Hoarders Illustrating Psychological Abuse and Protecting Abusers


Psychological abusers and hoarders“This notion, that parents must never be blamed no matter what they have done, has caused untold damage.” Alice Miller ~ Banished Knowledge


The other night I was watching the show “Hoarders” on television. The eldest daughter came home from University and brought her boyfriend along for a visit.  Even before they entered the house, she started reminding him not to “say anything.” Inside the house was a shocking mess. Her mother was a hoarder. The “hoard” in some places was up to the ceiling. There were slim pathways everywhere so they could make their way through the house. Before the daughter and her boyfriend arrived, the mother told the camera crew that her daughter was “happy” as long as she could sleep in her bed; that the stuff piled all over her bedroom didn’t bother her.  Again, the “stuff” was piled up to the ceiling in her room too.


There were bugs everywhere. There were mice and rodent droppings everywhere.  The boyfriend was pretty disturbed about it but she kept warning him not to say anything.  She reminded him, pleaded with him and she told him outright not to say anything.


The biggest concern that she had was to protect her mother. Her mother had a problem that was affecting the whole family, but the mothers feelings had to be protected.


The family cooked in the kitchen and the boyfriend said on film that he felt the house was unsanitary and disgusting. But he sat down at the table and he ATE there anyway. I was wondering WHY he would sit down and EAT in that house.  He would make an honest comment to her about his revulsion to the whole thing, and she would ask him to please not say anything.


I could not believe it when they went to BED in that house!


I was watching a typical abusive family system highlighted on television.  The youngest daughter, who was a teenager and still lived in the home, was not allowed to decide what she could throw away from her own bedroom.  Her room was a huge mess as well; she wanted to get rid of things and was not allowed. She had no choice.


For anyone who is not familiar with the show “hoarders” the hoarder always agrees to get some help and the helping crew comes in and organizes a cleanup process. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.


On this show the hoarder mother was in serious denial. She didn’t think there was a problem. They showed a scene where the mother was angry because the kids threw away an empty box and she wanted to keep the box.  She made it clear that she didn’t trust her husband or kids in the clean up process and that since she couldn’t trust them they could not make decisions anymore about what was garbage and what wasn’t.  She made it clear that the teenage daughter did not have a choice about what stayed or what went and insisted that the daughter was the one who was unreasonable.


It seemed that the mother who was the hoarder and the cause of the destruction and emotional devastation in the family, was excused because she has this “problem”.  Did the daughters know they had a right to be upset? Did they ever realize mother was wrong, or did they only consider that mother was sick? When all the focus is on the person who had the disorder, “sick” is communicated as a justification for what is in this case, psychological abuse. This communicates that the feelings of the person who is perpetrating the damage are more important than anything or anyone else and the dysfunction is preserved.  The boyfriend has a right to say that he didn’t want to be there. The daughter has a right to live in a clean and safe environment.


Please understand my point; I KNOW that the mother is sick. I know that hoarding is an illness but my point is that her illness doesn’t lessen the fact that damage is being done to other people.  There is major emotional damage and psychological abuse happening in that home because of the hoarding.  Everyone deserves to have help, not just the mother.  All the damage to each person should also be validated.  Just because the hoarder mother is sick and because hoarding is a disorder, does not cancel or excuse the damage that the mother is doing to the others in her family. Protecting her feelings enables her to malfunction, and it also devalues everyone else.


The people who live with a hoarder communicate that the hoarders’ relationship to the “things” is deeper than her relationship to the people in the family.  Can you imagine how painful that would be to a child of any age; the hoarder cared more about broken dolls, than she did about her own daughter.  That is mother daughter dysfunction and overall dysfunctional family stuff. That is emotional abuse and psychological abuse.  That does damage to the self esteem of the daughter and other children.  It sends a message to the child that embeds itself in the belief system and that damage must be dealt with too.


There is no difference between this dysfunctional family system and any other type of dysfunctional abusive family system where the “abuser” and the feelings of the abuser, are protected and the welfare of the others is not considered.


The hoard is just the symptom and the manifestation of what happened to the mother and the damage that has occurred in her life.  Who knows what the manifestations of what happened to the daughter will be.  Without help, the cycle continues.


Comments are always appreciated and make a difference to everyone here.  Please share your thoughts. Keep in mind that you can use only a first name or screen name if you wish.


Exposing truth; one snapshot at a time


Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

Watch episodes of Hoarders on video

Hoarders ~ burried alive (the T.V. show)


Categories : Family



i too have seen episodes of that programme, and i agree. i feel for the children, even the adult children, because their lives are turned upside down.hoarding is an addiction used to hide what is really wroong, just like others use alcohol or drugs.
i do have hoarding tendencies but have managed to not let them pver take the house, just lil corners like the attic n the shed. but if there is an empty space i will try n fill it somehow, hubby gets nad with all the clutter but he can be as bad.
but i know i mustnt let it show to much cos my daughter has problems with changes and liked things to be seti n stone. like i had to have one color mug and dad had to have another and if we swapped she would go mad at us. she also wouldnt have a hot drink because it wasnt our kettle, ours was white not green, she was 18mths old. we had a new one. it was really hard at firsst but slowly she has come round and now isnt half as bad as she was.


I know a case of this and I’m so glad that you are pointing out what the hoarding can do to the children. In the case I know of, everyone went into therapy except the mother. Hoarding was only one of her syptoms. She damaged everyone in her family. She died and one year after her death, dad and all three daughters live in different states and hardly even call one another. It’s almost as if the mothers ‘sickness’ is what held them together. One daughter remains here and is in therapy. A mutual friend was surprised and I said something about how she was beginning to understand how she had been treated. My friend said, “They didn’t treat her right?” I was stunned. I can’t believe that she didn’t understand that growing up in such a horrible environment was damaging. She is an educated person, a teacher! People are really ignorant about the different forms of child abuse.


And certain emotional hoarding went along with other hoarding in my family.


Hi Carol
I too have had tendency’s to keep stuff I don’t need. When I got into my recovery, I had little piles of stuff everywhere, all hidden in closets etc. I set a goal to clean the whole house, and I used 100 green garbage bags and a couple pick up loads of boxes of stuff that I had “saved”. I think of it today as what I used as “insulation” for myself when I was so scared of life and scared to really take mine back. I still take my time throwing stuff away but this past couple months I have been going through closets again and getting things back to organized. (well comfortable anyway! not perfect!)
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Pam
This is kind of the bottom line of my message ~ that no one understands the damage that is done so much so that we ourselves don’t understand it and coming to acknowledge it was one of the keys that set me free. I’m not picking on hoarders, I am just using this as an example of another type of dysfunction.
Thanks for sharing this Pam!
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Kate,
What do you mean by “emotional hoarding”?

Hugs, Darlene


@ Darlene, I am actually on my way out but wanted to read this he title was intriguing to me. Okay I am going to say something that nobody will agree with. But whatever sickness they have (hoarders) I believe they choose it along the path fo life at some point. Nobody is born this way! I know people will get upset at that. But it is my opinion. My mom was a hoarder. Not to the extent of the show but a hoarder anyway. I am the opposite. I hate clutter of any kind and like a Zen like atmosphere. I only lived at her house until I was about 15 then I loved out. Maybe I got my hate of clutter from her I dont know but I cant stand it. Anyway I watched the commercials for that and I could not even look at it especially the rodents. I agree with what Carol said that hoarding is an addiction to hide what is really wrong. And I have seen what Kate said many times. Emotional hoarding. I am the opposite. I take inventory of the people I let into my life every once in a while and hit a delete button in my life. I believe clutter on any level is not healthy! I know someone who is friends with every person they were ever romantically involved with. In my opinion that is emotional clutter. I do agree Darlene they do need help and it has become a sickness but I believe in the long run they have chosen it! Just like you chose to become well. They have chosen to be sick!


I am not saying that they are not sick. I am not sure that you understood my post at all. I believe that hoarding is a coping method just like every other coping method. I think it is related to depression. But what I am saying, the point that I am trying to make here is (and I will quote from my own post)

“It seemed that the mother who was the hoarder and the cause of the destruction and emotional devastation in the family, was excused because she has this “problem”. Did the daughters know they had a right to be upset? Did they ever realize mother was wrong, or did they only consider that mother was sick? When all the focus is on the person who had the disorder, “sick” is communicated as a justification for what is in this case, psychological abuse. This communicates that the feelings of the person who is perpetrating the damage are more important than anything or anyone else and the dysfunction is preserved.”
The point I am making is that there IS damage done to others and the person with the problem gets all the sympathy; my mother who was a clean freak by the way, used her fragile mental health to control everyone around her, just like this hoarder mother controlled everyone around her and even in the process of helping her, they all walked on eggshells. That is what I was trying to express here.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


@Darlene thanks for clarifying that’s what I get for speed reading. Kind of in a rush but wanted to read it. 🙂 I understand and agree! Sorry for rushing!


Boy what a powerful and clear way to put this Darlene. I can see this in action and hoarding is a great example of this. Just like every other “disorder” out there by catering to it and enabling it instead of holding this woman responsible for her role as a parent she passed on the dysfunction to the next unsuspecting generation. I agree…hoarding is a coping mechanism just like alcohol, depression, drugs, dissociation….and when the kids learn to “keep the secret” or are taught to tip toe, be quiet, not say anything…they are being taught just what you said; that the hoarding/alcohol/drugs etc is more important than they are. I think also when we are trained to view these maladaptive coping skills as an illness/sickness though that this reinforces the idea for the addict/abuser that they are not responsible because they are “sick”. Its a conundrum of sorts in what to call this (addict/actingout/actingin) behavior in parents but the bottom line is that the one with the problem is responsible to get help not expect the children to carry the burden of their issues by walking on eggshells and being taught the game in the dance of dysfunction.


I can’t watch the show for more than just a few minutes before I have to change to something else. Like the daughter who comes home and brings her boyfriend, I was the protector of my mother and her feelings from a very young age. Until I read the book The Dance of Anger and learned about triangulation, I would even take my mother’s side in any arguments between her and my husband. The triangle just kept the arguments going without anything being settled. I saw myself as stepping in and protecting my mom, at the expense of my husband, after reading that book. With that knowledge, I gave up being my mom’s protector and let her feel her own anger instead of me stepping in and taking it on.

Darlene, I agree with your assessment of this show. It is so emotionally abusive of everyone by the hoarder. Hoarding is another way to keep people away. Usually at some point during the shows that I have watched, the hoard will angerily lash out at someone for throwing away their stuff. What I see that anger is a cover for a deep seated fear of people and life. The show is too disturbing for me to watch.


Darlene, funny but many abusers are also hoarders. My own abusive husband was a hoarder. Now I am still left with a lot of stuff to get rid off but I feel guilty just throwing stuff out because I’ve adopted a bit of his thinking. My own kids get upset if I get rid of stuff. I don’t know why they feel the need to get attached to “gear”, much of which is not even used and is only taking up space.

Is it normal to feel like you must somehow be “responsible” and either sell the stuff or give it to worthy people? What if I couldn’t be bothered having a garage sale, and I don’t know of people that needy for my garbage? I know I would feel better just getting rid of a lot of junk, esp if I want to sell the place, but I also feel guilty for getting rid of stuff that I could’ve sold, or passed on to the kids’s kids, or that the kids may one day find useful, etc. How did you feel when you got rid of all the excesses?


I like the term that Kate used above, “emotional hoarding”. That really struck a nerve with me. I won’t speak for her, but can say what that term means to me – withholding healthy emotional bonding in relationships because they feel the child isn’t worth the effort or doesn’t need it. I grew up in a family where no one EVER said that they loved each other. It just didn’t happen. My mother never hugged any of her sons because she “didn’t think boys needed that” (as she told my wife years later). My father’s only form of physical contact with his children was always in a context of anger. Emotional hoarding is a very apt term for parents who withhold the basics of what children so desperately need – to feel that they are loved, that they matter, and that they are not just an afterthought.


Darlene, I know you weren’t picking on hoarders. It just hit a raw nerve. I feel sorry for my young friend’s mom but I also see first hand the devestation she caused in the lives of her children. They couldn’t have friends over when they were kids and when my friend had her children, she couldn’t take them to visit. The family really only saw one another and maybe, now that she’s gone, that’s why they don’t see one another now. I think it was like getting out of prision when the mom died but that sense of freedom was mixed with grief and combined, produced a lot of guilt. It’s just very sad and that part of hoarding is never focused on in the show. I agree hoarders are sick but the cure is taking responsibility to get well.


Pinky, I’m a nit-nick too!


Just wrote a long response and lost the whole thing! I am trying.


Hi Susan
Thank you for adding your voice to this. Yes. That is what I am trying to say. For me, it has been SO important to realize the message that was communicated to me by the actions of others and by the whole dysfunctional family system, (that seemed so normal) so that I could see the damage (to me) and start to re wire my brain and belief system. (and learn new dance steps!)

I am not saying that it is wrong to view hoarding or any of these coping methods as an illness ~ I don’t want to simplify it to that degree but what I am saying is that the damage is done to others regardless and no matter how you view the abuser/manipulator. The damage isn’t less because the person is sick. I understand that sometimes the person isn’t “that sick” and is making excuses themselves for what are in fact choices, but it is so hard to have the discussion about emotionally sick or not. So what I am saying is if the damage, (including the emotional damage) is excused and ignored… there is further damage. I am saying “so what” if this mother was “sick”. She did a lot of damage with her “sickness” and instead of looking at her and making excuses for her, it it time to look at the damage ~ call it like it is ~ and heal from it. EVEN if it makes her worse… even if it hurts her, even if …….. well you get it.. LOL It finally had to be about me or I would have ended up just like her.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Patricia
Thank you for highlighting triangulation. Yes, that fits too. This is such a part of my own story, but for me it wasn’t about protecting my mother so much as the fact that I thought she was “too weak” (this was part of the “so what” I had to understand) to be responsible for her part in anything so I just accepted that belief and went from there. When she was upset with me, I took the blame. Even if I fought her, I felt guilty for it, so I still took the blame. It was in understanding this that i was able to take my life back and give her her responsibility back.
Great points Patricia,
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Krissy
When I hit the publish button on this post, I suddenly got really worried that a lot of my readers might be hoarders too! It is just one more coping method in a long line of coping method and it does damage to others just like all coping methods in adulthood do. (we need them in childhood and then don’t know how to live without them in adulthood)
I can relate to feeling guilty about throwing stuff out.. but I do it anyway. For me (and this is JUST my story) getting rid of the junk in my house was part of my healing. It was symbolic of clearing the wreckage of the past. It was symbolic of making room for the new life I wanted. That was how it felt when I was doing it. I don’t know if I was attached to the stuff or just afraid to make the wrong decisions about what I threw away. There was always so much fear in my life before about doing the wrong thing. Getting rid of it was empowering. It was exhilarating and felt like progress and a new beginning all at the same time. It felt like the physical manifestation of my personal growth. I can say enough good things about the decision to let go of “stuff” but please remember ~ I was ready to do it. I had faced so much already and was done my therapy process and in the process of learning to live with my new belief system when I cleaned the junk out.
Hugs, Darlene

Hi Eddie
This is something that I have not thought about in this way before. That people can be emotional hoarders. My mother was a bit of an emotional hoarder too, and so was my father. Actually my father was very very disconnected emotionally, so I think that I just accepted that he was not capable of emotion. SO I didn’t expect it… again same as all the rest of my comments today ~ I made excuses for HIS issue never looking at the damage it cause me. It was a horror for me when I realized that they withheld healthy relationship because I wasn’t worth it but that is really the way that it was. ( I wrote a post yesterday that expresses this very deeply ~ about realizing that stuff)
Thanks for sharing Eddie…so great to hear from you! I might right a post about emotional hoarding.. it strikes a nerve with me too.
Hugs, Darlene


So for now, I was told that I had NO idea what any frustration was, or any feelings, for that matter, because I didn’t live the deprived life that my mother did. And looking back, she didn’t TELL me the details of her suffering, only used it as a reason to invalidate me as a person. She put her toxic emotions inbetween us.


Hi Pam
I should have written my response to you more clearly; What I should have said is ” WHAT YOU SAID (in your comment) is kind of the bottom line of my message”. That was what I meant.

Kate, I hope you get the comment back!
Hugs, Darlene


This was HUGE for me. My mother did tell me all about the deprived life she lived… and she was deprived. She was totally deprived of love, food, decent clothing, saftey, I could go on. And I accepted that she was too damaged to love me. SO I made excuses for her, to myself and excused the toxic, excused the abuse. (and there was abuse) It wasn’t until I faced that I had a right to be angry, that I had a right to be loved, that what happened to me was wrong and there WAS NO EXCUSE ~ (without thinking about what happened to HER was wrong and there was no excuse for that either but I HAD to set that part aside and say “so what?” that doesn’t change the damage done to me) That I was able to heal. I had to validate me where no one else ever did and then the damage done to me made it so that I could not accpet validation from anyone else anyway so I had to do it.
Hugs, Darlene


Oh! Okay, Darlene!LOL!


Hi Darlene

I didn’t know if I fit into this because my mom didnt hoard but she did and does have everyone’s sympathy.. She is seen as the victim in all the abuse I went through.. She had to put up with me for all those years I lived at home.. I disgraced her by my life… and my whole family ..all them say I should be ashamed of myself… that I didn’t keep on “hoarding the family secrets in my heart” ..

Today is my mom’s birthday and I was reminded of how everyone else is so loving and kind to my mom and I am such a bad person.

The other day . .I picked up the phone.. which I had not been doing . .thinking it was another person’s call coming in and it turned out to be one of my siblings..

Oh the heartaches that resulted from that call. My Sister is very much a victim but she cannot handle not having mom like her.. she would gladly say mom is poor mom and anything else she is asked so that she will not be kept out of the family circle.

When the government come into our home to take us away as kids i remember mom telling me to tell them i dont want to go mom is nice and I told them exactly as she said. I remember hitting them in the chest.. saying ” no no no” let me stay..

I was so terrified of not saying this that I played the part completely.. I didn’t do a good enough job. .and I remember going to hug my mom goodbye and she pushed me away saying ” get out of here”

I was told it was my fault the feds come took us away.. I told the teachers about the incident . but I didnt volunteer it . I answered questions which led them to investigate..

I messed up the happy home.. that is what I was told.. Even on coming back .. till I left .. I was the one who messed up the happy home.

To this day .. all my siblings side with my mom and look at me like someone who is shameful..merely because I couldn’t go on living a life as a broken person.

Despite knowing all the abuse I took.. I am the bad person and mom, the abuser is the victim.

I was quiet all my life never said a word but now that I need healing. am no longer any good in the family’s eyes.

Moreover . that I should step outside the catholic faith. that is unspeakable. I am going to hell.!



Joy, I know birthdays are really hard and so are those kind of phonecalls. I’m sure my mom is playing the victim role also. I called my brother on his birthday and he didn’t answer and won’t call me back. Who knows what he’s been told. He has never heard my side of it. No one wants to. It’s easier to just make me the scapegoat and move on. I didn’t close the door on my relationship with my family, they did when they refused to acknowledge my sexual abuse and treat me with respect. Your mom and sister make their own choices too. I know the only choices I can make are mine. I live with mine and they will have to live with theirs.



Hi Joy
This fits in exactly! My mom was the farthest thing from a hoarder that anyone could be! She didn’t keep ANYTHING and sometimes that is abusive too!
I am proud of you for taking care of you for once. I know if feels uncomfortable for a while, but it is the only way that I healed.
Something that I learned about my mother is that she only “liked me” when I was doing what she wanted. That was how she controlled me. I quickly knew by her mood change and by the look on her face when I displeased her and I would quickly change or pay the price. But that isn’t love. Living in terror isn’t love or even remotely related to love either. I don’t want to be in “that” family circle anymore. YUCK.
It sounds like you are a little smarter then your siblings.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


YES ~ That is my story too. NO one wants to hear my story, (and if they do they can READ it right here! I use my birth name on this blog) The door was closed on me, but I don’t miss any of that dysfunction. I made my choices and I am free now. I live MY life now, in truth and wholeness. I am not the problem. I know that now but it took getting away to see it. Great comments!
Joy ~ my mothers birthday doesn’t bother me anymore, and I don’t think about her on mine anymore either. It took time, (a few years) I don’t jump when the phone rings at christmas anymore either. I wish they would call and warn me again… I would have so much more to say now. That took a few years too.
Hugs, Darlene


@Darlene, though it is a nasty thing hoarding which is why there is a TV show about it it s so shocking , and my my mom was a hoarder , and I hate clutter I really hate it, what she did do once which was the opposite of hoarding just to hurt me and it did is if you see my Facebook pages you see have alot of pictures. The only pictures I have of my childhood are from friends. I had maybe 20 photo albums that were of the only happy times I had as a child which were with friends.She trashed all of the albums just to hurt me. I have always loved pictures and even took photography but after that I loved pictures even more. I had videos and pictures of my former dance career all of which she threw away. So I only have what friends have given me.
So when you said not keeping anything can be abusive too yes I have experienced that and though hoarding is every disturbing to me it didn’t hurt me like losing those precious pictures! This is a subject that is very interestign to me!


HI Pam..

The thing is I know what others have been told.. I am a failure. .that I am a disgrace..really not part of the family etc. etc.. I am messed up inside that’s why I don’t do like everyone else there etc.

It hurts because I know mom personally told people to not speak to me. .The only one who found me was her spokes person. and that will stop as I have no money to give .. I am only good if I can give money out .

I feel like i am less than a person to them. but I know its lies that they want me to believe..




Today I have all kinds of tears running around. I just thought to myself..I am a failure.. I failed. In my mom’s eyes I didn’t pass the test. I broke silence. I did what unthinkable. I wish I was strong enough to go on like nothing ever happened but that’s why I keep getting hurt. My little girl inside is all broken up and never ever was allowed to heal ..

I feel so messed up because I either fail my mom or fail my little child inside who wants to be healed.

Yuck yeah . .why be part of that. .but some little part of me wishes I was a little accepted even by the yuck.

I know this is all normal feelings. .I know I cannot ever go back there and I can never become what she wants . I never once pleased her. .I was always the bad apple, black sheep and mistake she regrets having made..

I look forward to the day when I don’t cry all my tears out over not being one of them. .I should rejoice but my heart is still not so strong..

Thanks for all your




It might be unreasonable to keep every little thing, but it’s equally ridiculous to throw away things that have memento value to them. Stuff like graduation pictures and other things you feel have some type of importance. B/c my mom got rid of all THAT stuff along with what she considered junk. Which was just about everything.
And I think it’s ridiculous to throw away every little thing you see, just b/c you don’t want it there anymore, even if the thing is a living thing, like a cat.
My mom had my grandpa come and get my cats, put them in gunny sack and took them God-still-knows where. B/c my mom disliked cats and preferred dogs, and it was her house, so she could do what she damn well pleased, even if it meant drowning my cats alive, which is what I’m pretty damn sure she did.
That disgusts me, and makes me think she was worse than an animal, b/c there was no earthly reason to have to drown them.
We had “too many cats.” So, instead of taking them to the SPCA, where they would have at least gotten a PAINLESS euthanizing, she has to go and drown them. And get someone else to do the dirty work while I watch and can’t do anything to save them.
That’s how I feel about her getting rid of all my things, even that which was living before SHE got a hold of them.


Yes, that is the kind of thing I am talking about when I say that the opposite of hoarding can be abusive too. Throwing away pictures, trophies and videos is horrible. Even more horrible is that since you mother was a hoarder, but she didn’t hoard YOUR stuff and threw it away, she sends a very hurtful message to you. This is a great example of the type of “message” that I am talking about when I say I had to find out what had been communicated to me by the actions of others. Worth or lack of worth is often communicated by actions instead of words.
Thanks for sharing,

Hi Vicki
That is a horrific story! Making someone watch while kittens are drowned sends a message exactly like I am talking about in my note to Pinky. Children are not sure if something like that might happen to them. This is a horrible type of abuse that happened to you. Thanks for sharing your example.
Hugs, Darlene


Your mother and my mother COULD have told us about their misery, and told us that they don’t want to deprive us in the same way that they were deprived, and gone forward from there.


Pinky, Hoarding intrests me too. My husband is a little that way. We’re just lucky that we have 13 acres. lol! I insisted that he clean out the garage so he built two new big sheds! He always had the tendency when things were uncertain to stock up on groceries and clean the cabinets. We went through a period in our life when everything was out of control and that’s when the garage went out of control too. His dad was an only child and his dad died when he was three. He grew up staying with other people because it was so hard for his mom to make a living for them. He had it tough and because of that was very miserly and didn’t tolerate any waste. He passed that down to my husband but before that time in our life, he was very neat and orderly about the things that he kept. He’s trying and he doesn’t make my life miserable and I won’t let him! I think it is a form of O.C.D. and has a lot to do with control and feeling out of control. Depression, I think, is part of it but I think that anxiety plays a bigger role.


@Pam at least your husband doesn’t sound abusive or out of control with the hoarding. Thanks for sharing!We just have a small apartment so we cant afford to keep much really. I do have a box of 911 memorabilia as I was here on 911 and knew several who died in the WTC. I was also a 911 counselor and my husband was a volunteer for 6 months to a year after 911 here in NYC.
Yes Darlene, maybe I mentioned it before I had all kinds of trophies from dance and ice skating and martial arts. She threw them out and my prom pictures and graduation pictures!The other thing my mom threw out or said she threw out that really upset me and she did it to upset me is I called it my rock collection. But really they were gems like Rose Quartz and Amethyst. I am 48 years old and used to collect them on camping trips.
The collection much to my surprise was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. I just collected the “rocks” because they were pretty. I didn’t know they were worth money at the time and you can’t really just find them like that any more. Now you have to buy them. I left home at 15 and when I left she became vengeful though she knew the teacher I was staying with and I just told people it was because the teacher lived near my job which was true. But she got mad anyway and threw out my photo albums and “rock” collection. But she hoarded stupid stuff like old news papers and magazines and old socks. @Vicky so sorry! I cant even imagine! Everyone has good and bad. MY mom did take part in animal rescue. That was one of her good qualities. But when my favorite cat died she mocked me for how I grieved. I am careful not to judge how others grieve due to that. I was 9 years old.


Joy and Pam,
It’s easier to just make me the scapegoat and move on.

I have noticed that some people will say anything if someone is listening, not blaming the listener, but I’m just saying they will say literally the worst thing they can think of, it gives them an adrenaline rush.


#26, Can you imagine yourself how small you were when that teacher asked that question that day in the classroom? Picutre how small you were and imagine a child of that size and age NOT answering the question truthfully. Can you imagine a child that young protecting such abuse? You wanted what was right and good. Your mother did what was bad and wanted to continue.


When I was six, my dad took me over to his (“friend’s) boss’ house where boss and the wife were home. We had just moved to this town that year from three hours away. I knew this boss from before we moved as he had been to our home in the first town. I felt comfortable. I pointed at the boss’ wife and said, “My dad says you talk like a bird.” My dad didn’t end up keeping that job for a long time, maybe a year or two after that. WHY in the WORLD would my dad TALK that way and expect me not to repeat it? I was to just know better? I have felt that my dad is angry at me about this for the rest of my life. i am 48 now.


I didn’t see it in there about the opposite. I’m sorry. I don’t know how that keeps happening either, b/c I read the whole thing, but I bet I went, for lack of a more accurate description, unconscious, during part of the reading.
It’s that fog I mentioned in another post, and I was hoping I’m not the only one who has that issue. Of course I would wish it on anyone else either, b/c I actually black out; I mean it feels physical, so I’m going to have to tell my therapist about it. I hope I don’t have to tell my medical doctor about it. I hope it’s more psychological than physical, but it FEELS physical.
O well. Thank you for pointing it out.


I meant to say I WOULDN’T wish it on anyone else: except, maybe, for Osama bin Laden. But never mind.
I just don’t want to think I’m different with how I’m reacting to abuse. Which, currently, I’m having trouble understanding even though I work in health care, and so believe I ought to understand at least a little.
But maybe it’s different when you’re the one going through it.



On #32 I didnt understand why you said “make me the scapegoat and move on ”

Regarding #33 it makes sense how you explain the teaching asking me the question that caused me to break the silence my family wanted me to keep..I didn’t think far ahead so I didnt think answering it would lead to everything that did follow. I never think far ahead enough . .I simply answered as did other children . .the question that was posed to the class. I dont know how many times i repeated this to my mom after.. It never mattered. I was hated for breaking silence on the bad thing.



Being hated for breaking the silence has a lot to do with training you NOT to break it again.
I am sure we all made a few mistakes along the way like Kate shared about repeating what her father said about the woman who talked like a bird. I remember my kids saying things (repeating things) that were embarrassing, but we thought it was cute. We were not training them to keep evil secrets either. When there is something “funky” going on in a home, the kids are trained not to repeat anything because it is just safer that way. It is hard to teach “well you can say that, but not this”.
But this whole system is dysfunctional and destroys lives.


Pam made the comment about scapegoat to you in a previous post. Your family uses you as the scapegoat, AND they seem to say the worst imaginealbe stuff to you, it doesn’t make any of it true at all.


being abused for exposing the abuse has a lot to do with abusing you again. IOW, your perceptions are wrong, as is everything else about you.


“being abused for exposing the abuse has a lot to do with :

the nature of abuse, which is to redefine the reality of you and the abuser. The abuser creates a reality in which you and he exists, the difinitions of words are changed to create and maintain the reality.

abusing you again. IOW, your perceptions are wrong, as is everything else about you.


the nature of abuse: the abuser has kidnapped you from reality, from your own mind and ability to find your own reality; he has stolen you from the world, and created an alternate world, a prison in which to live



My family hates me . I wish they wouldnt but my abuser calls the shote. .what she says goes. I am the one bad apple..get rid of me and no problems.



You really hit the nail on the head with this post Darlene. My mother was a hoarder as well as a narcissist and the parent who allowed the CSA to go on over 2 generations. I was that daughter bringing my now husband to “help” her clean up and being abused while she chose her stuff over me. I watch that show too and I noticed a pattern with the hoarders. They are almost all nasty and abusive to their family and are always married to either passive or passive-aggressive partners. The kids most definitely suffer the most damage. Great post- thanks!


YES, I notice patterns with it too Gabrielle.
And I also notice that in all dysfunctional families there is a pattern that the family doesn’t realize. (because it is the “norm” for them. )
Thanks for sharing your personal exp. with this!
Hugs, Darlene


for mme personally, i think my hoarding comes from the toatl lack of respect my family had for my possessions. like the times my father threw out everything i own onto the front lawn because i hadnt tidied it to his standards. or the mother who told everyone my secrets yet i had to keep hers. also being forced to share things when the others had broken theres or eaten all their sweets. to this day i tend to eat sweets with a veiw of saving half for another day. this fear of not having something has led to some strange things, like not being allowed to run out of stuff in the kitchen cupboards or loo paper. little things yet when you actually look at them as a whole it seems to have steathily crept up and stolen so much control. especially when it was done to me as a child in my best interests. things like closing curtians at dusk, cos it saved heat, but it also stopped people from looking into the house when the lights came on. like having to scrub the kitchen sink before you can wash up in scalding hot water, because it had to be that hot to clean the dishes. all these have led to behaviours that make sense in one way yet the way the knowledge was passed on was twisted, which makes me be the opposite. for years i didnt realise why i washed the dishes in a bowl, i thought it was because it saved water, in actual fact it was so that i didnt hear my father in my ear telling me it hadnt been done right. all things that have led to me not wanting to let go of memories and paperwork or nick nacks that may have worth in the future. and as long as it doesnt over take i let it go because until i can find the off switch fighting it causes me more stress at times i dont need it. when the stress is less i go around and declutter as much as i can and my hubby does a concentrated declean every 6mths. which i hate but no he has to be allowed to do it. so progress in some bits n stabile but working on in others is about where im at,i think


The key for me in what you said is this: “all these have led to behaviours that make sense in one way yet the way the knowledge was passed on was twisted….” YES. Everything was communicated in a twisted way, and in my case I was the one that was accused of being twisted or of having a twisted understanding. My mother was a clean freak and she didn’t have much regard for what I wanted to keep. I realized in my process that I had a resentment that her “home” was more important then I was and I had an intense dislike of the reminder of the perfection of her home.
I also relate to what you said about her telling my secrets, and I think she did that to belittle me. She was pretty immature to have to do that to her own child.
Thanks for sharing,
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene

Cleaning was something we kids had to do.. I remember dreading the chores..I had to do dishes and mom would hold a glass up to the light if there were spots ..beatings happened.. We all had to clean house when she went shopping I had the sis the bathroom..She would buy these extra long tapes so that when she left she would have them recording us to make sure we were not talking to each other but cleaning. and I remember her checking with white glove the floors looking for any little spec.. one little spec and that was a beating… but seems if there was no reason to beat me . she would create one. .!


That is nasty! That is totally abusive!
Hugs, Darlene



Thanks for sharing that. That makes sense in why my kids like to hoard. They probably think that those things are what they treasure that no one can touch. I noticed my daughter also eats sweets and saves half for another day. They also fight over food in the fridge and get very upset if someone else touches THEIRS. I think it is because their dad rarely valued what they had and treated their things dismissively while being extremely fussy about HIS things. We were always petrified of scratching the wooden floors – he had this knack of finding the tiniest scratch that was only visible at a certain angle.

But I also now understand a bit more why my ex was a hoarder too. His parents rarely gave him anything of his own. His mother was a neat freak and he became just the opposite. I was always trying to clean up after him and strangely, he was always very harsh on the kids to clean up as well. Now that he has left, the kids are very averse to doing their chores, which has led to many tensions in the home, because I react to anything that reminds me of entitlement, and they react to anything that smells of child labor.

Darlene, I have to remind myself not to repeat the mistake of your mother. I always toeing the line of my ex-husband in forcing them to treat possessions well (his possessions). They got the message that things mattered more to us than their lives.

My problem is with the oldest one. I know she is still burying a lot of rage (I guess whenever it reared its ugly head she got into trouble so it came out in a lot of covert ways), and I am trying to draw a boundary with contemptuous, disrespectful behavior. But she obviously has a lot of rage against me, in that I was a co-partner in her invalidation. Yes, I have apologised, but I think she really wants her vengeance and she exploits me as much as she can to “take back” what I “owe” her. Maybe I need to “pay back” something, like a lot of money that she never had, before I enforce that boundary and say no to keeping contact until she can engage respectfully (if she even knows what that means).

If I do enforce that boundary, and have no more contact, she will have no home to turn to since she relies on me for transport when her bike breaks or her dad suddenly changes his mind to taking her somewhere, and she does her laundry at my place, and she even eats here because he has no healthy food in his house.


The hardest part of recovery for me has been about the kids. The hardest boundaries to set have been with them. I have to remind myself everyday that I am trying to communicate love. The new definition of love, not the old one where love was “do what I say”.. but at the same time, I don’t want to be a door mat anymore either. This is a HUGE subject. Delicate.. Thanks for sharing Krissy.
Hugs, Darlene


Just thought of something ~ my kids used to do things out of fear and when they didn’t have that fear anymore, there was a lot of changes! Like they started talking back, all kinds of things happened… but it was an adjustment period thing. (took a few years too… ugg) but that might be what is happening with your oldest. My husband and I were tested for a long time… tested as though they were saying “does this new system work?” “are you really going to let me be who I am…. or is this a trick?” “do you really see me as equally valuable?” that kid of thing…
Just a thought..
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks, Darlene. It is huge enough for you to post about your experience with that one day?? Your comments about your childhood, as well as those of the others when they speak about their mothers, really do help me see more clearly.

I would hate the thought of her finding a forum like this and posting about how her mother was just like her dad, and passively never did anything. It’s not that I don’t want to help her, I can’t really find a way to do it without engaging with her, and I can’t engage with her when she shows contempt. I could anonymously send her a lot of what she needs, but I don’t think that will solve anything, but am I just being selfish in wanting her to communicate properly when she really needs material provisions. Maybe she is like a drowning child screaming and clawing at me and I am asking her to be polite. Or am I making excuses?!


to me it sounds like she is in the angry stage of healing. it is hared as a parent who is trying to undo the wrongs done in earlier childhood, especailly if the children are already teenagers, but perserverence will get there. as hard as it seems not reacting to her actions in anger will help the situation in the long run, but if she like my 8 yr old she will jsut keep on till ahe gets her way and refuse to listen if i say no.i tried to be fair with my child but she still expects me to jump when she says, and because of how i was raised, that attitude irritates the hell outa me and pushes my buttons faster than anything. but i am learning how to finish an arguem,ent without screaming which is massive for me.
also i think survivor parents are looked at by society the hardest, as we struggle to cope with our own problems, ontop of the normal stresses parents go through is it any wonder that we make mistakes. it would be nice for health care professionals to take on board that parents are people who had problems before the kids arrived and it only makes things harder while we are trying to undo and relearn new behaviours


My mom was a hoarder. Not so sever as what is on the show. I use to go over and say “ok Im here to clean” My mom use to tell me THIS IS MY STUFF!!! I would leave frustrated and nothing thrown away. When my mom moved and we kept the house I had 3 pickup loads of just trash! Not stuff I thought was trash but real trash! I beleive it was 2 reasons 1.she never had anything nice 2.She always thought she could reuse whatever. I couldn;t look past the STUFF. When I watch Hoarders I see things I was ignorant towards my mom. I use to purge my home. I disinfect everything. If closets get full or stuff piles up it will start bugging me until I clean it. I have flash backs of my mothers house.


Being raised in an addicted home, after generations of drunks, addicts (nicotine, food, drugs, rage, work) I was well taught the usual rules, don’t talk, don’t trust, and for sure do not feel! After came into recovery from my own alcoholism I was inspired and confronted by a wonderful sponsor, a woman who was younger than me, years of sober living, and so much wiser. She steered me to accountability for my actions, using the meetings, the workshops, counseling, prayer, books, whatever I could use to put closure on my own addictive and immatire lifestyle, I was 36 at the time. My sons were 12 and 15, they were far more aware and awake than I. With time in the healing process I ended up working in the field of addictions…..I had to work hard not to be duscouraged at the enabling of alcoholics, other addicts, and abusive people. With such a wise sponsor who was so good to me regarding cleaning up my life, making my amends and changing my life style I could not see why the same “principles” did not apply to those the courts were dealing with, other counselors. I continue to be in the Life Coaching field and what the majority of women are “recovering” from is lack of support, lack of validation regarding who they are, their value and worth……….the “others” in their lives are not in recovery, counseling, and they have great control through passive aggressive behaviors that include mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. This had been a tough area for me, I see these women working hard on changing their lives, and I see many around them excusing the abusers they ar with. Why do we downplay what we know is wrong, unethical, and harmful to adults and children? What has happened to us who are in “rocovery”? ARe we tired, discouraged, needing to do more healing ourselves? Or perhaps all of the above. Sure enjoy your site here, and thanks for the chance to write from the heart. Bev


Hi Beverly
I think that we down play it until we know something different. For me, I downplayed it until I realized the real roots of it. I had to face the childhood history stuff. As long as I avoided that stuff, I could not go all the way forwards with recovery. Avoiding the pain that my own parents caused me and the fact that they didn’t protect me from held me back . I agree that the biggest problem is lack of support, lack of validation etc… for me I had to find out where exactly that “lack” began. That is what this site is about. The roots of the whole thing.
Glad you are here!
Hugs, Darlene


I love this post, Darlene. I understand it on so many levels. My mother was (and still is) a hoarder (and a plain ole dirty slob). What’s worse, is that I was the oldest child in the house and as such I was the ‘designated slave’. She wanted, demanded and expected me to be the one who made her nasty house into a real home. Of course I was just a little kid and could not deliver the goods. Especially since she would scream at me and say hateful things to me whenever I would throw anything away. Yes, I understand intellectually what made her this way, but she was so freakin’ hateful to me that I frankly don’t give a rip about her problems. To this day, if things start to get too messy or cluttered in my house, it triggers the littles and I end up in a really bad way because the penalty for living in a mess was horrible (she would send the father to attack me physically) and yet no one would let me really clean up the house!

Today I have a carefree husband and three kids still at home. And you are right that it is abusive to take these kinds of personal problems out on the kids, whether it’s by hoarding or by not allowing children to keep their important things. I am pretty much a mess inside and if *I* can get a clue and refrain from burdening my children emotionally, then I just can’t imagine what kind of person cannot even see the problem and make some attempt to compromise so everyone can have a chance to feel at home.

My strategy has evolved into engaging the children with how enjoyable a nice environment is and I go through periods where I ask them to give me things they don’t want or need anymore. I usually have the intention of donating or selling those things, but I don’t always get that far because of my problems. Sometimes I have to simply throw them out just so I can keep a nice enough home to not get too bogged down. I used to feel guilty about this, but I don’t anymore. I’m doing what I can do and I’m doing it with respect for every person in my house. That’s good enough for me and I DON’T CARE ANYMORE whether or not my ugly mother would approve.

As for my husband — He is a really kind husband and a good father to the children. We love each other dearly, but don’t even get me started. 🙂 I have settled for having him keep his stuff in the garage and then periodically pointing out the need for a run to the dump (and nagging a bit until it happens). Some days, when I don’t feel like I can get out of bed and take care of my home and I cannot pinpoint something inside that could be tended to and healed by a retreat, I think of my dirty mother and it fuels me to get up and provide myself and my children with a better home than what I was provided when I was a kid. Maybe on those days that is exactly what needs to be attended and healed. It feels good to the littles inside that there are capable adults in here who can take care of them and make them comfortable in a nice home that their so-called ‘real’ parents refused to give them.

For anyone out there who needs some help in their home, try this:


Everyone ~ My 19 year old son crashed his motorcycle on sunday night ~ he hit a deer head on and I am taking care of him full time for a bit. I won’t be able to keep up with EFB for a while. He is going to be fine but he has a broken arm and no skin on his butt ~ he can’t walk yet and he is in extreem pain but he is going to recover so really I am so grateful.

I am posting a guest post tomorrow and there may be a few more of those then usual.
Thanks everyone,
Hugs, Darlene


I hope your son recovers quickley and mend with great speed! I had road rash on my legs when I got hit by a van. When It started getting infected a holistic healer took the infection away. Didn’t beleive in that stuff until it was used on me and I saw first hand that it works. Take care of yourself too.


Thank you for this post. I found it because, in a fit of anger, I googled “I hate my hoarder mother”.

I am dealing with the fallout of her hoarding right now – well, of course I’ve BEEN dealing with it in various ways my whole life. Yes, it’s just one form of dysfunction that has an impact on everyone. Right now I’m in the process of trying to clean out some of the hoard while my mother is hospitalized.

What a disaster. The place isn’t as bad as the ones on the show, but it’s bad enough. It’s going to take me months to wade through the mess (and find the important papers and the mementos and photos I’d like to keep, if I can ever locate them). My own life is on hold while I deal with her hoard, and the fallout from her hoarding behavior. Due to her need to hoard, she refused to downsize or sell the house when it would have been wise (and when she and my father were still able-bodied enough to clean it out). Now, we’re stuck scrambling to prepare for her eventual discharge from rehab to a house that no social worker would let her come home too until it was cleaned out by someone – oh yeah, that “someone” would have to be her only child. My father – sweet, but needy and enabling – has been enlisted to cooperate behind her back. He WANTED to deal with the mess and sell the house before they were too old to care for it, but oh no, Her Highness the Hoarder had to stay with her hoard, so she said “NO”, and so how here we are. It’s hard for me to blame him as much…I know he enabled, but it was primarily HER emotional problems that really got us here. And he keeps apologizing to me – I know she never will. And at least he was nice to me growing up – she was mostly just nasty.

Yeah, I know – those hoarding shows tell you not to clean out behind the hoarder’s back. That would upset the hoarder! Well, you know what? I DON’T CARE. My parents are to old and disabled to clean this bloody mess she made, and I’m the only one. My father cannot continue to live like this. If I have to live here to help out until we can get an aid, then I have a right to not live in a mess. When they get a home health aid, then that person has a right to decent working conditions. And the house has to be cleaned because it has to be sold. So I’m doing it while she can’t stop me. If that “upsets” the hoarder and makes me a bad person, TOO BAD.

I’ve lived with her crap – literally and figuratively – for too long. Hoarding is both a problem that has a direct impact on others, and also the symptom of underlying emotional problems, of which my mother had many. I’m tired of ME having to deal with the fallout from HER illness. (And honestly, I know my mother isn’t as bad as they come – I can’t even imagine how much worse it must be people dealing with stuff worse than I’m facing.)

Thanks for letting me vent. It helps just to know that there are other people out there who have some idea of what it’s really like.


Hi Ellie
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
I no longer do things according to what the controller wants or according to what makes them feel “better”. I lived that way for way too long and no one ever seemed to think about my needs or what would hlep me to feel okay. This whole site is about stuff like that. I totally hear you on this subject. Good for you.
Glad you are here,
Hugs, Darlene


Hi Darlene,
I agree with your statement that, damage is being done to others and the hoarder’s relationship to things is deeper than it is towards others. I remember an episode that stands out for me. This hoarder was an elderly lady who had 3 grown children- 2 boys & 1 girl. Her children were helping her get rid of stuff. There was a professional there to help guide & mediate the whole cleaning process, but the hoarder could not let go of her stuff and actually told her kids to get out & don’t come back in reaction to them picking up stuff & putting it in garbage bags. The Stuff had More Value than her kids’ feelings!….Needless, to say I was triggered- I felt angry about her mistreatment of them- she lashed out and they were not doing anything wrong- they were helping her clean up. They were not mean about it just proactive.

Anyway, one of the sons cried, when she lashed out & told them to get out. He was the son who still lived at home in the garage, where he had his own apartment. He was under her Control. I felt such empathy for his sadness & devastation. He talked to the camera man about how he doesn’t get the Love he needs. I forgot his exact words but the message was clear- He was emotionally abused. I wanted to hug him- he reminded me of a broken child. I could relate to his feelings- MY mom has said & done similiar things- not about stuff but in regards to my feelings- “Don’t come here, if you feel the way you do” & blah blah blah….it goes on if I try to get my feelings validated.

Well the show definitely illustrates dysfunctional relationships with family & others, who are involved. It’s intense & sometimes I can’t watch it- I end up talking back to the tv- saying, “Your not suppose to say that” & “How can you say that to your kids!” I called this lady a witch. I did not have sympathy for her ,after she lashed out!…Anyway, she was a difficult case and I don’t remember her house ever getting clean. They usually show the house, after the clean-up and I don’t remember seeing hers. I just remember all the stuff on the floors blocking pathways to rooms, bugs & garbage.

It’s disturbing to see how anyone can live like this- I’m not judging but making an observation based on the unhealthy & unsanitary conditions. It is a sickness resulting from unresolved grief in some cases. They also have serious difficulty having real connections & relationships with others. So sad & lonely to live that way.

Sincerely, SMD


The thing that struck me is that when I asked my mother for mutual respect (and asked her to stop accusing me of attracting her boyfriend into my room when I was 13 ~ which she was still bringing up to me in my 40’s) she walked away from me. Exactly what the hoarder mom did to her kids. She said that the stuff was more important than her kids and my mom said that keeping her dysfunctional memory of what happened was more important to her than I WAS. She broke up with that boyfriend but he was still more important than me.
So sad.
Thanks for sharing.
Hugs, Darlene


Thanks for sharing your painful experience. I always look forward to your comments & feedback. I’m learning so much on EFB!
Sincerely, SMD


Isn’t OCD genetic? People are born that way. My little sister cried when there were wrinkles in her baby blanket. My sibling are clean freak OCD people and my mother is a greedy pig. I have tried to help my mother–she has panic attacks and tantrums while I clean. “OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN OH MY GOD IN HEAVEN.” Whatever. I mean, it was a rat’s nest. The rat was 11 inches long. Something had to be done. Now, there are maggots and horseflies involved with the 5000 dolls. I’ve kept her dirty little secret–HER DIRTY HUMONGOUS SECRET–way too long.

I finally told my clean freak sibling and they are so horrified–if they go in the house–they will probably need therapy for the rest of their lives. They are therapists, so they can afford it. My mother is selfish and greedy. I don’t care if it is a sickness. The woman was a therapist, too. She knows all the manipulative tricks. While I’ve ruined my life helping her, she has gone behind my back and told everyone that I have forced her to give me money. She brags about all the money she has and rubs it in my face–hoarding money. She is an extremely selfish human being, a liar.

The shrinks say that hoarding is about anxiety, not anger. Well, THEY ARE WRONG. It is all about anger. Every stinky load of horse manure in her house is just a pile of self-centered anger.


Hi Lizz
People have all kind of opinions about these disorders ~ there doesn’t seem to be any proof about where they start so here in EFB we try to focus on the damage that has been caused in order to heal from it. Thanks for sharing.
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you SO much for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I was once married to a hoarder, years ago, before it was in the media and discussed. At first he was eccentric and functioning and then over the years he got worse and worse and I left him. At that time our son was a preschooler. I’ve always had custody, but son visits his dad.

Son is now 15 and opening up for the FIRST time about the conditions he lives in. It breaks my heart. I knew, I suspected. I’ve called code enforcement on ex many times, but he’s always allowed to clean up and fill up again. I’m now in another state that takes this shit seriously and yesterday I got a court order that forces him to submit to a home inspection, which hopefully will mean my son doesn’t have to go there.

He absolutely lives with an abusive dynamic, he totally protects his father. And his father manipulates and plays the victim and treats him like crap. He’ll pull it together for show, for other people, he maligns me to others — oh, I take him to court! Oh, I try and take his child away! Fact is, he sues ME. Pro se. Representing himself and loses. But it has cost me nearly 100K over 10 years. He is a controlling, abusive asshole and my son has to see him because he has his “rights.”

I hope those rights are about to terminate. My son cannot get to the kitchen, he has to step over things. He cannot have food, he has to buy it each day and keep it on himself. There is only one functional bathroom, the other is full of stuff. He has never had a friend over in 10 years.

It is abuse. I know his father is mentally ill. But he has that knowledge and he CHOOSES to not get treatment. He CHOOSES his illness over everything in his life.

My son, despite his horrible father, has turned out beautifully. He’s a good kid, all As, friends, sports, a loving relationship with his step-dad. I’m proud that I left when he was small and that hoarding is a peripheral part of his life. But his dad is an anchor. A heartache he’ll have to deal with for a long time. He is an only child and he will have to deal with his aging, sicko father. I’m trying to teach him boundaries so he realizes that this is NOT his burden. It’s not his fault or responsibility.

But the protectiveness… OMG. Yesterday he had to tell a judge about it. It was so hard for him and he minimized because there was a reporter. He didn’t want his dad to see or find out. It was enough to order an inspection, but the judge also is sending him there for the summer. More court battles ahead.

It blows my mind that people want to treat hoarders with kid gloves. I think they should be committed. Seriously. They are a danger to themselves and others. It is a serious mental illness. And to not treat it and submit children to it –yes, is abuse. They think they “know better.” They are narcissists and without empathy.


Hi Theresa!
Wow, thanks for sharing. This is exactly what I am talking about. You express it so well ~ the issues that people are dealing with. The way that kids are so scared to tell it because of the father or other parent finding out. We are taught to never shame or expose the truth. The way the courts do this needs to change! (both the way they treat perps and the way they deal with children) And the courts need to realize treating the perp with kid gloves only keeps the cycle going! Yay for you for getting out. My heart goes out to you and your son!
Hugs, Darlene


I just ended a five-year relationship with a hoarder who was quite abusive. Grew up with a mother and father that sounds a lot like yours, Darlene, but my mother was never prone to depression; she was never anything but angry. Sadness of any kind was not tolerated in our house and would get you a nice long talk about how pathetic/fat/ugly/worthless/useless/lazy/disgusting/vile/etc you were. Or the family favorite since we were adopted, “You are not my child. I can’t even stand to see your disgusting face.” Super fun.
The man I was involved with was a lot like her in that he seemed to derive pleasure out of making me unhappy. I finally figured out that I was picking people EXACTLY like her in my life, and I ended it. What helped me in the beginning of my journey to wellness was this: there is something wrong with them. Not me (except obviously that I didn’t figure this out before and therefore avoid attracting people like this into my life). Anyway, it was/is up to me to be happy and well. In this case, neither of them can help themselves and they’re both on their own paths. I could tell the both of them what they were doing is WRONG but it’ll never get through to them because they have a problem.
As long as I put thought into it and pour energy into worrying over it, I am the only one it will affect. I am capable of rising above their antics and so I do.
I understand how desperately people want their abusers to at least acknowledge their wrongdoing, or at best, show some kind of remorse. I mean, we torture ourselves long after the abuse is over by silently carrying these burdens. In my case, I know it’ll never ever happen, and I don’t even care. Honestly I feel sorry for them. Here I am able to love and be open to love, ready and excited for where life is taking me. They are sad, angry and have stubbornly insisted on making their lives miserable. All I can do is lead by example and shut out her (since I still speak with my mother) negativity. This is the life she’s chosen and she let it get so bad she can’t control herself anymore.


Hi Rose
Welcome to emerging from broken!
Finally realizing that it was them and not me was a huge key for me too. Another huge key was in realizing that ‘they’ are not going to hear me. I had to hear me however and that has been huge in leading myself out of the darkness.
Glad you are here!
Hugs, Darlene


I just stumbled upon your site after watching an episode of hoarders and thinking back to my own childhood. There were very few times where I wasn’t embarrassed to bring friends to my house as a kid. Honestly, it was because of the smell of cat urine…which was constant. Weirdly, my mom was a neat freak. Basically, if it was HER mess, it was me complaining about something inconsequential (her dog pooping on my clothes), but I would get scolded for an hour for not taking my boots off when coming inside (if you saw the floor you wouldn’t take your shoes off, either.). Her “hoarding” hoarding started after I moved out when I got older.

Piles of just plain garbage she was sure she could “sell on Ebay.” One item in particular was so ridiculous that when my daughter was 8 she brought it into the living room to make fun of it (no better way to describe it than it was a 3 foot tall, “trailer trash barbie” with a mullet, one arm, and one eyeball).

My daughter’s making fun of that doll is what started my mom’s beginning of emotional abuse like I had as a kid against me, which is also when I ended my relationship with her on my terms.

Thank you for this blog and for the last comment you made on the thread.


Hi Cory in Texas
Welcome to emerging from broken.
I am glad that you are here.
hugs, Darlene


Hey Darlene! I enjoyed this article very much and it has twigged something in me that I’ve been pondering about recently.

My mom has bi polar disorder and I can honestly say I walked a very fine line in our home. It was all about not upsetting mom because if mom got triggered by something I have said or done, look out! Part of my own healing process is defining boundaries because I wasn’t even really aware that I lacked boundaries because my focus has always been reading the situation and acting accordingly to maintain some sense of peace.

I changed the person I was so I could tune into what my mom expected from me to keep her calm and happy. The lights went on for me 3 years ago when I had my last bout of depression and I realized if I don’t start taking care of me I really don’t think I will make it this time. My thoughts of suicide were so intense I knew I had to make serious changes. I had to take care of me and that meant I could no longer see my mom anymore. As she gets older her illness is getting worse in a different way and it was then that I realized I will never be free to have a life of my own.

Why did “I” feel so selfish for wanting to take care of me and have my own life?… A life where I can choose to be happy, healthy and free. Mental Illness is a very tangled web and as I free myself from it I see more clearly what I have come from and I weep for myself. My mom may have a mental illness and for that I am truly sorry but I really don’t think it was God’s plan for me to be sick with her. I know there is deep learning here for me and I may not have all the answers yet but one day I will.

I believe we are all on this journey to learn who we really are and enjoy life to it’s fullest, no one, not even our parents should have the right to interfere with such a divine process. Every day I am growing in love for myself and others and I long for the day when I can look back on my life through compassionate eyes and be proud of myself for how far I have come. I’m getting there.

Sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is walk away from those who choose to stay in a sick place. Everyone has their reasons for why they don’t want to get better but I also understand it’s not my responsibility to save them. I’m very, very grateful to learn that the only person I need to save is myself. The truth is a lot more gets accomplished when I do focus on me and I know my mom is being well taken care of by her husband. I refuse to allow myself to become a hateful, bitter person from the abuse I endured and I know if I am not careful with my healing it could happen.

I choose to be the best version of myself I can and I now have the resources to help me get there. Thank you Darlene for creating a ripple affect of wellness by developing this site. Your light is a blessing in this world and I love you for it. Namaste!


My mother is a hoarder. Not of the serious, dirty, messy, bug infested kind. She just collects stuff. Lots of stuff. She throws her trash away, but she isn’t always clear on what should be trash.

She is hoarding my old toys right now, so my daughter can’t play with them. My Grandmother, her mother, was not allowed to give anything away, especially to me. Things have always been more important to her than I was. I say was, because she doesn’t have me any longer, she has her stuff, and the people who put up with her, and the golden sociopath brother that she created.

The most important things in life…..are not things. She never understood that. She never had enough. She has a big 4 bedroom, 3 bath house filled with stuff that she will never use. Now she’s filling their old dairy barn with more stuff that they will never use. And she does this to make sure no one else has the stuff. It’s hers and hers alone. Too bad she can’t take it with her.


I have had an abusive parent, but even so, I still feel sentimental towards my parents when I remember that they will one day be memories. I used to be able to see things as just enjoyable additions to life, and not feel attached. But my life feels empty now. And when I run across old things there is a warm memory of someone I love. I am only wondering how will I not become a hoarder when they die. I would want to have some of their things. Generally, I am a person who likes tidiness and organization and cleanliness. Another idea I had is that people save things because they are lonely and have no one, and the object helps remind them of loved ones. I say this because I think it is my motivating force. Although I am not a hoarder yet, I can see things that I would like to ‘collect’, and thus I can in some ways relate to the people on Hoarders.


Hi Lora
Great comments! ~ I have come to understand that most of us are “Taught” to feel selfish if we ever think about ourselves or our own needs. And we are taught that adults have different rights than children, but we are never taught that we one day will have equal rights to the adults in our lives, and the dysfunction is all entangled in that mess. Realizing that I had rights and value was key for me. I agree with you about ‘god’s plan’ ~ I don’t believe in a god who advocates on behalf of dysfunction! That doesn’t seem very loving to me!
Thanks for sharing,
hugs, Darlene


@Darelne, I do remember this post.Thanks for re-posting! Since you first posted it we have had a problem in my building.I live in a building in one of the 5 boros of NYC. It is considered to be a luxury building. NYC standards are lower in many ways than the rest of the country so luxury can mean anything here. But in our case we have a pool. We pay a lot of money to live here. We cant really move because everything else costs just as much in the 5 boros even ghettos. Its crazy here. Anyway , I have written about this before but our so called luxury building is being infested by bugs. If we complain to the city about it we will be evicted like others have. The bugs have caused PTSD. I have been raped as you know by 2 different people and have been though alot. This has caused me to live in fear and panic. We get exterminated weekly.We got all new furniture and carpeting.We have done everything we can. We were not sure why a big free building all of the sudden has an infestation. Long story short we believe it is due to hoarders moving in. The daughter of the hoarder who was only 30 committed suicide. So management feels bad for her and will not force help. The thing is we are not allowed to report anonymously in NY. We live in a building where we get inspections from management twice a year.Anyone who violates any of the 6 pages of house rules will be find $500.00 Management will not force them to have an inspection even though if anyone else did they would be fined and then evicted if they do not cooperate. So it is not just in small families it has ruined out lifestyle and my peace of mind! They are huge water bugs so big that I can hear them coming! The entire community of 2000 families has joined in the dysfunction and we are all made to suffer! This is mass insanity! Like a dysfunctional family everyone and I do mean everyone is mad at me for telling the truth. I dont care what these people do I am not a nosy gossip I hate that! I just want the problem resolved but I am now looked at by everyone as the problem for trying to resolve the bug issue! It is really like being raped all over being told it was my fault! Really upsetting! Plus we are in serious debt due to medical bills as we lost our insurance and my condition Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is an illness caused by an injury.Scientists say it is the most painful condition known to humans! It is exasperated by stress! A very few only recover and only in the first year. I have been sick since 2011 and at the end of 2011 is when the bug situation started! I am praying for a financial break through and healing but this is just what hoarding can do to ruin someones lifestyle and health!


Yes. You are right. But very few people recognize that the children of hoarders need help.

My mother was a hoarder, and alcoholic and an emotional abuser. She still is but managed to stop drinking which is the only reason she gets to have a relationship with my kids.

My extended family blamed my sister and myself – they would say to us, the pre-teens whose parents had gone through the ugliest divorce on record, that we needed to help out at home more. We protected her. We did not tell that when we tried to throw things away, she would remove herself from the home, come home drunk, and scream at us that everything was all our fault. The hoarding grew worse, we could no longer have friends over, she chased me a gun and nobody did anything, and spent the remainder of our youth avoiding the home, pretending we were asleep and getting out as soon as we could.

She has mellowed but never accepted responsibility. I flirt with not having a relationship with her, which I believe she is aware of so is careful of her behaviour. I haven’t been to her home in almost fifteen years so if she wants to visit she has to come to us.

The biggest issue I have now is that nobody helped. Everyone knew to some degree what was happening: grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbours and friends, but nobody did anything to get her, and us, help. It is abuse and thank you for calling it what it is.


Hi Walli T
It is tragic that this happened to you AND that nobody helped. Thank you for sharing.
I am glad you are here,
hugs, Darlene


My father hoards, is abusive go everybody including his children, my mother who has below average intelligence , grandchildren , neighbours and even the police who come in to break up fights when neighbours get so angry they sent to punch him and he starts beating up my mother right in front of them to take out his frustration on her instead and get this , she always , always, always protects him and begs and cries for people to not harm him!!!! He the abuser has always had to be protected – never us the children !!!! I can’t take it anymore – the drinking pig sty of a house , them constantly complaining how people are ill treating them and how I need to help them but have abandoned them… I have spent thousands of Dollars, hours and every sneaky scheme in the world to clean up their mess which they have been furious about and then it all piles up again . I just want to give up- I wish he was dead! Dead ! Dead! I have a beautiful home and family and good life but this makes me so unhappy and angry. Please help!


My 80-year-old father hoards, is abusive go everybody including his children, my mother who has below average intelligence , grandchildren , neighbours and even the police who come in to break up fights when neighbours get so angry they want to punch him and he starts beating up my mother right in front of them to take out his frustration on her instead and get this , she always , always, always protects him and begs and cries for people to not harm him!!!! He, the abuser has always had to be protected – never us the children !!!! I can’t take it anymore – the stinking pig sty of a house , them constantly complaining how people are ill treating them and how I need to help them but have abandoned them… I have spent thousands of Dollars, hours and every sneaky scheme in the world to clean up their mess which they have been furious about and then it all piles up again . I just want to give up- I wish he was dead! Dead ! Dead! But for some reason that is beyond Any logic, he seems to still be hale and healthy and thriving and continuing his relentless abuse on everyone despite people much younger than him who have lived in good sanitary, healthy conditions dropping dead like flies !!!! I want to b able to clean up the house and at least give my mother a decent life, especially in her last few years as I can imagine, but much of the time she is just as bad as him in wanting to protect him and his stuff. I have a beautiful home and family and good life but this makes me so unhappy and angry. I feel bad about completely walking away from them but I just don’t know how to help them any more . Please help!


Hi Sarah John
Welcome to EFB ~ I understand your dilemma, and I have a few questions for you to ask yourself;
Why do you think you can help them or even that they want help?
Why is this up to you?
Hugs, Darlene


Thank you for this string. I have a close friend of 35 years who hoards. She let me into the house six years ago. It was not piled to the ceiling, but a few rooms were unusable. Every surface was filthy. It stank terribly. Maintenance was neglected to the point where there were bugs, rodents and black mold. I offered to help in hopes I could get her to seek real treatment. For six years, I would come over to help a few days each year and it was gross and tiring and oh so tedious. I remember one discussion that she needed to keep an empty plastic nut container because she used it on her living room table to put her remote on. Otherwise she couldn’t find the remote. She became furious when I suggested that if the table were clean, she could always find the remote.

Ultimately she ended the friendship. First there was a year of snapping at and being discourteous to me. Next she shunned me for a year without explanation. Then she told me we couldn’t be friends and railed at me for percieved flaws that don’t exist..or which aren’t flaws at all. Like, she doesnt like that I’m Catholic, or outgoing or my political party, or whatever, and states these traits are abnormal.

The difficulty is we have many friends in common and her truth is a secret. She fakes to the rest that we are great friends which puts me in a bad spot. I am figuring out how to cope with her dishonesty.

She has a daughter, gratefully she is now out of high school and moved out. I tried to make the house at least liveable for the girl but it was like trying to empty a rushing river with a teaspoon. I regret not reporting the conditions now.

Yes, my formerly dear friend is a hoarder, and has turned to abusive tactics to protect her hoard. The healthiest thing I have done has been to accept her decision to dump me as a friend. I can’t help her, and I don’t want to live in this world she is constructing out of her garbage.


The whole family Protects, while comming down on me for saying THIS IS WRONG!


Hi Tara
it’s bizarre isn’t it??!
Welcome to Emerging from Broken
hugs, Darlene


I have been married for 7 years to a hoarder. When I met him I thought he was guy who didn’t know how to clean and organize. I had no clue what a hoarder was. I know now. It’s a person who makes your life miserable. You learn that if you want to throw away an item, any item, they will pick it out of the nasty garbage can. They will tell you it’s still useful. Your home, if you ever get it partially de hoarded will have water damage and mold and spiders etc. I have suffered so much depression in the last 7 years and I have had enough. I lost it just today and told him I will not live like this anymore. It’s killing me mentally and physically. So I called a garbage company and tomorrow I will have about 12 huge contractor bags hauled off along with 20 year old tables, oh and a ” Thigh Master”! Of course I had to do this while hubby was at work and now he’s furious. I always backed down before and let him have his way on most things. This time is different. I said to him,” it’s either me or the clutter, you can’t have both”. I said I’ll call a divorce attorney tomorrow if he tries to stop me from getting rid of this junk. So he backed down for now anyway. If I were financially secure I would leave him because living with a hoarder is miserable. So I just found this site because it’s 3 am and I am wide awake. I just keep wondering if I I even want to be married. His hoarding isn’t ever going away. I deserve better.


I know what you are going through. I am, at this time, unable to leave my hoarding husband of 15 years. I have been so miserable for so long, I love my husband and typically he is very nice, however, when it comes to throwing away his things or talking about getting rid of stuff he becomes verbally violent and a bit off his rocker, such as sifting through garbage because he doesn’t trust that I didn’t throw something away without his approval. Or calling me names and saying I brain wash our kids because they want to donate their toys. Its miserable I am so unhappy, I recently started taking control as you mentioned and started donating toys clothes etc.. But he is also a compulsive shopper so it seems that whenever I get rid of something he buys something to replace it. Uggg I never win in this situation, he has told me that I am the one with the problem because I can’t properly organize all the stuff he buys. I did organize it originally by putting it all into our 3 large storage units (which are several hundred a month) but when those and our broken down car got full he started filling the house. Its driving me crazy, I hate that the experts want you to be paitent and tip toe slowly around their feelings, what about us the victims, I’ve looked and I can not find any support groups. I know he will never change and when I become financially stabe to make it on my own I will give him an ultimatum, its just sad because I know what he will choose.


So many victims. My mother and sister are both hoarders. I’m the unloved black sheep because I refuse to be ok with it. I have tried to make sense on the chaos my entire life. I’m grateful that trying to make a path through all that mess made me a very good organizer and as a professional organizer now I have many happy clients. I learned to organize without removing anything. But it just make available space for more hoarding. My work is fulfilling when I can help clients live a minimalist life or KonMari their home by purging and keeping only what sparks joy. Most clients want to keep all the crap but think miraculously I can help simplify their life. When I agree to only sort and smile and make room in the mess I feel abused by my mother all over again. I’ve organized a few rooms in my mothers house and she never misses the opportunity to blame me any time she can’t find something. I can’t watch the hoarders show. The way the hoarder takes out their anger on their children and chooses the mess over relationships every time is beyond painful.


My mother is a hoarder with narcissistic personality disorder. It infuriates me when she is critical of other’s house cleaning skills. One of the many abuses she heaped on me was telling everyone I was a pack rat and wouldn’t let her throw things away. I’m sure she still uses that excuse even though I haven’t lived there in over 20 years. I don’t know for sure because I finally cut her out of my life. I was exhausted with her abuse and suffering in silence. No one wanted to hear it, believe it. Her story was of course how great she was and how horrible I was. I no longer care. I know the truth and I broke the cycle.


I have a wonderful friend who is a hoarder, her daughter and I have tried to help her, it seems she is in denial also. Rats in her kitchen doesn’t seem to bother her. She has cats and dogs also. She had a garage sale and started putting the stuff back in the house? Finally the dumpster was filled and off it went, her front yard is a mess same stuff there left by the garage sale. I wish I could do something her daughter has done everything I support the daughter, so the Mom goes over and babysits the grand-nephews all day and does not or care about her kids. So the daughter is in Europe and I don’t answer her calls, because I cannot go in that house and truly do not want to go anywhere with her. The friendship has become more than I can handle. I tried to help her she does not want any help or does she care. So I am only answering her calls every 3 days. It really hurts me because I am losing a close friend.


I always thought hoarders had to be the people with stacked, boxes and filth. I’ve come to the awareness that is extreme hoarding. I’m curious how it looked when it first started. I think the heart of the hoarder is the same….their things or stuff whether junk or not if are more important to them then their children or other relationships something is seriously wrong. They are in denial of their being possessed by “things”. There are hoarders in my family and there are those who feel they dont deserve anything nice and are jealous of those who enjoy the fruit of their labor. Two opposites that come down to a pose a problem in trying to have a healthy relationship.


Cecilia, a note on how they start out, I can’t speak for all, but my mother started out EXTREMELY tidy. As a child, I would not have dreamed of calling her a hoarder. She called my dad the pack rat while she was thrifty and enjoyed historical “finds.” She did things like bleach and oil grout weekly. Would spend full weekends scrubbing spots out of the carpet. Our house was pristine. Then my dad passed away. She let some of the cleaning go and became more thrifty. She had always done things like save wrapping paper (I still can’t bring myself to rip into a package because of her training, though I throw it away), but she started secreting things home from work. When she finally became financially stable again, the shopping started. By this time, the house was an uncontrolled mess, blamed on her teenage children. When we moved out, the mess could no longer be blamed on us, but the house was down to pathways, whole rooms could not be used. She would grocery shop, and not realize bags hadn’t been put away until she would smell meat rotting. They blended into the mess so well, she overlooked them. The last time I helped her, she had a pipe burst in her kitchen. Everything got remodeled and she decided to hold Thanksgiving. I spent 48hrs (total not two days) cleaning one room. Within a few months, you couldn’t tell I had been in it at all. I think hoarders often operate in secret for a very long time before they are discovered. For my mom, it is ALL about control. She retains things that she hates just so that someone else cannot have it. She won’t allow for help because someone else will do it wrong. When something goes missing, we must have stolen it, even if it’s something that was garbage, it wasn’t ours to take. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with her, because she doesn’t have one with herself.

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