Hoarders vs. Thrifters

So for the past year or so I’ve been obsessed with A&E’s show Hoarders. Now, I realize that the main focus of the show is to address the problem situations that these people have come full on with and then showing how the specialists and professional organizers manage each situation, but there’s something that always bothers me about the show. Each episode a 1-800-GOT-JUNK truck pulls up (whom I’m sure has an exclusive contract with the show) and then the house in most episodes is purged of all it’s crap that has built up, then the stuff is hauled away to some undisclosed location. What I don’t understand is in the houses where there’s not poop smeared on the walls and where it’s just a lot of new/unused/volumes of stuff – why don’t they have a garage or estate sale?

About 50% of the episodes the underlying reason is that the people feel the need to hold on to their items due to financial constraints, fearing that  if they get rid of an item, that they’d need to spend the money to purchase a new one eventually. In the most recent episode the hoarder confided to the camera that she wanted to keep a pair of (in my opinion what looked to be shitty cheap K-mart lamps) “because they were a pair”. She went on to state that she “could go find a tacky lamp at a thrift store for cheap” but wanted to keep the ugly ones…because they were a pair. This pissed me off because of some peoples’ reputation of thrift stores is that there is nothing good in them. Which isn’t true of course, it’s people like that who have no imagination, no artistic inklings to realize that there is good stuff and not all stuff is even old or tacky in thrift stores. That very reason alone is what separates a hoarder from a thrifter. Thrifters can think on their feet, their savvy, they’re resourceful, they like stuff that just works.

What these folks don’t realize is that if they had a garage sale just once a year or every couple of years, it not only helps thin down all of your belongings but also can make you some serious cash. See my tips for having a garage sale post from a while back here. I know that this is a bit idealistic and that this might come off as insensitive. Most of the cases are people who have pretty harsh mental issues and it boils down to just needing to get the volume of stuff out of their premise. My mother’s garage sale alone made over $2000 (yes THREE zeros) last year! *I should note that her sale is usually combined with a neighbor or two and usually some friends decide to put some items on her sale as well. It’s win-win. The larger the sale the more people show up. Her garage sale has built up a reputation for being big – and having a great variety of good stuff. She has a garage sale twice a year in the spring and the fall. Come hell or high water – tons of people show up in droves.

Here’s my idea: Not too unlike a couple of shows on HGTV or Discovery, I wish (in the cases where it’s plausible) that they’d have the hoarders pick and choose what items they want to sell and then have massive garage sale. Simple as that, have a sale, then the crap that doesn’t sell – they donate or toss. Readers of this blog probably think I have items everywhere in my house, but I don’t. I mostly re-sell what I buy or it’s something I needed. I just think it’s a missed opportunity by the show to address cases where American consumerism has run rampant, and to show the viewing public a great way to help themselves by making some cash or even just taking a long hard look at what they purchase and accrue. My personal “I can re-sell this”  mentality was acquired from growing up and watching my mother turn our seemingly useless piles of junk that slowly built up every year into some serious cash. It’s what helps me maintain a fine balance of the stuff I buy. The show sometimes leaves me depressed and unfulfilled because I feel sorry for the folks that aren’t quick enough to realize that they can change their situation or because they were just never taught how to keep their stuff clean and tidy. It all boils down to parenting in some respect.

Always remember a favorite quote of mine: “he who dies with the most toys is still dead” right?

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8 responses to “Hoarders vs. Thrifters

  1. I watch this show as well and I completely agree with you. It is really baffling that they don’t have huge garage sales to try and help the previous owner make some money. I know the show “Clean House” holds giant yard sales to get rid of clutter. The stereotypical idea of the thrifter does closely resemble the image of the hoarder. There is a huge difference between buying random junk that creates clutter and being savvy with your thrifted purchases. Thrifting isn’t necessarily unsanitary or useless. As you mentioned, you turn around and re-sell many of your purchases for profit. People need to gain a better understanding of the art of thrifting.

  2. I have to work a little bit hard every day to not become a hoarder. I’ve never been one, but the tendency is definitely there. I try to watch the hoarding/clean out shows regularly because it helps me appreciate (even more) how clean and organized my house is and how much my family benefits from the calm that comes along with a lack of clutter.

  3. My name is Katrina

    Although I’ve only seen a couple episodes, I do remember these people putting aside things to sell in a few of them. Am I wrong?

    I’d also like to emphasize the fact that these people DO have a downright mental disorder, unlike the slobs showcased on “Clean House”. It’s a hard disorder for any of us thrift enthusiasts -or averages Joe’s at that- to understand. It would be detrimental to their psychological wellness to see their things being sold to strangers. They had a hard enough time letting these things go in the first place. I saw a woman literally struggling to allow someone to throw away a piece of trash. Do you think they are easily going to let any possessions of actual value be sold in their front yard? That’s just asking for a manic episode or regression into old ways. The psychologists/help team are doing the right thing; off like a bandaid! Maybe living in a better environment would encourage them to further their career to help their monetary struggles?? Not even the $2000 they could make from a sale is going to buy their well-being. It could even make them feel worse if they were to make monetary gain on such emotionally bearing merchandise (i.e. the widow who held onto her deceased husband’s valuable belongings). What if these items that were so important to them didn’t sell?? That would be yet ANOTHER unneeded crushing blow to someone who just needs to clean up and move on.
    “Not only did your family/friends think you had a bunch of crap, but these people who are here to help you (while being videotaped for the world to see your pain) allowed you to think this crap was valuable enough to sell! But it’s just crap and it didn’t sell anyways, so NOW you have to throw it away! Sorry Widow So-and-so! Have a nice day! Here’s to your mental health!”

    A note of levity to my otherwise hostile-seeming comment: Places like 1-800-GOTJUNK do sort and donate the items that they haul away from sites such as these. Bonus for us thrifters, right? Eh? Eh? Let’s hope they infiltrate an ‘insert what you like to thrift’-hoarder nearby soon!

  4. Thoughtful post. I can’t comment on the shows you mentioned as I don’t have cable (the thrifty gal in me, I suppose!), but I’m pretty cynical about reality type shows in general – while their goals may be to ostensibly ‘help’ people, the drama and humiliation they seem to incite make for good ratings… not sure if that happens with the shows you watch ??

    I do think, though, that hoarding is an emotional/mental health issue, and that consumer culture has helped to create it (I’m a thrifter AND a shopping columnist, so I’m not judging anyone for shopping, just to be clear!).

    And I do agree that there are some negative stereotypes about thrifting still out there, but I think the decor shows and mags are helping to dispel that….

  5. I agree with you on some level. But you have to know hoarding is a mental illness. I just cleaned my mother’s house after she passed away in December. Cleaning out someon’s house or having a garage sale doesn’t solve the problem, you have to address why the person is holding on to so many things. It doesn’t make sense to us but to the hoarder there is a lot of emotion wrapped in their stuff. It’s a sad disorder for everyone involved. Interesting thoughts though.

  6. Yes I think they are trying to deal more with the emotional issues (some hoarders on the show are much worse than others, some seem just overly consumptive, as you note) in the quickest way possible. Kind of like intervention–gotta pull the band-aid off as fast as possible.

    My main concern is that a lot of those things are reusable, and I hope they aren’t just being chucked into a landfill. Please donate to a charity (whether a thrift store or direct handout)!!

  7. freaky that they are adding a second show on another network.
    We run into this everyone once in awhile, but I am wondering if it’s a little more rare than we are being lead to believe.

  8. What looks clean and usable (and therefore salable) on tv is often stinky and stained and hideous in real life. My mom is a hoarder and I can assure you 75% of her books have mouse pee on them and 100% of her stuff has cat hair on it. So while it might look like garage-sale goldmine, just be glad that the show isn’t in smell-o-vision.
    Oh, and lord-love-a-duck if my mom could handle selling her priceless treasures at garage sale prices.

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