My mother is a hoarder …

… and has passed on the hoarding gene to me!

by Elizabeth M
(Bristol, England)

Elizabeth tells us about her mother, a long time hoarder, and the effect it had on the whole family.


I was brought up with four siblings, a hardworking father and a homemaker mother who saved items, objects, and paperwork. When aunts/grandparents died their items were absorbed into, what in effect, was a tiny house built by my parents in the early 1950’s.

Sadly, my father has been surrounded by ‘stuff’ for the 68 years they have been married, stuff to which he has no attachment, but stuff my mother just cannot let go of.

A lifetime surrounded by the ‘stuff’ created by hoarding

My siblings couldn’t wait to move from the untidy and therefore unclean, house, either to work or to go to university, and the house was never in a fit or clear state to return to, or at least for longer than a few hours. Blame was always placed on the children and often my mother made the excuse that when we all had left home it would be tidy and clear.

They have been living alone for the last 30 years and it becomes progressively worse. It looks like on my dad’s dying day he will be surrounded by clutter and rubbish, and that makes me very sad. No wonder he spent all the hours he could outside of the house and busying himself in the garden, or doing other peoples’ gardens.

Having grown up in that environment, I vowed never to be untidy, and never to collect unnecessary items and to be aware of the mind clouding effects of storing ‘stuff’. But, I do. Why? It is nowhere near the level of my mother’s hoard (ornaments stuffed in wardrobes, toilet roll mountains, dolls in national costume – and not even on display, but hidden under blankets).

My mother suffers from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), therefore nothing is ever focused on for very long – except numbers/figurework/finances. Her brain is like a calculator.

I too have ADD, but my strength is on the creative side. However I never actually get round to doing anything creative as my house is cluttered and the necessary space is just not available. Therefore I spend vast amounts of time living in my head, dreaming about what I’d like to be doing.

Mother, daughter, granddaughter … is hoarding in the genes?

Unfortunately one of my teenage daughters, aged 17, seems to suffer this trait as well. Why can we not throw things away and be done with it? Is it an inability to focus or maintain attention, or is there an emotional attachment to the items? Or is it linked to unresolved issues which makes me find security in hanging onto possessions? Some of this stuff is not beautiful, or useful or necessary. And yet we still hang on to it all. Or is it something else entirely? Perhaps it’s genetic.


I don’t  know if a hoarder can pass on the hoarding gene, but I’m pretty sure being brought up in a house with a hoarder can have much the same effect. Being surrounded by the effects of hoarding can certainly tip a person over the edge into becoming a hoarder themselves.

If you’re a hoarder, or if you think you’re becoming a hoarder, it would be well to get some help. First stop could be a visit to HelpForHoarders, a website set up for exactly that, to help hoarders. There’s a very supportive forum where you can share your experiences with other hoarders and those living with a hoarder.

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