6 'Hoarders' Episodes You Don't Want to Miss

Season five showcases James' code-violating backyard stash of bowling balls and other exercise equipment. (Photo: A&E;).

Cable television’s most distressing documentary series returns Sept. 10 for its sixth season. And no, we’re not talking about the blessedly final run of “Jersey Shore” ... you’ll have to wait until October for that.

At turns stomach-churning and tear-jerking, A&E;’s massively popular “Hoarders” chronicles — without feeling entirely exploitative — individuals coping with obsessive compulsive hoarding disorder. Often suffering from past traumas, alienated from their loved ones and on the brink of financial ruin and/or losing their homes, the hoarders profiled in each episode are forced to confront the debilitating anxiety disorder head-on through psychologist-facilitated interventions and extensive decluttering/cleanout sessions (the former brings out the tears and the latter brings out the cringes) led by cleaning and organizing experts. The ultimate goal? Recovery.

For the most part, the subject(s) of each episode are what we’d call hoarding generalists, in that their homes are overflowing with everything. While they may have strong emotional attachments to certain possessions — artificial flowers, craft supplies, quilts, figurines, clothing, food, Tupperware and objects that once belonged to a deceased relative seem to be biggies — the items that they choose to acquire and refuse to let go of are so varied that they all meld together into indiscernible — and often dangerous — clutter heaps covering every square inch of their homes.

And then there are the “specialist” hoarders, folks whose hoard consists mainly of one type of item — be it handbags, books or exercise equipment — in a behavior that’s similar to collecting but taken to an unhealthy place. Below, we’ve singled out six memorable “Hoarders” subjects that fall under this category.

Is there one we missed? Has there been an episode where something was unearthed during a decluttering that you found unique or surprising?

Hoarders returns to A&E; Sept. 10 at 9/8 central.

Season 3: Theresa — Citronelle, Alabama

Hoarded: Handbags, shoes

What can we say about Theresa? The woman loves her some luxury handbags. And because every fashion-conscious gal shouldn’t leave the house poorly accessorized, it’s only appropriate to have a matching pair of shoes to go along with those handbags, right? The thing is, Theresa owns 5,000 purses and a pair of shoes to go along with each and every one of them (most remain unworn and still have the price tags attached). Perhaps Theresa, a cancer survivor, could get away with her shoe and handbag and purse hoarding if she lived in Candy Spelling’s old house. But she doesn’t, and after depleting her husband’s retirement fund, the couple is facing foreclosure on their home.

Season 3: Glen — Llano, California

Hoarded: Rats

Although each episode of “Hoarders” is disturbing in its own right, the hardest to watch are those that involve animals, usually cats and sometimes rabbits (Kathy and Gary from season three) and chickens (Hannah, also from season three). And then there’s Glen, a rodent-loving collector, a pack rat if you will, featured in the beyond-cringe-inducing season three finale. His hoard consists of over 2,500 uncaged pet rats that have taken over his entire home (yes, they live in the walls and please don’t remind us of the mattress scene) and forced him to live in a shed in his backyard. Yet, Glen still loves ‘em. Around a thousand of the rats were rescued from Glen’s home and put up for adoption during the de-hoarding process.

Season 4: Phyllis — Griffin, Georgia

Hoarded: Dolls

Season four of “Hoarders” kicked off with a nightmarish start with the introduction of Phyllis, a discount-savvy grandmother who owns 20 vacuum cleaners and keeps expired food. Oh yeah ... and there’s the doll bit. Around 50,000 dolls reside in the cramped home that the certified nursing assistant shares with her beleaguered, on-the-verge-of-calling-Adult-Protective-Services-son. We should also mention that Phyllis has transformed the spare bedroom into a doll hospital where she performs amputations. And to be clear, this wasn’t the first — and probably won’t be the last — doll-centric episode of “Hoarders.” In season three, we met Susan, a Rochester, N.Y., woman forced to part with 5,000 of her most precious dollies.

Season 4: Randy — Wildwood, New Jersey

Hoarded: Boardwalk paraphernalia, slices of birthday cake

Randy has spent millions of dollars purchasing boardwalk paraphernalia to fill Randyland, an amusement park that’s never opened to the public. His extensive and expensive hoard fills a 20,000-square-foot building along with several tractor-trailers and includes thousands of antique pinball machines, arcade games of all shapes and sizes, tokens and tickets and hundreds of mannequins created in Randy’s likeness. For Randy, it’s literally all fun and games until you reach financial ruin. Also, he’s big on saving slices of birthday cake from past birthday celebrations.

Season 5: James — Orland, California

Hoarded: Exercise equipment, sporting goods (including lots of bowling balls)

James, an elderly ex-Marine who has appeared in court due to his code-violating hoard that’s overtaken his property, is reluctant to part ways with the massive stockpile of busted exercise equipment and sporting goods including over 100 hundred bowling balls sitting in his yard (James doesn’t bowl). Yet, as you can see in the clip below, this in-denial hoarder has also never met a fake iguana or a piece of scrap metal that he didn’t like.

Season 5: Claire and Vance — Chicago, Illinois

Hoarded: Books, cat figurines, Beanie Babies

Sometimes it’s hard to find a good book to settle down with at night, right? Not an issue with Claire and Vance, an extremely well-read couple — Vance is a retired professor — whose home is filled with towering stacks of nearly half a million books including 19th century European diplomatic history books, classical novels and we’re guessing a few Danielle Steel paperbacks. Although Claire shares her husband’s love of the written word, she also collects cat figurines and Beanie Babies.