Mountains of clothes, brand-new, never-before-worn shoes and thousands of dollars worth of other high-end items covered the inside of one woman’s 4,000-square-foot home in Tulsa, Olka.
Monte, the 52-year-old woman who did not want her last name revealed, was suffering from a shopping addiction.
“I’m keeping an absolute humongous secret,” she said told the cameras of the TLC reality show “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” “I would consider myself a high-end, upscale, couture-type hoarder.”
It took an intervention from the show, which explores the psychology behind compulsive storing, to save Monte from her shopping habits. She recounted to “Good Morning America” special correspondent Cameron Mathison how she got to that point.
“I was turning into somebody I didn’t want to be,” said Monte, who estimates she spent at least $500,000 on the items in her home.
Monte’s hoarding habit was precipitated by a major life event — in her case, a divorce – something common among hoarders, according to Dr. Becky Beaton, a licensed psychologist and consultant on the TLC show.
“People who hoard often have 20 percent more trauma than the average person,” said Dr. Beaton, also the founder and director of The Anxiety & Stress Management Institute in Marietta, Ga.
Monte is a retired schoolteacher who has one son. She declared bankruptcy at one point but her hoarding problem continued to spiral out of control as she shopped and spent beyond her means, hoarding to the point that her home was unlivable.
At her lowest point she estimates she had around 500 pairs of shoes in her many closets.
“I don’t really think that I cared that much about the stuff,” she told Mathison. “It was more about just the pursuit of it. But once I got it, it wasn’t that important to me.”
Working with the “Hoarding: Buried Alive” team, Monte was able to clean and organize her closets and move toward recovery.
Three months later, she says she still has to work every day to conquer her affliction, but she is a changed woman.
“I’m so glad that I was able to get rid of this stuff and clean up the house and focus on my friendships and focus on my family,” she said.