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The magpie who won't leave home

Community Member

We have a severe family problem that is looming for my wife regarding her brother and her mother. Her brother is a chronic magpie - a hoarder of what I can only describe as junk. It is almost a case of OCD I really think. He has been collecting this junk for at least 25 years, but in the past 15  years he has been living with his mother in the suburban family home. It has been getting steadily worse. The junk consists of old farm machinery, sheets of roofing iron, old washing machines, decrepit lounge suites, old cars and horse carts (he has a love for horses as well). He has been asked, pleaded, and cajoled to remove the junk by his mother for most of that time, but has just continued to bring it home. Some of it is for recycling though I do not know how much actually ever goes out. Her back yard is now completely full of this junk and it is creeping down the drive. In the past week or two he has been filling the front yard. His mother is 90 yo and can now barely get to her back door safely. Soon the path to her front door will be hazardous.

This issue has never been truly pushed with him by his mother. He has destroyed her garden (once a joy), and she has lost all use of her outdoor property. She also has macular degeneration so is nearly blind. There is a looming problem if the property ever needs to be sold, if she needs to go into nursing home care, or when she passes away. She is quite healthy despite her eyesight problem, so this may be some years off still. My brother-in-law has refused to acknowledge that he has any sort of problem. My wife has tried to get him to visit a counsellor, but he refused, saying there was nothing wrong with him. He has recently purchased a house in a distant rural city, but has very limited income to be able to move, and there is no work in this town.

 At present my concern is what can we do to get him to talk with a counsellor or psychologist? It is a very pressing issue as he has placed his mother in a quite dangerous and anti-social situation. People cannot even park a car in her drive now (she lives on a rather busy road), so few visitors will go to see her. He does not even recognise that there is anything of concern about filling the property with his junk. His mother does not want to pursue any legal advice, counselling, or actions in regard to this problem. What can we do? How do we get him to seek help over these problems?

3 Replies 3

Blue Voices Member
Blue Voices Member

Hi Vrmmonter,

Welcome and thanks for reaching out to BB.

I think that the situation that you are in is definately a tricky one, and probably not one that can be answered by forum users like myself.  I'd really encourage you to reach out to a psychologist or counsellor or even the BeyondBlue hotline for suggestions as to how to approach it.

The only thing that I can suggest is being aware to how you talk to him about the hoarding.  Rather than focusing on the items/stuff that has been collected, try to talk about how the stuff impacts him and the family.  "I'm worried about you." or "I'm worried that with this stuff here somebody might trip over it", or "All this clutter here means that I can't clean up which leaves mould on the walls and damages the house" - trying to look at the bigger picture of how the hoarding is affecting the family and could be a hazard/long-term problem.

As you mentioned though, it's possible that the hoarding could be apart of OCD, which usually means that it's taken a long time to collect stuff and there's probably a sense of denial about how much stuff there is or how cluttered/useless the stuff is.  So with this in mind please try to be patient, because I imagine that a problem such as this one is not going to go away easily or be confronted simply.

Here is an article from BB that might be helpful: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/have-the-conversation/talking-to-someone-you-are-worried-about

I hope this helps.  Hopefully other users of the forum will have more useful things to say. 


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

dear Vrmmonter, thanks for coming to the forum.

What I can only say is that your brother in law has definitely got OCD, as hoarding is a typical trait of this illness.

What they do is just pick up anything they like or what they believe would be useful but never use, any type of rubbish, junk and useless material, which no one else would ever need or want to be used, and it's only going to get worse.

He wouldn't think that there is a problem and certainly doesn't need help, so what you or your wife have to say to him will go in one ear and out the other.

Now that your mother in law is getting old and really by her still living at home is a great effort, but now her eyesight is deteriorating could mean that she may have to find other accommodation with 24/7 help, and what is to happen with the house.

Does your wife have power of attorney, and if so then she could then sell the house, when he removes it all.

This maybe difficult to achieve so you may have to get workers in to clean it all up and then tell your b/law to vacate.

Another way to get rid of the junk is to approach your council and get them to put a notice on him to remove all the junk, unfortunately this won't get him to remove it, so just keep going back to your council until something is done.

Your actions have to be persistent, and I know that he should get some counselling, but I think that the rubbish/junk has to be removed first.

Just a quick point and that's I have had OCD for 55 years.

I would really like to hear back from you. Geoff.

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion


Just wanted to chip in here. Romantic and Geoff are right. Patience is required as his actions relly do point towards a mental illness.

The council approach idea of Geoff's is a good one and worth a try. Having worked for 3 councils though I bid you good luck there.

It is a difficult problem as illustrated on TV on several programs about hoarders. Do more investigation on the www about how others tackle it

Tony WK