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...as I tied off the 75th contractor bag full of old clothes, children's toys, and random stuff, to be sent to Goodwill. "No one should live like this. It's not healthy for her mind or her body."

The total of the day stood at eighty bags. A little over a ton of clothing and junk went out of the 10 x 15 room. I spent ten hours just filling bags and handing them to someone to take out and load into the pickup truck. Today I'm going to clean the room, now that I can see it, and clean the living room. Then I'm going to work on the front parlor where she's been living, if I have time.

If I have time? We're doing this while she's in the hospital and doesn't know. She refuses all help and all pleas to do something, and now she's weak and is in danger from her house. So it has to be done, no matter what it does to her psyche or how much it pisses her off.

At a certain point, you have to intervene and act with a hoarder.

Compulsive hoarding is a complex mental disorder involving a need to acquire and save lots of objects, regardless of the toll on finances, family and living conditions. The objects can vary widely, and can even include pets.

Here are some signs of hoarding, complete with my own description of how it actually plays out.

1. Acquiring objects brings a rush. She would call us to gloat over finding bags of clothes left over after rummage sales, or various houseware items in the trash after Christmas.

2. You have trouble finding things. I'm not talking about the "I haven't seen it for eight months and don't know exactly what drawer it's in" sort of thing. Many things I found were in their original packaging, still in the bag from the store.

3. Throwing things out upsets you.
She didn't hoard food garbage (thank all the gods) but we found bags and bags of opened and sorted junk mail starting in 2004. She kept it all.

4.Fix-it projects pile up faster than you can repair them. Hoarders intend to mend broken items but never get to them. Partly because the mess gets in the way, and partly because why fix it, if you can't use the space due to the mess. Yesterday my nephew installed two ceiling fans and helped clean and repair other light fixtures. We are going to hang shelves in the kitchen for storage this weekend, too, since it has almost no cabinets. We also completed the installation of the downstairs bathtub, which had been on hold because of the junk.

5. You avoid having visitors. Many compulsive hoarders find excuses for keeping guests out of their homes. I would actually say this is the biggest warning sign. If it's too bad for the world to see, wake up and FIX IT! Before it grows and eats your head.

6. You put off repairs because your house is a mess. Hoarders are often too embarrassed to open their door to a plumber, carpenter or landlord.  She has a refrigerator that needs a small repair to the fan wiring to keep it running. But due to the mess, she has purchased a second refrigerator and put it in another room of the house. Preparing a meal involves walking from end to end of the house to get ingredients.

7. You’re saving items because they might be useful or valuable someday. Hoarders place value on items that are worthless or of little value. She gathered these clothes out of the trash because they were still useful. But making them useful means getting them back out into the world where people can get them and use them, not hoarding them in piles in an unused bedroom.

I know some people collect things in a non-hoarding way, and that's fine. For me, the difference between a collection and a hoard is that collections are cataloged, displayed, cared for, and are not the person's life, nor do they displace basic daily activities of living. While I may not care to collect Precious Moments figurines and memorabilia to the point that everything has that motif on it, if they can still cook, eat, clean up, take a bath, and sleep in a bed and sit and live in the living room, the overwhelming collection can be okay. But even that is rather akin to functional alcoholism, and needs to be monitored closely.

8. You can't use rooms for their intended function.  My mother in law was sleeping on a couch, storing her clothing randomly among the mess in her laundry room, and had a refrigerator in her living room because she couldn't stand to have someone come fix the one in the kitchen. The only open seats in the house were on that couch. The rest were piled with stuff.

Well, I need to eat breakfast and head back to my mother in law's house. More cleaning and work is needed so that she can sleep in the bedroom next to the bathroom when she comes home from the hospital.  If anyone in the north central Indiana area wants to help, Kosmail me and keep your Sunday free. I could use it.  If not, prayers are good too.

Originally posted to Alexandra Lynch on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 04:17 AM PDT.

Also republished by KosAbility.

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