Hoarders Fill Rooms With Trash, Clutter, Worse

Photo: Hoarders Fill Rooms With Trash, Clutter, Worse: Crews That Help Hoarders Clean Up Describe Condition Some Trace to Mental Illness

Lloyd Drum's bedroom is a mess. There's a lot of newspaper. There's a half-buried computer.

Drum's South Los Angeles backyard is just as cluttered. He has a huge collection of bicycles piled up in a shed and in the garage. Also in the garage is a car that hasn't seen the light of day in years. The vehicle lies buried under a huge pile of ... stuff.

Such clutter would drive most people crazy. Drum, 82, insists it doesn't bother him.

The Hoarders
The Hoarders

"That's not as much of a problem as not being able to find stuff I'm looking for," he told ABC News.

The clutter inside and outside Drum's home goes beyond questions of everyday tidiness.

"I tend to save all of the stuff I get from my church," said Drum. "Not necessarily re-reading it."

He said the last time he had cleaned the room was "about a month ago." "I was looking for something," he explained.

We asked him if he'd thought of trying to get rid of some of his stuff.

"I don't have a need to," Drum said. "I've always enjoyed things in quantity. When I have things in quantity I feel wealthy. That's not a conscious thing, it's something I've figured out."

The phenomenon is called "hoarding," and it is a lot more complicated than you might imagine.

It's also a phenomenon just strange enough to have become a hit TV show.

The A&E show "Hoarders," which goes inside the cluttered world of people who can't seem to throw anything away, is a breakout hit and the network's top-rated program.

From Bugs to Beer Cans

It features homes overrun by everything from bugs to beer cans. It shows rooms that look like aftermath scenes from a natural disaster.

In fact, some of the people on the show appear to have turned their homes into garbage dumps.

Dorothy Breininger helped come up with the show's pilot. On the show she enters hoarders' living spaces.

In one scene, Breininger climbs with a flashlight into the cluttered room of a woman's house.

"All right, I'm gonna climb in because I'm kind of set up for it, all right?" she announces. The scene looks more than a little precarious.

'Weird Horror Stories'

Breininger is a professional organizer who spends each and every day working with people trying to overcome what is, in many cases, a debilitating problem.

"We have lots of weird horror stories," Breininger said. "One of the worst things we face [is] when people are caught in situations, and they're stuck and can't get out from their own stuff that has slid on top of them."

Breininger keeps the tools of her trade neatly organized in the trunk of her car.

"There's a lot of stuff," she said, looking into her trunk. "The most important things are the masks, right. So we've got masks and gloves, and I always bring extras for everybody."

The incredible mess in some homes makes the protective gear necessary, Breininger said.

"Because we're going to be touching some things that... It's that bad," she said. "And don't forget, there's the Hantavirus that occurs when you have a lot of rat droppings and things like that. And oftentimes we have animals, so we've got animal food. We carry food. So we want to settle them down and get them happy so that we can meet with the hoarders."

Breininger's friend, James Williams, owns a "1-800-Got-Junk" franchise. He is often brought in to help -- and he has the horror stories to show for it.

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