Hoarders: A new show

Last night, A&E aired its first episode of its series “Hoarders.” The show will air weekly on Monday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT.

I didn’t write about it beforehand because I was nervous about how the show was going to treat the subject matter. Hoarding is a psychological disorder and compulsive hoarders should be under the treatment of a licensed medical professional, and I was afraid that the mental health issues would be pushed aside for the shock and awe of the homes.

After watching the first episode, I have to say that they did go for shock and awe — the show actually began like an episode of the fictional drama “Law and Order” and the music added during editing makes the show sound like a horror film — but, they did mention some of the underlying issues of the psychological disorder. And, in the show’s favor, they used trained professionals to help the hoarders on the show. One of the professional organizers in the first episode is NSGCD-certified Geralin Thomas, whose writing you have seen here on Unclutterer and whose work I greatly admire. So, even though you might not have seen it in the episode, I feel confident that the hoarders were treated with respect off camera and at least in Jill and Ron’s case the hoarders are receiving continuing help.

Unfortunately, I followed the Twitter streams of people responding to the show as they were watching it and was horrified by what some people were saying. Many people were judging the hoarders as being “bad” and “disgusting” instead of individuals, real people, who are suffering from a psychological disorder. I hope that in the coming episodes the show works more diligently to educate viewers about the mental health issues that hoarders experience and treat the issue with more respect (less horror film sound effects and shock-and-awe editing). I also hope that they provide more information about what happens after the initial cleanup and medical treatment that is available for hoarders. As it is now, it seemed that most viewers were just interested in looking at piles of stuff and A&E definitely catered to them.

Instead of the link at the beginning of the episode that referred hoarders to InterventionTV (I’m not kidding, they directed people to a site about how they can be on a reality television show), we at Unclutterer recommend the following resources:

57 Comments for “Hoarders: A new show”

  1. posted by Sandra on

    I think the availability of easy credit isn’t helpful to potential hoarders either. I imagine a lot of them are deep in debt from buying things they didn’t need and couldn’t afford.

  2. posted by Sue on

    I’ve just watched the first two episodes. Like many others, I felt the show ended prematurely. It focused on the gross out factor, and not on the process of getting help as much as it should have.

    Jennifer, thanks for clarifying that the experience was so much more involved than the show let on. And your portion of the first episode was positive – I could tell that you and your husband were acknowledging the problem and really trying to fix it. I was especially impressed with his reaction. It was clear it was difficult for him, yet he was able to keep his cool and let the process continue.

    @Cathy – I think your post is offensive. To suggest that it’s not a mental disorder, just “narcissium, control issues, and plain ole fashioned laziness” is wrong. Just because you’ve struggled with depression and not hoarding doesn’t mean that hoarding is not a mental disorder. Depression is another disorder that’s often dismissed as laziness. Don’t tell me you were never told “it’s all in your head – just snap out of it” or something equally unhelpful. True hoarding is a mental disorder.

    The show at least inspired me to do some serious uncluttering. I had it on tivo, so every commercial break I paused it and got up to put something away, clean a counter, or fold some laundry. All the Clean Sweep and Clean House episodes I’ve watched have never had this effect on me.

  3. posted by Marie on

    Sympathy goes out the window for me when I have to deal with my hoarding in-laws. Instead I think of the ravaged look on my husband’s face when he found ruined photos of his dead mother in a box that was dumped in an upstairs hallway after a basement flood and never cleaned up.

  4. posted by Cathy on

    @ Sue
    read my post again. I said that ” I know alot of people say that this is a mental illness. Depression, they say, plays a big part in it. And while I do think this is true in a few cases, I’m also just as sure that it’s not true in all cases.”

    In other words, depression may play a role in SOME cases but certainly NOT IN ALL cases. If this offends you so be it.

    Think about it. If you jam all the space up in a house what are you doing? You are controlling the space. It becomes yours so that you alone can determine what anyone in the house can or cannot do. If all the stuff is yours and only you are allowed to deal with it, then it all becomes about you – the whole world revolves around you. Anyone else is really out of luck. In fact, their feelings and needs really don’t matter compaired to your needs and your feelings. And how does hoarding have anything to do with not doing the laundry or teaching your children not to draw on the walls? Doing those things take effort, something a lazy person isn’t about to do…geez we’ve all had moments where we didn’t want to deal with something but you do it because it has to be done and somebody has to do it.

  5. posted by Mike on

    MISSYnALEX – I know it’s been a few weeks and maybe you’re not reading this anymore, but I saw your episode, and I just wanted to let you know you didn’t come off bad at all. In fact, as soon as we saw that you had the honesty to admit that you would never get around to returning that parcel, my wife and I were rooting for you the whole way from then on, because we realized “This one understands and is willing to deal with the problem!” Many of the other hoarders featured on the show are just not ready for that kind of honest self-reflection. You took the toughest first step: completely eliminating externalization of fault. It might be a long road but I think you’ll win in the end. Good luck!

  6. posted by Fuzzy on

    The new show Hoarders has been a wake up call for me. I’ve not see a single case where I was as bad as they’ve shown. But that being stated, I’m far from the norm in hoarder behavior. Most of what I have, took years to accumulate. Though I’m not accumulating more right now, the quantity of stuff is overwhelming and organization seems out of reach. There is no garbage like pizza boxes, cans, bottles, wrappers here but there is lots of stuff. Maybe there are degrees of hoarding. I put myself at a solid 7 out of 10. Thanks to Hoarders, I now know I’m in trouble.

  7. posted by Shari on

    There are definitely degrees to this illness… and it’s also tied closely in with OCD. My grandfather is a hoarder and I was one for much of my life. However, a couple years ago, I developed severe OCD… and the hoarding went away. It’s as if it’s been replaced by the full blown OCD. Very strange, I know – but that’s my experience.

    Of course, now I have a living space in dire need of cleaning/organizing… and the OCD makes me not want to touch any of it. Hmm. A problem. Thankfully, my hoarding was always about new/usable items and not trash – so while I have debts and no free space to show for my bout with hoarding, I don’t have any actual health/odor risks to worry about.

    I can totally relate to the comment above about the psychological benefit from throwing everything straight out FAR outweighs the benefits of hanging onto things to donate/recycle. When you actually get yourself moving and you’re ready to DO it… You need to DO IT. Not hang onto things for any reason – no matter how ecological that reason might be.

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