Lets say that you don’t spring clean often, but wouldn’t you be able to smell where your favourite cat had disappeared to? Ok, I’ll grant you that perhaps it would be difficult over the stink of dried dog faeces, rotten food and rat urine. Or maybe the dull musty odour of wet moldy packing boxes and mildewed shower curtains has dulled your noses. Maybe the floor to ceiling pile of old newspapers, dirty clothes, discarded insulin syringes and teddybears prevents air from flowing through the bedroom. No? Can’t be? You have not been in the bedroom for years? And how long did you say your cat was missing again?
When the external cleaners found the dead cats rotten body the hoarders cried and you could see obvious distress that they were experiencing but quite honestly they deserve to be charged for cruelty to animals and have their home condemned for the disease ridden cesspit they have let it become. Simple.
I am sorry but hoarders are sick and need to be institutionalised like anyone else with a mental disorder. If not for themselves then for the radioactive mess that their neighbours have to live with. I cannot understand how anyone, quite obviously not destitute, could function in that kind of filth and squalor. What fascinates me is that they can sit in a pile of animal droppings and not accept that they are mentally ill or even have a problem of any kind and then still have the gall to defend themselves and throw a fit when someone wants to get rid of old stale food that a hobo would probably not eat! The fact that they are unwilling to accept any wrongdoing on their part instantly leeches away any shred of sympathy I may have for them.
Add to this, the incredible anguish that they cause their children and loved ones and the physical danger from fires, falling boxes, germs and disease I am sorry, I’d tie them to a tree in the garden, use matchsticks to keep their eyes open and let the fire department torch the place while they watch. Seriously.
Staged or “real”, my usually very intelligent wife loves to watch these “reality” programmes on TV and I confess, some of them are entertaining and hilarious in a way that makes you feel superior and appreciate your simple life more. Call it clever producing or just clever editing, let’s face it, Honey Boo Boo is like watching an old fashioned Candid Camera show without anyone telling the participants they are on TV… Shocking but entertaining nonetheless. Wonder what they are going to do next? Aside: I can feel my brain cells dying by the second – save me someone!
So “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC is another of these amazing insights into ‘other peoples’ lives and I must admit that very few things rile me up as much as the participants do. Anyone who knows me understands that I am not a particularly empathetic person at the best of times – I’d probably put that in my personality ‘Cons’ column – but I feel zero pity for these people or their plight.
Thinking back, I used to have a grandmother who I suspect may have been a hoarder. I was too young to really tell but the more I think back, the more I realise that it may be true. She was a very reclusive type and had ostracised herself from most of her family for reasons I will never and do not actually care about. The result was that barring one set of cousins who lived in the other part of her semi-detached house, my once-a-month visit was probably the most anyone not living there ever saw her. While she still worked, she used to give me a shoebox of Côte d’Or chocolate (yum) every time I visited and I would hide it in my cupboard so that I would not have to share with my siblings. As I grew older I stopped visiting “Dirty Gran” and even the promise of chocolate could no longer lure me there. I do not recall if it is just the self-centred indifference that I as a teenager had towards her or if it may have been something to do with the general filth and cluttered home that as I grew older I could tolerate less and less. I do recall boxes of crap in the passageways covered in dust and cobwebs, dried dog pooh behind the bathroom toilet and a spare room covered in bags of stinking fertilizer and makeshift door trestle tables filled with supposedly prize winning orchids and violets. My favourite thing was having roast chicken and hot sunday white bread until I realised how filthy the kitchen was and that I would rather fetch a pre-cooked bird from the corner bakery on the way. I do have some fond memories of her but they are somehow tainted, as if I cannot see past the worst things I remember.
I can understand a little sentimentality with hoarding something. Grief, we still have a bag of baby clothes from when my kids were young almost a decade ago. A single dustbin bag mind you – ready for donation when we have built up enough courage. Yes, I can understand the reluctance at throwing away something you are attached to or something you should not have – I threw away my art portfolio eight years ago with the move to our current house and I still deeply regret doing it. Yes, I keep packing boxes for a few months after getting the new whatchamacallit or doohickey – just in case I have to take it back but I do do a good chuck out every so often. Grief, we must have donated easily 50kg of old clothes a few weeks ago. My kids are even willing to do a regular donation of things they grow out of or no longer play with (Dad has to be strict sometimes, but they eventually let things go willingly when they realise it makes space for new goodies).
One thing I need to clear up here: to me there is a difference between someone collecting something and hoarding crap. Sure some collectors are a little cuckoo and can take it overboard but usually collectors will preserve and display their treasures in a way that gives them joy and a visitor to a collectors home may be astounded at the entire living room shelved with every kind of oil can manufactured since creation or comic books all categorised by genre, published, superhero and date but you are unlikely to find dead cats behind the collectors beloved teddy bear set. You are not going to find a cockroach infestation in the porcelain dolls and you sure as hell are not going to find 5 years worth of empty chocolate wrappers stuffed behind the couch. Collectors value what they have and tend to care for things more than hoarders would. Sure some collections are not to everyones taste and they may not be organised or displayed in a manner suited to visitors but they are not usually crap that should be incinerated or be in the local landfill. I once visited a business acquaintances house only to discover he was a collector of magazines. His home was filled – there was not a single wall not covered in shelves and piles of magazines. He had every single National Geographic, Time, Scientific America, Popular Mechanics and hundreds more that I had never heard of. Yes his house was full to the ceiling, but there were open passages (shelves in the wider ones), he could use the bathroom, there was a clean kitchen (magazines in plastic ziplocks on shelves above the kitchen cupboards) and other than magazines everywhere, the place was clean. What was more telling was that he could on command, fetch whatever magazine I suggested and reverently pull it from its protective plastic sleeve and give me its life story. To me thats a collector. Slightly dippy and obviously not firing on all cylinders to my liking, but not a hoarder.
Now I do realise that a lot of these hoarders have slipped from perfectly functional lives into this mental state – usually through some trauma in their past and they are quite obviously ( to me at least) in dire need of medicinal fortification. However, even though I understand that mental issues need to be dealt with carefully and professionally, I feel nothing but revulsion and dislike to these people – it’s almost irrational on my part. Perhaps they are good people struggling and the editors are only showing us the juicy parts but hell they get my goat when they defend the fact that they did not notice their favourite pet was rotting behind the bedroom dresser drawers.