Michele, who spends 60 hours a week cleaning at home (using bleach on her
floors five times a day and even washing tins when they come new from the
supermarket), helped someone else called Richard to clean his bedsit,
untouched by him for four years during a spell of depression.
“I still couldn’t have a tea or coffee here,” she said after relentless
scrubbing. “I must have an illness. But what can you do?”
What you can do is see a doctor, if you can get an appointment. What you can
do if someone in your family has OCD is not just to stand there and buy them
extra bleach, for use in their unending rituals under the lash of crushing
fear. What you can do is to find out the effects of OCD on people, and not
to indulge in a television fantasy that puts them on a level with dancing
This degree of unreality has crept up on us. In 1999, the documentary A Life
of Grime, narrated by John Peel, focused on Edmund Trebus, an obsessive
hoarder. There was some depth, some nuance. The old man had seen things in
Poland under the Nazis; he had become isolated from his family. By last
year, Britain’s Biggest Hoarders was sending a weekly conveyor belt of
specimens past the television camera. They have been joined by embarrassing
bodies, undateables, Touretters, pseudo-Touretters, Britain’s fattest
teenagers, and all the fun of Bartholomew Fair.
Mindless rubbish has its place in the schedules, but I can’t lighten up or
chillax in the face of this gruesome farrago. Voluntarily watching Obsessive
Compulsive Cleaners is a hate crime if there ever was one, and I wish doing
so attracted stern penalties.