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Aired March 19, 2010 - 21:00   ET


JEFF PROBST, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, hoarding.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my god! You live here?


PROBST: The nightmare that touches millions of Americans. It threatens lives. It destroys marriages and families. Hoarders know the anguish of being overwhelmed by stuff.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you help me?





PROBST: The pain of trying to let it go one item at a time. The fear of being trapped, even buried alive. Hoarding and the secrets of people who do it. Firsthand, painfully personal stories of men and women struggling to clean up their lives.




PROBST: It's all next on Larry King Live.

Good evening. I'm Jeff Probst sitting in for Larry tonight. Well, it may be difficult for some of us to understand, but tonight we're going to try to reveal the reasons people become hoarders, how they hide it from family and friends, and how they can get help and change their lives. Right now, we're going to go to a live shot in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Take a look at this. You're looking at a shot of the home of Laurie Gros. She is a dedicated wife and a mother, but her hoarding has damaged her relationships with her husband and her three grown children, there is Laurie. She has been featured on TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" with Laurie is Ellen Martin, who is a founder of a New Leaf. She is a professional organizer who has been working with Laurie.

Joining us here in L.A., Peter Walsh. He is a de-cluttering and organization expert. A two-part hoarding special on Oprah what was very good. And we should mention his website,

Laurie, thanks for letting us in to your home. I know that this is not easy to let us see this. Tell us about the room you're in right now.

LAURIE GROS, HOARDER TRYING TO CLEAN HER HOME: No, it's not. You're actually in my living room. It's kind of a mess now, but, you know, we had the sofa and piano. We used to have a lot of fun in here and have a lot of company over, but not anymore.

PROBST: You know, Laurie, we're getting a look now. Our camera operator is showing us everything. You really are in the only spot you could be standing in that room.

GROS: There is a pathway that goes through. I'm good at pathways.

PROBST: When did this started...

GROS: It's going to get clean, I promise.

PROBST: I have faith in you. I'm a believer.

GROS: All right. Thank you. It started about five years ago. And I've got fibromyalgia right before that, and I wanted to work some kind of way to make some money to help my family. Because I couldn't work anymore.

PROBST: What is the impact -- this is a long time to have this kind of a living situation. You're married. You have kids. Dennis, your husband is still in the home. What has this done to your relationship?

GROS: It's been a tough road. I mean, we've been married 25 years. We did split up for about six months over all of this. And we've been back together for a couple of years. And it's just been where I want to get better. I want things to be like it used to be.

PROBST: Laurie, I'm looking at everything around you, behind you, in front of you. Is everything a treasure to you in one way or another? All right. I think we lost Laurie for a minute. We'll get Laurie situated. Peter, how common is this? Because with TLC show, we're seeing that there are lots of families like this.

PETER WALSH, DECLUTTERING AND ORGANIZATION EXPERT: You know, it's a scale. It's a scale that I called the clutter scale. And the stats vary, the low end of the scale people say there are maybe 700,000 hoarders in the United States. And at the high end of the scale, they say two percent of the population, which is enormous. There three million people -- six million people I should say are hoarders. And, you know, my theory is if you drive around this country any weekend, and look at open garages on your street...

PROBST: There is more than we think?

WALSH: Absolutely, absolutely.

PROBST: Laurie, are you back with us now? Laurie, can you hear me now? All right. I think we're having trouble. We'll get that situated. We'll come back to Laurie a little bit later. Is this -- has anybody decided if this is actually diagnosable as some sort of an illness?

WALSH: A lot of people say, it's part of OCD. And, you know, I'm not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. So, I defer to them. But there is a whole -- I think the mental health profession is relatively new to this. And I think there is a great struggle trying to find out whether this is an impulse control thing, whether it's part of OCD or whether it's a stand-alone disorder.

PROBST: Why are we just now hearing about it? I mean, it's just been in the last few years. You were one of the first guys I ever saw talk talking about it.

WALSH: Yes. You know, we did this big Oprah show as you said about three years ago, I think part of it is that the curtain is slowly being pulled back on, is there is a lot of shame associated with this. A lot of anger in families, and people just do not want to talk about it. And so, I think slowly this is one of the last secrets that this country has.

PROBST: I was trying to ask Laurie before we lost communication with her. Is everything a treasure? Is that typically the deal that everything in the house means something?

WALSH: Absolutely, absolutely. But there is a logic. There is always a logic, as strange as it seems to you, she lost a job. She decided she'd make money by selling stuff out of the house. And suddenly there is a possessiveness about this stuff. And this is very common in hoarders. That they just cut, they acquire and acquire and just can't let stuff go. This case is not at all unusual.

PROBST: All right. We're going to get our technical difficulties worked out. We'll check back in with Laurie a little later. Here is the thing. If you thought the room we were looking at was cluttered, you should know that's the good room.

But first, what happens when the entire family is involved, teenagers living at home with their hoarding parents? That's next.


PROBST: We're talking about hoarding. We welcome Kim Burke. Her family story is being featured on TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Also joining us her husband Mike Burke, their two sons Ryan and Dillon. Let's get the lay of the land from you guys. Is everybody here a hoarder? Is it just the parents? Is it just mom? Dad? Kim, what's the deal?

KIM BURKE, HOARDER: No. The boys are definitely not hoarder. I think I was the instigator. And I trigger Mike to have those tendencies but definitely not the boys. They only suffer the consequences.

PROBST: Dillon, you're the oldest, right?


PROBST: Seventeen?


PROBST: Prime time to have the buddies come over. Maybe, you have girlfriend coming over?


PROBST: I mean, we're looking at some of the shots of your guys' home. This has to have an impact on you and your brother.

DILLON BURKE: Yes, definitely, I mean, everything a normal teenager would do, have friends over, have girlfriends over, can't really do that because obviously we have the house the way it is. And with mom and dad going to be self-conscious about it, it's really just tough to have anything happening in there.

PROBST: So, do you lie to your friends?

DILLON BURKE: At first I lied. I mean, I came up with excuses like oh, we're having the house remodeled or my mom is sick, my dad is sick. Then it just got to the point where the excuses just ran out. I was like you know what? The house is a mess. I can't have anybody over.

PROBST: Mom, when did it start? Do you remember the moment where you thought this might be a problem?

KIM BURKE: About 12 years ago, I stopped working because of an injury. And I had a lot of time to fill. And I was home, you know, all day. And it just seemed like fun to go find bargains and collect things. And it just, you know, snowballed from there.

PROBST: What is the -- Mike, what is the -- where is the disconnect with? I understand going out and going to a garage sale or seeing something that you really like. Where is the disconnect when you realize OK, for bringing this in, I got to put something out?

KIM BURKE: Is that what you're supposed to do?

MIKE BURKE, HOARDER: Yes. We just -- we talk about it. We try to say, you know, like if we bring in new clothes, you know, we should get rid of something that, you know, we don't wear anymore, you know....

PROBST: But it doesn't happen. Do you go to bed at night and think tomorrow. Tomorrow I get up and we're cleaning this house up. This is not fair to the kids.

MIKE BURKE: Every night. Every waking hour.

KIM BURKE: Every day.

MIKE BURKE: You know, we're always, you know -- we want to get up and do something. Or we will get up and do something. But then we like get so...

KIM BURKE: It's overwhelming when you start to tackle it. It's just so far gone.

PROBST: It's like it's too much. Ryan, do you feel it, do you feel tension in the house?

RYAN BURKE, PARENTS ARE HOARDERS: Oh, yes, definitely. For a long time this situation of the house has kept everyone apart, and just everyone gets angry at each other for different reasons and...

PROBST: Can you have family meals together? Do you sit down at 6:00?

RYAN BURKE: Very rarely.

PROBST: What do you do? What is dinner like? How does that work?

RYAN BURKE: Basically dinner is just cook something in the microwave or on the stove and go eat it in your own room.

PROBST: So, the entire family, Ryan, is on their own?

RYAN BURKE: Yes, pretty much.

PROBST: Mom, are you worried a little that you might have a situation here where ten years from now your kids say, you know what? My childhood was not great?

KIM BURKE: Absolutely. And that's why we contacted TLC now. I mean better late than never.

PROBST: So, are you guys -- when you contact the show and they come out, is counseling a part of that?



PROBST: It is?

KIM BURKE: Uh-huh.

PROBST: Mike, I got to say, just sit hearing across from you, you seem very troubled about this.

MIKE BURKE: I'm not troubled about being here. I'm not troubled about letting people know what my house has been like. You know, I'm relieved about it, you know.

PROBST: So, do you feel that you're on the path now to major changes?

MIKE BURKE: Oh, yes. Yes. You know, we held it in for far too long. And, you know, I always regret it, you know, getting phone calls from family or friends and say, hey, we're in the neighborhood, you know, I thought we'd stop by.

PROBST: What do you say?

MIKE BURKE: We won't be home, you know.

PROBST: So, in addition, and I'm sure I'm pointing out the obvious, you're teaching your kids another bad habit, which is lie to your friends.


PROBST: At any cost, it's that severe problem.


PROBST: All right. Up next, is there a clinical explanation behind why people become hoarders? Is it genetic? Can it be prevented? Are the kids going to become hoarders? The psychology behind hoarding is next.


PROBST: Welcome back to LARRY KING live. I'm Jeff Probst sitting in for Larry. We are talking about hoarding. Still with us Kim and Mike Burke, along with their sons Ryan and Dillon. We also have Peter Walsh, a decluttering expert. And joining us Dr. Sanjay Saxena, a psychiatrist. Dr. Sanjay, I had asked Peter earlier, is every item, does it always a treasure? Is that typically what you find? What's your take on that?

DR. SANJAYA SAXENA, PSYCHIATRIST: It's true for some people with compulsive hoarding, but not for everyone. Some people are saving things excessively not simply just because they're really emotionally attached to that items. But sometimes it's just because they think that they might need them some day. Or they might use them some day, or they might fix them up and sell them on eBay.

PROBST: Let's pop back out to New Orleans and see if we have Laurie. Laurie, can you hear me now?

GROS: I can hear you fine.

PROBST: Laurie, we've been talking about, and I've been asking both of our experts about items. And the idea that I got from watching the show, that every item was special. Pick up something in that room. Just the closest thing to you and tell me why you're still keeping it.

GROS: Thanksgiving maybe? I like this. I found it at a flea market. And I'm just hoping that I'll put it to use since we got my dining room clean, it might happen.

PROBST: All right, now, Laurie, I'm going to ask you to reach a little deeper. That one is a hard one. I can look at that and say, OK, it's a nice plate. Fine. Put it in the cupboard. Show me something that even you know is a little bit of a stretch to hold on to.

GROS: Maybe this? It's a kid's toy. I mean, have I grandkids but...


GROS: It's something now that for the first time I can get rid of it a lot easier where before I couldn't at all.

PROBST: Thank you, Laurie. Kim, does this ring true to you watching what Laurie is going through, that she picks up everything and well, I'm going to use this for that?

KIM BURKE: I think for me, every item has a good intention behind it. I, you know, I'm going to decorate the house with this set of curtains. And I'm going to hang these plates. And I'm going to read that book. So, I don't know if I'm sentimental, but I certainly have a purpose for everything.

PROBST: Peter, why do people hoard?

WALSH: Just to this point, there are two main types of clutter always. And you see it here. Memory clutter. Stuff that holds you in the past, or this "I might need it one day," clutter, stuff that holds you in the future. And one of the biggest problems here is this stuff completely drags this family and any others out of the present. And so, they're always living with a view to what happened yesterday, or something that might happen tomorrow. And the hoarding thing for me, I always say that there is a precipitating event. You know, I stopped working, there was a trauma, a death in the family, empty nesters. There is always some precipitating factor that then triggers this...

PROBST: Did that happen with you, Kim?

KIM BURKE: Definitely. When I stopped working, then I have fibromyalgia. Symptoms got worse. And that was the trigger for me. I've been seeing a therapist for 12 years. And he has offered to come to my house with his family and help clear it out. And I -- I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't even show him pictures.

PROBST: And in should point out you're not emotional. Your voice is just gone. Sanjay, is this something that will typically run in a family? Should there be a concern that Ryan and Dillon, two boys who are growing up in this might find this is the way to live?

SAXENA: Well, we know that compulsive hoarding does in fact run in families. And there is probably a strong familial component, strong genetic component. That doesn't mean, however that, that if two parents have hoarding problems that definitely their kids will. Now, in fact, there are lots of other factors that go into it. And having grown up with parents with that problem, it might make them less likely.

PROBST: Dillon, is your room clean right now?


PROBST: So, the parents can't get into your room?

KIM BURKE: He is anal about his room. In extreme opposite to the way we go.

DILLON BURKE: Like if there is something on the floor, I absolutely have to pick it up, find a place for it, make sure it's not in my way.

PROBST: Peter, is it a bit like an intervention would be for maybe an addict with a drug problem when you get a family together and say you know what? The grandkids aren't coming over anymore mom, unless you get it together.

WALSH: It's interesting. And a guy -- I'm so impressed with this family with others on the show. There is always something that gets you to the point where...

PROBST: A breaking point?

WALSH: A breaking point. And that can be the grandkids can't come over. You know, this, you freak out, worried about your kids. It can be any of those things. And I think the biggest problem is to get over the shame, the horror, the embarrassment of it. Because almost without exception, where there is hoarding, there is a huge degree of social isolation.

PROBST: And both Laurie and the Burke family have done that in opening themselves up.

Coming up, you're going to meet a very successful, hard-working guy whose girlfriend had no idea he was a hoarder. His house almost uninhabitable. And you will see her reaction when she found out how he had been living. That's ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think anyone that would enter my home would be pretty startled. My kitchen area, I've got to go up the stairway here, which is partially blocked with boxes and other items. And I feel like a mountain goat, but I do get exercise just getting into the entrance of my home. This is my kitchen. I haven't used the stove in probably nearly three years. I've got a living room here, maybe four years earlier this was functional. I got a chandelier here. A clear view into the kitchen.


PROBST: You were just watching Chris. He is this good-looking, hard-working guy. He opened the doors of his stuffed to the ceiling home to the cameras of TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive." Chris is joining us now along with his girlfriend Annie Cefaratti. And Chris who is a hoarder has requested we don't use his last name, and we won't. Chris, I've got to say, looking at you guys, you look like you should be on the magazine, on the cover of a magazine for good living. Everything would appear to be going well. How long has this secret been going on with you?

CHRIS, HOARDER: Jeff, probably for six years or longer.

PROBST: Do you remember? Can you think back and know was there a defining moment when it started?

CHRIS: I've collected things probably as a child, whether it was stamps. But as an adult, it's just gotten out of control.

PROBST: Are you a collector? Do you go to garage sales? Or are you a shopper?

CHRIS: Probably a shopper. And I have worked with a counselor to cull and stop that process.

PROBST: So, you know, I've seen this special. And even in the clip we just saw, your house is almost unlivable. How were you able to keep this a secret from Annie for so long?

CHRIS: I -- as you talk with other folks, I would just say that my house was disorganized, it was dirty, and tell her that I just wanted to straighten it up before I could put a good look on it.

PROBST: All right. So Annie, I'm going to ask the question that everybody watching is thinking. That works for a week, maybe a month, maybe a summer. He is doing a remodel. But three years?

ANNIE CEFARATTI, BOYFRIEND IS A HORDER: No, no, not three years, no. And when Chris and I met, we -- my dad was sick. My son has cystic fibrosis. He was sick. So, I wasn't paying attention to Chris's house. And it was some months. And my dad actually died. So, it was like six or seven months before I really started thinking about Chris's house. And then I sort of started this, why aren't we going to your house? And then he was, you know, it's messy, blah blah blah, and then I started thinking OK, there is a problem.

PROBST: Both of the experts over here, Peter and Sanjay, you guys are both nodding your heads, listening to this conversation. Is this common, the lying and the questioning?

SAXENA: Yes. WALSH: And I think Chris points out a really important point, which is this didn't start out of nowhere. In fact, he probably had, or just to save and trouble discarding things even from a young age. What it points out is that for most people who have compulsive hoarding, it didn't just start in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Actually, most people reports that it starts as early as their teenaged years and then continues to get worse over time.

PROBST: Chris, do you have, you know, a career? Do you go to an office or a job where people would be surprised to know you're living like this at home?

CHRIS: Jeff, I've had colleagues approach me privately, and I've just told them about this. I mean, they've seen the episode. Some individuals have seen it. And I didn't reveal with them. And they're very careful. But they do ask me about it. So, I've come out of hiding so to speak.

PROBST: Peter, is this level of secrecy -- he is going to great lengths to keep up what appears to be an otherwise very successful and normal life at bay from his friends.

WALSH: I think, there is a whole lot of ideas about hoarders. They're weak people, you know, they're dirty, they're old, they have pits. Look, the thing is most hoarders are highly functioning smart people. And Chris is a great example of that. It's just that somehow their thought processes, somehow their wiring, somehow they're off the track.

And all this makes sense in a way. Here is security. This stuff is security for Chris. But it's gone to the extreme. And so it's very much a matter about helping him get those thought processes back on track.

PROBST: Annie, did you know what hoarding was? Or was this a complete new world to you?

CEFARATTI: I had -- I mean, hoarding like maybe my mom's house. She has a lot of stuff. But I can go in my mom's house. And I can use her kitchen, you know, and walk around and that kind of thing. She always says she's a hoarder.

So, no. I had no idea. No one can ever imagine. You just can't imagine what was behind that door.

PROBST: When we come back, we will hear Annie's reaction when she finally got behind that door. We will talk to her about it. And we will find out the status of their relationship. That's next.



CEFARATTI: Oh my god. Oh, Chris! Wow. How -- you -- you live here?

CHRIS: Not very well.

CEFARATTI: Oh my god. Oh my god! how do you -- oh my god. Chris?

CHRIS: I would rather stand on the corner bare ass naked during traffic rather than have people come into my house.

CEFARATTI: This is not okay.


PROBST: That is from TLC's "Hoarding: Buried alive." Annie Cefaratti finally saw what Chris, her boyfriend, had been hiding for so long. Before I ask you the question, I'm dying to ask, Annie, I've got to say to both you guys, once again, I'm so impressed that you're willing to share this. Chris, you said bare naked in the middle of traffic than let somebody in. So Annie, he finally let you into this nightmare he is living with. How long before you thought you know what, I should walk out the door and keep on walking?

CEFARATTI: I don't know what to say. I was just -- I was shocked. I was mad that he didn't tell me. I thought it was -- I had no experience. That was like my first encounter. So I fall in love with this guy, and I walk in his house and it's -- it was unbelievable. So when I did --

PROBST: Go ahead.

CEFARATTI: When I did walk out, I was like, I can't handle this. I sort of ran away that day.

PROBST: Chris, as difficult as this is for you, I'm gathering that you can understand her reaction, because it is a lie, in a sense, in the relationship, right?

CHRIS: It's a complete secret, Jeff. It's a behavior -- it's like having an elephant in the living room. But that would be easier to care for than the situation I've created.

PROBST: Peter, does her reaction, which seems completely normal, help or hurt Chris's situation?

WALSH: It absolutely -- Annie, respectfully to you, it absolutely hurts the situation. There is a great lesson here for families, that to judge what is going on, to further kind of exacerbate the situation by focusing on the stuff -- this strong judgment and emotional reaction actually forces the person back further into their hoarding behavior, because it says the stuff I'm safe with, people not so much.

PROBST: Don't get. Yeah. Sanjay, I asked Peter this earlier. Do you see this as a diagnosable disorder?

SAXENA: Yeah, compulsive hoarding is definitely a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. In fact, my colleagues and I have developed diagnostic criteria that are going to go into the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

It's clearly a psychiatric disorder. It's well understood within the community. What hasn't happened is the public awareness. So, in great extent, it's been a hidden epidemic. People are ashamed, secretive about it. Understandably, family members, spouses, girlfriends, and so on react with dismay and revulsion. That's only because they don't understand that this is a disorder, not a decision.

PROBST: Annie? Big question, as we sit here tonight, what is the status of the relationship? Because Chris, you're a work in progress, right? You're trying to get your house clean. But I gather it's going to take a while?

CHRIS: It's a process that is going to take six months. I've made -- made direction, but I fall back. It's two steps forward, one step back. It's complicated.

PROBST: So Annie, is this difficult for you to hang in there? Or are you in for the long haul?

CEFARATTI: Like Chris set, it's complicated. You know, I'm not going to desert him. I was shocked. And I didn't understand. Like the doctor was saying, I didn't know. I thought it was more of a decision. And now I recognize that it's different. But sort of what do I do with that information.

So we're plugging through whatever we're doing. I don't know. I don't have any real answers.

PROBST: Peter and Sanjay, short answer: yes or no, can someone be cured?

WALSH: I think they can definitely be cured. But it is a long process. And it takes a lot of commitment on their part, and support from family and friends, and therapeutic intervention as well.

PROBST: Sanjay, if Annie hangs in there, good chance Chris will be all right?

SAXENA: Yeah. I wouldn't go so far as to say we have a cure, but I think it's a problem that can be controlled. It can be improved a lot with the proper treatment.

PROBST: All right. Still ahead, we're going to go back to Louisiana with the very open and patient Laurie Gros. She is going to take us back into her house. Let me just remind you, the room we showed you earlier that was cluttered, that was the good room. Wait until she takes us upstairs. That's next.


PROBST: we are back in Louisiana, talking to Laurie Gros. Her situation has been featured on TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive." And that is Ellen Martin with her, a professional organizer who has been working with Laurie. Ellen, what is the first thing you do when someone like Laurie is brave enough to say come on in, let's get started? What is step number one?

MARTIN: Step number one is to go into the space and just get started. So in a room like this, we would basically start here. In our case here, we actually have a room that is cleared. So we have a staging area. And we take these things out and start sorting them in that area. We've made a lot of progress here. The hallway --

PROBST: Wait, Ellen, Ellen.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm sorry.

PROBST: I have got to interrupt. I've got to interrupt. You just said we've made a lot of progress in a room that was stacked seven feet high.

MARTIN: Well, we haven't done any work in that room yet. We've worked on three separate rooms so far, including this hallway that we're walking through right now, which was completely impassable. There was clothes stacked up about this high. And to get through here, you had to actually walk on clothing to get through.

The next area that we are going to work on is this room here. And, again, as I said, we're just going to start here by the door, and work our way around, taking the things into another space to sort through.

PROBST: Laurie, I got to say, seeing this room that Ellen just showed us, with the photos hanging on the wall, that looked like most homes you're used to seeing. Does that make you feel like you're making progress when you look at that room?

GROS: Yes. We got the hallway together and even the dining room, and the den now. We've gotten three rooms. So it's progress. I'm a little afraid because I got another visit with Ellen, and then I'm going to be on my own to try to do this. So I have to use the tools that she's taught me.

PROBST: There you go. I like that positive thinking. We have somebody joining us right now here in Los Angeles, Cindy Carroll, a wife, a mother, and a hoarder, been working with an organization expert and a therapist.

Cindy, you must understand Laurie's story, because in many ways it's your own story. You've been struggling with hoarding. I know it's getting better. It is a tough, tough challenge. Take a look at this.


CINDY CARROLL, HOARDER: We're having an avalanche.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't get through there without knocking something off.

CARROLL: I do it every day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's your stuff.

CARROLL: I know it's my stuff.


CARROLL: But you could respect my stuff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you don't pick up my stuff.

CARROLL: Oh, yes I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't find my stuff.

CARROLL: It has hurt my relationship with Mike, my kids. My parents haven't been to my house in ten years. Hoarding has ruined my life.

Do you know where the chips are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably underneath something.

CARROLL: Shut up.


PROBST: All right. Cindy, now, during this whole time that clip was playing, you were turned away from any monitor that was showing it. You can't look at this.

CARROLL: I'm not ready. I have talked to my therapist. She's watched the show. She told me, you're not ready. I'm not ready to hear how it's impacted my family, and the different things, because I want to go out and help other hoarders. And if I see myself on TV, I'm afraid it will make me afraid. Just -- so I don't do it.

PROBST: Well, let me set up why that's astonishing to me, actually, is you're one of the successful cases. You're actually on the road. You have two or three rooms in your room that you have cleaned.

CARROLL: I have two, yes.

PROBST: So you have been through this process, but it's still so soon that you can't see where you were?

CARROLL: Right. It's too painful. It's very painful. That's what people don't understand. We are in so much pain. And just it's so hard to explain. Everybody thinks you're lazy. You're not lazy. Everybody thinks you're not trying. You're trying so hard. And you get no -- no one gets it.

PROBST: Do you feel a kinship with Laurie, when you see her standing in the middle of a home that looks overwhelming?

CARROLL: Definitely. One of the hoarders that is going to be featured on "Hoarding: Buried Alive," she called me and we have become friends. We laugh at each other. We talk about what is going on, how nobody understands. And we cry together. And it's been such a connection to talk to other hoarders and just help them.

PROBST: Sanjay, what is going on with Cindy, when she can't look back? It's like a trauma?

SAXENA: It's the shame, you know.

CARROLL: It is the shame.

SAXENA: We still are not at the point where people are recognizing this as a disease. You know, if you were showing something about her thyroid disease, she wouldn't feel ashamed of it. And yet there is still so much stigma about this. That's one of the most important points to get across, is exactly what Cindy said. It's not that she is lazy. It's not that someone has a character flaw. They have a disorder. And it needs treatment.

WALSH: And I'm imagining that for years you've been told why don't you just clean it up.

CARROLL: Exactly.

WALSH: So after hearing that a million times, of course it's tough to look at this stuff, because it just -- like obviously you're a weak person. Obviously you're a dirty person. Obviously you just don't have the will power. You've been told that a million times, it's tough to reprogram your thinking.

PROBST: But Cindy, you now are starting to believe differently, right?

CARROLL: I am believing differently. My therapist has been amazing at teaching me to have good self-esteem, that I am not crazy. I have a crazy disorder, but I'm not crazy. I'm not lazy. You know, I love my family. And nobody gets it that I do this for my family. And they don't understand it. I buy these things, you know, for them. And I see this wonderful Christmas, and I buy ornaments that remind me of them.

And I've been like this since I was seven. But I didn't get bad, real bad until my kids left. And my daughter, she is so organized. When she was 10, I was like, I want to grow up and be just like you.

PROBST: All right, Cindy, stick around. I want to get some advice for other hoarders from you a little later.

When we come back, do you know somebody who is a hoarder? Are you a secret hoarder? We'll tell you how to share your own stories with us, right after the break.



PROBST: We are talking about extreme hoarding tonight. We have been asking all day if you or anyone you know might be a hoarder, to share your stories and photos with us. It's still not too late. You can go to Larry's Facebook page, become a fan and post your photos. Go to

We have a story from a viewer in California, who found out her dad was a hoarder after he ended up in the hospital. She writes that she found three bedrooms, two living rooms and a kitchen, all stacked to the rafters with junk. I don't know why he didn't ask for help and I don't know why he did this. It became my responsibility.

We thank her for her story. We encourage you to share your own.

We're going to take a break from hoarding for a moment and meet a CNN hero, a one time crack addict and prison inmate, who transformed her life and has helped more than 400 other female offenders do the same. Take a look.


SUSAN BURTON, CNN HERO: We all leave prison saying, I'm going to get my life on track. You end up getting off a bus downtown Los Angeles, Skid Row. Many times, you don't make it out of the Skid Row area before you are caught up into the cycle, again.

I'm Susan Burton. After my son died, I used drugs. I went to prison six times. Finally, I found rehab. I thought I can help women come home from prison. I pick them up, bring them back to the house.

Here are some jeans.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She offers you a warm bed, food, like a real family. She made me want to change my life.

You proud of me, Ms. Burton?

BURTON: Sure, you came a long way. This is life. That's what it's all about.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just ten weeks into her purge, Cindy has already made remarkable changes. First, a huge transformation in her kitchen. And then, with her family.

CARROLL: Ready to eat?


CARROLL: I feel like our friendship is back. I think that's made me happier. It's made it easier for me.


PROBST: Cindy Carroll has been waging a tough fight against compulsive hoarding. She is slowly reclaiming her home and her life. Her story and others can be seen on TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" on Sunday nights.

By the way, Cindy has given us a very personal story for our blog. You can read it at You got to be proud. I saw the footage. You didn't because you weren't looking. But your home is looking very nice.

CARROLL: It's getting there. I just want other hoarders to know, there's hope. It's a lot of hard work, but so is hoarding.

PROBST: What is the first step, Sanjay? If you're watching tonight, and you say, you know what, I'm a hoarder; my house looks just like that.

SAXENA: Talk to your doctor. Get a mental health professional's evaluation.

PROBST: So there is treatment. If I go to the right person and say I have this, there's a course of action?

SAXENA: Absolutely. Compulsive hoarding is definitely a treatable disorder. There are really two front lines of treatment. One is medication. The other is something kind Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, that's specifically tailored for treatment of compulsive hoarding.

PROBST: Cindy, what is going to be the biggest challenge ahead for you?

CARROLL: Still getting rid of stuff. It's an on-going battle. Just because you are able to do some -- every day is a battle. With my organizer, she helps me find my treasures, and what is truly a treasure.

PROBST: Peter, what is one thing -- you have been around hoarders for a while now. What's the one thing you want people who aren't a hoarder, maybe live with a hoarder, to understand about this?

WALSH: Change is possible. Screaming, yelling, blaming, fighting simply exacerbate the problem. Take a step back, get some serious help, and maybe bring in an objective third person to assist.

PROBST: Cindy, bring us out on a fun note. Take us to the end of the show with the craziest thing you have found while uncovering.

CARROLL: I wouldn't say it's the craziest, but the best thing I found were all my Peter Books. I brought them with me. So --

PROBST: You found his books on hoarding hidden in your hoarding?

CARROLL: Yes, I love him. He's my hero. PROBST: Well, I'm guessing if anybody thinks they have a problem, best thing to do would to go to A lot of links up there for ways to get help.

All right, perfect. It's been an enjoyable hour. Thank you guys for sharing so much. Continued success for you, Cindy. Thanks to all of our other guests. Thanks for watching LARRY KING. Time now for "AC 360."