Compulsive shopping and hoarding

I wonder if anyone out there can help me with this problem. My mother has a compulsive shopping and hoarding problem. She’s a fairly wealthy woman so she can afford to shop a lot, but it’s totally unhealthy. Her house is filled to the brim with shopping bags full of brand new clothes, shoes, scarfs, belts, you name it.

She has finally agreed to let me help her get rid of all this stuff. Although she’s still fighting me somewhat and wants to keep more than she should. My question is 1. How can I convince her to let go of all this unneeded stuff, and 2. Other than just dumping ten tons of shopping bags at the Goodwill or Salvation Army what good deed can a person do with 500 bags of clothes that will fit 5", 90 lb. woman?

P.S. I’m going through bags now and it’s even more than I realized. 500 bags is definitely an understatement. Plus it’s not just clothes. It’s clothes, bedding, home goods, knick nacks, candles, pots and pans, children’s toys… basically anything you’d find at TJ Maxx, which is one of her favorite spots to binge shop apparently.

If you’re looking for a place to give these things to, abused or homeless women’s/family shelters would love to have them. Regarding your mother’s shopping, if it would help, I’d be willing to fly out and let her shop for me- that way the stuff she buys won’t just sit around collecting dust and going to waste. I’ll use it, I promise.

Women’s domestic-abuse shelter. They will LOVE you. Especially with the household goods, toys, etc.

Your mom has a problem that she needs to work out with a mental health professional. She’s using compulsive shopping/hoarding as a maladjusted coping mechanism; just cleaning out her house isn’t going to fix the root of her problem. My recommendation would be finding her a therapist who works with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

When I was de-cluttering (I’m not a hoarder, but I’m a mild packrat), I used Craigslist a great deal. I gave a bunch of clothes, shoes, and toys to a needy family who was responding to “free stuff” ads. Sure, there are people who are moochers, too, but it does avoid hauling it all to Goodwill.

Slightly on the more “good deed” side, have you considered contacting a women’s shelter? They generally will not let you drop off things, but considering you have so many new items, they may be willing to come get them. Women in shelters often have to leave without many clothes and definitely could use other things (like kitchen supplies and bedding) when getting their own place. Toys, I bet, would be welcome, too.

You could also do a massive garage sale and donate the proceeds. I bet so many new items would be a big draw. Pricing would be difficult, so I’d probably just set a rate for all items of a certain type ($x for shirts, $x for scarves) and just label big-ticket items. But 500 bags? That’d be a huge project.

I highly recommend reading the previous thread (old, so don’t post to it) Ask the Adult Child of a Hoarder/Clutterer. The A&E Channel show called “Hoarders” is also good.

A very, very important thing to remember is that hoarders can show extreme agitation and even anger if pushed to get rid of things beyond their preferred speed and level. Hoarding stuff can be a very emotional issue.

Also, many hoarders will feel that they must go through every single item separately. Since you’re dealing with clothing - she may want to keep a shoe if a mate can’t be found, as it might turn up. She may check through pockets/purses/etc even if the item clearly has a tag on it and has never been used. She may find excuses to keep just this one item. And that one. Oh, and that one too.

My suggestion for what to do with it - find the most convenient drop-off and offload on them as much as you can. If they can’t take that much at once, find the next closest one. Frankly, I’d even recommend throwing some of it out (especially anything that’s become soiled/worn/damaged, as the thrift shops can’t use that) if it comes down to it. I have very minor cluttering issues (a half-dozen boxes of books, at this point) and any excuse to not be able to move it now tends to mean that the box stays behind, collecting dust, until I get annoyed enough with it again and want to do something.

I still have stuff in my basement from my hoarding, comfort-shopping sister-in-law who used to live upstairs. I trashed a lot of it and donated what I could, but there’s still some and she keeps insisting that she’ll be back for the rest. If it’s not gone by the end of summer, it’s dumpster time.

I think this is mentioned in the linked thread, but if your mother is like a lot of hoarders, knowing that the clothes are going to a good cause (especially if you can tell her a bit about the specific organization or shelter) will make things a tad easier. Throwing stuff out seems to be the real painful part, though it doesn’t sound like your mother is that extreme.

CL could be good, too, but if you do anything beyond putting in a Curb Alert (in Free) it may be more trouble than it’s worth. Lots of flakes and time wasters.

Your mom sounds a bit like my mom. Honestly, she and my father bought a bigger house with more closet space just to accommodate her clothing.

Appealing to her sense of charity helped a little (although she tends to think that people who are in women’s shelters or on welfare deserve it in some way and obviously brought it on themselves - she’s a peach, my mom). The best thing was to just take the stuff though. Honestly, she didn’t miss the old stuff and just bought more new stuff anyway.

If your mom really wants help and to get better (my mom doesn’t - she doesn’t think it’s a problem) she’ll need to work with a therapist who specializes in OCD generally and hoarding specifically.

I’m sorry about your Mom. I have watched that show Hoarders a few times and I really feel for the children of the hoarder. They end up trying to help and not being allowed to and called when it gets really bad. The show makes me want to clean my whole house.

Would your Mom go into therapy? It seems that is the only way that they can get over the compulsion. Like you said she just goes out and buys more.

Good advice on giving the stuff to a battered womans shelter.

Take care of you. I know you want to help her but it seems they have a hard time letting go of the stuff.

I’ll throw this out, because the SO has/had a similiar but much more mild version of the same thing. Others here have good ideas of how to get rid of the accumulated stuff.

The OTHER, and bigger IMO, problem is the STUFF coming in. Some people are compulsive shoppers and probably need mental health help.

However, some people shop, like my SO, out of habit/routine or because they have nothing better to do. The SO used to go out with a “friend” (a raging bitch I eventually got out of the scene) every Friday. EVERY Friday a bag or two of stuff I never knew we “needed” came into the house. EVERY Friday, for years. That shit adds up.

This house is still full of shit, but at least the pile quite growing nearly as fast.

So, IMO you need to find her something ELSE to do besides shop. And, hell, if she’s gotta shop at least have her find deals on food for folks she knows and stuff they will eat so it won’t accumulate.

Contact that show Hoarders on A&E. Help for you and entertainment for the rest of us!

When you have people who have “habits” they can afford to indulge in, you are going to find it hard, if not impossible for them to quit.

What you need to do is redirect this interest in shopping. For instance, if this woman likes to buy, perhaps she could get involved with a “White Elephant” shop of a local hospital and she could find out what they need and seek it out for them.

Habits like these often arise out of boredom and while it can be classed as a true addiction, it often can be redirect with behavior therapy, so that while the addiction doesn’t go away, at least now it serves a useful purpose.

If it’s a true OCD stopping this behavior will only result in another similar type thing.

As for disposing of the items, if you want to try eBay or Craigslist, it will be better to dispose of them as “big bag grab” items. Instead of listing each scarf but “bag of 50 scarves” and then show maybe 5 of them with digital pics.

Selling large lots of items cheap is the way to go.

She’s 5 inches tall? :smiley:

You know, I could use some nice queen size bedding. Just sayin’…

Or here, there is an organization whose name escapes me that collects women’s business clothing and outfits poor women (people trying to get off public assistance, women reentering the workforce after staying home with children, etc.) for their job searches and eventually to get them started at a new job.


It’s like the “psychologists” variation of the “how many X does it take to change a light bulb?” joke: the answer is “one, but the light bulb really has to want to change.” You can’t help someone who doesn’t really want to be helped. Unless the hoarder is willing to relinquish control and let you get rid of stuff without her second-guessing every last article you’re ready to give or throw away, there’s really nothing you can do.

Dress for Success perhaps?

I just want to pop in and mention Soles4Souls… they are a wonderful charity and they give shoes to needy people all over the world. You can print a donation form from their website.

That’s not the one that’s on the tip of my tongue, but that would be a perfectly fine place, too.