“Hoarders” is back! Yup, the notorious A&E show has returned for Season 10, and its premiere episode trots out what we think may be the worst hoarder house you’ll ever see.
The back story: In the episode titled “Andy & Becky,” we meet Andy and Becky Otter, who own a house in Marysville, WA, that is so packed with junk, it has caught the eye of city officials, who insist that the couple must clean it out in 30 days or lose the house entirely.
Luckily, the Otters have the help of “Hoarders” experts Michael Tompkins, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Erica DiMiele, an extreme cleaning expert, who arrive at the house to help them cope with the all-encompassing avalanche in every room. In doing so, they teach us all a thing or two about hoarding that we never knew. Here’s what we learned.
Hoarding is an illness
In every episode of “Hoarders,” viewers are reminded that true hoarding is a type of sickness. A disclaimer at the beginning of each one explains that compulsory hoarding is a psychological disorder that effects as many as 19 million Americans. At the end of this episode, the severity of the problem is made especially clear when Andy asks Becky to get counseling and she agrees. (We think Andy could benefit from some counseling too!) Nonetheless, the moment is a reminder that hoarding is a mental illness, not a question of laziness, and should be treated as such, with the proper help and support of professionals.
Watch: Stop Before You Declutter These 5 Things
Hoarding is not a right—even on your own property
Andy kicks off the episode by looking into the camera and saying curtly: “I’m Andy, and I’m a rebel fighting for my freedom.” The Otters are constantly saying that they should be able to live as they wish and that the government, law enforcement, and their neighbors should have no say in the way they choose to keep their house.
But they are mistaken: Hoarding is a danger both to yourself and to your neighbors. It can lead to pest infestations, health and fire hazards, and a long list of other problems, and the government has a right to step in on grounds of public safety.
The hardest part is getting started
In every “Hoarders” episode, there is always a struggle to get people to finally start throwing things out. Someone sits over a pile of old takeout containers or a few hundred pairs of pants that are too small for them, explaining why they want to keep them all. For the Otters, this is especially difficult. Becky is so nervous about throwing away her stuff, she runs away from home the night before cleaning crews descend. This means the team is stuck. Sure, they could take this opportunity to throw everything into a truck and drive off before Becky can stop them, but Dr. Tompkins explains that will do no good. If she isn’t there to learn how to throw things away, she won’t learn anything from the experience, nor gain the skills she needs to keep her place free of clutter.
When Becky finally returns, later that day, she still keeps wandering away from the property, getting upset whenever she is urged to throw something away. Only after lots of encouragement does she open her mind to the decluttering process.
Cleaning is easier if you have help
Along with Dr. Tompkins, DiMiele, and the cleanup crew, the whole neighborhood comes to help clean up the house. The help they received from neighbors comes in handy, since they’re running out of time to meet the city’s deadline. Cleaning out a whole house of hoarded goods is hard work.
You always need at least two exits in your home
As members of the cleanup team approach the deadline, they focus on what they need to do to pass an inspection. One requirement is to allow for an alternative exit from the house for safety reasons—such as fires or medical emergencies. If those things happen, the Otters need to be able to get out or be taken out. With all the piles in the house, this would be difficult, so they clear out a pathway to a back door.
Hoarders can get attached to some truly useless stuff
At one point, the couple’s son Russ tries to winnow down the pile by challenging his parents to keep only items of sentimental value. Dr. Tompkins agrees that this is a good plan, but it doesn’t work out as they’d like. When the team tries to convince Andy to throw away a case of Mountain Dew that expired almost four years ago, Andy argues that these bottles are, in fact, sentimental items. Seriously, dude? It takes some time and persuasion before he will let go.
Save some of it now … or lose all of it later
As time grows short, Michelle (the couple’s daughter-in-law) levels with an uncooperative Becky, saying that she can either save some of her stuff now, or lose all of it in a few days when they lose their home. Once it’s put that starkly, Becky realizes it’s best to keep purging.
How do these hoarders end up?
In the end, Andy, Becky, and their cleanup team end up tossing out 160 tons—or 40 truckloads—worth of stuff. They save Andy and Becky from losing their home, assist them in getting the charges dropped, and help them feel more connected to their community. After a daunting task and a long few days, it’s a happy ending all around. At least for now.