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Junk TV in a Hotel Room

I was in Toronto last week for a conference on HIV, pregnancy and mothering. It was an excellent conference, very interesting, with a good mix of researchers, HIV+ mothers, and frontline workers. There were even a few babies, and a toddler who took his mom’s cell phone, placed it on the floor, made sure she was looking, and then stomped it as hard as he could.

Infant feeding guidelines in third world countries are practically opposite those in the developed world. Because HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, Canadian HIV+ women are strongly advised NOT to breastfeed. Their third world counterparts are strongly advised to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months, while taking HIV medications. The reason for this? In the developing world, there are bigger threats to the baby’s life and health than HIV. The baby needs the mother’s antibodies to protect it from all kinds of other illnesses. (The HIV meds she’s taking will help protect the baby from HIV. If she’s part of a study, she gets access to these drugs; otherwise, she probably doesn’t.)

This was my third out-of-town trip since I started this job six months ago. Once I’ve done my bedbug check (so far they’ve all passed), I settle in and get comfortable. I eat a lot of junk food and I watch a lot of junk TV. (I don’t have a TV at home, but I had TWO of them in my hotel room.) I watched a transgender reality TV show called Changing Sexes, a reality real estate show called Love It or List It, and several episodes of Hoarders.

I love that crazy Hoarders show. A huge woman with a bunch of dogs lived in a house that was filled to capacity with garbage and stuff. The dogs regularly pooped on the stairs and of course it just accumulated there. The woman pooped in the bathroom, but the plumbing hadn’t worked in years, so you can imagine what her bathroom was like. She had two apparently normal sisters. One of them said the hoarder sister was a compulsive shopper, but she’d just throw the new stuff into the mess, bags and all. Whenever she ran out of money their parents would help her out because if she lost her house then she’d have to move in with them. Nobody wants to live with a hoarder. (I bet even other hoarders don’t want to live with them, because they’d have to compete for empty space to fill up.)

This hoarder actually seemed like a very nice person, kind of sweet and funny, and she loved her dogs and they loved her. But still, you have to wonder how people get that way. Is it a mental illness, or a symptom of a mental illness, or what? Can it happen to anybody at any time in their life?

14 comments to Junk TV in a Hotel Room

  • Mikatana

    My Sister-in-law was one.She never was the greatest housekeeper which was weird because you could eat off the floor in my mother-in-law’s house and at her sister home, too. She got diagnosed with Cancer, lost her job and ultimately her life. We didn’t know she was a hoarder until we went to find her(dead) one day. She had great stacks of newspaper and paths in her condo. Her windows were black on the inside from cigarette smoke. Unfortunately, she had tons (!) of money secreted between the pages of the newspaper, in pockets of clothing, in socks in her sock drawer, behind the vent in the kitchen,etc. We couldn’t just go in and throw out the hoard. We had to go through Every.Single.Piece. We found over ten thousand dollars cash. She never allowed us in her apartment, always insisted on meeting us places, coming to our place. She was always immaculately dressed with hair done and make up on. We had no clue. I would have loved to have gotten her the help we didn’t know she needed and to understand better.My husband is a pack rat and a collector of things. He is always trying to start new collections for “me”…Does it run in the family??

    • How bizarre! I find it so odd that she was personally immaculate in spite of it all. I have a tendency to squirrel away cash too, although nowhere near as much as that. Maybe it’s a hedge against complete poverty.

      And I love that your husband tries to start collections for YOU. What kinds of things does he try to get you to collect?

      • Mikatana

        He bought me a West Highland terrier puppy. Then, he started giving me things ( dust collectors) that had Westies on it. I knit,spin and felt. He gives me sheep things. I had 2 Clydesdale horses. He started collecting Budweiser steins. I bought some vintage pink glass serving dishes to go with my Grandmother’s china. So, you guess it…he buys me pink glass stuff.

        I know he is just trying to be thoughtful but…. I don’t really need or want the things he gets me and his feelings get hurt if I try to (geez, I can’t think of a nice way of saying it) get rid of the stuff. Can you imagine all the things I have after30 years of marriage!

        I totally get this is his way of showing love. Have you ever read the 5 Languages of Love? We speak foreign languages! Happily apparently! LOL

  • Lisa in Toronto

    Please let me know if you have time for a coffee on your next Toronto visit. As a very happy blog reader, I would be very happy to do so.

    I am trying not to hoard – I have spent a day a week throughout April getting rid of at least 20 years of paper junk …
    Lots of stacks of magazines out out out!

    • LIsa, I’d love to meet for a coffee. I don’t know when my next trip there is, but I’m sure there’ll be one. I’ll give you a holler when I know.

  • I think I have pack rat tendencies (one of the lower levels on the Hoarder scale!) but I fight it hard. As I get older, I am getting rid of more and more things. I don’t want my children to have to to through an entire marriage full of things when we die. I’ve been in the same house for almost 28 years so it’s time to clear out the closets and find a new home for things.

    For example, I just got rid of all the Bobbsey Twins books I’ve had for 50 years. My kids weren’t interested in reading them (they are very dated) and no one else wanted them either. But three boxes of books were released into the wild…..

    • I’m like you Donna Lee – more like a packrat than a hoarder. Every now and then I get into a decluttering phase, which helps. (But at other times, I’d be likely to grab your three boxes of Bobbsey Twin books off the curb and give them a good home…)

  • Emily UK

    I was just curious as to why you do not have a TV at home? I thought that most people had at least one?

    • Good question, Emily! Yes, most people seem to have multiple TVs. I gave mine up about five or six years ago. It was taking up a corner I wanted to use for other things, and I realized my whole living room was being determined by the TV. All the seating was arranged in relation to the TV. It was the focal point of the room. So I got rid of it to give myself more flexible use of the space. No regrets, either. GC and I recently downloaded all seasons of Breaking Bad, and we just finished watching it on a laptop, so we haven’t given up TV altogether. But we’ve given up the more mindless habit of just watching whatever happens to be on.

  • Deb

    Zoom, I have always tucked cash away too…just in case. Maybe it comes from growing up poor? While I don’t hoard, I do collect…every time I start a hobby, I buy everything that I could possibly need to complete any project. Even with iTunes or my Kobo, I accumulate.

  • Deb

    Hi Zoom
    Normally a lurker, but thought I would respond to this one. My DH works in mental health here in Australia and hoarding is definitely seen as either a symptom of other mental health problems or a mental health issue on its own. In Victoria, funding is set aside within the Dept of Health to assist sufferers. It is a growing (or perhaps now more often identified)and, as you can see on the TV, very serious problem.

  • I totally cannot watch hoarders, because although I am fascinated, I feel as though it’s just one small step away from myself. Our house isn’t particularly more cluttered than any other family’s (I think…), but still I feel like if I gave up the fight for just one day, BAM, HOARDERS.

    Too close for comfort, if you will.

    My eight-year-old daughter is in love with Love It Or List It. She can hardly stand the excitement of the drama of the final choice. I find that…unusual.

  • megabytes

    I’m pretty sure hoarding is a mental illness. Remember a few years back when By-law Services found a house filled with animals? That was the first time I realized that some people hoard animals. There were even some that they couldn’t identify without the help of a zoologist, and they ended up giving lots of exotic animals to private zoos like Little Rays Reptiles.

    We had a cat hoarder across the street when we moved in. She had 2 absolutely beautifully coiffed purebred fancy cats that lived indoors and dozens of feral strays that lived in a woodpile behind her house. She’s been gone for over a year and there are still strays left in the neighbourhood.

  • mudmama

    Mo has hoarder tendencies – it’s related to obsessive compulsive disorder and the more stressed he is about things in our life the more it comes out. It’s not just about a fear of poverty because it comes down to an inability to make decisions out of fear of the outcome – like there’s a sense of responsibility about everything and while I think kids who grow up in poverty have way too much of that on their shoulders at a young age it’s there with abuse, loss of a parent, all sorts of things and then later on it gets triggered. If you have a concurrent issue like adhd it gets overwelming very quickly….in it’s mildest form it’s being a packrat, but take a big stressor and add that in and the ability to organize the clutter of being a packrat dissolves and the less control they have the more they bring into the space and then the stress grows. I’ve seen how big an issue maintaining control becomes at that point and it isn’t pretty – you get someone to come help clean up and the only job he’ll let them do is move piles – actually getting rid of stuff – that is always put off – because it involves decision making and they can’t do it, but they also can’t relinquish control over that to others…and it always comes back to a sense of responsibility