More threads by joy55js


Hi I have just found this site and am looking for advice.

My sister who is 55 is a compusive hoarder.

When I look back she has shown the signs since she was a teenager.
Over the years it has become worse and worse to the point now where she in incompacitated.

She is shut off from the outside world since she lost her job five years ago.
She has so much stuff in her small apartment that it is a danger to her and the other people that live in the building.

I live on the west coast and she is in Ontario.
I have not been to see her in Ontariio since our Dad passed away in 2000.
My husband and I have sent her airline tickets to come and visit us.
She came to see us for a month at Christmas and just went home last week. While she was here she had my best friend take care of her cat.
The last time my friend was in her apartment was with me in 2000 and it was very bad then.
My friend called me to tell me that things are way worse.
She fears for my sisters safety as well as the safety of the people that live in the other three apartments in the building.

There is so much stuff in her apartment that it is hard to move. She literally has paths to each room. There is not one inch that is not covered.
The paths that she walks on are about two feet deep that are tunnels through the stuff.
She has one small spot on the couch to sit on where she can just see over the piles to see the tv, as well as part of the bed that she can sleep on. Every other inch is piled and in some places to the ceiling.

I am so worried about her. I know I need to do something to help her but do not know how to go about it.
How do I approach this? My friend says that if she and I went in and cleaned the place out it would take three commercial dumpsters to just get down to a manageable level to start sorting.
Can anyone give me some advice on how to approach this?

I love my sister dearly and it breaks my heart to think of her living in such terrible conditions.
Yes it is of her owning doing but I do not think that she is capable of getting herself out of this.

Thank you so much to anyone that can offer advice.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Joy, there probably is not a lot you can do unless:

1. your sister is unhappy with the situation herself and wants to change; or

2. she is not competent to manage her own affairs, in which case someone could apply as a guardian or power of attorney (this would require a medical certificate of incompetency); or

3. her residence meets the criteria to be declared a health hazard or fire hazard - in this case, the situation could be reported to the local municipal bylaw enforcement department for investigation.


Thank you so much for the reply.

She has many times talked about getting things organized and getting rid of stuff, but never actually does.

From what my friend said it it a health and fire hazard.

If I report her what are the reprocussions to her? I am very afraid of suicide if her secret is revealed to the outside world.


I'm sorry I should have given more back ground on her in the original post.
Yes she has been depressed for many years.
She did attempt suicide about 25 years ago. She has never mentioned it to me since then.
I guess I am worried as I know she has cut herself off from the outside world as her hoarding has increased.
She even cut herself off from her daughter who lives in another part of the province. About ten years ago my niece called and said that she was coming home for a visit and my sister told her that she "was not organized" and that she would have to stay with her grandmother. My niece has never been in her mom's home since. She would go home to visit but would stay with her grandmother on her father's side, and they would visit in the grandmother's home. She(my niece) has not been to visit since 2000 too after my dad passed away. They have seen each other since only when I send my sister an airline ticket to come out west and I arrange a stop over in Toronto (where my niece lives). On instructions from my niece the stop over can be two days max.
My niece mentioned looking into power of attorney. She is as sick as I am about the situation but is much less compassionate than I.


That is something I have thought about. Her long time family doctor moved away two years ago. I will ask her who her doctor is when I talk to her on the phone.

Here is a bit of her history:

She had her daughter at 17. Her daughter's father died in a car accident a year later. She has never got over his death and pines for what might have been. She ended up in a ten year abusive relationship with his cousin. Since then (about 25yrs) she has not been in a relationship with another man.

Our mother died in 1980. She pines for her. She has all mom's things to this day. This includes much of her clothing.
Our father died in 2000 and she has all of his things, including household items
She has all of the things she herself has accumulated over the years. Many of the things still in the original shopping bags, tags still on them.
She has alot of her daughters baby clothes and toys from when she was a child.
She has purchased hundreds of candles, nicknacks, cheap jewellary, house hold items clothing all never used still sitting there in the shopping bags.
She has hundreds of old magazines ,newspapers and pocket books

She lost her job of fifteen years five years ago. I suspect because of her depression. She has not looked for another job since then. Just says there are no jobs out there.
When she was fired she received a $11,ooo settlement from her employer. She said she did not qualify for unemployment until that was gone and then never went back.When she was here at Christmas she admitted that she has been living on her savings and that it was now gone and she did not know how she was going to pay her rent when she got home. I gave her money that will get her through this month. She said she will need to go to welfare although I am not confidant that she will do that.

When asked questions she gives vague answers or just clams up and changes the subject.


Do you think that I can be of any help at a distance or should I be planning a trip to Ontario?

re talking to her doctor, mental health? I may have to physically take her to welfare as I cannot send her money every month and I know that would not solve the problem as she needs professional help.
Her history in the last five years has been to do nothing to deal with her finances .... not looking for work ..... living on her savings ..... I am worried that she will do nothing and then be evicted .... then what will happen to her?

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
I don't know anything about your relationshiup with her, Joy. If you did go to her, how would you be received? I take it her relationship with her daughter isn't the greatest?


I think she would welcome me coming for a visit.
Not sure what her reaction would be to me being there to force her to deal with her financial and mental issues. It could go either way. She could then cut me off (although I am all she has left as she has no one else now) She may participate in her treatment as long as I am there to make sure it happens...... or she could surprise me and go into it whole heartedly and get the help she needs.
Her history has been to say she wants help then when you try to help she has clammed up by getting angry. She has never held a grudge against me.
I just don't really know for sure.
I am going to try to feel her out when I talk to her on the phone.
My friend says she would help her too. We have been friends since childhood so she knows all of the history.


By the way my friend suggested that I tell her that I am coming in the spring and that she would keep intouch with her and offer to help her get rid of the garbage to make room
That is a true friend. I am very fortunate to have her in my life.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
my friend suggested that I tell her that I am coming in the spring and that she would keep intouch with her and offer to help her get rid of the garbage to make room
Interesting thought - an idea worth trying, I'd say.
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