For about 10 years my mother has been a serious hoarder. It has become so bad that we are no longer speaking. About 5 years ago I tried to help her out. That's when I took the pictures below. Since that time it has become worse, much worse. My stepfather has given up and adds to the piles as well. As of late last year they began hoarding animals and it was then that I reached the breaking point. Last I knew they had an indoor dog and about a dozen cats. At least two of the cats were living inside and the rest lived around the front porch. These are people who have given up taking care of themselves and are in financial ruins due to compulsive shopping. Now they have adopted stray cats which they claim to have taken to the vet and two of the cats have had surgery. It is a frustrating situation to put it mildly.
Hoarding in Athens, GA: Mom's bathroom
It was after several years of avoiding regular visits, having heard on the phone that they were working on the house, that I took my son to visit them. Long ago, my mother's childish and irrational rambling raves and behavior drove my daughter away; she refused to visit. My son was quite polite and chose to focus on the two indoor cats, their numerous toys, and play stations. However, it was when we left, he let his guard down. In the car, my normally talkative child was quiet, too quiet. Eventually I asked. He was immensely bothered and overwhelmed by the house and his grandparents strange behavior. For weeks afterward, I dreamed of that horrible house. I found I had to check my own behavior; specifically, I keep a neat house, a well organized home, office and studio. Suddenly the cleanliness issue was nagging and bordered on compulsive. It took several month before these feelings passed.
Hoarding in Athens, GA: Mom's bedroom
Finally I knew I had to do something. I had to confront my mother. It's not that I had been silent before. Rather, I would ask what she was doing to take up her time. Then I would move into asking her about the cleaning situation, what she had managed to do, what she was working on. Always her answers were short, hurried through, and she would become anxious to move onto the next subject. Unfortunately, I always seemed to always hear of a sale, some discounted thing, a deal that couldn't be passed upon. Or perhaps it had been a meal out, after all, she can't cook in the kitchen due to the piles of junk. Never would she linger on the house.
The confrontation did not go well. My mother has always been a vain woman, highly emotional and given to fits of depression which led her to sleep my childhood away. "Born tired and had a relapse," was the way her own mother described her. These were the reasons I had avoided a direct confrontation until then. By the end, I had issued an ultimatum, "clean up your life if you want me and my family in it." I have regretted the decision to confront her; yet, I know that no good can come of this situation unless she takes action. She refused, going so far as to forbid me to contact the Athens, GA, authorities.
Hoarding in Athens, GA: Mom's bedroom
Over the years, my sister, the good, sweet, loyal one- and I say this with all sincerity - has tried. She and her husband went so far as to redo mom's bathroom, replacing all the fixtures, flooring and cabinets. My sister and her husband also redid my mother's other bedroom so they could have a nice new room to live in while they worked on the old double bedroom. That was the bedroom my sister had redone, combining two bedrooms to accommodate my mother's growing piles. Yet again, my mother trashed the new bedroom, layering piles on the new furniture, on top of the new floors, and overflowing the closets.
Hoarding in Athens, GA: Mom's overflow bedroom and her regular bedroom
My sister remains. I have left. I can not help her if she won't help herself. It kills me to see her choose to live this way. Further, I can't continue dealing with a person who refuses to get help for not only hoarding, but also, compulsive shopping, serious depression, eating disorders and I fear perhaps senility issues given her bizarre childish behavior. Am I the bad daughter? I guess I am. Am I a good mother? I sure as hell try. It is for my own mental well being and that of my children I can not have a relationship with my mother at this time.