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My mother is and has been a hoarder for most of her adult life and is
just now acknowledging that the problem is serious enough to get help.
We have been looking for a therapist in the east bay (she's kind of
centrally located in Castro Valley but is willing to travel) who deals
with issues of hoarding and also OCD and organizational and attention
problems as she identifies having some of these other features as well.
Can you help us simplify our search and find someone who has that
expertise and/or someone you can recommend?
You will probably need to take a multi-pronged approach. My friend Kathleen
Crombie specializes in working with hoarders and their families to clean up and
get organized. She can also refer your mom to an experienced therapist. Find
more info at www.inorderto-organize.com.
You might want to check with Michael Tompkins, Ph.D., at the SF Bay Area Center
for Cognitive Therapy (in Oakland). He specializes in anxiety/depression/OCD and
has written a book called
Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Cutter, Hoarding, and Compulsive
He is usually pretty busy, but he may be able to refer your mom to someone else.
Also, as the child of a hoarder, I am sure that you have many feelings around
your mother's hoarding. In case you are not aware, there is a helpful online
support group for Children of Hoarders:
Best to you both.
Berkeley has 2 Clutterers Anonymous meetings-- Mondays at
7:30 PM and Tuesdays at 10 AM, both at Epworth Church, 1952
Hopkins. I saw 2 therapists recommended in the previous
replies to your post and want to say that I saw one of them
who was completely unhelpful-- nothing has come close to the
support I've gotten from this understanding and welcoming
group. My home is now clean, clear, and beautiful-- a true
sacred space. Recovering Clutterer
I can also recommend the services of Kathleen Crombie both
personally and professionally. I have worked with her as an
organizer and know for a fact that she has dealt with the
extremest of circumstances with integrity and
professionalism. I would also suggest you visit the website
for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization
http://www.challengingdisorganization.org/ to get some tips
on what it means to be a child of a ''hoarding'' parent. If
you still have questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Simply stated my Mother is a hoarder. Not as bad as you see
on some of the tv shows, but her home is standing room only
and there aren't even that many places to stand. She doesn't
keep garbage and the place doesn't smell, but she hasn't
done real housework in 30 years. So far we have taken a
mostly hands-off approach with her problem because she has
been independent and highly functioning outside of her home.
She has since retired, lost some of her mobility (using a
cane), and is experiencing some hearing loss. Her doctors
seem to think this is all normal for her age (mid 70's) but
the combination of things has really affected her self
confidence. She seems depressed, increasingly isolated, and
the hoarding is really getting out of control. She claims
not to want help with the hoarding because she ''likes it
that way'' but we all know it is a huge factor in her
unhappiness. I am her closest friend and main support. We
spend a lot of time together but I am really overwhelmed. I
don't know if she or I need a therapist, an organizer, a
support group, or all of the above. I just know we need some
help. Has anyone successfully dealt with this kind of
problem? I'm desperate for suggestions or just personal
experiences with what worked and what didn't. I'm having a
hard time not being critical and blaming even when I know it
will only make things worse.
I found this link with resources and a tip sheet for dealing
with elderly hoarding that looks really helpful:
It's a mental health issue and can become a public safety
issue. I would also strongly encourage your mother to
consider getting a hearing aid or two to help her hear
better. Costco offers hearing tests and aids or there is
probably a hearing center located nearby. Untreated hearing
loss is most likely contributing to any depression she may
be suffering, as not being to hear can lead to feeling
powerless and social isolation as people get frustrated when
they try to communicate with other people and give up by
staying home. Many people balk at hearing aids, seeing them
as an admission of old age, but as someone who has worn them
since age 3, I can attest that many young people wear
hearing aids just as most people wear glasses. They are
expensive, but they work!
hope this helps
I just finished the book ''Stuff''
and I highly recommend it for you. There are resources at
the end of the book for people in your situation.
Call the Mental Health Association. They have the an Institute
on Hoarding and Cluttering and have services for you and your
mom (if willing) Their # is 415-421-2926
I am a graduate student in gerontology and recently attended
a lecture on elderly hoarding and came across some resources
that may be helpful to you:
A book geared for families: Digging Out by Michael Tompkins.
Other experts to research are Randy Cross and Barbara Soniat
who, when I searched found a PowerPoint with other good
references. (see link below) She also wrote a chapter on
Hoarding in Empowering Social Workers for Practice with
Vulnerable Older Adults.
Websites recommended are: ocfoundation.org/hoarding
Wish you and your mother well.
Hoarding can be a sign of mental illness and depression is
a mental illness. I have a parent who has dementia that
started out with slight depression and then the hoarding
crept in gradually over a 10 year period. Your parent
needs medical help, but that being said, it is extremely
hard to find the correct kind without having a medical
background yourself to manage all the potential stray
paths caused by well intentioned health practioners.
There is a program in Livermore at Valley Memorial called
the Legends program, which may be a good start. It is a 2
week evaluation-inpatient program.
I would get her permission to ''clean'' the house when she
is gone and I would hire a professional team to come in
and ''just do it'', and to educate you. I would rent a
storage locker to put vital things that she can visit if
needed.It is like removing a band-aid, sometimes slow is a
lot more painful for everyone, especially her. We
cleaned/moved the house with her present, per the
recommendation of a counselor and it was bad advice.
Bottomline,...seek professional help because this may be
part of a natural - irreversible health decline if it has
a neurological basis. Best of luck,...its a tough road.
There is a great article in the NY times recently and it
listed soem support groups at the end. My mother finds
comfort in all her ''things'' adn won't let us throw
anything out. She isn't quite at the hoarder phase, but
keeps way more than she needs or uses.
I hope you can help her, but if you can't I suggest
finding some way to make it work for both of you so you
maintain a relationship over her last years, not always
arguing about her space.
dont' let the clutter win
I don't have any great advice for you, since my own hoarding parent
died in his home (which he'd taken great pains not to let me see for
more than a decade) before I discovered just how bad his problem was.
But I did recently find this online group for adult children of hoarders:
There's lots of info there, and online forums where you can connect and
swap advice, stories, and support with others who are dealing with the
Best of luck.
As a child of a severe hoarder, I can relate to much of
what you shared. It can be so heartbreaking, overwhelming,
and angering to be in the position you are in, and of
course it's hard not to be critical! Sadly, it is usually
very hard to fully treat hoarding behavior, though
cognitive-behavioral therapy sometimes helps and might be
worth looking in to if you're mom's open to it. Depression
very often occurs alongside Hoarding, as well as other OCD
tendancies. What will work or not work as far as
treatment really depends on your mom. Research on hoarding
is also relatively new (last 1-2 decades).
If you haven't already, I would suggest checking out Dr.
Randy Frost's book, ''STUFF.'' There is also an online and
very active support group called Children of Hoarders.
Additionally, another child of a hoarder recently
published her memoirs, ''Dirty Secret.'' I have not read
it, but it sounds interesting and gives voice to the many
offspring of folks with this often debilitating mental
In the meantime, take care of yourself, too. Therapy
might really be worth checking out, I know it's helped
me. And know that there are so many other people out
there who can relate to your predicament. You're not alone.
Child of a mom who hoards
Wow. I could have written your post. I don't have any
surefire advise for you but if your mother is anything like
mine, she would not tolerate a professional organizer
sorting through her stuff. If you have the time and the
patience, I recommend that you help her clear out her house.
My elderly mother would not let me touch anything until
recently and that's only because she needs me now. I have
been visiting about once a month (she lives five hours from
here) and I take one surface/corner at a time. It's been a
difficult process, but it's brought us closer. I better
understand the depression and anxiety that led her to hoard
but she won't get treatment for it. It's very frustrating.
If you would like to talk more about this, please contact
the moderator for my email.
I know what painful and strange relationship this can be.
What you describe about the hoarding in your elderly mother
is identical to my mother's situation before she died except
it sounds like you live close to each other, and I was
flying from here to Portland every week or two for three
years to see my mother. I came to the conclusion that there
was nothing I could do about the hoarding (and my gut-level
negative feelings about being in that chaotic environment)
so I would pick up my mother outside of her home, take her
out to breakfast, chemo appointments, shopping, etc., then
return her to her home. This way I supported her in the
things which were important to her without putting myself in
a place of having to deal with the toxicity of her hoarding
(the stuff, the smell, the filth, and the chaos.) I had to
create a boundary between my mother's hoarding and stuff
(including dead animals and a powerful stench) and myself to
support myself in being loving towards her and to avoid
going to a place of revulsion. For what it's worth, I have
since attended a national conference on hoarding and learned
that there are identifiable differences in brain functioning
of hoarders for which, to date, there is no effective
treatment. I don't know if this is helpful or not but the
best of luck.
Committed to both loving Mom and self-protection
My husband and I are looking for a marriage counselor and have
gotten some good feedback and recommendations from BPN. My
husband has major hoarding issues, and I have yet to see a
recommendation for anyone who has received help for hoarding.
We need a therapist or counselor who has real experience with
this, not just someone who covered it for an hour or two at a
workshop or in school. We would appreciate recommendations as
well as more specific examples as to how the therapist helped
you deal with or overcome hoarding issues. Thank you.
Call the Mental Health association of SF, they sponsor a
Hoarding and CLuttering conference each year (the next one is
coming up soon - go to for more information: http://www.mha-sf.org/). I'm sure they can recommend therapists who manage this
because of their experience with this annual conference.
I just heard Dr. Alexandra Matthews speak in Marin a couple weeks ago. She works
with people who have hoarding issues, as well as OCD and other anxiety disorders.
Her website is here: http://www.amatthewsphd.com/
You can contact her through her website. As a person with hoarding issues myself,
I was impressed by her talk. She said that hoarding was a complicated and
issue to resolve, and that successful treatment involved a therapist who practices
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), group therapy, and an organizer who goes to
house and has experience working with hoarders. All of this is expensive, and
not covered by health insurance.
There is also a conference on hoarding and cluttering that I urge you and your
husband to attend. It is on Nov. 5th and is sponsored by the San Francisco Mental
Health Association. Go to www.mha-sf.org for more information. I am going and
am taking along several friends who have similar issues.
This sounds strange, but I am wondering what I can do with my
father's books that are not only taking over his home, but his
life. He has been collecting, and hoarding, books for the past
25 years, and it has gotten out of control. The walls of his
tiny rental are lined with book shelves and the floors are
covered in stacks of books.
Most of them are in great condition and I doubt that they have
even been read. There is a large variety of topics, but I am
guessing a lot of them are historical, art, & novels. I am
wondering how I can get rid of these books other than take them
to Half-Price books or Pegasus--that would take a hundred trips
and they may not even take most of them. I think they prefer
newer things, don't they? I am hoping he can get some money
for them. Is it worth having a garage-book sale? Would anyone
So does anyone have any idea as to how I can help him? It has
gotten so bad that you can barely walk through the house ... In
addition to the books there are magazines, paper, mail, unpayed
blls, etc. I would love advice on how to help him with the
OCD/hoarding disorder, it is ruining his life, but I guess that
requires another post altogether!
Any help here is appreciated, please!
Drowning In Books!
My mother is a hoarder, so I empathize. My first question is:
will your dad let you get rid of some of the books? If he will,
just move them out as fast as you can and figure out what to do
with them later. My mother was so furious at me the last time I
tried to clear a path to the bathroom she threatened to call the
police if I didn't stop packing up her stuff and moving it
around. really! She picks up things others have thrown out -
tables and chairs, clothes, books, shoes, TVs, sewing machines,
lamps, you name it. She says that other residents in her complex
insist that she take all these things. Once I saw TWO pairs of
ice skates in her apartment (she is 78 and has never skated).
It's a common problem as people get older. The senior apartment
complex where she lives has a policy of ''fire inspections'' twice
a year, which is the only way that floor space ever gets cleared
enough to walk through her small 1BR apartment, and even then it
only stays clear for a couple of weeks. It really is a serious
problem. Usually she will not let me come into her apartment at
all - she knows I disapprove and doesn't want me to see the mess.
She fractured her arm a couple years ago so she had to let me
come in to help her. It was insanely unsafe, especially for an
old lady with her arm in a sling. There were towers of
perilously stacked boxes everywhere, on every piece of furniture
and on the floor, sandwiched between those flimsy rolling racks
stuffed full of rows of bathrobes and winter coats. I had to turn
sideways to pass from the livingroom to the bedroom, and the door
into her bathroom wouldn't close without moving big boxes out of
the way. The bathtub was filled with somebody else's discarded
Christmas decorations, and there was barely enough room to sit on
the john without toppling a stack of something nearby. Well, I
really don't know what to do about this, I am just very thankful
for the twice yearly inspections. Good luck with your dad.
Daughter of hoarder
Berkeley Free Clinic offers free therapy services....check them
out at http://www.berkeleyfreeclinic.org/
It might be a good place to start!
I, too, have an elderly relative who is hoarding. My mother-in-
laws stacks of papers, notecards, books, bulk food purchases
and the like are over-taking her life. We are looking into it
and I don't yet have much to offer on that. A
quick internet search of
hoarding and the elderly makes it clear that the problem is
common. In our case, it seems to be in conjunction with
depression. I am not taking the lead on this one as it seems
like my husband and his brothers need to do this but I think
there are resources out there.
I have OCD but I am not a hoarder or clutterer as some
like to be called. Is your Dad interested in getting help?
Just taking his books away could be very upsetting to him.
Even if he is willing it would still be good to get him some
support through therapy. A good place to start would be the OC
Foundation's Hoarding web site
I am hoping to find a therapist for my mother. She is a horder
and compulsive shopper. If she has a dollar she will spend it on
stuff that clogs her house. She also ignores bills and now is
having her wages garnished and utilities shut off. I read a
great book about obsessive/complusive horders a few years ago
(and now can't remember the title). In it the doctor says you
can't just clean out a person's house because they have very
physical/emotional reactions. He says the best solution is to
have a therapist who understands the problem and can actually
visit the home with the patient and talk about what the stuff is
The book described my mom perfectly and I know that she gets
really uptight if she thinks you would throw anything away. Her
house is minimally functional and we need help soon.
I found reading this book helpful in understanding the problem
with my mother:
Overcoming compulsive hoarding : why you save & how you can
stop / by Fugen Neziroglu, Jerome Bubrick, Jose A. Yaryura-
Now, I just have to do something about it!
Good luck, this is a tough problem
A dear friend of mine began as a compulsive shopper, progressed
to a hoarder and now is living in second degree squalor. There's
a website that describes this condition and may be of some help
to you. One thing I read was of children who had cleaned out
their parents' homes SEVENTEEN times, only to find that their
parents regressed again. The site is squalorsurvivors.com and
there is another for children of hoarders which doesn't apply to
you as you are an adult, but may have good resources its called
I wish you well
friend of a hoarder
My mother has always been a packrat, but since my sister & I
moved away and she moved to a smaller house, things have gotten
out of hand. Moving through the house is becoming difficult
because of piles of stuff. Going through old papers is very
painful for her, but because of her refusal to do so, or let
others do it, there are financial and legal problems. We can
only visit about once a year because of distance and there is
no-one else around to help. Any suggestions?
i have an aunt who does the same. unfortunately she livs in a
gigantic 4 bedroom house. there's literally a path through the
house and up the stairs. either side of the path is at least 6
feet high piles of stuff. she won't let us help her clean it out
either. and she's a chain smoker!!
i talked to a therapist and she said it's a kind of obsessive
compulsive disorder that some older folks get.
we're still trying to figure out what do to help her. it's a
tough problem because they don't think there's a problem. my
aunt really thinks she needs to keep all those papers and bags
of who knows what.
there are probablly advocates for the elderly in her community.
maybe you can start there.
Do you think your mom would be open to hiring a professional organizer/occasional
assistant to help her go through her papers, say, once a month to make sure that
everything gets cleared and paid, etc? I wonder if she'd be more open to ''professional''
help than help from a family member. I've done organizing with people, and have been
surprised to learn that people will often feel more comfortable having a perfect
stranger help them than they would getting help from a partner, child, or other close
person. Maybe the distance of that person helps them feel more able to ''let go'' of the
clutter. If I can help, let me know -
You didn't mention your mom's age or if she hoards other objects
(other than paper), making her house unlivable. JIf you mother
is older it might be a symptom of dementia or she may have an
anxiety disorder that is beyond her control. JDoes she realize
how out-of-control her circumstances are ? JIf not, you may have
an uphill battle to get her help. JIf you feel the situation is
dire, you might want to contact social services. JThey have
people trained to assess situations like hers and suggest ways
in which your mom can get help. JA social worker might also be
able check in on your mom which is something you can't do
because of the distance. Best of luck to you.
Members of my mother's family are/were compulsive hoarders, who
never really got the help they needed. I'm always on the lookout
for signs of hoarding in my immediate family as well. The
following was an interesting story on the radio awhile ago, and
has other resources listed. Good luck.
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