Treasures of a Hoarder


9 Years
Jan 19, 2011
Escanaba, MI
My grandmother, she is a hoarder. She always has been. However, back when my grandfather was alive and before he got Alzheimers, he kept it in check. But when he went downhill and couldn't stop it, she went nuts. They lived in a six bedroom house. The living room, kitchen, and areas that guests saw was spotless and normal. Open the door of any room but the master bedroom, and your jaw would hit the ground. Wall to wall, ceiling high mounds of boxes and stacks of STUFF. Books, magazines, newspapers, sewing patterns, cookware, more BOOKS, canned food, and just tons of other things.

When she obviously couldn't handle the house (or my grandfather, since she denied his condition until it got serious), myself, my father, and sister stepped in. Though we were not her ONLY family, we were the only ones who would actually DO SOMETHING. my grandmother's other three children? Couldn't be bothered, even the one who lived in the SAME TOWN as her. My family drove back and forth from Michigan to Pennsylvania almost every weekend, a 12 hour drive one way, to deal with this issue.

Fastforward to now. Grandmother lived in a one bedroom apartment at an independent senior community, close to my family. We were able, so we thought, to keep her hoarding in check. Well, she fell, hurt herself, and needed skilled nursing home care for a time. And to be moved to an assisted living facility since she is in a state where independence is just not smart or feasible anymore. So we are once again, cleaning out her apartment.

We did all her shopping, and knew how much of what she had. So for instance, if she said she needed chicken bullion, we could tell her she already had a full jar, and show her. BUT when friends and other family came to visit, they'd do her shopping for her. And they obviously didn't know her inventory. So my grandmother could hoard stuff with their ignorance of the situation.

Some of the stuff we are discovering now. This is barely all of it, just the more unique. Remember, this was in a one bedroom apartment.

  • Sock drawer full of chocolate bars (she thinks she is allergic to chocolate (she is not, per recent allergy testing results))
  • Seven jars of chicken bullion in the coat closet
  • Enough wound care supplies to serve a hospital for months
  • Pyrex pyrex pyrex! Pyrex measuring cups, bowls, etc. but not just one of each. Half a dozen of each! Half a dozen 2 cup measuring cups, for instance. More than enough for several families starting up their kitchen, and she barely ever cooked.
  • VITAMINS. Dozens and dozens of jars. Some opened, most not, most expired.
  • Inhaler canisters. Each empty canister she saved. SO many canisters.
  • Cleaning supplies, we will not need to buy toilet cleaner, window cleaner, etc. for years now
  • Sterile syringes and needles. Understandable if she needed any medication to be injected. But she doesn't and hasn't ever. So the packages that are still intact will be used for giving goat vaccinations, for years.
  • Underwear elastic bands. When a pair of underwear wore out, she saved the elastics.
  • Clothing: long after my grandfather died, we found the many many outfits of his she hid. I'd understand if she saved a few, but not almost his entire wardrobe for his entire life.
  • Survival equipment, a massive box with kerosene lamps, waterproof flashlights (x 8), many little boxes of waterproof matches, glowsticks, batteries, etc.
  • Cosmetics! 10 jars of vaseline, 15 bottles of aveeno lotion, more bars of soap than are countable, etc.
  • Yarn. She hasn't crocheted for years. So...much...yarn.
  • More sewing patterns. Again, she hasn't used her sewing machine for a long time.
  • Holy mason jar collection! And some are the nifty blue ones.

This is just all the stuff I can think of off the top of my head, at the moment. What can be donated (that isn't expired, opened, broken, etc.) will definitely be donated. We've already given away a lot of it, since we know some new families that are starting out. What we can use, we will use. We are NOT throwing away anything sentimental. We know what things are especially special to her. The thing is, is that she doesn't even remember having most of this stuff. I asked her about the needles, for instance, she had no idea. Some of these things she put in places and just forgot, and thus got more. Some she actively tried to hide. Yes, hoarding is a horrible mental illness. It is just a little shocking all of the STUFF that has materialized out of this apartment. It was bad enough emptying her house so it could be sold!
I am sorry you have to deal with this.

I some times get depressed/frustrated/angry/happy that most of the last 6 years of my life have been about cleaning up my parents place. My dad and sisters had a horrible childhood and "collected" stuff too. I still have an attic full of junk and a few piles left. But I can see the end of the road.

Don't judge your local relatives too harshly, if your mom was anything like my dad, trying to clean up while his health was good was futile. He was mean, rude and aggressive. He would take a swing at me, his daughter for things like picking up his used tissues from his hiding spots. Your local relatives might have just been worn down by the battle.

I hope that you can set aside the work of cleaning up the hoard and enjoy her before she passes.
Hoarding is usually a way of protecting ourselves and making us feel safe. If you watch these programmes as I do we find that these people have a very deep rooted need to hoard and it is a security blanket for them. Sounds as though this lady has had a lot to deal with in her life, and having a lifetimes supply of certain things has given her comfort in some way. Do you not feel that these doomsday preppers are hoarders by another name? It's good that you are helping her.
I was worried my mom was headed in this direction too... then one day she starts telling me about this horrible show on tv... she donated a bunch of stuff to the salvation army after that.... still lots in the basement, but not as much now.

Bless you for what you are doing... It is not easy.... but some one must do it.
The "local" family may be just to close to see it, or they could have similar issues themselves and don't find it unusual.

My father was also a hoarder who really got bad the last 6-7 years of his life, so I understnad what you are going through. My poor mom had to share a house with him, and later a small apartment, filled with useless items to the point that there were stacks to the ceiling and small paths cleared through the items to get form room to room.

I remember a big fight I had with my dad when trying to throw away some of the particular, I was holding a left shoe to a men's pair of shoes that hadn't been fashionable since the 70s. It wasn't his size, and he didn't have the right shoe..just the left one. He would not let me throw it out since it was a "perfectly good shoe". Logic and reason seem to play no part in this affliction...he was a perfectly logical and reasonable person in other areas of his life...but could not control this behavior or explain it. I guess it often starts after a trauma of losing a loved one or things (like your home)...but I'm not sure what was at the center of his troubles.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I just wanted to say that I know how hard it is to deal with a loved one that has this condition and I applaud your strength and courage at getting involved and staying involved. It can be very draining and you won't feel aprreciated..but you are doing the right thing.

Be careful when you are going through the things left by a packrat. A friend of mine was left the job of clearing out her deceased mother's home. She found that her mother had stuffed money inside the pages of books and magazines. She ended up having to go through old magazines page by page.
Bless your heart! It is a daunting task --- and with a long drive as well --- definitely not for the faint-of-heart!

We did the same thing for husband's step-mother -- six hours each way ---

His dad was a minister and saved every single letter -- not only the ones he received but also the ones he wrote as he used carbon paper --- I am still having nightmares about all those letters --- it felt 'wrong' to throw away the diaries and journals and they turned out to be interesting family history --- but, oh my gosh -- the letters and newspaper clippings -- from 1906 until 2010 -- acccccck!

I kept hoping we'd come upon a 'stash' of money but, no, only more letters and, as the original poster said, 'Pyrex!' -- a life-time supply!!!

Plus 64 -- count 'em -- 64 empty paint cans that had to be hauled to the 'special' recycling center ---

Step-mother now lives in a beautiful retirement home --- one room and a bath -- who'd think anybody could pile up that much stuff in one room -- and where did she get it as we had donated everything???? all of it is lovely --- super paintings, carpets, pillows, -- very stylish and beautiful but so MUCH stuff --- if she dies before we do (which I doubt!?) we have decided that the 'favored' step-son who did nothing about the house will have to deal with the one-room apartment as we're just not gonna do it!
It's always interesting to see who 'steps up' in a situation like this ---

Be strong, Stacykins, be strong!
Be careful when you are going through the things left by a packrat. A friend of mine was left the job of clearing out her deceased mother's home. She found that her mother had stuffed money inside the pages of books and magazines. She ended up having to go through old magazines page by page.
I think this is common with old folks of that generation. Always go through the pockets in the closet too. My Mother recently found some money that my Grandfather hid. He has been gone for about 2 yrs now. She found the money around the same time as her birthday. I told her it was her birthday gift from him.

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