Krista's secret life is hidden behind the red brick façade of a four-bedroom house on a tidy suburban street. Her living room is piled high and used as storage, and two brand new sofas are covered with clothes. Her formal dining room table is completely covered. What was supposed to be the family's game room has been taken over by junk.
"I can't live like this anymore," Krista says. "I can't get rid of stuff. I'm trying. I don't understand it. And it's so frustrating. I just want to be normal. There are so many days, Oprah, I don't even get out of bed. It's so overwhelming."
Krista's children are embarrassed, her friends have abandoned her and her marriage is about to fall apart. "It's almost like I've created a cocoon that the things surrounding me make me feel safe," she explains. "If my husband went and got a dumpster and I came home to an empty house, I honestly would probably kill myself. It's that deep."
Krista knows if she doesn't get help, her life, like her house, will remain in shambles.
Krista first realized her need to hoard was out of control about five years ago. Although Krista did hoard before she and Bruce were married, it wasn't a major problem until they moved into a bigger house.
"I thought [a bigger house] would help, [give her] some more space; help Krista feel good about herself...help her have some time to hopefully go through things," Bruce says.
Krista even stopped working to stay at home with the children, believing that being near the clutter would encourage her to clean up.
"I was hopeful that [staying at home] would help, but it really hasn't," Bruce says. "Even with her staying home and having time."
Dr. Tolin says hoarding is a disorder akin to emotional eating or taking drugs. "It's similar, particularly in the sense that it builds up so slowly that you don't even notice," he says. Compulsive hoarding "builds up slowly and you don't notice it at first and you go, 'Well, it's a little messy' and the next thing you know it's out of control."
Dr. Tolin says he will go to Krista's home to help her get started on cleaning.
"The idea is it gets the ball rolling," he says. "I think that Krista...has really taken a good first step here acknowledging that she has a problem and needs help. That's more than a lot of people with hoarding ever do. But then once we've done that, then you've got to keep the ball rolling. This is a lifetime of work that you're setting yourself up for. And you never reach a point where you say 'I'm done'."More from Dr. Tolin:
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