Sunday, September 27, 2009

A close-up look at a compulsive hoarder

By Anne Pickering

I recently had an up-close and personal look at someone who suffers from compulsive hoarding disorder.

Usually, the family discovers the house filled to the rafters with junk after the reclusive loved one has died.

In my case, it was my ex-husband, and he was alive — if not exactly well.

The house we had shared for 10 years during our marriage and that he kept after the divorce was in foreclosure. If he didn't act, he would lose the house and his means of making a living.

He had never let me back in the house in the 14 years since the divorce and I suspected it was because his house was a mess. But I never suspected the full extent of his issue.

The junk was piled almost to the ceiling in one room after another in the five-room apartment. The only way to get from one room to another was on a narrow path of trash that was two feet deep and crunched ominously as you walked on it. The smell was bad.

In the hallway and front room, the junk was mostly tools and supplies tucked into canvas bags or drywall buckets. There was new clothing never taken out of its original bag, new cookware in the original box, new gadgets. There were expensive items such as a $2,000 kayak under boxes filled with rusted cans of paint.

In the back of the house, a gutter had collapsed and rainwater flowed down the back wall, eventually washing out the back door and rotting the floorboards and floor beams. A blue tarp was nailed over the opening where the door had once been. In the bathroom, there was a four-foot-high mound of newspapers, unopened mail, grocery store fliers and magazines that created a semi-circle around the toilet..." More