Pack rat sister


My sister has taken on the behaviors of my Depression-era grandparents and my own parents of being pack rats and saving all kinds of “junk”. I am a mental health RN, so I know that the amount of clutter and trash in my sister’s apartment is diagnosable as mental illness. It’s not dirty, just cluttered beyond reason. With things that aren’t being used. I’m talking the like of little girls baby powders and perfume containers we got as gifts at age 8 that were partially used in childhood, she still has those bottles at age 40. Magazines from 10-15 years ago, every issue of the years of things like woman’s day, cooking magazines. Over 300 books (I counted one time I visited) and piles of who knows what are piled a few feet high in every corner. She’s got a 2 bedroom apartment and needs the extra room for her clutter. I know she gets to be who she is, but she can’t bring people over to this apartment and doesn’t even attempt to date. I’m worried if she did, the minute the date saw the condition of her home he’d bolt.

I feel so sad and worried when I think about her having a fire-hazard living space, dangerous trip hazards and ending up being alone forever because no one would want to take on such a clutter bug. She repeatedly tells me she tries to organize and clean up but gets so overwhelmed she rarely makes progress. This cycle has been going on for nearly a decade. Her car is the same, but it’s actually dirty. Exploded honey and ketchup packets in the console, scads of fast food napkins, wrappers, various receipts.

I can see this is about me because I’m afraid of what I will feel if her worst case scenario happens (in my mind). I don’t want her to suffer or get hurt. I alternate between “she is living wrong because it’s how a mentally ill person would live” and “she gets to be her and I get to love her. “ I can never permanently seem to shake the feeling that this is a dangerous and wrong way to live. Help!