My brother and I moved our 78 year old mentally ill mother closer to me. She is an extreme hoarder and even worse housekeeper. We threw a ton of stuff away, but she thinks it is in storage. There is no storage!! Her house was toxic and there were very few things worth saving. We saved pictures and family items, but she keeps asking for things in storage and I don't know what to do? My brother is back in CA now and I am all alone in this. I never wanted to lie to her about the storage but I also knew that it was the only way we could get her out of the apartment to help her. There were mice feces, bugs, dirt everywhere. Any suggestions would be helpful, because if and when she finds out, there is going to be hell to pay I am sure.

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If your mother is asking for something she needs, replace it. Have her write a list of the things she thinks she needs.
The therapeutic fib could look like this:

You can go so far as to bring her small storage boxes (fake, you prepare them) from "storage".

These made up boxes can include:
A mix of family items and saved pictures that you did keep.
Clean laundry that you have taken home to wash.
Anything "new" that you have purchased for her needs.
Snacks and cookies to distract her.
A new toothbrush, hairbrush.
Get creative.

If she says "I don't remember this", just say you added that to the box because you thought she would like it.

Leave the box for her to go through. Then take the box home, refill it
for next time she asks. When you take the box home, be sure it has some things she won't miss so you can recycle it back to her in the next box you bring from "storage". Think of it as a CARE PACKAGE.
Helpful Answer (21)

Tell her white lies that the lock on the storage door got all rusty and the owner of the storage unit is out of town on vacation and won't be back for two more weeks..
Next time say that a lot of stolen jewelry was found in some of the storage unit and the police won't let anyone take anything out until the detectives search all of the units for additional stolen goods. Next time after that say ok, I will get it for you...Then go buy some inexpensive item that might be similar to what she wants and say that somehow the item got misplaced and you cannot find it so you bought a similar item...Next time say her son is coming back in the fairly near future and he will take a look. You may want to frequently start bringing items from the dollar store that might occupy her mind. You could bring it to a halt down the road by telling her there was a big fire and the contents were all burned up.
Grace + Peace,
Helpful Answer (20)
BKB5150 Oct 2019
Thank you for your ideas. I really appreciate it!!
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Not “lying” or “fibbing”. Using language based tools to develop a comfortable living environment for a damaged mom who needs to be carefully and honestly protected from her own impulses.

”If and when” she finds out, she will be processing THAT information in a damaged and distorted way, and if she yells, (pouts, cries, threatens, etc.) you will respond blandly and noncommittally, as you will from now on moving forward.

She is who she is, and you took on the overwhelming task of fixing her circumstances to be clean and safe. She did not, and WILL NOT, want “clean and safe”, she will want whatever her damaged brain tells her she wants, as you know she will.

You will both have a new “right” and a new “truth” and yours will be based on reality and compassion and healthy restorative distance for yourself, whenever possible. Hers will not.

Remember- “Safe and clean” and as peaceful as you can manage.

You’re doing the right thing.
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XenaJada Oct 2019
Excellent answer
My dad wasn't a hoarder but did have things that meant a lot to him that we couldn't possibly move to his AL apt. I just tell him that they are in a closet at my house. He responds that he'd like to see them sometime. I respond "sure." Next time the discussion starts from go because he doesn't remember the earlier conversation.
Helpful Answer (13)

One suggestion: Get her to write a list of all the things she wants to see. Perhaps put stars on the things that are most important. That should keep her busy for a while. Then go down the list and say that some things on it went back with your brother to California. Perhaps you can ask him to bring them back when he comes (in the distant future, or you keep forgetting to ask him). If there is something little and reasonably cheap, tell her that you’ve looked and looked and can’t find it. Would she like you to get her a replacement? Tell her how much it would cost, and can she afford it? When you might have the time to arrange to get it?

With luck you can break a simple question about wanting her ‘stuff’ into very detailed, complex and forgettable discussions that side track the big question.
Helpful Answer (13)

Tell her your brother has the keys to the storage building..... you don't know anything about it (not really but, maybe). Long term care facilities have to deal with this every day except we change shifts and have days off. If she's a true hoarder she'll have the new place packed in no time. Tell her like it is then get the heck out of there.
Helpful Answer (10)
Yeah, she's going to repeat this hoarding behavior in her new place. Sounds like a professional psychologist should be consulted.
You had to do what you had to do as far as getting rid of her toxic stuff. If she figures it out, she's going to be angry, if you stall and lie, she's going to be angry. Regardless, remind yourself you did what you had to do. You were brave to do it. God bless you.
Helpful Answer (9)

Maybe a little white lie. There was a fire or theft or miscommunication at the storage facility and her stuff is gone? Just a thought so she won't be upset at you for throwing it away.
Helpful Answer (8)
EllensOnly Oct 2019
OMG - This was my 1st thought also! Not so sure it's the right one but it's what flash through my head.

Is it always the same thing she is looking for? Does she forget and then ask for something else another time? Maybe hold her off with "I cant get there this week" or "I tried to find it the other day but must have looked in the wrong box, I'll look again when I have more time" or "Oh brother borrowed that, I'll ask him to bring it back the next time he visits"

Is it something small you can find a replacement for and bring her? Even if its not an exact match she may just think she forgot the details.
There are any number of therapeutic lies, one being that the storage unit was condemned because of pests and was given over for demolision, nothing savable, and you are sorry. Or the truth. We lied. It is all gone; nothing could be saved due to condition and rodent feces and so on. And we are very sorry. Not everything in life can be fixed. I am so sorry. I think either way you are going it is an attempt to save her pain, but the truth is a hoarder separated from the hoard is going to be in pain.
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Since there were mice feces, et al., initially, tell it it was ruined due to the bugs and mice. This gets you out of the dog house and it is partially true. You did the best you knew how in the moment. These decisions are not easy. After the fact, I feel that the best course of action for care providers / family members to forgive themselves for doing what they felt was right at the time, let go of guilt and stress. I would encourage others to keep special mementos (family, wedding photos - things that are really personally meaningful). Clothes, 'stuff,' furniture can all be replaced, one item at a time. gena
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