serial hoarder

ImageI’ve started to seriously enjoy the Australian series Selling Houses Australia, so when I found out there was an episode about a hoarding house, I had to tune in. What I watched was as much a cultural lesson in dealing with uncomfortable situations as it was a show on cleaning up a hoard.

The host Andrew Winter was visibly distressed upon entering the hoarded house, but there was none of the American, “Oh my god! I can’t believe it!” sort of panic or shock. He seemed rather to be sucking in his breath and trying to think of any way to demonstrate his surprise without being rude. There were references to “untidiness,” “mess,” and “the worst clutter I have ever seen,” but after the show’s overview, it wasn’t until about 1/3 of the way in that the term “serial hoarder” was used. The difference between hoarder and serial hoarder is anyone’s guess.

The crew was sensitive to the situation, but no hoarding or dehoarding experts were called to the scene. Professional movers and cleaners helped empty the house and the process was similar to every other hoarding show we’ve seen: the man kept rummaging through the trash insisting on keeping what others would deem useless stuff. In the end, the cleaned up house received offers, but there was no mention of whether the inhabitant hoarder accepted one.

This show, which usually has a good sense of humor and cheery tone, was unsettlingly sad to me. Perhaps it’s my own experience watching the stuff accumulate that makes me feel so glum, or perhaps it’s the nature of the hoard itself that sucks the joy out of a space that is meant to be a safe zone.

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