Hoarding: Buried Alive is a TLC show that focuses on people who suffer from a compulsion to collect and keep things until those things literally take over their house. The structure is: exposition, desperation, consultation. It begins with the participant or hoarder taking the viewer on a tour of their home. By tour I mean less a leisurely stroll and more a tight squeeze along one narrow path they have carved between mountains of junk. The hoarders then talk about how they recognize their problem but feel powerless to change. This is where the therapist comes in and the makeover begins.
During the consultation part of the show, the therapist stands in the one square of clean space left in their client’s home and asks them to discard something. The therapist says things like: “You’re holding onto the past so much that you can’t live in the present.” Or: “How does this sweater/kitchen utensil/broken soap dish, make you feel?” The hoarder cries and after much agonizing, hesitantly puts something in the box marked “discard”. One commercial break and it’s four weeks later. With editing worthy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, trashed room is now pristine space. In spite of having a compulsion so strong that the hoarder has spent years turning every inch of their home into a dump, they have turned their life around in a few weeks. Their triumph is rooted in one of reality TV’s central lessons: transformation=life success.