“Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.” – Proverbs 15:16 (ESV)
For the last month or so if you wanted to find me on Monday nights at 9pm, I’m probably glued to the TV watching the Emmy®-nominated documentary series, Hoarders on A&E. TLC also has a similar show called Hoarding: Buried Alive which I also watch. The shows are arguably identical, although A&E’s seeks for a two-day cleanup whereas TLC’s is willing to follow the person for weeks or months to show their progress. (I know, these have been around for a few years, but I just found about them recently.)
Each episode alternates between the real-life stories of individuals who hoard stuff. “Stuff” can be anything—clothes, treasures picked from dumpster diving, railroad memorabilia, even dozens of long-dead cars on a wooded lot; you name it.
There’s no end to what people will hoard, or how much of it. Thousand square-foot homes are literally filled floor to ceiling with mountains of collected whatever, often leaving only the slightest pathway from room to room. Oftentimes cooking and bathroom facilities long ago were abandoned to fall into absolutely decrepit disrepair. Ceilings and walls are shown falling apart from years of water damage, and roaches, mice, and maggots are the only (and constant) visitors.
Each episode’s hoarder(s) agree to meet on-camera with a licensed mental health professional and a clutter-clearing specialist to try to make their homes livable once more. Family members share how the hoarding has impacted them over the years and the hoarder is challenged about their obsessive ways and dire conditions. Nine times out of ten their willingness to change immediately reverses when a bag or box for “trash” is brought into the situation and the reality of losing their stuff is before them. Shows wrap-up with room-by-room before and after shots of the clean-up progress; sometimes drastic, sometimes minimal.
Rarely is anything the hoarders have of any value, real or sentimental. You would think that the fact that a TV crew and convoy of 1-800-GOT-JUNK trucks just rolled up to your house would be pretty good indicators that you have a problem. Secondly, they’re not 1-800-THIS-IS-REALLY-VALUABLE-STUFF trucks, they’re GOT JUNK trucks. In almost all of these cases the old adage is wrong, sometimes one man’s junk really is…junk. But these people lost the normative perspective about their situations long ago.
The hook of the show/s, for me, is seeing what things people are drawn to collect and their reactions when they agree to attempt to confront their disorder and clean out the hoard. In fact, watching their stories inspired me go through my spare bedroom closet and donate some little things I’d been holding onto needlessly for a few years. But that’s not all. I even find myself praying for the hoarders and their families during and after the show.
Sadder than even the hoarding disorder itself is the bondage to sin and this world that it evidences. It frustrates me each week to sit and watch the (sincere and well-meaning) mental health professionals offer only human wisdom that never gets to the root issues. Yes the life issues that propelled them to this state are relevant to a degree but more relevant is their need for the Cross. The counselors and cleaners that come in fail each week to reach out with the only Solution—that there is a pearl of great price which is worth getting rid of everything for!
So, I watch week after week. Amazed. Shocked. Aware that, but for the grace of God, that can be me. Oh, just once to have them turn off the cameras and bring in a godly man or woman who will, with love and compassion, press upon them their need to see their sins and their impinging duty to repent and believe the Gospel and thereby to receive all its curative powers!
Maybe next week…