I met my great aunt when I was 13 years old. She lived in the old farmhouse where she and her siblings had grown up in a small farm town in Kansas. I remember that we had to call ahead to let her know we were arriving.
When we arrived at my Great Aunt’s in Kansas we parked our van on the property & essentially prepared to camp. I remember the four of us walking on the property and entering the house through the kitchen. There were a lot of tin cans on the counters and it was dark & cluttered.
We were ushered into what was once a nice parlor area. I could see the family portraits in the heavy, big round frames. There was wallpaper on the walls and I could see that once it had been a pretty room. There was also a second story in the farmhouse, but it was mentioned that it was unsafe to venture upstairs. I am guessing it was a combination of too much stuff and not being properly maintained.
The parlor was now filled with towering stacks of boxes and there was a very small section of the room that was clear of items. There was a wood stove with a cot near it. This appeared to be the only space where my Great Aunt “lived.” We all sat on a small bench in the crowded, cluttered room. After about 10 minutes I asked if we could go back out to our van. I felt very claustrophobic in the cluttered room and really wanted to get away from the chaos.
At the time I don’t think it occurred to me that one day my own parents would be living in a similar hoarded space.
Growing up I remember that there was a lot of clutter in our house & I eventually refused to have friends over as a teenager. I moved out in my senior year of high school and felt bad about leaving my wheelchair bound brother behind.
As my parents aged & after my brother died it seemed like the hoarding increased. The house became essentially a storage unit where there was barely room to shimmy through the house to get to the bathroom. The amount of clutter, boxes, bags, clothes took over the entire living room, dining room, den, hallway, bathroom and my brothers bedroom.
What seems to be a common thread throughout the family is the level of TRAUMA that these people each experienced in some way. My Great Aunt’s youngest brother died when he was 21 and I suspect that caused a lot of grief for her. My parents both struggled with respective loss & trauma issues and I think this also contributed to the hoarding.
The unaddressed trauma spilled out via stuff & also became traumatic for my brother and I to grow up in. It is extremely isolating to grow up in a space where you cannot function or have friends over.
If we don’t address the underlying trauma in the people that hoard, it continues to impact them negatively. If we don’t address the trauma in ourselves, it can spill out to the other people in our lives. It can impact people for generations to come.
I encourage you to truly look at your story, your own history & trauma and decide that you will face it head on. Once you are aware of the issue, then you can work to address it.
Tammi Moses is the founder and Chief Encouragement Officer of Homes Are For Living, LLC dba The Hoarding Solution which is a Veteran Woman Owned & Operated business located in Oak Harbor, WA.
She provides consultations, assessments and workshops on the issue of hoarding. She believes in 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. She is also a voice & advocate for #YLITH – Youth Living in The Hoard. You can connect with Tammi at firstname.lastname@example.org and on social media.