It was with a heavy heart that I heard confirmation that the A&E reality show “Hoarders” would not be filming new shows. Hoarders has been cancelled.
Having purchased a partially hoarded house I found some comfort in Hoarders, which profiled one or two homes an episode and “cleaned house” with the help of Psychologists, professional cleaning crews and the hoarder him or herself.
I know that some folks complained that the home owners were being exploited and objectified for entertainment, since audiences seemed simultaneously to enjoy and be disgusted by seeing the filth and mountains of mess (and sometimes poop). It seemed to me that the hoarders were getting help that they would not have otherwise received and were the better for it. The crew never laughed at or belittled the hoarders, instead they just tried to convince the hoarders that something had to change. Getting rid of the hoard was always a safety and mental health issue, and usually a financial necessity. Yes, it was a television show, but it wasn’t just about entertainment.
As for me, I found some brethren. I was not aware of the show while I was cleaning the worst of the worst out of my new house, a friend told me about it and said I should watch. When I did, I found that the shows gave me comfort.
Comfort you ask? Among the piles of wet papers and rotten food?
Yes, comfort. Because until I saw Hoarders I didn’t know that I was not alone in stumbling upon a collection of bottles of urine. Hoarders showed me that people other than the former inhabitants of my house have found themselves at a point in life where the kitchen is as likely a place to dispose of human waste as the bathroom. In Hoarders I saw how, like with my house, a home’s smell can make visitors gag while the inhabitants remain completely unaware of the stench. And at the end of each episode of Hoarders, I was amazed at how the hoarded houses looked after they were cleaned out, and it reminded me of how far my house had come.
So yes, comfort.
Now, as I help my parents clear out some of the decades of accumulated clutter in their house, I find myself using the techniques I viewed on Hoarders. I’ve learned to understand how so many things can simply be piled up — unused or incorrectly stored. My parents are not clinical Hoarders, and their house is still functional and the front rooms pristine. However, the private areas and attic and basement are full, and unsafe. My parents are like a lot of true hoarders in that they are old and grew up with next to nothing. Though my parents went to college, married, had children and bought a home, they were never wealthy. And they never moved. As a result, decades of stuff has never been relocated or inventoried.
My parents, and their parents before them, lived through some of the most economically and socially challenging times in United States history — the Wars, the Depression, the time both before and after the civil rights movement. I think they grew up with an underlying worry that they could lose what they have at any given moment, or that someone would try to steal it from them. So, like some of the clients on Hoarders, they ascribe value to things that no one would buy, and by piling up mountains of stuff, they endanger the most valuable possession they have — their house.
The show Hoarders helped me to know that even the most unlikely item has a story, that sometimes the story needs to be told before the item can be discarded, and that when the smallest treasure is exhumed from its grave of stuff, it triggers a memory — of a different time, a different place, a different person.
As I help my parents clean out I have specifically utilized a few Hoarders tricks:
1. Lay out a tarp to place items on, they look different in the light of day.
2. When cleaning out a closet, dresser, or any area, I don’t stand there and pull out items one at a time. Instead, I take everything out at once and set it all out, assuring my parents that we’ll return the items they choose to keep, but we need to get everything out first.
I’ve learned it’s easier for most people to justify keeping an unused item in a closet– it’s not hurting anybody — but it’s a lot harder to justify putting useless things back in once they’re out.
3. Try to do as much in one day or sitting as possible. It’s never a good idea to allow extra time to think about items.
This was the genius of Hoarders. It wasn’t just for filming that the task had to be accomplished in two days. It’s better for the hoarder to have to make quick decisions.
4. Remove discarded items immediately.
Even when possessions are marked for trash, there can be a “declutter remorse” if there is a bag or piece of furniture or appliances or tools left in view. It’s just too tempting for someone with hoarding tendencies to revisit the trash, go through it and bring stuff back in, promising to fix it, or find a use for it, or sell it — later. I’ve been known to load my parents’ trash in my car and take it home to put out in my own trash, just to avoid the temptation to “trash pick.”
A&E’s Hoarders may be cancelled, but it has and will continue to help me. Now, as I watch my Dad go through piles of once expensive clothing piece by piece, stuff that’s over forty years old, suits that he has never worn and he probably inherited, clothes that have mice dirt on them and moth holes in them, I think,
“What would Matt Paxton do?” and I feel better.
And as I clear an area, making it easier for my parents to get around and find the things they actually need, I know that no matter how hard the fight was, the process is important, especially when it helps them locate and display — or even sell — the things that do have real value. Plus, I feel better making the home safer. But it ain’t easy. No, it’s not.
So thanks Matt and the whole Hoarders crew. You helped. You really did.
Just Me With . . . among many other things, a collection of vintage Ebony and Look magazines, a couple of flat mice (but not cats!), a tractor, bowling shoes, and more patience than I thought I could ever conjure up.
Piss, Puke, and Porn — The discoveries I made inside my new old house.
That Hoarders Smell — How to get rid of that awful smell.
Toilet or Kitchen Sink —- Who Can Tell? — I saw some nasty stuff in the old kitchen.
Exhumation by Accident — I dug up something in my yard.
Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.
I bought a new vacuum cleaner over the weekend. The heavy-duty big fancy one I’d had at “The Marital Home” never worked as well as I’d liked and it was a mess to empty. I tried to sell it at a garage sale and ended up just giving it away. In my down-sizing frenzy for my small home, I bought a little stick , cordless, bag-less number that only worked a short while before dying in a corner, unloved, unused.
I’m embarrassed to say I’ve been sweeping my area rugs.
But I broke down and went to the store to get a vacuum cleaner this weekend because that’s how I roll. Don’t be jealous, it was one of my more exciting outings lately, but I digress . . .
Once I arrived at the store I felt visually assaulted by the displays of the bright yellow Dyson vacuums. You know, the state of the art industrially designed models that cost between $300 and $700. They are different from other vacuum cleaners because they have that fancy ball thingy — and maybe something new with the motor? I don’t know, but I bet they work like a dream. They should for that amount of money.
I will never buy a Dyson, however. And it’s not because of the price (though I could/would not pay that much for a vacuum cleaner at this point in my life).
No, it’s because of the commercial, the first commercial that introduced the product and that has always just pissed me off. I’m not going to link it here because it still irks me. If you know what I’m talking about you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The commercial features James Dyson himself with his gorgeous English accent, which to us Americans automatically makes him smart. Well, according to the advertisement, Sir Dyson’s wife had asked him to vacuum. Dutifully, he took out their vacuum cleaner —- but he didn’t vacuum. No, he examined the device and decided that it had serious design flaws. So instead of vacuuming, he took their vacuum cleaner apart, analyzed it and eventually designed a prototype for a new vacuum cleaner to which he gave his name — the Dyson.
The rest is history.
Now, the wife’s perspective. Though I’m sure she’s reaping the benefits of the Dyson vacuum cleaner’s wild success, I think that on that day, in that moment, she just wanted her husband to vacuum the freaking rug. That’s all. Just vacuum. No analysis necessary. No deconstruction, no prototypes. Just vacuum the freaking floor!!!!!
Imagine her surprise when she walked into the room and instead of finding a clean floor she found her husband — on the floor — surrounded by vacuum cleaner parts, dust and debris. Anyone who has ever tried to take apart a vacuum cleaner knows that it makes a bloody mess. (Note the English vernacular? Yes?)
All that woman wanted was for her husband to vacuum the carpet. It’s a simple request. But instead, he likely retired to the garage to begin to build his prototype for the best freaking vacuum cleaner ever invented, because what men and women — and his wife — had been using for ages was woefully insufficient, malformed, mis-designed, inconvenient and just not up to par.
But for all of his superior, nay, grand design plans which revolutionized carpet maintenance as we know it, Dyson did not vacuum the freaking floor when his wife asked him to!!! Instead, he picked that moment to take their vacuum cleaner apart.
And we’re supposed to buy his Rolls Royce of vacuum cleaners?
What a pile of bollocks!
I say to Sir Dyson, I know you are brilliant, but:
Just freaking vacuum the floor. Then, after you are done, design your fancy, superior, super-expensive, ball-having, yellow vacuum cleaner.
That’s all Dame Dyson wanted. I don’t think she was asking for too much.
Just Me With . . . a Dirt Devil.
Of course Mrs. Dyson can probably afford a golden vacuum cleaner and a maid and butler to do all of her floors, but it’s the principle of the thing for me.