Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive are two of the most perversely entertaining shows on television. Both feature efforts to help people who’ve crammed their homes with so much trash, animals, or gaudy treasures that it’s almost impossible to move. Most of the time, they have trouble using the bathroom and have to cook in tiny, dangerous spaces. They often end up sleeping on garbage. Some of these people even end up crapping in buckets and sharing their crumbling houses with lizards and rats because there is just so much junk in the way that they don’t feel like they have any other choice.
It’s easy to feel superior to someone so damaged that he’d live in a cluttered pile of filth that most of us wouldn’t let our dogs wander into, but there are actually some deep insights into human behavior that you can pick up from watching the shows, even if your house doesn’t look like it was picked up by a tornado and dropped into the city dump.
1) We can become accustomed to even the worst of problems instead of fixing them.
Many of the hoarders you see on those shows have gotten used to living in homes where they hear rats rustling around at night or where it smells so bad that first-time visitors struggle not to vomit. That’s possible not just because we humans are very adaptable creatures with a talent for lying to ourselves, but because we take many of our cues about what’s acceptable from the people around us. Since hoarders are ashamed of the mess they live in, they tend to isolate themselves from other people who might note that they shouldn’t eat food with mold on it or just start peeing in a jug every day instead of getting the toilet fixed. Give it a few years for things to deteriorate and next thing you know, it makes sense to a hoarder that they slept on a four year old bag of doughnuts last night.
Human beings, by their very nature, are all vulnerable to this same process. So, it’s worth asking yourself, “Have I let my standards slide and told myself there’s no other choice? Is there anything I’m doing that I’m so ashamed of that I have to hide it from people? Have I accepted something in my life as ‘just the way it is’ when I should be doing the hard work it takes to make my life better?”
Tony Robbins has noted, “The only way for us to have long-term happiness is to live by our highest ideals.“ Whether it’s hoarding or some other problem, ultimately our happiness will depend on tackling it rather than learning to live with a self-imposed limitation.