DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Amy Barnes likes to keep the outside of her Plano home in tip-top shape. The lawn is cut and the shrubs are well manicured. But on the inside, Barnes is living a life under siege. ”It is difficult and it’s tiring. I don’t want to live this way,” explained the 40-year-old.
Barnes is a confessed hoarder. Her obsession began five years ago. ”It started with learning that I got a high from bargain shopping.”
And now, Barnes can’t seem to throw anything away. “I struggle with every decision. Am I throwing away something I might need,” she constantly asks herself.
Boxes, gadgets, arts and crafts along with a mountain of other clutter has turned her house into an obstacle course. ”It’s extremely embarrassing. I don’t open the blinds in the front and I don’t let people in,” said Barnes.
The computer programmer has coveted and collected items that most people would have tossed away years ago. “If I just give it away, then I’m admitting that I didn’t need it in the first place and it was a failure, because I let myself buy it,” she explained.
Barnes is the first to admit that she has a problem and can’t seem to dig her way out. “It’s a very slow process, because it’s hard for me to let go.”
KeLaine Kvale of southeast Dallas calls herself a recovering hoarder. ”I had a lot of emotional moments and it was hard,” recalled Kvale.
The 60-year-old was featured on the TLC reality show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” A year later, and Kvale has made progress, but admits she has a long way to go.
One look at her computer room and her back yard, and most would agree. There are piles of housewares and boxes of “who knows what” that make it a challenge just to walk three feet.
Kvale is now part of support group for Dallas-area hoarders that meets twice a month. ”So little is known about it. It’s just recently that it’s become such a problem. More people are hoarding,” she added.
Hoarding is more than just fodder for reality TV. It can be downright dangerous; especially for senior citizens who have lost their mobility. The elderly can actually find themselves a prisoner, trapped inside their own homes.
Social worker, Valencia Hooper runs the Hoarding Task Force of Greater Dallas. Hooper says life-threatening problems arise for older hoarders because they can’t come out of their house or they’re unable to navigate to the kitchen or bathroom to get their medicine.
Hoarding poses safety and health risks, not only for the homeowner, but for their neighbors as well. The mounds of debris often attract rodents and snakes and can be a deadly fire hazard.
There is help for hoarders. The Hoarding Task Force of Greater Dallas along with Mental Health America of Greater Dallas are sponsoring a conference to help them dig out of their disorder. The conference runs Friday, June 8, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm at the Windsor Senior Living Center at 7750 LBJ Freeway in north Dallas.