Monday, June 13, 2011


I might be OBSESSED with Netflix. Ok, let's not kid ourselves -- I am, just a little bit. I love that I can turn on Dora the Explorer at any point during the day and escape from my kids for a bit (even if she does yell a lot ... can someone at Nickelodeon get that girl to calm the heck down?!). I love that for in-home date night, we can scroll through the list of movies and watch whatever looks good with the click of a Wii remote. And if we fall asleep half-way through? No biggie, we can just resume it later. Or if it really sucks, we can just pick a new movie. It's pretty much the best.

Last week, I was overjoyed when I saw that Netflix added Hoarders to their list of TV shows. I had heard all sorts of things about this show: "It's crazy," "It sets my OCD off," "It makes me want to take a shower," and I decided it was a show I'd probably like. I'm into all those psychiatric shows that delve into people's weirdness. Everyone has a little weird to them, and I find it fascinating that some are willing to broadcast their weird on network television. So I can't help but tune in.

Please don't judge me for liking weird shows. At least I'm not watching Jackass.
Things could be worse.

Anyway, I watched the first episode of Hoarders last week. I spent most of the episode with my eyebrows raised and mouth open. I also had to keep pausing it to tell Dill about what was happening. He didn't want to watch it with me, but I gave him the play-by-play anyway. Best wife ever, right here.

If you've never watched Hoarders, here's how it goes down:

-Two people are featured on each episode of the show, which is filmed in documentary style. These people are self-described hoarders. They cannot easily part with things and they acquire a lot of things. Sometimes the problem comes from the fact they are compulsive shoppers. Other times, they have a fear of getting rid of something they might need. Or they might be sentimental and develop unusually strong attachments to objects. Almost every time, there is some kind of history of hoarding in the family (mom did it, dad did it) and there are usually some mental disorders to go with it (ADHD, OCD, personality disorders, etc.).

- Each person has a house FULL of a LOT of stuff. I mean a LOT. Like, every inch of floor is covered with stuff except for a very narrow walkway. Often it is described as malodorous and hazardous.

This is what I'm talking about:

This isn't a simple "clutter" problem. This is Clutter freakin' Kong.

- The producers interview the hoarders and their family members/friends about their problem. They alternate between shots of the interview and the house and its enormous collection of stuff.

- A professional organizer/psychologist/helper person comes to the hoarder's house and tours the place, then lovingly but firmly states the person has a problem and they need help throwing some crap (literal and figurative) out. Meaning, almost all of it.

- Clean-up crews show up the next day with huge dump trucks. The helper person goes through each item in the house with the hoarder and asks him or her if it's something they are willing to part with. Sometimes, they're holding up a candy wrapper or a broken shoe or even a piece of lint and you think, "No brainer," but the person doesn't want to throw it away. It never gets old, this unexpected twist. Sometimes, you're just left with your mouth hanging open in utter shock that a broken tile piece or a wrapper could be considered valuable.

-The ending is not always the same. Sometimes, the hoarder makes such significant progress on the mess that you'd never know they even had a hoarding problem by the after pictures. Other times, they are unwilling to bend and the house remains in its overflowing state.

I used to have a little bit of a hoarding problem. Not this extreme at all. But I was terrified to throw out papers from school because I feared I'd need it and then I'd be failed or sent to the principal's office or held back a grade since I didn't have it. Absurd, right? Well, yeah. But the absurdity was pretty real to me, so I can identify with these hoarders on that level. I also valued sentimental objects more than is healthy. Like, I HAD to save every picture, nametag, lanyard, wristband, EVERYTHING from summer church camps as a youth because of the fond memories I had there (don't worry, I've since tossed them ... I think ...). I really believe my mother saved me from being a serious hoarder because she was so adamant that we donate or trash our junk. She'd regularly hand us giant trash bags, direct us to our closets and say, "Chuck or donate whatever you don't need."  And we did, because we knew if we didn't, she'd chuck it out herself. She was also very organized and encouraged us to be that way, too. So things never got out of hand for me, thank goodness. Now, I am very organized and my house is quite clean.

Watching Hoarders is not at all like watching, say, Jersey Shore or Cake Boss. Those are some shows you can just enjoy or veg out to without having to contemplate too much. Hoarders is not. For one thing, I cannot snack while I watch Hoarders because hello, try chowing down on some Cheez-Its while you're witnessing how much rat poo or dog hair a person has in their house. Dry heaves.

Second, it really stresses me out. I can only watch one episode a day or I will lose it. My heart just aches for these people. They know they have a problem, they (often times) want to fix it, but it's just become this uncontrollable MONSTER that's completely out of their control. Just seeing their huge stuff explosion overwhelms me. I can't imagine living in it. And then going through each item and deeming it keep-worthy or trash-worthy? How emotionally depleting that must be.

The thing that keeps me hooked, though, is the sheer humanity and kindness of the helper people. They never judge; they just diagnose the problem and provide solutions. They are always so optimistic, even when there is urine and/or fecal matter involved. They are so patient, allowing the person to touch and analyze every object before they decide if it goes or stays if that's what they need to do. And they sincerely believe the hoarders can change. Which, they're right -- they can, with their professional help. But they don't sugar-coat the problem at all and always present logical facts when helping a person decide if something is trash or treasure. Things like, "That yogurt expired 3 years ago." DIRECT QUOTE, PEOPLE.

Since watching Hoarders, I've become hyper-aware of any disarray and immediately took to organizing a few areas of my house. Most of the hoarders on the show came from a long line of hoarding, but others started as adults. Life suddenly became overwhelming and before they knew it, they were drowning in their stuff and knew no way out. So they just kept adding things to their infinite piles. I am not too proud to think I could never fall into that trap. Anyone can. Massive amounts of clutter do not happen overnight. It takes time (and money -- maybe that's why my house is so clean!) to acquire so much stuff and then to allow it to accumulate to such a hazardous degree.

In short, see that toy/wrapper/old bill/DVD lying on your floor/counter/desk/bed? Go put it away. Trash, drawer, closet, wherever it goes.

And then subscribe to Netflix if you haven't yet, because it seriously rocks my world.


  1. I like that show too. It's insane, really, how much stuff people can have. I saw one once where there wasn't even a walkway. The lady crawled into her house through a window and climbed all over the junk to get around. Another one they found thousands of dollars worth of loose change.

  2. Thanks Jenna - I totally just threw away the expired Sears card that has been sitting in my desk for about 3 months now.

    I've actually been in a house like this. It was amazing. The lady pointed out a doll she had bought that was in one of the heaps and told me it was for her grandchild. I asked how old her grandchild was and the lady didn't even have kids yet!

  3. Hoarders is one of my favorite shows!

  4. Um, yeah... I watched like 2 episodes while I was pregnant and I can't bring myself to ever watch it again!

  5. i have relatives, people I actually know and care about, who are worse. it's a mental illness. You are right though, it makes me want to put stuff away and throw stuff out.

  6. I can't watch anymore. Not after the rat episode. It makes me shudder to even remember. Horrible horrible horrible.

  7. I've never seen the show, but I have a feeling it would give me anxiety attacks. If my house is even just a little dirty I start getting in a bad mood. I have watched "How Clean Is Your House?" The houses on the show are REALLY messy, but not too disgusting like it sounds on Hoarders. You should check it out, you can watch full episodes on YouTube. They make the show about cleaning with natural products like vinegar, lemon juice, etc. and the ladies on the show are funny. You might find that show more relaxing than Hoarders and still get the urge to clean your entire house after watching it. :)

  8. I'm afraid to watch that show! haha! Our latest Netflix show addiction is Pawn Stars. So cool!


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