me choose to stay with Mom, and I have paid dearly for that for a lifetime.
I am SURE the "boat" is FULL of plenty of company of people who've been thru similar and worse, and that is probly related to why so many elders get warehoused in long-term care facilities and their kids do not visit much, some not at all.
..staff in those places always wonder why....THAT is why!
IF people fail to bring abusive and dysfunctinonal behaviors out in the open, nothing can be done to remedy them, much less optimally.
Society has SO much work to do on those issues!
Meanwhile, document daily life with the person you care for.
If a police report is needed, start by dialing 911--EVERY TIME someone becomes combative or abusive.
Officials and volunteers might try to talk you out of it, or try to tell you it is too late, or try to convince you it is useless to report something they cannot witness...but report it anyway: those people are wrong to tell you things like that.
Document if you call Crisis Lines, and the content of the discussion.
DO make, keep appointments with counseling.
Try to get the person you take care of, to attend counseling too--they likely will refuse, but try, and document the tries.
Try to get the Doc to evaluate them.
It may take many attempts.
Make sure the Doc has documents from you for the elder's files, IF that elder has history of alcohol or other substance use, their dysfunctional behavior patterns, etc. that the Doc might not know about unless you write a letter and have them put it into that file.
I did report Mom's substance use history to one of her Docs.
..and warned him that she might ask for drugs.
They kinda ignored that, because she was usually so sweet and flirty during appointments.
..until the day she flagrantly flirted and asked for narcotics for pain "just in case".
The Doc left the room to check on something--[her file!], returned, and wrote her a script for something else [NSAID].
In the car, she asked me to translate what it was--I told her, and she went verbally balistic all the way home, and threw away the script.
Acting out happens.
Thankfully, she is no longer living in our house.
Thankfully, we have managed to prevent getting evicted.
Thankfully, our landlords compassionately helped us get our yard cleaned up [lots of leftovers from her shopping sprees at nurseries and junk stores].
So far, we still have a roof over us, no more rodents, no more bugs from her piles of junk.
But we still feel like we're in a state of shock, and have not yet been capable of doing the kind of cleaning and maintenance on things in our lives beyond bare necessities.
We are just barely managing to start getting some medical and psych care.
We are grappling with serious health and legal issues related to those and getting coverage.
But one step at a time, we are putting ourselves back together and starting over.
At this point, we look at each other, and worry about what we might devolve into when older...I worry that I might become more like Mom...
God forbid! and my kids have to care for us...I dearly hope not!
I just pray that we live decently, and die suddenly in our sleep, still reasonably coherent and reasonabley able to care for ourselves.
...but that might be another delusion! ;-/
Those of us who deal with these things, must keep helping support each other--I am so thankful to have found pages like these! Wish I'd found them sooner.
Now I am more than happy to share what suggestions might help others to get thru it.
Helpful Answer (0)

Oh, man.. my dad has filled 3 outdoor sheds with items he's purchased, or picked up at dumpsters. This collecting has been going on my whole life. I even learned to drive on garbage night. Sunday nights were driving lesson nights because garbage was picked up Monday mornings in my aunt's nice neighborhood, and people would put their garbage cans out Sunday night. I'd drive, and he'd scout out the "good" cans. It was mortifying. He'd be yelling for me to stop so that he could pick up a broken picture frame, mangled umbrella, whatever, and I'd be pleading with him to stay in the car, just mortified that someone would see us. He even gave me driving lessons in the cemetery so that I could stop at the pile of dead flowers that had been collected from grave sites so that he could take the urns from the discarded arrangements.

My brother and I go over to his house and raid the sheds or spare bedrooms now and get rid of stuff while Dad is napping or has been in the hospital. He has no idea that anything is missing. I just about died one day when we discovered a Pee Wee Herman doll in one of his stashes. Where does one find something like that and why? I also accept any gift he gives me from his stash of treasures. I bring whatever it is, home, and throw it out. I don't know how you can manage your MIL, because if she's anything like my Dad, she won't want to part with her things. All I can suggest is raids! Its worked for us to be able to keep the junk at bay, but if your MIL is more with it than my dad, you're not going to get away with it. My dad now goes through the household trash since he can't get to the junk stores or dumpsters without me driving. He pulls out the empty shampoo bottles and any can or jar he thinks is particularly nice. And, I guess if raids won't work, the other thing we did was just give the man some metal sheds in the yard so that he wouldn't fill up the house too much. It didn't stop his collecting, but the spare bedrooms were freed up.
Helpful Answer (0)

My mother hoarded blankets. She lived through the depression and WWII and she said she would never be cold again. When she could no longer live alone and we closed up her one bedroom apt we counted 34 blankets and quilts for just one woman. Thank goodness that was the worst of it. But she also loved to buy clothes.. She had about 60 pairs of pants and sweats. These things are not just
collecting things it is hoarding at best. Good luck to you on getting her to stop. Oh
by the way when she moved into my house I insisted that we clean. She had old electric bills from 1958. Again good luck.
Helpful Answer (0)

I just had another idea. If your parent likes to read, try paperback The only cost is postage. You post books you don't want, people request them, a mailing form with the postage amount can be printed or you can write the address. Wrap the book in paper, mail, get a credit, and then you order a book. It works very quickly, and I often have 20 credits built up at a time. It is a great way to quell the urge to spend money. Book tapes are on there, too.
Helpful Answer (2)


My mother is dead. She was an alcoholic and a hoarder. The problem with hoarding is the accusations of throwing things out and blaming you for throwing her things out. Those fights were tough.

My mother filled an entire house and then went out to the barn and started filling it up. She would take any furniture left on the side of the road. Anything on sale. Fabrics...OMG, we had so much fabric. I don't think she understood QVC or we'd probably have had more stuff. (I wish she hoarded antiques or valuable items but alas, it is all crap she hoarded.)

I have no advice for you except it was very important in our place to keep the horse section of the barn neat and uncluttered for the animals. And I was very clear about that. Every time something landed in that section, I'd toss it in the section she'd pretty much filled. I'd stuff that section to the rafters. So there was an invisible boundary, cross it and the stuff would be gone.

We just cleaned out one of the rooms in our house. Room is about 11 x 17 or smaller and we got 125 black plastic bags of stuff out of just ONE room. We finally got the whole house and basement cleaned out and now will start on the barn.

Hoarding is horrible. I did learn a lot from those TV shows but I have no advice to stop the person except just shoving all the stuff back in her room until she has no space. Or simply state things place "here" or "there" automatically get thrown away. I was pretty tough with my mother about the horse section and she did back away from stacking that area to the rafters with crap.

On a funny note, all the years my brother and I dealt with the hoarding...Shoot, if we needed anything, we'd "mine" the area in the barn for the item. Not there, then we'd buy it. It got to a point that my mother didn't really know what she had. But sometimes she'd surprise you and some forgotten trinket would be the object of her need-to-see. Always someone stole it or someone threw it out deliberately...but maybe it was something we "mined."

Good luck!
Helpful Answer (1)

1 2 3
This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.