I’m a happy Amazon Prime member. The fact that free 2 day shipping on gajillions of items hasn’t bankrupted me nor turned my house into a Super Hoard is another testament of how much progress I’ve made on the hoarding and shopping patterns I was taught as a child and fought as an adult.
One of the coolest new features of Amazon Prime is Amazon Instant Video. What started as a shipping club has turned into a free video streaming service as well. This service has several seasons of Hoarders, Hoarding: Buried Alive, and Confessions: Animal Hoarding for Prime members. I think I’ve watched them all. When I started watching them over a year ago, I still had some areas of my home with minor hoards, such as the basement shop area and my top dresser drawer. Watching Hoarders and seeing the exaggerated effects of procrastination and OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) hoarding issues motivated me to finish sorting and organizing my own home.
While I found watching Hoarders to be therapeutic, it may not be so for someone still in the stages of denial and active hoarding. In fact, I know my mother would simply say “I’m not that bad, and therefore don’t need to do anything.” But for mild hoarders, family of hoarders, or interested people who want to see the destructive, unhealthy effects of serious hoarding, these TV shows are strong medicine. It’s nice that each involves a psychologist or psychiatrist, along with the compassionate clean-up crews.
That being said, one could make an argument that the Hoarders-style TV shows are exploiting mentally ill people. Often, they have them in a tight spot: the Code Enforcement people or Adult/Child Protective Services workers are threatening to take their homes, children, or freedom away if they don’t quickly clean up their mess. Someone (usually a family member) contacts the TV show, and they offer a deal (undoubtedly signing many waivers promising not to sue even if they have a lifetime of humiliation and regret attached to the airing of the show). The show pays for the therapy, clean up crew, and aftercare, in exchange for complete access to the sordid process.
The thing is, most serious hoarders are very mentally ill. Denial is a huge factor, and they don’t realize how unsanitary, insane, and dangerous their situations are. In many cases, it is hard to say that the hoarder is capable of giving informed consent, as their mental illness gives them a highly distorted view of reality.
I don’t feel too sorry for them, however. Not only do they get some much needed help, but their tale may serve to educate, warn, and help many others dealing with similar issues.
As I start reviewing the Hoarders episodes, I’ll be looking for useful insights from each case. This involves key symptoms of hoarding, the emotional roadblocks that are encountered, obvious organizing tips (i.e. what not to do), etc. The style and content of the shows does get a bit repetitive over time, but for those of us who require constant vigilant self-awareness to avoid sinking back into hoarding behaviors, this repetition has the benefit of helping the self-reflection sink in deeply.