Thursday, September 23, 2010


Last night I was exploring Netflix's instant queue and found a show called "Hoarders."
Normally, I would ignore this sort of show, but I decided it was late and worth checking out. I ended up watching two episodes, each episode follows two cases.

The first episode was about a couple and an elderly woman.

The wife used shopping as therapy and the husband loved to keep everything. The neighbors reported the couple's home because of the messiness. The couple was told that if they didn't get the house cleaned up, the state would take their children and consider them unfit parents. The show gives the couple a clean up crew and a professional organizer, to help with the process. This crew is capable of getting the massive amount of work done in two days. The couple works together and despite the husband's hesitance in getting rid of his possessions, the couple is able to get the house clean. One sad moment, is when the oldest son, who looks to be about 8 years old returns home to see one of the crew breaking down his playhouse...he begins crying and says "I wanted to keep that." The father explains to the boy that he will be able to have room to play and have friends over if they get rid of these things they do not need. This story ends well and the kids are able to have play dates for the first time ever.

The elderly lady had an obsession with keeping vast quantities of food, perishable and nonperishable. She said she felt that maybe the reason she did this was because she had been very poor at one time in her life. She felt that having this food gave her power and the ability to be independent and take care of herself. This part of the episode was particularly hard to watch because there was rotting fruit in various places. The lady's land lord threatened to evict her if she did not get the house in the proper living conditions. The show provided her with a cleanup crew and a therapist who specialized in hoarding and compulsive behaviors. It was very sad to watch this lady argue to keep food that was over 2 years expired. The lady's son insisted that she throw the spoiled food away and that he would buy her new food. She was able to get the house cleaned and agreed to seek therapy.

The second episode was about a lady who was in the process of getting a divorce and a man who was about to be evicted from his apartment.

The lady was a compulsive shopper. She would go to thrift stores several times a week, spending up to $200. This became even more evident after her father passed away; she was very close to him. Three years ago, her husband filed for a divorce and the house became part of the settlement. Now she must get the house cleaned so the house can be put up for sale and she can move on with her life. She is provided with a cleaning crew and a therapist who specializes in hoarding and compulsive behaviors. (John and I agreed that we were not as impressed with this therapist's tactics) The first day she only gets through half of one room and despite her son's pushing and persistence, little progress is made. The second day is basically the same as the first, though she seems more motivated. A very hard moment for the lady is when she finds her children's baby clothes; she breaks down and begins to cry. The show ends and says that she does not finish cleaning the house and she moved out leaving the house as is.

The man had once been homeless and because of this was able to get the apartment he now lives in. The man believes that his attachment to things was because of his distant relationship with his father. The man remembers having a train set as a child and playing with his father. One day the father said he had to sell the train set and so the only happy memory with his father was taken away. As usual with this show, the man was given a team and a professional organizer. I really liked the organizer; she was very enthusiastic and supportive. I liked how she allowed this man to be in charge of the process, but also had him think about why and how things came to be this way. I also liked how she had him set a life goal and had him decide what to keep and what to throw out based on this goal. The show ended with a look at the new immaculate apartment. The organizer got the man a new desk and book shelf. She also got him some very nice rocks to decorate with; this complimented his goal of wanting to keep a spiritual and peaceful life. As of the show, he is now working on a book about his life and experiences. This story was particularly touching to me and I truly hope he reaches his goals.

Overall, I found myself very fascinated with the stories and careers of the helpers. Hoarding is a very interesting and complex problem. One of the therapists on the show was talking about how hoarding can include or coexist with feelings of depression, anxiety, etc. This made a lot of sense to me because I have a history with anxiety and I know that when I feel depressed I don’t feel like doing anything. It can make it very easy for your home to slowly become the mess you fear. The last story with the man, he talked about being a perfectionist. He said he would get so discouraged with not completing his goals that it set into a depression and he just stopped caring about what to do with his things. This is another component I could understand, being a perfectionist is something I’ve also struggled with. It’s kind of scary how I could I identify with both the patient and the practitioner in these cases. I think that’s what makes a good human service worker. If you can step in, identify the problem and do so in a loving and caring manner---minus getting too emotionally involved (which is the part I struggle with), you can do well in this field.

So what are your thoughts on the stories? Helpers? Helping professions? Etc?

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