An Ultimatum for a Hoarding Mother: Her Kids or Her Clutter
August 29, 2014
Chandra and her three siblings say that their mother, Pamela’s, hoarding is out of control and has torn the family apart. Pamela denies being a hoarder. How does she explain the cluttered state of her house? Plus, Pamela’s husband, Richard, moved out of the house two years ago — he says because of the hoarding, but she says otherwise. Hear why Pamela claims Richard is equally to blame for the family’s problems. Can Dr. Phil help Pamela get rid of her clutter — and help this family get back on track?
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Hoarding Mother?Chandra and her siblings, Charity, Perry and Preston, say their mother, Pamela, is a hoarder who lives in a spacious, 9,000-square-foot Victorian home — that is so filled with clutter, she has to make pathways to get from one room to another. In August 2012, the family grew so concerned, they staged an in intervention, which escalated to the point of police being called.
“[It] was a family intervention, to try to force Pam to receive care,” explains Pamela’s estranged husband, Richard.
“She lost her mind and freaked out, went ballistic,” Charity says. “She drove down to my cousin’s house. She got out of the car, screaming and yelling.”
Perry says he felt obligated to call 911. "My mother was acting like a distraught maniac," he says.
Pamela adamantly denies being a hoarder and says the intervention felt like an "assassination." She says, “I felt like I was being hunted ... I flipped them off.” She says police officers took her to the hospital. "They handcuffed my feet and my hands to the bed," she says. "My daughter Charity came in and shook me and told me I needed to get help. And then my son started yelling at me, telling me that I was functionally crazy. And then my daughter Chandra started in, telling me what a worthless mother I was. And then Chandra's husband, Robert, chimed in [saying] I was never going to be his baby's grandmother as long as I live. And there stood Richard, paranoid and delusional; and he was, like, so proud this had all happened," she says. "They just tore me to shreds and then left me to die."
Dr. Phil asks Pamela, “Do you have 300 unusable socks?”
“I don’t know,” she says. “Did somebody come count them when I was gone?”
“Do you have a lot of cut-up socks?” he rephrases. “You were actually going to make a sock quilt out of them, right?”
“I was going to,” she says. “I do stuff like that.” Pamela says she repurposes items and gives them away as gifts to friends and family. “I’m a kind, giving person,” she says.
Feeling AbandonedPamela says Richard should take more of the blame for the failure of their marriage and family issues. “During my marriage to Richard, sex has been the only priority to him,” she says, adding that he always wanted to spend Mondays with her. “He called it his Monday parties to have sex with me, and while I was spending time with him, he was beating me up because the house was a mess.” She says when her children were young, she worked 10-hour days and still took care of the house and kids. “The house was getting progressively more messy,” she says. “I had a meeting with the kids, and I asked them if they could keep things picked up. And my husband said, ‘Oh, no. That’s your responsibility, not theirs.’” She says she was too exhausted to get everything done around the house. “And of course, my husband would complain because our sex life sucked,” she says. She claims Richard posted an ad in the newspaper, looking for women, and eventually had an affair. “Then, he had Facebook affairs with women,” she claims. “I don’t believe, for one minute, that Richard left me because the house was messy. I believe Richard left me so he could see other women.”
Dr. Phil asks Richard when he moved out of the house, and he says July 2012 — shortly before the family intervention.
“They just did awful things to me and left me,” Pamela says of that time. “I didn’t even know what was going on.” She says the day before the intervention, she was mourning the loss of her sister-in-law, who committed suicide. “That was really traumatic to me,” she says. “And I was hoping to spend some time with my kids.”
Charity says that the intervention was staged to address Pamela’s attacks on them, not just the condition of the house. “She wanted us to get between their marriage,” she says. “[The intervention] was not to say, ‘This is all your fault. You did this. You have to fix this,’” she clarifies. “It was merely to say, ‘Let us help you. Let us help find a solution to all of this stuff,’ and we didn’t even get to that point.”
“This house is three times worse than before they did this to me, OK. I feel safe in my house,” Pamela says. “If somebody broke into my house, I would hear them before they found me.”
“Would you agree that’s no way to live?” Dr. Phil asks.
“I don’t think that the last 30 years of my life is any way to live,” she responds.“They all walked away from me. I had no one to talk to. I had no counselor, I had no one."
Source of the Problem?Richard says in 1991, Pamela was hospitalized and lived out of the house for about a month.
Pamela says she was so overwhelmed at the time that she "had a nervous breakdown." She also says that while she was gone, some friends from church went to her house to watch her children — and cleaned everything. “They packed things and took them up to the attic,” she says. “Why are these women going through my underwear drawers? I just couldn’t get over the fact that they violated my privacy.”
“They actually took a lot of our clothes and organized them in bins,” Chandra says. “So, they weren’t actually getting rid of anything.” She says her mother was very upset, adding, “After that, nothing was leaving the house.”
“I felt that I had been raped,” Pamela says.
Dr. Phil offers to provide Pamela with a thorough evaluation. “I think if you let me give you some new skills for handling your anxiety, your depression and your overwhelming feeling of stress, you won’t need all of that stuff,” he says, adding that he doesn’t want to take her belongings away at the moment.
Pamela asks if Richard could also get evaluated. “Because you can’t have a brain like him and hurt your wife like he’s hurt me,” she says tearfully.
“Right now, I’m being selfish on your behalf,” Dr. Phil responds. “Let me help you, because I think, in a very short period of time, your life is going to look a good deal better to you.” He continues, “It’s not like I’m ignoring all the family issues. You’re the one who’s in acute pain. Let me address that first.”
Pamela accepts the help.