Oprah Show 11/15th -- Secret Life of Hoarders

teacatsNovember 13, 2007

Looks like a good Oprah show! Has Peter Walsh as the guest star ......

Just thought I'd post a "Heads Up" notice so folks could tune in to watch!

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Thank you for the heads up. This may be a repeat of an earlier show but I missed it. Maybe with the writer's strike some of the stuff I missed will be re-run.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2007 at 12:52AM
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Was it Peter Walsh who actually dealt with the hoarder? I sure hope not! I think he is awfully harsh dealing with some families on "Clean Sweep"--some of them need the kick in the pants, but some get caught up in the TV frenzy of it all, I think, and toss stuff that they come to regret. (His argument that someone cannot possibly value something if it's sitting in the bottom of a box in the garage goes only so far for me.) He says he's part "therapist," but I haven't witnessed that. Hoarders need 90% therapy and 10% clearing/organization.

The teases to Oprah's shows, I think, mentioned real trash. That's bad.
But here's another side to hoarding--it became a good thing:
(from a Washington Post story last year)

By William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writer

Working entirely on her own, spending her librarian's salary and later her Social Security checks, Mayme Clayton amassed one of the finest collections of African American history in the world -- and stored it in her garage.

"I got to warn you, it's scary in here." This is Mayme's son, Avery Clayton, talking. He's jiggling his keys and opening the door. He reaches, finds the light switch, clicks. Inside? It is amazing.

"Originally," Avery apologizes, "there were tables and chairs, like a library, and you could sit down. But as you can see -- "

The roof sags, it may leak. There are books, floor to ceiling on shelves, but the passages between the stacks are blocked, with storage cabinets and film cases and cardboard boxes overflowing with photographs, journals, cartoons, correspondence, playbills, magazines, all dusted with a soft fungal dander. Mold.

The old garage appears held together by its peeling paint, out in an overgrown garden, behind a bungalow in a modest neighborhood. For a moment, before the eye begins to settle on the antique book spines in the gloomy light, the garage looks like a hoarder's hiding place, ready for a bulldozer and a trip to the city dump. "She was a hoarder, she was," Avery says. "But she was a hoarder with a vision."

That is the opinion of the experts, too. "She has everything," says Sue Hodson, curator of literary manuscripts at the prestigious Huntington Library east of Los Angeles. "This is probably the finest collection of African American literature, manuscripts, film and ephemera in private hands. It is just staggering. It is just superior in every way."

Hodson says that when the Mayme Clayton Collection is moved, secured, cleaned and catalogued, it will be among the top such archives in the United States, alongside the Vivian G. Harsh Collection at the Chicago Public Library and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. (The Schomburg's director, Howard Dotson, described the Clayton holdings as "major and significant" in the Los Angeles Times.)
(story goes on...)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 6:11PM
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Part 2 is on Friday.

I didn't see 'garbage' in this situation like old food left on dirty plates, animal feces, etc. It was pretty much a bargain shopper run amok and totally out of control.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 8:20PM
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Yes -- part two is on Friday -- and will show the results of a MONTH of cleaning out and cleaning up.

Not a "garbage" problem -- more of a shopholic problem ...... but still .... this whole family NEEDED someone as strong as Peter Walsh to help deal with 75 tons of stuff in one house!

Can't wait to see the "reveal" of the fresh new home!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 9:43PM
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That was the worst case I've ever seen. A three car garage stacked to the ceiling, plus the house and basement. I'm curious as to how much money was made at the garage sales. I assume they had one or more since they mentioned a "sell" pile. I can't wait till tomorrow. Watching that show sure let me know I'm not even a little bit of a hoarder, just messy!! HA! I like Peter and I think he does nail the problem. He's right with everything he says. I believe what he says about stuff being packed or hidden away. How much can you honor something that is never seen or displayed? It's just stuff. When my mother passsed away I kept some of her things for about a year. At the end of that year I went through everything and only kept one item and the rest went to charity to others who could use it. Me keeping it in a closet was not serving any purpose. I have her one sweater that hangs in my closet and I get to see it everyday. That's enough for me.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2007 at 11:13PM
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I watched the show and was glad to see the approach they took with the woman, making her part of the process to get rid of the things.

I can understand that people become hoarders, but I can't understand the non-hoarder husband living with the problem and apparently doing nothing as it got worse.

The garbage seemed to come from the food that was being hoarded - specifically a box of dry spaghetti that was crushed and imbedded into the carpeting. You have to think there is mold among all that stuff.

I hope they do a follow up on this woman in a year.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 8:10AM
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Sorry, these people were just gross! It's not like you don't know that you have too much crap in the house. And the mold, and the rats nest, and the spaghetti carpet deal, yuk. I think they are just nasty, lazy, and weak willed. Don't know if I'm buying this "sickness" theory. They had a mess, let it get out of control, and didn't do anything about it. Even at the expense of not being able to have people/family in their home. This woman was being coddled by everyone and it was getting on my last nerve. Then she was rewarded by getting all new furniture and decorating. Bet she didn't pay for any of the 1000's of man hours, the warehouse space, the rent-a-crates,or anything else. Lazy, whiney butt just got a free ride. I know this sounds tough and I am usually a very compassionate person. This is just too preventable. Has she gotten the family in financial crisis too? I remember her saying certain things were special to her, but how special can they be if she doesn't even know where she put them and they are getting ruined. Lordy!!! Lordy!!! PLEASE, someone argue this with me because maybe I amjust not getting it.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 6:31PM
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Cozyk- I have to agree with you. I think the most part of hoarding is greed and laziness. They want, want, want, and then refuse to do anything to remedy the clutter.
I do think that people who ALREADY have an established mental illness can fall under it being related to psychological.
I agree 100% that this is preventable- stop shopping and clean it up.
I may have missed it, but I don't recall her being diagnosed with any mental disorder. Nor did she relate her problem to mental illness. From what I caught she shopped out of boredom and having an empty nest, then she was greedy and bought one of every color, and then couldn't clean it up.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2007 at 6:49PM
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I will argue with you. :)

Mental illness is NOT rational, and mentally ill people do irrational things.

Obsessive-compulsive behavior takes so many forms that if I knew you well enough, I could point to something you do compulsively. I watched a (perfectly normal) friend prepare to leave her apartment one day, and six times she went back and checked that the burner knobs on her stove were off. She didn't just look at them, she touched each one. And just prior to the fifth check, I said, "they are off," but she couldn't help herself, and checked them again twice.

So whether it is shopping, checking the stove, or something else, people are driven to do things because not doing them causes more mental anguish than doing them (watch an episode of Monk).

For the most part, it is harmless. However, it can worsen gradually, almost without notice, and affect your ability to live and enjoy life. Do you think that people living in skid row and drinking grain alcohol have made a thoughtful decison to do this? Or that they got up one day from their middle-class lives and drove there and started living that way? Instead, it is a gradual spiral downward. I look at the homeless, knowing that schizophrenia runs in my family, and I think, there but for the grace of God . . .

For me, the sheer volume of things in this woman's home and the destruction of the family life tells me that some powerful mental urge was at work here. My theory is that she probably long had the hoarding instinct, but it was under control, and the shopping instinct, again under control. Then when she suffered the loss of family, both urges let loose.

I urge you to read this link, which might help you understand that this is not about greed or laziness.

Here is a link that might be useful: About OCD

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 8:04AM
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Thanks for the clarification, Graywings. You are absolutely right. This is a mental illness that has nothing to do with laziness or greed. If the woman on Oprah doesn't get sustained therapy, and perhaps, meds, odds are that she will eventually revert to hoarding. They should revisit her home in three years.

I was staggered by the amount of stuff that came out of that house. 3,000 handbags and 3,000 pairs of shoes. The organizer estimated that that was about $60,000 spent.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 4:11PM
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About 8 years ago -- I was working as a kitchen designer. A restoration company contacted me about replacing cabinets in a house. The house was owned by a divorced older woman -- her husband left her for a younger woman and she had no relationship with her son.

The restoration company was called in by the city when the house was pronounced uninhabitable. A beautiful brick home on a country club -- rats and cockroaches were infesting her neighbors' home. The city discovered that the vermin was coming from her house.

It took the company a week of cleaning to discover that there was a 5 y.o Lincoln under the garbage in the garage. Kitchen cabinets had been eaten away by mice. Draperies, carpet, all cabinets and vanities had to be replaced.

I know she lived in a hotel for at least a year -- most of that was of her own doing as she wouldn't make desisions on replacement products.

I'm certain her lifestyle probably hasn't changed. But I'm sure her neighbors keep a closer eye on her.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 5:28PM
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I agree that it absolutely has nothing to do with being lazy and slobby.

Maybe initially it started out as some sort of laziness, and a "Ill do it later" attitude. And grew from there.

But this womans children are all moved out, her brother and sister died.

I think her habit was less OCD and more depression than anything. Her compulsive habits to buy, perhaps ocd. The overwhelming amount of clutter totally reflect her mindstate, though. Confused, unorganised, overwhelmed, overloaded.

I totally believe the way we keep ourselves and our homes hugely reflect the way we feel about life, and how we feel. And it can be a vicious cycle when you fall into the kind of hole she obviously did.

Depressed, don't want to take care of the house. Therapuetic shopping to fill whatever hole she has in her life. Pile up all the things she has no one to give them to. House gets worse. Mess gets overwhelming, depression gets worse. Can't have friends and family over, depression gets even worse, even less desire to take care of house. So on and so forth.

Some people also need to have material things, or atleast phsyical things to portray their feelings. Some use alcohol, some drugs, some people cut themselves, some buy things. They need whatever they're feeling to be something tangible, and there really is nothing that can do that. So they substitute. And its always something unhealthy, and eventually it just makes everything worse, if it gets out of control. And then we end up with alcoholics, hoarders, cutters, drug addicts. It's people trying to turn their pain/emptiness/stress into something they can control, and they end up out of control.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 2:17PM
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Concerning the husband's part in all this: In the second show, you saw that he had the "paper" problem--really annoyed Peter that he was going so slowly through old documents. So he was a hoarder in a way, too. Beyond that, though, he was in a position where he didn't want to rock the boat, I think. Maybe when you've been married that long, you just thank God that you have your spouse still with you and overlook even this level of hoarding?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 10:14PM
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Okay, I realize that this woman (her name was Sharyn) had a serious problem, but I don't think you should get rewarded with all new furniture and redecorating because you are a hoarder. What about single mothers who need baby supplies and stuff, I don't see Broyhill dishing out the goods to them. Sharyn got 11(!) rooms of free furniture, put stress on our landfills, and was coddled every step of the way by her family and even Peter. Yes, I guess you could say that she was embarrassed on national television by opening up her house for the world to see, but I don't think she deserved everything that she got. And by the way, they made 13k off the warehouse sale.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 12:00PM
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One of the things that struck me when watching those cleaning and organizing shows on cable is that often times the adult family memebers say that they have gone in repeatedly to clean and toss but when they return weeks/months later the place is right back to being a mess. The person does not lift a finger to keep the place organized and clean.

And what was up with the husband not seeming to care about the situation?

I agree that it was misguided to reward the woman with new furniture. I would like to see a follow-up show a year from now to see if the same mess returned.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 12:24PM
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I was hoping the $13K was donated to charity, but I guess I am naive.

For years and years SIL and I went to MIL's every June to clean for their annual cookout. It would take us 3 weekends. One week after the party, the place was a mess again, not even cleaned up after the party we cleaned for! That's because she never lifted a finger in the first place, so it meant nothing to her.

The woman on Oprah apparently had money to burn. That's why I thought/hoped it was donated to charity. Oh well....

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 12:42PM
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Lena M

I was also wondering how much she had spent on stuff.

The furniture 'reward' was intended mostly for product promotion by a certain furniture company, IMcynicalO.

Whole family gets my sympathy.


Here is a link that might be useful: Inside the Lives of Hoarders - Oprah

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 1:54PM
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I saw the previews for this episode but unfortunately, couldn't watch it. I have been interested in hoarders since I was about 20 and was in a garbage house once. It really bothers a person and makes them think about their own habits!

As far as being OCD or whatever kind of illness, okay, why can't she still deal with it? I have had friends/family come to grips with being an alcoholic or drug dependant and say that they're going to get help and then get on with it.

If you can't realize you have a problem when you're too embarrassed to have friends and family over, oh well then.

We had a hoarder once in my town (nice house, nice neighborhood) but inside the house was a disaster. Actual trash. Do you not know that the trash gets picked up once a week? The city and a bunch of charitable volunteers came out to organize her house and fix all kinds of damage and guess what? Within three years the neighbors were complaining of rats and buckets of urine and feces lined up around the outside of her house. The interior, again, was a shambles. I don't blame the neighbors for being extremely upset with her, their property values were going down and she was attracting a lot of vermin. Solution: FIX YOURSELF! Nobody's perfect, but the first step is admitting that you have a problem. There is all kinds of help out there. Beware of the help that comes for free because you don't learn your lesson with it. I, too, would be interested in a follow-up show.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 3:13PM
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I don't know too much about hoarding. I've never had any personal experience in dealing with someone who hoards. But I do have experience with mental illness. My son is schizophrenic and mildly autistic, and has been diagnosed since age twelve. Part of a psychotic disorder is the inabilty to organize one's thoughts and follow thorugh with plans. Looking back, I can see how this has affected my son's abilty to function since he was very young. He is not capable of organizing his life on his own and, thankfully, he has his family to provide that structure and help for him.

Asking why someone with "whatever kind of illness" can't "deal with it" is tantamount to asking someone with cancer why he/she can't deal with that. It is far more complex and is just as real as any other severe illness. I am not suggesting that mental illness absolves someone from all responsiblities in their life, but I am saying that TRUE major mental illness is a tremendous challenge, sapping most enjoyment and reason from the sufferer's life and often robbing him or her of the ability to function

I should mention I didn't see the program in question, but I've been following this thread with interest. I can't say whether the woman on the program had a severe mental illness or not, although it certainly sounds like it. I just felt compelled to ask for a little compassion for those who truly are suffering under a heavy load. Sometimes I think that those who are more functional than my son actually have a harder time in life, as they don't have the range of supports and backup that he has to help him make his way through what is to him a very confusing world.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 7:55PM
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I really don't think this was a woman with severe mental issues. I do think she was a very depressed woman that filled her emptiness with possessions and shopping. I think she was over-whelmed where to start. And it seemed to be "too much" for her so she avoided the situation and didn't begin.

She seemed so relieved for the help -- a bit combative -- but relieved. And she participated. And therapy, if the family continues, is necessary so she doesn't slide back.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2007 at 11:37AM
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Barbara--Oprah's show isn't written by WGA members, so the strike won't have any affect.

I used to work on a show that cleared out homeowner's clutter, sold it at a yard sale, yaddayaddayadda. Most of the houses we did were pretty messy, but manageable. We usually dragged in stuff to make it look worse.

But, we did scout a hoarder's place like the one on Oprah. I was flabbergasted. None of the cast wanted to do the show, as the whole family was in denial about how bad the situation was. Pet feces, old food, etc. I can't imagine how Oprah's crew lived through this.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 7:38PM
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For me the classic symptom of OCD was her comment that if she finds something she needs "all the colors" or a "complete set." That's an indication of a mental disorder. It was also clear that depression was definitely a factor, as well as her own husband's paper-hoarding tendencies.

I felt sympathy because it was clear she was ashamed and horrified to discover the mold, the mice, etc. At least she was willing to acknowledge there was a problem. Many hoarders don't.

I can't comment on the pros and cons of giving the family all new furniture, carpet, etc. I don't know if it's helpful or a waste. My guess is without therapy and/or medication in a year we'll see at least some of the same problems. I hope Oprah does do a follow-up because it's misleading to give the impression such problems can be "fixed" in a week or a month. As Walsh indicated, it's a process.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 8:16PM
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I have seen this hoarding/trash keeping evolve from depression. When I was a young girl I went to school with 2 young girls and visited their home often. It was them, the mom and dad. They were a very happy go lucky family and the house was always neat and tidy. Well, the father died unexpectently and when I went to visit them a few months after his death the house was a total shambles and filthy with food, excrement, etc. They couldn't even take a bath because of the dirty clothes, etc. that was in the tub. Every inch of the place was absolutely filthy. I was horrified and being a young girl, didn't understand what had happened. I asked one of the girls why the house was so filthy and she answered "I don't know." Now as I look back on it I realize their lives were shattered when the dad died and I believe they were all in a fog and depression and nothing really mattered to any of them anymore. So sad. Needless to say, I kept in touch by phone, but never could stand to go back in the house.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 9:59PM
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My husband tells a story of going to visit an old friend (female). She was in her twenties, had two kids and had just gotten divorced. Her apartment was filthy, rotted food in the freidge, just nastiness. He recognized she was severly depressed and unable to maintain her home. He never visited her again. I hope she got better.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2007 at 9:09AM
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The other day, Oprah aired a surprise visit to the home. They had successfully maintained the organizational systems for several months. The closets were immaculate -- everything neatly hung and folded. I'm very glad for them that they didn't revert back. I keep thinking that if I could just get everything organized (a place for everything), I could keep it that way (everything in it's place).

My house really isn't that bad -- just 2 rooms that I can't quickly clean thoroughly. Maybe there's hope.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2008 at 8:50PM
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There IS hope! Especially if you start to take small steps toward your goal.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2008 at 10:44AM
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