Annie’s Mailbox: Many hoarders won’t admit a problem

September 21, 2015

Q. Our daughter and her husband are major hoarders. They have two teenage children who have to climb over things to get into their beds. Every room has piles of junk. They will not get rid of anything because “one day, it may be valuable.” They never invite anyone into their home, which is a disaster and in major disrepair.

We’re concerned for the their health, but we’re afraid that if we challenge them, we will be cut off. We are also concerned that their home is a fire risk. There is so much flammable stuff, and so few clear pathways, that were ever a fire, they would all die. How can we approach this without disastrous results? – Worried Mother

A. These types of problems are heartbreaking, because sometimes, there is little you can do. A great deal of hoarding consists of simply collecting too much (of anything), having difficulty getting rid of things and problems with organization. Many hoarders won’t admit that anything is amiss. First, check to see if your area has a Hoarding Task Force. Then contact the International OCD Foundation ( for information. The organization also provides referrals and suggestions for talking to someone with a hoarding problem, stressing positive talk about safety, without using judgmental terms such as “junk” or telling them they live in a “trash heap.” Please look into it and find out how you can best approach your daughter so she receives the help she needs.

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