The other day, Season 1 of the show "Hoarders" became available on my Netflix instant queue. I was intrigued, because I had heard about the show, but never actually watched an episode. As I watched the first episode, I was captivated...I had so many questions, so much curiosity, and down-right disgust. To me, the hoarding phenomenon is so out there...so foreign to me, I can't even fathom living like that or even getting to a point where that much stuff is inside one's home.
Hi pot? Yeah, its me kettle. You are black!
After I picked up on the similarities between hoarding and being obese, I watched the show with a different eye. I had more compassion as I watched these poor people physically struggle with what they knew was wrong, but just couldn't control. I know the feeling.
I know the main goal of the show is shock value, of course to boost ratings, get a following. They find particularly bad cases to report on, because as Americans, we love extremes! I fell into all the traps...I immediately began comparing myself to them. Thinking about how I hate clutter, and could never live in such filth. I wondered over and over what kept them from just throwing stuff away.
This is no different then seeing a larger then me person on the street, and comparing myself to them. Or seeing a 600lb person on Oprah whose skin has grown into the couch they can no longer move from and wondering, why don't they just eat less?
Then there is the panic that arises from wanting to make a change, but then actually going through with it. Its so easy to wake up every morning and say "today is the day I'm going to change!" But then actually doing it? That is panic inducing. In general, people like to avoid panic, so the habits do not change. That's how you find yourself at 300lbs one day, or with a home full of rotten food and stuff you can't throw out.
Even consequences do little to deter one from unhealthy habits. It is a true sickness when you are faced with your kids being removed from your home, or jail time, and you can not clean up your home! How about being at risk for diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer. Those are deathly consequences that fall on deaf ears as the compulsion to avoid the panic wins every time.
Nearly every hoarder shown wanted to wake up and have "it taken care of for them" or for it to "be all gone when I wake up." Oh, how many times have I said, if I could just wake up skinny tomorrow, I would never let myself get like this again! Everyone knows that is not true as the hoarding, or the excess weight, is a SYMPTOM of the problem, not the actual problem!
Even within the larger title of "hoarder" there were different types. People that hoarded food, people that had shopping compulsions and hoarded sale items, people that hoarded animals, and people that hoarded collectibles they had every intention of selling. It was so clear to me how each person was in denial of how bad their problem was. Each person never intended to do harm to themselves, and only a few of them realized how self-destructive it was. I'm no expert, but I imagine if there are many different types of hoarders, then not any one solution can be applied to a hoarder. Sounds vaguely familiar...
Due to the show being confined to an hour, there is little follow-up on the long term process. I have no idea what the success rate is, or how many of these hoarders were able to make a permanent change for the better. I can only venture a guess that it depends on so many factors:
a) being ready...truly ready, not just saying you are ready
b) letting go of denial
c) realizing the true consequences of your behavior
d) wanting to change
e) finding the right form of help for your situation/trying different things
f) family/life support
For me it is great progress to go beyond the disgusted factor and find compassion. Clearly I have so much in common with a group of people I was ready to simply watch for entertainment. Maybe I can learn something?