Hoarders

Mount St. Lean Cuisine

I’ll admit that I spent part of Labor Day watching Hoarders reruns followed by the two hour season premiere. If you haven’t yet seen A&E’s hit series, Hoarders, each episode features the stories of two hoarders usually facing a crisis like eviction, financial ruin, or being disowned by their families unless they change their messy ways. A clean-up crew helps restore their home and the hoarders are given mental health counseling during the process.

The producers stumbled on the idea for the show by accident. Originally, they set out to create a series on flipping houses but in the process they came across a house previously occupied by a hoarder who passed away and willed the home to her sister. Fascinated by the notion of hoarding, the idea for a series was born.

dining room looking north to living room Pictures, Images and Photos

Season one introduced us to Kerrylea and Geoffrey, who purchased a second home after their first one was filled due to Kerrylea’s compulsive hoarding behavior. Both homes were facing foreclosure when Hoarders intervened. There was also Shirley the “crazy cat lady.” When authorities stepped in she had over 75 living and dead cats in her home.

Judi was the standout to me of season two. She was the woman who wore adult diapers and strapped herself to a portable commode at night to sleep. When she had a medical emergency, rescuers had to remove her from the home through the kitchen window. We also met Augustine in season two. Child Protective Services took her son away because of the filthy living conditions in her home. She never did clean it up and regain custody. When she was featured on Hoarders, Augustine had lived without heat, gas, running water, and all appliances for four years. She bathed at her sister’s house once a week.

The real-life stories seem to be getting weirder with each season. Last night my jaw dropped watching Gordon and Gaye – along with their grown children who still live with them – lament the loss of their seven cats, removed by Animal Control. Even after receiving a condemnation notice by the city with 72 hours to vacate their home, they were still defiant when faced with desperately needed help. Then there was the story of Sir Patrick, maybe the most eccentric hoarder featured yet. His house was filled with toys, fountains, and artwork – a life-sized doll even rides shotgun in his car. He hoped to sell his treasures to save him from bankruptcy, a financial crisis caused by his compulsive shopping.

I simply do not understand hoarders nor can I offer them much sympathy. Yet, I’m compelled to watch the show, equally intrigued and repulsed. How does a mother choose her trash over her own children? How can someone tolerate conditions not fit for farm animals? Surprisingly, there are even worse cases of hoarding than what have appeared on the show, like the Las Vegas couple, for example. How does a person’s living conditions deteriorate to the point they do not notice their dead wife buried under piles of clutter for four months?

I don’t know if those questions are answerable. I’ll have to leave it to the mental health professionals who have the patience to deal with these people. I know I certainly don’t.

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