Peeking behind our neighbours’ door to ferret out their secrets is something of a national sport. When the secret turns out to be a hoard of unbelievable size and content, most of us respond with equal measures of
relief and repulsion. We realise with sudden clarity that we actually aren’t that bad, but feel compelled to watch as the reality of someone else’s life is revealed.
The Channel 4 series ‘The Hoarder Next Door’ is recommended viewing for anyone who has ever looked with disdain at someone else’s collection and accused them of being a hoarder.
This upbeat and frankly fascinating series delves into the homes of some of the worst hoarders in Britain, revealing what life is like for them. Their hoards are not ‘a bit of clutter’ but are suffocating, overwhelming and often life-threatening piles of possessions and rubbish. Themes emerge from many of the hoards: cardboard and plastic packaging of the type that most people throw away without a second thought is carefully flattened and stored with thousands of other pieces. The rationale given, if one is given at all, is that it may be useful one day.
Salvation for these out-of-control hoarders comes in the reassuring form of Stelios Kiosses, a psychologist with apparently limitless faith that anyone can turn their hoarding behaviour around and live a clutter free life.
‘There is a little bit of a hoarder in all of us,’ he declares lightly, knowing that most people could not contemplate the compulsion to hoard on the scale that he deals with. And he achieves results with these vulnerable and often lonely people. His approach is two-pronged; helping the individual to address the deeper psychological roots of the behaviour, then introducing Allyson and Zoe, a cheerful duo of professional de-clutterers that arrive, slip on their marigolds and literally get to grips with the hoard. Brave women indeed! One gets a sense that there is very little that these two haven’t encountered before, so when one of them says she needs to get some air, you just know it is unbelievably bad!
We all feel good when we finally sort out a cluttered cupboard or clear an over-filled room. The relief and sense of achievement that these hoarders feel when they begin to take control of their collection is palpable: it is a life-changing moment. The message is clear: it is never too late or too difficult to begin, and with the right support and attitude, the seemingly impossible can be achieved.