TV Hoarding Shows – A Compare & Contrast


Which set of compulsive hoarders do we like best?

I’ve long ago admitted to my addiction to A&E’s Hoarders.  What can I say, maybe it makes me feel better about my own housekeeping skills.  But there is something fascinating about delving into the pathology that makes people keep old soda cans and diapers.

Clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so.

There are currently 3 popular cable reality series that focus on hoarders.  Each has its own spin, but they all exploit…er, examine the phenomenon of compulsive collecting of crap.  Let’s take a brief look at all three and you can decide which is best suited to your viewing preferences.

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Clean House

The Style Network entry is the longest running of the three as well as the most shallow.  They don’t really use the term “compulsive hoarders” and the overall tone is relatively light.  Main host Niecy Nash (yeah, the one from Dancing With the Stars) and her team descend upon families whose homes have become battle grounds over clutter.

Nash and Co. have the signature MO of The Yard Sale.  They talk people into giving up their crap and sell it all at a big garage sale in order to finance designer Mark Brunetz’s redesign of the home.  Nash matches up to the first $1000.  After the yard sale, the family goes off to a hotel and the team does its thing, creating an organized, spiffy new space for them.

Clean House Pros:

  • – Tone is light
  • – Yard sale is a fun idea
  • – DIY fans will like the renovations
  • – Home is cleaned

Clean House Cons:

  • – Families do little of their own work
  • – Hoarding is not addressed as an ongoing issue
  • – No aftercare

Clean House is Hoarders Lite and the show does nothing to really help the families it portrays.  They’re hoarders and they will simply crap up the new space just like they did the old.   Clean House is for entertainment only – there is no examination of pathology.  The other two shows are far more serious in their approach.

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A&E’s Hoarders

This one I’ve discussed before.   They choose severe hoarders who are in danger of dire consequences if they don’t get their shit together.  A psychologist or other expert comes in and assists an organizer in clearing the house in two days to try and avert whatever disaster is imminent.

In this case, the families or individuals have to agree to the “intervention” and work with the organizers.  Much of the show focuses on the frustration felt by the experts, family members and the hoarders themselves over the difficulty of the clean-up process.  Once the two days are up, the show is out of there, usually leaving a clean house and sometimes averting [insert name of this week’s disaster here].     There is no host or set team, though there is a revolving set of docs and organizers who apparently have signed on with the show.  There is also occasional ominous music.

A&E’s Hoarders Pros:

  • – These are the worst of the worst hoarders.  They appeal to the voyeur in all of us.
  • – The title cards clearly label hoarding as a disorder
  • – The docs involved provide pretty good analysis of what the hoarder experiences during the clean up
  • – Aftercare is provided

A&E’s Hoarders Cons:

  • – Makes me want to clean.
  • – Two days isn’t enough time to really address the underlying pathology
  • – A cleaning team or group of friends/relatives usually does most of the work
  • – Aftercare is only funds
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Hoarding: Buried Alive

The newest entry into the Hoarding Sweepstakes comes from TLC.  I have boundless love for TLC due to many happy hours watching fashion victims get make-overs on What Not to Wear, but I was sceptical of their hoarding show.  It seemed like a lot of bandwagon jumping when it debuted last season.  I should have had more faith.

Hoarding: Buried Alive features moderate to severe hoarders.  Each discusses their own problem and discusses it with a professional of some variety.  The pair begins with some sort of activity designed to reveal some of the root causes of the hoarding or some way to change behaviors that lead to hoarding.  The show is far more slowly paced and focused on the individual and why they hoard as well as how they can get better.  Each person featured has sought help, usually without the intervention of family or friends.

Hoarding: Buried Alive Pros:

  • – Hoarder does most if not all of their own cleaning and discarding
  • – Clearly addresses pathology on an individual basis
  • – Allows adequate time for the individual to make changes
  • – Care appears to be ongoing

Hoarding: Buried Alive Cons:

  • – Really makes me want to clean
  • – Show is pretty slow paced
  • – Not shiny and happy – the disorder is revealed as being painful and intractable
  • – Lacks the instant gratification of seeing the whole house de-cluttered

Which show you choose in order to indulge your hoarding watching sort of depends on your mood.  Do you want silliness?  Go with Clean House.  Do you want the thrill of watching really disgusting messes get cleaned up tout suite?  Go with A&E’s Hoarders.  Want something that is a little less exciting but delves more deeply into the disorder?  Try Hoarding: Buried Alive.

It is reality TV – all are exploitative to a degree.  But they all also address a problem that is more common than most people think.  Every time I see a house with a two car garage that has both cars parked in the driveway I think HOARDER.  Come to think of it, every time I look in my basement or my pre-teen’s room I think HOARDER.  Exploitation can be fun and educational, too!

So go, indulge in your choice of hoarding shows.  I watch all three depending on my mood.  Clean House has been around the longest so runs in repeats about 20 hours a day and you have the best chance of catching at random.  A&E’s Hoarders is available on Netflix and you can watch some full episodes on the A&E website.  Hoarding: Buried Alive has only had a single season of which you can catch occasional reruns.  You can buy the DVD or get it through Video on Demand, but it isn’t out on Netflix.

Now I’m going to sit here and fight the urge to clean the bathroom.

More Hoarders on Movie Rewind:

Everything Hoarders

The Rat Hoarder and the Cat Hoarder

The Bunny Hoarder and The Chicken Hoarder

Hoarders Goes Super Extreme

Hoarding Episodes of Hoarders

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