They put Marysville on the map for “Hoarders.”
Now, 250 tons lighter, Andy and Becky Otter just want to move on.
But it’s not so easy when you’re Netflix famous. People recognize the couple at the grocery store and stop in front of their house to snap photos. Some try to look in their windows.
What’s up with that?
About 160 tons of stuff — 40 truckloads — were hauled away from the Otters’ home in an 85-minute episode of the A&E series “Hoarders” that first aired in 2019 and was recently picked up by Netflix.
An additional 90 tons were later removed from the modest home with rooms piled floor-to-ceiling with clutter and a back yard inundated with trash.
It ranks as a fan favorite of the series, which has had 113 episodes since created by Seattle-based Screaming Flea Productions in 2009. A new season of “Hoarders” starts July 20 on A&E.
Every show begins with: “Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder by an obsessive need to acquire and keep things.”
Andy and Becky Otter deny being hoarders.
“We’re collectors,” Andy, 82, told me in the matter of fact tone he uses on the show.
The tall man with a cane and a straw hat makes good eye contact when he speaks. He’s friendly and he likes to chat.
Becky, 67, is of short stature and soft spoken.
“I get along better with things than people,” she said.
The “Hoarders” cleanup took place in 2018 at the 1,008-square-foot three-bedroom, two-bath rambler built in 1969 in a subdivision on the city’s north side.
Millions of viewers have since watched the drama unfold as the cameras revealed the couple’s overwhelming living conditions.
Now, the curtains stay drawn at the yellow house with brown shutters and a “No Trespassing” sign. Peering in the windows is futile.
The Otters wouldn’t let me inside when I returned to the scene of the show in June.
“Nobody goes in my house or yard without a search warrant, plain and simple,” said Andy, who on the show introduces himself as “a rebel fighting for my freedom.”
He softened, though. He invited me into the front yard on two occasions for long chats, but still expressed reluctance about media attention, which Becky was against.
“You’re touching on a sore subject,” Andy said of the show. “I just want to forget about it.”
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions.”
The couple say they had good stuff, not trash.
The show has them maneuvering an all-encompassing avalanche in every room.
“Doesn’t bother me to climb over it. Not at all,” Andy said.
Becky shrugged it off, saying, “You adapt. I know where to step. I consider myself having a good sense of balance, like a mountain goat.”
Andy is shown cooking bacon and eggs in an electric frying pan on the bathroom sink as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“I don’t like baked stoves,” he replied when I asked him why.
Added Becky, “To me, stoves waste energy.”
The show has appearances by the Marysville mayor and police officers.
Police Cmdr. Mark Thomas said the city had been dealing with the Otters for “obvious and extreme code violations” for years and had written citations.
Rubbish and waste covered much of the 10,000 square foot property.
“Our intent is always to work to get voluntary compliance,” Thomas said.
Sometimes that means getting creative when the usual tactics don’t work. “We can write tickets all day but that’s not going to solve the problem,” he said.
The Otters agreed to be on the show, which resulted in getting the place cleaned up.
“It was definitely as bad as the show depicted it,” Thomas said. “Nothing thrown away appeared to have any monetary value.”
He said the show fostered a better relationship between the Otters and the city.
“It went from contentious to putting aside differences. It went from argumentative to respect. To me that was a big takeaway,” he said.
The episode was punctuated with reality TV drama.
Animal control officials took away, but later returned, the couple’s two dogs.
Andy argued over keeping bottles of Mountain Dew that were four years expired. “I feed it to animals,” he told the crew. “They love it.”
Rats were filmed scurrying about in the yard.
Becky went missing for part of a day and crews had to halt everything until she returned. Other times she walked across the street and just stood still.
Becky is from Oregon and Andy has lived in Marysville most of his life.
The couple met in the early 1980s in Portland where he was working for a title company as an examiner.
He was on his lunch hour and she was shopping at a department store. He struck up a conversation and asked for her phone number.
“When I seen her she looked like she was lost,” Andy said. “I was trying to get her unlost.”
They went out to dinner a few weeks later.
“I trusted him, probably 98 percent of people I don’t trust,” she said. “My mom liked him. I didn’t date much.”
They each had children from previous relationships.
“I had two and he had four,” said Becky, who did circulation insert work for The Herald.
They had a daughter, Amanda, together. On the show, Amanda, who is in her 30s, talked about growing up with stuff “floor to ceiling, back to back.”
She called the Marysville house a “hot mess” in a manner more endearing than condemning.
“If there’s ever a big disaster we could probably live a year without needing for anything,” Becky said on the show.
Quarantine has blurred the line between hoarding and preparedness.
“With this virus going around at first everybody was taking stuff off the shelves and buying everything in sight,” Becky told me. “We had it, so we didn’t have to go out and buy a lot of stuff.”
“We’ll go buy one package of toilet paper,” Andy added. “People go in and buy 10.”
According to Snohomish County property records, the Otters’ Marysville home sold for $59,000 in 1986 and it has a Zillow estimate of $340,276.
The city continues to monitor the property since 250 tons were hauled away two years ago.
“Right now they are inside compliance,” Cmdr. Thomas said. “We are seeing some evidence of stuff being stored on the property, but not enough that would warrant us re-engaging in an official capacity.”
The back yard now is overgrown with weeds as high as some of the branches on the lace leaf maple, with only a scattering of junk.
“Before the show came in you couldn’t even get weeds to grow. We’ll take the overgrown weeds over the garbage,” Thomas said.
The couch in the side yard that Andy liked to nap on is gone.
The front yard is mowed by a neighbor. Flowers planted by Becky grow by a tree. She was planting more flowers when I was there and Andy was getting others ready to take to a Marysville cemetery where family members are buried.
In some ways, they appear just like any retired couple next door.
A mantle clock atop a weathered outside table chimes on the quarter hour. Becky said they had 18 clocks before “Hoarders” came through.
Andy said they didn’t receive any money for being on “Hoarders,” which covered the cost of removal and brought in a psychologist and an extreme cleaning expert.
They haven’t seen the show.
“We don’t have cable,” Andy said.
Becky said she can’t understand why people watch “Hoarders.”
“They’ve got a funny idea of entertainment,” she said.
Andrea Brown: email@example.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.
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