Hoarders: new TV show

I watched the first episode of this new series on A&E, and it’s gonna get me hooked, because it deals with an issue that hits really close to home to me (pun intended). My grandmother was a huge hoarder, and my mom had to deal with getting rid of 40 years of crap that accumulated in her house after she died, and to make matters worse, my mother herself is a “sentimental hoarder” who will not throw anything out that has any connection to anyone in the family, alive or dead — she had boxes and boxes of HOMEWORK which I did when I was in grade school, which even I don’t want, for example. And photos of people who lived 100 years ago and MIGHT be our ancestors, but since none of these photos are labeled, they might as well be some random dead Finn for all I know or care. And I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a hoarder myself, although I have been getting better.

Watching the first episode, which focuses on two families with hoarding problems, and professionals who try to help them, makes me see the psychological effect that I have. While for some dumbfuck reason this woman thinks that keeping rotting pumpkins in her house (2 of them!) is serving a useful purpose, since she can still pull seeds out of them, and another guy has a whole collection of empty fish tanks, some of them which are BROKEN, he also thinks that he’ll be able to use them some day. I sometimes go through the same type of thoughts with stuff I should know better for - like how I have boxes full of cables, despite the fact that all of the A/V stuff I own is already sufficiently hooked up. I also have literally THOUSANDS of DVDs, 90% of which I’ve never watched, will probably never have time to watch, and have spent more time collecting more of them than I have watching what I ALREADY have, but dammit, when I AM ready to watch them, I want them to be there. This is just like both families who buy more than what they need just so that they can have a CHOICE and ready supply. I’m really glad that this series (at least the first episode…I’m not sure if each additional episode will focus on new people, or will do a check in on the same people every week) takes the issue seriously, rather than trying to make it a “look at these dumb rednecks and laugh!”-type show.

This sounds interesting. I’ll have to check it out. My one issue with some of the “clean house” shows – the one I’m most familiar with is “How Clean Is Your House?” on the BBC – is that they go into the homes of people who clearly and obviously have hoarding problems, and they just focus on cleaning it up and getting the garbage out. It seems to me that while this is a worthwhile undertaking, it won’t do much good if they don’t address the underlying problems that led the people to get into that situation in the first place.

Cleaning out my grandparents/great grandparents home was a nightmare for my father. Three levels and two garages full of a century worth of junk. It took months to dig out of it.
My dad was so disgusted by it that he swore he would never put his kids through that same misery. My parents home that was at a normal level junk/storage wise when I lived there is now barren. If he hasn’t used something in the past 12 months he wants it gone, like now.
My in-laws home on the other hand…

They weren’t like that. The cleaning team was being supervised by a psychologist, who was really working with the families and help them understand/cope with what is happening. When the dad didn’t want to part with his fish tanks, they were left in the house until HE was ready to give the okay (although that came with some nagging pressure from his wife). One of the therapists also mentioned how if they just leave with that clean house and don’t keep working with the families, he guarantees that when they come back in 6 months it will be just as bad again. That’s why I’m under the assumption that this show is going to do follow up episodes, since it really didn’t seem like anyone was cured yet.

fusoya - Did you see the one little boy saying when they were taking his plastic playhouse away “But I wanted to save that in case I have kids some day!” You could tell that the sins of the parents were really being pasted down to their children.

My sister is a hoarder, although not quite of that magnitude. Watching this show made me want to through everything I own away, except for a week’s worth of clothes and minimal furniture.


My late husband was a hoarder - not too bad compared to some stories I’ve heard about, but still…

I have been fascinated with this affliction ever since, so thanks for the heads up on the show.

There was a thread hereabouts on this subject “Ask the Adult Child of a Hoarder” or something like that, but with the one strike and you’re out search function, I can’t lay my hands on it.

The lady who keeps rotten food was sad. I really feel bad for her family.

Ask the Adult Child of a Hoarder/Clutterer. One of the more informative “Ask the” threads, IMO. (I use Google for most of my SDMB searches these days.)

They’ve tackled hoarders a couple of times on another recent A&E show, Obsessed, and those always manage to be the saddest episodes of that show. I think because hoarding alienates its sufferers from the outside world to an even greater extent than other manifestations of OCD, or at least more rapidly. In most cases they’ve shown people are physically barred from seeing their friend or loved one because nobody can stand to be in the hoarder’s house.

The woman with the pumpkins’ situation was worse than anything they’ve shown on Obsessed that I can think of just because of the level of squalor she lived in. The freezer full of rotting meat she refused to get rid of had me physically gagging while I watched it; I cannot imagine being one of the guys who had to go in there and clean it up.

And I’m with StGermain. This show makes me hyper-aware of anything that I might be keeping around for no real reason.

Hoarding is a manifestation of OCD? I wouldn’t have thought those things went together. But it makes sense, now that you’ve mentioned the connection.

I have a friend who is a compulsive hoarder. She can’t bear to part with her stuff. Paper and plastic bags, twist ties, corks from wine bottles, hotel toiletries, and much much more. It’s gotten so bad that she hasn’t been able to sleep in her own bedroom for about 7 or 8 years now. She can’t even walk in there. She sleeps in her parents’ bedroom instead. The spare room is overflowing, the vanities are covered with bottles, crap is piled up over the back patio, and she saves envelopes that come in the mail so she can use them to write notes.

She knows she has a problem but won’t do anything about it because she hoards her money too, and she has quite a bit of it.

A mutual friend actually contacted A&E last year and got her the questionnaire from the producers, who were very interested when they heard about her. She acted interested at first, then backpedaled because she works in the entertainment industry and does not want any of her colleagues to see her on TV.

In the meantime, the house continues to fall apart in various ways because she never fixes or replaces anything.

It’s a sad situation, and the prognosis is not good.

You know, it’s funny, but during the Ask The thread, I had e-mailed A&E’s Intervention and actually got a reply from one of the producers, saying it was a good idea. I pointed her to the thread and let the mods know I had done that.

I’m not trying to take credit, but it’s nice to know that maybe we put a bug in their ear and they created a whole new show about it.

For anyone who doesn’t have cable you can watch this online at the A&E website.

I’m not a kid-person but even I found that heartbreaking to watch. Didn’t the Jon and Kate kids get fancy playhouses donated for free? Someone send that kid a nice, new playhouse!

Nicest of the Damned - Well, I was actually talking about the little boy wanting to hang onto something for an invalid reason. He didn’t want to keep it because he still played with it (although the littler kids might), but because he might want it later. Like his father with the aquaria and the deck going nowhere, He was a hoarder-in-the-making.


My wife is a hoarder. When we got a new car a few years ago it took me 2 weeks to clean out half the garage . I was sick of parking in the driveway. I toss stuff in the trash as often as I can . Hopefully she doesn’t see it and bring it back in. It is an endless battle.

I see your point but it wasn’t clear that he didn’t play with it (I guess only the editors know for sure). All three kids share one bedroom, I can see how having a playhouse would be nice for them. And according to the epilogue thingy the family was keeping up the condition of the house. I’d still say let the kids have one nice thing as a reward for all they have been through. Though I agree sending them 3000 little toys would probably not be the best idea.

Be sure to check out “Seven Dumpsters and a Corpse” next time it plays on IFC. Interesting flick! Its about two adult kids that have to empty thier mom’s apartment after she dies.

The little boy said “I played with it when I was younger”…so it seems like he didn’t use it anymore (he was the youngest) and Mom said it could go.

I think the couple with the problem didn’t get the help they needed in some way. The person running the show was a “professional organizer” not a psychologist like the guy helping the woman in Wisconsin. The organizer lady just kept asking the guy what he wanted to throw away…and of course his answer was “nothing”.

Although the end text did say the couple was getting help in counseling so maybe they ended up ok.

The show seemed unfulfilling to me. They probably could do a TWO hour show on the single woman in Wisconsin alone.

Again, it’s hard to tell from the editing but it looked like the kid was especially attached to the house. If there was anything else he really wanted to keep they didn’t show us, just the playhouse and his blankey were the only things mentioned. Those requests don’t seem irrational in the same way the need to keep 20 broken fish tanks does.

I guess what really bothers me is that the kids had no control at all. As someone mentioned upthread, the father was allowed to keep his old fish tanks until he was ready to let them go. I have no doubt the kids were learning bad habits there. They are young and hopefully the changes the family made will be permanent and the kids will learn better ways.

But I think of the older woman with all the food (who seemed by far the most unhealthy person on the show). She mentioned that feelings of deprivation and loss of control contributed to her problem. If the family can’t make things better I can see the whole playhouse thing just exacerbating the kid’s problems. He just seemed so incredibly stressed out for a kid that age. There was a scene where his mother hugged him and he didn’t even take his hands out of his pockets.

But I can also understand the mother’s reasoning, that they only had two days to get this done. Whatever the kid lost it’s much better than being taken away from his home. And I am glad they didn’t try to scare them into throwing out their toys by telling them that might happen.

Another thing that bothered me; the mother says at least twice that the kids room was the worst in the house. It looked exactly the same as the rest of the house to me. I don’t think she was seeing things entirely clearly.

But she obviously genuinely cares about the kids and was committed to making things better. They didn’t say when the show was filmed. I wonder how much time had passed before they wrote the epilogue? I hope they can continue with the progress they’ve made and don’t fall back into the same place in a year or two.