Hoarders Are People Too!
What Are Your Thoughts About The Hoarders On TV?
Have you watched some of the shows on TV about hoarding? Had you known this condition existed before you first saw about it on TV?
What are your thoughts about hoarders? The people who live in those situations, those houses filled with junk? Would you want to be friends with them?
My guess is that there are hoarders that you know…. but you have no idea they are hoarders. They are usually very “normal” people. People you see everyday at work, at school, in the neighborhood but you have no idea that they have a problem.
This is the home of a client I once had. She was a very sweet, nice woman. She has many unfortunate events happen in her life that led up to this. No one knew her home looked like this. She had a full time job, was very involved in her church, but kept this a secret. She was too embarrassed to let anyone know.
She wanted help, she wanted to move past all the stuff and she knew she needed help.
I put out comments on Twitter about hoarding, for instance:
“You might be a hoarder if: You can’t find a place to sit down in your house because all your chairs have stuff on them. #hoarders”
I had a disturbing comment back to one of those tweets. Someone said,
“I bet that show just makes your skin crawl! Those ppl are soooo gross! All those dead cats, rats, spoiled food….yuck!”
It actually made me cry. Now also realize that I had just come home from seeing the movie “The Help” and it was a disturbing movie portraying the treatment of the black maids had to go through back in the 60’s. But it just made me SO sad that someone thinks of the people as “sooooo gross.” I think specifically of the two clients that I had that were true hoarders. Both were very nice people… not gross. They just both had problems that they needed help with.
I commented back with this:
I think the hardest part about hoarding is that people don’t understand it is an illness. They do just look at the people who live in home filled with junk and often filth as “filthy people”. They view the people simply as “lazy” and “gross”.
For the majority of hoarders, this condition has developed over time and their accumulation of “stuff” has grown over time. It isn’t like they lived in a pristine home one day and the very next had stacks of stuff piled everywhere. It happens gradually and gradually their defenses, their coping mechanisms build up so that they rationalize their situation as “normal”.
The illness has trapped them into a life where their “stuff” is their security, their safety net, their sanity. So that the thought of losing that stuff, is intolerable to them. They don’t feel they can cope in their daily lives without it.
What about people who smoke? It isn’t really the same, but you can draw parallels. The smoking is the coping mechanism to help deal with stress. To go without cigarettes for some people is intolerable… they need them to deal with what live hands them.
I know they are completely different things…. the smoking just popped into my head when I was thinking of vices that people need to cope with everyday life.
Please try to watch those shows (if you do) with compassion, with empathy, and with caring for the people. You can think their living environment is gross and filthy (usually it is), but don’t relate the grossness & filth to the person.
The woman who owned this home, got some other help (she was also receiving psychological help) from her church members I think. She wasn’t able to afford to have me (or any other Professional organizer) help her for long. I suggested to her to reach out for help from her church – they would be more understanding than she thought. There was no way she could do it physically by herself, even if the mental part of it wasn’t there. But she did receive help, was able to clear the things out and move into a smaller home like she planned. There is hope!