Tuesday, October 9, 2012


For reasons that I'm not sure I can entirely explain, HOARDERS on A&E has been one of my favorite television series for a couple of years now. I'm endlessly fascinated by the people on this program, their living conditions, their various states of mental illness, the immense mountains of junk, trash and waste that they cannot let go of, no matter how dangerous or life threatening. It's compelling television and Judy and I are hooked.

I certainly wasn't raised in a hoarder household. Neither was Judy. None of the members of our extended families are hoarders, nor are any of our friends (that we know of). I've never been in someone's house that looks like the homes on this show but there's a weird part of me that kinda wishes I could see one of these real live hoards up close and personal just to see what it's really like.

I don't know why I have this fascination with this condition other than to say that the types of aberrant behaviors to be found on any given episode of HOARDERS are so far removed from my everyday frame of reference that I simply have to watch in order to try and understand how a great many members of the other half lives. And after watching an episode, Judy and I almost always turn to each other and say, "count your many blessings, name them one by one."

Dr. Robin Zasio is a licensed, clinical therapist who specializes in the hoarding disorder and she's featured on the show on a regular basis. She's often the first outside, professional person to meet with the hoarder, examine their situation and begin a psychological assessment. Of course, we the viewers have already been shown how bad the hoard is before she arrives, which leads Judy and I to call out, "Run, Dr. Zasio."

She never does. She, along with the other specialists on the show, are brave, compassionate, caring people who truly earn every last cent of whatever A&E is paying them to do this work. It's never easy. They've seen it all (almost) but every now and then, Dr. Zasio and Matt Paxton (who supervises the clean-up) run up against something that's beyond their realm of experience.

Case in point: last night's episode in which a woman lived in a house with no running water and no functioning toilet. She had lived this way for a number of years following the death of her mother who had lived in the house with her. With no functioning toilet to remove her waste, the woman filled hundreds (possibly thousands) of plastic bottles with a dark, foul watery mess composed of her fecal waste and urine. These bottles were deposited throughout the house and in the yard. She showed Matt the bucket that she uses to urinate and defecate in and when it's full, she carries a smaller pan full of sloshing sludge and waste out into the yard where she empties it on the grass. And she does this without wearing gloves.

Both Dr. Zasio and Matt agreed that they had never seen anything like this. The result was that after the cleanup and removal of all of this toxic material (everyone had to wear hazmat suits), a building inspector determined that it would be cheaper to tear down the house and build an entirely new structure rather than try to redo the damaged house. It was also determined that the woman was not mentally capable of living on her own and was moved to an institution.

HOARDERS is heartbreaking, sad and unutterably tragic. The show makes you count your many blessings and it's a well produced hour of compelling, riveting television.

And what does it say about me that I can't stop watching it?


  1. Yikes! I was planning to comment and then I read through to the end of the post. Glad I didn't watch that episode. I saw the show only once. I doubt I'd look for it, but if I happen on it again, I'd watch. A long time ago, when I was in my 20s and apartment hunting, an elderly lady was giving up an apartment, and I didn't know it then but she was a hoarder. Stuff everywhere with just paths through it. A lot of hoarding seems to be old newspapers and magazines...or it did in the old days. One of my friends passed away last year, and I helped clean out a LOT of old junk mail she had never thrown away...maybe a little selective hoarding. Interesting post about an interesting show.

    1. Thanks for the feedback Claudia. As I said, I find HOARDERS endlessly fascinating. And you're right about newspapers, magazines and mail being the most common accumulations. But people hoard lots of other things as vividly depicted on the show.