Friday, November 21, 2008

Screaming Fleas and Possible Help for Hoarders

I received the email below from a television producer who is working on a documentary series about compulsive hoarding. If it holds true to the spirit that the producer describes, this could be a welcome and worthwhile effort that will help raise awareness of hoarding. Of course, I can't endorse the project until we see what comes out of the editing room, but if you're interested in participating, please contact the producer directly.
Dear Hoarderson,

I am working on a groundbreaking new documentary series on compulsive hoarding that will provide a team of professionals that can help those in need get started cleaning their home, no matter how big or full. Right now I am in the process of connecting with companies and professionals who have experience dealing with compulsive hoarders and who may be able to refer them to me. I came across your blog and thought you might be interested in passing our contact information along via the website.

We are not trying to exploit or paint anyone in a bad light. We’re trying to spread awareness and understanding of this underreported disorder. We’re looking for compulsive hoarders who are at a crisis point, and need to make a change in their lives. As I mentioned we would provide a therapist, and professional cleaner and/or organizer to guide the guest through this difficult process.

I understand the very personal and private nature of compulsive hoarding, and don’t want to push anyone into doing something they are not comfortable with. We are simply hoping that people will be willing to share their stories so that other compulsive hoarders will realize they aren’t alone and can get the help they need.

Because of the private nature of this disorder, we understand that contact information can’t be given directly to us. So, we just ask that you pass our information along and people can contact me if they are willing to share their stories.

I’ve attached some information on what the show will focus on and who would be a good match for this project. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any additional questions.

Warm regards,

Abby Lautt
Associate Producer
Screaming Flea Productions
206.763.3383 ext. 239
Here is the additional information that she mentioned:

Compulsive hoarding is a very serious problem affecting millions of Americans and their friends and families. But little is known about this disorder, and too often hoarders are misunderstood and can’t find the help they need.

We are casting for a groundbreaking new documentary television series that will provide a team of professionals that can help those in need get started cleaning their home, no matter how big or how full. No project is too big. A therapist and/or professional organizer will also be on hand to help guide our guest through this difficult process. Whether or not the guest is ready and able to clean out their entire home in this short period of time, with the assistance and guidance of a professional, they will learn valuable skills which will allow them to complete the task at their own pace and keep them from repeating the hoarding behavior in the future.

We are looking for people (as well as their friends and family if possible) willing to spend 3-5 days sharing their stories in the hopes of raising awareness for this misunderstood and underreported disorder. We understand that compulsive hoarding is an extremely emotional and difficult disorder, and it is our hope that by sharing the personal stories of our guests it will help others realize they are not alone, so they can get the help they need.

We are looking for people whose lives are in crisis because of their compulsive hoarding. The crisis can take an form. For example:
  • They are about to lose their homes
  • Their spouse is threatening to leave
  • They have health issues caused by the chaos
  • They have to find tax papers so the IRS doesn’t audit them
  • Their kids are threatening to cut them off
  • Or any other major issue that can only be resolved by cleaning out their home immediately!
There is no cost to the guest. All clean up services are paid for in exchange for participating in the show. Our hope is that this groundbreaking new documentary television series helps the general public better understand compulsive hoarding while helping compulsive hoarders resolve a crisis.

If you or someone you know is a compulsive hoarder please contact us immediately at:

I understand the private nature of compulsive hoarding and am available to answer any questions or concerns you or your friends and family might have. Please don’t hesitate to contact me, and I will be happy to discuss your concerns. I can be reached directly at: 206-763-3383 ext. 239.

Abby Lautt, Associate Producer
Screaming Flea Productions
206.763.3383 ext. 239


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. My mother needs help as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this blog. I am working on dehoarding, and I am sorry you had to go through the things you have.

Hoarder's Son said...

Hi Chaotic Kitty,

Thanks for the note. I took a look at your blog - good luck & best wishes! I'm rooting for you as you de-hoard!


Charles Rinehart said...

A great blog. This is a big time mental problem for a lot of people. This obsession can ruin lifes, marriages, etc. This type of person is self destructive. They are a lot like babies. I live with a hoarder now and she refuses to change so the house and garage looks like a dump site. And if you push a hoarder too much they can come unglued on you. So be careful.

Anonymous said...

I came across your site. My mother hoards to a certain degree. It can be difficult, but her house is nowhere near the clutter in some I've seen.

Watching Hoarders on TV is pure and simple therapy for me. During the commercials I dump tons of stuff from the fridge and freezer or whatever. There's no way I want to end up like these people - being swallowed alive.

The questions I want to ask people who work with hoarders are

1) Can hoarders actually identify all they have in their rooms? If not, why put them through the agony of sorting through stuff? Why not simply convince them to go on vacation and clean up while they're gone?

2) Isn't sorting through material making the job of cleaning up much more agonizing for a hoarder? I also can't understand how any psychologist thinks it's better to go through stuff on a miniscule level when eviction notices have already been handed out. Eviction notices mean there is no time for dilly dallying.

4) How much are hoarders or the families of hoarders spending on these psychologists who go through every itty bitty piece of junk that needs to be sorted?

5) Why is it even suggested to hoarders that they have to manage such mammoth jobs by themselves?

Hoarder's Son said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for the thoughtful questions. I think that I'll use a new blog post to respond, rather than trying to respond directly in the comments. Please give me a day or so to think about a response, and please check back at the blog at your convenience.

Anonymous said...

Can hoarding or should I say the result of the hoarding cause health/breathing issues for individuals who live in the house?


Hoarder's Son said...

Hi, Anonymous - You asked, "can hoarding or should I say the result of the hoarding cause health/breathing issues for individuals who live in the house?" Basic housekeeping and sanitation can be major challenges in a home with a hoarder, particularly if the hoarding condition is severe. If parts of the home aren't easily accessible for cleaning, then, at a minimum, significant dust buildup can occur, which can cause real problems for people with allergies, asthma, etc. In more severe cases, high levels of mold can be present, and that can also cause serious breathing problems. You may have seen one of the TV shows where people try to clean a hoarder's house. You'll notice that most of the people who are actually doing the cleaning are wearing masks -- it's for a good reason!

If there are animals in the house, animal hairs, dust from dried feces or urine, as well as ammonia from urine can lead to health problems, too. Aside from those issues, also consider safety problems. Ask yourself if someone is more likely to suffer from a fall in a cluttered home or a clean home. Is a cluttered home a bigger fire hazard than a tidy home? The answers seem pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

My roommate is a hoarder/compulsive shopper. I hadn't realized this until we became roommates. For some reason the fact that 150 cubic feet of his parents garage was occupied by plastic bins of his "stuff" didn't raise alarm bells. In fact when were in the process of getting a place together I used to worry he'd find out what a slob I am and have an issue with it but I ended up being the one having an issue with him.

His hoarding is a multi-root issue. He likes to buy things, both because it makes him feel like he's fulfilling a purpose in life (he likes buying other people things as well), he thinks he's getting a good deal or he thinks he'll have a need for or make use of the item, he likes knowing he has something he thinks is special (and he thinks a lot of things are special), he will buy things with intentions of using them but never get around to it, he frequently forgets he has something and ends up buying multiples, and he never thinks much to organize or take an inventory of his things.

While this is something that has to be addressed in an ongoing fashion, he's gotten a lot better over the years we have lived together.

Here is how I've addressed the problem.

1. I've respected that his things are important to him. He has items that are are collectible and mean a lot to him and I've let him collect them.

2. I've forbade him from buying me "gifts" except during christmas and my birthday. When he breaks this rule I remind him fairly harshly that I told him not to buy me anything and to take it back or get rid of it.

3. He is allowed to have whatever he wants in his personal space as long as it's not a fire hazard.

4. He is not allowed to overtake common storage areas with his stuff. He must leave room for towels and other things.

5. Every once in a while I clean out the common storage areas and lay everything he has multiples of on his bed so he can see what he has. He is allowed to keep at least one of everything.

6. I rarely suggest throwing things away. I usually suggest that we give redundant items to someone who can use them, or that he take them to his parents house where he has storage space.

7. If he has placed an item he has just to have in an odd location because he doesn't have appropriate space for it, I ask him to take it to his parents house.

8. I don't question him or mention it when I find something strange he has bought for himself (like an easy bake oven), unless it's someplace it shouldn't be.

9. I give him a chance to explain and justify why he has 20 packs of pens or some such thing, and we talk about it before we decide what to do with them.

10. If it's been sitting unopened in a bag for more than a year, I call it to his attention.

Most of the time he's fairly compliant and occasionally when faced with all of the stuff he has HE will get flustered and tell me to just throw it away but sometimes he's a little defensive and I will usually back down if it means that much to him.

I think people have to realize that hoarders are never going to not be hoarders. I really just think the focus should be helping them contain the hoarding and keeping it fairly manageable.