Assistance for helping a hoarding mother move

My 70 year old mother currently lives alone in a two bedroom, two bath with a garage and a huge yard in San Leandro.  She needs to move by the end of July and does not yet know where she is going. She is having a difficult time finding a place that matches her limited budget and allows her to live in a place where she feels safe.  In addition to that, she has a hoarding problem that needs to be addressed as it is, and has been greatly negatively impacting her life.  Admittedly, it has been easy to push off intervening while I raise my two young kids and she comes to my house but now that she needs to downsize or at best just move, the amount of "stuff" that she has to deal with is a great burden and is really exacerbating the problem of looking for housing.  (And the flip side is that the anxiety of moving is not exactly calming her anxiety based hoarding issues!).  My mother also happens to be a therapist so although in some senses, it has made her aware of the issue (she's tried different medications, therapies, etc. in the past) it also makes it quite difficult to discuss the issue with her.  She wants me to help her get ready to move but I know from experience, this will not go well and will be a waste of time for both of us.  Yes, it is time for us to confront the issue more seriously but now that she has found out she has to move very soon, I am looking for recommendations of anyone who has experience dealing with helping a hoarder prepare to move. I've seen a couple of companies advertised online but it's hard to tell if they'd be suitable since I haven't ever heard of any of them.  If you have any experience with one, I am all ears!  I need someone who is compassionate and understands the issues involved with hoarding but someone who will also help her part with a lot of her "stuff" in order to make moving manageable.

Any advice or recommendation is appreciated! Thanks!

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I'm a moderate hoarder and I swore that I was not going to move a lot stuff that I don't use into my new house. What helped me was slowly going through each room and separating it into different categories. 1. Stuff that i use all the time that needs to be easily accessible in the house. This includes my newly organized files. 2. Stuff that I use sometimes (e.g. camping gear) that needs to be accessible in the garage in a bin. 3. Stuff that I never use but just can't part with went into bins that go into the garage (not cardboard boxes as that just leads to more drama down the road). 4. Stuff that is still good that I never use that someone else might want to buy. 5. Stuff that is garbage that no one would want. 6. Recycling. 7. Shredding. I labelled large plastic bins and had them in a line so that I could easily put each item that I picked up into one of the categories. When a bin filled up we dealt with the contents.

Once I went through everything I had a garage sale. I didn't sell all that much (about $500) but it made it possible to part with my treasures knowing that someone else would appreciate them. At the end of the garage sale my husband loaded up everything left and took it to Goodwill. I could have never just given all of this stuff to Goodwill directly but selling some of it and passing the costume items along to a kids' camp made it possible to part with all of it. It was hard and I wanted to take some things back but I didn't allow myself to do it. Now I have no regrets.

I think that one issue that hoarders have is that we don't see our junk as junk. We see it as items with many uses that we might need someday. Of course the stuff can't be found when it's needed so there's really no good reason to keep it. But I think that if you can approach things with your mother as rehoming good stuff instead of clearing out junk that it would be easier for your mom to deal with.

Also, I needed to go through the stuff by myself without any help. Once I had it separated then I used help to get the stuff moved/disposed of. But the initial sorting had to be done at my own pace without any pressure. The result is that my husband asked if I had seen something of his for work and I was able to easily get it for him! I feel really good about all of the progress that I've made. But it only happened because I was ready and took the time to slowly do it. My husband trusted me to do it and I finally did. He was amazing support for me, hauling stuff away when I was ready but never pressuring me. 

I'm very proud of myself right now. This was a very hard thing for me to do and I got through it. Hopefully your mom can recognize this as an opportunity to make it easier for her to find the things that she really cares about and rehome the things that she doesn't. Getting started is the hardest part. The giant plastic bins were invaluable.

I have some experience moving and throwing things away for my elderly parents. If budget allows, I found it was best to move the person first with just enough to furnish a house, and leave everything else behind to sort later. A little time and distance helps to make things easier to throw away. If you can afford it, keep the things in the house. Otherwise move everything into storage with promises to deal with it later. If she never goes back for it you can dump it at some future date. 

This is soo tough.  My mom at a similar age HAD to move from her NorCal life to the East Coast.  She had gotten herself in a pickle financially and lost her house.  She was a moderate hoarder and getting her out was tough.  We cleared one room and then said she could put stuff that she wanted to go with her in there.  Everything else she/we sorted and garage/sale stuff went in another room.  Some stuff she thought had value (and didn't) I took and told her I sold, and then gave her a small amount and took it to a charity shop.  She felt in control and the stuff that did not sell at the garage sale we packed up and took to Goodwill as soon as it was over- NO GOING BACK IN THE HOUSE.  I was really frustrated and in the end she told relatives I did her wrong.  I don't know how we could have down it any easier.

In the end she moved with very little and set up shop on the east coast and is hoarding again.  It is very difficult to visit.  

Hi Sadie, I can recommend two professional organizers that may be able to help you and your mother. 

Both are compassionate, client focused, highly experienced, and service the East Bay Area. If you are wondering about how to choose an organizer, here's an article (from Dana's blog) that offers some guidance:

Best of luck to you. Your mother is very lucky to have such a supportive daughter.

My dad is a hoarder and things had gotten dangerous in his apartment and with a looming deadline for an inspection he was overwhelmed and unable to act. I found a book “Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: why you save and how you can stop” and one of the authors practiced near my fathers home back east and I was able to set him up with counseling. That said we did the clean up for him which isn’t the best approach, because while my father was initially relieved, he is angry at us for getting rid of stuff. I admire the person who was able to do the work. It’s hard and takes time. I don’t know about the programs locally, but if your mom can’t do the work on her own, I do recommend getting outside help. Its a lot to manage when it’s your own parent. Best of luck.

We used Steri-Clean for my parents' home.  They do hoarders and crime scene investigation, which seemed humorous to me at the time.  They were AMAZING.  They rolled up at 8 a.m. with 3 big trucks:  trash, recycling, donations and 3 huge guys and by 6 p.m. you could actually walk through the house without bumping into something.  I think it was about $2k but it would have taken me and my sister weeks to accomplish what they did in 1 day.  Totally worth it!

Thanks so much for all of your replies. I had already contacted Steri-Clean but it seemed out of my price range for now... I’ll look into the other references as well all the tips are appreciated!