I would have gotten this review up sooner, but after watching the five and a half hours of the second season of this addictive reality show my wife and I have been compulsively cleaning our house. We took one giant load to a nearby YMCA last week and have already accumulated enough stuff for a second donation. I’d be surprised if others don’t find themselves having the same reaction after witnessing the compulsive hoarding behavior exhibited throughout the episodes of this show. Watching people whose houses are overcome by stuff to the point that they are at risk of losing their friends, their apartments, or even their children, it’s hard not to look around and reconsider some of the stuff that recently seemed extremely keepable.Now obviously we are not all hoarders – as the opening credits of the show explain, around 3 million people have this compulsion to collect and keep possessions beyond what is healthy to them and those around them.
But as we started to clean our house after watching the show, we noticed ourselves making the same justifications as the people on the show – “Well, I’m going to use that in the future… you never know when this will come in handy… I’ve had that for 10 years, why would I get rid of it now?” But even as the excuses were uttered we thought about the people we’d just seen in these seven episodes and started disposing of possessions even quicker. And the ability to make that decision is the key – the individuals chronicled in this series aren’t able to do that. As they look around their ruined homes, even as they see Child Protective Services looming, they can’t bring themselves to part with their precious items – even though most of it (to the rest of us) is clearly junk. What’s most interesting about watching this show is how hard it is to feel compassion for these people. The show does it’s best to explain that this is an illness and that these people are doing this because of their mental structure, not because they’re lazy and don’t want to clean. And for the most part, that rings true. But a few of the episodes felt particularly light on the psychology and heavy on the uncleanliness. I say this because some of the most difficult cases – particularly a woman with a history of sexual abuse who was at risk of losing her kids – had a fairly clean house; it was just packed with stuff. And when the cleaners came to help her remove it, she had to touch everything and almost had a breakdown when letting the smallest item go. In contrast, one family had a completely filthy house, mostly filled with trash and animal droppings. The cleaners came, the family stood to the side while they scraped the house clean, and then they called it a day. That seems more like laziness than a mental disorder. But maybe that’s just my lack of empathy.
But that’s one of the things viewers have to accept about this show – at best an episode will be a redeeming 45 minutes where a deeply troubled person is able to make a bit of progress towards recognizing that they have an illness that is pushing their loved ones away… at worst they’ll watch a lazy, often overweight person sit around in their own filth while complaining that Animal Services and Child Protective Services are out to get them. But although it’s a mixed bag, it’s never boring. It is 2010 after all and editors have perfected the art of reality television. There’s always drama (depression, alcoholism, familial anger, etc.) and the psychologists are always on hand to take the troubled person aside and elicit a confession from them. Even non-television junkies will find themselves watching compulsively… and afterward, if the show has the same effect on you that it has on me, you’ll find yourself getting rid of as much stuff as possible.
I also reviewed the first season of “Hoarders”, and I think this season has upped the ante as far as the minimal amount of drama each episode will provide. It seems like A&E knows that this show is popular and is releasing the second season in a few parts rather than one big box set – this will only contribute to the hoarders out there who need the complete set!
Zach’s Rating: A
Perfect For: Reality show junkies
Stay Away if: Watching disturbed people disturbs you too much
To purchase “Hoarders” Season Two: Part One, visit Amazon