Monday, September 20, 2010

Buried Alive

Part of my job is to deal with hoarders. You know - disgusting people who cram garbage into their house and are too lazy to clean. Except you're wrong. These are not disgusting people. They most often are not lazy either. And, while there are times when I disagree as to the standard that makes an item considered to be garbage, to the human being who is affected by hoarding, they most certainly do not feel they are living in filth.

The majority of hoarders that I have come in contact with have a plan. They have a goal they feel they are working towards. And they don't want to fail. They just keep trying. Most often I see people who buy products on sale and plan on reselling these items to make money. Auctions, eBay, Craigslist -- in their mind they plan to double their money, subsidize their income, and prove to their family and friends that they aren't crazy; they're trying really, really hard.

The garages are usually the first filled. Then basements, guest rooms, rarely used dining rooms - without meaning to, their entire house becomes filled. That's when we usually see it tumbling into the yard. "But the rain and the snow is going to ruin these things," I explain. "I bought tarps to cover the items," they explain. "I can clean them, dry them out if they become wet. Besides, it's mostly glass items." Always an excuse, I think. Always.

Neighbors are angry. Fed up. Annoyed. "Fine them! Kick them out! I don't care what happens to them; my property values are going down!"

Emergency response teams are worried. "If we get a call to the house we won't be able to get our equipment inside to help them. If there is a fire our men are in danger of becoming trapped in a labyrinth of stuff."

Health and Human Services are reluctant to help unless there is an eviction notice or a possible raze order.

Nobody is happy.

Everyone is overwhelmed.


Including the home owner. No one sets out to bury themselves alive in stuff. No one plans to isolate themselves in their embarrassing habits. No one chooses to feel overwhelmed every second of every day. No one decides to do replace family members and friends with a good sale or a really awesome Goodwill find.

These are the stories that keep me up at night. These are the stories that make me wonder when their sons and daughters decided enough is enough and turned their back for the very last time. These are the stories that make me worry about what will happen... what if there really is an emergency? What if the EMT can't get to them quick enough? What if they really are kicked out of their home? Who cleans all this stuff up? Who decides where it goes?

It leaves me feeling utterly overwhelmed and not having any idea where to start. Having no idea which step I should make that will be the most effective. I suppose, it leaves me feeling very much like the hoarder who has no idea what to do next.


Jeni said...

I told Chris today that I have hoarding tendencies. We cleaned the basement today and I am so proud of both of us for throwing a ton of stuff away! We literally filled up a whole dumpster. I can understand how hoarding can become an issue.

Greg said... for a story about a fire call in Staten Island. Note the sentence on how the victim was found.

Phoenix Rising said...

Oh, WOW @Greg! WOW.