I’ll be upfront. One of the featured hoarders has me up in arms, and I think there is far more to her diagnosis than just hoarding and anxiety. I am rarely so angered by this show, because I understand that it’s a disease, but when children are involved (and when someone is clearly working things to their advantage) I get a little crazed.
But first, we meet Roy in Boulder Creek, California. Roy is an electrical engineer and inventor. His US Patents are amazing. One such invention of his is the main power supply for the Voyager Space Shuttle. He’s incredibly intelligent, and incredibly eccentric. A soft-spoken, gentle man, he lives quietly with his long-term girlfriend Marlena on 153 acres of beautiful land filled with magnificent redwoods.
And vehicles. And bicycles. And buses. Some dump trucks. Scrap metal. Abandoned electronics. Random tents set up haphazardly protect a few boxes from the almost ever-present rain, but in reality, everything in his possession is rusted, wet, molded, or rotten. But Roy has the mind of a creator and can see how any little thing can be turned into something useful or repurposed into the next great invention. And therein lies his problem. He’s been collecting these items for over 25 years.
The sheer size of his hoard, located in the middle of what was a pristine redwood forest, is the source of contention with Santa Cruz county. He has accumulated almost $20 million in fines. He is currently being fined $12,500 a day until the junk is removed. 100% of his hoard must be removed to satisfy the courts. His attorney has negotiated this with them; he simply must cooperate to avoid astronomical fines.
His daughter, Athena, and his son, Rex, worry that if their father does not address the problem, they will be stuck with not only the clean up, but the fines as well. They love their father very much, and are as gentle as he is, but they are trying to find their grit. Roy does not want to lose his land, he very much feels at peace here. He says he will give up some of it. That doesn’t sound promising.
The law says that Roy may keep up to five vehicles on his property. He has well over 60, not counting the dune buggy frames, the bicycles, the scooters, the metal drums, and so on. The land he owns is gorgeous, it truly is a shame to see it filled with junk.
Dr. Zasio will be assisting him. He shows her his “pristine wilderness” and after she asks how many of the vehicles are in working condition, he thinks for a moment. “One.” She seems to be taken aback when he shows her where he invented such and such and so and so – he has quite the pedigree (and it’s truthful. He really has done what he says he’s done.) She respects his intelligence and quiet demeanor and hopes to use that to reason with him.
She wants him to learn that he can be creative and an inventor without all of the hoard. She asks him if he thinks he has too much stuff. He replies, “No.” Dr. Zasio isn’t sure about what progress can be made. He says that he’s scared of what’s going to happen. He does not have any clarity on the magnitude of his problem, both the hoarding and mounting legal issues.
It’s a very rainy day, and Roy is quite emotional. His children are there, and they clearly love and admire their father. Their first priority seems to be to help him, second in importance is compliance with the law. Cory Chalmers, an extreme hoarding specialist, will serve as his “cleaner.”
Involved in the clean up will be flat beds to haul away vehicles that will (hopefully) be crushed, tow trucks for any vehicles that can be towed (the back wheels must be functional) as well as a bulldozer. The thick, slick mud is going to be a huge problem, however. The big trucks won’t be able to navigate in it, or will simply get stuck. Cory has a bad feeling about the effectiveness of the clean up in this weather.
He and Roy walk through the woods, marking vehicles that can be crushed or towed. Roy is very reluctant to let anything go, he sees use in everything. He’s finally convinced to mark one rusted out truck with a C for crushed. You can see that it’s painful for him to do that much.
The bulldozer can’t navigate the drive at all. They will need to bring in gravel to get any sort of traction. The camera shows the bulldozer sliding off the drive to the side, leaving massive ruts in the mud. They are trying to be cautious of the forest, but there’s not many options for them.
Roy starts sorting through the boxes of things that are under the makeshift tents. Even that proves difficult, because he clearly doesn’t like to waste anything, he can see how things could be re-used, but he simply cannot reuse or repurpose more than a small fraction of the things he has collected. An example is a massive whisk, the kind used in industrial situations. The tines are broken and rusted, but he sees the thin filaments of metal as… well who knows what he sees, but he can imagine several uses for potential inventions.
One truckload of gravel is able to make it to the location, and the bulldozer is able to get through. They’re able to convince him to throw away a few small things, like old cassette tapes that are broken and molded. It’s a short, and unproductive day.
There is so much rain and mud. Rain is in the forecast for the next few days and the crew is seriously behind schedule. Roy continues to call out vehicles that can be repaired, not removed. His daughter tries to get him to just cut his losses, and this sparks something in him, but then he goes back to wanting to keep things.
Dr. Zasio says that Roy believes he can find a loophole in the law (or simply outwit the courts) that will allow him to keep everything. He finally agrees to allow one car to be crushed and carted off. After the front bucket smashes the roof in, the hood pops off and Roy races over to grab it and keep it as a souvenir. Oh, Roy.
The back hoe gets stuck in the mud trying to pull the car out of the area. This whole project is a debacle. They’ll get an excavator in the next day, hopefully that will allow them to get something out of there. Instead of the three days they planned to use, they’ll only have one day to remove over 50 vehicles. Roy is incapable of letting anything go, including moldy, rat dropping-covered towels. Things are going from bad to worse.
The next day brings an excavator which is able to crush and lift some of the cars away. It’s revealed that the next day is Roy’s court date. Dr. Zasio and Cory are floored. The excavator driver approaches Roy and says, “Legally I can’t tow those two vehicles. Can I take them and open the road?” Something about this exchange works and Roy agrees. I wonder if it’s because it’s a machine operator talking logistics with him.
Roy begins to pick up speed with his decisions. They put him at the controls to crush one of the vehicles, but it isn’t the crushing that makes Roy smile, it’s the handling of machinery. He still feels bad about destroying the car.
The day ends without the goals accomplished. 16 cars, two trailers, and seven dump trucks have been crushed and disposed into in a massive truck. Roy hopes that it’s enough progress to convince the court. Cory believes that it will all stay there and Roy will fight until he loses his land, or dies fighting for it. Jeez. The big truck with all of the crushed cars leaves the property and tips over into the road, spilling its contents back onto the forest floor. It’s incredibly upsetting and defeating to everyone.
After the show, Roy had his hearing, and they were happy to hear of the progress made. They have given him three years to continue to remove everything. If he does, all fines (all $20,000,000 of them) will be eliminated. He turned down the offer for therapy and personal organizational help.
Loretta lives in Lenox, Michigan with her husband Mike and their four year old daughter Michaela. Loretta is eight months pregnant, due to give birth any day now. Her house is hoarded to the ceiling. Her daughter has never been in her crib or toddler bed, they’ve been hoarded out since arrival. Michaela sleeps between Mike and Loretta (which makes me wonder about how she became pregnant again. Oh, gah.)
Their house is filled with some collections of glass and ornate lamps, boxes of books and magazines, and pile after pile of clothing, most never even worn. Multiple pieces of furniture are on their sides jammed into rooms here and there. Pathways are narrow and in constant danger of suffering a collapse. It is entirely unsafe for their daughter, as well as for a pregnant woman. CPS could be called to remove the children from the house.
A sister, Leona, and a niece, Christian, are there to help. They both understand that Loretta has suffered “terribly” in her life, but now it’s time for her to move past that and think about her family. In 2003, Loretta and her husband Mike were held at gunpoint outside their previous home (Loretta’s childhood home in Detroit) and were robbed. She suffered so much trauma from this event that she was unable to ever step foot into that home again, not even to retrieve any of her things.
They moved into their new house, and over the course of the next several years, the older home was broken into several times and most of the possessions have been stolen. This is the trauma and upset that led to her hoarding. Every time they try to go back, all of the trauma and fear comes back. They drive to the house (a camera is mounted on the dashboard) and Loretta begins screaming and crying. And I mean screaming. It’s bright daylight and no one is there. Her husband sits, not saying a word; clearly this is how she behaves every time.
She screams in a pained, woebegone tone, “You have held me long enough! I leave you right here!”
This is where I am no longer on board with this woman. One, you were robbed. Yes, it’s frightening. But it is not the siege of Sarajevo. You were not in war-torn Darfur. You got robbed. Yes, we all deal with things in our own way, but think of this: if she couldn’t go back into that house to get her precious, precious things (which triggered her hoarding to replace those precious things) why on earth couldn’t her husband go get them? Or a relative? Was she “afraid” for them, too? That’s some controlling and narcissistic behavior, right there. I’m afraid, so I will not allow you to get my Tupperware. What?!
In an interview she tells the camera, “I feel raped of what I had.” No. NO, MA’AM. That word is not what you get to use for having your purse and rings taken, no you do not. You were mugged outside of your house. In a bad, run down neighborhood in Detroit. This is not shocking, please. Loretta speaks in a very slow, very deliberate manner, colored with childish facial expressions. She bounces between a “caught with my hand in the cookie jar, I’m sorry, Mama!” and “But I don’t want to take the medicine!” facial expression.
I’ll be frank: I have no sympathy for this woman. I’ll explain in the post show portion.
Dr. Renee Reinhardy will be helping her, and I’ve not seen her for a season, so that’s nice. She’s a very kind and empathetic woman, much like Dr. Zasio. She’s up to date on Loretta’s past trauma and notes that the home is her bunker of protection.
Loretta talks very slowly, almost as if she’s had a stroke, her words seem difficult to come by, or as if there’s mild aphasia she’s working through. Neither is the case, this is her affectation. Dr. Reinhardy notes that Loretta doesn’t understand that CPS could very easily take her children from her. She’s hoping that will serve as a motivation, since her triggers seem to be fear in having things taken away from her.
Dorothy Beringer, a hoarding and organizational expert and the Executive Producer for the program, will be helping with the clean up. She is typically the person called in when children are involved because she’s both bubbly and positive and an absolute mama bear with kids. They will always come first to her, above the hoarder. I like her very much. Her main goal is to make the home safe for Michaela and to give her a bedroom for the first time in her life.
Dorothy reminds everyone to exercise caution, safety is of utmost importance, since they have a very pregnant woman involved. The living room and hallway items are dragged outside to be sorted. There are a good 25 floor lamps, more than 10 boxes of ceiling light fixtures, in addition to boxes of books and bolts of fabric, just to name a few things. The entire front lawn is covered with items, as well as the sidewalk and a portion of the driveway. Loretta looks on all of this with dismay.
She immediately starts dragging her heels on any decisions, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t have an answer for that yet.” She starts talking about getting a storage facility for her things. Dorothy shows her the living room where there are over 50 pieces of furniture. She chides Loretta, “Give one thing to a needy person.” Loretta responds by pouting like a child, turning her gaze to the floor and whining, “This isn’t fair.”
What isn’t fair is your daughter forced to sleep between you and your husband in a room filled with things. What isn’t fair is how you are holding your entire family captive by your needs and wishes. That, my dear, is what isn’t fair.
Mike doesn’t rock the boat. He’s been conditioned to shut up and give in whenever Loretta starts this behavior, or she starts with the screaming, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Truly, she’s like a hired mourner, it’s absolutely mind boggling. She starts in, “Oh, my God, help me! Help me, God!” As in an actual outloud prayer to her Lord. Woman, you are being asked to give away an ugly-ass leopard print love seat with plastic legs, not your limbs!
All of a sudden, everyone reacts to Loretta fluttering her eyes and sinking against the wall. “I might go into labor from the stress!” She gets her way, in that they all stop asking about her things and flit about her, her every need catered to. The process comes to a halt and she attempts to calm herself. She tells the camera later that “there was some stress and pressure that was transmitted to my baby, because she began to move as if she felt it herself.”
As a woman that has carried three babies, let me say this: babies move. Babies move when you’re stressed, yes, but they move when you’re not. Get a step ladder and get over yourself. I cannot abide manipulative behavior, I’m sorry. Also, while it’s true you shouldn’t lift heavy things when pregnant, you sure as hell can move some laundry or push a broom. Or tell people what they can cart away, your voice is definitely not affected by having a baby move in the womb, please.
In a shock to no one, Loretta’s labor pains were found to be false. She continues to walk around very slowly, blowing the air out of her mouth and sucking in deeply from her nose. Dorothy tells the camera that she’s about to get tough. They pull out clothes, and Loretta says, keep, keep, keep. Her lips are pursed and she’s getting very testy. Christian, her niece, takes one of the “keep” dresses and says to think about it. The real Loretta comes out. She shouts, “NO THERE AIN’T NO THINKING ABOUT IT.”
Dorothy grabs that dress and asks her what is going on with it? Was it special, what? Loretta pouts in her childish, naughty-girl way and says, downcast, “I don’t have an answer for that right now.” She is maddening. As clothes in another room are bagged, she again starts shouting at them and Dorothy shuts it down. “These people are here helping you, I hope you’re not yelling at them.”
She fixes Loretta with an intense look: “CPS will take your kids if this isn’t fixed. Does that compare to some outfit?”
Dr. Reinhardy steps in. “Let’s break this pattern.” Except Loretta continues to petulantly say, “Keep. Keep. Keep,” at every item shown her. Her niece marches out, apologizing to all of the workers, and is beyond angry. You can’t say she didn’t try, she was just shut down at every turn.
The remaining family has had it. Her sister yells at her for saying no one will ever help her when they’re there helping and there’s an entire crew of helpers at her disposal. I’ve got her number, she just needs people pitying her, or rather, paying attention to her. Ugh. Her niece says, “I can’t help you if you don’t wanna be helped.” That’s a perfect summation of this entire episode.
She pouts and whines, “I’m not heard!” Dorothy replies, “You scream a lot to get heard, dontcha?” Loretta continues, “I still ain’t heard. It just ain’t right.” This woman can’t see the forest for the trees. She continues to say that she doesn’t want to live like this, and that no one will help her, and she still has a house full of helpers and won’t let them help!
Dorothy leads her to an ugly table in the living room, one of many. “May I take this.” Loretta does the downcast sad eyes thing and mumbles to Mike, “What do you think, Michael?” He looks panic stricken, and you know that he’s not going to say the right thing. He thinks for a minute and quietly says, “I think we should.” She shockingly agrees. Then she starts giving a few things away here and there.
Her change of heart came too late, though, as it’s Day 2. Hardly anything is done, with the exception of Michaela getting her own bedroom, nice and tidy and clean. The house is somewhat organized in that the front rooms looks normal. There are two bedrooms that are crammed full of stuff, one is totally filled with the bagged clothing. The outdoor shed is packed as well.
After the show, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl and only items for the baby have been allowed in. She is currently working with a therapist and an organizer.
POST SHOW THOUGHTS:
I think Roy is maybe the most interesting person that’s ever been on the program. He was clearly an intelligent man, and if anyone of the hoarders would actually be able to follow through on the idea “I could use this for that,” it would be him. Many of his inventions were mixed in with his junk, and it seems that the main factor for him was that he wanted to work outside. The show offered a storage facility to move some of the vehicles. A few had electric engines he’d been developing.
There were important things among his unimportant things. And he claims to have bought the land originally in order to protect it, but he’s not. I was sad seeing those cars rusted and leaking into the ground, pushed up against the bark and essentially obscuring the view of the trees’ magnificence. And as a Master Gardener, it pained me to see the root zones compacted by the huge vehicles, but there was no other option. (That can kill trees, having the roots compacted.)
I’ve messaged Roy, asking if there was a reason he chose to not work with the aftercare options, but have not yet heard back from him. [I’ll report back if/when he does.] I do completely admire his intelligence and his gentle demeanor. I hope he’s able to move forward and keep the land clean while also being able to continue with his inventiveness. I have my doubts that the former will happen, however.
Edited to add: that I’ve heard back from Roy. He tells me that he has taken the aftercare funds and used the money to rent more “Got-Junk” trucks to haul away more material. I sincerely wish him the best (if not just for the land to be restored to a cleaner state.)
As for Loretta, she just angered me from the beginning. She is manipulative and controlling. I cannot stand people that hurt those around them for their own purposes. And while yes, having a gun pulled on you and your things taken from your person is a terrible thing to happen, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you. The histrionics were outlandish and seemed totally convoluted. It was a show. I watched a few scenes multiple times and she darts her eyes to the camera before amping the volume on her wailing.
No. Sorry. She has a co-dependent relationship with her husband, and their daughter deserves to have an uncluttered space (and a focused and attentive mother.) I hope the therapist is able to work through whatever malfunction causes her to over dramatize everything in her life, because I have no patience for it.
Which is why I’m an armchair psychiatrist. I can write you a prescription for margaritas and ribs and a dip in the pool, that’s about it. (But come on, that’s good medicine.)
Edited to Add Part Deaux: I can’t get over my aggravation with Loretta, and I think I’ve hit on what it is. I think she’s calculating. I think she’s knowingly doing things. With most of the hoarders we’ve watched on the show, it’s so clearly a knee-jerk reaction, second nature. And the aggravation they display when pushed to deal with their issues seems protective of their fragile state. With Loretta, I can’t shake the feeling that her “fragile state” is manufactured. That her hoarding is almost a product of something she’s created for herself for attention. Augh. I just found her to be unbelievably frustrating and I wouldn’t trust her in real life. Again, see “this is why I’m not an actual psychiatrist, I only play one on the internet.”