Hoarders 8-6 – Dorothy and David, Doris

hoarders mental illness reality

[Previous episode]

You know, every week I wonder if there’s going to be something new to learn. Surely we’ll run out of reasons for the hoarding, ways that people convince themselves that the manner in which they’re living is fine, just fine, and then I remember that no two people are alike. It’s like Mr. Rogers said (and yes, I just invoked the power of Fred Rogers), “There is only one person like you in the whole world.”

I was not let down this week with regards to seeing something new (and more importantly, learning something new).

Dorothy and David, Prineville, OR

Dorothy and David absolutely admit that they’re hoarders. Far different from the last episode, huh? It’s what brought them together, actually. They both call each other “the love of my life”. They’re tender and warm, smiling and constantly looking out to meet the other’s needs. If the house wasn’t filled to the ceiling with garbage,this relationship would be idyllic.

David, grinning as he thinks about how much he loves his wife and their life, says, “This is a hoarder’s paradise. We both feel that way.”

I… Gobsmacked. I’m gobsmacked.

“Together, it builds up pretty fast.” Boy, howdy. Inside, outside, in my lady’s chamber, stuff—just nonsensical stuff—as far as the eye can see. Kristy, Dorothy’s daughter, doesn’t know how to control this or help. She’s mystified as to where it all could have even come from. Food, clothes, and wood (planks, logs, you name it) are the main culprits. They keep getting new freezers because they’ve hoarded the previous one and won’t stop buying more things to freeze. Wow.

They have a wood burning stove in the house. Yeah, this is absolutely a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, the two of them aren’t okay with the mess anymore. They recognize how bad it is, and seeing as Dorothy’s mobility is limited with a degenerative joint disease, it’s a miracle they’re ready to do anything about it at all. Watching her struggle to move through the hoard hurts my heart. I can’t imagine how it must pain David and Kristy. She falls a lot. If she falls again, she will most likely be paralyzed. David is worried and is taking his portion of blame for the mess.

Previous attempts at cleaning have failed, but as we know, it’s not the stuff. There is some underlying reason for the stuff, and until that gets addressed, stuff will just come right on back in. Dorothy’s three granddaughters have tried to get involved, too, but their help is rebuked. This is a family with a lot of love and in need of a lot of help.

Dr. Robin Zasio arrives, and it’s so great to see her again! She arrives with Kelly, Dorothy’s granddaughter, who is stopped right in her tracks upon entrance. The kitchen is just deplorable, and Kelly can’t understand how they got to that point. “Grandma, this has gotten so bad.”

“Go away.”

Well…  This may not be so cut and dry as we hoped.

“You’re going to die in here.”


“Not if I can help it,” Kelly says, and I love her attitude.

“So help it,” Dorothy replies, laughing. I’m not the only one confused. Dr. Zasio wants to know if Dorothy sees this is a problem. She does and becomes emotional, then immediately pushes aside that emotional outburst, quickly becoming all smiles.

Dorothy thinks half should go, David says everything, but Dorothy says if that’s the case, she’ll go, too. Oh, dear.

Service Master and Matt Paxton show up, and I love when we get this pair, Dr. Robin and Matt, because they have a great way of working with their clients to get them to see reason. Matt is immediately concerned about Dorothy’s health. “Every time I see her move, I think she’s going to fall over and just crack.” Me, too, Matt. I don’t know how you guys kept yourself from wrapping her in bubble wrap and putting her on a stack of mattresses.

Dorothy gets emotional right off the bat, wanting to make sure Kristy knows she loves her, that she doesn’t feel she deserves her daughter. So… something is going on in the background here. It seems to be related to Kristy’s childhood and Dorothy’s role as a mother, but her guilt isn’t helping her.

Dr. Zasio tries to convince Dorothy to literally throw pieces of garbage into a box, but Dorothy declines. Flat-out refuses. Hmm. Well, the rest of the family is getting a lot done because David is handling it. It seems being away from Dorothy gives him a little more courage.

Matt goes in with Dorothy and tries to get her to throw things away, being patient and specific. “Give me one item I can throw away.” A Pringles can can go, but a flattened, giant, desiccated rat cannot. It’s art, you see. She could “guild” it. Matt, with his dark humor, has her walk him through the process of turning that… thing into art. (This is when you really need a dark sense of humor, when you’re faced with this mentality.)

“A good hoarder is a master manipulator. She convinced me in five minutes that a rat was art.”  She… keeps the dead rat.

“This family has got a very big uphill climb.” Yeah.

Day Two has the crew pushing Dorothy even harder. I cannot stress the size of this hoard and how much work it is, and how hard the family is working. Matt brings Dorothy out, and thankfully she’s letting thousands of pounds of stuff go.

But then… Dorothy breaks down. Matt gets Dr. Zasio. (Warning for discussion of sexual assault.) When Dorothy was 10, her step-father tried to rape her on multiple occasions, and when she tried to tell her mother, her mother failed her. Didn’t believe her. (No 10 year old child lies about this.) I’m devastated for her.

She felt guilty and wasn’t as present a mother for Kristy, put herself first. She left Kristy’s father for another man, packing up her things and Kristy in the middle of the night. Kristy, it must be said, has forgiven her. (What a great lady.) She implores her mother to forgive herself.

That’s really the problem here, and if I can add my (needless) two cents in, what sort of mother was modeled for Dorothy to learn from? Yes, at a point in our adulthood, we must take responsibility for our actions and learn from the wrongs done to us, but I can at least empathize on an academic level that Dorothy didn’t maybe know how to be the mother Kristy needed back then.

So let’s see if she can be the mother Kristy wants now.

32,000 pounds of trash was pulled out of this house when they got to the end. “When the family participates,” Matt tells us, “we’re able to do miracles.”

I’d say so.

Matt brings in HandyPro, a team who specializes in kitting out houses for people with disabilities in order to make the house safe. Dorothy has a hover chair, and now she has a widened door, a ramp with rails and other safety features to improve her quality of life.

Dorothy is overcome with gratitude for her girls, their help and their support, and it’s so wonderful. She’s gasping and laughing and racing up the ramp in her hover chair, so happy and overjoyed to have a clean home. It’s just freaking awesome. I’m blown away, I have to say.

“If I get any happier, I’ll be put in jail,” she says. How can you not love this lady?

They are happy about the clean house and are using aftercare funds for therapy.


Doris, Philadelphia, PA

“I don’t think a woman can have enough shoes.” Let me stop you right there, Doris, because I think you’re on the path to learning that isn’t actually true, ha ha.

Taqueasha, her daughter, tells us that Doris buys shoes regardless if they are even her size. She just wants them. And of course she needs hairpieces to go with the shoes. Then you need a dress for all of it…. Doris is a lady who wants to have her things. There just seems to never have been any limits imposed on how many things a lady honestly needs.

Tamika and Keya, her other daughters, say it’s way more than just that. Keya hasn’t even been inside in 12 years. They can’t help her, because they simply want to get rid of the junk, and Doris doesn’t see any of it as junk.

When the girls were little (and can I just say that both of these families have ridiculously photogenic offspring? My word!), the house was the center of the family. Barbeques, parties, everyone came for dinner. Their grandmother lived across the street and would keep Doris in check, it seems. And when she died, it devastated Doris, who calls her mother her best friend.

The house fell apart, and it fell apart fast. Taqueasha is having recurring nightmares of her mother dying in the hoard. Well, they’re not unfounded fears, I hate to say. Doris actually was sick recently, climbed down the stairs and was finally discovered and taken to the hospital. Since then, the girls refuse to let her return to the hoard. They turned to her former boyfriend, Julius, to help remove her from the house. She still sneaks back into her house every day, though.

I have to stress, this house is maybe one of the worst we’ve seen. It’s Shannon levels of unhealthy. This is no place for a lady to stay. It’s no place for anyone to stay. Hell, I’ll go as far as to say no rats or spiders should be in there.

Doris tells the camera that “this hoarders thing can mentally and physically hurt you.” Absolutely. Absolutely, Doris, and realizing that, I hope, is a giant step towards getting healthy.

Dr. Melva Green arrives with Keya to see the house. Keya stops in her tracks, tears pouring down her face. She’s upset to see her childhood home, her bedroom turned into the mess it’s become. Keya lives – literally – around the corner, but Doris won’t visit her because she won’t come visit Doris. They get mad at each other, snip and snipe for a few, then walk away from each other. So that means nothing real has been addressed. I have a feeling Dr. Green is going to insist that they do.

Cory Chalmers shows up with Steri-Clean, and the nature of the neighborhood poses a huge problem: there aren’t really places to sort. They start in on obvious trash to clear space, and Doris is letting go of about 80% of the trash on the porch. Awesome! So… this is clearly where the wheels will fall off.

Doris and Keya start up again (led by Doris), when Dr. Green intervenes and points out the heavy amount of denial happening in Doris’ thought-process. “She is hoarding internally. She is holding onto a lot of hurts.”

Doris is emotional as she works through this, saying how as a mother, she made heavy sacrifices (I feel that), and how there were times when she did without so that they wouldn’t (oh, but I feel that). And Tamika calmly points out that her mother is making the daughters feel guilty for being born. Tamika? Spot. On. You shouldn’t feel guilty for needing basic care as a child from your parent. And Doris, now your children are here to give back to you by giving you shelter and safety.

It’s just a matter of Doris accepting it at face value.

The girls are frustrated and feeling defeated. But they’re still there. They’re still trying to connect with their mother, to give her safety, to be in her life and to give Doris a life.

They all go outside and try to get Doris to throw things away, but she’s not really present. Dr. Green presses her to express herself, her feelings, and that opens the flood gates. Doris is angry. I’m getting the impression that she is a woman who feels like she has been grossly wronged in life and is stuck in that place of wishing it weren’t so. And she’s going to stay mad in that place until something changes or she’s pushed to get out of that place.

Dr. Green points out that most children of hoarders disconnect completely from their parents. Doris has all of her daughters and grandsons there, worried about her, focused on her, caring about her. It’s more than a lot of people have. (And that is the type of thing to be collected, moments with your family.) Unfortunately, Doris doesn’t see this as help.

She gets irate, yelling and hollering on the corner, while the neighbors watch. She doesn’t care, though. “I’m at a breaking point.” That may be, but if this continues, she’s going to break up her family.

As the house is emptied, the structural damage is becoming apparent. It’s most likely not safe for her to move back until major repairs are made. At one point, a biohazard team arrives to wrap up and take the toilet out. There is no plumber on earth who can plunge that fetid nightmare, nor would even come near it to refuse.

But having that removed should go some way to getting the house healthier. It’s a baby step, but we’ll take any we can get.

Dr. Green calls a family meeting to address the secrets that are at the root of all of this. Again, warning for discussion of sexual assault. Doris was raped by “people” (oh god, you poor thing, you poor unprotected thing) when she was young. She ran away from home and got married for the sake of not being on the streets because she “didn’t know any better.” It was a terrible mistake, she says, but she “never made a mistake in having you girls.” Oh my god, I was crying, but that just pushed me over the edge.

To have kept all of that bottled up… She was trying to be strong, trying to keep bad things out by keeping all that inside. That’s as Dr. Green calls it, hoarding your feelings. My heart just aches for Doris.

Keya says, “That’s what I needed to hear.” She needed to know her mother was glad she existed. Yeah, that’s important. Taqueasha says she understands, now. Tamika is happy she’s gotten that off her chest and that, “As women, we understand this.”

We do. And I hate that so many of us do.

Dr. Green says this will allow her daughters to see her as strong, as opposed to difficult.

Well, it all gets rolling from there. 10 tons of waste was removed and 10 trucks were filled with donations. Wow. As the house is cleared, it needs a lot of work, but she says it feels great to have a clear home and her daughters there. They’re all going to work hard to help her have a home once again.

Doris is still staying with Julius, and her daughters are looking into city programs that could assist her in home repairs. [Readers? Do we know of any? Let’s put them in the comments if so.] She’s also connected with a therapist and is excited to get to work.

I’m just over the moon to have two happy endings. What awesome daughters these women have.

Show Discussion

I know most television shows don’t think to warn for rape and sexual abuse of children when it’s mentioned as something in someone’s past, but boy, does it throw me for a loop every time it’s sprung on me.

I hate how often that’s present in these people’s lives. I hate how common it is to know that a woman most likely has that in her past. Guys? Could y’all just, you know, stop raping girls? That would be great.

Once again we did see the value in a connected family. Were these families perfect? Of course not. But what they both shared was love and concern for one another, and more importantly, a willingness to learn and do better as a family. And the results speak for themselves. It’s so important for us to have compassion, forgiveness and love–as we see time and again, it changes lives.

You can watch all episodes of Season 8 (and 1-6) on A&E.com, as well as On Demand through your local cable provider.