Dear Gary, I came across your blog just recently. Having had hoarding tendencies myself I understand what you and your family were going through while cleaning out your mums and aunts houses. There sure are many feelings involved from good to bad.
Since childhood I loved other people’s junk. I think I inherited this behavior from my grandfathers who were collectors of old stuff and went to every yard sale or fleamarket. From that point of view your aunts house seems like a never ending surprise. I find comfort in searching for old or ‘chabby chic’ treasures like fabric, bed linen, table cloth, crochet doilies and enamel ware. Living alone and not having a supportive family around just adds to the fact. My collection is not big as these things are hard to find for a bargain here in Germany. Sometimes I sell things I no longer need or like or give them to charity. Having too many things is only one part of the problem, organizing what I have is the hardest. More or less it is always messy at my flat.
I don’t like that but it seams overwhelming to me. Things got worse after splitting up with my boyfriend. After an exhausting move (during two month with nearly no help because of shame and ‘friends’ not willing to help because of the amount of stuff) I happily made huge progress in the past three years and even so I still don’t like unexpected visitors, the public areas are clutter free and clean.
Over the years I had contact with people living in total chaos. Helping these hoarders is rarely possible and if then only to the point where they agree. Often families and friends have given up. People from outside are more successful as no old emotions come up. I may look further in your blog to find out if your mum and aunt accepted help or not.
Hoarding is something most people don’t understand (just clean up!) and does not fit in the community. But it is not uncommon. Sometimes it is obvious from the outside but many people hide their belongings behind the curtains. From my appearence or the look of my neatly decorated windows no one would ever tell I am a recovering hoarder. I have an urge to help others through this process. Mostly because I always wanted loving support but never got it.
Thanks for sharing your journee with us and for being respectful with your mums and aunts belongings.
Thank you Silvia for sharing the above wisdom and self awareness. This truly helped provoke some discussions this morning here. Very much appreciated Silvia.