I am a messy person. I have always been a messy person. Note – this is not mean that I am dirty, but clutter? Laundry that does not make it to baskets? Mail piling up? Stuff like that? Guilty as charged. I know my parents shuddered at what would become of me as a grown-up (or more accurately, a kid without the legal justification of “hey, I’m a kid”) with my proclivities. This is the sort of show where my parents can take some assurance – if they were not running in terror from the experience. Considering that TLC is a channel that portrays wanton copulation, polygamy, and stage mothering, Hoarding: Buried Alive might be the most transfixing hour on television. Starting with initially discovering the show on some sort of weekend marathon, I have been at intervals horrified, appalled, horrified, bemused, disbelieving, horrified, and hypnotized by the magnitude of the inability of these folks to throw … anything, and I mean ANYTHING, away. I am not sure if transfixing is a compliment. Surely there are a lot of “wrong reasons” working here. Time obsessing over shows like this can rip me away from telling loved ones I love them, or perhaps becoming better at a legitimate life skill – but what can I do but honestly report the truth?
TLC’s show over the hour, follows two different hoarding cases in parallel. When I mean hoarding as a real problem, I am not sure I can overstate it. We are talking about cases where entire rooms are unusable – and not just rooms, but things like kitchens and bathrooms. I have experience working around lacking a working dishwasher for instance, but a sink with a permanent clog (like one of the protagonists suffered) – how do you live? Somehow, these people do … more than that, they often have families and love ones.
Of the marathon I got to see, all of the episodes were fascinating, but one in particular crystalized what the show could be. In this episode – the focus was on Berkeley, California and the sort of couple that reality shows in general are made for. The lady (the hoarder) was this apparent hippie (or not – but given the location I feel like generalizing) who is not a young lady anymore – and decidedly ornery. The poor home was totally bursting with stuff. The kitchen was full of stuff, and the living room seemed to be less a room than a giant walk in closet. Hell, all of the rooms felt like walk in closets. Her sitting areas seemed like carved out lanes to places. Her boyfriend was miffed at the condition, though he seemed a bit henpecked on this sort of thing. She was giving no quarter. In her defense, she rhapsodized about surrounding herself with things that made her comfortable – such as her collections of BANANAS. I have no idea if she was oven drying them or just collecting them as-is. I am not sure what value a 1989 Chiquita winter original would fetch her. The episode goes through the normal paces. We learn of her conflict – she doesn’t think there is a problem. Then she meets with a shrink and we get to some childhood wound or whatnot that has explained her sudden inability to throw anything away. After that, a professional organizer comes in …
Really, I am not sure if I can recommend this without feeling icky. But when you take the sheer magnitude of the mess, sprinkle in the psychodrama that is so crucial in reality television, and see how powerfully these people resist the possibility of junk leaving their homes … I can’t turn away. If you feel a sudden compulsion to dust your entire home after watching, I can hardly blame you.