The Hoarder in me

The A&E show Hoarders is the driving force of my Monday evening TV line-up. All the episodes are the same—a person is acquiring massive amounts of stuff (regardless of sanitation or practicality) as a result of a mental compulsion usually triggered by a traumatic event or emotional experience. Their homes are filthy and falling apart under the weight of their stuff; protective services have probably already been called. Professional organizers and therapists show up at their front door, offering to help them clean up the house and their life by getting to the bottom of what makes them hoard. The hoarder is typically reluctant (and angry), desperate to cling on to their useless crap for whatever reason. After the two day clean-up, the hoarder has a break-through and the houses usually appear a little bit cleaner, if not fully transformed into a livable space. There is lots of family drama, dead animals, and rat droppings— but it’s like a train wreck I just cannot stop watching. It fascinates me. It has to be a mental disorder because who would actively chose to live in such muck and fight so vigorously to keep it that way?

I can’t watch Hoarders while I eat. I just can’t.

I think my favorite part of the show is the organizers’ facial expressions when they first enter the offending hoarder house. They’re professionals; they have to remain calm and composed. They always enter the house, if they can wedge themselves through the fronts door, and exclaim polite things like “My, my! You must really like to collect bags of hair!” when their eyes are really screaming “HOLY CRAP! I CAN’T SEE THE FLOOR. IS THAT FECES I SMELL? WHERE IS MY HAND SANITIZER?!”

And the way the organizer maneuvers through the house is nothing short of hysterical. He or she wades through the piles of clothes and garbage, occasionally tripping on trash and struggling to find their footing. “Ooopsies! This is quite the obstacle course!” they giggle nervously whereas I’d be like: “Ugh, I just touched something sticky. If I fall down in here and contract hepatitis, you are so sued.”

But humiliating mentally ill people on national TV most certainly benefits the viewing audience, too. If I feel too lazy to pick up laundry or do the dishes, I just tell myself, “It could be worse. At least I don’t have an unidentifiable number of dead cats under my couch.”

(There was an episode on the other day featuring an older woman who was nominated for Hoarders because she had over 3,000 purses that each had a matching pair of shoes. After watching the entire hour-long episode, I still don’t see what the problem was.)

My family thinks I hoard oven mitts.

I don’t know how that ugly rumor started, but I am here to put a stop to it.

I have three oven mitts, family. THREE.

I can just see the next episode of Hoarders: The camera zooms in on my mother’s tearful, concerned face. “She just won’t stop buying oven mitts!” she cries, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “HOW BIG IS HER OVEN!? WHAT COULD SHE POSSIBLY BE COOKING? IT’S LIKE A BED BATH AND BEYOND IN THERE. HELP HER, PLEASE!”

The screen then cuts to me sitting on the floor of my kitchen, gleefully tossing a colorful array of oven mitts up into the air and letting them shower back down on me like rain. Clayton is woeful in the background, burning his fingers while he tries to pull a hot casserole dish from the oven because, like a true hoarder, I collect the oven mitts yet refuse to use them. “No, go away! You’ll get them dirty!” I shriek, clutching my precious against my chest.

Next we pan to my sister who looks sternly into the camera. “Courtney, if this doesn’t stop, I’m going to cut off all contact with you. You’re ruining yourself. I can’t have a sister who hoards …,” her face twisting in disgust, “… pot holders.” Then she dissolves into heartbroken sobs. “Remember when we were kids and we used to play Hot Lava and jump on the furniture to avoid touching the carpet? I want THAT sister back, Courtney. THAT sister. Not the sister who is destroying her life with padded cooking gloves.”

Wait, that sounds more like Intervention.



  1. Glad you liked it! Clay read the entry and said, "I'm really tempted to leave a comment on your blog to confirm that yes, you have three oven mitts in the kitchen ... and about four in a box to donate because you don't want anyone to know your shame."


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