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Documentary sheds light on hoarding disorder

Published:May 20, 2019

Updated:May 20, 2019 11:53 AM EDT

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Hoarders. Clean House. Hoarding: Buried Alive — if these reality TV shows are all you know about the disorder, have a look at a new documentary called Beyond Hoarding.

Directed by David Coffin, Beyond Hoarding takes a compassionate look at the compulsion and includes interviews with people in various stages of recovery.

Beyond Hoarding dismisses the notion that people who hoard are simply too lazy to tidy up or get organized.

The film shows how stressful it can be for hoarders to be forcibly ‘helped’ to get rid of items in a clean-out.

It’s not just about accumulating.  It’s about not being able to let go of any of it.

The movie introduces people whose lives have been impacted by their hoarding disorder in terrible ways — strained relationships, lost jobs, eviction threats, guilt, stress, physical danger.

There are also interviews with Randy Frost and Gail Steketee, experts on hoarding disorder, and the benefits of therapy are on display.

Beyond Hoarding is fascinating, often heartbreaking and surprisingly moving.

What’s astounding is that the hitherto misunderstood psychiatric disorder is so widespread. Between 3 and 5% of the population is affected, and that means as many as 15 million in the U.S. may be struggling with hoarding.

Filmmaker David Coffin’s journey began in 2007, when an elderly relative was found in a house so packed with possessions, clutter and garbage that a team of nine men was needed to clean it out.

The fascination we all have with hoarding, says Coffin in a phone interview, is that it is a relatable illness.

“We all collect things for the same reasons hoarders do — for sentimental reasons, for utility. It’s just that people with this mental disorder can’t turn it off, and can’t see where it starts infringing on their ability to lead a normal life.”

Hoarding is extreme when rooms are so full they cannot be used for their proper purpose — too much stuff on the bed to sleep in it, too many things in the kitchen to cook or eat there. People who hoard tend to keep others out of their house.

That was the situation with Coffin’s elderly relative. He never let the filmmaker into his house; Coffin is sure social services visited, but they too were denied entry.

“People come to the door to do a wellness check, but when someone says, ‘I’m fine, I have all my faculties, I can make my own decisions,’ there’s no proof to move forward to say there’s a danger that needs to be addressed.”

The Brooklyn-based filmmaker says he shared the usual public perception of hoarding before making the movie, “Which is, ‘What’s the problem? Clean up your stuff! I know you’re an intelligent and caring person.’”

He knows now it’s far more complicated than that and hopes the movie increases awareness.

“If the movie is at least a starting point for people to say, ‘Well maybe this isn’t just you being lazy. And maybe there’s something we can do about this,’  if it kickstarts someone to at least investigate whether their loved one has an issue, that would be awesome.”

Coffin credits co-producer and screenwriter Alice Pifer for helping the movie’s subjects overcome their own fears to talk about hoarding.

“That was really the key to a lot of this film, letting people understand we’re trying to cover this in a different way and understand it from their point of view,” he says.

“It’s not about the stuff. It’s about the people.”

Beyond Hoarding is available world-wide on May 28 on iTunes and DVD/Blu-Ray.

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Unknown member
Dec 19, 2019

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