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People who understand Psychology - filthy/hoarder level living


Zebra
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I have wanted to understand this for a long time.   So if you are a therapist, or understand psychology on some level or have gone through this, please help me out here.

 

DH and I both have mothers and sisters who are all filthy housekeepers, and even their own personal hygiene for some of them.   I don't know any more PC or gentle way to put this.  We both grew up in these environments, DH more than I, where things weren't just cluttery and not tended to right away, but out of control.  Our fathers sort of kept up with things, and when they both died it was really apparent who was causing the mess.  All our sisters have always been dirty, and still are as adults.   My mother really went down hill after my father died 5 years ago.   She wasn't ridiculous before that, but I realized HE was really doing the cleaning.   So you could say that it was depression from becoming widows, but my MIL in particular has always been really bad and it doesn't explain our sisters at all.

 

First of all, I find it weird that we both deal with this.   But I feel like there is some common mental illness thread here, which I would like to understand.  We both refuse to have a cluttery, dirty house, but I am not a germaphobe or anything.   I have asked my friends about this, and no one thinks I am overly clean or anything, just normal level but really on top of keeping my house clean.   It's a priority to me because of how I grew up.  I don't leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, I throw out/recycle catalogs when I am done with them. I donate things to Goodwill in a timely manner.  I shower every day.   I wash my clothes on a regular basis.  I clean the bathroom once a week and pretty much everything else.   My point in telling you this is just to explain that I am not bleaching every surface 24/7.   I think I have a "normal" cleaning routine.  I could tell you some pretty gross stories about my family, but I won't go down the really gross road.   Basically, not cleaning the toilet for months and months.   Having the sink overflowing with dirty rotten dishes, molding.   Keeping every catalog you ever got.   7 half gallons of the milk in the fridge with a little bit left in various stages of rotting.  Leaving dog poop and pee on the floor, indefinitely.   Making a pan of brownies and leaving the bowl on the table to rot and the empty pan on the stove to rot for literally a month or longer.   Not showering regularly, even for a week or longer.   Basically not dealing with anything, not completing any regular chores that have to be kept up with like emptying the trash.  I am going to stop there, but this isn't  "sometimes I let the dishes go for a few days, don't shower every single day, sometimes the trash is overflowing and it takes me awhile to get to it."   This to me is way beyond that.

 

FWIW I have been through several rounds of completely cleaning things for people so they can start over and keep up with it, and inevitably it gets right back where it was.   I have also, never in my life seen a living space as dirty or even close to what I have seen in my own family.  As I have gotten older and been in more and more houses, I have noticed that normal people don't live in filth.    

 

So my question is, when you live in an environment this filthy and do nothing to change it, what does it mean?   Depression, low self-esteem, what?   My whole family is a nightmare who I have had to distance myself from, a very long story but I feel like if I could at least understand this common theme of lack of hygiene I could understand them all a little better.  

 

Thanks for your (hopefully gentle :)  ) thoughts!

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I remember reading that hoarding was an off-shoot of OCD.

 

I think that a lot goes into it including depression, control issues, and the like.   I'm assuming in trying to help somebody it would take ongoing help/therapy…not just a once help clean it up.  Like going over there every few days at first, helping…. then weekly… then hopefully graduating to every two weeks…and maybe every month.  I suspect that one would need to have some sort of intervention for years and possibly forever.  

 

I tend towards clutter, but not hoarding.  Like, we'll have lots of papers everywhere, but the dishes are done daily, the carpets are vacuumed, floors moped at minimum weekly.  I have no problems giving away stuff, donating stuff, etc.  I know how easy it is for things to get away from me, so I assume it must be 1000x worse for people with hoarding issues. 

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Lack of ability to maintain healthy relationships -  This could be narcissm. Chores aren't done, because that is what the visitors do..that is intended to keep them around, and make them feel needed or to give the hoarder a sense of power. I've seen that start out as phone calls for repairs, then slide into yardwork, then garbage as well as piles of junk to be removed.  The parent will insist that the child who has grown up and married do the chores they were assigned to do as  kids. For ex:  Our hoarder's  fish tank was left for the person who had the job as a child. He got tired of that in his early 30s, and the fish died off one by one as the hoarders wouldn't let him dispose of them and he didn't have the time to come over and keep the tank up. Its been there at least twenty years with no fish in it, but lots of algae. 

 

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I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense.  My MIL invites you in, even though the place is a pigsty. Which always floors me!  She wants everyone to wait on her hand and foot, and she always comes across as helpless.   I have never once had any level of contact with her where she didn't ask me to do some sort of chore for her.   When I was young and stupid I used to do way too much for her.  So, it makes sense that she WANTS you to see what a pigsty the place is and clean it for her.   She's always been like that.   And I have kind of realized that I have to just ignore her pigsty, because I cannot be her permanent maid for the rest of my life.

 

My SIL and one of my sisters seem to have really low self-esteem.   They don't want you to see how dirty their places are, they seem more embarrassed which at least makes more sense to me.   My mother is another story entirely.   She's extremely immature(it was like I was raised by a 10 year old), and she had a terrible childhood.   She's gotten worse over the years and got to a point that she became so verbally abusive to my DH and DD and I that I finally told her that she needed to go to a therapist or I could not see her anymore.   She of course went ballistic and put me through h*ll, and I still really wish she would get some help.  Again, with her and with all these people I have had to back away and realize I cannot really help any of them if they are not going to try to help themselves.  You can't do it for anyone else no matter how tragic it seems.     

 

So maybe there are different things going on here with different people.    But there has got to be this common theme of people who live in this level of filth as a lifestyle, not for a temporary time, have some level of mental illness.   And honestly, I understand the hoarding more than the filth.   You can't get rid of things or whatever, but being that dirty just make no sense to me.  Something seems really wrong with someone who allows themselves to live in that level of filth. 

 

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Interesting topic.  My DH comes from an environment like listed above.  I really struggled to deal with it, especially when my children were toddlers and *into* everything.   :ack2:

 

For my MIL, her issues are her poor health, partially.  DH also insists that things weren't this bad before his dad left (when he was young).  Then it got out of hand.  So I would say some depression comes into play.  They also live below the poverty line, whatever factor that has with it all.

 

ETA:  my in-laws are in the "embarrassed to let you see their home" camp.  They most certainly don't want someone to come and clean for them -- they're ashamed... but that's how they live.  When I was new to the family, every time I visited I got the excuses ("the bug man just came and sprayed, that's why there's so many roaches out!"  "the kitchen sink isn't working, that's why there's so much piled up.")  But as the years (and a decade+) passed, I'm understanding that those excuses are more like veiled apologies... but not necessarily truth.

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My mother has hoarding tendencies, except that she got better with her hoarding when she took up politics, lol. Her politics are a regular party, but she is spite filled and full of HATE for any party other than hers and all people who vote for third party candidates. I would almost take the hoarding. So, understand that without some form of treatment the hoarder will find something to take it's place. Some of my siblings who used to have the same political affiliation as my mother now feel they must vote for the opposite of whoever she is voting for because she drives people away with her rhetoric.

 

When I was fourteen I threw away some phone bills that were two years old and she had a horrible melt down. Same with expired coupons. Now she has political melt downs over the dumbest stuff, stuff that extremists in her party make up to manipulate people like her.  So, the hoarding might be better than some other things.

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I think true hoarding and/or being okay with living in filth is a mental issue.  Maybe the opposite form of OCD of someone who would be labeled a "clean freak" or "germaphobe."

 

I don't think it's the same thing at all as someone who can't clean due to health/physical issues.

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True hoarding (like on the show Hoarders) is related to anxiety.  Not caring for one's personal hygiene and environment can be due to many causes - depression, medical/neurological illnesses, substance abuse, not having been exposed to any other way of living, etc.

 

And I think you make a good point here, they probably aren't really hoarders.   It's just probably a by-product of not cleaning up regularly.  Which, like you said has so many causes.   DH and I have clearly been fortunate to have the strength to not be like this, but obviously our sisters aren't strong enough or healthy enough to overcome it.   Which is too bad, but reality.

 

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I think true hoarding and/or being okay with living in filth is a mental issue.  Maybe the opposite form of OCD of someone who would be labeled a "clean freak" or "germaphobe."

 

I don't think it's the same thing at all as someone who can't clean due to health/physical issues.

 

And like someone else pointed out, the hoarder tendencies can replaced by something else, maybe even becoming a germaphobe.   Two sides to the same coin.  

 

I really don't think any of them have health or physical issues.   If you can make and eat a pan of brownies, you can clean up your pan of brownies.

 

I actually knew someone growing up who was a true germaphobe, it was pretty sad.   And she almost died one day, because she used so much bleach.  She had that revelation moment when she was in the hospital, and did a lot of therapy and really turned her life around.   It was kind of amazing.    

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People have suggested some good candidates for the underlying issues, but I'd also be concerned about substance abuse.  This can really overtake people in a dramatic way as they get older, and a situation that has seemed under control can suddenly blossom out of control.  It sounds like this isn't a recent thing in your family's case, but it's something I would be concerned about for sure.  

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Anxiety.  Which usually involves depression and control.

 

I am an annoying psychology junky who spends ridiculous amounts of time self-analyzing my own anxiety issues, and it's brought me to see how easily things can spiral. And has pushed me into actual therapy that is way more effective, lol.

 

Cleaning does not help the underlying issues.

 

ETA: I am not a hoarder.  I'm just saying I can easily see how I could become one.

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I think the health issue is the mental kind...the willpower to make oneself do an undesireable task, but it is combined with lack of responsibility.  The task of cleaning up that brownie pan does not belong to the eater in our hoarder's environment...that's left for the newest sucker (currently granchild's girlfriend) to clean up...it's like they are still children, on a power trip to see who can be forced into doing the undesireable jobs. And the hoarder is aware that the young ladies are watching their figures...those brownies will be pressed on them until they overconsume. There will never be a fruit etc offered, and a refusal isn't accepted. Definite power play.

 

I see, that makes sense.  

 

For whatever reason, I do have a lot of willpower.  I can make myself clean up the brownie pan, and I feel grateful for that.  

 

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Anxiety.  Which usually involves depression and control.

 

I am an annoying psychology junky who spends ridiculous amounts of time self-analyzing my own anxiety issues, and it's brought me to see how easily things can spiral. And has pushed me into actual therapy that is way more effective, lol.

 

Cleaning does not help the underlying issues.

 

ETA: I am not a hoarder.  I'm just saying I can easily see how I could become one.

 

And that's exactly what I have realized, after much agony on my part.   I ignore their filth now, it's a symptom of something else.  

 

I think we all have issues that could spiral out of control, definitely.  

 

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I think the health issue is the mental kind...the willpower to make oneself do an undesireable task, but it is combined with lack of responsibility.  The task of cleaning up that brownie pan does not belong to the eater in our hoarder's environment...that's left for the newest sucker (currently granchild's girlfriend) to clean up...it's like they are still children, on a power trip to see who can be forced into doing the undesireable jobs. And the hoarder is aware that the young ladies are watching their figures...those brownies will be pressed on them until they overconsume. There will never be a fruit etc offered, and a refusal isn't accepted. Definite power play.

 

 

The dirty families I've seen also have control issues. Usually the controller won't allow the others to use the hot water, purchase cleaning supplies, sufficient shampoo etc under the guise of controlling costs, while the controller enjoys all sorts of luxuries.  That may go back to growing up in poverty, or having the culture where one doesn't spend on the women and children.

 

I don't see it as that type of control at all.

I see it as a paralyzing fear of not being able to meet expectations (of oneself or others) and having to shut off and check out from that difficulty to focus on what would be considered ridiculous but controllable actions, like shopping for "useless" items or "showing love" to animals.

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Hoarding behavior is often latent and contained in a potentiality. It manifests (or deepens) often after trauma (divorce, death, illness, major career event, breakup........).

 

The underlying mental illness is often from the anxiety cluster, including OCD (it can be hard to see that one).

 

Stop cleaning up for others; it addresses the symptom (mess) but not the cause.

 

In some ways, it is like self harm. It (in this example, self harm) is a coping skill. It is a bad coping skill, but it is a coping skill. If you work "just" to remove the self harm, you don't address the need - for new and better coping skills. The same is true for hoarding. You can't clean the mess and expect change - it is mental ILLNESS and can't be fixed by a new start without treatment.

 

Hoarding can be stand alone, but it is often accompanied by depression, untreated addiction (an untreated addict can be abstinent but still untreated), or other mental health issues.

 

My own mom was a depressed hoarder. It would not have been "tv worthy" but it was enough for me to never invite anyone over. I am pushing 50 with a grown and 2 nearly grown kids and I feel the impact of Mom's hoarding (and Dad's reaction) on a daily basis. The most common is when the house gets messy to any level, I get edgy and irritated easily.

 

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People have suggested some good candidates for the underlying issues, but I'd also be concerned about substance abuse.  This can really overtake people in a dramatic way as they get older, and a situation that has seemed under control can suddenly blossom out of control.  It sounds like this isn't a recent thing in your family's case, but it's something I would be concerned about for sure.  

 

Definitely a factor for one of them, worst of all is the amount of prescription pills they all take.   I am not against prescription pills, but so many people take so many pills they don't need.  

 

I think there have been a lot of good suggestions here.   I really think our mothers had serious issues, and our sisters didn't know any other way to live combined with their own issues.   It kind of makes sense.   Also, that DH and would really understand each other because we came from similar backgrounds.   I am just really grateful DH and I didn't slide into this, because it would be pretty easy to get stuck in this cycle.

 

I have just struggled for so long with what is "normal behavior", and I am getting a more firm grasp on that.   

 

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What was the next generation back like?  It can be a reaction to a feeling of being controlled by excessively neat parents: every dish unwashed is 'getting back'  at (ETA: or avoiding conflict over impossible standards with) the untouchable pristine parent.

 

L

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Hoarding behavior is often latent and contained in a potentiality. It manifests (or deepens) often after trauma (divorce, death, illness, major career event, breakup........).

 

The underlying mental illness is often from the anxiety cluster, including OCD (it can be hard to see that one).

 

Stop cleaning up for others; it addresses the symptom (mess) but not the cause.

 

In some ways, it is like self harm. It (in this example, self harm) is a coping skill. It is a bad coping skill, but it is a coping skill. If you work "just" to remove the self harm, you don't address the need - for new and better coping skills. The same is true for hoarding. You can't clean the mess and expect change - it is mental ILLNESS and can't be fixed by a new start without treatment.

 

Hoarding can be stand alone, but it is often accompanied by depression, untreated addiction (an untreated addict can be abstinent but still untreated), or other mental health issues.

 

My own mom was a depressed hoarder. It would not have been "tv worthy" but it was enough for me to never invite anyone over. I am pushing 50 with a grown and 2 nearly grown kids and I feel the impact of Mom's hoarding (and Dad's reaction) on a daily basis. The most common is when the house gets messy to any level, I get edgy and irritated easily.

 

Thank for saying this.   It took me a long time to realize I needed to divorce myself from the whole situation.   Cleaning for them doesn't help.  

 

I understand the OCD thing more.   I feel like I could be on the other end of that, like you were saying.   I can get anxious when things aren't picked up enough, and I have really had to work on that instinct to not over clean things.    As I have gotten older and further away from my childhood it's gotten easier to relax about it.

 

It's interesting what you are saying about self-harm.   Because my sister cut herself regularly in high school.  I think she still might, I am not sure.  My mother ripped her up and down and told her she was embarrassing the family.   And I remember cringing at the time, and even more so when I think of it as adult.   I can't imagine my dd cutting herself and me yelling at her.   I so wish my sister had gotten some help at the time, she has really spiraled out of control more than anyone else.  In my mother's defense she had an Oprah worthy childhood, but clearly the legacy lives on.   I guess I am just really blessed to avoided any serious problems as an adult.    I obviously have issues I will always have to work on, but I am able to live a "normal" life. 

 

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Could you expand?  A paralyzing fear of picking up a brownie pan and putting it in the dishwasher is seen as not meeting the expectation of the behavior of the adult in the house? In other words the Queen does not do such small chores?

 

In the case of someone I know, a very controlling and neat mother made her anxious (I believe) about household work.  Nothing she did was ever good enough for her mother, so it was easier not to do anything, because approval was impossible.  If she had not tried, then she could not be found wanting.  Does that make sense?

 

L

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In the case of someone I know, a very controlling and neat mother made her anxious (I believe) about household work.  Nothing she did was every good enough for her mother, so it was easier not to do anything, because approval was impossible.  If she had not tried, then she could not be found wanting.  Does that make sense?

 

L

 

This.

It's not just a brownie pan. It's a thousand different "brownie pans" and the inability to address them all at the same time.  There's no real benefit to cleaning one "brownie pan", so none of them get done.

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I have a degree in psychology, but I don't think that will influence my answer. Sure, hoarding can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, and depression can cause a person to stop cleaning their house and bathing as often as our society thinks a mentally healthy person should, but your situation doesn't sound like either of those. As a pastor's wife, though, I have been in a fairly high number of people's homes in recent years, and my husband has been asked to help move dozens of families, and over time we have come to believe that a lot of people are just really, really poor housekeepers. They live in what I think of as absolutely disgusting filth, and it does not bother them. And no, I do not have excessively high standards, I just believe that a person should mop their kitchen floor occasionally, not the day they move out of a house after living there for three years.

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My own mom was a depressed hoarder. It would not have been "tv worthy" but it was enough for me to never invite anyone over... The most common is when the house gets messy to any level, I get edgy and irritated easily.

 

This is me. I see myself getting snappy with my kids and husband when things are messy. It's almost like I feel that I am suffocating if there is clutter.

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Not a lot of insight to offer, but I knew a woman who developed hygiene issues as she gained huge amounts of weight. She could no longer clean herself as thoroughly as she normally would have because she couldn't reach everwhere anymore. Her house stayed clean because her dd, who lived there did that for her. So, all this to say are any of these people grossly obese? That can be a contributing factor.

 

There may also be health issues like trimethylaminurea (sp?). Some folks with TMAU don't bother trying to be clean because they get rejected either way. Others are clean, but people don't believe it because of the malodor.

 

I also know a man who hoards, though his house is clean, he just uses storage spaces. He grew up during the depression when everything seemed valuable and usable. He's financially comfortable but hates to get rid of things because it may come in handy someday - maybe fear of another time of economic depression, idk. But your family would be too young for that, unless they grew up hearing stories and warnings about it.

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dh's grandparents were hoarders.  his mother is a hoarder - but she stuffs it all in closets and under the beds.  she wants things to "look" (emphasis on "look") tidy.   she's also a and compulsive spender. she has always been that way.

 

you're right - it is related to mental illness.  that is what has to be treated before there will be improvement. 

 

I can commiserate, as when I was a teen, I'd clean my sister's apartment.  I remember one day just spending three - four hours in the kitchen, washing, putting away, wiping counters, etc.  it was an apartment with a small kitchen.  I didn't do anything with the interior of any cupboards.  the rest of the apartment was just as bad.

 

it can be depression, it can also be severe anxiety and putting too much import upon "things" to give security.

 

I know for some compulsive personalities, they might respond well to anti-depressants as a start and then getting them into counseling.

 

 

eta: hoarding isn't just messy or clutter.  there is an obsession to possessing the "stuff".  mil once bought six drill bits of the same size for her brother.  he was talking to someone else and asked "do you want to know why she bought six?  because that was all the store had."

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that was my mother.  nothing was ever good enough for my grandmother - so my mother stopped doing anything.  my mother was messy, didn't do housework (but she loved it when I cleaned her house - so she did 'care'.).   it's 'passive-aggressive' and the only way she could 'take back any control'.

 

however, she was not a hoarder.  that's a whole 'nother level.

In the case of someone I know, a very controlling and neat mother made her anxious (I believe) about household work.  Nothing she did was ever good enough for her mother, so it was easier not to do anything, because approval was impossible.  If she had not tried, then she could not be found wanting.  Does that make sense?

 

L

 

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The OCD Foundation has a whole website area dedicated to hoarding. It's quite good, and might help you understand the mental health aspects. http://www.ocfoundation.org/hoarding/about.aspx I linked to just the first page on the about hoarding section, but you can see the pull down menu has tons of information. Hoarding is different than other OCD spectrum issues. There is a high incidence of depression. Some of what you are seeing, particularly in the filth, may be the depression side, or other issues.
 

But some of what you mention certainly sounds like hoarding. It typically gets worse as a person ages, so it might not be only the father aspect holding it back.

 

It's difficult to treat compared to other OCD or anxiety disorders. Both hubby and I have hoarding mothers. We both have fathers who do what yours did. I get it. It's a mental illness. The OCD foundation states that it appears 1 in 20 have some level of hoarding issues. That's relatively common.

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Isn't that executive function deficit? Similar to the middle school child facing a mound of homework and studying? The people around them clean up (or in the m.s.ers case -help set a schedule) but it goes back to the same condition unless a change is made. The advice for the middle schooler is to give them the management tools, and help them see that it is enough for success so that they take responsibility.  I just don't see where in the person's life "the brownie pan" ever became their responsibility, and they are resistant to making it so. I have only seen a couple of hoarding shows, but one stuck out in that the mother stayed in her chair and claimed she was disabled, having a teen gal do everything -- but as a young teen, the poor gal didn't have the time between school and learning how to do it all, so cleaning up after everyone in the home every day plus cooking and being her mother's servant (she fetched food, towels, turned down the bed etc) was too much for her. Roaches were everywhere. The father had moved out, saying it was all in the mother's mind.

 

 

 

It's not the brownie pan. It's the brain that is responding to the brownie pan.

 

Hoarders have anxiety, and their habits seemingly give them comfort. Removing the things creates anxiety. They don't process "brownie pan" in the same way we do - they literally have a different *brain* process regarding the brownie pan, the kitchen it is in, the food around it.

 

The mental illness (meaning the brain doesn't work right) is often a potential already, and trauma often triggers the behavior or worsening of the behavior. Trauma is another assault on the brain (even psychological trauma changes the brain chemically and structurally).

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mil had a hip replacement last year. she refused to do therapy - the rehab facilty finally threw her out for non-cooperation and lack of progress and she came back to sil's.  they set up a hospital bed, etc. neice-in-law would go over and help her.  (neice thinks she's just a typical old lady.  um, no.)    while she was in the hospital it was with much glee sils cleaned up and organized her room.

 

it was a fabulous motivator for her to actually work on becoming mobile.  sils told her if she wanted stuff somewhere else, she'd have to move it herself.  she's still using a wheelchair - but she's gotten a lot more mobile.  (and the 10 pair of scissors they found when they cleaned her room are now nowhere to be found.)

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I think there are many potential causes for hoarding and many different types of "keeping things" that get labeled as hoarding or different levels of cleanliness that might be labeled "filthy".

 

My MIL is a classic hoarder. She is not particularly dirty, per se, but it is impossible for her to be as clean as I think of as "normal" because all the stuff in her house prevents her from being able to do regular daily activities. She is very busy about town, with all her clubs and friends. She does not have noticeable body odor. However, unfortunately, her home has been reduced to narrow paths among towering stacks of stuff. She does not invite guests inside but will allow family to come in.

 

I am not a psychologist, but from what I have observed, she never was a spotless housekeeper and generally tended toward clutter. However several years after the death of my FIL, she began to go downhill. Almost overnight she changed from someone who apologized for not having had a chance to vacuum before your visit to someone who was completely swamped with stuff. She has tripped over the stuff and been injured and she knows that her son (dh) who is mildly claustrophobic cannot visit with her inside her home.

 

I am not sure she even sees it. If anyone makes any move to clean it up or even suggests doing such a thing, she becomes violently angry. We are afraid that if her landlord actually comes in and sees the mess, she will be forced to move. And that would likely force her into a serious mental breakdown. She is very different from those who want others to clean for them. She freaks out if we try to throw out a few old magazines.

 

Messyness and clutter are one thing, clinical hoarding is a very different thing. There is no question in my mind that it is a mental illness. I definitely agree that anxiety seems to play a large part in it. Sadly, I don't see any "cure". I expect good counseling would help my MIL, perhaps antianxiety meds. But part of the problem is that she refuses to accept that there is a problem. I wish there were a way to help her get better, but I am certain that forcibly cleaning her home would only cause more problems, and perhaps more intense ones, not solve anything.

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Is the anxiety then that they are afraid of being alone? They must keep the magazines, the dirty dishes, the control over others? Or is it that they don't want to grow up and be responsible for themselves, after being dependents so many decades?

 

 

 

For starters, everyone's issues are unique to them.  There is no "people have anxiety because _____."

 

I find the bolded incredibly insulting.  I don't, and have never met others who, just "don't want to" suck it up and do whatever it happens to be that needs to be done.  In fact, it's usually the exact opposite. Paralyzing anxiety is terrifying, even when it looks selfish and immature.

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Is the anxiety then that they are afraid of being alone? They must keep the magazines, the dirty dishes, the control over others? Or is it that they don't want to grow up and be responsible for themselves, after being dependents so many decades?

 

 

 

Gently as I can...........

 

This "framing" of mental illness is inaccurate and, not that it is your intent, insulting.

 

This mental illness isn't caused by a malfunction in the way the person reacts to life. The reaction to life is caused by a malfunctioning brain.

 

It's not "afraid of being alone" - The reduces it to a meaningless statement. It's that in their brain, removing stuff elevates anxiety. If they had a different, functioning, brain, it would not go like that. Like addiction, it is not a character issue. It's not a maturity issue. Eventually, such mental illness impacts character and maturity, but they are not the etiology.

 

The magazines, dirty dishes, and control over others literally *save* the person from overwhelming fear.

 

The "don't want to grow up" line indicates a lack of understanding about mental illness and its physiological reality and biological basis.

 

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I find the bolded incredibly insulting.  I don't, and have never met others who, just "don't want to" suck it up and do whatever it happens to be that needs to be done.  In fact, it's usually the exact opposite. Paralyzing anxiety is terrifying, even when it looks selfish and immature.

You've never met anyone who's just plain lazy?  Sometimes people just are.  Mental illness is not always inevitably at the steering wheel.  

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You've never met anyone who's just plain lazy?  Sometimes people just are.  Mental illness is not always inevitably at the steering wheel.  

 

But the content of this thread is about *hoarding*. Hoarding is, clinically, beyond the context of "just plain lazy."

 

Although, yes, I have observed most people in outside of normal range behavior have something going on beyond "lazy."

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You've never met anyone who's just plain lazy?  Sometimes people just are.  Mental illness is not always inevitably at the steering wheel.  

 

Sure I have. But plain lazy people don't sink to hoarding filth levels that risk health and safety and severely limit their function.  Those aren't "normal" human behaviors.

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Sorry, but I can't agree. We don't get anywhere in science by claiming that examining the evidence and asking questions is insulting.  "The don't want to grow up" indicates that I'm around people who have had their character impacted severely by the abuse they'e endured over the decades.  They have been infantalized by their masters. Thanks for the conversation.

 

Actually, my clinical practice and decisions are very researched and evidence based.

 

The *science* is that the brain (structure, chemicals and therefore the thinking) is different in mental illness.

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that was my mother.  nothing was ever good enough for my grandmother - so my mother stopped doing anything.  my mother was messy, didn't do housework (but she loved it when I cleaned her house - so she did 'care'.).   it's 'passive-aggressive' and the only way she could 'take back any control'.

 

however, she was not a hoarder.  that's a whole 'nother level.

 

 

This is my MIL as well. Ugh, so gross. Meanwhile, dear grandma's house was absolutely spotless.

 

Weirdest thing was when Grandma would invite the whole family over for dinner. After dinner was over MIL and SIL just got up from the table and left all the dirty dishes for Grandma to do. She was in her 80's, and not very healthy. I didn't pretend to understand it.

 

Don't even get me started on how things went when MIL came to visit for a while a few days after Baby was born.....  :cursing:

 

So, related question - Can anyone recommend a good resource for teaching an adult how to keep things tidy? I don't mean a list of chores, I mean just the basics of how to keep things from getting to the point of out of control or absolutely gross? My DH, because of my MIL, doesn't understand principles of basic cleanliness - when he lived at home he just attacked the bathroom or kitchen when it got so terrible that he couldn't stand it anymore. So he will clean, and likes things clean, but doesn't understand the point of, say, rinsing off dishes if he's not putting it straight in the dishwasher. When things get cluttered he'll exclaim "we have too much stuff! We have to get rid of all this junk!" and I'm like "Umm, honey, did you notice that your closet is nearly empty, and half of what is in there doesn't belong there?" He just doesn't see it, and it's maddening. 

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My own mom was a depressed hoarder. It would not have been "tv worthy" but it was enough for me to never invite anyone over. I am pushing 50 with a grown and 2 nearly grown kids and I feel the impact of Mom's hoarding (and Dad's reaction) on a daily basis. The most common is when the house gets messy to any level, I get edgy and irritated easily.

 

Sorry about murdering your quote, Joanne, I don't know how to quote correctly, I guess.

 

 

 

This. I am almost 44 and cannot just invite someone over. I have to know someone FOREVER to invite the over, and even then it causes me stress. This has really limited my social life over the years. My mom's hoarding also caused my father a lot of grief because he is an extreme extrovert and could not have friends and family over. He began to hang out at the local bar to be with people as our house got out of hand. When my sis and I were teens we kept the house clean in the summers when mom was at work so that we could enjoy it, and my sister was brave enough to have friends over when it was tidy and my father would enjoy being home then. But it got really bad between when my sister went to college and when my mother found her politics.

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What is hoarding and what is mess become two different conversations. My mom #NEEDED# her expired coupons and thirty years worth of magazines more than she wanted to be married to my dad (who is an animal hoarder) or be around her adult children. This drives me batty. She had garage sales where she didn't sell things. She owned 12 fishing poles, and she has never gone fishing in my lifetime, but she would not sell any to needy neighborhood children for a dollar each. My SIL called her "unchristian" over that and they didn't talk for awhile. Even though her house is quite pleasant now, she is not. She has political ideas that make the mess she used to live in preferable. My same SIL won't visit her because she can't listen to hateful talk about the "opposition." Right now my sister had to block her on facebook because of one hateful post too many.

 

My oldest is messy and filthy, and that is a passive/aggressive thing. She won't clean up after herself, but goes to other people's houses to do projects or enjoy a clean living room. She blames whoever she is living with for the mess, but make no mistake she makes it. Her behavior is related to not wanting to grow up. At 25 she keeps changing colleges/ majors so that she won't graduate and can still live in a dorm most of the time. She also refuses to hold down a full time summer job. So her mess is different than my mom's hoarding. She knows she needs counseling but says she won't do it even if the rest of her life is ruined because it's not her fault she needs counseling and it hurts too much to talk about some things.

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 "The don't want to grow up" indicates that I'm around people who have had their character impacted severely by the abuse they'e endured over the decades.  They have been infantalized by their masters. Thanks for the conversation.

 

There's a difference between lack of desire (not wanting) to "grow up," or function as an independent responsible mature person, and inability to "grow up."

 

Laziness is a character trait. Lazy people do exist. Typically, a lazy person will change their behavior and develop functional coping strategies in the face of negative consequences that cause enough inconvenience to the lazy person to make it worth their while to change. If they want to change, and choose to change, they are able to do so even if it is challenging to change bad or lazy habits.

 

Mental illness, and abuse, change brain structure and function. A person whose brain function has been impacted by abuse or by a mental illness who is not able to function as an independent responsible mature adult is not choosing to be lazy. In the face of negative consequences, their brain structures make it difficult, or even impossible, for them to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Calling these people lazy or blaming their character is inaccurate even if you don't intend to insult them.

 

I have a friend who struggles with depression and hoarding. When healthy, she is one of the least lazy people I have ever known. It is painful to hear her talk of her fear of people seeing her as lazy, and her own perception of her "laziness," when the reality is that she is crippled by this illness.

 

Cat

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This is my MIL as well. Ugh, so gross. Meanwhile, dear grandma's house was absolutely spotless.

 

Weirdest thing was when Grandma would invite the whole family over for dinner. After dinner was over MIL and SIL just got up from the table and left all the dirty dishes for Grandma to do. She was in her 80's, and not very healthy. I didn't pretend to understand it.

 

Don't even get me started on how things went when MIL came to visit for a while a few days after Baby was born.....  :cursing:

 

So, related question - Can anyone recommend a good resource for teaching an adult how to keep things tidy? I don't mean a list of chores, I mean just the basics of how to keep things from getting to the point of out of control or absolutely gross? My DH, because of my MIL, doesn't understand principles of basic cleanliness - when he lived at home he just attacked the bathroom or kitchen when it got so terrible that he couldn't stand it anymore. So he will clean, and likes things clean, but doesn't understand the point of, say, rinsing off dishes if he's not putting it straight in the dishwasher. When things get cluttered he'll exclaim "we have too much stuff! We have to get rid of all this junk!" and I'm like "Umm, honey, did you notice that your closet is nearly empty, and half of what is in there doesn't belong there?" He just doesn't see it, and it's maddening. 

years ago someone lent me the book "Sidetracked home executives".  the two sister's probably would have qualified as utter chaos, if not hoarding. their mother wasn't, and growing up they drove her crazy.   they talked about how they came to their "method".  one day one asked a friend "how do you clean?" for suggestions on how she could actually clean her house.  the friend was overwhelmed with where to start on her kitchen, and finally settled upon a teabag.  "when you are done with the teabag - throw it away."  it had never even occurred to them.

 

anyway  they developed a system that worked for them and they completely turned their homemaking skills around.  (and it affected other areas of their lives.)  the book describes the system as well as what their lives were like before and after.  as she came to change herself, one sister even came to realize just how unhealthy her marriage was, and ended up getting a divorce.

 

what you are describing sounds like an executive function disorder.  you start by walking through - and yeah, you make lists of what has to be done.  break it down so it isn't one great big overwhelming pile of stuff.   when I was teaching a child who was pretty clueless, I had very specific lists of steps to clean his room. put away clean clothes, put dirty clothes in laundry, make bed, shoes in closet, etc.  he would need to finish one step before progressing to the next step.

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years ago someone lent me the book "Sidetracked home executives".  the two sister's probably would have qualified as utter chaos, if not hoarding. their mother wasn't, and growing up they drove her crazy.   they talked about how they came to their "method".  one day one asked a friend "how do you clean?" for suggestions on how she could actually clean her house.  the friend was overwhelmed with where to start on her kitchen, and finally settled upon a teabag.  "when you are done with the teabag - throw it away."  it had never even occurred to them.

 

anyway  they developed a system that worked for them and they completely turned their homemaking skills around.  (and it affected other areas of their lives.)  the book describes the system as well as what their lives were like before and after.  as she came to change herself, one sister even came to realize just how unhealthy her marriage was, and ended up getting a divorce.

 

what you are describing sounds like an executive function disorder.  you start by walking through - and yeah, you make lists of what has to be done.  break it down so it isn't one great big overwhelming pile of stuff.   when I was teaching a child who was pretty clueless, I had very specific lists of steps to clean his room. put away clean clothes, put dirty clothes in laundry, make bed, shoes in closet, etc.  he would need to finish one step before progressing to the next step.

 

 

Thanks!

 

I think DH does have EF issues, but I'm not sure if messiness is necessarily a part of it.

 

As just one example, when he brushes his teeth he doesn't rinse out his toothbrush before putting it back in the holder. Neither is he good about rinsing out the sink after spitting. This is just the way he grew up (yes, in his parent's house the sinks are crusted over with toothpaste gunk). I repeat over and over "The easiest way to keep things clean is to prevent them from getting dirty." But how do you teach a middle aged man how to brush his teeth without being a slob about it? And without making him feel like a moron? And without nagging! (I try so hard not to nag...) He has to see that it gets dirty, but in his parents house things are just expected to get dirty. I joke that you can tell how long they have owned something by the amount of dust and grime on it, but it's not really a joke.

 

You know all that stuff CM says about habit training? It is soooooooooooooo important!  :smash:

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For starters, everyone's issues are unique to them.  There is no "people have anxiety because _____."

 

I find the bolded incredibly insulting.  I don't, and have never met others who, just "don't want to" suck it up and do whatever it happens to be that needs to be done.  In fact, it's usually the exact opposite. Paralyzing anxiety is terrifying, even when it looks selfish and immature.

 

:iagree:   I have OCD (though no hoarding tendencies, thank goodness) and it's impossible to understand how truly paralyzing the anxiety can be if you haven't been there.  When your brain is screaming at you and you're literally frozen in terror over some minor thing, you can't just suck it up and get on with things.  

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Well just to add some odd bit of information to this conversation....  I have a couple of family members who have mental illnesses and they have the exact opposite problem.  They throw everything out.  They hate clutter.  They live very sparsely.  They feel suffocated by too many knickknacks.  They do not clean obsessively, but you'd never find them on an episode of Hoarders.

 

My reaction to my mom's hoarding is nearly like this.

 

I don't like pictures, even family ones, for that reason. And while there are some knick-knacky stuff I "like" (butterflies and vintage Coca Cola memorabelia), I don't want that stuff. I'd rather have functional only furnishings and nothing extra.

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