« Dutch People = Whack Jobs with Common Sense | Main | Sarah Palin: 1,142 Days Until the 2012 Election »

Hoarding is Such a Weird Psychological Condition

rubbish.jpgTrue story: Back in my legal services day, I had a client in a nursing home who had a terrible hoarding problem — he’d go out into dumpsters and pull anything and everything out of them and drag them up into his room. That room was filled with trash, and the only spot in the entire room free of any debris was a small section of his bed, where he slept. The nursing home was trying to evict him because, not only did he bring in pounds and pounds of trash, but he smoked, presenting a clear fire hazard.

After some negotiation and a cleaning service, however, we were able to convince the nursing home to allow this old guy to stay in his room. We thought it was a success. A few months after I left the office, however, I asked my old boss whatever happened with that old guy?

He’d burned down the nursing home.


Anyway, I mention this by way of introducing another hoarder: A pensioner in England, who was so bad, health officials were called in to clear 100 tons of trash from his home:

It’s been a while since pensioner Merv Jones tidied up or vacuumed.
In fact, it’s been so long that he might never have been able to find the Hoover amid the astonishing 100 tons of rubbish and bric-a-brac in his home - assuming he ever looked for it.
Every room in the terraced house was filled from floor to ceiling with mouldering junk. It was even piled up in the hall. Both front and back gardens were also a mess.
After years of complaints from neighbours, council officials finally moved in to empty the building in Grimsby, filling skip after skip.
The extraordinary array of bric-a-brac had been collected over decades by the 73-year-old, including old rifles, ammunition and swords, along with hundreds of more ordinary items, such as dolls, electrical equipment, toys, pictures, books and ornaments.
As well as all the junk, there was a great deal of household rubbish. Windows were broken, pigeons had moved into the loft and bait traps had to be laid for the rats.

Poor guy … and the thing is, he won’t be happy once they clean it up. He won’t be happy unless it’s a mess. I suspect that, once the place is cleared away, he’ll just slowly start the process anew.

| Comments (9)


It is truly a debilitating condition. I have struggled with my father's hoarding for years. It took us (me and my brother) about 6 years to convince him to let us clean out his garage. My father is a intelligent and bright man that created his own, very successful business, but he has this completely irrational urge to collect junk. And the act of collecting isn't the painful part, its the removal of the shit that the real difficulty occurs. Nothing like seeing the man that raised you have a panic attack and start sobbing in the front yard at the thought of discarding a card table that is missing two legs. In a lot of ways, its like alcoholism in that in my father's case, he can go years without collecting crap, assuming he is taking his medication, and then out of the blue, he will fill up a room in the house with stuff and the whole painful process of getting rid of it starts all over again. I came back from a military deployment to find my old room filled about five feet high with old radio parts. My father could fix radios, hell he didn't even have a working one at this point but his compulsion literally caused his to collect about 50 or 60 broken old radios. Another time, he started collecting boat anchors...and we didn't have a boat. I literally had to sleep in the bathroom for two weeks until we convinced him to let us get rid of some of the stuff. Its important to realize that hoarders aren't doing it because they like to, but because they think they need to. There is a lot of shame involved too in which hoarders do not want people to realize the extent of their problem. That was a huge issue for my dad meaning me and my brother had to remove truck loads of stuff in the middle of the night because my father was terrified at what the neighbors would think. Many of these people end up completely isolating themselves from friends and family which only serves to compound the compulsion.


I'm terrified my mother is well on the way down this path. She doesn't bring junk in from the streets (YET) but she hoards everything. It's piled up in all the bed rooms, over-flowing out of drawers, it's in black plastic bags stuck behind the shower curtain, etc. Since childhood I've been embarrassed to bring any friends to the house. Now that I just go back for visits, I fool myself into thinking it will be better next time but then it's even worse. There's no way to help her.

I see the isolation thing happening as well.

Hang in there. My grandmother was a hoarder. We finally moved her into a nursing home about three years ago. The nursing home keeps a tight lid on her hoarding and clean out her junk drawer when she is at senior bingo. It seems to be under control because she has solid boundaries and honestly because she is so old that she can't really fight it anymore. Three years and we are just getting to my mom and uncle's childhood bedrooms. There is a half serious plan to bulldoze her farmhouse underground and just be done with it. My mom and I are ready to roll a big dumpster in front and shovel everything in the house out, but unfortunately my uncle and his wife have apparently similar issues and insist on reading through every newspaper clipping and opening every box or bag. -Set boundaries for yourself when confronting these issues.

I can see a little tendency in myself to do this sort of thing already. Oh well, guess I know what my senior years will be like.

I have to watch myself too...being an historian makes it even worse because you can always say, but this might have historical value someday...

I had a similar experience while working as a student in legal aid, except we didnt end up negotiating for him to stay in his house. the guy had received eviction notice from the city because his residence was a fire hazard. turned out he was hoarding news papers, and yes, he was a smoker. I tried to convince him to get rid of some of the news papers, atleast the ones occupying him tub, and the entirety of his kitchen and washroom. he refused; saying he needed them for his business ventures.

he also tried to convince me that news paper stacks dont burn. he told me that he was a physics professor and that due to the large number of news paper stacks there wasnt enough oxygen to allow for a fire.

he offered to demonstrate this fact to me if i went over to his house, but setting a lighter to one of the stacks.

I declined.

My mom and dad in-laws are/were hoarders. Dad passed away 4 years ago and my DH and his brother have barely been able to make a dent in all the stuff piled up in his house.

Mom in law is just as bad, if not worse, which makes the whole process that much harder. She stayed with DH and I for a little over a year and when she moved out it took me and my mom 2 hours to clean out the 9x9 room she'd been in. 2 feet's worth of assorted papers, used kleenex, open bags of candy....and a miniature space heater balanced carefully on a cardboard box *smacks forehead*

I have to keep a tight reign on DH too because he has a tendency to collect mass quantities of stuff he's interested in. Sometimes it's a never-ending battle.

Wow. This is the most touching comments thread I ever had the chance to read. Cool.

It seems that there are many people who read this site who are also relations of hoarders. My mother and father are hoarders, although my mother is better in recent years; she's trying to clean out her house with the help of family members. If anyone wants some info on the disorder, and ways that they can help, go to this site: http://www.childrenofhoarders.com/bindex.php.