Jul 06

Hoarding and Cluttering: Two Movies

The following two movies about hoarding and/or cluttering are available to stream.

I. Clutter, featuring Carol Kane as Linda, a hoarder

The film as described on IMDB:

Charlie Bradford [Joshua Leonard], an aspiring filmmaker in his 30s, is doing the best he can to distance himself from the chaos of his childhood home. But his eccentric mother Linda, a compulsive hoarder who suffers from depression punctuated by spells of manic consumption, has a tendency to keep the people and things she loves close at hand. Charlie’s younger sisters still live at home with Linda: Lisa [Natasha Lyonne], the older of the two has a history of petty theft and works as a home healthcare aid, and Penny [Halley Feiffer], who is trying to overcome her agonizing shyness is starting a a new career as a home stager in a beleaguered real estate market. When a water stain on the family’s garage door is interpreted as an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, the house attracts the unwanted attention of the neighbors…and the county health department, which gives the Bradfords a week to clean up their act or lose their home. As the family attempts to clear its clutter, long-buried resentment and grief begin to surface, forcing each of them to face what it is they value most in life.

II. Hello My Name Is Doris, starring Sally Field

“…(U)nlike [Carol] Kane’s character…Doris is the cute kind, one whose house remains spotless despite stacks of junk in every room. Her easy-to-clear mess turns out to be mostly metaphorical, without the sad reality of rotting food or genuine mental illness” (Alonso Duralde, The Wrap).

The mother Doris has lived with and taken care of for years has just died, and Doris’s inheritance-focused brother Todd (Stephen Root) and his nasty wife (Wendi McLendon-Covey) are eager for her to empty the cluttered house and vacate. Doris is not so eager—the house, after all, truly represents (in various ways) the bulk of her life.

But after attending a seminar led by a motivational author (Peter Gallagher), she does feel inspired to make a life change—if not the specific one Todd wants.

Eventually Todd refers Doris to a specialist, Dr. Edwards (Elizabeth Reaser), who treats hoarding disorder.

But is Doris really a hoarder or is she more of a clutterer?

Cluttering is addressed by Barry Yourgrau, author of the memoir Mess: One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act. He writes in a Psychology Today post, “Essentially, clutterbugs can be persuaded to let things go; for hoarders, it’s a terrible terrible struggle, and dealing with them requires psychological insight and tremendous, informed patience.”

A couple diagnostic criteria for hoarding disorder that Doris doesn’t meet are the level of her own distress (it’s more her family’s issue) and the livability of her home (she seems comfortable enough). Not that any of this is clarified in the film. However, if she doesn’t quite qualify as a hoarder—and I’m no expert at this—she’s certainly showing risk.

More importantly, though, what’s Doris’s perception of her own issue over time and what does she eventually do about it?

Find out when you see the movie. The trailer for Hello My Name Is Doris follows: