From time to time here in the Midwest, (most recent was about 10 years ago, in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines) we read of people who, for all intents and purposes appear normal to the outside world, but in fact never take the garbage out of their houses. The case I cited was one of a family of four - and the two teenaged children went to school dressed normally, had friends (but never invited them to their house) etc. But when neighbors complained of a rat infestation, the board of health found piles of garbage reaching almost to the ceiling in every room of the house. They had actually tunneled through some areas!
My questions are: does this happen in other parts of the country (or the world) and is there a name for this phenomenon? (I assume they’ve studied these sickos).

Not only in the midwest, all over. It’s an illness. I’ll see if I can find some info.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! Source???

Yeah, the local papers love this stuff! You see a related article 2 or 3 times a year here (So. Cal.). It almost always involves an elderly, single woman, who to all appearences seems perfectly normal to her neighbors. More often than not, she is very personable and the outside of her house is immaculate. Then the day comes that the neighbors don’t see her taking her regular walk or running her errands and then become worried for her safety. The neighbors or police or fire department will enter the house and…well, you know the rest of the story. If she didn’t die of natural causes then it’s usually something like an 8 foot stack of garbage fell over on her and either killed her outright, or worse, she was trapped until she starved to death.

And of couse, when the local news shows up, they get a lot of soundbites like; “She seemed like a completely normal person. I never thought this could happen in my neighborhood…” etc.

A neighbor of mine was like this. Even worse, after she died her family found thousands of jars of human waste stored all over the house. Her toilet had broken years before and rather than having it fixed, she chose to relieve herself into the jars, which she subsequently saved.

Wow, I feel bad for that lady, not only for living like that, but because her family was so out of touch with her that they didn’t realize she was living like that.

When I was in high school, I knew a girl who’s family was like that, but I always suspected that something was not right because she, her brother, and her father were always very filthy and unpleasant to be around. Then one of my father’s friends confided in him that he’d been to their house and in the livingroom was every dirty diaper the kids had worn as babies (and mind you they were teenagers at this time). Not only that, but rats were living in the dirty diapers and the father considered it recreation to sit in the livingroom and shoot the rats. How they survived childhood without getting typhus or the plague, I’ll never know.

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

Reading this topic, I can’t help but think of mean ways to torment Martha Stewart. :smiley:

Well, it sure makes me feel better about my house :wink:

“I hope life isn’t a big joke, because I don’t get it,” Jack Handy

It’s called ‘hoarding’ and its a part of
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder [OCD].

It’s treatable with drugs.

I don’t know if it qualifies to put children in foster homes, also I suppose some ex could make it into that.

I used to work in a school for mentally-challenged children. While I was there, one of the social workers came back from a house where she said she had seen six-feet walls of garbage in every room.

(If you are squeamish, read no further.)

The 16 year-old boy who lived in this mess was extremely handicapped. He was in a special wheelchair, couldn’t move, and couldn’t speak. He wore To use a cruder term, he was a vegetable. One of the nurses started removing his clothes to change his diaper. She let out a scream and ran down to the office. The boy, she reported had been crawling with roaches beneath his clothes.

Does this thread make anyone else nostalgic for their undergrad days?

Dr. J

When I was an undergrad, a friend of mine had more-or-less carpeted his apartment with empty beer cans, except for a narrow path from bed to couch and from couch to kitchen. It wasn’t a deliberate decor choice, he was just to lazy to get rid of them.

I don’t know if Nickrz and I are thinking of the same thinng, but a year or two back, there was a story in the Chicago Tribune about this sort of thing. Some middle to upper class white bread family who wound up with just tons and tons of garbage in their home. According to them, they got bogged down with work and stuff and it built up and then became such a huge problem they couldn’t handle it and finally became so massive they were embarassed to get it cleaned out professionally. But, evidentally, they got their act together after the housing folks dropped by and took their children and now everything is happy-good. Of course, then a bunch of people wrote in and said that this mother and father were a couple of freaks to let that happen. However, reading this thread makes me think: If it’s caused by some form of OCD, then what’s the chance of two people with the garbage hording OCD marrying? You’d think one of them would come home and say “Hey… you know what? I didn’t mind the empty soda cans and newspapers, but this pile of old laundry with the family of raccoons nesting in it kind of goes too far.”

“I guess it is possible for one person to make a difference, although most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Yeah, I read about that one, too, Jophiel. But the ones that really strike me are the hardcore piled-to-the-ceiling-for-years ones.
It’s a way of life with them, not just “we never got around to taking the garbage out.”
(Although that’s pretty pathetic in its own right).

It seems to me “hoarding” as part of OCD could infect one or two members of the same family, but four? Does that become some sort of “mass hysteria” or something? The kids, at least should know something’s wrong - is it like incest or molestation, where the secret is just too horrible to be known, so the kids “play along?” I’m obsessed with those images… maybe I was a pack rat in a former life.

This reminds me of something I heard on Unsolved Mysteries, or some other program of that genre. There were these two elderly brothers who lived in an old building somewhere. It was piled floor to ceiling with all kinds of junk, and passages had been carved out to get to the various rooms. One of the brothers was blind and an invalid, and the other brother cared for him. There was no mention of mistreatment or neglect. As a form of security, the able-bodied brother had literally booby-trapped the garbage to kill anyone who broke into the building. He was apparently a very nice guy, and nobody knew he lived in such a pit. One day, he accidently set off one of his traps, and was smothered under a ton of garbage. This would be funny, except that his brother then starved to death because there was noone to care for him.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Everyone, yes everyone, to some other or another hoards, checks, counts, cleans to some point.

What happens is that for OCD people their brain gets the same message as non-OCD people, ‘maybe I can use this in the future, so I better save it.’ At that point their brains get ‘stuck’ and the thought repeats again & again so they get rid of the thought by saving whatever it is. And there is usually no logic to it.

As for why other family members put up with it, so do codependents of alcoholics, gamblers, drug users, etc…no mystery there.