The Tape Hoarder and the Hoarder Baby Mama

This week on Hoarders…

I don’t feel the need to comment on every episode of Hoarders.  As anyone who watches the show knows, a lot of the episodes follow a very familiar path.  They’re all interesting in some way, but some have a twist that makes them quite different and the outcomes more volatile and sometimes more hopeful.

Beverly the Tape Hoarder

Beverly is an older woman who loves to record television programs.   That obviously isn’t unusual – most of us do it in some way.  I love my DVR as if it were one of my children.  The difference for Beverly is that the joy is not in watching those programs, but in the taping and collecting of those tapes.  I was really glad to see Dr. Suzanne Chabaud come in as the therapist for this segment, since she specializes not only in hoarding but also in OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and it looked to me like Beverly had a whole lot of OCD going on which led directly to her vast hoard of VHS tapes and other recordings.

What made this segment interesting is twofold: first the nature of the problem and second the very incredibly strained relationship between Beverly’s 2 daughters.  Most hoarder families show a significant level of dysfunction, but these women took it to a new level.

But first the problem itself.  The hoard was not just stacks of tapes, it was also the filth that happens when someone obsessively pursues only one activity.  Lots of trash had accumulated while Beverly was busy with her recordings.  Extreme Trash Man Matt Paxton was a good choice for this segment for getting in there and clearing that mess – he knows his filth clean-up.  He didn’t run into a lot of resistance until the topic of getting rid of some of the tapes was raised.

It was at that point where Beverly tensed up and the daughter ratcheted up their bickering to epic levels.  This poor woman had so much filth and clutter in her home that it was horribly unsafe and on top of it she had to deal with 2 grown women who were essentially fighting over who Mom loves better.  In the meantime one was actively enabling the hoard and the other was acting like a petulant, put-upon child who was really looking for her mother to give her something she felt was lacking in their relationship while placing almost unbearable stress on an elderly woman with a serious mental illness.  Uncool, ladies, very, very uncool.  Family conflict is always more complicated than can be shown on a TV program but these women (the enabler in particular) needed to grow up, right that minute, and focus on why they were there and not on their decades old squabbles.

What a mess.  Fortunately for everyone Dr. Chabaud is very good at what she does.  She enlisted the help of the grandchildren and Beverly realized that she did have true allies in tackling her issues.  Ones who cared only about her during this crisis and were patient and willing to listen and suggest solutions to the problem.  Bless those kids who were able to rise above the family history and the behavior of their parents and truly help their grandmother.

This is a woman who needs a whole lot of therapy for a whole lot of issues.  She isn’t going to stop recording – it beings her pleasure and really, why should she?  It makes her happy and if she can learn to take control over it she can have her cake and eat it too.  I don’t know if she will fill her house back up or not, but at the very least she gained a new relationship with her grandchildren and that has to be worth something.

The Hoarding Baby Mama 

There’s a reason that most of the participants on Hoarders are elderly.  It takes time to build up a hoard to the point where it puts a person or a family in true crisis.  Unfortunately that means many years have usually passed before there’s any professional intervention and the prognosis ends up being pretty bleak.

But this week we met Megan, a young mom in her 20s with an already significant hoarding issue.  With 3 kids, including a newborn infant, the mother of her partner finally stepped in and refused to allow them to go back to the house after the baby was born.  The family was living in a hotel until the house could be cleaned up.

Megan had sort of a typical hoarder’s story.  A traumatic childhood with a lot of early loss and pain made her want to hold on to the things that reminded her of deceased loved ones.  This snowballed into collecting more and more things while having fewer and fewer resources to care for her home.  Kids, stuff and what I suspect was quite a lot of long-term depression had led to, well, squalor.  Mice everywhere, poop everywhere, filth and dirt everywhere –  just a completely unsanitary and unsafe place to raise kids.

The truth is that the mouse poop may have saved Megan and her family.  If it had just been “the stuff” her hoard would have been pretty minor (in the Hoarders scheme of things) and might have been overlooked for many more years.  But the filth and the deteriorating condition of the home led to a really early intervention by Mark Pfeffer (one of my faves).  As soft-spoken as always, Pfeffer explained why getting to this problem while Megan was so young made him feel quite optimistic that she could change her thought processes and behaviors.

Megan had a distinct lack of the sort of eruptive defenses we see so often when hoarders are asked to let things go.  She was more sad than angry and had yet to build such strong walls around her disorder.  When shown the real amount of clothing she had accumulated she was properly amazed and acknowledged the excess.  When her home was clean she was tearfully grateful and happy for herself and her children.  She accepted aftercare without hesitation.

It’s nice to see an episode where everyone involved really feels optimistic that the problem can me tackled successfully.  I hope the show features Megan on a future “where are they now” episode so we can see how she’s doing.  I hope we someday get to see her with a smile on her face after she gets help dealing with such a sad past.

So that’s it for this week on Hoarders (you can read more about Hoarders in general and other episodes at Everything Hoarders).  Who knows what we’re in for next week!  All I know is that I have a copy of Matt Paxton’s new book, The Secret Lives of Hoarders, sitting on my nightstand and I can’t wait to dig in.  He deals with the weirdest hoards and is always candid on the show, I can’t imagine what he’s seen in his years of doing this job outside of Hoarders.  But I’m going to find out!  And you can, too – just click through the link below and pick up a copy for yourself!
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