The Horrors of Hoarding

I have become sickly (and embarrassingly) fascinated with the show Hoarders.  I think it was created by the same people who thought up the reality show Intervention.  What compels me to watch it is my curiosity over why a mental illness would have such a specific and materially evident symptomology.  It seems to have its origins in trauma and loss.

Not only are the sufferers of the hoarding impulse unable to part with anything, but their living spaces become barely habitable.  The floor and other surfaces are generally hidden under tons of rubbish.  There are infestations of rodents and insects.  Some of the homes contain fecal matter (those in which the power has been cut off or access to the washroom is blocked).  Clean-up crews must wear gloves and masks to safely deal with these monuments to a bizarre compulsion.

It is sad, appalling, and horrifying.  The family members associated with the hoarder are in utter despair, if they haven’t already cut all ties.  None of the hoarders seem able to have tidy or organized clutter.  The sheer volume (usually measured in tons) makes this impossible.

Every time I watch the show I not only want to purge all my useless possessions, but I want to have a zen-like space occupied by only essential objects.  This will never happen; I’m too much of a collector.  However, the warnings from hoarders are clear, not only do we generate too much stuff, it has a tendency to become unsanitary and to suffocate us under its burdenous weight.

As much as hoarding is a dreadful condition, it also seems to be the woe of unrestrained capitalism and consumption.