My mother is a hoarder. She lives in filth and clutter. She tries to give me her stuff, she claims it makes her feel better about collecting things. I don’t want her stuff. She claims I have to take her stuff so that she will feel better, it is my obligation to her… is it?
All of my life I had known something wasn’t right and didn’t quite know what it was. Didn’t every child have to clean up after their parent? Isn’t it my responsibility to make sure there is order in the house? I had taken on the responsibility of trying to make sense of the chaos my siblings and I lived in, after all, I was the oldest daughter. This worked out fine for years, everyone was happy, so it seemed. After I had moved out and started my own life, I found myself creating strict routines and organization, basically, the total opposite of my upbringing. This was not a good thing either and created stress with my husband and children, but, eventually I learned to find a happy medium in my own life, through the help of a counselor.
My mothers hoarding has grown to a dangerous level. She has battled mold, mice, lice, and skin mites from the piles and piles of stuff she has accumulated. I had even helped several times going through piles and shoveling out moldy boxes and clothes cleaning out a small area or one room of the house, only to have it all filled not long after I worked so hard to clean it out. She needed help.
At one point, I was able to convince my siblings that maybe there was a problem and that she needed help, counseling. I set up a session with a counselor, all my siblings and both parents, they all agreed to go and talk about their issues with this surmounting problem. As we sat in the room in a circle, we were instructed to vocalize our concerns about the issue. As each one took their turn, every single one had said that they had no concerns, and that the problem did not affect them personally, until it was my turn. I let it all out. I could not stand to see my mother live like this, I cannot stand to see my father live in a house with no space, it made me sick to my stomach and had to change. I could only do so much and what I was doing wasn’t helping, the problem was getting worse, did no one else in the family care? It didn’t bother them that she was living like this, they had moved away, they didn’t have to see it, and they didn’t have to help her with it, so it didn’t bother them, but it bothered me. She was constantly on my phone, asking for help, bringing stuff over to my house because she couldn’t bear to get rid of it, so she had to force it on me, because, she said, I had the room for it.
Finally, I put my foot down, I will not live like that! I will not take her stuff, I will not help her clean uselessly anymore. She made the mess, that is how she has chosen to live, she needs to take responsibility for her own life and her own mess and her own stuff. I will not enable her to continue to accumulate stuff. I tried to get her to see that she needed counseling, what else can I do? At this point, I feel I am going crazy, I am so worried about her that my life is being affected, I am constantly crabby and start taking it out on my own husband and children. I have spent so much time and effort on her and her problems I haven’t paid enough attention to my own life and problems. How can I take care of someone else if I can’t even take care of myself? I am done with it. I told her: ‘I cannot come visit her in her house, it is a health hazard to me and it creates such heartache seeing how you live. I do not want your stuff, I don’t want your little pens with flowers on the ends that were such a good deal, I do not want your books, I do not want clothing that you bought because the color matched my eyes. What I want is a mother, a mother that can share in my joy, and happiness, that I can share my sorrow with, one that is proud of my accomplishments, and one I don’t have to clean up after, one I don’t have to take care of, I am not your mother, I am not here to take care of you, you are here to take care of me”
That seemed pretty clear to me, but not to her, the response I received was pretty astonishing, she said that I was a shitty daughter, and that this wasn’t about what I want, this was about what she wants, and she wants me to take her stuff and listen to her and help her and take care of her and all her problems because that’s what I had always done. But, I can’t anymore, I won’t anymore, and therefore according to her, I am wrong, and I am now the black sheep of the family, the lost soul, the shitty daughter…