So I must have spent half a day watching Hoarding: Buried Alive over the weekend. That show is like the ultimate roller coaster ride. It starts out with a house, seems normal, but as they approach and go inside, you gasp in horror. It always seems to go from bad to worse, with some new atrocity of piles of used diapers or roaches crawling over everything or dead animals buried under the messes. We actually tried to eat dinner while watching it, and I can honestly say that if you want to lose weight, put that on while you are eating. You won’t be going back for a second helping.
After watching three or four episodes, I decided to clean up my own tiny "hoard" in my garage. My father-in-law came out to help, and in no time we had three garbage bags full—mostly newspapers and cardboard I never got around to hauling off to the recycling center. I only spent maybe an hour and a half before my allergies got the best of me, but my daunting mess of a garage is much cleaner, and I can't wait to set up my workout bench again and hang up my punching bag so that I can use a portion of it as a gym! Yay!
But back to hoarding, I can’t quite figure out how people allow themselves to live in filth. Granted, my house isn’t always the neatest or the cleanest. My kid loves to make messes, and while he’s great at cleaning them up at the daycare, at home…well…not so much. Add volumes of junk mail, my wife’s mountain of shoes inside the doorway, laundry, newspapers, etc., etc., etc., and sometimes I feel like I spend way too much time cleaning up. But my house will never EVER EVER come close to looking like those houses--even in most of the "after" pictures.
I’ve realized that there are really two problems that are presented on Hoarding. You have the people that just don’t want to let go of anything, which to me seems like a real mental disease, and then you have the people that are just lazy. On this one particular episode, this woman lived with her two kids (a 17-year-old girl and a 15ish-year-old boy). The mother claimed she had fibromyalgia and couldn’t do anything without suffering extreme pain, and the kids wouldn’t do anything either. Mountains of trash piled up, and nobody seemed to care or notice. The mother blamed everything and everybody but herself, and she even got to the point where she refused to talk to the therapist because the woman was "belittling her" and saying she was "unfit to be a mother." This lady was also a diabetic, and instead of putting her USED NEEDLES in a sharps container—or even a plastic bag—she was just throwing them into this garbage heap beside her. They actually had to have a HAZMAT team come out and clean up her needles, and sure enough the team found at least one that wasn’t capped. Are you freaking serious, lady?!?!?!?
The kids didn’t want to live there, and yet the girl cooked (on one burner amid a pile of trash) for her mother and didn’t want to leave her. I kept thinking that those kids should have been placed with their father or in foster homes, but I realized that the daughter was fiercely emotionally attached to her mom, because otherwise why would she live in this filth? Not to mention the place was crawling with roaches. Yes, roaches. Queue the vomit...
In the end they got it all cleaned up, and the family lived happily ever after, blah blah blah. I don’t buy that though. That lady had to have been one of the laziest people on the planet. She couldn’t take trash out because she was in pain, yet she was walking through the house just fine. She couldn’t even put her needles in a bag so that they weren’t poking people?
What drives people to such low points in their lives? This lady obviously was depressed and sick and just in a horrible mental state, but to subject your kids to that? I just don’t get it.
On another episode, one lady actually claimed that she was a very selfish person, she knew it, and she would never change. Her boyfriend was ready to leave her because of her hoarding, and this was their final straw. They cleaned up their place and worked out their differences, but I think that lady’s honesty said it all.
We have a hoarder house about a mile away from our residence. We drive past it nearly every day. We've watched over the past few months as they have filled three or maybe even more dumpsters, and the house itself isn’t all that big. Part of me would have loved to have seen the inside before they started, but if given the opportunity to actually go, I ultimately would have declined. Just cleaning out my cluttered garage was enough to send me into a horrible sneezing fit.
I could never be a hoarder. Someone very close to me was on the verge of (probably even crossed the line of) being a hoarder, and unfortunately I had to deal with cleaning up most of the hoard several years ago. Luckily I found some auctioneers that helped us sell most of the stuff, but we had both a big and a little dumpster of pure trash hauled out. I don't mind talking about it to people, but I'll just summarize it here--it taught me a lesson, that's for sure.
These people that are just lazy hoarders, the ones that won’t throw away their trash—they just need slapped silly or else tossed in jail for a month or two to learn discipline and respect for others. And really, that lady from that show should have spent some time in jail for abusing her children by forcing them to live in conditions like that.
But for the ones that have to hang on to material possessions, I understand it's a mental disease, but I can't identify with them at all. They find value in garbage. The one had a 55-gallon drum filled with ballpoint pens. Seriously? Like 10 of them aren’t going to last you the rest of your life? You really need 5000 of them? I had to throw out 10 pairs of worn shoes when cleaning up the hoard I had to deal with. Not one of them was fit for wearing even around the house.
I have a little Zen Calendar on my desk, and one saying in particular was so good that I kept it, cut off the date, and taped it to my monitor. It reads:
“Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you obtain it, it is nothing special.” – Shunryu Suzuki
That's the way I've TRIED to live my life since high school. I don’t let material possessions own me. I may give in once in a while, but at least I try, and I think I'm rather successful. I mean, I look at my own house now, and I really think it would take a small-sized U-haul for us to move. If it burned down, I wouldn't be upset. I'd just replace the things we need, buy a few things to have fun with, and move on. And here's a good example of my philosophy: the other day I was looking at Poweriser jumping stilts, thinking they’d be so cool to have, and then I realized that I’d probably wear them a handful of times, get hurt or realize that I’m not 18-years-old anymore, and then put them in a closet or up in my loft where we keep all of our stuff that we no longer use. Yeah, check them out. They look pretty awesome, right? But how many times would a 35-year-old use these things??
Bottom line, don’t be a slave to your desires. Don’t be a slave to material possessions. The next time you go to buy something, ask yourself if you really need it. Because chances are that you don’t.