It’s a valid fear that your parents could burn alive in their hoard.
It’s also a valid fear that mounds of stuff may become an avalanche, crushing them.
It isn’t enough that our parents are aging and dealing with the normal things that aging brings. It isn’t like I haven’t see aging or illness. I have seen plenty of it and it is by no means an easy or simple process. But for the most part these folks planned for their future. They downsized ahead of time. They moved closer to their family to make it easier on their adult kids and grand kids.
If, however, your aging parent happens to hoard, it is likely they are not considering how their hoard impacts themselves or anyone else. Even if you as the adult can see the solutions, the options and offer every level of assistance under the sun, most likely your parent will deny, demur or disown you if you keep bringing it up.
Well-meaning people will offer the Adult Kid of Parents That Hoard (#AKOPTH) advice that clearly indicates they simply do not understand the problem of hoarding. Would I like to help my parent? Yes. Will my parent let me help them in a way that would improve their quality of life? No.
So at some point we have to set a limit and boundaries on what we can take on with our parent that hoards. It isn’t that we don’t see the problem or the situation. If our parent is competent (or at least appears to be) and wants to remain in their home and live however they want, they can.
They can pile their stuff to the ceiling. They can allow their plumbing to fall into disrepair. They can keep their fridge on their front porch, full of rotting food, while they stuff their edible groceries on top. They can sleep on the floor because every other surface is taken up with stuff. They can fill their showers with newspapers and clothes and they do. They can run extension cords over, around and through stuff, despite any safety risk this might present. They can name the rodents that run across their ceilings and and through their walls.
Often all of that takes place behind closed doors where guilt, shame and fear rule the chaos. Clearing the “stuff” out is also NOT THE ANSWER. Say what?
If you force a clean out, it can be traumatizing for the person that hoards. If they are not getting any level of mental health treatment for their underlying issues, the clean out will likely not go well. If the clean out does occur anyway, it is likely the hoarding will begin in earnest again.
Not to mention if you as the Adult Kid are involved with any level of the clean out you may receive the worst chewing out and tongue lashing of your life. To the tune of, “You don’t love me,” “I hate you” and “I never want to see you again.” Then this is traumatizing for the Adult Kid as well! I often find this is totally a skipped concept in the conversation about hoarding.
This puts us in the precarious position of choosing either our parent and a relationship with them or clearing out the stuff to improve their quality of life. It does come back to our own boundaries and our own lives. As the #AKOPTH we have the RIGHT to say no, we won’t condone it. We won’t stay in it. But we love you and we want to you to know we care. And sometimes that is all we can do.
You know, sometimes we just have to embrace the concept that we can’t fix the hoard. Or our parent.
But we can find ways to handle it within our own very necessary healthy boundaries.
Tammi Moses is the founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Homes Are For Living, LLC which is a Veteran Woman Owned & Operated business located in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, WA. She provides consultations, assessments and workshops on the issue of hoarding and inspiring others to take their adversity and use it for the greater good. She is the voice of #AKOPTH-Adult Kids of Parents That Hoard. You can connect with Tammi via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org on Twitter and on Facebook.