children of hoarders

I have watched a few of those Hoarders shows and seen the kids that are stuck within the cluttered walls of hell their parents devolved in to. I always wondered what happened to those kids- when it gets that extreme, how do they cope? It reminds me of knowing that children of overweight parents are more likely to be overweight themselves- well isn’t being “overweight with stuff” similar?

Anyway, it seems that children of hoarders can have many different reactions to being raised in such an environment and that the younger they’re raised in such a space, the more likely they are to accumulate things and become a hoarder themselves. From throwing away important things like a diploma for high school, college or otherwise, to holding on to glass jars (just in case) you can easily see how it can get confusing what the value of items are. It’s all just stuff and if my house were to burn down tomorrow, it would all be gone and then what?

Le sigh.

In an uber materialistic culture, it’s no surprise that people would have this out-of-control need to possess things. We even have terms for using shopping and consumption to make yourself feel better: retail therapy. For those people that are actively working against the tide of consumption, it can seem extremely overwhelming to figure out where on the spectrum your need to purge is acceptable and your need to save is respectable.

At some point, this all relates back to having kids as you theoretically want to teach your children how to be smart consumers or to not consume at all. You don’t want to have a 7 year old kid that can’t bear to throw anything away, and you definitely don’t want to be doing damage control on stuff by bribing your kids with charity money and sneakily tossing that which has collected dust (not that I do any different when it comes right down to it).

So what do you do when your family has an addiction to keeping things that is spreading to your kid? Or when you have an addiction to keeping things that is affecting your kid? Or when you have a Toys R Us parent to contend with after separation or otherwise? How do you teach your child the proper value of things?

It’s a challenge to face all the constant advertisements for things that your child may be exposed to watching television, playing on the computer, tablet, or smart phone, and even just by going to daycare or school. When you have family members that bring things and “spoil” your child with things or food, it can be even more challenging. With the resurgence of a “green” culture of recycling, upcycling, and reusing, you get this mixed message of Don’t Throw That Away while also still having cheap, accessible, and readily purchased items often coming into the mix!

As a parent combatting hoarders in my child’s life, it is difficult to give recommendations on what to do.

I’ve had my parents take toys I’ve put in the give-away pile out and back into regular rotation. Every week the visiting Toys R Us parent brings in 1 - 3 toys with such a lack in options after 5 years of this that duplicate toys show up! No one can buy my child anything (most of all me and my partner) because he has everything. If we even take my child shopping there is this obsession and fixation on getting something. It’s hard when you have a good kid that’s adorable and highly charismatic as well because people just want to give them things! No matter what I do, where I go, what I try, it is like swimming upstream with the acquisitions.

Even if I recommend donating toys to the homeless shelter, battered women shelter or otherwise (especially duplicate wrapped toys) one of the other people involved in the situation unwraps the toys (useless for donation now) and it goes into the already heavily cluttered “rotation.” My child seems to like the idea of sharing toys with other underprivileged boys and girls and easily rids the toy chests (yes chests plural) of toys regardless of their value (sure Thomas trains that cost $20 a piece get thrown in the give-away bag with $1 vending machine toys… oh well). But maybe this is because the toys always make a re-appearance…

Some lessons get lost like “look, it’s okay if your toy breaks- it’s cheap. That’s why we try to get ones that won’t break” because there’s so many things to choose from and eventually they all get replaced. Other lessons get distorted like, “It’s just a thing- get rid of it! It’s not like you’ll never find it again- you just don’t need it now.” (corrupted into: “We’ll buy another one!” because that is what always happens if it doesn’t just magically reappear.)

So what do you do at the peak of cheap consumption in a materialistic culture? You do the best you can. But be honest with your kids and let yourself get rid of things as well. Despite my bitching, I still have notebooks and planners and ridiculous odds and ends from 10 years ago. Why? Well maybe my family and the people on the periphery are problematic, but I’m not necessarily dealing with my own obsessions or knick-knacks either.

As the saying goes, be the change you seek. Noted. Maybe it’s about time I fill up the recycling bin, get around to finally finishing some of those projects I started, and pass along the random bits I kept to enjoy that have been sitting in a box for the past few years where only the dust can have a laugh. It’s insane when you can clear out your room to the tune of trash bags upon trash bags and still have boxes of things full and piled in the corners. I’ve recently been leaving the boxes out of storage so I can properly deal with all the things I have. Perhaps this will get to me (that tends to happen) and I will put them away again until the next time I get overwhelmed by all the useless crap I don’t want to deal with.

Until then, I will keep cleaning my room and asking my kid to think about their own stuff situation. It’s so much easier to part with things when you haven’t yet formed an attachment to them. Whatever anyone else is trying to teach hasn’t sunk in to the point where it’s programmed and difficult to overcome. Perhaps this upcoming school vacation is a great time to purge the house (is that hoarder language- purge?) of those extra things we just don’t need. Perhaps the shift in shit will be reflected in even the most obvious yet unlikely of places so I don’t walk around and feel like this all the time:



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