Working on the Set of the A&E Show “Hoarders”

Now that the episode has aired I can finally (yay!) share some pictures and my experience with working on the set of the A&E show Hoarders. Watching Monday night was the first time I saw anything with the episode so it was quite interesting to see how it all played out!

So what did you think about the show??? Drop your comments on the Summersault Facebook post. I’d love to hear what you thought!

I thought it would be fun to blog some of the burning questions that you may have had or that have been asked to me. If you have questions that I did not cover send me an email and I will add it below!

How did you get selected to help with the show?

When I first opened my “side hustle” aka “Summersault”, I joined the group NAPO (National Organization of Productivity and Organizing Professionals). I had to take several classes and online studies to become a member and once I was a member my contact information was added to their directory.

I received this random email from a production manager with a company out of Seattle asking if I would be interested in participating in an episode of the show Hoarders. They were planning to be in Byhalia, MS, in mid-October 2019 and needed approximately three organizers to assist Matt Paxton on the set. Matt is one of the resident organizers on the show.

At first I was a little hesitant because it sounded too good to be true and how often do you have a production company emailing you about being on a TV show? After I emailed back and forth with the production manager, she reassured me I would not show up as a victim on an episode of 48 Hours (yes, I really asked her this question). I did a lot of research on the production company and how it works, so I decided to take the job. A date was set for the week of October 14th. Filming was butted up against an event that I had out of town so it was not ideal but I really did not want to miss out on the opportunity so I was planning to put in some hours that week to make it happen and to fulfill my event obligation.

As we got closer to the dates I received an email from the production manager stating the dates were being moved to the first week in November due to some issue with Cindy not wanting to proceed. Even better! So I anxiously awaited the day to show up to the set. October rolled around and before we showed up, we received our call sheet. This detailed everyday of shooting, locations, the “actors” involved and what all would be covered. It was actually really neat to see it on the front end.

Have you ever worked in a hoarding situation before?

First day on the set

Up until this job, I had never worked in a hoarding situation. If you have ever watched the show or even encountered a hoarder you know hoarding is a disease. Just like alcoholism or being addicted to drugs. Except the drug is “stuff”. Many people who suffer with a hoarding disorder have had devastating events and loss happen to them in their life.

It’s strongly encouraged through all professional organizing groups that if you plan to work with hoarders that you broaden your knowledge of the disease and to encourage your client to seek further professional help with the psychology of why they hoard. You can’t just walk into a hoard and throw everything away. It’s not that easy! It actually makes things worse. So you have to walk on delicate grounds with hoarders.

Cindy’s situation was no different.

How did you like working with Cindy?

We’ve all seen many of those episodes and every hoarder seems agitated and mean. They are always grumpy and mad at the world. They don’t want the help and they are usually hard headed and stubborn. I had no clue as to what I would encounter. The first day I was scheduled to be onsite, I was waiting (you do a lot of waiting) and as I was talking to the crew, out walks this cute, petite, pretty, fun, adorable lady. I had no clue who she was and if you know me well, I ask questions. I asked one of the sound guys who she was and he said, “oh, that’s Cindy”.

I really grew to like and respect Cindy.

This sweet lady was walking around greeting everyone, saying hello and making sure we were okay and comfortable. This could not be the hoarder we were there to help. She was dressed in a nice outfit, her hair and makeup done to a tee and she just was so lovable. Dr. Robin Zasio and Matt Paxton even mentioned several times about how we all liked her. We did! She was really a cool person that was very kind. 

Many of you sent me text during the show and were saying how annoying she was. I guess being there with her over a span of four days made it bearable and when you smoosh 8 days of filming into 2 hours she does come across as annoying and hard headed. Not that she wasn’t hard headed, trust me there were times I was like “you have got to be kidding me”, but her kindness outweighed her stubbornness. She made it easy for us to want to help her because of her kindness and likability.

As we continued to get to know her, my admiration for her increased. One of the other professional organizers working with me made a comment “I don’t like calling her “the hoarder” because it’s negative and well, we really like Cindy”.

During our breaks we got to know her and her family even better. We ate lunch with them everyday. We figured out problems with the organizing. We all felt a sense of achievement when she agreed to let us throw even the smallest of item away. I guess this type of camaraderie make you get close with others? We were welcomed into her home and property so we truly had the desire to help this woman. She became a friend to us and I still check in on her via her daughter in law.

All the professional organizers with Cindy’s sister Dee Dee. You may remember her from the show and let me tell you, she was pure entertainment everyday!

What was a typical day of filming like?

As mentioned above you do a lot of waiting around on the set. There are only so many cameramen and sound crew to get all the action. So while they are filming Cindy and her family in discussion with Matt and/or the psychologist we would have to wait. For me, this was difficult. I don’t like sitting idle and want to work. But when we did work, boy…we worked! You noticed a majority of the hoard was focused on her property outside. She had a lot inside as well but the issue with Cindy was she wanted to be with everyone when we were sorting and de-cluttering for fear something would be thrown away without her permission. This was clearly displayed in the episode. That’s simply impossible with a hoard though. All of us wanted to help her and do more but there were some days, Cindy would not allow it. I mentioned to one of the producers that I feel bad about not getting into the house and organize it/sort as much and his reply was “this is her reality” and it was true.

I would arrive at about 8:00 am to Cindy’s house. We would wait for our direction on what we would focus on for the day. Most of our time was spent on the outside with the BioOne crew and Matt. The BioOne guys were so helpful! They did all the heavy lifting and really were the muscle behind it all. Some days we would not get into the organizing until about noon but we would just waited until the producer would let us know what and where we needed to be. We had lunch catered in and this was a fun time to sit down, relax and just get to know the cast and crew. I also really enjoyed getting to know the other organizers, Kati and Denisha. We all talked “shop” and got some really great ideas from each other and Matt. After lunch is when we worked the most. We would focus on a section of her property or a project that Matt had us do and go from there.

Thank goodness it was November and the weather was really nice. Some days chilly. If it had been warmer, it would have been miserable. It was muddy and gross. It was wet and sometimes damp and cold and there were times I wanted to rest but we kept moving and focusing on helping her. Each day I went home very tired and nasty but enjoyed the day that we had.

There were times it was very frustrating because as you know, Cindy thought she could sell a lot of items but it just was not possible. I would find myself bargaining with her on trashing or donating items.

So many conversations went something like this…

Me-“Cindy, let’s get rid of this candle”.

Cindy- “No! No! I can sell that”

Me-“Cindy, no one will buy this half used non-smelly candle. Plus you don’t have any social media accounts to sell these items. How about we trash this and we keep this lamp over here”.

My bargaining skills were enhanced that week! HA!

Sometimes I felt we were just moving the hoard from one location to another. This is very common in situations like this. Frustrating because you are not accomplishing anything.

You may recall this scene from the episode. The organizers were helping Cindy in front of her house and she started having a meltdown. Dr. Zasio had to talk with her one on one.
Cleaning out that black trailer that she sold.

We had dumpster after dumpster sent. We would fill it and they would take one away just to replace it with another one.

Kati, Denisha and me waiting to work. These ladies were so fun to work with. You never know how Type A personalities will mesh but I really enjoyed their company and expertise while there.

What was it like to work with the crew?

The crew came from all over the country- Hawaii, Seattle, California, Austin. They were pretty awesome too! Very kind to answer all my questions about their jobs and their families. I really enjoyed getting to know each cameraman, sound guy and crew on the set. A few producers were onsite as well and talking with them about their resume and what they have done, TV and movie wise, was pretty impressive. Like feature films impressive.

It’s been fun to watch this new season and the other episodes because sometimes they will catch the producer talking to the hoarder or catch another cameraman in the shot and it’s faces and voices I recognize.

They were also really grateful and kind when I bought some of my mom’s homemade cookies to them.

These two guys were so sweet and kind. I have no idea how they deal with each and every hoard they shoot.
Matt Paxton is the man! If you watch the show he is literally the same, exact person on camera as he is in real life. It was a highlight to work with him.
One of the producers and crew members.
All the crew- BioOne, the organizers and Matt Paxton. Everyone was so kind and fun!
A few crew members and one of the camera guys (he did all the drone work).
Camera and sound crew with one of our producers getting ready to shoot a family interview.
Taking a break!
The entry into Cindy’s house.
The Thinker

You told us that watching Monday night was the first time you saw the episode. Was there anything you were surprised about while watching?

Yes! They filmed so much and there were a few side stories and scenes that they did not include. I was really shocked they did not incorporate Amber (the niece that showed up the last day to help) into the story. In my opinion she was a hoarder too and was enabling Cindy and it made for some entertaining scenes. I do understand that there is only so many things they can do and maybe going down that rabbit hole was too much.

You may have noticed that in the house scene, Cindy kept saying she didn’t want Amanda in there but Amber could stay and be “her voice”. It was true. She trusted Amber to not throw things away because Amber was just as bad with hoarding as Cindy. We did get into the house for about half a day with Amber. The other organizers and I would gang up on Amber and talk her into throwing away things that were of no value. That was a good day and we got a lot completed.

I was also surprised at how much they had the organizers on the show. They got me a couple of time speaking (my goodness that southern accent was intense!) and some of you even saw a few eye rolls. 🙂

 

Do you feel you helped Cindy?

While this experience for me personally was great, I do not feel we accomplished much. This makes me really sad to think of what “could have been”. I caught myself watching the previous Hoarder episodes to see how much they got completed for that particular hoarder and honestly, many got a lot more finished inside than we did but the hard truth is…it depends on the hoarder. Some will let you in and know they need help and accept it. While Cindy admits verbally she has a problem, I don’t think she actually thinks she does. I hope that makes sense. Maybe it’s denial but she always felt the need to justify keeping everything so she could sell it later. It was just a perfect storm in regards to having all these things and needing money to pay off her storage units, etc.

I think what was so frustrating about the entire experience is when I would see trash (literal trash) she would fight us to keep it because she had big plans to sell it. I hated that for her because she would never, ever get to that point of getting rid of all those things.

It’s just things and in the end she didn’t see it that way.

Someone asked “out of all the stuff she had, you all could not find a bed frame to set up for her in the cleaned room”. We really tried to create a clean, organized space for her but she was not having it. Also, most of the stuff she had was just not usable or was in a junk heap out in the yard. One of the producers tried to get a new mattress in but we really ran out of time. The bedroom that you saw at the end was not as hoarded as the other rooms so we just re-organized and the Bio-One crew came in to clean the room/bathroom. The rat poop in there was a hazard and had to be cleaned with some strong stuff but we tried to make it more comfortable but we just ran out of time.

At the end of the show it says that Cindy lost the items in the storage units and hasn’t done additional cleanup. Is this the current status today or shortly after you taped?

Unfortunately the situation is still the same, if not worse for Cindy. I check on her every so often with Amanda and they are so sad that she did not take the after care help (A&E pays for a year of therapy with a local doctor) and continues to hoard. It has gotten worse and she is not changing apparently. Cody and Amanda really have such wonderful hearts and seeing them suffer for their mom/MIL was painful. They have somewhat given up on her issue with hoarding.

I really do hate it for her but until she changes her mindset and gets help, it will not change.

Would you do this again?

I would! As with every job I do, I get to know my clients. Cindy was no exception. Once you form that bond you realize that your clients are doing something to better and enrich their lives and I am tickled pink they have invited me into their home.

It’s hard y’all, and I know sometimes you don’t want a “stranger” in your home to help you get things in order. I never see it as shameful or embarrassing and actually LOVE what I do so yes! I would go into a home like this again.

A sign at the entrance of Cindy’s home.
Amanda (Cindy’s daughter in law) sent this to me the day after we finished filming. This was her devotion for the day.

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