Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hoarders

I believe I have mentioned once before how fascinating I find the A&E tv show "Hoarders". Does anyone else watch it?

It is NOT a "reality" show, although it is about real people. The show tells the stories of people whose lives are on the verge due to their compulsive hoarding. Some are about to be evicted from rentals while others are in danger of loosing their home, children or pets because they've been reported to the authorities. The show tries to uncover some of the reasons why these people continue to collect things and can't seem to dispose of anything, and help them start the journey toward recovery. Many have never dealt with the loss of a loved one, while others likely have a chemical imbalance in the brain. I imagine there are many contributing factors.

This is not a case of letting a little clutter get out of hand. These people have so much junk in their houses that very often they have to stop using some of the rooms because they literally can't get inside them anymore. Boxes and piles reach the ceiling in some cases. Some will create paths or tunnels in these rooms so they can get to their stuff, but are then overwhelmed by their inability to find anything. One guy knew he had a loaded pistol somewhere in his home but was unable to find it amongst all the junk! His daughter refused to bring his granddaughter to his house for this reason.

I find it incredible that most of them become accustomed to living in squalor. In the most severe cases people basically stop cleaning altogether. For years. In addition to all of the clutter and junk, they are surrounded by trash and rotten food as well. Their homes are more filthy than the inside of a dumpster, yet they continue to live there. Its completely unsanitary and unhealthy. In one episode an older woman had been feeding stray cats inside her house and garage for many years. When the clean up took place, they found something like 74 skeletons of cats that had died and decayed inside her house and garage.

These are not lazy people who don't want to clean their homes. These are people with a very real compulsive disorder.

The show sends a mental health counselor and an organizational specialist to their homes to talk with them about the compulsive hoarding. The people usually realize they're out of control and want help, but find it difficult to work with the helpers. Most times they are able to get the folks to agree to sorting through the tons of garbage and useful items. Its sad to see them agonize over whether or not to discard an obviously broken/useless cassette tape, or magazines from 10 years ago! Often these items hold an unrealistic sentimentality. Fortunately most of the folks agree to see a therapist for their disorder.

Of course the counselor and organizer bring in lots of extra help to clear out the mountains of old newspapers, broken furniture, non-working appliances, garbage, and what-not. Still it takes these crews days to complete the job. For health reasons they all wear face masks, gloves, and sometimes hazmat suits. They usually drop off several dumpsters as well as bring in large trucks to haul away the refuse. Once the enormous task of removing the junk is completed, the cleaning begins.

Watching this show is not like having to look at a car accident you pass on the road. Its different in that these people are victims of a mental disorder that is destroying their lives. Many have lost touch with their families because their families can't stand to see them live like that, getting worse every year. It is so interesting to me to see these folks in such turmoil, finally able to accept the help they desperately need, and begin working through their issues.

If you've never watched it, give it a try! Monday nights at 10pm ET on A&E.

Crush du Jour: Viktor Jordan

10 comments:

Michael Rivers said...

The show is fascinating. I try to never miss it. Very sad cases.

Bob said...

I couldn't watch it. The photos you show are enough to make me crazy. Now, I'm not a neat freak, but I do believe it's best [for me] to live by the credo "Less is good".

behrmark said...

I would love to hoard Viktor Jordan.

anne marie in philly said...

less IS good. good for the planet too!

PS - OMG, word is "slyho"...not that I AM one, mind you...LOL

John Gray jgsheffield@hotmail.com said...

I once visited a hoarder in the community when I was a mental nurse
amid the rubbish I always rememebr seeing a mumified cat curled up next to the fire place!

robertga99 said...

I haven't watched yet but I have seen Peter Walsh on Oprah and she featured a few hoarders. WOW, it is crazy. I don't know how people live like that.

tornwordo said...

Love that show. It turns on my inner voyeur.

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

I love this show! A touch of hoarding runs in my family (sorry Mom). I love hearing these people justify why they are keeping a Good Housekeeping magazine from 1972 -- I might use a recipe some day when I can get back in the kitchen.

Larry Ohio said...

I love shows like this. I would watch it, but I don't get A&E. I'd love to visit some of these homes in person and explore them. It would be like an adventure!