7 Episodes on 2 Discs (2010)
“Hoarders” on A&E is probably the most compelling show you haven’t seen. It is an absolutely fascinating in-depth look at people whose entire lives have been utterly consumed by clutter and possessions, most of which are absolute junk. The inability to part with any of these items as small as a soda can to as large as a broken-down School Bus means many of them are facing threats of eviction, divorce, having their children removed from them, or even going to jail for criminal littering. There are over three million people suffering from obsessive compulsive hoarding in the United States and each episode tells two of their stories.
Hoarding is a psychological, painful disease where people are lost inside their own world with their stuff. Their stuff most of the time is more valuable to them than human relationships. In this show it can affect anyone as young as a seven year-old to as old as a woman in her seventies. These people are being asked to change by their landlords at threat of eviction, by their spouse or significant other on threat of leaving them, and for their own health and well-being as well as their families.
These stories are amazing! A woman whose children had already been taken away from her was trying to clean up so they could be returned and she put her foot down at throwing out an old 7/11 Mountain Dew slurpee cup. One young man is suicidal and suffering panic attacks and is under the impression that if he removes the dog hair all over his apartment, that somehow that will make his dog die faster.
The saddest story that brought tears to my eyes was that of a woman in her seventies who was blind in one eye who could not stop taking in stray cats. She wanted to badly to save them but as her house was cleaned, the amount of cat skeletons in her attic, garage, etc. was heartbreaking. They found around 70 cats total, 40 something of them alive.
The most disgusting story was in the first episode of a woman who hoarded food and could not even recognize properly when it was rotten and assumed all food frozen was still good from several years earlier even when green and accused everyone around her of having poor stomachs.
One older woman is addicted to yard sales and has so much junk in her house and yard that she has had to move into a hotel with her husband and can no longer afford that and is more devoted to her possessions than caring about having a relationship with her children.
While all of their behaviors have gone into a downward spiral to the extreme, some have rational reasons for hoarding. One man believes collecting scrap metal in his yard is a valid way to save for his grandchildren’s college funds some day. Many cannot bear to part with things that evoke certain memories, a gift someone gave them that they aren’t using or their grown kids’ baby clothes. Others are collectors of happy meal toys and stuffed animals believing some day they will sell them on Ebay — but they won’t. Depression-Era behaviors are passed down through generations making people prone to stocking up on items when they are on sale as if they’ll never have that opportunity to purchase again and then they will forget they already have a bunch of it and continue to buy more until they are further into debt.
Each person/couple is offered a crew that is able to clean-up their house in two days as well as the help of a professional organizer and/or therapist….if the hoarder is willing to let them. Each episode demonstrates who can rise above their disease and finish the clean-up and who allows their problems to swallow them up. It is so sad with all the help being offered when a person still can’t let go.
These pack-rats can get so absorbed that when put to the test to clean an area, they can spend the entire day or two in one bathroom or one corner of one room. The clean-up crew cannot act without the hoarders permission because just clean it up for them would allow the problem to begin all over again. The hoarder has to be involved in the process or the behavior will not change. The problem is that a hoarder’s decision-making process is complex, slow, and emotional and it is very difficult to make progress. It is embarrassing and humiliating for them when the crew has to literally shovel up the debris and can find anything from animal droppings to human feces to mold or critter skeletons.
There are two complaints about the series: the use of black screens with white text to give exposition between scenes to pick up the drama and let new people tuning it catch up feels like it slows down the story immensely and would be much more beneficial to have a narrator/voice over giving the information.
Also the DVD Menu does not have a “Play All” option on the main menu, that option is on the Scene Menu. Why wouldn’t you play all the scenes in an episode? That button seems misplaced and is annoying because every time you select a new episode you have to remember to hit “Play All”.
The series itself is interesting and absorbing from a psychological standpoint. I dare you to watch this and see if you end up cleaning your own house afterward.
There is additional unused footage of each of the stories that could not fit in the episode’s time frame. There is more exploration into individual items they can’t throw away and why. The series showed many successful decisions as well as failures for the hoarders and this shows more failures and lack of progress. A skunk was found in a dryer in one man’s yard. One woman’s children have a degenerative nerve disease unmentioned before that made it more difficult for them to walk around the house. Another woman’s coupon collection could not be discarded because she said some places still accept expired coupons (from 2007).