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Am I Raising a Mini-Hoarder?

By Jen at PIWTPITT |

Am I the only one living with a mini-hoarder?  I’ve noticed that Adolpha, age 5, likes to pack bags.  Lots and lots of bags.  She’s always got a backpack or a tote bag or a Target bag full of junk that she’s carting around the house.  She leaves these bags all over.  I find them in my bedroom, in the kitchen, in the laundry room, in her brother’s room.  I find them everywhere.  One night I was so frustrated by these bags, I decided to gather them all together in one place and unpack them.  That’s when I realized Adolpha might have a problem.  This is what I found:

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Am I Raising a Mini-Hoarder?

I found all of these in one night in my house.

I'm sooooo sick of finding these bags - gift bags, Target bags, tote bags, backpacks, purses, Wal-Mart bags, duffle bags, ZipLoc bags and brown lunch sacks filled with crap (and random important items that I've been missing).


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About Jen at PIWTPITT



Jen is a blogger and author who recently published the book Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat. She started her humorous blog, People I Want To Punch In The Throat, in April 2011. She has written for Babble, and has also been published in The Huffington Post. She resides in Kansas with her family.

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41 thoughts on “Am I Raising a Mini-Hoarder?

  1. goddess says:

    Um- my daughter did that too. And she STILL has the hardest time letting go of things. Good luck, LOL!

  2. Melissa says:

    omg. my 10 year old has always done this and i did not realize other kids did too. we had a “come to Jesus moment” a few years ago and she is allowed one bag of good size and that is it. although, i bet your daughter like mine has very good reasons why all that stuff was in each bag. funny!

  3. EricaQueen says:

    Yup, you could be raising my daughter. She’s 12 now and is just now starting to move out of her pack rat phase. Now everything has to be arranged in a very specific, completely logical order. “Mommy, nail polish goes on the 2nd shelf, not the 3rd and it must be in ‘rainbow’ order.” *insert huge sigh and eyeroll* I used to be the same way so I know she’ll eventually move through this phase as well.

  4. Elora says:

    My 8 year old daughter does the same exact thing and has for years! I make her clean all of them out every few weeks. She is always amazed at what she finds. She’ll run out of her room yelling, “Mommy look! I haven’t seen this in forever and ever!” She fusses about losing things alot but I know she’ll find them in her junk bags at some point! Good luck with your mini hoarder =)

  5. Ali says:

    My 9-year-old is a pack-rat, hoarder and has been since she could walk. It’s possible that it’s getting worse with age. She packs bags, old lunchboxes, shoe boxes, baskets with whatever junk she has. She has boxes full of her drawings and self-made books and magazines. When we leave the house, even if going to the grocery store, she packs a backpack with books and stuffed animals. I have to clean her school backpack out everyday to keep her from taking excessive amounts of stuff to school.

    I’ve tried to work with her to clean out her room, but she gets really upset and panicky about letting go. So yeah, you’ll totally see my kid on Buried Alive when she gets a place of her own.

  6. Stinna says:

    It must be the age because my 5 yr old son does it too, it drives me CRAZY because it is just random junk.

  7. Laurie Treuvey says:

    WOW my 12 yr old has done this for a long time and now that I read this it makes sense. My dad always thought it was what she does due to what she went thru when she was little (she had issues and stayed with a family for a while) but it started before that happened! Interesting enough that I am going to clean out my townhouse and only have minimal things in it then she will not have so much to put into bags. She does that same thing as Ali’s daughter with the backpack full of things even if we are just running to the grocery store for an hour. If there are any groups of parents that are going thru this with their child please let me know if there is a group online to discuss this and how I can help my daughter get thru this in her life. Good luck to all of you parents Lord knows we need it :)

  8. Andrea says:

    they are kids and i wish mine packed each bag picking up the bag and setting in there room is alot nicer then having all that stuff all over the floor let her have he own way of doing things its there personality just teach her she cant have other peoples stuff in her bags and only worry about hoarding once they are older it sounds like she has a ocd issue not a hoarding one.

  9. cassie says:

    My 5 year old has done that since she was 10 months and she still does it!

  10. Sarah says:

    Um.. first off have you ever heard of respecting personal property. I don’t care if she’s 5 or 25 you shouldn’t be nosing through her things. and Second off you need to be more understanding cuz to collect things is hard to overcome. I will be 27 soon and I collect things. That’s doesn’t make me or your kid a bad person. That just makes us eccentric.

  11. Angie says:

    My son who will be 6 in a month does this also, he has bags everywhere and moves them about the house sometimes and likes to repack his bags almost everyday. I’m not sure why he does this.

  12. amanda says:

    to sarah, if a child is under the age of 18 and living in their parents house, there is no such thing as privacy. That child could be collecting drugs for all you know and then what. As for the lady who wrote this column sarah, I don’t see mentioned anywhere where she said her child was a bad person. Just that her habits were annoying.

  13. Christy Lingo says:

    I am both a mom and a professional organizer. I’ve worked with many moms where both the moms and the children keep things back and have trouble letting things go. My suggestion is to find a place for her bags so she can put them away when she is finished with them (so they aren’t all over the house). And if the home for the bags becomes overrun, it may be time to work on letting things go that she no longer REALLY needs, wants or plays with. Trust me, I see it all the time. It is never to early to start teaching children that not everything is important (for example 15 of the same McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy may not be necessary but the beautiful doll from grandma is special). Good luck!

  14. Amy says:

    I don’t think you need to worry about hoarding, she only has normal kid stuff in them. It is just her way of transporting the toys around. She will get over it as she ages. Besides I wish my kids were neat enough to do it this way, instead they keep everything scattered over my entire house. I agree you need to speak to her about things that belong to others, but otherwise let her have her fun.

  15. Gwendolyn says:

    If you didn’t do it, she wouldn’t be doing it. So stop your habit now. It will keep her from having to wean herself from keeping clutter when she’s older.

  16. Erin says:

    Actually, your daughter’s bags seem a lot more organized than my daughter’s have always been. My daughter, at 10 years old, has narrowed some of it down to her purse. The purse will include at least 4 lip glosses/balm, two small notebooks, multiple writing utensils, at least one stuffed animal, a doll hair accessory or two, her mp3 (without earphones), a Happy MEal toy, some stickers, …. Well, you get the picture. I keep waiting for her purse to explode from the sheer volume!

  17. Kelly says:

    @ SARAH… Um… yeah, this woman’s things were in the daughter’s bags, how’s that for respecting personal property…?

    Anyways, yeah. Only when it gets to be a real problem– like, if she’s picking up garbage off the street that she thinks she can salvage for whatever reason, then you’ve got a hoarder. I think this girl is just very organized. And that’s not a problem at all. Like some of the other people suggested, Just be sure that she understands which things she can put in her bags, and not things that don’t belong to her. Other than that, I’d say count your blessings! She’s quite tidy!

  18. Kelly says:

    Oh, and @ ANDREA… Hoarding IS an OCD issue. Learn something.

  19. Vicki says:

    My 8 year old daughter has been doing this since she could walk. To be honest, it at first concerned me but over the years I have decided it is better than finding things every where. We were also able to come to an agreement where at the beginning of each season change we go through and clear out things and donate extras. I let her choose what she wants to keep or give away. It is actually fun because she likes sharing and she likes the idea that another child who has nothing gets something. This also minimizes her “storing” of others’ belongings.

  20. sp says:

    No your child is not a hoarder or a pack rat. This simply is a part of normal child development. It appears by the pictures that the things in each bag belong to a certain category. For example one was filled with books. another with coloring supplies, stuff is not just thrown in willy-nilly like a pack rat. Even the random seeming item probably fits the theme, although you might not understand why (sometimes kids think one thing is really something else). Also, everything was neat and not crumbled up or destroyed in some way. She is just exploring her natural desire to sort and organize her universe. We all display this behavior to some extent. Some people organize their universe with religion or philosophy. Some people with the physical of the collecting, cleaning, or organization of stuff. Sometimes people bring this desire to it’s limit and actually do become hoarders of stuff or even obsessive compulsive cleaners. She may have these tendicies but in a 5 yr old this behavoir is not considered abnormal at all. If it bothers you, talk to her about limits. For example; mommy’s, daddy’s and sibling’s stuff are off limits for collecting. Or even limit the number of bags she is allow to fill up each day (have two or three specific bags she can use to carry things around the house) and remind her to empty them before bed and talk up why she had what in each bag. You may find that she was just marveling at how certain objects fit and other don’t.

  21. wanda says:

    lol, I went through that faze myself at age 6/7,, playing at shopping (my mum was a big shopper, just imitating her really). unless she starts picking stuff up at her friends places and stashing it at home, or the stuff she likes to stash is really wierd; rocks, sticks, bits of food, garbage etc.don’t worry she’ll out grow it.

  22. sarah says:

    My 4 year old does the same. I have her clean the bags once in a while. For her the stuff is important not junk. I let her have her moment.

  23. KKC says:

    My almost 3 year old does this too! Her favorite Christmas gift this year was a rolling Dora suitcase. She puts bags of stuff inside the suitcase and totes it around. She is always carrying around purses and asking me to zip them closed because she has packed them so full that she can’t zip them herself. It’s funny to me – I think she’s actually going to be very organized as an adult because she seems to have a system for why stuff is where and she always is rearranging stuff. She gets that from her dad…NOT ME. :)

  24. Sharley says:

    I wouldn’t say it is any kind of problem, she seems to be putting like items together for the most part. However, I do think I would work with her on finding a place where things belong, it looks like she is trying to organize her things, a great strategy I have seen day cares use is to label containers with words and pictures of what belongs in them, it might be helpful if the bags every where are driving you crazy… and maybe a Mommy self too for your bags of stuff :)

  25. mariane rossano says:

    i wish my 32 yr. dgt would p/u her stuff – consequently her children are following suit in spte of my saying NO (it is my house) but in bags and in their rooms would be much better than what is here

  26. ABC says:

    Not saying she is a pack rat or hoarder.. She might not be at all, maybe it’s just her way of organizing things, because b the looks of it must of her bags and boxes have a type, for instance some are jewelry, others are books. And most kids especially girls like to have little “bags” of random thin like a purse because mommy might have one or other female roe modes that are older than them so they want to be like them. It’s not like their trying to pt random stuff like a marker or stuffed animal, but they haven’t learned about the concept of make up, check books and all that stuff that goes in a purse.

  27. Julie M. says:

    My 4 year old does the same thing all.the.time. We call her “squirrel” since she hides things like a squirrel hides nuts!

  28. Megan says:

    My four year old, Olivia, does this as well. The only problem I see in our situation is that I am a tiny bit of a hoarder. I do have a very difficult time letting things go and I am afraid that is passed on to my daughter. Just recently she has seemed to be obsessed with recycling and I’ve caught her stashing empty plastic water bottles and the like under her bed!! Luckily, your daughter does not do this. Your daughter seems perfectly normal like the majority have voiced. Not that I think my daughter is abnormal, just that I have to nip a few things in the bud before they go too far! I would not worry at all about your daughter.

  29. Shawna says:

    As Wanda says, unless your daughter starts doing things she should not as Wanda above mentioned, don`t get worried. Just keep an eye on her and watch her grow. Her math skills might be higher than you think. Her spatial recognition for organization and departmentalizing should be encouraged. Math skills are usually higher with children with higher spatial recognition and logic skills.

  30. Sandra says:

    I think it’s cool to watch and try to figure out their reasoning. Her system means something to her. I love trying to figure them out.

    If you keep all their art work, I found a good way to store it. Every year my kids would get a new backpack for school. At the end of the year, put all the artwork for the year in that year’s backpack and pack it away. That way its, contained, you know whose is whose. Be sure to label it with the year.

  31. ducky says:

    my daughter does the same thing. It is getting better as she grows older and understands about letting things go. I still find bags of this and that but now it is more useful things and she actually packs bags that make sense. We used to go places and in her purse I’d find a mini Elmo, 10 lip glosses, a contact lens case, a used map from an amusement park, 50 toothpicks and an empty tic tac box, now it is a pair of sunglasses, 1 lip gloss, ipod w/ ear buds, empty wallet, a pen and notebook, and a full tic tac box. We’ve watched a few episodes of Clean House and my daughter was ready for a yard sale. It was awesome. After that she lets more go than before. Good luck!

  32. Roseann says:

    She seems normal to me! My daughter, age 5, packs bags, at least four or five a month, and so did I as a child. Often, I feel, it is a way to compartmentalize their belongings and their feelings about these items or the situations that surround those belongings. Does she hate those underwear? are the silly bands precious? does she want to become a teacher? Have you asked her the meaning of each bag? If you take interest in the bags she may reveal their purpose. Can you share bag stories with her??
    It may also be a coping mechanism because she feels she has TOO much stuff to deal with and she is dealing with it by putting it aside until she is ready.
    I highly suggest giving her something less tangible in exchange for giving up some items to charity, such as a super long bubble bath on a MOnday night, or extra video game time, or a special dessert for being generous with her belongings.

  33. Lich says:

    I think she’s just doing a monkey-see monkey-do thing. lol good luck! but remember, its important to her!

  34. Nevaehs momma says:

    I’d say its a normal kiddo thing. My daughter is 4 and has an attachment to purses, cloth bags, Halloween buckets from part years, Christmas stockings, and card board boxes. Oh, and suite cases lol. The only Issue Is when shes looking for a specific toy and can’t remember what one of the million items she has to hide things in. That’s when we have the maybe-this-isn’t-best talk. Don’t waste your time though because It hasn’t worked for me yet. AS far as her putting your stuff In her bags, make your room, bathroom whatever it Is shes taking and tell her Its off lumits. She probably wont listen at first but mine eventually did. I told her that not everything belongs to her and that’s mommies and its important. She git the hag of It. If only I could find that other shoe…..

  35. Kimi g says:

    my son used to collect the weirdest thing…..toy wrappers, yep, the packaging that the toy comes in? we had stacks , I mean STACKS of them. He was 3… this continued for 1 1/2 years, but he is now 5 and doesn’t freak when we throw them out now :) my daughter who is 3 does this…she has *piles* of random stuff everywhere, dora back pack, lunch bags, tote bags, purses all loaded with random stuff, she calls her treasures :) She is NOT organized at all but my son has a place for everything. These little things make me love my children for their individuallity.

  36. Pam says:

    Biologically, women are supposed to be the gatherers hence the tendency for hoarding in females. Kind of fascinating but at least there seems to be a method to her madness. It’s a stage and it can serve as an opportunity to shift to more productive ways of organization rather than little shopping bags :)

  37. Joan Hawkins Burden says:

    My almost 3 year old granddaughter does it too. She loves canvas sacks and backpacks. She will pack whatever is within arm’s reach. Rubbish, dirty laundry, cat food, crayons, whatever. Then she will ask me if i can put her in a bag. She loves bag rides.

  38. SS says:

    You mentioned that you, yourself, couldn’t bear to get rid of any kind of child artwork and are “drowning” in it. Is it possible that hoarding is, or is becoming, a family issue? As a recovering clutterbug I urge you to rein in your own impulses to help your child with hers. Make decluttering a family project with a strong emphasis on detaching emotional responses to things.
    I do know how difficult it is. Other people don’t understand the “if I throw this away it means I’m throwing away feelings” aspect of cluttering, but I do. It took a lot of time to teach myself that I could toss my child’s schoolwork and artwork (among other things) without throwing away my love for him.

  39. Cassy says:

    I actually did the same thing when I was younger. I packed bags and bags of junk, she’ll grow out of it sooner or later .

  40. Mel says:

    Personally, this is pretty normal. A lot of kids do this, you are not raising a hoarder. Frankly, I’m more concerned that you took pictures, catalogued each item and then posted it on the web. That sounds like a more serious problem to me. LOL!

  41. Tracie says:

    Maybe shes just an extreme organizer. All of her collections are rather cohesive! Maybe she doesnt like the way her things, or things around the house are placed?? Its amazing how alike all the things are in each bag.

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