Author: Kris Elliott
People with hoarding disorder excessively save items that others may view as nonvaluable. They have difficulties getting rid of or parting with possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or work spaces.
Hoarding disorder occurs in roughly 6 percent of the population and often leads to substantial distress and problems functioning. Hoarding is more common among older adults--three times as many adults 55 to 94 years are affected by hoarding disorder compared to adults 34 to 44 years old.
AT Bio-One we strive to work with Hoarders to resolve their concerns and get their lives back on track. The normal process is that a hoarder, family member, or friend contacts us about a problem they have. We set up a time that is convenient for the client for us to come out and access the situation. We generally spend 1-2 hours walking through the home to fully understand what the client expects from us and review what items are to be retained vs discarded. Once we have a full understanding of the owners wants/needs we write up a detailed estimate along with pricing. If the client is satisfied we make arrangements for personnel, equipment, and dumpsters to complete the job. Usually we can complete a hoarding job in 2-4 days depending on the severity.
Just last week our crew was working on a hoarding job in Orangeburg County approximately an hour and a half from our office (we travel where we are needed). This particular job hit our hearts with an urge to help this family in need. A woman and her three kids lived in a home that was not only cluttered but had been infested with bed bugs. Her son got hit by a car just outside their driveway a few months back. Not being able to get around the house in a wheel chair or having family and friends coming to visit him during this difficult time they decided they needed to take action. On top of mounds of trash and debris in the home, there were holes in the floor and bedbugs crawling everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere- crawling on the walls, on the furniture, on the debris in the home. There were two dogs in the home as well as a ferret who also used the home as a bathroom. With all that said it was our goal to get the home back to a suitable environment and we were there to fulfill the family’s needs.
Hoarding creates many safety concerns that people do not realize. One of the major concerns of hoarding is the inability to move through the home quickly in case of a fire. With limited access the hoarder cannot escape if needed nor can firefighters access the areas in case or emergency. Other concerns we see with hoarding is infestation of rodents/insects. The copious amounts of clutter allow many places for these critters to hide and make it even more difficult for them to be removed. Once the animals have settled in the home they begin urinating and defecating in areas throughout the home. This in turns creates biohazards that could cause severe health concerns.
We often find large amounts of mold in homes of hoarders. The amount of items hides water damaged concerns that cannot be seen or just simply cannot be accessed due to the debris. Mold is a very dangerous health concerns for anyone who breathes the spores and without treatment could be fatal.
You think these conditions are rare? I did too until I stepped into the Bio-One world. We, Bio-One SC, get calls each week for hoarding bids- and they are rarely for homes with a slight clutter problem. Hoarders have this stigma that they cannot shake mainly because people are unaware of what causes the desire to hoard. These people are not 'crazy' nor are they any different from you or me. I have found with experience that many hoarders are hoarding due to a significant loss and do not know how to deal with their pain and grief other than to surround themselves around things.
At Bio-One, all we can do is help get their home to a safe condition, and help the family understand that the problem is not fixed, it is just now being dealt with. Constant check ins of the hoarder from family members and even something as simple as hiring a maid service to come in once a week can help the hoarder live with their illness yet also keep their hoarding tendencies in better check.
Helping first, business second!