Life Advice



Hoarding disorder spreads beyond household

By Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My in-laws are self-professed hoarders. They love showering us with thrift store, garage sale, and dumpster finds every month or two when they visit.

Whenever they give us something, they make sure to remind us that we're not allowed to get rid of the items except to return it back to them.

We did try giving some items back to them one time and were met with a hostile outburst. They cut their visit short after making it clear how offended they were. Since then they've continued bringing stuff just as before, and I've been too scared to refuse.

Our small home is overwhelmed with all these undesirable "gifts." I am starting to feel like they're using our house to hoard items because their own home is now uninhabitable, due to hoarding.

My husband has had countless talks with them. Things will improve for a time and then go right back being a problem. How do you suggest we proceed from here?

At this point I'm secretly getting rid of things and praying that my mother-in-law doesn't notice the next time she visits. Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn't. How do we get our home back?


-- Desperate

Dear Desperate: Hoarding Disorder is a relatively rare but serious mental illness.

People who have this disorder sometimes spread their possessions into other dwellings, such as storage sheds or rental properties, when they run out of space in their own home.

I think you are correct in your assessment of what is going on with your in-laws: they are bringing their disorder into your household.


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