Horrid Histories for Hoarders

You’ve seen that sad program Hoarders: Buried Alive, I’m sure. I remember being quite fascinated by the first 3 episodes then my interest waned after that. I felt sorry for these people. They were genuinely distressed when professional cleaners, a therapist, and family arrived to remove the clutter. To think that a professional therapist had to be present to walk them psychologically through the process! That’s serious. The hoarders are emotionally attached to their junk, even the gross stuff like solidified food (with bugs) that can be up to 2 or 3 years old.

I doubt this is mere sloth. I should imagine a sloth could end up with a squat, even housing bugs and mice and smelling none too pleasant, but hoarding is something altogether different. I researched hoarding to some extent and I discovered some interesting (sad) facts:

  1. the hoarder’s clutter is a faux (fake) fortress…..a barrier between themselves and the rest of the world…just think about that implication
  2. it provides the hoarder with a false sense of security
  3. many hoarders were unwanted children: foster kids; unplanned pregnancies; passed around from relative to relative for various reasons.
  4. foster children frequently become food hoarders…god love them
  5. during their unpleasant childhood, hoarders were forced to dispose of or even burn prized possessions
  6. hoarding sometimes begins in childhood (suggesting a possible genetic link)
  7. hoarders were frequently child abuse victims; neglect in particular
  8. the hoarder suffers emotional symptoms such as worries, regrets, emotional fog and spiritual emptiness
  9. frequently, hoarders are reclusive
  10. severe emotional and psychological problems are evident
  11. sometimes hoarding begins after a personal tragedy
  12. some hoarders were treated as outsiders by their own families

Small wonder hoarders struggle in the extreme to correct hoarding habits: their hoarding might begin in childhood, leading to a lifetime of abnormal behaviours. Others might not have become hoarders in childhood, but their experiences were unconsciously processed, preparing the way for later hoarding. Foster kids in particular are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding security and love as adults. They may also hoard food since many weren’t regularly fed while in foster care. Ditto for children of drug-addicted parents.

It isn’t difficult to spot a hoarder’s house:

  1. strange objects, such as wooden boxes and furniture litter the yard
  2. materials such as newspapers and flyers are brought into the house, but they are never brought outside again
  3. garbage isn’t seen outside on garbage day
  4. frequently windows are covered with blinds, curtains or blankets
  5. the hoarder seldom interacts with neighbours and usually doesn’t form close friendships
  6. the hoarder never invites friends or family over to the house
  7. the hoarder may not have a telephone or electricity, since bills haven’t been paid
  8. the house is over-run with animals that are neglected and diseased
  9. the hoarder him/herself may look very dishevelled, displaying a lack of personal hygiene and frequently overweight
  10. the hoarder’s health and the health of his or her children, is jeopardized by diseased animals and unsanitary conditions

There are 5 hoarding levels:

  1. hoarding is barely noticeable; a small stacked pile of newspapers or magazines might be placed neatly in one corner or in a closet in each room
  2. hoarding is obvious: messy closets, cluttered front door area, clothing strewn over furniture
  3. hoarding is at a critical level: professional intervention is needed to clean the house and treat the hoarder; there are signs of rat dropping and fecal matter from pets; the house is malodorous
  4. hoarding is extreme: clutter creates a fire hazard and is unsafe in other regards; often a city ordinance has been enacted to force the hoarder to clean out the house or face eviction; human fecal matter is deposited on the floor of the bathrooms since the toilet is no longer working; an incredibly strong, foul odour is detectable; hoarding is so profound that it can exacerbate asthma in children and necessitate frequent use of medication; hoarding is so extreme that storage space is rented for overflow of possessions; professional cleaners and movers are required; the condition of the home is so severe it lowers the real estate value of the house and those of the neighbour’s
  5. hoarding is extreme: it is difficult to open the front or back door due to the clutter; stairways are filled with clothing, newspaper and other possessions, there is no safe fire exit, piles of boxes present a danger should they fall on top of the hoarder; some people are literally buried beneath the clutter; human and pet fecal matter are scattered throughout the house; house needs to be fumigated and exterminators are called in; insect colonies are visible; dead, mummified pets may be found in the clutter; the kitchen and bathroom sinks are filled with objects, as is the bathtub; windows are covered with curtains or are boarded up ;living conditions are unsafe in terms of animal disease and poor sanitation; children are frequently removed from these homes

Hoarders have to undergo lifelong therapy and their homes need to be inspected by a health and safety inspector on an annual basis to ensure that the house remains tidy and clean after it is treated. The hoarder has no choice but to allow the inspector into the home due to a city ordinance. The hoarding never stops as it is incurable, however with regular intervention, it is possible for this behaviour to be controlled.