Hoarding has become quite the topic of conversations in the past few years. Hoarders have been featured on shows like Oprah and various documentaries (like the fascinating "Life of Grime") and now there are several television series devoted to the topic. The most popular are TLC's "Hoarders: Buried Alive" and A&E's "Hoarders". These shows are immensely popular (I'm an admitted devotee), evidenced by "Likes" on Facebook and soaring ratings and chat room numbers.
A common lament about compulsive hoarders (people who cannot throw anything away -- even garbage -- and live in deplorable and sometimes deadly conditions) are their children. Seen on camera as loving their parents but hating what they have become, they live in squalor. And when hoarders are asked about their childhoods, they will often say they grew up with hoarding parents. Now, knowing that there is a possibility of their own kids inheriting this behavior, they work with organizers and counselors who slowly help them to face their hoarding, accept it for what it is, and learn to live a life without "stuff". The recidivism of compulsive hoarding is high. The recidivism of animal hoarding (a topic with its own series) is about 100 percent if serious therapy is not applied, according to the Humane Society of the United States. But one thing is known for certain: children of hoarders face abuse and neglect every day of their lives and the impact can be permanent.
The website Children of Hoarders is dedicated to such a group. Some of the adult children have been featured on television but most are simply regular people, surviving the aftermath of a childhood spent in filth and chaos. Their blogs are gut-wrenching, from talking about guilt to the near hatred they feel for their parents (the majority of parents being mothers) for having put them through a childhood of confusion, embarrassment and isolation. Some have heated arguments with the hoarders and others face parents who take no accountability for their actions. Some children of hoarders simply walk away to save their sanity. Many are filled with resentment because they know they will be responsible for the homes of the hoarders upon their deaths and that prospect is overwhelming. Other children of hoarders live in fear that they too will end up like their parents.
What triggers hoarding? Often it's the loss of a loved one or children growing up and moving out. A childhood of poverty and being "children of the Depression" are also huge factors. Desperate to fill the emotional void or the fear of having nothing, they fill their homes with stuff.
Others grew up with hoarding tendencies, or some other kind of crisis (the loss of a job) triggered their need to collect and never throw out. What's most obvious is that "stuff" takes precedence over everything else -- even spouses and children. Denial is deep (something that also frustrates children of hoarders) and many blame their own families for the mess their homes -- and lives -- have become.
Children of hoarders have blogged about their own panic attacks. If their house becomes even slightly messy, their anxiety skyrockets. Some have even spoken about panicking in places (not their own) that are cluttered and often end up as minimalists due to a deep-seated fear of turning into their parents. They chat about there being a chance of no middle ground, when they're a child of a hoarder. They'll either end up as hoarders themselves, or panic themselves into throwing away almost everything, even valuable or sentimental keepsakes. The trickle-down effect of being a child of a hoarder is actually a torrential downfall. And these children, either grown or still young, battle it on a daily basis.
But one thing they celebrate is the internet and support groups. They no longer fear they are the only ones in the world who have lived like this. And their silent agony can now be heard. They hope that other children of hoarders can find them, to know that they too, are not alone. Finally they see that their feelings of hate, love, resentment and fear are both logical and normal. And that even if there is no help for their parents, there is for them.
If you are a child of a hoarder and would like support or just a place to talk, click here: http://childrenofhoarders.com/wordpress
For information on animal hoarding, click here: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/facts/hoarding.html
Has hoarding affected you? How?
Edited by Jody Smith