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Inside the Lives of Hoarders | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network

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[MUSIC] OPRAH WINFREY: Today, brace yourselves, what is going on behind closed doors will leave you speechless. A 3,000 square foot house filled with 75 tons of garbage. Her own children turned her in. Now we're going in to dig her out. SHARYN: I want to be free of all this clutter that's taking over my life. WINFREY: It's a rescue operation. Inside the lives of hoarders, next. WINFREY: Well, I'll bet you can't even imagine what 75 tons of garbage looks like. Well, see this dumpster right here? It holds five tons of trash and it would take 15 dumpsters just like this one to handle 75 tons. So now, imagine living in the middle of 75 tons of trash. Our journey to this moment began months ago when we received, really, a heart-breaking home video sent in by desperate grown-up children who fear that their parents had nearly become buried alive in their own home. STEVE: Hi, Oprah. We're the Dorphan family. You're gonna wanna see this. It's rated BC for beyond clutter. The clutter in our parents' home is beyond anything we've ever seen on television. We're in need of extra professional help and your team is perfect for the job. So let's begin in the foyer. Here's the foyer. MARVIN: Just come on down here, Sharyn. What are you doing? No, just come down here. Why? STEVE: We're here to help you. We understand that, you know, that you feel very alone with what's going on here and that's why we wanna help you. We wanna be part of this. SHARYN: I don't know where to start and I don't know why I am the way I am. I mean, if these things--I can't say it makes me feel loved to have these things around me, because I hate myself for having all this stuff. You understand what I'm saying? I can't even explain it. I can't explain it. STEVE: So, just come down here so we can talk. SHARYN: Where are you? STEVE: Over here. SHARYN: Where? Oh, no, come on. Stop it. Stop it. Stop. STEVE: Mom. SHARYN: Stop. Just stop. Stop. JODI: Do you want help? SHARYN: Yes. JODI: Mom, if it meant having your life back. SHARYN: I understand what you're saying. I do. STEVE: So it took a little while but we got her out of the bathroom as long as we agreed to turn the camera off. And then my sister and I spent two hours talking with her and really coaching her through this and she decided she's ready to take it on. So here she is. JODI: Mom, can you describe this clutter to me? SHARYN: It's just an accumulation of everything and anything. I'm a shopaholic and I just buy and buy and buy. To get around any place is just a maze in this house. Where I'm standing is one. Going from my family room into what is my kitchen, which doesn't always look like this but it does right now. STEVE: What are you talking about? SHARYN: They're air fresheners and they were marked down--wait a minute. They were really marked down... JODI: Ninety-nine cents. SHARYN: Yeah, 99 cents and then there was like a 75 cent coupon. I mean they were basically paying me to take them out of the store, so how could I not purchase them? JODI: Can you tell me how it makes you feel? SHARYN: Terrible, uncomfortable, suffocated. JODI: Okay. STEVE: Is there anything you wanna say to Oprah? SHARYN: I don't know how I've done this to myself, to my husband, to my family, but I do wanna change. I want my children to be happy. I don't want them to hate me because, in my heart, I feel like if I were to die tomorrow and leave all this for them to contend with, that they would end up hating me the rest of their lives. And I want to be free of all this clutter that's taking over my life. WINFREY: So Steve and Jodi are here. What made you want to do that video? STEVE: We wanted our parents to have a clean and healthy home to live in. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. How long has it been that way? STEVE: About 10 years. WINFREY: About 10 years. Do you remember when it started? JODI: It gradually happened little by little. I think, as each one of us moved out, it got worse and worse. And I was the last one out and after that it just got really bad. WINFREY: Was it cluttered when you were there? JODI: Well, it just--they started with the backroom in the basement, has always had... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. JODI: ...since they moved in, 30 years ago, had boxes that had never been unpacked. WINFREY: Wow. JODI: They went from that to a three car garage, going down to a two car, to a one car, to a no car. WINFREY: 'Cause there's no room. JODI: Mm-Hmm. WINFREY: And you were concerned about their safety, correct? STEVE: Yeah. I mean with what everybody's calling goat paths to get from here to there, I mean, God forbid, there would be a fire or something... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. STEVE: ...they'd have to get out and, I mean, with all that stuff, you would just--yeah. WINFREY: All that stuff. So when Sharyn's excessive hoarding hit an all-time high, her oldest son Rich and his family stopped visiting the house because what, it just got to be too much for you? RICH: Yeah, oh, yeah. It just, you know, it was just--there was no place to sit. WINFREY: No place to sit. RICH: Yeah. WINFREY: Yeah and did you say, I'm not gonna come to the house anymore, or did it just gradually happen? RICH: No. And it just gradually happened.

WINFREY: Mm-hmm. RICH: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Well, a few weeks ago, Rich went back inside his parents' house for the first time in over five years and this is what he saw. JODI: Okay, Rich, you go first. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. RICH: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Well, a few weeks ago, Rich went back inside his parents' house for the first time in over five years and this is what he saw. JODI: Okay, Rich, you go first. RICH: Holy shipwreck. My goodness. Oh, it'd take your breath away. Where do we begin? I got to turn sideways to get through the house. The family room-- unbelievable. Can you get any more stuff in here? Could you possibly get any more stuff in here? I'm thinking that this was just completely out of control. You can't even get to the bedrooms back here. There's a whole top floor. The other side of the house begins here. JODI: They've got a walkway to their bed. Take a look. RICH: Oh. My god. You can't even see the bed from the door and we're three feet from it or less. And you can't see the bed. The stuff is stacked as high as mom can reach, literally. JODI: Look at the little spot on the bed that they can sleep on. RICH: And I see why nobody's been over here. I mean, if I was in this situation, living in this situation, I wouldn't want anybody to see it. JODI: How do you think they feel when they wake up in the morning? I can't imagine. RICH: I don't know how they sleep. This stuff doesn't mean anything. I mean, it's meaningless. I would love to see the basement. You've got to be kidding me. This is a 3,000 square foot house. There's a pool table underneath there. JODI: Nope. I think there's a couch up on its side. Actually, there's probably, at least three couches down here. RICH: I mean, she can't have space with nothing in it. This has consumed her and I feel sorry for anybody who has to live like this, I really do. I never thought that she had the ability to do this. I'm devastated. I mean, you know, I came in with energy. I came in thinking I could, you know, I could make a dent in this. I mean, you can't even make space. I'm wiped out. I haven't touched anything. I haven't lifted a thing. I'm wiped out. I'm physically and emotionally drained. It's just--it's overwhelming. WINFREY: Yeah, overwhelming. So imagine how your parents felt in there. I mean, it feels sad, feels sad. They were sleeping in the bed every night? RICH: One of them. WINFREY: Yeah. RICH: One of them, I don't think there was enough room for two. WINFREY: Yeah. Yeah. RICH: Not from what I could see. WINFREY: Nothing what you could see. What did you feel--because the last time, you hadn't been in over five years and, obviously, it wasn't that bad when you were there the last time, right? RICH: It wasn't even remotely close. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. RICH: I mean, mom had piles of stuff that, you know, she would disguise with sheets and cover up, here and there, but it was nothing, I mean, nothing like that. WINFREY: Well, coming up, how did Sharyn's hoarding spiral so far out of control? We're gonna talk to both of them when we come back. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: So in a desperate plea for help, Jodi and Steve sent us a home video intervention exposing their mother's secret life of hoarding. So when we arrived at the house, Sharyn and Marvin tried to explain to us how things had spiraled so far out of control. SHARYN: When I shop and I find a good deal, it's totally excitement that I got something special for my money. I love seeing sale signs when I go into a store. I--it's like a magnet just drawing me to it. And I can find deals like nobody else can find. MARVIN: She'll buy gifts maybe, six months, nine months, a year, you know, in advance. And then when it's time to give the gift, of course, she doesn't know where she's put it. It's clutter. It's shopping. She was probably in a store and she saw a sale of umbrellas, so she picked them up. It could be from the day she bought it. It could be, I don't know, six months ago, a year ago, two years ago. SHARYN: I don't have one of anything in my house. If I have one pair of sunglasses, I have 10. And if I was going somewhere and I needed a pair of sunglasses, sometimes I wouldn't even be able to find one. MARVIN: Because of the frustration, get angry and I'll say, why did you buy this or why did you buy that. SHARYN: I dread when somebody knocks on the door. It's like I can't open the door. MARVIN: You know, this was a small mountain that just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. You know, when you wanna watch television, sometimes it's so high that you can't see the TV. SHARYN: I get disgusted with myself, totally disgusted. I'm not happy when I bring this stuff home because I don't know what to do with anything and I don't need it to begin with. MARVIN: It wasn't like this 10 years ago. I think the empty nest syndrome is probably really what started it. She felt that she was trying to replace the children with things. You know, she's caring, so that, you know, means more than having to deal with this. WINFREY: So Sharyn and Marvin are here with their three children. I think you touched on something there.

You were trying to fill the space with things. SHARYN: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Yeah. Trying to fill the space left by your children? SHARYN: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Yes. MARVIN: I don't think she really realized it at the time... You were trying to fill the space with things. SHARYN: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Yeah. Trying to fill the space left by your children? SHARYN: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: Yes. MARVIN: I don't think she really realized it at the time... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: ...when she was doing it. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: It was something that we kind of like figured out after the fact. WINFREY: But what is your role in all of this? Because as it's starting-- but she might have not been able to figure it out, but you're living in it, too, and as it keeps coming in, what are you saying? What are you doing? MARVIN: You know, Oprah, it's like it didn't happen in one day? It was at least 10 or 12 years of filling up... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: ...and coming in one day, you're not gonna see one bag... WINFREY: Right. MARVIN: ...added to the house. And it just got smaller and smaller and smaller. WINFREY: When did you realize that you were living in all of this clutter? MARVIN: I don't know. I'd be sitting on the couch and I would just look up and it was unlivable. It was not a certain time but it was, you know, I would ask her to, please, we have to start cleaning the house out, please. WINFREY: Uh-huh. MARVIN: And she'd say, okay, we'll start tomorrow or we'll start Monday or whatever day. WINFREY: Uh-huh. Were you noticing it at all, that it had become this bad, Sharyn? SHARYN: You become so acclimated to the space that you're in, it just becomes an everyday thing. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. SHARYN: I mean, yeah, I was aware of it and every time I would try to find something, I couldn't, because everything was just in disarray. But it just becomes an everyday thing. You don't know any different. WINFREY: Do you--I would imagine, have to deaden a part of yourself? I mean, I noticed on the tape when Steve and Jodi were filming you, long before our cameras came there, that you said you wanted to be free of all of this. SHARYN: Mm-hmm. WINFREY: I would imagine that a part of you has to die to live in that because it's so--you have to numb yourself or deaden yourself to be in that space. Is that true? SHARYN: Yes. WINFREY: Yeah, yeah. SHARYN: I suffered a lot of loss of family members in the last couple of years, and I really think that has a lot to do with--I mean, it is filling a void... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. SHARYN: ...but things do not replace people. WINFREY: Right. But you knew... SHARYN: The memories will always be there. WINFREY: Yeah, but you knew that when you were doing it, though, right? So even as you're shopping and you're bringing in more things, you were saying that those things, even as you're buying them, aren't making you happy. Would it make you happy, you know, seeing the sale sign? SHARYN: Yeah, I would get a high from that. WINFREY: Yeah. SHARYN: But then it would be a low because I would come home and it's like I didn't know where to put anything. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. SHARYN: And I would always ask myself, you know, why, why? WINFREY: Mm-hmm. SHARYN: I just didn't have the answers. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. And so was it only buying things on sale? Because it looks like you all got a lot of money. [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: No. WINFREY: Looks like you got a lot of money. SHARYN: No. WINFREY: No? Yes, things are stacked six feet high in there. SHARYN: If I tell you I can shop like nobody's business. WINFREY: Yeah. SHARYN: I would walk into a store and I, literally, felt like if there was a sale sign or a clearance sign, it had my name on it and it was the magnet just drawing me. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. SHARYN: And... WINFREY: Has it always been that way? SHARYN: It really had been like that. I mean I always looked for bargains and... WINFREY: Uh-huh. SHARYN: ...you know, and just accumulated stuff. WINFREY: And then what happens is it just gets overwhelming, right? SHARYN: Totally overwhelming. WINFREY: Yeah. So overwhelming. SHARYN: Yeah. WINFREY: Yeah, I know. It's like, you know, first it's 10 pounds and it's 20 pounds and then it's 25 pounds and it's 35 pounds and then it's like, oh, god. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Yeah, it's like that, right? SHARYN: That's true. WINFREY: Okay, how do you begin to help two people who are nearly buried alive in stuff? We called on the man who has a unique way of digging through the layers of, really, emotion that creates out-of-control clutter, our own organizational expert, Peter Walsh. Peter estimated that in order to help Sharyn and Marvin, it would take eight weeks. Originally, we were gonna try to do this in two weeks and then realized we couldn't. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Eight weeks and a team of 100 people. WINFREY: So whether you're a clutter-bug or a compulsive hoarder like Sharyn, Peter says you must ask yourself one key question before taking out a single bag of trash. And this is step one. PETER WALSH: Let's talk about what's going on here.

Marvin, tell me about this house. How long have you lived here? MARVIN: We've lived here, it's going on 32 years. Mr. WALSH: Okay, talk to me about the first day you saw this house. MARVIN: It was a new, brand new house. Marvin, tell me about this house. How long have you lived here? MARVIN: We've lived here, it's going on 32 years. Mr. WALSH: Okay, talk to me about the first day you saw this house. MARVIN: It was a new, brand new house. Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: It was big, a nice yard for the kids, great place to raise our children. It was a new beginning, a fresh start, a place that we would grow old in. Mr. WALSH: So when you saw this house, you wanted a new beginning, a fresh start, a great place to raise a family. I wanna start with what you want from this house. SHARYN: Peace, harmony, neatness, tidiness, a place to call home. Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: Home, a comfort zone that I'm happy to be in. Mr. WALSH: Okay. Turn around and tell me what you see. SHARYN: A burden. Mr. WALSH: Talk to me about that. SHARYN: It's disgusting. Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: It's total clutter and chaos in my life and my husband's life. I don't want it to be like that. I wanna be set free. I feel like I'm in a prison. Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: That's what it feels like. Mr. WALSH: Okay. MARVIN: It's not really a home to us anymore. Mr. WALSH: Okay. MARVIN: And I'd like to have my home back. Mr. WALSH: Okay. MARVIN: You know, a place that, you know, our family and friends can come visit. Mr. WALSH: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: And that's been a long time. Mr. WALSH: Okay. MARVIN: It's been a long time. SHARYN: Too long. Mr. WALSH: When was the last time you had friends in the house? MARVIN: Twelve years? SHARYN: Yep. MARVIN: Twelve years ago. Mr. WALSH: Okay. All right, so now, this is the starting point because constantly throughout the next couple of weeks, you have to keep coming back to what you want from this house. When you get to a point where you look at something and think yes or no, the criteria has to be peace, harmony, clean, open, a place where we can celebrate with family and friends. That's the criteria. SHARYN: Sorry. WINFREY: So you have to start with--it's just like anything else, any other business, any other venture in life, you must start with a vision. Mr. WALSH: That's it. If--one of the biggest problems with clutter is that people focus on the stuff. WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: And if you start there, you can never succeed. What's your vision for the life you want, the home you want, this room? You have to hold that in mind because without that, you just--you're lost before you start. WINFREY: Okay, so that's where you begin with a vision. We'll be back. Step-by- step, we're gonna get this house clean. We're gonna show you how we did it. We'll be right back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: So when you're buried in 75 tons of junk, where do you start? Peter Walsh and a team of six professional organizers helped this family dive into the massive--really, it's a rescue operation. Look at how we did it. Mr. WALSH: Okay, so this is what we're gonna do. We have a team here who's gonna give us a hand. The first two rooms we're gonna tackle are the living room and dining room here at the front of the house. SHARYN: Okay. Mr. WALSH: Okay? 95 percent of what's in here has to go. WINFREY: Peter creates four large sections in the front yard, keep, for the five percent of stuff staying inside this house, sell, for anything that can be sold, donate, for those articles going to goodwill, and, trash, anything being thrown away. Mr. WALSH: You are the director. You're standing out here. You ready to start? SHARYN: I'm ready to start. Mr. WALSH: What's going through your head? SHARYN: Happiness. Relief. Mr. WALSH: That's all we need. SHARYN: Yes. Mr. WALSH: Let's go. STEVE: Great. Mr. WALSH: Okay, let's go. SHARYN: Oh, god. Mr. WALSH: Let your mom have a look at those as they come through. SHARYN: Oh, keep, keep. [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: These are gifts. They're gifts. Keep. Kleenex is all paper stuff. I need it. That's the new baby stuff. WINFREY: As more and more stuff gets carried out, Sharyn's anxiety level escalates. SHARYN: I'm overwhelmed. Mr. WALSH: Okay, so take a breath. SHARYN: I, you know, I know I need to get rid of this. I just--you just got to give me a... Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: ...a little bit of time here. I don't want it. Mr. WALSH: Take, take, stop, stop, stop, stop. Take a breath. You're doing okay. Okay? SHARYN: Oh, god. WINFREY: Sharyn's outlook changes when she starts discovering long lost items. SHARYN: These are our solar lights. Marvin, look, it's the sensor light to replace the broken one. [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: They found all the solar lights. MARVIN: They found them? SHARYN: We've got it going on. WINFREY: Peter and Sharyn spent hours sorting through thousands of things. SHARYN: Can I keep the blue shoes? Mr. WALSH: The which? SHARYN: The blue ones in there? Okay, sell them. [LAUGHTER] Mr. WALSH: The umbrella? SHARYN: Sell. I already have enough umbrellas, right? Mr. WALSH: Yep. And a ton of... SHARYN: Sell. Mr. WALSH: Good job. SHARYN: Sell it. Wow. Sell. Keep. Mr. WALSH: Why? SHARYN: Sell it. That, you keep. [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: Oh, that's a keeper.

Mr. WALSH: Why? SHARYN: Because I use that one. Oh, throw it out. Okay, this is a keep. Mr. WALSH: Sharyn, what is it? SHARYN: My hair stuff I use every single day of my life. And I'm out of it. Mr. WALSH: No, you do not use it every single day of your life. SHARYN: Because I didn't know where it was. Honest to god. Mr. WALSH: Why? SHARYN: Because I use that one. Oh, throw it out. Okay, this is a keep. Mr. WALSH: Sharyn, what is it? SHARYN: My hair stuff I use every single day of my life. And I'm out of it. Mr. WALSH: No, you do not use it every single day of your life. SHARYN: Because I didn't know where it was. Honest to god. [LAUGHTER] Mr. WALSH: Do you have that anywhere else in the house? SHARYN: It's almost empty. I do need it. Mr. WALSH: Do you have... SHARYN: Wait, the gel. Mr. WALSH: Look at me. SHARYN: Yep, what? Mr. WALSH: What do you want from this house? [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: I want it to be nice. But that... Mr. WALSH: Sharyn? SHARYN: Sell. Mr. WALSH: Good. [LAUGHTER] SHARYN: Thank you. Mr. WALSH: Good job. WINFREY: Then the team makes a dangerous discovery that has been lurking beneath five feet of junk. SHARYN: Oh, my god. What is that? Mr. WALSH: See? See what happened here? SHARYN: Peter, I'm sorry. Don't vomit, please. Mr. WALSH: This is--see the food? SHARYN: It's pasta. Oh, my god. Mr. WALSH: It moves through and rots right into the carpet. SHARYN: Oh, lord, have mercy. Mr. WALSH: Okay. SHARYN: Oh, my god. I can't believe that carpet. Oh, god. That's enough to make me sick. WINFREY: So here's another look at the rooms before, the rooms before, and after. Can you believe this? [APPLAUSE] Mr. WALSH: The one thing that's very important here is, you cannot go in and do this for someone without them being involved. And many people try to do this. They'll go in when their parents are away on holidays... WINFREY: Mm-hmm. Mr. WALSH: ...and clear stuff. No. A very important part is to have the people who've created the problem involved in clearing the problem, or else you just create another problem. So it certainly was a large team, but this team was involved as well. WINFREY: Okay. Is it true you got sick during this? Mr. WALSH: I can't believe people tell you all these things. [LAUGHTER] Mr. WALSH: I actually have a very weak stomach. And at one stage, I did have to go out behind the dumpster and... WINFREY: Really? Yeah. Mr. WALSH: ...hurl, I think, is the word I would use, yes. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Hurl. Well, at the end of the first week, Peter leaves Sharyn and Marvin with three assignments to complete on their own during week two, okay? And those were? Mr. WALSH: The homework was very clear. Clear out the China cabinet... WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: ...because there was a large China cabinet we hadn't gotten to. WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: They had to also do the trash bag tango... WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: ...which means 10 minutes a day, two trash bags each, one of trash, one of stuff to goodwill. That was 14 bags in a week. WINFREY: Okay. Mr. WALSH: And Sharyn stopped shopping point blank from day one... WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: ...which was amazing. [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] WINFREY: 'Cause had you been shopping every day? SHARYN: No. WINFREY: Every day. SHARYN: No, not after... WINFREY: Yeah. SHARYN: ...not after this man came into my life. WINFREY: Not after this man. But before that, you were shopping every day? SHARYN: Yeah. WINFREY: Yeah. Coming up, something buried in trash sends Sharyn over the edge. We'll see what that was when we come back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: It's week three and the sorting continues on the front lawn of Sharyn and Marvin's home. For someone who hoards, it's often a very painful process. MARVIN: Sharyn, take a look at that. Why? Mr. WALSH: So tell me what that was. That--tell me what that was that created such emotion for you. What is it? SHARYN: My father's wallet. Mr. WALSH: Your dad's wallet. Okay. SHARYN: This is piece--it's just a small piece of my father that I have left. Mr. WALSH: I need you to listen to me for a second. That should have a place of honor and respect in the house... SHARYN: Yes. Mr. WALSH: ...and yet it's buried in all this stuff. If you respect that so much, what's it doing buried in the stuff? Okay, so we need to pull that out and make sure that it has a place of honor and respect with the stuff in the house. WINFREY: Yeah, good point. Mr. WALSH: When everything is important, I believe nothing is important. And so it's really critical to honor and respect the things that you say are of value. And if you don't do that, what are they doing in your home? And that was the problem here. Something of such huge emotional value was buried. WINFREY: Well, as week three continues, Sharyn is confronted again by Peter. Whether it's a house filled with stuff like Sharyn's or a junk drawer in your home, Peter says setting limits is the only way to stop the craziness. And he and Sharyn began with thousands of gifts she has purchased and never given away. The people are like, where is my present? [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Oh, there's my present underneath all that stuff. Mr. WALSH: I'll get to it. WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: I'll get to it. WINFREY: Take a look. Take a look. Mr. WALSH: Sharyn? SHARYN: Mm-hmm. Mr. WALSH: In this room, you can have one bin of gifts. This is the bin. You need to talk to me.

That's reasonable. SHARYN: Okay. Mr. WALSH: Okay. So now, you tell me how many bins of gifts is reasonable for you to keep. SHARYN: I don't know until I go through 'em... That's reasonable. SHARYN: Okay. Mr. WALSH: Okay. So now, you tell me how many bins of gifts is reasonable for you to keep. SHARYN: I don't know until I go through 'em... Mr. WALSH: No... SHARYN: ...because there's always birthdays and Christmas and everything coming up that... Mr. WALSH: And you need to make a decision now. SHARYN: Six. Mr. WALSH: Okay. So what just happened? SHARYN: I'm wondering if six is enough. Mr. WALSH: You need to make the decision. SHARYN: Can I have eight? Mr. WALSH: Eight. SHARYN: I mean eight bins? Mr. WALSH: So you're gonna stick to eight bins of gifts? That's the limit. SHARYN: Okay. Mr. WALSH: No, I'm asking you a question. SHARYN: Yes, eight bins. Mr. WALSH: The reason I am pushing you is that if you don't set limits now, you will be in this position again within a year, within a year. How many bins? SHARYN: Ten. But I can drop it. SHARYN: I can eliminate... Mr. WALSH: Don't bargain with me. We started with six, we went to eight, and then you just went to 10. This is what comes after 10. I'm sorry to push you, but we have to start establishing limits 'cause you have none. SHARYN: It's okay. Mr. WALSH: But unless you're clear, 10 will become 12... SHARYN: No. Mr. WALSH: ...12 will be... SHARYN: No. Eight will work for me. It's just overwhelming. Mr. WALSH: Yeah. SHARYN: I don't ever wanna be in this place again, ever. Not ever. WINFREY: So you were saying it's important to set boundaries whether it's-- whether you have a house that looks like that or whether you have a closet or... Mr. WALSH: Whether it's kids and their toys... WINFREY: Yes. Mr. WALSH: ...you and your shoes, not you specifically, but one and their shoes. [LAUGHTER] [CHEERS AND APPLAUSE] WINFREY: My shoes are very organized. Thank you very much. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Go ahead. Mr. WALSH: Well, see, the thing is, is it's easy to look at this and say, this is so extreme, it's not me. WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: But all of us are in this. You know, if your garage--if you don't have a limit for the number of holiday decorations in your garage... WINFREY: Yeah. Mr. WALSH: ...or the dress hanging in your closet or the number of tools on your workbench, if you don't limit your children or yourself, then this is the result. WINFREY: Yeah. I was gonna say this, too, it's very easy for all of us and all of you, who are watching, to allow our egos to get the best of us and think, well, I'm not that bad. But wherever there is clutter, wherever there is chaos, wherever there is confusion in your own life, the message of this, the deeper message--not just the voyeuristic look into your life, but the message of this is that there's always hope and that there is a way no matter who you are out of what appears to be no way. That's the message. Mr. WALSH: Change is possible. WINFREY: Change is possible. Mr. WALSH: Absolutely. WINFREY: Coming up, what Sharyn uncovers when she digs deep into the issues behind her hoarding. Because, obviously, this is bigger than what it appears to look like. We'll be right back to talk about what all of this really means, when we come back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: Dr. David Tolin is one of the country's leading experts on hoarding. We brought him in to do extensive work with Sharyn to help uncover the deeper psychological issues going on here with a house that looks like that. Here we go. DOCTOR DAVID TOLIN: Have you heard of compulsive hoarding? SHARYN: Mm-hmm. Dr. TOLIN: Is that what this is? SHARYN: Yes. Dr. TOLIN: How serious do you think the problem is? SHARYN: The highest number you can go to and beyond. Dr. TOLIN: Really? SHARYN: Yes. Definitely. And it's really, really gotten bad recently. Dr. TOLIN: Yeah. SHARYN: Really bad. Dr. TOLIN: What's happened recently? SHARYN: In the last two years, I've lost my brother and my sister. And I don't know if I'm trying to fill my life with things to replace the emptiness. Dr. TOLIN: It sounds like you're trying to fill a hole, but the hole is not getting any smaller as you fill it. In fact, I think I'm hearing the opposite. If anything, it's getting bigger. You're feeling worse and worse. SHARYN: Yes. Dr. TOLIN: What has hoarding taking from you? SHARYN: Being able to have my family and my friends come into my home. Dr. TOLIN: You can't have your friends over into your house? SHARYN: No. Dr. TOLIN: The kids? SHARYN: I'm embarrassed to even let my kids in there. Dr. TOLIN: What about your grandkids? SHARYN: My granddaughter is going to be 12. She probably hasn't been in my house in the past six years. And my grandson is gonna be 5, and he's never been to my house. Dr. TOLIN: Your grandkids don't need things. They need you. They need a grandma who's present and can have them over and can spend time with them in her house. And it sounds like the best way for you to show your love for your grandkids is to buy things. Not even necessarily to give them, just to buy them. SHARYN: Because I'm thinking about them. Dr. TOLIN: 'Cause you're thinking about them. But the thought doesn't make you a good grandma.

SHARYN: No. Dr. TOLIN: The actions do. SHARYN: Mm-hmm. Dr. TOLIN: In a way, you've been defining yourself as a good grandma based on what you acquire and what you possess rather than on what you actually do. SHARYN: No. Dr. TOLIN: The actions do. SHARYN: Mm-hmm. Dr. TOLIN: In a way, you've been defining yourself as a good grandma based on what you acquire and what you possess rather than on what you actually do. WINFREY: Really good. It's good. Dr. TOLIN: Thanks. WINFREY: Can events like a death in the family, as she said she's had suffered loss, or the children leaving home trigger this? Or was it already there and then leaving just exasperated the problem? Dr. TOLIN: It's probably both. You probably start with a person who's already vulnerable on several different levels to develop this problem. And then, something happens that kind of pushes them over the edge. But again, lots of people lose--lose people, face loses... WINFREY: Yeah. Dr. TOLIN: ...have bad things happen in their lives, and this isn't necessarily how they react. So it would be over simplifying things to say that's the cause. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. We'll be right back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] MARVIN: I was thinking back when we were dating, and she had a small room in her parents' house, and it was cluttered. So that keeps on flashing back into my mind. I mean, I knew what she was like. Dr. TOLIN: You knew she had this clutter tendency. MARVIN: I knew she had this clutter tendency. I guess I blamed myself in a sense because she's my wife and I didn't know how to stop her from doing what she was doing. Dr. TOLIN: You felt a sense of personal responsibility. MARVIN: Of course. I mean, when you're married, you're responsible for your spouse. So in that respect, I felt like it was partly my fault. I don't know what to do with it. Dr. TOLIN: Did you ever just consider putting your foot down, and saying, I've had it, this is enough. MARVIN: How do you do that? How do you do that? I mean, do I walk out of the house? And then what's she gonna do? She couldn't handle this by herself. There's no way. The most important thing is if you love each other, I mean, you can have the cleanest house in the world, and if you don't love each other, you know, what good is it? Dr. TOLIN: I sympathize with Marvin's position, 'cause on the one hand, it's easy for us looking at this for the first time and think, oh, my god, this is shocking. Why don't you do something about this? WINFREY: Right. Dr. TOLIN: But we haven't been in Marvin's position. You have to imagine this building up incrementally day after day over a period of 10 or more years. WINFREY: Uh-huh. Dr. TOLIN: Now, it's true that there's a point where we would say, hey, enough is enough. WINFREY: Hey, I can't see the TV. [LAUGHTER] Dr. TOLIN: But I also find it's awfully hard to win an argument about hoarding. I've tried, and I lose all the time. And my guess is that Marvin's lost these arguments as well. So Marvin's in a really tough position. On the one hand, he wants Sharyn to start working on this problem and clearing out the clutter. But on the other hand, the more he pushes, the more it seems to drive a wedge between him and his wife. He's really stuck. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. Did you feel stuck, Marvin? MARVIN: I just felt overwhelmed. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: Not that I was stuck, because we didn't spend a whole lot of time in the house because of the way it was. WINFREY: Mm-hmm. MARVIN: So we, you know, we did things outside the house, but it was--inside the house was no quality at all. WINFREY: No quality of life. MARVIN: No. WINFREY: No. We'll be right back. Thank you. We'll be right back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: Did any of you ever have hoarding issues yourself because of growing up this way? JODI: Oh, well... WINFREY: Or do you--are you the opposite? JODI: No. He's the opposite. WINFREY: Yeah. JODI: Us two have a little issue. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: A little issue. Yeah. JODI: Little, little in comparison. Yeah. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Yeah. In comparison. JODI: Yeah. WINFREY: How then does the family, the rest of the family, help Sharyn keep this compulsive disorder, you know, this obsession, whatever, I don't know what do we even call this, how do they help her keep that in check? And, you know, we have a few minutes with you on camera. I don't know how much time you all actually spent together. But that cannot be possibly enough to eliminate this problem. And what I'm afraid of is you have, you know, 100 people, 13 teams, whatever, come in and help. And it took two months to do this. But--and most people watching this are never gonna have that kind of support. Dr. TOLIN: Not unless you have Peter Walsh living in your house. [LAUGHTER] WINFREY: Not unless you can have Peter Walsh to come and help you get it straightened out. How do we then get her support so that this doesn't happen again? Dr. TOLIN: Sharyn's off to a great start. And I think what Sharyn and Marvin and the kids are all bearing in mind that is really important is that this cannot just be about the stuff. It is not about physical possessions. WINFREY: Right. Dr. TOLIN: If it were that simple, all we'd need to do is clear out the house and the problem would be solved. WINFREY: Right. Dr. TOLIN: In addition to clearing out the house, Sharyn needs to clean out her head, and she needs to really reorganize not just her possessions, but the way she thinks about her possessions. She needs to alter her behavior in a fundamental way so that this problem doesn't grow. The best thing for the family to do is support her without pushing, 'cause if they push, they're just gonna get a push back. WINFREY: Yeah. And is that the reason why you said you can't clean it up for somebody? Like, if they're gone and you're gonna clean out their things, because it is a psychological issue as well? Mr. WALSH: Absolutely. Because they just get more and more entrenched. It's like the argument. Once you start arguing about the stuff, someone has to win and someone has to lose. And I can guarantee it, the person who has all the clutter, or the hoarder, will never lose that argument ever. WINFREY: Or why they should hold on to the things. Mr. WALSH: Absolutely. WINFREY: Okay. Mr. WALSH: And so David's right here, family support. Sharyn's ready. She's agreed for on-going help. The family have agreed to monitor it. Sharyn has agreed to get into some substitute activity, into some volunteer work. She's stopped shopping. I think all the indicators are there that she's on track and that change is possible. WINFREY: Okay. We'll be right back. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] WINFREY: So thank you to Peter Walsh. for teaming up to help this family. Peter's book is called "It's All Too Much." Dr. Tolin's book on compulsive hoarding is called "Buried in Treasures." It is estimated that there are nearly six million Americans who have a hoarding problem that affects their quality of life. Thank you again, family. . WINFREY: Okay. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC]

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