General Question

woodcutter's avatar

Do any here know of anyone who lives like those people in the TV program"Hoarding-Buried Alive"?

Asked by woodcutter (16377points) September 5th, 2010

I’m just amazed that people can manage this for any length of time. What reasons do they give for the mess or do they even say anything about it?

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21 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

It’s a psychological disorder of some sort. If you’re looking for rational explanations I don’t think you will be able to find any that satisfy you. I’m a bit of a hoarder myself. Not anywhere close to most of the things you see on T.V but I sometimes worry that, if I don’t get a handle on it, I might get to a certain age or a certain point where it will be too late for me to get a handle on it. It is a disorder, bottom line. If you want or expect good reasons for this kind of behavior, then I suspect that you will be either be baffled or disappointed at least.

Coloma's avatar

No, not to any huge extent but I do have one friend that has a hard time getting rid of stuff she attaches sentimental value to and has a basement full of weirdness from dead relatives and her life. I am totally not a hoarder, I thin the herd of stuff all the time.

As @lillycoyote said

The more severe cases are disorders of some sort.

brass's avatar

My father was a mild hoarder. It just got to the point where if he were to start trying to clean and get rid of stuff, it would just take forever. Me and my brother spent 5 days straight, with the help of misc friends at different points, cleaning the entire house which was 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms. We went through at least, no joke, 60 trash bags.

People on that TV show have a severe psychological disorder. There is no ‘reason’ for their mess. If they could give a reason, it would only come out as an excuse.

YARNLADY's avatar

I save a much as I can, but never to the point you see on TV. I have shelves and cabinets filled with craft projects and supplies in every room of the house.

My Grandfather married a woman who was like that. She filled their house with so many things that tables were piled on couches and unopened boxes filled nearly every inch of the guest bedroom.

woodcutter's avatar

I have stuff inside the house that really should be in some kind of storage building, I don’t have one so I have to squeeze it in wherever I can. It’s all good stuff that I need and use but it does sometimes take on that look, but not nearly as bad as those folks’ houses. My wife has RSD and can’t help with this so it’s all up to me to manage the house. I have never been good at it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

An amazing amount of people collect or refuse to discard certain things. My aunt saves newspapers and magazines; Mom has closets full of clothes that she hasn’t worn in years; a friend built a shed to keep all of his cameras and model planes stored safely and out of the house…he also collects trivia and has become the “Norm from Cheers in our office; another keeps all e-mail.; my SO and I adore book volumes…we may not read them all, but we must own each one or there is a feeling of incompleteness.

Why are we like this? Because we may need it someday. Nothing makes our heart soar more than having that piece of clothing for a certain occasion or being able to locate that e-mail that others also received long ago and now need or being able to dig through a coffee can of nuts and bolts to find the exact size that is needed.

It is what The Gallup Organization calls Input.

You are inquisitive. You collect things. You might collect information—words, facts, books, and quotations—or you might collect tangible objects such as butterflies, baseball cards, porcelain dolls, or sepia photographs. Whatever you collect, you collect it because it interests you. And yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity. If you read a great deal, it is not necessarily to refine your theories but, rather, to add more information to your archives. If you like to travel, it is because each new location offers novel artifacts and facts. These can be acquired and then stored away. Why are they worth storing? At the time of storing it is often hard to say exactly when or why you might need them, but who knows when they might become useful? With all those possible uses in mind, you really don’t feel comfortable throwing anything away. So you keep acquiring and compiling and filing stuff away. It’s interesting. It keeps your mind fresh. And perhaps one day some of it will prove valuable.

I think that, deep down, we know we are doing it, but most of us can keep it in check. The problem with Input, or any other Strength, is that it can be overused. This is where the “hoarder” bit comes into play, if their passion is around tangible things. When collecting takes over a life, it becomes a weakness. There are a few that cannot literally or figuratively dig themselves out of the situation without the help of others.

FR07en's avatar

Compulsive Hoarding Disorder is often diagnosed with persons displaying traits associated with diseases such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) but Compulsive Hoarding is also seen in patients exhibiting other social disorders, including dementia, anxiety and depression. It’s thought that most of the social dysfunctions may actually be a result of the hoarding, which places emphasis for the afflited victim of the disease’s lifestyle (ie: they’re embarrassed or scared to allow anyone into their lives for fear of being found out as a hoarder.) I personally feel that it’s possible that if that is so, conversely, these people could be hoarding simply to have an excuse not to have to have social graces associated with “normal” psychological relationships.

Whether that is the case, in answer to your question as to whether I’ve personally known anyone that was a hoarder as “bad” as those people on the television, no. But with that said, I will say too that I feel that is only because they were “caught” while in process of becoming that “bad” of a hoarder. That is, the cycle was broken. In my opinion, psychosis, such as hoarding, and even that of social anxiety are not so much simply brain malfunctions, but social and environmental stimulus malfunctions that affect the brain’s ability to determine value of things. When I say “things,” I’m speaking of inanimate as well as animate objects, including ones’self. Therefore, I feel it’s quite possible that considering the nature of hoarding, one places invaiable value on objects, to compensate for his or her own perceived lack of self-worth. In a capitalist society, one cannot easily argue that that society does not raise its children to assume one’s possessions are anything but an extension of ones’ self, and by that, considering the importance of wealth in such a money-driven society, this extension would include one of worth monetarily. So if I were asked why I thought many people suffer from this disease of hoarding, I would say it is due to society’s hyper-focus on one’s worth based upon one’s possessions.

However, I have also recognised the fear in those traumatised by some loss in their lives, of losing anything else. It is documented where people that suffered through the 1930’s and The Great Depression forever afterwards tend to keep things they might not otherwise, had they not lived through a time when most people had barely anything to their names. It would then seem that it is that memory of trauma that these people are trying to avoid recurring in their futures. Being forced by fate or some other factor, to say “goodbye” to things against one’s will is a hardship everyone must face at one time or other, but some have seen more than their fair share of loss in this life.

In fact, in all honesty, I’m one of those people. But for all the money I’ve seen come and go in my life, it’s not the money that I consider even one of my greatest possessions, when I have it. I place value on my things, as well as my “people” as I call them, all being something that enriches my life, all being something of worth to me. Haha… now that I think about it, I may then, in fact, be pretty well-off with my hand-me-down closet and some friends that money can’t buy.

Coloma's avatar


Very nicely said. :-)

One thing I know for sure, getting a divorce sure lightened my load. haha

Seriously, I now have ( and have had for the last 7 years ) the worlds most tidy and girly garage! I love it!

FR07en's avatar

@Coloma Thanks so very much for your words to my own here:) Personally, after looking over @Pied_Pfeffer ‘s answer here, I’m actually feeling a bit better about my own mess currently;) I like that… “input” Why did I not think to call myself something so intellectual, as opposed to “disorganised” Ah, but then, as you mention, @Coloma , it’s quite the beautiful (yet bitter-sweet) rescue when you’re forced to finally give up the goods to find you really never needed so much in the first place:)

BarnacleBill's avatar

My mother would collect magazines and take books from the library that she wouldn’t read. (The library had a table full of donated books that they would sell for $1 as a fund-raiser, and my mother would rationalize that she was borrowing them, and would return them.) When we moved her from her apartment to assisted living, we recycled stacks and stacks and stacks of magazines – over 400 linear feet of magazines. We returned over 1,000 books to the library. She also saved every plastic container she had for over 18 years, and paper towel tubes and Pringle cans, “just in case the kids need them for school.”

In assisted living, when we moved her to the nursing home, we found about 100 linear feet of magazines, and about 100 books, taken from the facility’s resident library. She also had about 4,000 sugar packets and tea bags crammed into every nook and cranny of her apartment there—in the bathroom, in her shoes under the insoles, in her dresser drawers, empty purses, etc.

It was a wake-up call for me to travel light.

augustlan's avatar

My ex-MIL is a hoarder. When things got too bad in her old house (she’d lived there for over 30 years and every spare inch was covered, leaving only pathways from room to room), she simply bought a new house, vowing to never let it get that way again. After she moved out of the old place, my ex paid laborers to go in and throw all of it out, losing who knows what precious artifacts in the process. There was simply no other way. It took well over a week, and multiple dumpster loads to get it done. After a very thorough cleaning, the house was sold.

The new house (she’s probably been there less than 10 years), while nowhere near as bad, shows no signs that she’s actually improved. She just hasn’t been there long enough for it to spiral completely out of control again.

She has no rational explanation for the behavior, and knows how distasteful it is to others. She just can’t help herself.

CaptainHarley's avatar

This was one of the many differences between my ex-wife and me. We had a four-car garage that I could not fit a car into because it was packed with “stuff” that she thought “we might need sometday.”

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@CaptainHarley What happened to it when you two divorced? Did either of you go through all of the boxes?

woodcutter's avatar

@CaptainHarley yeah how did you two handle all that garage stuff? A 4— car garage? Man that is a LOT of stuff.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes indeed, that was a LOT of space. She had a bad habit of starting projects, like refinishing an upright piano, and then abandoning them about ½ way through. One time I asked her why she did that and she said that she did it hoping I would pick the projects up and finish them! AS IF!

When we divorced, she waited until I was away and came over and took whatever she wanted, including ALL our photographs ( even the ones of me when I was little, and from Vietnam, etc! ), and moved it all into her new boyfriend’s ( later husband’s ) house! I don’t miss anything except the photos and a few items that had sentimental value to me. : (

In all fairness to her, she was raised in a family where your masculinity was measured by the number of tools you own, and that was NEVER my thing! She not only never understood me, she never made an effort to do so.

GladysMensch's avatar

My MIL has a two-bedroom condo with garage… entirely filled with newspapers and boxes and trinkets and who knows what else. She has no pets, so luckily we won’t have to deal with that. We keep offering to help her clean it out, but she won’t let us. Actually, she won’t let anyone over. She lives about 3 miles from us, and my daughters (ages 11 and 9) have never been to her place. My wife hasn’t been there in at least 7 years. I got in there this summer and it’s nearly floor-to-ceiling with junk. She sleeps in a chair, because there’s no room on her bed. It’s going to take multiple dumpsters when she eventually goes to assisted living.

woodcutter's avatar

It has to be one of the most bizarre disorders for a family to go through. I will walk in on one of those programs in progress on TV and can’t keep from looking. When the person gets help to clear the house out, the resistance to a lot of the stuff going outside is shocking. All the time it’s no don’t take that….and that, and that. Frustrating to those who are dong all the work for sure.

FR07en's avatar

@woodcutter I’m much reminded, when watching of the hoarder intervention programs of the old Steve Martin movie, “The Jerk” where he’s leaving his first wife and he says, “and I don’t need anything… except this ashtray… and that’s all I need… and this paddleball game… and that’s all I need… all I need is this ashtray, and this paddleball game…and this chair…” That movie is hilarious, but to watch those people unable to give up anything while it must be obvious that such a mess is unhealthy for them, let along unnerving to others to see… that’s nearly painful to watch. But you do, right… I know I do too.

woodcutter's avatar

@FR07en I have wondered what some people will think when they come in our house if my wife and I were to pass together. Would they call us junky? What would they think of us? One thing is certain they would see alot of cool stuff.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

My grandmother, I think. We all noticed when she and her husband moved from a house she liked and always kept immaculate that she started collecting stuff and becoming a hermit. As she grew angrier over the years then the more stuff she amassed. In the past 20 years she’s become almost homebound, the inside of the house is her world, she’ll paint and decorate each room to a theme every so many months. When she’s bored of stuff then she sells it and gets more and starts over, getting more than she gives/sells of course. None of us like to visit or stay long in her home, we don’t like to eat there or bathe there. It’s all sad, I hate it.

JessicaRTBH's avatar

Sadly I do. My dear step grandmother who recently passed – we had not been allowed to visit her house in decades (she’d just come to our home to visit) and based on rough estimates by various contractors etc.. It will take about 5 years to clean out. It’s absolutely insane! I’d say much, much worse than the show. She hoarded cats, food, trash, and pretty much anything you could dream of. I wouldn’t wish the clean up of a home like that on my worst enemy. The show luckily lacks the scent that goes along with such a disaster. It makes me want to throw away everything I own and live the opposite way.

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