This season of A&E’s “Hoarders” just keeps getting worse and worse—from a hoarding perspective at least.
In the second two-hour episode of this series, titled “Dale,” the drama unfolds in Fairbanks, AK. Dale‘s 3,500-square-foot home is literally packed to the rafters with junk. The home is so full of garbage, in fact, that he can’t live in it, so he’s staying in a rotting trailer on the premises, which provides no more shelter than a “cardboard box,” according to his daughter-in-law. There is absolutely no way he’ll survive the fierce, 66-below-zero Alaskan winter in it.
To make matters worse, there are no working utilities on the premises—water, electricity, gas. They’ve all been cut off, because Dale is too embarrassed to have service personnel come in and set things right.
“I am extremely ashamed in having anyone see my house,” he confesses. “No company for years.”
With winter coming, he’s agreed to seek professional help. Enter Robin Zasio, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding disorders, and Corrie Chalmers, an extreme cleaning expert who specializes in biohazard and hoarding. Certain members of his family are also on hand to help him out, although heaven knows they’ve tried in the past.
And even with all those professionals and volunteers, it’s not enough. So they call in the U.S. Army. It seems Dale is an Army vet, and service members from the local base, Fort Wainwright, volunteer to help.
“We never give up, and we never leave our own behind,” says their leader, bringing tears to everyone’s eyes.
And while Dale is grateful for their help, he’s also extremely stubborn. Here’s what we learned from the episode that might be useful in dealing with any epic messes in our own lives.
Hoarding is much more common than you think
There are messes, and then there are the up to 19 million Americans who have hoarding disorders of some type who could benefit from professional help. Their disorders could be toxic and even deadly (like Dale’s), so you’re doing them a great favor, and perhaps even saving their lives, by helping them.
Hoards can threaten your life in more ways than one
The odors of mold and mildew can be toxic and ruin your lungs. But that’s not all. Dale’s kitchen is so filled with flammable objects, his sister fears that a cooking flame could easily catch the whole place on fire. Dale says he’s thought about that, and if he couldn’t beat the fire out, he’d run for his life. Unfortunately, the place is so stuffed with debris that there’s nowhere to hide. And then there are the diseases you can catch from the vermin. The list goes on and on.
Hoarders are often trying to fill a void
Zasio explains that hoarders often have experienced a great personal loss that creates a void in their lives, and they’re trying to fill it with junk, so they can deal with that rather than their feelings. In Dale’s case, his wife left him and then passed away, and his daughter, whom he was living with, died of complications of drug addiction. Then he had severe health issues of his own, and these occurrences broke his heart and spirit.
A hoard can actually damage the integrity of a house
When the Army volunteers come in to remove the junk, they find that the hoard is actually holding up the roof on the second floor, because its weight has broken the support beams in the ceiling on the first floor. The experts have to hire a contractor to come in and secure the walls, floors, and ceiling before they can continue, or the entire house will cave in.
Not all hoards are old garbage
Dale can’t pass up a bargain, and has filled his home with thrift and discount store finds. Some of the items the cleaning crew encounters are brand-new, but have been neglected for so long they’re useless.
If you want to help, don’t judge
“I’m coming from a place of love and a place of concern,” says Dale’s daughter Dee, who has flown in from Missouri to help.
Zasio then tells Dale, “You are a hoarder. That’s not a judgment, it’s a term that describes your behavior.”
50% of something is better than 100% of nothing
In addition to the mess in Dale’s house, the 5-acre property is littered with about a hundred broken-down cars rusting in place. Chalmers brings in an auctioneer and a tow truck driver to help Dale deal with these clunkers. Most are ruined beyond repair, and some even have trees growing up around them that have completely blocked them in. The auctioneer finds only a few that he can sell, and makes Dale an offer for them, which Dale immediately rejects, because he’s convinced he can fix them up and sell them for more.
The experts have made a deal with the tow truck driver to haul everything else away, but Dale can only bear to part with about four of them. Seeing that he’s not budging, the helpers decide to focus on getting a house cleared and in living condition before winter comes.
How does this hoarder house end up?
In the end, it still isn’t pretty. Since the main house on the property has so many construction issues, the workers can’t safely clear it out, but they do make headway in getting rid of the mountains of junk in the front yard. That, at least, is progress, although whether Dale will prevail against his mountain of stuff is unclear. Because not every reality TV show can have a clear-cut happy ending, right?
New episodes of “Hoarders” air on A&E Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
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