‘Hoarders’ Pro Organizer Dorothy Breininger on Digging Deeper for Season 13
With more people at home, Hoarders has become even more relevant. The Emmy-nominated and Critics Choice Award-winning series shows experts stepping in to help people on the verge of crisis who are battling this compulsive disorder. Professional organizer Dorothy Breininger has dug through her share of residential stockpiles over the show’s 12 seasons, with No. 13 on the way. Here, this five feet of organizational fury checks in from Belize to talk about Hoarders‘ longevity and the jam-packed two-hour episodes to come.
How do you think COVID has had an impact on hoarding?
Dorothy Breininger: Everybody was willing to confront their stuff because they simply had nothing else to do. For some reason, the stigma around hoarding decreased. The show was still running, and people were using it as a tool to help them to declutter. I think it became even more popular over the last year. We had more hoarders coming forward and people willing to allow us to film their stories.
What are some stories that stand out to you from this season?
The Paul story airing on November 1. This guy is an interior designer out of New York City. It’s really interesting to see his flair. He is used to painting and this whole experience of beauty and aesthetics. His paintings were so amazing. We did something special for him to show him that we cared and to try to help him with his paintings, because he thought they were super valuable. The other [standout] show [is the November 29 one about] Peggy. This particular hoarder was a super clean hoarder, but she had over 7,000 bins, boxes, and bags that were already packed. We had to unpack so we could decide what was hoard and what wasn’t.
Why has the show lasted this long, and how has it changed?
I did the pilot and have been on for over a decade. The biggest difference I see is people are now understanding the difference between hoarding and collecting and just having basically too much clutter. They are seeing it for themselves. There seems to be a real understanding and a real caring for mental well-being. In the beginning, I was being asked by attorneys, conservators, judges of our legal system to come in and speak to them and teach them about hoarding. People were being fined and put in jail for their hoarding. If they didn’t clean it up within 48 hours, they were going to jail. That’s not the case now. Our legal system is starting to understand that we can’t put people away because they hoard. We have to address mental wellness.
With the holiday season around the corner and the online shopping boom, what kind of advice do you have for people so they don’t fall into bad habits?
No matter what we say, people are going to shop. People are going to buy and return stuff. Let’s at least try to manage what is happening there. I’ve encouraged people to have an Amazon space or online shipping and receiving space. Be organized if you are going to be doing online buying and returning.
For me, I like to give experiences rather than stuff. I love to make a scroll and write down a list like “Here Is What I Like About Scott.” Then I roll it up and put a bow on it. I stand up and read how great Scott is. It touches everybody. That’s the gift. It seems a little strange, but to be publicly acknowledged feels really great.
What have you learned about yourself by helping all these folks?
I love that question the best because that is where I’ve seen the biggest change. I would say it is really in me. I used to be, “Let’s get this cleaned up and really make this happen for them no matter what.” Now it’s “No matter what, let’s get to know these people. Understand what makes them tick. Understand what motivates them.” I’ve connected deeper. I’m more open. I’ve always been huggable with these folks. I’m now drawn more into who they are. That has made the difference. It’s not making the difference with their stuff but with who they are so it impacts their family in a bigger way.
Hoarders, Season 13 premiere, Monday, October 18, 8/7c, A&E