The Case of the Closet Hoarder


Dear Dot is at the ready for all your problems, including fetid fridges, hoarder tendencies and love trouble.

Dear Dot:
My mother is a hoarder, but not just any hoarder, a closet hoarder. I had suspected for years but my greatest fears were confirmed in June 2004 when, during one of her many moves, I discovered a stack of 1980s-era Sears catalogs stockpiled in a moving box. Since then, she has maintained a nefarious storage unit in Jackson, NJ crammed with odds and ends spanning a lifetime of sloppy children and crusty coffee clutches. The final straw came when I discovered she has been stealing books from the community library in the basement of her building to “sell on eBay.” And by “sell on eBay,” I naturally mean “to lay composting in the corner of her residence awaiting a trip to…you guessed it…the storage unit.” I have considered a few approaches to this matter: 1. Wait for climate change to take it’s course in the hopes a natural disaster will decimate the storage unit; 2. Report her to the mafia; 3. Ask Anderson Cooper to talk some sense into her.

Dot, I’m dyin’ over here. A little help?
Desperate in Diego

Dear Dyin’,
I sympathize with the feeling that you are the only one who realizes how crazy and/or annoying your own parents can be, but I don’t know if we need to call in the Silver Fox or the Gambinos just yet. Blame TLC, but when I picture a hoarder, I imagine a person living in a house in which every inch of surface area is covered with actual garbage that is is either broken, rotting, or vermin-infested. The very fact that your mom is aware that her Sears catalogues are more appropriately housed in an off-site storage facility leads me to think that she is not on the level where her hygiene or the structural integrity of her house are in danger.

That said, stealing community library books for personal profit is unethical and bizarre. I am assuming that you have already pointed out that she is undermining the purpose of the library and that she will never earn enough from selling the books to cover the cost of storing them. If that didn’t stop her, I have a feeling that her neighbors will wise up to her sticky fingers soon enough and shame her into submission.

As for the vestiges of your childhood, is it possible that your mom might be clinging onto these items because she is reluctant to let go of physical reminders of a happier time in her life? If so, she could be depressed. It might be worth a conversation, provided you can keep your irritation under wraps long enough that she feels comfortable opening up. Another possibility is that she is overwhelmed by the thought of sorting through all the junk on her own. In that case, maybe you can help her find a professional organizer to get it under control. Of course, there is always the chance that your mom is just attached to her stuff for no good reason, a characteristic that annoys you, but is ultimately harmless in the grand scheme of things. My paternal grandmother famously threw out my dad’s baseball card collection the minute he moved out of the house, and he has been lamenting the loss of so-and-so’s priceless rookie card for as long as I can remember. Look at it this way–at least you’ll never have that problem.

All the best,

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