Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder Review: Westcott vs Wallace

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE HOARDER: Wednesday 21st December, C4, 9pm

Richard Wallace lives in one of the leafiest and most picturesque parts of Surrey. It is a setting so pristine that even the tiniest of weeds is plucked before it can even consider peeking its head out of the ground, lest it scuppers the counties ‘in bloom’ competition chances. How ironic then, that Richard himself is ‘one of the country’s most extreme hoarders’, a man whose house is quite literally filled to the brim with rubbish.

Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder is a documentary taking a look inside Richard’s home, a place in which he admits to merely ‘existing’ as a result of the hoarding that has over a period of thirty years, steadily taken over his life. Last summer things came to a head in Westcott Village when the council ordered him to clear the mounting mess overflowing from his property. In a brave act perhaps uncharacteristic for a man whose appearance and manner reflects his reclusive life, he challenged the order and took the decision to represent himself in court. Miraculously and much to the disgust of the village’s residents, Richard won. However since then the situation has become progressively worse and the details of his day-to-day life have escalated to unbelievable proportions; it takes him approximately forty minutes to travel from his front door to the chair in which he eats, sleeps and works; and he lives off just one basic meal a day due to the hassle it takes to prepare (more calories than the meal itself consists of, he insightfully adds).

The open mouths of the firemen who undertake a ‘home safety visit’ indicate the shocking situation that Richard has gotten into.

Despite the village’s obvious animosity towards him, it soon becomes clear that Richard is a harmless man who is simply in dire need of help. It is impossible not to feel sorry for him as the surrounding obsession with ‘picture perfect’ Surrey life only serves to emphasise and increase his isolation. It is this fact which is noticed by Andy Honey (a real person I assure you, not a Roald Dahl character…), a local gardener whose kind and sweet manner does indeed reflect his name. It is with his help and encouragement that Richard gradually comes to the conclusion that things must change.

This ‘Cutting Edge’ documentary makes for a fascinating look at a particularly severe case of hoarding; said to be just one of the debilitating symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as well as a result of other mental and emotional problems. Even as Richard progresses in his quest to get rid of the rubbish, he is continually in denial that his situation stems from a psychological condition. As the realisation dawns and a growing integration back into the community continues, you will be willing him on to achieve what many people (in Westcott Village certainly) thought was the impossible.