the return of “hoarders” on a&e
Last night, one of my favorite shows returned for another season… A&E’s Hoarders. Why do I love this program? It’s my fascination with an affliction that I don’t understand. I absolutely hate clutter and can’t even imagine living in a place that is covered wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with crap. And not only crap, but in the more depressing cases, garbage. TLC has their version called Hoarding: Buried Alive.
The basic premise of the shows, if you’ve never seen them, is that these severe cases are dealt with by bringing in a mental health professional and a certified organizer (with clean up crew) who specialize in hoarding. Typically family members are on hand to help with the clean up and often wind up in arguments with the hoarder.
I live in a NYC studio apartment. I don’t have the luxury of having lots of space, therefore, I try to keep my possessions to a minimum. It’s more than attempt – I have to. But I believe that even if I lived in a 3,000 square foot home, I would keep it sparsely furnished with few knick-knacks and tchotchkes.
My apartment is cluttered by my standards, but to any *normal* person, it would look, well, normal. I am in constant need to throw things out. I get no greater joy than purging my apartment from stuff that I don’t need or want. I regularly rid my phone of contacts that I don’t need or want. I call it ridding my cell of the “cloggers.” I get a rush from hauling a big trash bag to the curb. Weird? Maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a clean freak. I usually have a few items of clothing at the foot of my bed (which is not always made). I’ll let dishes go in the sink for a day or two. I’m not as diligent about dusting as I should be, given I live in a pretty dirty, smelly, grimy city. But you would never walk into my apartment and think it’s not clean.
It’s my need to “unclutter” that makes my love for the show so intense. I simply don’t get how these hoarders can live surrounded by stuff. My fascination runs as deep as their need to accumulate and hold onto this stuff. I understand some of their reasons for wanting to collect things. I understand the thrill of buying things. I understand being tired at the end of the day and not hanging up clothes. I understand general laziness about not wanting to clean. I understand about not wanting to throw out that magazine because you haven’t gotten the chance to read it yet. I understand loving animals so much that you want to take them all in (re: animal hoarders).
What I don’t understand is how you let it get so bad that city/town officials are ready to condemn your home. How you willingly live amongst rotting, stinking garbage. How you choose your *stuff* over your children when child protective services comes and takes them away. How you say you love animals, but the home you provide for them is deplorable and breeding disease.
Most of the people they feature are extreme, level 5 cases of hoarders. They are people who don’t believe they have a problem and are reluctant to change, even if it means losing their home, families or face jail time. I want to reach into the screen sometimes and smack these people while screaming at them, “you are choosing this garbage over your children!!! What is wrong with you????” I don’t have kids, but I could NEVER imagine weighing the decision, “hmmm, inanimate crap or my kids? Oooo, tough one!” WTF?! If animal control came into my apartment today and said “it’s the (two) cats or all of your belongings”, I’d be calling to have a dumpster delivered in the hour.
I never studied psychology any more in depth than your basic psych 101 class in college, but I get that everyone has their *issues* and some of us (myself included) have our own compulsive disorders. I just completely lack the gene/chemical/*need* to accumulate stuff. I’m actually very thankful that I don’t – I don’t have the physical room for it. But I will be eternally mesmerized by this disorder and thank you, A&E and TLC, for programming to indulge my wacky tastes and fascinations.