Compulsive Hoarding - Would you collect 100 Tons of Trash in your Home
It could happen to anyone, that elegant woman who flits about parties and social circles, the impeccably-dressed young man at the wedding, the secretary who is very efficient in the office next door. Take one of these well-functioning people - a retired nursing school instructor in New York City ,who just bought herself a retirement pad in Miami Beach; she couldn't wait to leave the bleak New York winters behind and to move to such a cheerful place. There was just one little hurdle on the way to paradise: all her stuff. This was someone who had possessions, the most useless, irrelevant and absurd stuff you could think of, bursting out of her cupboards, covering her floors and rising to ceiling level. When she finally could not put off going to Miami anymore, she sought the help of an estate clearance service - someone who could help her not just pack all her stuff and ship it out, but help her manage her problem with too much clutter. When the people from that service showed up at her door to help her, at first, that was as far as they got. They could barely open the door - so full was the front room with possessions that she had collected for her compulsive hoarding habit. This habit that some people have, first came to light back at the turn of the 19th century when a couple of brothers were found in New York to have a disturbing amount of junk, trash and assorted rubbish in their home. And disturbing is the right word to use here in every sense. When they died, the police had to haul away 100 tons of mind-blowing trash - all from one home. They were the Collyer brothers, and their name has stuck ever since. They call this compulsive hoarding mania, the Collyer Brothers Syndrome.
If you watched that episode of Frasier called Dinner Party, you would hear the whole sad story of those dysfunctional brothers. Those Collyer brothers were both fine example of how when you have money, you have the means to not need the intervention of society for anything; and you can indulge in your mental illness until you run up against the laws of nature in your quest to be "just yourself". Compulsive hoarding is such a fascinating subject to many that there have been repeated shows about this on Oprah and other talk shows, where families or lone people just get behind on their housework, and no longer know how to deal with it. It only ends when the police show up one day to fish their children out of trash piled up 3 feet deep around the house to take them to foster care because they deem this child abuse.
When this disease affects younger people, they end up hoarding trash, usually. Usually, they are so involved in their lives outside that they can't be bothered keeping up with their housework. There is that episode of Friends where Ross dates a hot museum colleague, played by Rebecca Romjin. He visits her home one day and finds that it's like 'the world has ended, and trash is all that has survived'. And the way she reacts with resentment when he has something to say about it, is exactly what social workers, friends and family usually face when they confront a sadly out-of-control hoarder. Older people, usually don't hoard trash, it's just things put by for a rainy day - a thousand pairs of scissors, broken down appliances from 50 years ago, decades' worth of newspapers and magazines that can sometimes actually weigh a couple of tons that they always meant to read, catalogs and phone books stacked ceiling high, or pets by the dozen.
When you finally help them clear out their mess, they'll only start all over again. It is some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder of course; but to most people on the outside, it is endlessly entertaining to see someone do this to themselves. There is a new cable show on called Hoarders that makes sport of these poor people's affliction. At least they can now make some money of their problem.