Hoarding and Hoarders – Are the TV shows for real?
Hoarding is no joke.
It’s estimated that up to 6% of Americans are affected by compulsive hoarding to some degree. The causes of hoarding disorder remain unclear. What is clear are the very real dangers associated with hoarding, not only to the hoarders themselves, but their family, their neighbors and public safety workers who may have to enter.
When a hoarder or their family decide it is time for a hoarding clean up, it is almost always an emotionally and physically overwhelming experience. The process of sifting through belongings, trash, keepsakes and possibly hazardous items is slow, time consuming and dangerous. When the hoarder themselves is part of the process, it can be overwhelming and nearly impossible for them to proceed. When the process becomes too hard, many hoarders and their families contact a cleanup or remediation company for help.
Mastertech Environmental of North Jersey owners Mike Rego and Eric Green have seen enough real-world hoarding cleanups to know that reality is usually different than TV.
Hoarding Reality vs. Hoarding on TV
The hoarding cleanup TV shows are motivated to grab the attention of as many viewers as possible. For those of us not exposed to hoarding in our lives, it is fascinating to see the mountains of debris. The average TV viewer is amazed that anyone could be that messy or let things get that far out of control. Watching with horrified fascination, viewers see only a dramatic part of the hoarder’s story. The shows often miss the years of struggle leading up to the dramatic cleanup and the years of struggle that will surely follow.
Most hoarders do an amazing job of keeping their hoarding a secret. They’re embarrassed and will go to great lengths to make sure that family, friends and neighbors never know what is going on behind closed doors. Besides not wanting to part with the items they have faithfully collected for decades, they also fear the exposure and judgement when the condition of their home is discovered. I’m sure the “eww, isn’t that gross!” tone of most hoarding TV shows further convinces them not to seek help out of a dangerous addiction.
Respect, Discretion and Honesty
As professional remediators, Mastertech Environmental treat our clients with respect. We know they are human beings going through a tough time and they’ve asked for our help. We act in a discreet manner as much as possible during a hoarding cleanup, not discussing with neighbors or any unauthorized person why we are there. We also know that mixed in with the debris and garbage are true items of value: jewelry, family photos, keepsakes, cash, important papers, etc. Our trained and tested technicians know how to safely and thoroughly filter through debris to find valuable items.
“We use different methods to make sure our techs get every item of value possible,” says Eric Green of Mastertech. “We often find things the hoarder or their family didn’t know existed or though they had lost forever.”
Safety and Good Health
Beyond the value of having walkways and floors cleared and easy to navigate, Mastertech Environmental is there to handle water damage and mold remediation. Often water and mold is found when a hoarding cleanup is underway. Biological hazards, animal hoarding and droppings are also cleaned as well, with odor control services available. After a full cleanout, Mastertech always sanitizes every surface in the areas remediated: floors, walls, ceilings and fixtures to make sure it is safe for anyone to re-enter the property.
The cleanup is an important part of the process, but it’s not the only part. The hoarder will need help so the behavior does not re-occur. Seeking help from a mental health professional is a critical part of overcoming hoarding disorder.