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Hoarders: Linda and Todd

The Linda and Todd episode of Hoarders that's currently online at A&E is... well. Subtly but earth-shakingly different from the rest of the series?

Let's start with Linda, whose house is almost impassable because of the mounds of papers and accumulated debris. She says things got bad after her youngest child left for college; her kids say no, she was always a hoarder, and they are SO MOTHERFUCKING TIRED OF HER SHIT. Her daughter's blunt: She never had a childhood because of her mother's hoarding, and from high school on, her goal was to get out and stay out. Both of the kids who appear on the show say that their goal is not to clean up their mother's house so they can have a relationship with her. Their goal is to clean up their mother's house so they can move on and leave their mother behind. Yes, their stated goal is to clean up so they can be closer to their mother, but the things they say when they're frustrated and unrehearsed are mighty telling.

And the crew, the ever-supportive crew of Hoarders? Tells them flat out, "Your mother is always going to be like this. She's not getting better. You need to detach from her."

Hoooooooly shit.

The crew is almost always intensely pro-family. They're willing to admit that hoarders are hard on their families and that codependent adult children need to become less codependent. But they also encourage family members to preserve their bonds. There's one deeply repellent episode, Claudie, in which the crew spends most of the session trying to maneuver Claudie's estranged husband into taking her back. How far were they willing to go? Her husband had been living hundreds of miles away and out of touch with her for a year, but when they took Claudie on the first walkthrough of the house, there he was in the living room, playing the piano. That far. If the situation is so bad that someone has to say "This person is never getting better" or "Family members need to break off relations with this person for their own sanity," the show almost always has family members say it--not the crew. Hearing a crew member say, "This situation is hopeless, run for the hills" is like hearing a member of Congress say, "We have no effing idea what any of these reforms will do in the real world. We're shooting in the dark and hoping for the best."

So Linda's segment is a little piece of awesome, even with all the misery and failure it represents.

Then we come to Todd's section. Todd is a gamer geek who gets emotionally attached to trash and who has difficulty organizing. Early on, he admits that he drops things in the first spot he sees, and then leaves them there for a year. His apartment is a royal mess. It's not to the catastrophic levels we're used to on Hoarders, but it's several times worse than the apartment of your average WoW addict who can't be bothered to clean. Hoarding experts agree that Todd's difficulties are an early stage in a pattern that's going to end in compulsive hoarding if Todd doesn't get help immediately. Todd's girlfriend recognizes this, and has refused to settle down, marry him, and start a family unless Todd learns to break the pattern.

So they start cleaning. And it's great. Todd puts up a stink but is learning how to undo old habits of thought. Todd's girlfriend is cautiously optimistic. Then the therapist pulls her aside and explains that it's going to be the girlfriend's job to notice when Todd is slipping into old patterns and snap him out of it.

Excuse me?

Have these people not seen what happens when a partner is put in charge of their spouse's hoarding? Have they not been watching their own goddamned show? Nobody can manage a hoarder but the hoarder. Uncontrolled hoarder + responsible spouse = uncontrolled hoarder. That's why Hoarders routinely cleans people's houses to forestall divorces, prevent Child Protective Services from taking kids away, derail evictions, and keep hoarders from going to jail. Not because family members haven't tried hard enough to manage the hoarder. Because hoarders are, by definition, unmanageable.

The girlfriend says she doesn't want to be the kind of partner who nags. Good! She seems to accept that this is her fate, though. After all--goes the unspoken logic--a hoarding specialist told her so, and would a hoarding specialist give her bad advice?


Half spectacular win, half spectacular fail. I want to boot the episode halfway through a window.



Jun. 23rd, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
I married a hoarder. I had no idea he was a hoarder before we married, because he lived with his parents on weekends and his sister during the week, all of whom are hoarders that have additional houses(!!!) in which to keep their stuff.
So we got married and moved into a spacious apartment, and I moved ALL my things into it, and he moved in with me. And his mom and dad would come by with five or six boxes of stuff from where they had been keeping it, help him unpack it, discussing how this is Great Aunt Someone's crock pot, the second one she ever owned (now in mustard yellow!), and she would be happy that he had it. Only we also had her first and third crock pot as well as great aunt someone else's full array of crock pots; the upshot involved having nine crock pots, none of which worked, none of which could be thrown away.
I, ultimately, had a nervous breakdown, after we moved into a HUGE house and I watched it fill with garbage and crap. The level was about the same as the lady's, only with the food issues (and bug and rodent issues) of the guy's. I quit my job, went on depression medications, and got to cleaning. I moved 15 garbage bags out of the garage in one day. I moved 12 bags of garbage out of the kitchen in one day. It took a total of 3 weeks and well over a hundred garbage bags to get the house livable, and that was only after I bargained with him that anything that was "his" would go into his office - a huge, nice, well lit and ventilated room. His room quickly became packed to the gills, and I learned to hide the garbage bags until JUST before the trash men were due to arrive, because he would go through 30 bags of garbage and spread it all in a fine layer all over the front yard, just to rescue the VERY IMPORTANT broken statuette that someone that WAS NEVER ALIVE WHEN HE WAS left in the barn until they died and the property was inherited by his family.
Ultimately, I divorced and took my daughter to my parents, where I had to cope with my own hoarding issues (I might never get one of these again, and I have had to give up so much already, and ...). I believe that I am in recovery - I throw things away happy in the knowledge that I don't "need" anything save my daughter and my insulin. And I can always buy more insulin.

So- two hoarders (mine a very mild case). One will never recover or even recognize himself in this type of thing, and one is in recovery. This show would have helped me a lot, and will help me now (no! I DON'T want to be like that!)

Thank you for pointing it out to me.

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