Goodwill SarcasmThere are some things that become very predictable when your mother is a compulsive hoarder with compulsive shopping tendencies.

  • if you phone her cell between 9am to 9pm, chances are good she’ll answer your call while browsing a store.
  • there will be misplaced and forgotten items she’ll have meant to bring when coming to visit (usually birthday or Christmas gifts).
  • and most predictably, every conversation you have with her will include the statement “I don’t know if you need or want this or not, but I picked it up for you anyway…”

Out of Touch

This statement has become such a regular thing I can silently mouth it when she says it.  The item in question varies, but hasn’t been relevant to me in a long time.  Like, a craft book about molding characters out of clay (something I did in Grade 9), or a figurine of an angel playing the violin (I play violin, but not really as actively as I did while living at home…15 years ago!).  It’s a great example of how truly out of touch Mom & I have become.

A few weeks ago, she called me while Lynn was visiting my home.  The conversation went something like this:

Mom: Oh, while you’ve got your sister there with you, I wanted to see if either of you could make use of something I bought today.  It’s a kitchen vacuum sealer.

*crickets chirping*

Mom:  It’s a really good one, better than the one I got from your father years ago (note, she used it once). This would be at least worth $200 and I got it for ten dollars!!!

Me: Well, it’s not something Will & I would use.  Lynn, do you want a kitchen vacuum sealer?  Mom says it’s a really good one.

Lynn is shaking her head before I even finish the sentence.

Me: Lynn says no thank you.  It’s very kind of you to think of us but we’re both going to pass.

Mom: No problem!  It was such a good deal I just couldn’t risk passing it up, but I can return it and get my money back!

Uh huh.  Anyone wanna take the bet it’s still at her house?  Didn’t think so.

The first time I called her cell, Mom was at her favourite thrift store.  She was delighted to be able to talk and shop at the same time.  She was telling me about all the wonderful deals she was finding, and about how she gets along with all the employees at the store.  It was also after 8:30 pm, nearly closing time.

She told me about a couple of things she had put in her cart for me.  After she described them, I thanked her but said no.  She promised she’d put them back.  Then just the other day, she confessed she had actually bought one of the items because it was ONLY 2 bucks and she KNOWS it’s worth a LOT more than that.  Worth it to whom I’m not sure…it ain’t me.

I’m pretty tired of hearing about the shopping trips to the thrift shops.  She has a circuit of them, and not only do I hear about the stuff she bought or almost bought, but also about the other shoppers she’s met, like the antique dealers and “the lonely sorts.”  I know it’s terrible of me, but I have a hard time concentrating when she starts chattering about this, and we have those awkward moments that reveal I haven’t been listening more often that I’d wish.  I’m sad about this.  I don’t see my Mom very often.  Even talking once a week seems like too much and not enough at the same time.  One day she’ll be gone, and I’ll miss the chance just the hear her voice.

Can I fix this? 

Is it something I can or should fix?  Part of having a relationship with compulsive hoarders to forgive them, forgive yourself, and focus on the positive.  It means clenching my jaw and biting my tongue.  It means making a conscious effort not to sigh when I hear a compulsive hoarding shopaholic regale me AGAIN with the money she saved buying stuff she didn’t need.

You can go broke being cheap

I’m wondering where all the money comes from.  I know she stressed about the oil bill and property tax.  Any car issue empties her wallet.




  1. KfromGray
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Oh Ray… Your posts often leave me speechless. I am also often compelled to comment, but cannot express what to say. It is unfair that you are utilized as an excuse to feed your mother’s compulsion to purchase – and completely (and brutally) unfair that this compulsion exists in the first place. No advice from here – but a willing ear – that I wanted to let you know that you reached.

    • Rae
      Posted June 19, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      I’d always love to hear your comments. I know I can expect honesty and compassion from you!
      Having this blog allows me to cope with the frustration…once I get it all out there and off my chest, it really does help me release the negative feelings. Especially when I know others are reading along, and hopefully learning more about the disorder.

  2. Posted June 19, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    I was your mom.
    I learned to stop.
    It was hard at first. It was such good stuff and one day it was going to come in handy. Yes, I have that book. Here’s the thing. It started so innocently. I’m getting this for me, so I pick up that for you. It was on sale for a tenth of the cost, so I bought ten. The fact that my family was not impressed didn’t dissuade me.
    For a while I would jones for a shopping trip – in store or online. Eventually, I learned to skip all the ads, delete the offers, and only buy what is on the list. I keep to my budget and no matter how cheap something is, I remember, “You don’t even need it if its free.”

    Compulsion is an overwhelming draw to action. It wrangles in your roots and stirs an itch that demands scratching.

    • Rae
      Posted June 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing some of your perspective. I really appreciate it! What happened to finally make you turn things around? How did you learn??

  3. Posted July 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    My dad has the same problem as your mom. No sale is too good to turn up, even if he didn’t need the items in the first place. The breakdown in rational thinking in HPs totally confuses me. Even when I make the argument that 10 bottles of vitamins for 50% off that don’t get used is a 100% waste of money. It just doesn’t click. I’m so glad to have found another person who really understands. I really appreciate your blog. Stay strong.

    • Rae
      Posted July 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      I know. When I found your blog, I was both delighted and saddened to learn someone is going through something so similar.

      I read about your visit with them for July 4. I’m sure you had a heavy heart all the way home.

      Thanks for stopping by to comment!

  4. Posted November 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    I interviewed some psychologists for their advice on handling compulsive shopping habits. You should check it out, that specific answer is near the end of this post:

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