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Movies About Hoarding We Can Learn From

Movies About Hoarding We Can Learn From


Some people are visual learners and learn best by seeing the experience of others. When we're talking about hoarding disorder, sometimes seeing is believing. For this reason, I've rounded up some movies and documentaries that shed some light on hoarding disorder from different perspectives. 


Collyer Brothers Syndrome

In 2003 two Australian writers made a short film titled Collyer Brothers Syndrome which screened at many film festivals and on an Australian Broadcast Network. The piece is based on Homer and Langley Collyer, two brothers living in their Harlem brownstone who obsessively collected books, furniture, and musical instruments. They died in their home in 1947 surrounded by over 140 tons of clutter. Since that time New York firefighters often refer to hoarded homes as Collyer mansions.


Grey Gardens 

This is a documentary film made in the 70s that depicts the everyday lives of two formerly upper-class women; "Big Edie" Bouvier Beale and her adult daughter "Little Edie." They lived for decades in a crumbling mansion in East Hampton, Long Island that was overrun with cats, fleas, and raccoons. These women were the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. You can see a clip of actual before and after pictures of their mansion HERE. In 2009 Grey Gardens was made into an HBO film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.


Unstrung Heroes 

The movie Unstrung Heroes came out in 1995 and stars Andie MacDowell. She plays a mother who is diagnosed with cancer and becomes increasingly ill. She and her husband allow their son, against their better judgment, to go live with their uncles who are described as living in a setting worthy of the Collyer brothers. You can see a movie trailer HERE.


World of Compulsive Hoarders

This is a TV movie from 2007 that highlights four people with compulsive hoarding. It follows a man named William who only leaves his house at night to raid other people's garbage as well as Roy who lives in a cluttered nine-bedroom house with a shed filled with excrement. 



This 2013 movie is about a family who must declutter or be faced with losing their home. The story depicts a mother struggling with hoarding disorder and how her hoarding behavior has emotionally affected her three grown children. Clutter stars Kathy Najimy and you can see a trailer of it HERE.



This is a short documentary that shows the private lives of four people with hoarding disorder. The film questions whether hoarding is accounted for because of mental illness or a revolt of consumerism. The film is only 21 minutes long and is worth a view. 


Girl with Black Balloons 

This movie came out in 2010 and depicts the relationship between a Dutch filmmaker who stumbles across an elderly, eccentric artist named Bettina Grossman. Grossman lives in New York's Chelsea Hotel where she sleeps on a lawn chair surrounded by her artwork that no one has ever seen. Her living conditions are so chaotic she is taken to court to obtain a guardian. You can catch a trailer of the movie and additional details HERE.


Have you seen any of these picks or do you have a flick you would add to the list? 


Categories: Mental Health / Hoarding


  • I think I saw "Grey Gardens" with Drew Barrymore but don't remember it at all. I haven't seen any of the others you mention, but I did enjoy “Hello, My Name Is Doris” which Matt mentioned.
    8/6/2018 10:51:45 AM Reply
    • @Janet Barclay: I really need to put "Hello, My Name is Doris" to the top of my viewing list now! Thanks for chiming in, Janet.
      8/6/2018 4:14:36 PM Reply
  • This is a great list. I have seen "Clutter," and I highly recommend it! I also second Matt's suggestion to add "Hello, My Name is Doris" to the list. It is an interesting movie starring Sally Field. One of my organizing clients actually called me because she watched that movie and didn't want to end up like the main character.
    8/6/2018 9:05:11 AM Reply
    • @Nancy Haworth: That's funny that a client was prompted by a movie to call you! I love the various ways clients are motivated to contact us.
      8/6/2018 4:13:53 PM Reply
  • What an incredible list of movies! I took a look at the Grey Gardens clip. It made me sad to see the conditions they were living in.
    8/6/2018 8:39:47 AM Reply
    • @Linda Samuels: Yes, those before and afters were sad to see. I'm a fan of Drew Barrymore so I really need to see this movie!
      8/6/2018 4:13:07 PM Reply
  • Great list. Thank you for compiling it.
    8/6/2018 8:17:52 AM Reply
    • @Diane Quintana: You're welcome, Diane. I didn't think I'd come up with so many!
      8/6/2018 4:12:31 PM Reply
  • Hi Sarah, Great list! I didn’t see this movie, but wouldn’t “Hello, My Name Is Doris” also belong on your list? Matt
    8/3/2018 9:14:01 AM Reply
    • @Matt Baier: I haven't heard of that one! Thanks for the add, Matt. I'll be sure to check it out.
      8/3/2018 9:55:15 AM Reply
  • Wow, I had no idea there were so many. I'm thinking we should add "movie night" to our NAPO-CT social options??? Thanks for sharing these.
    8/3/2018 7:36:03 AM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: That would be fun! I'll bring the popcorn. :)
      8/3/2018 9:54:20 AM Reply

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