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Possessed, A Short Documentary About Hoarders
March 7, 2008 6:22 AM   Subscribe

POSSESSED is a short documentary film that 'enters the complicated worlds of four hoarders; people whose lives are dominated by their relationship to possessions'.
posted by jack_mo (44 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oop, forgot to say I found this LinkMachineGo, who found it via Waxy.
posted by jack_mo at 6:24 AM on March 7, 2008


God, makes my dad the hoarder seem like a neat freak. I guess it can always be worse.

Obligatory link to the Collyer brothers.
posted by amro at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is really interesting. Thoughtful and well-made.
posted by ghastlyfop at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2008


The documentary is restrained and poignant. Thanks for sharing it.
posted by googly at 7:18 AM on March 7, 2008


If I were friends with the book hoarder, I would definitely be "out of town" on the day he chose to move.
posted by clearly at 7:27 AM on March 7, 2008


Very sad. Watching the film made me realize some of my own tendencies towards this behavior in collecting records and video games.

On the subject of hoarding, this link made the rounds a while ago which has pictures of the poster's mother's nearly unliveable house.
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:31 AM on March 7, 2008


See also Randy Frost for work (and possible help) on this topic
posted by IndigoJones at 7:46 AM on March 7, 2008


This calls to mind the film Vinyl, a record collecting documentary.

Funnily enough the top IMDB review is by some obsessive audiophile nerd. It's a good, but pretty obscure film that I recommend you attempt to track down if you like records or human behavior quirks.
posted by cloeburner at 8:01 AM on March 7, 2008


If I were friends with the book hoarder, I would definitely be "out of town" on the day he chose to move.

When I moved four years ago, I had about 50 boxes containing nearly 3000 books. That's a lot of books (though not nearly as many as some people have). My movers were troopers, and groused only good-naturedly.

Their good humor faded, however, when a year later I purged most of the books after finally breaking the need to own everything I could possibly want to read. "What did you have us move them for?" they wanted to know. They weren't happy. I can't say I blame them...
posted by jdroth at 8:14 AM on March 7, 2008


Get Rich Slowly just featured this, and also included some other links which go into hoarding in more depth - one is the famous Something Awful forum thread, "My Mother is Insane".
posted by batmonkey at 8:24 AM on March 7, 2008


Which, on non-preview, is the link posted by Dr-Baa.

To somewhat makeup for the double, that thread is notable because the poster goes from "my mom is a freak" to "I'm going to help my mom". A few other participants in the thread finally see they might be on their way to the same problem. Many stories of hoarders with issues are recorded, several of them sympathetically (strange for SA threads, to say the least).
posted by batmonkey at 8:27 AM on March 7, 2008


Fascinating and sad.
posted by disgruntled at 8:45 AM on March 7, 2008


Very interesting, thanks!
posted by everichon at 9:00 AM on March 7, 2008


Attention Coen brothers: make a movie about the Collyer brothers. Seriously, it'd be fantastic.
posted by davebush at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


They both get shot off camera at the end, and then Tommy Lee Jones moans on about being old for a bit.
posted by Artw at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


davebush, check out Unstrung Heroes, you might like it.
posted by amro at 9:31 AM on March 7, 2008


Glad folk enjoyed it. I sort of did, but spent most of it thinking 'Oh God, I'm about only one notch down the scale from these folk'.

clearly: "If I were friends with the book hoarder, I would definitely be "out of town" on the day he chose to move."

A friend of mine has, if I remember rightly, somewhere between 60 and 70,000 records. Obviously his mates weren't going to help shift that lot, so he hired removal men. And now he's blacklisted by all the removal companies in the area.

cloeburner: "This calls to mind the film Vinyl, a record collecting documentary."

Thanks for the tip, cloeburner, downloading it now (doesn't seem to be available to buy anywhere that I can see).
posted by jack_mo at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2008


That was sad. And interesting. It was strange how the woman hoarded things that were disgusting, like the cotton pads she'd used to remove her mascara, in such tidy piles. Her garbage looked so clean.
posted by essexjan at 9:38 AM on March 7, 2008


A related MetaFilter thread.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2008


jack_mo writes "A friend of mine has, if I remember rightly, somewhere between 60 and 70,000 records. Obviously his mates weren't going to help shift that lot, so he hired removal men. And now he's blacklisted by all the removal companies in the area."

You'd think they'd love a customer like that. Work is work.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2008


amro - I'd seen "Unstrung Heroes" but forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder - it's a good movie, worth seeing again.
posted by davebush at 10:00 AM on March 7, 2008


Things White People Love: Owning stuff. Seriously, the net is going crazy about a free Neil Gaiman book, like it's not available to borrow at the library.
posted by Eideteker at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2008


Things White People Love: Owning stuff

YEAH BROWN PEOPLE HATE OWNING STUFF LOL!
posted by dersins at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2008


Great cinematography. And the Vimeo site serves it well.
posted by fungible at 10:37 AM on March 7, 2008


Dr-Baa and batmonkey, thanks for the links -- those photos are disturbing and are a much needed slap in the face (for me and perhaps others who may show early signs of this). Especially the calendar wall. Yikes.

The doc was great, too. And sad.
posted by operalass at 11:19 AM on March 7, 2008


The Psychology of Hoarding.

The problem isn’t solved by cleaning. It’s not solved by coming in and throwing out the hoarders’ stuff. They can collect it again. You have to solve the problem at the decision-making level.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:35 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that was pretty good, if rather sad.

Vinyl looks v. interesting too – right up my street, as a sad record geek of long standing.

krinklyfig: "jack_mo writes "A friend of mine has, if I remember rightly, somewhere between 60 and 70,000 records. Obviously his mates weren't going to help shift that lot, so he hired removal men. And now he's blacklisted by all the removal companies in the area."

You'd think they'd love a customer like that. Work is work."


I once weighed the record box I use for DJ-ing whilst it was full. Empty, its weight is negligible; with 100 records, it was about 25 kilos. Think about that, density-wise, which is the important thing if you're a removal firm: a cubic foot weighs 25 kilos. When you're talking about 70,000 records, you're looking at about 700 cubic feet, or about 20 cubic metres, with a total weight of 17,500 kilos, or just over 17 tons. That's the weight of 9 or 10 family cars in a space the size of roughly 5 public bathroom stalls.
posted by Len at 11:59 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


The last person in the video reminded me of Gollum. There was something so pitiable about watching him burrow through his piles as he spoke about his dead mother. It made me physically nauseous.

One of my upstairs neighbors at my previous apartment was obviously on the way to becoming that guy. His apartment was absolutely disgusting. He was very intelligent and very lonely. Definitely not right in the head, but in such a subtle way that it was almost impossible to put a finger on. I felt incredibly sorry for him, but that started to fade when I started to receive clipped newspaper articles under my door.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:09 PM on March 7, 2008


I'm really impressed by the quality of the documentary. Great find.

Hoarders are really interesting to me because they create their own prisons. That kind of obsession and control is deeply unsettling. Living in sometimes just contained disorder myself, it's a little like looking into the abyss and seeing how little it would take to jump.
posted by nuala at 3:06 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


What a great video!

Flickr is great for this kind of stuff.

Look:
The Garbage Car group (people who hoard stuff in their cars)

A photoset of a woman in Santa Monica, CA who maintains a whole backyard completely, totally filled with trash. The city periodically comes to empty it all and she then fills it up again. Apparently she is always going through the neighborhood trash bins getting hoard-worthy items.
posted by redteam at 3:08 PM on March 7, 2008


Huh. No one's posted a link to download this video?
posted by Pronoiac at 3:55 PM on March 7, 2008


This is my mother-in-law.

Open a kitchen drawer and she has 10 can openers. Open a cabinet and she has 20 sets of sheets. On her living room floor are stacks of TV guides and House and Garden up to your shoulder. She has five couches. Four refrigerators and three freezers all full.

She lives by herself.

Staying there is an exercise in visual field clutter overload. Ever spec of wall space has some kind of crazy framed photo.. some are the ORIGINAL pictures that came WITH the frame.

There is not one spot to set something on.You can never relax because you are always knocking some fucking stack of shit over. Claustrophobic doesn't begin to describe it.

And she simply doesn't see it. She is literally hysterically blind to how she lives. We go there once a year and toss about four truck loads out and she doesn't even notice.


My wife shares some of these traits and it is a constant source of tension. I am SO the opposite.

My dream home would be all clear surfaces. Not one god damned knick knack. No Chihuley bowls or vases. No throw fucking rugs and pillows. No wine racks. No fine China.

Only a nice comfy couch for sleeping on, one leather chair, carefully minimal framed and perfectly symmetrically hung art on the walls , and maybe one small bookshelf. For each of us: One fork. One spoon. One knife. One bowl. One glass. One plate.

And somewhere in a back room — a huge comfy bed.

Ahhhhhh. My dream.

posted by tkchrist at 4:37 PM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


very little in this world could be more overwhelming than being charged with the responsibility to clean up after an animal hoarder.

100+ beagles. absolutely astounding. changes your view of life and humanity forever.
posted by CitizenD at 4:59 PM on March 7, 2008


As I was growing up, several of the people involved in the process were hoarders. One particularly long-lasting step-family and the house I shared with my dad and paternal grandparents being prime among them.

As I grew older and began collecting friendships and interest-related associations, I realised I hadn't been as much of a freak as I'd been led to believe. I know people currently who have this issue to various degrees. Many's the time I've been asked to join other people in helping to intervene with a hoarding loved one.

And, to be honest, I'm only now beginning to recover from nearly a lifetime of hoarding, myself. I didn't let it get as bad as what we're seeing in most of these, but it's frightening how pervasive it is in my thinking, still. Knowing about it and being able to fix it is really, really hard.

You can see I have a lot of investment in the topic.

With all of that said, I was extremely impressed by the respect being shown to the subjects in these explorations and, happily, these comments.

Seeing mostly encouraging, empathetic responses does a lot to make it seem like the battle is worth it.

-----

On another note, the last gent featured in Possessed had me crying about halfway through. He honestly doesn't understand how not to create that environment for himself. The most poignant part was when he pointed out that much of the stuff was focused on traveling, my heart just broke for him. It was so clear that he wanted nothing more than to be able to visit these places, freely and without guilt, but he felt incapable of escaping the terrible hold his stuff had on him.

So rending.
posted by batmonkey at 5:52 PM on March 7, 2008


I think we are all hoarders in one way or another - it's just more visible on some people
posted by any major dude at 6:23 PM on March 7, 2008


No, we're not all hoarders.

Sorry, major dude -- my dad has this problem, somewhere between the conditions of the last two people profiled, and it's the most impossible, hellish, nauseating and infuriating behavior pattern to deal with. He CANNOT fix it and is enraged if anyone else cleans or throws anything else away.

Hoarders love their stuff more than anything else. If my Dad had to choose between my life and throwing out one room's full of stuff, I'd die.

This is to normal clutter what fatal heroin use is to drinking too much coffee.
posted by jrochest at 6:35 PM on March 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


redteam: A photoset of a woman in Santa Monica, CA who maintains a whole backyard completely, totally filled with trash. The city periodically comes to empty it all and she then fills it up again. Apparently she is always going through the neighborhood trash bins getting hoard-worthy items.

That. Is. Fascinating. My jaw literally dropped.
posted by loiseau at 6:49 PM on March 7, 2008


Great film. Thanks. I have the opposite problem. When my OCD kicks into high gear in times of stress, I throw too much away. I've re-bought books and CDs that I've thrown away. One time I even climbed into a dumpster to retrieve a CD I had thrown away in a fit of OCD craziness.
posted by wastelands at 7:23 PM on March 7, 2008


Hoarding and hoarders have a number of different aspects, motivations, types and styles. I've never known a hoarder, female or male, who wasn't sexually or physically abused as a child, or whose boundaries were invaded by a suffocatingly over-controlling parent. Other ingredients are deep, unprocessed anger, chronic depression, chronic isolating, heavy duty deprivation issues, financial pendulums. The hoarding is a way of creating a sort of fortress in their apartments, home space, a boundary, a safety zone that keeps others out.

Hoarders and rigid minimalists seem to share certain qualities in their deprivation addiction, one too much and the other rigidly without what is comfortable or practical. No balance.

I know one hoarder who is a classic obsessive compulsive personality disorder, perfectionistic, controlling.

Another hoarder, Eleanor, was a tenant of mine when I was a building super in NYC for 40 apartments. Her mother told me she was raped by her father as a child.The vermin and rats that came into her apartment infested other apartments. the neighbors and I conspired to get the hoarder out because it was a true danger, a fire hazard, to the entire building. Years later I saw her at the Port Authority Terminal sitting there with a shopping cart and knew she was now homeless. It was a jagged and painful feeling to think of her on the streets.

However, my fears of the fire hazard were well founded as just last month another hoarder's apartment 2 door down the street, went up in flames and gutted five apartments, it was a narrow escape for all the tenants, who, of course, have lost all their possessions in the fire.

Most supers I've met in NYC talk about "their hoarder". It's really a widespread problem in NYC.

That said, complex people tend to have complex interests and usually not enough funds to have a big enough place to store their stuff. I've known incredibly talented lawyers for example, who had massive paperwork piles and they knew exactly where stuff was, it was a workable landscape they navigated. Lots of writers work spaces are messy with papers and books, myself included.

Related links:

In praise of clutter

Messies Anonymous: Support Groups

Family resources for compulsive hoarding, includes a page of fire hazard articles.

Excellent TV show about clutter busting, Neat.

Great documentary, thanks for the post jack_mo.
posted by nickyskye at 8:29 PM on March 7, 2008 [5 favorites]


When we moved from NYC to Ohio, we had ~45 cartons of books. The movers asked, "Are you librarians?" I wanted to say "Yes, and I steal one book a day," but I got the distinct impression they thought we were moving an actual library.

In our defense, I must point out that most of these are reference books. Now we live ~50 miles from the nearest library, and I'm damn glad we have them.
posted by words1 at 9:05 PM on March 7, 2008


~smacks forehead for the umpteenth time for all the typos, bad grammar but had to amend this one at least

*I've never known a hoarder, female or male, who wasn't sexually or physically abused as a child, or whose boundaries were not invaded by a suffocatingly over-controlling parent
posted by nickyskye at 11:04 AM on March 8, 2008


Other interesting links related to paper mess:

Thinking on the Margin
about the In Praise of Clutter article.

Nice article in the New Yorker re the book

The Social Life of Paper
Looking for method in the mess.
by Malcolm Gladwell


Thinking and Paper, comments on the New yorker article on Edward Tufte's site
posted by nickyskye at 1:34 PM on March 8, 2008 [1 favorite]


loiseau wrote:

No, we're not all hoarders.

Sorry, major dude -- my dad has this problem, somewhere between the conditions of the last two people profiled, and it's the most impossible, hellish, nauseating and infuriating behavior pattern to deal with. He CANNOT fix it and is enraged if anyone else cleans or throws anything else away.


I didn't just mean in the physical sense. Some people hoard friends, some memories, some ideas, some tasks, some denial, some fears. Hoarding is just a defense mechanism to growing old and dying. We collect things to distracts us and build a wall around us to keep us safe and distracted from the inevitable.
posted by any major dude at 7:14 AM on March 10, 2008


any major dude: loiseau wrote:

No, we're not all hoarders.

Sorry, major dude -- my dad has this problem, somewhere between the conditions of the last two people profiled, and it's the most impossible, hellish, nauseating and infuriating behavior pattern to deal with. He CANNOT fix it and is enraged if anyone else cleans or throws anything else away.


I didn't just mean in the physical sense. Some people hoard friends, some memories, some ideas, some tasks, some denial, some fears. Hoarding is just a defense mechanism to growing old and dying. We collect things to distracts us and build a wall around us to keep us safe and distracted from the inevitable.



^^^ Misattributed. I didn't post that.
posted by loiseau at 8:32 AM on March 10, 2008


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