Children of Hoarders Struggle with Possessions - A Personal Story
Coming to terms with “stuff” when you have a parent that didn't is a monumental task. The New York Times did a piece on children with hoarders that accurately describes the “all or nothing” mentality many children of hoarders develop, and the hard work they need to do in adulthood to overcome issues from their childhood, including a lack of understanding of how to do basic household chores.
This piece resonated with me in a powerful way. My mother was a hoarder. She didn't start out a hoarder, though she always liked “stuff”. She had a degree in Home Economics (do they even offer those anymore?) and when I was little, she kept a spotlessly clean house, sewed and baked and cooked and ran a consignment shop out of the garage and did all the things that busy stay at home moms do.
As her children got older and more independent, though, she didn't adjust well. She started sleeping later and later in the day, and when she woke up, she often wandered around aimlessly rather than doing anything with her day. “Stuff” began to pile up, covered in cigarette smoke (cigarettes are what killed her) and pet hair. By the time she died, she was living in a 20 foot long motor home stacked to the ceiling in unopened bags of clothes she had bought from catalogs. Her furniture was all in storage, along with boxes and boxes of “memorie”. Everything in the motorhome, including the new clothes, had to be thrown out, as it was so badly covered in cigarette smoke and cat urine. We tried to help her, but she wouldn't budge.
The NYT piece talks about a genetic component. I can absolutely relate. When I was a very young adult, newly married and on my own for the first time, I didn't do dishes, I didn't do laundry, I didn't clean up the house at all. Neither did my then husband, and monumental fights broke out occasionally. After the divorce, I lived with my newborn son and began cleaning more out of necessity (seeing a pattern here?) Like my mother, I could “keep it together” when I was needed, but struggled with finding self motivation. My oldest son, at twenty-two, seems to have inherited the same problem. Time will only tell how he will cope.Continued on the next page