Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.
is an A&E documentary
which provides a glimpse into the lives of people suffering from compulsive hoarding. A typical episode focuses on two hoarders whose situation has deteriorated to the point that they face serious financial/legal/personal consequences unless they get the hoard under control. A therapist who specializes in this type of behavior meets with the hoarder ahead of time to assess the problem, and a cleanup crew consisting of professional cleaners, friends, family members, and volunteers is then brought in. The goal is to return the property to a more livable state in a short period of time, usually two days, with the therapist guiding the hoarder to make sensible decisions about what should or should not be kept.Hoarders
has proved itself an incredibly popular show, being A&E's most-watched premiere if Wikipedia is to be believed. Probably because it caters to our collective interest in mental disorders. Watchers beware: After a few episodes you might get fear-driven urges to clean your own house
. But maybe that's a good thing.
Some episodes can be watched at A&E's website
. Many episodes are also available on Netflix.
The show has been criticized by therapists for perpetuating two inaccurate myths that interfere with the treatment of real-life hoarders: the depiction of hoarding as consistently shocking and extreme, and the perception that hoarding is more common in middle-aged white women than in other demographics. In reality the vast majority of hoarders are not overrun with rats or surrounded by animal skeletons, and a clear majority - even of those who hoard animals - are male
This show provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Several hoarders suffer from alcoholism as well as compulsive hoarding. Jake's father, for example, filled most the cabinets and drawers in his house with empty wine bottles.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Matt Paxton, one of the reoccurring cleaning specialists, is typically extremely friendly. He is also the one who typically gets really upset with the hoarders that abuse children and animals and is never afraid to deliver a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Dr. Zasio is already extremely nice and patient but the few times she is pushed: whoa boy.
- Dorothy Brenninger as well. If you're in danger of losing your kids to CPS because of your hoard and she's on the cleanup crew, watch out.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Billy Bob goes from a goofy Man Child to a very aggressive Jerk Ass once his hoard of toys and board games is threatened.
- Blatant Lies: Pretty much all of Sir Patrick's back-story.
- Basically, he turned out to be a con man and sex offender with multiple accounts on multiple online dating sites, trying to get dates with as many (often underage) girls as possible.
- The Collector / The Collector of the Strange: The "neater" hoards tend to start out as collections of, well, collectables such as commemorative beer cans or vases.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Some of the people on the show have been animal hoarders and, yes, that is every bit as disturbing as it sounds.
- Creepy Doll: The woman below had literally tons of dolls; she would even amputate their limbs at her "doll hospital" (it's okay, she was a nurse).
- Not to mention the aforementioned Sir Patrick, who had a collection of dolls because they reminded him of his 9-year-old neighbour. Yikes
- Randy the carnival game hoarder has numerous smiling mannequins that are supposed to represent clones of himself sitting around his workshop. That's creepy enough, but he mentions how the next generation of Randy clones will have 'authentic Randy hair', and produces a tupperware container of his own hair he's been saving. Then he acts like it's cotton candy and pretends to eat it.
- Daddy's Girl: Jennifer
- Dark and Troubled Past: A woman who hoarded dolls had serious self-esteem issues, starting from when she wasn't allowed to attend her own mother's funeral; other people were abused or severely neglected.
- Downer Ending: In some episodes, the hoarder refuses to get help and their living situation continues to spiral downwards.
- Dysfunction Junction: Hanna and her family. Hanna herself is an elderly animal hoarder who lives in a single-wide trailer filled with chickens, turkeys and other farmyard birds crammed into tiny cages caked with filth. She has ten adult children, all of whom she physically abused growing up. When they return to the house to attempt to clean it, all hell breaks loose as the family scream, swear and physically assault each other and the Hoarders crew.
- And then there was Wilma (11/21/11), whose house was falling apart from neglect and the effects of her hoarding. Her three adult children claimed that she abused them when they were growing up, and she calmly described on camera a time when she chained one of them to his bed as discipline. As the cleanup effort progressed, she took no responsibility for the situation, told her children she didn't love them, and told the therapist that she wished she'd never had them in the first place.
- Egopolis: Randy hoards antique carnival and penny arcade games and wants to open his own retro boardwalk-style arcade called 'Randyland'.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin
- Explosive Breeder: Glen let his one male and two female pet rats loose in the house, and didn't have the heart to recapture or stop feeding them. Months later, his home is covered in a Swarm of Rats.
- Extreme Omnivore: Some food hoarders on the show can stomach the most disgusting food.
- Follow the Leader: TLC now has a show, Hoarding: Buried Alive, with the exact same premise as this show.
- Similarly, sister-channel Animal Planet has brought us a couple seasons of Animal Hoarders. It generally runs off a 50/50 blend of Tear Jerker and horror.
- Freudian Excuse: Some of the people featured have a somewhat understandable motivation for their hoarding.
- From Bad to Worse: The story of Terry the cat hoarder. At first, she had all the cats she hoarded spayed or neutered. Then her money ran out and the cats began breeding out of control. They began dying of respiratory problems, and she didn't want to bury them and couldn't afford to cremate them, so she saved their bodies in her freezer. Then her freezer ran out of room and her refrigerator quickly filled up with rotting cat corpses. Then she started putting them in Ziploc bags and stuffing them into a closet.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: A couple of women have been shown to hoard stuffed animals.
- Insane Troll Logic: Many hoarders resort to this to keep some of their stuff. For example, Jake refused to clean up any of his dog's shed hair because he believed it would somehow lead to her death. This is actually a common manifest of OCD.
- It Came from the Fridge: One person who hoarded food kept it in her fridge even after it had long since gone bad.
- Taken to a new level in an August 2011 episode that focused on Lisa, a woman who enjoyed cooking and hoarded years-old food. Her daughter described a past incident in which she opened the refrigerator and found a dead squirrel in the butter dish. Later, during the cleanup, Lisa opened a jar of unidentifiable black sludge and ate some of it on camera.
- Terry estimated she had 75 to 100 dead cats in her refrigerator and freezer, as they waited for her to be able to afford cremation.
- It's All Junk: The goal of the show's intervention is essentially this trope on a much larger scale, and the more successful hoarders are eventually able to recognize that most of their possessions are this. Essentially, the mental illness that leads to hoarding is the inability to distinguish truly valuable or useful items from junk.
- Manipulative Editing: In the Cold Opening for Jan/Bebe episode, the scene cuts from Matt Paxton picking up a dead cat to Jan irately yelling "Well, who did that?! One of ya'll did that!" as if she was blaming the cleanup crew for killing it. During the episode, she broke down crying when presented with the dead cats, and the above outburst was provoked by the crew dropping a piece of furniture.
- Nausea Fuel: Pretty much the point of the show.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Gary, a middle-aged bunny-hoarder who hides in his bedroom or flounces off in a huff rather than speak with the professionals sent to help him. At one point he throws a water bottle at his wife Kathy "because [he] felt like it". Ultimately, even though the rabbits are his problem, Kathy is the one who ends up dealing with them while Gary sulks, pouts, throws tantrums, and gives film crews the finger like a spoiled, sullen five-year-old.
- A regular Man Child with a mental disability got his own little Crowning Moment of Awesome by standing up to his mom, who would leave her dolls in his room for months and might have even stolen his money to buy more dolls.
- Billy Bob, a toy collector in the June 27, 2011 episode, who tries to boss the cleaners and his family around to keep his precious toy hoard from being thrown away (actually saying at one point to the cleaners "This is not your show, this is the Billy Bob show"), saying "You're excused" rather imperiously to dismiss the cleaners when they go against him on this, and in general acting like a complete bastard.
- A different Lisa (not the food hoarder mentioned above), who kept dozens of cats in her house, decided halfway through the cleanup that she wanted nothing more to do with the show. She kicked the entire crew off her property, claiming that they had falsely promised to simply clean the house, and dared her father to evict her. The kicker? He had every right to do so, since the mortgage was in his name.
- Andrew (from the "Andrew/Shania" episode), who obviously has a mental illness, refuses to accept the reality of his massive hoard, files an order of protection against his brother, who he may have cheated out of an inheritance, and makes childish remarks concerning his situation and his brother (such as stating that his brother may have had four people killed). The crew manages to clean up some of his yard, due to all the drama, and at the end of the episode no progress has been made on the house itself.
- A tragic example of this is Doug, who suffered brain damage and amnesia in an ATV crash and hoards in case he finds something that sparks his memory of who he used to be.
- Retail Therapy: Deconstructed by Jennifer. Not only is she a compulsive shopper, but Ron, her husband, is a compulsive hoarder.
- Selective Obliviousness: "This little doll doesn't take up any space!" ...And the rest of that eight-foot-high pile?
- Shanna (10/8/12) initially believed that the awful smell in her house was due to mold and dust - not the thousands of gallons of accumulated human waste she stored in bottles and buckets and dumped out on her lawn.
- Serial Escalation: And you thought your house was messy...
- Stepford Smiler: Dr Robin Zasio always greets a hoarder for the first time by creasing her face into a fixed smile, raising her voice several pitches and saying "Hiiiiii! Nice to MEEEET youuuuu!" It doesn't last long, thankfully.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: One of the male organizers, who is usually a very nice guy, is not afraid to be a bad ass and deliver a verbal beatdown to the Hoarder. It seems his Berserk Button is when the hoarder puts their loot over their own family.
- Trash of the Titans: Nearly all of the homes featured on the show are this, most often due to either not throwing out garbage or letting serviceable items deteriorate.
- Lynda (10/8/12) was an example of the latter, hoarding enough emergency supplies to fill two houses because she believed the Rapture was imminent.
- Augustine was notable for showing just how long her piles of trash had been growing. Her son, in his late twenties during the episode and who had been removed from the home as a child, discovered his old toys and half a package of diapers.
- Wham Episode: Gary/Hanna. Is it a coincidence that the show's two most loathsome individuals (a former child abuser who tortures and abuses animals and a Psychopathic Manchild with a persecution complex who blames all of his problems on people discriminating against rabbit owners) share the same episode?