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Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things, even if the items are worthless, hazardous, or unsanitary.
Hoarders is an A&E Documentary which provides a glimpse into the lives of people suffering from compulsive hoarding. A typical episode focuses on two hoarders whose situation has deteriorated to the point that they face serious financial/legal/personal consequences unless they get the hoard under control. A therapist who specializes in this type of behavior meets with the hoarder ahead of time to assess the problem, and a cleanup crew consisting of professional cleaners, friends, family members, and volunteers is then brought in. The goal is to return the property to a more livable state in a short period of time, usually two days, with the therapist guiding the hoarder to make sensible decisions about what should or should not be kept.
Hoarders has proved itself an incredibly popular show, being A&E's most-watched premiere if Wikipedia is to be believed. Probably because it caters to our collective interest in mental disorders. Watchers beware: After a few episodes you might get fear-driven urges to clean your house. But maybe that's a good thing.
This show provides examples of:
- Blatant Lies: Pretty much all of Sir Patrick's back-story.
- Basically, he turned out to be a con man and sex offender with multiple accounts on multiple online dating sites, trying to get dates with as many (often underage) girls as possible.
- The Collector / The Collector of the Strange: The "neater" hoards tend to start out as collections of, well, collectables such as commemorative beer cans or vases.
- Crazy Cat Lady: Some of the people on the show have been animal hoarders and, yes, that is every bit as disturbing as it sounds.
- Creepy Doll: The woman below had literally tons of dolls; she would even amputate their limbs at her "doll hospital" (it's okay, she was a nurse).
- Not to mention the aforementioned Sir Patrick, who had a collection of dolls because they reminded him of his 9-year-old neighbour. Yikes
- Dark and Troubled Past: A woman who hoarded dolls had serious self-esteem issues, starting from when she wasn't allowed to attend her own mother's funeral; other people were abused or severely neglected.
- Downer Ending: In some episodes, the hoarder refuses to get help and their living situation continues to spiral downwards.
- Dysfunction Junction: Hanna and her family. Hanna herself is an elderly animal hoarder who lives in a single-wide trailer filled with chickens, turkeys and other farmyard birds crammed into tiny cages caked with filth. She has ten adult children, all of whom she physically abused growing up. When they return to the house to attempt to clean it, all hell breaks loose as the family scream, swear and physically assault each other and the Hoarders crew.
- And then there was Wilma (11/21/11), whose house was falling apart from neglect and the effects of her hoarding. Her three adult children claimed that she abused them when they were growing up, and she calmly described on camera a time when she chained one of them to his bed as discipline. As the cleanup effort progressed, she took no responsibility for the situation, told her children she didn't love them, and told the therapist that she wished she'd never had them in the first place.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin
- Explosive Breeder: Glen let his one male and two female pet rats loose in the house, and didn't have the heart to recapture or stop feeding them. Months later, his home is a Squeaking Carpet.
- Follow the Leader: TLC now has a show, Hoarding: Buried Alive, with the exact same premise as this show.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals: A couple of women have been shown to hoard stuffed animals.
- It Came From the Fridge: One person who hoarded food kept it in her fridge even after it had long since gone bad.
- Taken to a new level in an August 2011 episode that focused on Lisa, a woman who enjoyed cooking and hoarded years-old food. Her daughter described a past incident in which she opened the refrigerator and found a dead squirrel in the butter dish. Later, during the cleanup, Lisa opened a jar of unidentifiable black sludge and ate some of it on camera.
- Nausea Fuel: Pretty much the point of the show.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Gary, a middle-aged bunny-hoarder who hides in his bedroom or flounces off in a huff rather than speak with the professionals sent to help him. At one point he throws a water bottle at his wife Kathy "because [he] felt like it". Ultimately, even though the rabbits are his problem, Kathy is the one who ends up dealing with them while Gary sulks, pouts, throws tantrums, and gives film crews the finger like a spoiled, sullen five-year-old.
- A regular Man Child with a mental disability got his own little Crowning Moment of Awesome by standing up to his mom, who would leave her dolls in his room for months and might have even stolen his money to buy more dolls.
- Billy Bob, a toy collector in a recent (June 27, 2011) episode, who tries to boss the cleaners and his family around to keep his precious toy hoard from being thrown away (actually saying at one point to the cleaners "This is not your show, this is the Billy Bob show"), saying "You're excused" rather imperiously to dismiss the cleaners when they go against him on this, and in general acting like a complete bastard.
- A different Lisa (not the food hoarder mentioned above), who kept dozens of cats in her house, decided halfway through the cleanup that she wanted nothing more to do with the show. She kicked the entire crew off her property, claiming that they had falsely promised to simply clean the house, and dared her father to evict her. The kicker? He had every right to do so, since the mortgage was in his name.
- Andrew (from the "Andrew/Shania" episode), who obviously has a mental illness, refuses to accept the reality of his massive hoard, files an order of protection against his brother, who he may have cheated out of an inheritance, and makes childish remarks concerning his situation and his brother (such as stating that his brother may have had four people killed). The crew manages to clean up some of his yard, due to all the drama, and at the end of the episode no progress has been made on the house itself.
- Selective Obliviousness: "This little doll doesn't take up any space!" ...And the rest of that eight-foot-high pile?
- Squick: With a show like this, it's a given. These people's houses are positively littered with trash like milk cartons and old newspapers, and that's not counting bedbugs, moldy food that's beyond rotten, and pet feces. Need we say more?
- The cleanup crew often finds large amounts of the hoarders' own urine/feces around the house if the plumbing is broken or the water has been shut off.
- Rotting animal corpses are sometimes found at the bottom of hoards.
- Serial Escalation: And you thought your house was messy...
- Trash of the Titans