Hoarders: Sometimes, A Hoarder Just Can't Be Helped

On last night's season two premiere of Hoarders, we met Augustine, a 68-year-old "level 5 hoarder" who is, frankly, very hard to empathize with.

Augustine is facing eviction by the city of Gretna, Louisiana, if she doesn't get her home up to code, so the show brings in a team of professional junk removers and housekeepers to remove over four tons of garbage and human and animal waste from the premises. They also bring in Augustine's two adult children: Jason, who hasn't seen his mother in four years and now lives in Seattle, and Susan, who raised Jason after he was removed from her mother's home as a teenager. They're supervised by an OCD counselor and a professional hoarding counselor, who miraculously remain positive and chipper throughout the entire ordeal, which, as you'll see in the clip above, involved retrieving Augustine's false teeth from layers of garbage, and the disturbing discovery of a decades-old cat corpse. (Later, they found another one.)

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This show is always hard to watch (I find that the best way to watch it is to grab a drawer and start throwing things away while you watch), but this episode was especially difficult because Augustine has no remorse for what her actions have done to her family and her community (not to mention the cats), and absolutely no gratitude toward the people who are trying to help her stay in her home. She only blames other people for her situation — her son's father for abandoning her, her mother for not loving her, and especially, her daughter for throwing her stuff away. The camera lingers over some of the few items in Augustine's possession that aren't covered in excrement: little plaques that say things like "Bless This Mess" and "As soon as the rush is over, I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. I worked for it; I owe it to myself; and nobody is going to deprive me of it." Augustine certainly followed through on the plaque's threat, though there's no evidence that she ever worked for anything.

Watching this episode, it's impossible not to be struck by the generosity and caring of the people who are helping Augustine, and to wonder if their resources couldn't be used helping other people who actually want to change. Her children are both remarkably well-adjusted, and it's hard not to wish that they could have this woman out of their lives for good. At one point Jason says, with sadness in his voice, that he feels no emotional obligation toward his mother, only a moral one, and he's a hero for even feeling that. If this were the first episode of Hoarders, I probably would never watch it again, because there was no lesson to be learned: Unlike most of the people profiled, Augustine seems less like a person with a compulsion caused by feelings of loss who desperately wants to get her life in control, and more like the clinical definition of a sociopath. And a failed one, at that. Hopefully, Jason and Susan will be able to get over the guilt they feel about "abandoning" Augustine, because she clearly stopped caring about them long ago.

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DISCUSSION

I am too afraid to watch this show because I can easily see my mom going down this route. She will not throw anything away. I understand being a packrat because I struggle with that but I don't see the point of having so many clothes (of which you only wear 5% of them) that they are spilling out of a closet, two dressers, and piled on the floor. Or having a pantry so cluttered you can't even see or eat most of the food. I keep trying to get her to go back to therapy. Maybe she just needs to move three times in a short time period. I found that is what made me cull down my possessions.

I wish we had better methods (or access) for problems like this. I haven't seen other episodes but I imagine if people got help sooner it never would have gotten so out of control. I am glad her children turned out okay.