Loving a Hoarder
Aunt Cheryl*, when can we come over to your house? We've never been in your house."
"Maybe next season or the next one...or the next one."
An aunt took her niece and nephew to dinner over pizza at a neighborhood restaurant. Aunt Cheryl is an unmarried, successful professional - no kids. She owns her own home and time share property. She travels frequently. She is very out-going and is always leading family get-togethers -- at someone else's house.
It's been about 20 years since most of the family has entered Aunt Cheryl's home. In spite of her sharing the need for repairs to her own home phone line or the heating/cooling system over the last few years, she will not allow repair teams into her home. She concedes that she needs to clean up a bit.
Loving a hoarder is challenging. You can find yourself looking the other way out of respect, perhaps stumbling over words to politely address the issue or being a bull in a china shop and calling it out.
Either way, your words may have limited sway over complex behavior. Hoarding can be a component of an anxiety disorder, so calling out this behavior can heighten feelings of shame and panic.
The International OCD Foundation offers those who love a hoarder our own tips to be supportive:
Perhaps your own clutter is one that blocks you from social engagement. Assess your own behavior with this quiz courtesy of Grandparents.com.
*Aunt Cheryl's name was changed to protect her identity.