Dealing with a hoarder - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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Dealing with a hoarder


My parents are moving house and ive just realised how much of a hoarder my mother is.
I always knew she kind of was and would joke about it but didnt understand the extent of it. She was able to hide it well, the house is quite big, theres a large shed and lots of storage space in the house, that said the house was always chock a block with stuff.
She loves a bargain, constantly goes into second hand shops to buy random things she doesnt need because they only cost about 50 cent, she has been doing this for 40 years and this second hand stuff has accumulated over the years.
She also loves buying cheap, second hand furniture and if something is offered for free, she takes it. Despite the house being big we've always had too much furniture, we have 2 large kitchen tables, one is in a 'dining room' thats never used for dining and is far too big for the room, there is a coffee table in the sitting room that is ugly and takes up half the space but she got it for free, every wall space is covered with furniture.

There is a small room that has large shelfs which had been packed full of cheap shampoo from floor to ceiling, most of these bottles are almost completely empty but she would never let anyone throw them away because there was a little bit left in them. Most of these bottles have been in the press for years.

So now theyre moving into a smaller house and they cant get all the furniture into it, loads of it is out in the front garden because theres no more space in the house.

She has boxes and boxes of these empty shampoo bottles that she wont get rid of, theres also boxes of old household cleaning items like near empty furniture polish, bleach, floor cleaner. She has boxes of old light bulbs, when I asked what she was going to do with them she got defensive and told me to leave them alone. She has phone books going back 8 years that she wont throw out.

Theres about 40 or 50 big boxes full of random second hand ornaments and decorations.

We havnt even finished clearing the house out yet and cant get half of the stuff to fit in the new house.

She's also known that theyre moving for the last 6 months but has only started clearing stuff in the last few weeks, now theyve become overwhelmed with the amount that has to be done as theyve to be out in 3 days. When I said to them in the beginning to start getting stuff sorted she told me to leave her alone, now she's stressed beyond believe, wont let anyone touch her stuff and cant fit anymore into the new house.

There is literally piles on top of piles of furniture and boxes all over the new house, in every room. There are tables, chairs, presses and wardrobes all over the garden and she wont throw anything away.

my dad is doing most of the moving as he has a van and a trailer, he is dumping everything in the new house and outside it, he's not checking the bags or boxes so has brought down bin bags and things for charity shops that wearnt meant to be moved to the new house, theyre dumped in among all of the other stuff, its a chaotic mess, the new house is entirely unlivable.

Ive never been so stressed and I just want to shake my parents. Why are they like this? Theyve made an already stressful situation of moving house 100 times worse and its now completely out of hand.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-14-2019, 10:53 PM
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I'd take junky stuff to a landfill or whatever without telling her. She probably doesn't remember what she has hoarded.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 12:49 AM
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I have two sisters that hoard. It's a disorder, like social anxiety. So it's not going to make sense and your mother has very little control over it. (And light bulbs are a pain; I have a bag of burned out bulbs myself, because the only way to dispose of them here is to take them to the dump as hazardous waste; which is across town and costs me money.)

I once spent 10 minutes convincing my sister to let me throw out a broken picture frame. It was literally nothing but broken shards of glass and wood. But she kept saying, "well, maybe I can use it for crafts or something...". I did once throw out a whole box on her. Because it was soaked in urine and mouse droppings and everything in it looked like garbage. She was pissed at me. Hoarding is the sort of thing you need a professional to deal with. If you do throw out stuff on her, and she figures it out, she will probably be pretty angry and hold it against you.

Hopefully, this incident is enough to make her realize that she has a problem. If so, you could try getting her to set small targets for herself: "pick one thing to get rid of every day", or "pick the 10 shampoo bottles you'd like to get rid of", or "do you have a bag of things you'd like to donate to charity?" (the thought that someone else might get some use out of it might help). (That's an exposure and response prevention (ERP) technique.) But it will be a slow and painful process. Try to get her to agree to a "more out than in" policy: let her keep collecting stuff, but only if she gets rid of more than she brings in. If she wants to add one thing to her collection, she has to get rid of two things.

For forty-seven years I've put up with it now. I must stop Christmas from coming ... but how?
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 01:00 AM
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My step-mother hoarded clothes. She was spending several hundred dollars a month on crappy/ugly clothes, much of it from H&M. Now this is a woman who is super stingy, except when it comes to clothes. Because her weight fluctuated so much she'd have the same item in various sizes. My dad also said that she'd forget what she already bought and would buy the same thing over and over.

Her clothes kind of smelled too because much of it was supposedly delicate and couldn't be washed in a machine. My dad did all the laundry though. But she was too lazy to wash all the "delicate" stuff by hand so she'd put it back in the closet and of course she couldn't keep track of what was clean and what wasn't since she had so much. That was over 20 years ago. Recently she got moved into a nursing home and my dad had to bring a whole bunch of her clothes there. Apparently the staff complained that it all smelled.

My dad said that he'd wait for one of the few times she left the house alone. After she retired it was probably only once or twice a month. Then he'd get out huge trash bags and throw out several garbage bags full of clothes out at once. Because she had so much she didn't notice. He told me this all with great glee.
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 03:29 AM
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Put all the garbage in a big pile & burn it, if she asks, say act of God lighting struck it, an uncle of my mother was a bit of a hoarder he used to take stuff that shops were throwing out, this included lots of food which he left lying around, he had an army of rats that were as big as cats running around his house, this was in the 90's & I don't think he'd changed his clothes or cleaned the house since the 70's at that point.






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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 03:55 AM
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What @truant says. It's OCD afaik, so would be cruel as **** to just get rid of ****.

Think "well I cant understand social anxiety so I will just put the socially anxious person up on stage, it will solve the problem of them not being able to do that speech, when they are up there they will do it lololol". Your actions should be in trying to make her understand its a psychological disorder, and trying to find ways to treat it in a kind way. I would begin by researching it and sharing that information with her.

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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 04:00 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies, theres no trying to help her, she doesnt want help, she just wants to complain about the mess and act like a victim.
She has no problem throwing out other peoples things and has burnt some of my dads sentimental heirlooms without telling him, if she didnt want them she could have just given them to his brother, sister, nieces or nephews who would have happily taken them. Anything she's thrown out has mostly been things belonging to other people.
I found my Starbucks coffee flask that I use all of the time and cost me 25 euro in among the things being sent to the charity shop.
Her lack of respect for other peoples things makes it hard for me to have sympathy when she's adamantly holding on to an old box of empty shampoo bottles.
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 11:52 AM
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My mother in law was kind of a hoarder, it wouldn't be things like lightbulbs or shampoo bottles. She kept things that were just absolute rubbish though, that she would never use, and she had piles of things in her house. It was just a disaster, when she passed away.

From my own observations and mind wandering, not at all validated by professionals - I think a lot of it has to do with people placing things as part of their own identity, we see this a lot with people, they identify with cars, outfits, the list goes on and on, people form an identity around things. Advertisers try their best to instill this mentality on others as well. I think for hoarders, they take it a few steps further and get attached to a lot of things. For them to throw out anything, is like throwing out an important part of themselves. If I were to just tell my MIL, something needed to be thrown out, she would likely feel insulted because by extension she would likely think I am saying a part of her needs to be thrown out. Of course, that is a pretty simplistic view of it all, I'm sure it is not accurate and there is a lot more involved.

The reason I say that, is because of how insulted she would get. She would become very defensive about things, and take personal insult if I were to offer to throw some things out. It was not just a matter of it having some "use" for later, but it was as though I were making a personal insult against her.

In the case of my mother in law, it kind of makes sense. She used to be a very organized person, that did not hold on to items. When her crappy husband left her, my wife, and a newborn child for another woman, she had a psychotic break, her identity must have been shattered in a thousand pieces, and the manner in which she brought herself back together was through her possessions. From what I have been told, that is when she started saving everything, even things that would have no use. Things that were broken, would be held on to, and just tossed to the side, only to be covered by more useless things. She remembered them all though.

When you combine that psychotic break, with the fact that she was born a few years after the great depression, she was brought up on the belief that you hold on to things that can be useful later, she had that mentality instilled in her already, but the attachment was not yet formed. It was a pretty bad mix, I imagine having the shock of finding yourself alone with two kids, and the person you loved so deeply just tossed you to the side, you go into panic mode and start saving everything you think you can use later. Over time, it just got worst and worst.

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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 12:08 PM
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Thanks for the replies, theres no trying to help her, she doesnt want help, she just wants to complain about the mess and act like a victim.
Many people with disorders don't want help because they don't see anything wrong or abnormal with their thinking/feeling. I have a schizophrenic aunt like that. She's completely mad but no one can convince her that she is.

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She has no problem throwing out other peoples things and has burnt some of my dads sentimental heirlooms without telling him, if she didnt want them she could have just given them to his brother, sister, nieces or nephews who would have happily taken them. Anything she's thrown out has mostly been things belonging to other people.
I found my Starbucks coffee flask that I use all of the time and cost me 25 euro in among the things being sent to the charity shop.
Her lack of respect for other peoples things makes it hard for me to have sympathy when she's adamantly holding on to an old box of empty shampoo bottles.
My hoarding sister is exactly the same way. She was constantly asking if she could get rid of stuff that belonged to me because it was in her way. She wanted the room for her own stuff. What's important to her matters; other people's stuff doesn't. I understand how difficult it is to maintain empathy. But the more attacked she feels, the more she'll dig her heels in. People don't change unless they see the new state as being better/less painful than the old state. So you have to make getting rid of stuff appeal to her somehow. Which isn't easy to do.

For forty-seven years I've put up with it now. I must stop Christmas from coming ... but how?
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 06:24 AM
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I think hoarding has a mental illness component. You can't "reason" or talk sense to them. They can't see it or don't want to. The easiest approach to me is to take what ever she NEEDS to have at the new house first. Then , the rest, just get rid of it.
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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 06:39 AM
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Holy ****, I have the same problem with my parents too on top of both of them having gambling addiction + credit card problems....

Literally ruined our whole family and lives, I always made excuses for them and tried to reason so much, but I cracked and couldn't take it anymore because the fridge was just fking atrocious (it still is to a degree, we have 3 fking fridges because they hoard so much...). They had old sauces/misc that were like 20 years past expiry, even when we moved they took so much expired perishable **** and put it back in the fridge again... this is just one aspect though, me and my siblings did a huge dump run and there was still so much stuff that we had to fill our own house bins. Later when my dad came back he was so mad he started going through the bins and taking all the rotten food out and collecting plastic bottles/containers and putting them back in the house. WTF

At that point I wanted to die lmao. I have opposite personality, I'm so minimalist and LOVE throwing away stuff... I'm always stressed because the house is not my aesthetic and full of annoying little things.

I did notice he does like to get rid of other people's stuff too to make room for more of his trash which is so ****ing annoying too.

Anyway that's just a bit of my story... honestly tbh the only way is to force change. I've tried to reason with them for so long and show them the benefits but in the end I am going back to brute force. They complain and get stressed over bills/not being organized and everything but they make their lives 10000x worse which prevents me from feeling empathetic, also because they did not give a **** about the mental and psychological effects their vices had on me growing up. I'm ****ed up now. Ironically they benefitted the most from the huge dump run because the cars could finally fit in the garage... ffs. We lost money from the dump toll as well. .________. I can't feel empathetic because they don't care that they hurt us this way. I get stressed when the kitchen is messy and there's too many dishes and the fridge is full of crap. I used to even clean the kitchen for them everyday but then one day I snapped and was like F this, since they weren't trying to get better and improve their lives and never cared for what I said.

Before we moved to rental houses, they would hoard stuff in my room and it was such a rough time for me since I was going through puberty and all. They would come in anytime and start getting stuff out from under the bed/wardrobe and mess my whole room up constantly whenever they wanted. Not to mention the room was tiny AF and suffocating already.

But anyway, I would just use force and get rid of EVERYTHING. When I was talking to my siblings, at the time we were trying to be a bit empathetic but nowadays we regretted not going full hardcore and CHUCKING EVERYTHING. It is really trash, USELESS ****ING STUFF. What's sick is my dad even hoarded other people's fking personal letters and ID cards and I'm like wtf when I was throwing out more stuff the other day....

****, if you have a family member that hoards it's so bad... especially if they're bad with finances and credit cards and disorganized as hell wtf.

In all honesty, we still haven't finished clearing all the "trash" and more keeps slowly accumulating these days... family is still in credit card debt and no house lololol. So we haven't recovered yet, idk about your financial situation but the sooner the stuff is gone the better... for us it obstructs organization and efficiency... also the electricity bill is high because the 3 fking fridges... that should be only 1.

My ultimate goal is to turn off all the other fridges, and have them cleared and sold, all the hoarded paintings, useless POS misc stuff and garage fully empty so all the cars can fit inside.

Side goal can be mum's wardrobe and makeup....

They complain so much about bills and borrow money from us, then they don't even do anything to lessen the bills like using less appliances.. and organizing the home properly so you can get things done quicker..

I don't wanna exist
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 11:48 AM
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Its a severe form of OCD. My dad is a big hoarder too. It used to be antiques that was worth a lot of money. Our house was loaded with the stuff when i was a kid, and his garages too. Old cars, old clocks, old arcade cabinets, you name it. And later when his life crashed, his antique hoarding turned into hoarding whatever he found while dumpster diving or in garage sales. Im sure he still has some good pieces cause once an antique dealer, always an antique dealer but most of what he gets is garbage. Though to his credit in the summer he makes garage sales and earned about 1500 last summer. So he does know how to make money with some thing. He always did and was great that that and equally great at spending it and not pay child support.

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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 12:17 PM
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Well, it's one of those things where if you're just at your wits end with said people, you pretty much have little choice but to unattach yourself from them as best you can. If you are financially independent, this is obviously a lot easier. But you will want to make it a point to make sure they have a will and you're not in it. Because if they croak and you inherit their mess, it might be your responsibility to clean up after them and deal with all the BS they left behind. I'm not sure how that works. I mean I don't think there is actually any law that requires you to accept any kind of inheritance but you might want to check.

Anyway, people are gonna do what they want to do and if you interfere, it's probably just going to piss them off. I mean, you have said that you have tried to get her to see things your way and she argues with you about it and won't listen. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know right there. She doesn't sound like someone who is going to change or who is gonna be grateful for your efforts.

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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-19-2019, 10:17 PM
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Can't really help you, but I worry that this will be a problem with me when I (hopefully) someday have my own place. I don't keep trash like old bottles or lightbulbs, but I do have too many clothes and too much stuff in general. Some of it is stuff I want when I have my own place so I got it now while I have the money to spend. Some of it is stuff I like but you can't get anymore. I buy too much on Amazon and eBay and my mom is always talking about it when stuff comes in the mail.

I've seen those hoarder shows and I think it's hard to say but the best way I see is to get the person away from the place and then dispose of it all. They are so attached to things they just can't get rid of it, they always have some excuse to why they might possibly need or can make use of something even if it's just trash.

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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 05:51 AM
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In the elderly it can also be a sign of dementia or at least, cognitive decline. Something to keep an eye on. Reasoning and decision making abilities go out the window. Aside from that it'd be good if she was sort of guided into another hobby that doesn't involve compulsive shopping, but I'd say it's pretty unlikely.
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post #16 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 06:07 AM
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In the elderly it can also be a sign of dementia or at least, cognitive decline. Something to keep an eye on. Reasoning and decision making abilities go out the window. Aside from that it'd be good if she was sort of guided into another hobby that doesn't involve compulsive shopping, but I'd say it's pretty unlikely.
Yeah. I don't know that my dad is a full blown hoarder but does tend to hoard. He's an old man but he's always been this way. It just wasn't so obvious in earlier years because he wasn't home very often to accumulate stuff. But he certainly did wear himself down to a nub dragging a bunch of junk around with him on the road (trucker). It was always pretty obvious that he was packing more stuff than he actually needed and was just loading himself down like a pack mule to go on a relatively short trip where he would mostly just be in a hotel room for sleep. He had so much stuff he'd carry along with him that he needed an actual cart to stack it on because he couldn't carry it all.

Now that he's retired and home all the time he just accumulates so much junk and crams it anywhere he can get it to fit where my mom won't immediately spot it and start complaining about how tacky it looks. It does no good to add storage shelves and so forth because he just junks them up and misuses the space with pointless clutter. It's not merely a matter of him not throwing stuff away (which he generally doesn't) but he gets more stuff than he needs.

He has a particular habit of accumulating religious books and magazines and DVDs but there is a huge storage shelf in the dining room that my mother put a shower curtain on the front of it (as if that doesn't look tacky) and it's just unbelievable what he's done to it. There are probably 500 cans of green beans and peas and assorted other foods on there and he has the bottom two shelves completely full of those. And he buys more every time he goes to the store. The upper shelves are a disaster mix of just useless stuff he's crammed in there. He doesn't even know most of it exists because I have found stuff in there I haven't seen for years and asked him if he remembered it and where it is. He doesn't know.

Occasionally I will go through stuff and at least organize it better but it doesn't help. It quickly becomes a chaotic mess again.

/WYSD
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post #17 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 06:16 AM
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@Luzali . Does your mom take stuff or pick up stuff that people leave for recycling or disposal collection at the side of the road? Like does she pick up a chair or table lamps and things like that if the neighbors left it out on the roadside for a disposal collection?

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post #18 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 07:38 AM
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My family say I’m a hoarder, but I don’t keep rubbish. I buy more than one of some things (not clothes) because I don’t like running out, and they say it’s like I think there’s going to be a war and I’m preparing for it. I’ve been looking for some things to sell because I feel bad for having so much stuff. So far, I have clothes, shoes and knitting needles I can get rid of.

I had eight empty body wash bottles once which I kept so I could try to get it all into one bottle, but I couldn’t take the lids off, so I threw them out. That’s the only time I’ve kept things like that.

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post #19 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 04:52 PM
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My family say Iím a hoarder, but I donít keep rubbish. I buy more than one of some things (not clothes) because I donít like running out, and they say itís like I think thereís going to be a war and Iím preparing for it. Iíve been looking for some things to sell because I feel bad for having so much stuff. So far, I have clothes, shoes and knitting needles I can get rid of.

I had eight empty body wash bottles once which I kept so I could try to get it all into one bottle, but I couldnít take the lids off, so I threw them out. Thatís the only time Iíve kept things like that.
From the pics you've posted, your stuff doesn't look like a bunch of useless junk sitting around. It's obvious that you care about the stuff you have and enjoy it. It doesn't look like there are a bunch of things that haven't been touched in years.

/WYSD
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post #20 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-21-2019, 09:31 PM
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Yeah. I don't know that my dad is a full blown hoarder but does tend to hoard. He's an old man but he's always been this way. It just wasn't so obvious in earlier years because he wasn't home very often to accumulate stuff. But he certainly did wear himself down to a nub dragging a bunch of junk around with him on the road (trucker). It was always pretty obvious that he was packing more stuff than he actually needed and was just loading himself down like a pack mule to go on a relatively short trip where he would mostly just be in a hotel room for sleep. He had so much stuff he'd carry along with him that he needed an actual cart to stack it on because he couldn't carry it all.

Now that he's retired and home all the time he just accumulates so much junk and crams it anywhere he can get it to fit where my mom won't immediately spot it and start complaining about how tacky it looks. It does no good to add storage shelves and so forth because he just junks them up and misuses the space with pointless clutter. It's not merely a matter of him not throwing stuff away (which he generally doesn't) but he gets more stuff than he needs.

He has a particular habit of accumulating religious books and magazines and DVDs but there is a huge storage shelf in the dining room that my mother put a shower curtain on the front of it (as if that doesn't look tacky) and it's just unbelievable what he's done to it. There are probably 500 cans of green beans and peas and assorted other foods on there and he has the bottom two shelves completely full of those. And he buys more every time he goes to the store. The upper shelves are a disaster mix of just useless stuff he's crammed in there. He doesn't even know most of it exists because I have found stuff in there I haven't seen for years and asked him if he remembered it and where it is. He doesn't know.

Occasionally I will go through stuff and at least organize it better but it doesn't help. It quickly becomes a chaotic mess again.
Both my parents hoard, more so my mum. My mum hoards because everything is 'sentimental' and my dad hoards because everything is potentially 'useful'. They get pissed off at each other's different hoarding orientations. It's a bad mix. I sometimes wonder if this is why I went the opposite way; I'm a minimalist, and have donated or sold nearly all my childhood items, except for a few plushies. I have few clothes, a few pairs of shoes, and only a few pieces of furniture most of which were lent to me, I only really own my bed base. I learnt a while ago if things are out of sight they're usually out of mind. Most of the stuff you get rid of you forget existed. I only remember a fraction of the things I sold / donated. I don't regret any of it.
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