Friday, June 17, 2005

How the hell does it get to that point?

Have you ever said to yourself, "My house is a pigsty."?

Have you got dirty dishes to be washed, and crumbs from breakfast on the counter and a floor that could use sweeping? Can your fridge and freezer stand to be washed and tidied? Are the garbage cans due to be emptied? Is the laundry due to be done and your bed unmade?

Is your house just untidy, or are you living in squalor?

No really. I don't just mean untidy house, I mean a really messy house.

This photograph (removed photograph of trash piled to within one foot of ceiling) is of someone's living room. It is absolutely incredible to me and makes me wonder what goes through one's mind or doesn't that causes their house to get that way.

A friend of mine took this photo and several others just like it. I can't tell you how he came to be in possession of these photographs or where he is, but what I can tell you is that this is the SECOND time I've seen photos like this from him. My friend says that it's not his second time, that he sees it quite often. He also believes that he has this disorder but caught it early enough to deal with it.

That's frightening.

The person that owns the place in these photographs literally offered to "crawl into the kitchen to fetch him a cup of coffee".

The disorder has several names, from what I can tell: Squalor syndrome and Compulsive hoarding are the two most popular.

According to the February 2005 newsletter of the Mood Disorders Support Group of New York City, it's not quite so uncommon as one might think.

Associated with other mood disorders, such as anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, dementia, mental retardation, autism and brain injury, the disorder can come about in people with absolutely no psychiatric history or illness of any kind.

How do you recognize a hoarder? A common feature of hoards includes piles of paper or newspapers, magazines, books, mail, notes, and lists. Some will have piles of old clothes, rotting food and stray animals. Research tells me that at it's worst, hoarders will have accumulations of both animal and human waste where it ought not to be, such as in the kitchen or on the bed.


The two hoarders who have had incident to touch my life through my friend, are both elderly, socially isolated and suspicious. This most recent one, whose photos appears in this blog, refused entry to the home by anyone for over 13 years.

Like any other such disorder, hoarders only seek help when they hit bottom or when the hoarding is discovered by others. In other words, when a neighbour or a cop notices the smell or when the filth starts spilling out of the house into the yard.

In this latest case it was a sewer backup in the basement that forced the hoarder to call for help but in the earlier case my friend told me about, the hoarder asked for help after 15 years. As you can see by the pictures; 13 years of trash piles up quite heavily. Imagine how the other place looked when my friend went in to clean up.

I've come across warnings that say that simply cleaning out the clutter will not solve the problem. Sometimes this will create a worse problem and further isolate the hoarder and they just start hoarding again.

I've asked my friend if the first hoarder has gone back to hoarding. He tells me that they've moved into an apartment and their neice has taken care to get them a roommate/caretaker who ensures that the hoarding cannot continue. I don't know what will happen to this latest hoarder. Let's hope they can get the help they need. At 75 though, I'm not holding my breath.

If you know a hoarder, and I don't simply mean someone who won't pick up after themselves, I mean a hoarder, there are ways of helping them get help.

UOCHD offers the following suggestions (click on the link for the details of the text):

2. DON'T FIGHT THE FIGHT FOR THEM. (iow, let them clean it up or you're wasting your time)

It's like the old joke, how many psychiatrists does it take to change the lightbulb... and the answer is, Just one... but the lightbulb has really got to want to change.

Only it isn't a joke. It's real, very very very real.


HART (1-800-HART) said...

Good Article. Here in Winnipeg the Age & Opportunity volunteers were advertising for classes on hoarding .. from the link Senior Hoarding Project

Age & Opportunity has developed a project to help Winnipeg residents aged 55+ who are dealing with hoarding. This program is the first of its kind in Canada and is designed to assist older adults whose "stuff" fills their home and limits their lives. Houses full of saved items result in falls and injury, loss of friends, isolation and emotional distress, sometimes resulting in a risk of fire or eviction. This presentation will provide a background of senior hoarding as well as explain how concerned individuals can make referrals to the program. All are encouraged to attend this important presentation. For more information, please contact Michelle Ranville at 956-6440.

Now, on a personal note, when Yvonne screams to me to clean up the business because my junk is all over the place, I can refer her to your pictures! My basement's not that bad~~


FTS said...

OKay, I kid around about how people I've known are messy, but this takes it to a whole new level.

he man said...

....reminds me of how Baghdad looked after good old Bush got through. ;)

FTS said...

Hey! Where have you been? At a chilihead convention?

shez said...

Hey! Where have you been? At a chilihead convention?ion?

Pepperfire said...

As unlucky as it may seem, NO, I haven't been at a chilihead convention. Although, I have been busy selling peppers all over and sundry and will again this weekend.

Some fun huh kids.

eleanorzgoldfish said...

have no idea what a chilihead is, but I stumbled upon this site through google.
My home is maybe half as bad as this. My mother has been hoarding things for as long as I can recall.
I try to clean up the house, but invariable she goes into a rage when I do, so I've realized it's pointless.
It gets this bad because no one has the balls to confront the hoarder in question and tell them how fucked up they are.