The Reality Of Growing Up As A Daughter Of A Hoarder, As Told By A Singaporean Redditor

11 August 2023 | BY

“If our neighbours are outside, we wait for them to enter the lift before stepping out of our house, just so that they won’t see the inside of our house.”

hoarder in singapore

Some of us are no strangers to messy living spaces cluttered with family member’s belongings – after all, Marie Kondo-ing your home isn’t as achievable as it sounds. That being said, living with a small mess and growing up with a hoarder are entirely different situations, with the latter often escalating into a distressing situation of nightmarish proportions.

From being unable to walk in a straight line for more than 2 metres, to a cockroach infestation that’d leave anyone shuddering in horror, here’s the horrifying and painful reality of growing up as a daughter of a hoarder – as told by a Singaporean Redditor on her burner account, u/sgthrowaway_1.

Overflowing bookcases blocking study room entrance for 10 years

OP was 17 years old when she first took to Reddit to share the story of her living situation: residing in an unimaginably cluttered condominium with her mother and 13-year-old brother.

While their father moved out in 2010 – partially due to the severity of the hoarding situation – the problems began long before then, while OP and her brother were still young children. 

hoarding recordsImage for illustration purposes only.
Image credit: Simon Scarfe

“We would step into Kinokuniya, Borders, or PageOne, and easily buy 20 books at one go. During Popular book fairs, we’d easily spend $300 in a visit,” OP shared, explaining that as a young child, she didn’t initially recognise any issues with her mother’s excessive book-buying habits.

However, as she grew older, she soon realised that her family owned a ridiculous number of books. In addition to filling 3 bookcases in their living room to the brim, the family’s book collection also occupied 2 ginormous bookcases in the study room, as well as 2 more in OP’s bedroom.

Additionally, one of the large bookcases in the study room was so full that it fell over and barricaded the door. “We have not been able to open the door for years, and I haven’t stepped into that room since 2011,” OP confided.

Despite the overflowing collection in their house, OP’s mother continued to indulge in her book-buying habits. “She still buys preschool children’s books, even though my brother and I are 13 and 17 respectively,” said OP, explaining that her mother justifies the purchases by saying she likes the colours and pictures.

A hoard of unopened MLM stock & craft supplies

hoarder in singaporeImage for illustration purposes only.
Image credit: Vicki Moore

Years of hoarding untouched inventory from multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes compounded the severity of OP’s mother’s hoarding issue.

Alongside the mountains of books, their house was overwhelmed with compression stockings, magnetic mattresses, and negative ion clothing from the 2 MLM schemes OP’s mother participated in.

A failed attempt at being a distributor of T-shirts from a Malaysian supplier also contributed to the clutter, with unsold T-shirts occupying every inch of wardrobe space in the master bedroom.

On top of unopened MLM stock and an excessive number of T-shirts, OP’s mother began to hoard jewellery-making supplies and mosaic art materials.

From Swarovski crystals, beads, and charms, to broken glass shards for mosaic art, OP’s mother hoarded thousands of dollars worth of supplies. Infuriatingly, everything was stored in Toyogo plastic containers that were amassed in the living room, master bedroom, and even invaded the cupboard in OP’s room.

The worst aspect of the situation was that OP’s mother had no intention of selling any of the items, leaving the stock and supplies to accumulate relentlessly over the years. Despite OP’s attempts to sign her up for flea markets or help list her stock online, her mother persistently waved off any efforts to declutter the overwhelming living space.

Mom kept damaged furniture & broken appliances

hoarder in singapore - boxesImage for illustration purposes only.
Image credit: Wikimedia

It’s one thing to hoard new stock and potentially useful crafting supplies, but OP’s mother refuses to discard damaged items as well.

Case in point, a broken portable air conditioner took up permanent residence in the middle of their kitchen, while a damaged luggage bag found a home right outside their toilet.

While coexisting with clutter and damaged items may have been bearable, OP’s family also had to live with broken appliances.

“Due to being ashamed of showing other people our house, we have never called professionals to fix our problems. As a result, we don’t have a working light in our toilet, our shower heater is broken, and the flush doesn’t work too – we fill a bucket with water and pour it down the toilet to flush,” OP illustrated the severity of the situation.

Other unusable items were their Starhub TV box and all 5 air conditioners in their home. Additionally, a broken washing machine caused OP’s family to resort to handwashing all their clothing for over 6 months. “Honestly, even if we weren’t ashamed of the mess, there wouldn’t be space to move the washing machines in and out,” OP grimly stated.

Unable to find space for herself amidst the chaos

hoarder in singapore - filled with clothes and boxesImage for illustration purposes only.
Image credit: Raining Rita

Due to the clutter in the bedrooms, OP’s mother and younger brother slept in the living room on the sofa and on a mattress on the floor respectively.

While OP used to sleep in the living room as well, the longing for personal space finally pushed her to neaten one of the rooms – her supposed bedroom – by getting rid of piles of laundry and soft toys that accumulated on the bed.

Yet, despite this small step of progress, the room remains dominated by her mother’s possessions, leaving her with minimal space to call her own.

Among all the rooms in the house, OP’s room is the only one where the curtains are drawn. In all the other rooms, the curtains have remained undrawn since 2010 in an attempt to conceal the family’s dismal living situation.

“I’ve never had friends over. If our neighbours are outside, we wait for them to enter the lift before stepping out of our house, just so that they won’t see the inside of our house,” OP reveals.

A constant cockroach infestation was the last straw

hoarder in singapore - cockroach behind doorRotting wood behind OP’s door.
Image credit: sgthrowaway_1

OP’s family always had a minor cockroach problem at home. Before her father left, he called an exterminator to spray a gap in their ceiling toilet with pesticide in an attempt to rid the home of cockroaches.

However, his well-intentioned plan unfortunately backfired. A few months after the exterminator did the job, the bathroom ceiling began to peel, and the infestation escalated into a nightmarish hellscape.

Cockroaches would rain down from the ceiling and crawl up from the drain, surrounding the family from all sides. Some of the creatures even invaded the bathroom light and their elongated silhouettes shadows would cast grotesque shadows on the walls of the toilet. The situation being unbearable was a gross understatement. 

Understandably, OP and the 2 remaining members of her household decided to abandon ship. They turned off the water supply and decided to only use the master bedroom’s toilet. To no one’s surprise, this meant that the door to the common toilet has not been opened in over a decade, with the overwhelming stench of dead cockroaches emanating from within.

Despite the family’s efforts, several persistent cockroaches found their way out and began invading other parts of OP’s home – appearing on door frames, walls, and worst of all, on OP’s clothes.

After years of living with the situation, OP’s last straw was discovering that the cockroaches had invaded her bedroom, compromising her sole sanctuary in the midst of the hoarding chaos.

Growing up as a daughter of a hoarder

Eventually, as the situation continued to escalate, OP was forced to make the difficult decision of leaving her mother and brother, and moved in with her father instead. Thankfully, she was subsequently able to secure a scholarship that covered her university accommodation, allowing her to afford her own temporary space in her university’s hall.

While OP finally managed to escape her distressing living situation, the emotional toll of growing up in a house of cluttered chaos and cockroach infestations continued to haunt her – a reminder of the reality of growing up as a daughter of a hoarder.

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Cover image adapted from: sgthrowaway_1, raining rita/Flickr

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