In every Hoarding Home Solutions lesson we share an Out in the Real World story to bring our key messages to life. Over the coming months, we will follow the Adventures of Kat. Her experience offers insight into the mind of someone who hoards and the challenges people with Hoarding Disorder face. Kat’s story illustrates how to help someone who hoards. In Kat’s life there are people who enable her hoarding, people who criticise and give ultimatums, people who help, and people who try to help but actually do more harm than good. Over the coming months you will meet them all. You may see yourself in some of the characters and we hope you take the opportunity to consider what sort of helper you are and what might help you to better help someone who hoards.
Kat says, “My parents were hoarders and I hated it”. She remembers the first time she realised that her home was different from other people’s.
She was invited to a friend’s house for a play date. This seemed crazy. Who would willingly invite someone into their home? Her home was a private place where visitors were hastily turned away. What was even more shocking though, was the state of her friend’s house. Her friend’s mother offered them snacks from a gleaming kitchen bench and they played a board game on the living room floor. In Kat’s house, meal preparation took place on a tiny corner of the kitchen table – the only clear space. And the floors were too cluttered with papers, clothing and books to be play spaces. She knew right then that she could never invite her friend or anyone else to her home.
As she grew up, the state of her home caused her extreme embarrassment and she became isolated from her friends who considered sleepovers and birthday parties a normal rite of passage. They expected her to reciprocate but she was running out of excuses. It was easier to let the friendships dwindle than face the embarrassment of being exposed.
Fast forward fifty years. Kat vowed her own life would be different. But here she is standing in mountains of clutter. Her adult daughter refuses to allow her granddaughter to visit. It’s not entirely her fault. Her husband has stuff too. Some days she wakes up and her motivation to declutter is strong. But before her feet hit the floor something happens. Today it was the vet. They rang to say she’d forgotten her cat Tabitha’s vaccination appointment. Her anxiety went up and her motivation went down in equal parts.
Right now she has to get to the vet. Later she’ll cheer herself up with a trip to the shops. She needs to pick up something for dinner and she’ll buy some plastic containers while she’s there. Kat says to herself, “Tomorrow is a new day. Once I’ve got the right containers I can carefully label them and start to organise the paper on the dining table”.