Moving is considered one of the most stressful things people do in their lifetime. I believe it. There are so many details and loose ends. My husband has moved 13 times in his lifetime…he says it really became so much easier when his family wasn’t attached to their belongings so they could pick up and travel across the country with only the essentials. My Mom, however, has lived in the same house for 35 years. That’s a lot of accumulation; never mind that she’s a compulsive hoarder!
Mom is comfortable in her nest of things, but the house is crumbling around her. There will reach a point where she won’t be able to climb the stairs any more, or the roof will collapse, or the cost of heating the big space will become too much to bear. Then, maybe, finally, she’ll consent to moving.
My sister, Lynn, no longer has a relationship with Mom. So when it comes to selling the property and moving Mom somewhere else, the monumental task will fall to me. Not only is it a tremendous volume of stuff to sort through, but I wonder if I can manage it while remaining sympathetic and understanding towards my mother. It’s not just about tossing stuff in boxes. It’s about acknowledging the hoarder has a completely different perception of the value of their belongings…and believe me, it can test your patience.
I was approached by a reader recently who offered the following suggestions and guidelines for how to face a move when a hoarder is involved. I hope if you are in a similar situation, you’ll find these useful for maintaining your sanity, as well as your family relationships.
Guest Post: How to Face A Move When A Hoarder is Involved
There is much to deal with when you have to move a home, so the situation becomes a bit more complicated when you have to deal with a hoarding family member, roommate and so forth. Despite the negative connotation brought by the spotlight of media attention, hoarding has really been studied only in the past two decades at best. There is much misunderstanding, stereotypes and stigma associated with the condition and what it entails. One thing you should keep in mind is that hoarders can be very different from each other, both in social standing, marital status or age. There is hardly anything that connects the different hoarders than the fact that hoarding is a psychological condition that affects a good percentage of the world.
There is a difference between the hoarding of objects and the hoarding of animals (most often cats), however the basic principles are the same. This is a obsessive-compulsive disorder affecting the behavior of an individual in ways that often clash with those of their loved ones or friends. One of the first things you must keep in mind is that hoarders are very sensitive about their lifestyle and there are many factors that play a role in this. Whether its shame, denial or resistance to changes, they will often be determined to keep their lifestyle and will rebel against any changes brought by external factors. The following tips will give you some preparation and understanding on how you should approach the subject of hoarding in the least damaging way possible before a move:
Attitude is extremely important
You should begin by adopting an attitude that avoids judging at all costs, as well as a lot of patience. In most cases hoarders fear and dislike the judgment of others and for a good reason. For them this line of behavior is something normal so you should try to understand that when you approach the subject matter. The patience you need to exhibit is a very important aspect of your first steps toward moving. In most cases they will never see their situation the way you do, so you should stick to small, careful steps.
Remember hoarding is a disorder
Make sure you read up and educate yourself on the behavior and its background reasons. Psychologists are researching it and if you are interested you should look up books on OCD disorders that focus on hoarding if you want to go into further detail. The underlying reasons for hoarding go beyond what people consider messiness as they have a psychological trigger that modifies what we consider a normal line of behavior. The learned patterns of behavior hoarders develop are nearly impossible to break and their reasons are both biological and psychological in nature. In many cases items represent mementos of the past or more practical items they feel they need to save for a number of reasons. In some cases hoarding can be a result of some painful event in the past that forced them to replace their social connections of old with belongings and mementos. The reasons for hoarding may vary greatly, so remember that before you act.
Solutions to moving
Remember to ask questions about the things they want to keep and to offer compromises that cater to their disorder but at the same time allow them to move forward. This can be done by working out a system that catalogs and makes an inventory of their possessions. It may seem like a small step, but it will be a good first one. Always remember that whenever something seems like trash to you it may actually hold significance for your loved one. Remember to be respectful to their wishes and if you can, maybe try to suggest they store their collections at a storage unit as a solution to completely going through them and overhauling them. That way they can have access to the things they care about and you won’t have to deal with things in a more severe way that would damage the trust built between the two of you. You should stick to an inventory system with descriptions and even a floor plan if some of the items are large enough. Remember that self-storage units are a great alternate to having your home buried in belongings and it offers a softer solution to the hoarding impulse by offering an alternate space.
*Editor's Note: Self-Storage units should not be considered a long term solution. I would consider this an option just to move some things out of the house to give you room to work in while packing, sorting, repairing, etc.
You can get help from a therapist if you and your loved one agree on that, and they can help toward slowly finding a solution to the hoarding compulsion. When all is said and done remember to take small steps toward improvement. The therapist could eventually give them small tasks such as slowly going through a small part of their collection and choosing things to let go of, but that is not something you should handle on your own in most cases. You could end up hurting them and yourself in the process by being too direct about it.
This guest post is thanks to Removals Man & Van Woodside Park. This is not a sponsored post, but rather a glimpse of the experience from those accustomed to moving many, many families of all kinds.