Hoarders: Exploiting the Ugly and the Poor

Hoarders is an interesting A&E television show about people who save everything — including their own feces and urine — and refuse to throw anything away.

The unfortunate thing about the spirit, intention and inflection of the series, now in its second season, is the focus on the ugly and the poor as the starring hoarders.

You cannot help but believe, after watching the series, that the only people in America who hoard are destitute and unkempt and it seems many of hoarders are not highly uneducated.

Take a look at this sad sack menagerie of Hoarders who have starred in the series:

A&E are doing a disservice to the mental disorder of mental illness by suggesting only the ugly and the poor are capable of hoarding when common sense directs us to believe this compulsive obsession is much more rampant in mainstream America.

Are there no rich hoarders living in mansions?

Are there no middle class hoarders who have a regular job and a car?

The uncomfortable fact about watching Hoarders is that it is really a car accident happening in real time over several years — and the hook of the show is to get you to turn you head just a bit to gawk at these misbegotten people as you sprinkle false pity upon them.

Unfortunately, for A&E, once you’ve seen one filthy house full of feces and dead cats
– you pretty much have seen them all.

Filth is filth no matter how many houses it fills and the sob stories are all the same: Unrepentant hoarder versus angry family who aren’t going to take it any more. Nobody ever seems to get better and that means the entirety of the show misses the mandate of irrevocable change over the arc of the telling.

There really hasn’t been a sillier conceit for a reality television series since A&E brought us the ridiculous God Or the Girl — but Hoarders does have more urine stains in the carpeting.

16 comments

  • I know someone who is, to a large extent, a hoarder. He buys the newspaper in the evening and does not read most of it and it just sits on the floor until it is joined by the edition from the following day. Books, clothing, anything you can think of — they too join the newspapers until it is a sea of madness. I like the shows better when they bring in doctors and experts that help the people out of the mess by forcing them to give up 70% of their things and realize what they are doing. Not sure it works in the long run, though.

  • Well, the Hoarders show generally deals with a person who is going to be evicted in three days unless they clean up their mess.
    There’s a cleaning crew ready to dump everything along with a psychiatrist who is there to help the Hoader sort and tackle the junk.
    Unfortunately, most of the hoarders on the show are the type that must touch everything before deciding to keep or toss — so nothing really substantive happens, and the doctor says things must be done on the Hoarder’s time and not the court’s timeframe. Sigh. It’s a truly frustrating show.
    One Hoarder, who was trying to get her children back, saved everything and threw away nothing, so the cleaning crew boxed up all the trash and poop and dead stuff and put it all in storage and in her basement. She had 1,800 giant boxes filled with all that filthy junk. She did not get her kids back.

  • Thank you for calling attention to this serious problem, that can be life threatening. Clearly it is difficult for anyone who does not suffer from a cluttering problem to understand what it is like to be paralyzed emotionally and unable to let go of things that appear to be trash to others. Thank god there is a 12 step group, Clutterers Anonymous, that helps people to help themselves through fellowship, action and provides tools to let go of things one day at a time with face to face meetings and daily telephone support. http://www.clutterersanonymous.net

  • Thank you for your comment.
    I agree that a 12-step program is much more helpful than a three day pressure test TV show.
    What is the difference between a “clutterer” and a “hoarder?”

  • Definitely seen the show. It is hard to watch, David, they so deep in denial. Poor things.

  • It is hard to watch, Anne, because these people cannot be helped in such a short period of time. It’s desperation in action.

  • kathakali.chatterjee

    Wow. I was clueless about this issue…what is the actual reason behind this? Is it treatable? I think I came across one or two such people in my life but didn’t know the term so far. Sad.

  • Hoarding is a form of OCD. The treatment is medication and therapy, but few of those on the show choose that path or even find success in cleaning up their mess.

  • My mother has been a loarder isnce i was small. and has a problem cleaning up also. Her behavior has couse so much traumatic stress for me that i picked up some of the hoarding ways but i am a clean freak. I don’t live with her anymore. but she has gotten worse but we all (the children) stay on her about it. I have come to the conclusin that she does have a problem but lives haer total life in denial. now she is battling cancer and she really needs to get everything clean.
    a family member tried to help her clean up and she got really mad and said they were throwing her stuff (junk) away

  • Pingback: Litter Bugging | Urban Semiotic

  • “You cannot help but believe, after watching the series, that the only people in America who hoard are destitute and unkempt”

    I’ve watched many of the episodes and they have featured many middle-class people who hoard. Haven’t seen any rich folk yet, and likely never will as the stigma of hoarding would be far worse in their social circles than in other groups.

    This is basic psychology, really, but being “ugly and unkempt” tends to happen to people who are severely depressed and have given up on themselves, and on life. Self-neglect is a hallmark of depression and/or mental illness.

    “not highly uneducated.”

    Oh, what irony!

    • You are commenting on an article that was written in December 2009 right after the series debuted. I haven’t watched any episodes since. My criticism and observation at the time I wrote the article were right in line with what had been presented. If the series has now expanded to show a wider array of Hoarders across the social and economic spectrum — that’s great.

  • Pingback: The Death of Mike Starr Questions the Value of Celebrity Rehab | Celebrity Semiotic

  • Pingback: Anger Over the Incandescent Light Bulb Phaseout | Panopticonic

  • Pingback: Inequality in Underpants | Memeingful

Share Your Thoughts:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s