Friday, August 28, 2009


As I mentioned the other day, Dave is introducing me to the wide world of television. Dave is not an indiscriminate TV watcher, so I’m learning about pretty good shows -- I like several on the Food Network like Iron Chef (“Fukosan!”) and Barefoot Contessa, for example.

But my favorite show so far is on A&E. It’s called “Hoarders.”

This show is FASCINATING. It’s about people who amass such huge quantities of disorganized stuff that they literally are in danger of losing their homes and children. They often have bedrooms stuffed to the rafters with boxes and bags, kitchens full of decaying food, and living rooms that are so crowded there’s nowhere to sit. As for bathrooms, well, I’m not even going to go there.

These people are not merely messy. They’re ill. Their approach to possessions is often tied up with personal feelings of unhappiness or emptiness, or control issues, or fears of losing what little money and independence they have. They save everything, and they save it badly.

The show brings teams of organizers into their homes, and usually within a few days conditions are livable. But the task is never easy, and it’s always a spectacle.

Sure, the show is partly a gross-out fest. You can’t help but go “Eeeeew!” at the rotting pumpkin buried beneath debris in the woman’s kitchen, or the piles of used toilet paper on the guy’s bathroom floor. (Sorry -- I went there after all.)

But the creators go to great pains to show the audience that hoarders are afflicted with a disorder, and they are always respectful. The hoarders themselves make all the decisions about what stays and what goes, while the organizers try to help them understand the nature of their condition.

I love this show because, first of all, it’s so NOT me. I live at the opposite extreme of this spectrum -- I am preternaturally organized, a condition that, come to think of it, is symptomatic of its own mental baggage!

I am also fascinated by extremes in behavior. I'm generally a person of very even, moderate demeanor. Anything about addictions, obsessions and the like just captivates me.

I often think I would make an excellent professional organizer. Maybe if journalism goes bust, that can be my second career choice. Wonder if “Hoarders” would hire me?

(Photo: Lexington Avenue, Aug. 2009)


  1. Used toilet paper?! OK...even I wouldn't save that.

  2. My father was a hoarder, although not to the degree you mentioned. At his request, I hadn't visited him during the last 10 years of his life after my mother died. When I finally got into his house, I found years of newspapers and every piece of junk mail stacked chronologically, every plastic tray from his 99 cent TV dinners, every plastic bag from his newspapers, etc. in a house with 10 years of dust, plumbing that didn't work, and a lifetime of possessions. He had basically stopped living during those last 10 years. If I had just known how bad it was, perhaps I could have forced my help on him. But he was one of the most stubborn people I have ever met, so maybe not.

    I live with someone who keeps way to much, but I definitely did not inherit my father's hoarder gene.

  3. I've never seen the show, so I popped out on the web and watched an episode. How Tragic! Can't you just watch "Keeping up with the Kardashians" like everyone else?

  4. Barbara: I've been to your house. I concur -- you're definitely not a hoarder! :)

    Often in watching this show I wonder where the family members are. I think sometimes it takes family to pull these folks out of their isolation and bad habits. But as you mentioned, sometimes that's just not possible, for whatever reason.

    JM: It IS tragic. But "Keeping up with the Kardashians," I imagine, is MORE tragic!

  5. Mrs. Sneed introduced me to this show. It is very sad.

  6. Yes, Kardashians is very tragic. Differently tragic for sure, though. Mindlessly, foolishly tragic. Still kinda fun in small "The Hills"! HA!

  7. you'd be welcome to come and help out over here Steve....

    this was on the the UK a while back, called "life's laundry" - it was pretty compulsive viewing (speaking as a non-reality show watcher)

  8. I have seen one episode of this program. It is compelling. Very compelling. I found the use of therapy very interesting. From what I read about hoarding, it is a very, very hard addiction to break. Maybe harder than drugs/alcohol, and just as destructive to one's life.