Usually, I’m a person who would rather not meddle in other people’s affairs.  Even when it’s family, I may have opinions and disapprove of certain things, but I don’t want to get involved in debates about their personal affairs.  But sometimes, there comes a point when I feel there is a need to intervene, especially when it involves someone’s safety.  Alcoholism and drug addiction are examples that come to mind.

In my extended family, we have a hoarder.  It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s so bad that their house has become a fire trap.  Mazes of toys, junk, and supplies fill the walking spaces. Paper products are stacked near electrical outlets and all their windows are covered with metal bars.  There are two young children in the house that we worry about.  A handyman who went to their house once didn’t want to work there because he was worried about his own safety.  The rest of the family have tried in the past, unsuccessfully, to bring up the issue.  It has become a sore point that has caused rifts, and no one is allowed to bring it up any more.

Have you had an issue in your family which required intervention or addressing and how did it turn out?

PHILIP: Things have been pretty drama-free in this area. Trying to think of something…uh, might have to make something up.

ALFREDO: The kind of hoarding you describe, Iris, does sound dicey, but, as a kid, I had an uncle who hoarded in what I thought was a cool and healthy way: he limited it to a detached garage where small children didn’t live, and where I could spend an unsupervised afternoon perusing his fabulous collection of vintage Playboy and Mad magazines.  It was a time when women still had pubic hair and the line to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark” stretched around the block.

QUENTIN: My youngest sister had psychological issues and it took me years to convince my mom to put her in therapy. Then it took another ten years to have my mom take her condition seriously and finally got the right doctor with the right diagnosis-Asperger’s. It has been a process and it’s still going… and I wonder why it took so long for my family to even acknowledge an issue. I guess I’m the one in the family who loves to solve problems. If there’s a problem, let’s have fun solving it and make it a journey!

BEVERLY: Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with alcoholics/addicts in my life more than I want to admit.  All I can say is, intervention has not worked all the time.   For some, it worked.  For the others, it has forced them to shut themselves off and  hide it even further.  And that is where we are all at a loss.  We don’t know how to progress.

ROGER:  Overall, there just seems to be nothing wrong with my family and close relatives.  Nothing that requires any sort of intervention or serious stepping in.  And this worries me.  Because if this is true, I’m thinking I’m the guy in the family that needs an intervention and has those “serious” issues.  There got to be one, right?  ugh…

DHH: We haven’t had those sorts of intervention-type problems in my family, though we have faced some other challenging dilemmas. Like, my Dad got kidnapped once and held for ransom. Fortunately, it was a relatively short abduction, as they go, and, by the time I heard the news, he’d already been released.

DAVID:  My family and any family member before me never showed any problems that deemed worthy of intervention.  But I know that’s all makeup and smiles.  If there were any problems they were under the rug and secured under an Chinese wooden couch.  I’m much bolder now to ask questions to seek issues to resolve, but I wish those issues were more manifested to something I can piece together.  I love my family and relatives, but I would love them more knowing that they could feel more like human beings.

JEROME: I don’t think it’s my place to air out the laundry, but suffice it to say, I’ve been in that position before and I agree with Beverly.  The success rate of this sort of thing is very much on a case-by-case basis, regardless of how subtle and obvious your approach – more so than many other similar situations.


My sister had an eating disorder, and my other sister and I tried to convince her to seek therapy, and to get rid of her boyfriend since he seemed to be aggravating the situation.  She said that she had recovered and was fine, but finally she agreed to call someone.  She changed her mind, though, after mentioning it my dad, who doesn’t believe in psychological treatment and told her not to bother.  I worried about her for several years, and for a year or two wrote her a letter every day, hoping this would make her feel more loved or something.  She eventually snapped at me and told me to stop writing.  Finally I decided that I couldn’t live my life worrying about her.  Thank goodness she appears to have recovered for the most part.  I only see her a few days out of each year, so I don’t know how she’s really doing, but I certainly hope all is well.


  1. My older brother is a big hoarder. Every inch of his house is covered in stuff. He said he’d deal with it but never did. Can’t really intervene.

  2. I guess you tolerate it Peter. 🙂 This reminds me to clean out some junk in my house too