"My family and I would like to celebrate holidays like we used to enjoy. We can't because our grandma (or mom or dad) is a hoarder. There is not enough room to sit. We couldn't even begin to think about having a meal there. We used to have such good times and I want to bring our family back together again."
As a professional organizer who specializes in working with hoarders, I frequently receive calls from grandchildren and children who desperately want to bring back the family gatherings of their childhood memories. As these young people describe the hoarding behaviors of their relative, I hear anger and frustration in their voices. There is a sincere desire to help their loved one and a willingness to do whatever it takes on their part to bring about change.
Here are some considerations for the younger generation seeking help for older family members with hoarding behaviors:
Does the individual want to change? Frequently, life has gone on in this manner for possibly decades. Change is difficult at any age, and may be impossible if there is not a sincere desire to change behaviors and habits.
How is the mental and physical health of the individual?Health status, both mental and physical, can greatly affect how one makes decisions about their living environment.
Are health and safety of the household occupants compromised because of the hoarding? In addition to physical hazards such as excess clutter, don't overlook blocked heating ducts, loose papers near cooking heat and expired medication.
What attempts to change have been made in the past and what was the outcome? Be aware that however well-intentioned, "clean-outs" are rarely the long-term answer to hoarding. Attention to acquisition behaviors, beliefs and attitudes, difficulty in discarding and decision-making are vital to the change process.
I encourage your family to learn more about the complex behavior of hoarding. Find competent professionals that can be part of a team that includes the loved one who hoards.
If your family has a loved one who hoards, how have you addressed it?