Movie about a hoarder

harriethomeownerJune 20, 2008

Last year, I think, someone posted on here about a documentary that was being made called "My Mother's Garden," about the filmmaker's mother who has hoarding disease. I saw the finished film today at the Silverdocs festival. It's a powerful movie, well done, but the most interesting thing was that the filmmaker AND her mother were there at the screening and did a Q & A afterward. The mother was in almost complete denial that she had had serious mental problems most of her adult life. You could see the daughter's frustration.

It looks like this was the last scheduled screening in the U.S., but perhaps it will be shown elsewhere in the future.

Here is a link that might be useful: Movie site

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Very interesting.

I was ripped to shreds on a different board when I responded to the OP about what to do about a potential home like that in her parents neighborhood. Since she mentioned that small children were involved I encouraged her to get more information. Wow, the posters just ripped me after that accusing me of being someone who enjoyed sticking my nose in other people's business to say the least! As if I would enjoy ripping a family apart! The OP ended up saying that they would ignore the problem. In other words, it wasn't her problem.

But I have an interest in hoarding since I found myself as a visitor in an out of control home once, decades ago and I could tell the parents were more than a bit "off". At least now it is known as a disease and can be looked out from a psychological point of view. Dr. Phil had an episode about extreme hoarding in March or April. In defense of the children he agreed that they did deserve better care.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 2:28PM
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The children in this family (the filmmaker and her three brothers) had a horrible time. One kid started drinking, another got involved with gangs and got shot in the face, the daughter moved out of the house at 13 (she said in the movie that there was so much junk everywhere that she had no place to sleep) and worked as a prostitute to earn money. They all seem to be doing pretty well now as adults (and one striking thing is how gorgeous they all are, mother and kids both!), but there are also a lot of psychic scars.

If I saw a home like that with minor children in residence, I would certainly call whatever social services were available. No one should have to live like that. Subjecting children to that kind of life is a form of abuse.

In fact, DH had a cousin who turned into a hoarder (DH says the cousin's house was just like the classic hoarder's place, filled with garbage), and he died basically as a result of living in filth, I think from the equivalent of toxic shock syndrome. He was only in his 30s at the time.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 3:10PM
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First, let me admit that I have no credentials to give me authority here...but I believe that all human behavior lies somewhere on a continuum, and that mental illness is what happens at the extremes. We all keep things illogically, or get terribly blue sometimes, or forget things, or obsess a little over something, or get a little hyper, or do something irresponsible for no apparent reason. That doesn't make us just makes us real.

Clearly things become a problem when they interfere with health or safety or necessary functioning, and we are lucky to live in a time in which there is help for the extremes, and I don't for a minute suggest that people should be left to descend into the hell of mental illness.

But some of what we used to call quirkiness is now suspected of being pathology, and I think that's a shame. How much great genius do we lose if we hold everybody to the same standards of behavior, and when should we medicate or retrain deviation from the center? Do we need to be more tender with our eccentrics? Should we learn to make the world safer for a little special nuttiness in our children or our neighbors? What do you think??

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 6:13PM
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I draw the line at dead rats hidden in the debris in someone's house.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 6:45PM
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I do hear you, bronwynsmom. I don't know where you draw the line between privacy and freedom vs the welfare of a child. But it's there, somewhere.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 7:48PM
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I found the thread where I was basically told to Mind My Own Business. BTW, if this was happening in my own neighborhood I WOULD have it checked out for the sake of the children involved.

Here is a link that might be useful: posters who wouldn't get involved in Hoarding situation

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 8:04PM
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Maybe this wasn't the right thread to say those things about abnormal versus quirky...I certainly didn't mean to imply that the stories you told were anywhere near acceptable. It just made me think about it. Clearly, Neesie, you are a person who cares and thinks about ethics and citizenship.

Absolutely, I'd have been very concerned in the case you described. I would even draw the line at an extreme eyesore in a well-kept neighborhood...I think that any situation that veers so far away from what is going on around it is cause for concern.

The question, I think, is how you intervene. I might have been inclined to make a cake or a batch of cookies and take them over...or to host a block party and go personally to invite the begin to establish a relationship. Then gradually you might be able to see what the situation actually is, and to move toward the family from a position of demonstrated kindness.

Here is one of my favorite quotes, and I need to read it at least once a week, being, as I am, a person who would give advice to the cat, if only she spoke English. The wise rabbi Edwin H. Friedman said:

"The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation, but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech."

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 9:09PM
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bronwynsmom, I'm still laughing and seeing myself in your quip about giving advice to the cat! Good one! And good question about how the hoarder would be approached. The hoarder I crossed paths with was during my childhood and I was truly shocked. I was raised by Mrs. Clean and the friend that took me over to the offending home knew it and warned me. It is still a vivid memory today. One or two other instances that happened to me before I was all of 21 years of age made impressions on me that shape my housekeeping habits even today.

Notice how I ran on at the mouth and never answered the question of how the hoarder should be addressed? No wonder they wanted to hang me out to dry on that other thread! I just insisted they confront the homeowners without a suggestion as to "how."

I love your quote from the Rabbi. How true, how very, very true. :)

Heading to bed now, with lots to think about. Good night!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2008 at 11:39PM
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I posted about the movie a year or so ago. This type of situation is not just being quirky. It is truly pathological and I believe children should be removed. It is a horrible way to live and definitely leaves lifelong scars.

Below is the link to the trailer of the movie. I would love to see the entire thing. I think if people haven't been in one of these homes, they really can't understand the situation.


Here is a link that might be useful: Trailer for My Mother's Garden

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 4:02PM
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Gloria, Thank you so much for posting the link to the trailer. I would love to see the entire video too. Do you know if there is any way to do that?
All I can say is WOW...It leaves me speechless otherwise.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 4:43PM
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Seeing the whole movie was very much worthwhile.

I don't remember if the trailer explains it, but the reason the children intervened and cleaned up the house is because the state of California was going to evict the mother and probably bulldoze the house if it wasn't cleaned up. It was a terrible health hazard to her and to her neighbors. The children first tried going out there and working with her to go through everything, but she was arguing over every little ripped up book and piece of trash, so it was impossible. It was painful to watch.

At the screening, a lot of people had questions, but the mother got up there and started complaining about how she had been portrayed in the movie, and very few people had a chance to speak.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 5:26PM
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Gloria, thanks for posting the link.

Nessie - I agree, the people on that other thread were really harsh with you.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2008 at 6:01PM
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Right on Bronswynsmom. My DH's mom was an eccentric hoarder. She was so smart, so talented but never saw dirt in her house. After she died we cleaned out her house on Cape Cod and threw away almost 200 very large trashbags full of everything and hired a junkman to remove some of the other stuff. Later a friend found some of our "stuff" on Ebay. The junkman sold us out.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2008 at 12:20AM
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