Dear Annie: Our daughter and her husband are major hoarders. They have two teenage children who have to climb over things to get into their beds. Every room has piles of junk. They will not get rid of anything because "one day, it may be valuable." They never invite anyone into their home, which is a disaster and in major disrepair.
We are concerned for their health, but we're afraid that if we challenge them, we will be cut off. We are also concerned that their home is a fire risk. There is so much flammable stuff, and so few clear pathways, that were ever a fire, they would all likely die. How can we approach this without disastrous results? — Worried Mother
Dear Mother: These types of problems are heartbreaking, because sometimes, there is little you can do. A great deal of hoarding consists of simply collecting too much (of anything), having difficulty getting rid of things and problems with organization. Many hoarders won't admit that anything is amiss.
First, check to see if your area has a Hoarding Task Force. Then contact the International OCD Foundation (ocfoundation.org) for information. The organization also provides referrals and suggestions for talking to someone with a hoarding problem, stressing positive talk about safety, without using judgmental terms such as "junk" or telling them they live in a "trash heap." Please look into it and find out how you can best approach your daughter so she receives the help she needs.
Dear Annie: I've been fighting a terminal illness for close to three years. I never cease to be amazed by what some "friends" say to me. Sometimes their comments seem so heartless. One friend said, "Well, least your mother isn't living with you." (Hers is.) Another told me, "At least you're not going through a divorce." (She is.) And the best one: "At least you didn't have to watch your screaming grandkids all weekend." (She did.)
Annie, I have been through a divorce, my mother did live with me for a while, and I can only pray I get to meet my grandchildren before my numbered days are up.
Please share this advice with your readers: If you aren't sure what to say to someone in my circumstances, simply say, "I'm so sorry you have to go through all of this." I don't need people trying to convince me that their lives are worse than mine. I would trade places with any of them in a heartbeat. — Dying Too Young
Dear Too Young: Your friends, like the rest of us, see our own problems as huge hurdles, but yours puts theirs into perspective. Your friends also are trying to minimize the seriousness of your situation because that provides comfort for them, and they assume it does for you, as well. They are mistaken, but they won't know unless you are brave enough to tell them. You shouldn't have to spend your social encounters resenting your friends for these thoughtless comments. Explain that you'd rather talk about other things and tell them why.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2015. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.