‘Hoarders’ returns with a powerful story about a family destroyed

A&E “Hoarders” opened its 11th season last night with a heartbreaking episode about one hoarder who ruined her home and her family.

Carol was a former piano teacher who married a widower named Dave just 18 months after his beloved wife’s suicide.

By her own admission, Carol destroyed his home, a gorgeous three-story mansion in Ferguson, Mo., that had once been the social hub of the neighborhood.

Every inch, it seemed, was filled with books, arts and craft supplies, and general crap. Even the staircases to the upper floors were completely blocked.

Dave, elderly and ill, had been forced to live and sleep on a gross couch until one of his sons rescued him and had him live with his family.

With the city threatening to condemn the once majestic home, the crew of “Hoarders” was never needed more.

Yet Carol was an especially tough hoarder to help. She swerved from belligerent to passive-aggressive to self-pitying in a breath and back again. She was alternately resigned and combative.

“Hoarders” is always about more than just cleaning a property – it’s about trying to help people get to the root of their disorder. Carol resisted almost every effort.

She might also be the first “Hoarders” subject to actually grow a hoard around her as the program progressed.

From her perch on the porch, she gathered items around, the piles growing from commercial break to commercial break, forming almost a barricade. You just knew this behavior could continue with her last breath.

The episode ran two hours, but you got the sense you would need at least two years to peel back the trauma and resentment of everyone involved.

The grown children felt betrayed by Carol and viewed her as an opportunist who wrecked their father’s retirement and what should have been his final, peaceful years. There were serious allegations that Carol took out two mortgages on the property and funneled the money into a private account to finance her endless shopping sprees.

Carol seemed to feel acutely their disapproval, and that only fueled her bad behaviors.

By the episode’s end, the crew had removed an astounding 31 tons of clutter from the home.

“Hoarders” aimed for a hopeful climax, with Carol and Dave moving back into the first floor, now fully functional and pleasing; the postscript told a different story.

Carol refused aftercare therapy. Dave became ill and died. Dave’s children were forced to sell the beloved home because they could not afford the extensive repairs it needed. They are completely estranged from their stepmother.

All in all, “Hoarders’ ” premiere was a devastating look at how one person’s mental illness can shatter so many lives.