Hoarders Are People Too!

October 20, 2011 by  

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:

“Hard 2 watch but I feel 4 those ppl. They have real illness, I don’t think of them as gross, just their situation #hoarders

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!


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13 Responses to “Hoarders Are People Too!”
  1. Kari says:

    You have a lot of empathy so God bless you for that! I’m glad you were able to find a solution for this lady. I try to remind myself that “it’s just stuff” but still have such a hard time letting go of stuff. The only way I’m able to let go is incrementally over time. Like I have said before–for some of us, the show is free therapy! Ha!

  2. Jan says:

    I appreciate your post so very much. I do watch the hoarder shows. My heart goes out to these people. I want to help each and every one. I understand there is aftercare, however the initial clean up is for 2 days. This is not enough time for someone to change their way of thinking. This is just enough time to cause total confusion in the mind of the hoarder, to cause family members to say and do things they shouldn’t…the camera is rolling and we…the audience want to see a difference in the hour we watch the show.

    I know what it is like to have something a loved one has given you and you don’t want to part with it. Moving into a smaller home a month ago has caused me to give up many things I didn’t want to part with.

    Many of the hoarders have physical problems which makes it impossible to take care of their home the way they should. Most don’t have the money to organize or repair a broken toilet. I believe most are suffering from clinical depression and do not have the energy or the mind set to clean up.

    I hope many find your post. I am glad I did.

  3. Kathy says:

    I know a family of hoarders a few blocks away. They often visit us at our house and there son comes over often – in the 8 years we have lived here I have never been inside their house. I feel sorry for their son who never can have friends over.
    They recently had a fire in their house and everything had to be removed – if there is anything good to be found in that situation – it may be a fresh start for them.

  4. Thanks for bringing awareness to this as an illness. The shows make me sad. There are some hoarding tendencies in my family so unfortunately I grow up with that…might be why I’m the complete opposite now and can’t stand any clutter. We had two family friends who have struggled with this. It is so sad to see how much it consumes and affects them.

  5. Sandy says:

    Thanks Anna… so true!

  6. Sandy says:

    yes.. maybe so. Fires are not that uncommon because things are piled everywhere. Fire hazard galore! One house I worked on the woman always had her stove top covered with mail and papers. I asked how she cooked. She said she would clear one of the burners to make dinner. OMG! Said she had a small fire once. Her husband is a fire fighter.. go figure. But I think he had given up on the house.

  7. Sandy says:

    It is hard to tell if they really only use 2 days or not. But look at all the people helping. Two days is hardly time for any clearing of a hoarders house .. .unless it is like an “extreme house makeover crew” You are also right that there is much more therapy involved than 2 days worth. Not sure but hopefully they are also given on going therapy after the shows.

  8. Sandy says:

    Yes I think it can be. Just like the Biggest Loser can help people too. Although a lot of the aspects of the shows aren’t really real life (how often do you have massive crews to come in and help you? ) it can help show many people that they aren’t the only ones out there. I think it can also drive some people to get themselves the help they need.

  9. OneMommy says:

    My MIL is a hoarder. She will never admit it, but when you go to their basement the boxes are stacked to the ceiling, 3-4 sets of boxes deep on each side with just aisles you can walk through. They have every toy their sons ever owned (we’ve acquired many an old, rusty toy since we’ve had kids…), and she has tons of clothes with tags on she bought b/c it was on sale, but that don’t fit anyone in the family.

  10. Sandy says:

    Yes… hard to watch isn’t it?

  11. K. Smith says:

    I am watching the newer HOARDERS on 1/1/12. The mother seems totally removed from the problem as does her children. Her spouse has ‘left the bldg.’ …I see a pattern in the making. It is quite obvious that the hoarding is the ‘icing on the cake’ to a much deeper seated problem in their psyche. The biggest problem I have with the situation is that when the children of a teen age or greater, OR that the Spouse of the Hoarder doesn’t step up and call the Hoarder on the situation, why do they wait until the problem escalates into SOLAR-SYSTEM PROPORTIONS????? This is crazy, lazy, oblivous and a careless view to life as a whole. The fact that it has become a television program…I guess to bring this issue to light…just shows me how spoiled our country has become. Endless supply. Need for nothing. I wish, I truly wish that these individuals could be placed in our Appalachian areas to deal with child hunger. Now THAT is a show worth airing. And that is a cause worth dealing with. This program is all about the self-centered….selfish….’deserving’ individuals who don’t want to accept life as is handed to us. God forgive us all.

  12. Angie says:

    I am a housecleaner…I see situations like this often. Its one of the toughest parts of my job. You get the call because they fear loosing their home/rights/pets..they are often shattered human beings…they have lived with health/money/psych/issues for many years and most often its another big one that causes them to see they have no other options but to get it together. Piece by piece the world fell apart…and our homes take the blow often because it is our sanctuary…and when your cleaning these homes you can see it…Almost in layers…
    The shows anger me…for to many reasons to even start…Just remember – the shows are just drama…There is more to each story…I personally wont watch them…they make me cringe…I have walked in those shoes and it should not be made for public display.

    By the way…Very nice site! Thank you!

  13. Sandy says:

    Thanks Angie. Yes, there is so much to it, you are correct.

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