Beyond Hoarding (2019) Review

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Bed, Bath, and Beyond the Hoard.

Beyond Hoarding (2019): 6 out of 10: Straightforward documentary on the science of hoarding that features a few cases.

The Good

The Good: About halfway through Beyond Hoarding, a scientist shows up with some brain scans. He claims that hoarding behaviour is unrelated to OCD, as was commonly thought, and is a separate issue. He points out that hoarding behaviour has a strong genetic component. (Something that my unscientific marathoning of Hoarders bears out.)

“Compulsive hoarding is a genetically discrete, strongly heritable phenotype. Neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies indicate that compulsive hoarding is neurobiologically distinct from OCD and implicates dysfunction of the anterior cingulate cortex and other ventral and medial prefrontal cortical areas that mediate decision-making, attention, and emotional regulation.”

The Bad

The Bad: Thank god the scientist shows up because Beyond Hoarding suffers from a serious case of why do I exist. When people in the show state they have never heard of hoarding, I am thunderstruck. Hoarding TV shows have been a staple since 2009. I mean, it is hardly a hidden problem. It is like being surprised that breast cancer exists.

There is one chap in particular who rubs my rhubarb the wrong way. He is not a hoarder, but Jesse Edsell-Vetter, and he is the hoarding intervention coordinator for the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership. He gives a Hoarding Intervention Training seminar at Temple University and I swear I could hear the eye-rolling from the audience through my television.

Now I confess I have sat through many a company meeting where an outside consultant is brought in and spends an hour telling us things we are well aware of, gives common sense solutions we already know, and talks to us as if there was a boat outside we apparently just got off. So perhaps I was just triggered.

The hoarders interviewed in Beyond Hoarding are fine but there is no real enlightenment hearing thier stories. The talks with the psychiatrists and scientists are all too brief interludes between the individual hoarder stories. Beyond Hoarding would have been wise to focus on the science and then have a few brief hoarder stories to reinforce what the science is saying.

The Ugly

The Ugly: The initial hoarding covered was an interesting couple on Long Island. They had lived as hoarders famously for years (There was a related death years earlier.) The relationship between the couple is interesting. (They were apparently two-thirds of a hoarding throuple that had lived together for decades.)

Where the ugly comes in is the delightful interview with the neighbors who clearly liked the couple and overlooked the hoarding. Now they feel guilty, as it is worse than they could have imagined and their friends are dead. The female neighbor, being both a good neighbor and friend, visits the initial survivor of the hoard in the hospital. Since the incident got quite a bit of press, it turns out that everyone had an opinion and one nurse told her unsolicited, “You are the neighbor. You let this happen. You let them die.”

This poor woman is still bitter about this years later. Understandable on one level, but seriously. Let it go. Everyone involved is dead. You did what you thought was best. You didn’t want to cause trouble for your elderly neighbors and everything is clearer in hindsight. I wanted to reach through the screen and let her know it will be okay. Let it go.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: If you find yourself needing to film a documentary on morbidly obese people getting weight loss surgery, you can’t exactly replicate an episode of My 600lb Life. Now in reality, if you want to know the motivations, challenges, and behaviours of such people, a marathon of my 600lb life episodes is not a bad option. But there is a place for a more sober and less exploitative option.

Beyond Hoarding is a less exploitative option for the hoarding issue. It does away with the artificial drama of Horders, Hoarding: Buried Alive, Clean Sweep, Clean House, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners, Only Human, Britain’s Biggest Hoarders, The Hoarder Next Door, and Hoarder SOS.

Good lord now I realise it I have been hoarding tv shows about hoarding. It is like my bookcase filled with books on minimalism.

This is apparently a sketch of one of the woman involved in the hoarding throuple and not a piece of artwork found on the wall of a serial killer’s lair.

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