Photographer Revisits Trash-Ridden Childhood Home for the First Time in 20 Years

Photographer Revisits Trash-Ridden Childhood Home for the First Time in 20 Years

Imagine if you grew up with a mother who compulsively hoarded things. Though many of us find it hard to picture, one man endured it for 17 years until moving out. Geoff Johnson finally returned to the nightmarish hovel 20 years after moving out, and what he saw was just as bad as remembers.


From The Daily Mail:

By the time he reached 17, there was no room for Geoff Johnson at home.

His mother started compulsively hoarding when he was a young boy, refusing to trash anything; unable to fix anything.

In his senior year, 1995, it was too much: he moved out.

Now, two decades later, he and his younger sister Jennifer McShea have returned to the family home in Omaha, Nebraska  – and nothing has changed.

Geoff, 37, had visited his mother but only stood outside before picking her up to spend time elsewhere. Jennifer, also 37, returned just twice, on the advice of her counselor, to confront the deeply-embedded shame she felt.

But when their mother passed away following a 12-year battle with breast cancer in 2013, the house was handed to them.

Finally returning to the meticulous havoc, they were inspired to create a moving photo-series with their own children to document the reality of being a hoarder’s child.

Geoff, a photographer, wanted to picture his son and Jennifer’s daughter going about their daily lives among the trash – as they had done years before.

But the crumbling house is so unsafe, and their feelings still so raw, that they opted to use Photoshop and superimpose the children onto the images.

Regardless, the highly realistic results strike an uneasy feeling that Geoff says was so difficult to come to terms with.

‘It is difficult to describe the feeling of shame, the fear of embarrassment that you have growing up with a hoarder,’ Geoff, who is still based nearby in Omaha, tells


‘People would say “why didn’t you just throw things away?” It’s just not as simple as that. Hoarders have a deep-rooted sense of attachment to things and it seems crazy but they have a sense of order.

‘My sister and I would try to throw things away, but if anything even moved our mom would get very upset.

‘Going back was an emotional experience.

‘When we were kids, I would only ever open the door by a crack when people came by. We never had people over.

‘Things would break and never be fixed. We didn’t have a working refrigerator – we would leave food on the back porch in the winter, and get a cooler in the summer, but that would break too.

‘I had to leave in January of my senior year because the pipes broke. It was so cold, there was no heating, and I was just 17. It was the hardest thing I’d had to do in my life up until that point; to be the adult, be responsible. It was too much for me, so I left.’

Jennifer was already long-gone by that point.

Just 19 months younger than Geoff, she left when she was 15 in 1993, to live with their father in the same village.

I highly recommend looking at all of these pictures, as they will both disgust you and break your heart. Nobody should have to live in those conditions, let alone grow up in them. If you know someone who hordes, or if you horde yourself, please seek counseling. It’s unsafe, unhealthy and unfair to those who love you.

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