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Help needed please



Well-known member
Founding Member
Feb 28, 2008
I have a problem which I was wondering if some of you may be able to help me with. It` s a long drawn out tale, here goes.

My Mother in Law lives with us. I don`t want her to. I don`t know how to achieve this without upsetting her.

I feel angry with her because she only moved in with us whilst she sorts her 3 bedroom house out. She is not sorting her house out. She has been here since July last year.

My mother in law lost 2 children after my husband was born. Then her husband died suddenly of a heart attack aged 30.

She fostered newborn babies who were waiting for adoption. Some she had for nearly a year before they were adopted.

She had a long term boyfriend but he cheated on her.

As a consequence to all this loss she has developed a problem which I think is some kind of mental illness though I don`t know the name of it.

Her house is so full of stuff that she cannot live in it and the house is literally falling down around the stuff.

Every payday she goes shopping for more stuff. She cannot stop herself from buying stuff at car boots and fairs and sales. She even buys stuff for other people.

We have tried for years to talk to her about this but she either makes excuses, changes the subject or cries. How can you help someone who cannot accept they have a problem?

My mother in law is in her 60`s, she works 2 jobs. I think she does this to avoid dealing with her problem.

I might come across as mean not wanting her to be with us but that is a whole other story that no doubt i will tell you some day, but I do not feel mean.

All suggestions greatly received as the anger is building up in me and I am avoiding her ( cowardly ) rather than dealing with it. I know I`m gonna blow soon and I really don`t want to upset her as I do understand how and why she got like this, probably more than she does.I also understand that she probably feels completely overwhelmed when thinking about sorting out the house. I forgot to say that my Mother in Law is very emotionally attached to her things so it is going to upset her greatly to get rid of any of it. Even if she wasn`t it would still take a great deal of time to make the house habitable again.

Looking forward to your replies and thanks for listening (y)


Well-known member
Founding Member
Jan 28, 2008
The Wilderness

Singingdolly I do feel for you.

Let's face it, having your mother-in-law to stay is a difficult one at the best of times let alone when a)your mother-in-law has suffered such loss and b)her stay is looking more and more permanent. You are not mean. Two women in the house rarely work unless there is absolutely no threat of competition over the man of the house.

I'm lucky, my mother-in-law is SO abominable that there will never be any question of her staying with my family. My OH would have to choose between me and her if it ever came up, which it won't.

However, to your problem. I understand the hoarding thing cos my mum and sister have it, and me to some extent although I battle against it constantly. My mum and sister give it free rein and their houses are brimming.

To my mind it shows gross insecurity and fear, as if one is hoarding food. It doesn't matter what is hoarded, it is the attatchment to it that matters. I was fascinated with that program 'Life Laundry' that was once on, channel 5 I think. What struck me was the intense pain people would endure at the prospect of giving up 'stuff'. What I loved tho' was at the end when those same people came back into their new, pristine, minimalist houses - inevitably they would cry with joy and determine to keep it this way. It was always a very cathartic experience.

I feel that perhaps your MIL is hoarding in order to gain control over her grief? She is safe with her 'stuff', it won't die. Unfortunately 'stuff' will never replace the loss and just cause more grief.

How about you and your husband and any other relatives close by making a firm decision to 'life laundry' her house together. You know your MIL will hate the idea and resist it but imagine her face when she enters her beautiful pristine house at the end! It's gonna take time and effort but the alternative is not worth thinking about, is it?

Perhaps this could coincide with your MIL meeting up with a CRUSE councillor, or someone who can help her deal with her feelings of grief. I suspect that the loss of her husband has triggered unresolved grief over the loss of her children, which results in very intense emotions. If your MIL is unwilling to express these emotions then hoarding would seem a good alternative.

It's a tough one, and I can understand you must be close to boiling, but please try your best to avoid that godallmighty row. Perhaps a more 'stealthy' approach would be more beneficial to all. Discuss and plan the life laundry. You have to get total support from your hubby tho'. It's difficult when not all the facts are known. Where does your husband stand in all this? Are there other relatives who could offer support?


I think if you are filling your house with things it's because you're afraid to let go and you MIL has really not let go of the children she gave birth to and lost or her husband or that it was any accident that the children she chose to foster were babies.

You can insist she gets help or moves out but I'm not sure what that would actually achieve. She'd still have her problems. But she's not an old lady and it's not too late for her.

As Ashami says, it's difficult for women to share a kitchen. I could never live with any of my family again. We have different outlooks on life. I have a laid back attitude and the housework gets done when I can't stand it any more. I have real problems in looking after myself whilst my mum and sister are very capable. Personalities do clash.

I don't think you're unjustified in wanting her to go home but you need your husband to support you on this. :hug:


Well-known member
Founding Member
Feb 28, 2008
Thanks for that.

I did buy my MIL the life laundry book once as a hint and she used to enjoy watching that and the Kim and Aggie one. I doubt she ever read the book though and it is probably buried under piles of stuff along with the Henry hoover we once lent her which has never been seen since!

I lean towards hoarding too but having lived with my mother who had ocd and was completely the opposite, you could eat off her floors, I am in permanent conflict with myself about the state of my house.

My husband and I have both decided that the life laundry approach would be best and I leave the talking to him. But he and his Mother are not close and don`t communicate well.All previous attempts to speak to MIL about it have ended up with her crying and walking out. She really is not approachable .

Shortly after MIL came to stay ,a friend from her work helped her to clean one room in a day! We were shocked that she had let someone help as she usually keeps it a secret from her work colleagues. We were also a little upset that she had never taken up our offers of help. Despite that we were pleased that she felt she could trust someone to help and really thought that she was going to sort it out. That is why we didn`t make a fuss about her staying, we thought it would be short term.

Unfortunately as fast as she cleared that room she began to fill my house with stuff and my husband had to ask her to move it so the clean room began to fill up again.

Before she was staying with us she stayed with her niece who also had the same problem as us with MIL`s stuff.

MIL has a sister who lives in France but who visits uk often to see her daughter.

I have thought that if we all talk to her the message might sink in but could also seem like bullying.

My husband feels that we need to leave it till she`s been here a year before we talk to her. Not sure I can wait that long but I do understand that he`s not feeling comfortable about talking to her either.

I will think some more, thanks for the suggestions. :flowers:


Well-known member
Founding Member
Feb 28, 2008

Thanks for the article Ashami, lots to read. (y)
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