Compulsive hoarding is a disease that makes people who have it want to save items in their homes, even if those items are dangerous or unsanitary. Compulsive hoarders have been known to save things that once started as a collection - like dolls and videotapes - or things that the person can't see are unsafe to have around - like animals or food. Extreme hoarding makes it difficult for the hoarders to even move around the house, and, especially in the case of animal hoarding, can make it completely unsafe to live in the home.
Hoarders, a documentary-style television show on A&E, takes on two hoarders in each new show. There are licensed psychologists that come to talk to the people, as well as professional organizers. They bring in family and friends and help clean out some of the clutter in the homes, usually with the help of the 1-800-GOT-JUNK crew. There is always drama that ensues, especially between the family members who often cannot understand why their loved one is hoarding all of that stuff and the hoarder him or herself who cannot seem to ever part with items they have held on to for so many years. Once the place is cleaned out, the show offers aftercare funds to help the hoarders conquer their battle with their mental illness and keep the house clean.
The hoarders are often older people, and it seems they usually live in small towns or far away from other people. Sometimes, the show has been called because the hoarding has gotten so bad that they cannot move from their home. Sometimes, it's much worse and authorities have been brought in because of horrendous smells or health hazards. Either way, it is very clear from the moment the cameras are let into the house that the situation is serious, and that these people have been called in to help. Each hoard on the show is unique, and the show mostly seems to do a good job of creating enough empathy for the people with the disease for the audience to feel bad for them rather than judge them.
Every episode of Hoarders is packed with intensity and drama as the cast and crew work to get each house cleaned up in only two days. Many people feel the timeline is imposed for dramatic effect, but it does do some good considering many of these hoarders are put in dire situations already. However, there are often finds among the hoards that stick with you long after the episode is over. Some of these include dead animals, including a mummified cat, so many dolls you can't even seem to count them, expired food that one woman actually eats in front of the crew, and feces. There was also a man who was fined several thousand dollars for having literally hundreds of vehicles on his property.