Rescuing a Hoarder House

Does someone you love hoard? Do you worry about their ability to safely navigate in their home? Does it concern you that they may be eating expired food or not storing food properly in the refrigerator? Are the papers stacked so deeply a small kitchen fire could turn into a disaster?

Moving Forward has been digging out hoarders since 2004. Here’s a true story with fictitious names.

We received a call from Kim after her mother, Agnes, had passed on and left behind an extremely hoarded Seattle home. Kim and her siblings wanted help emptying it but they were so overwhelmed it was difficult for them to know where and how to start.

It was a nice home structurally, and you could see that at one time it had been tidy and well decorated. But Agnes was so devastated by her husband’s passing that she started to drink heavily. Things began to get out of hand. She was a strong-willed woman and refused her children’s offers to help her “throw out the junk.”

As you might imagine, even though her children wanted to help, Agnes felt criticized. To Agnes, protecting her dignity meant defending her right to keep whatever she wanted. No one will ever know if Agnes would have accepted help if the word “junk” had not been used to describe her possessions. But, too late. Now she was absolutely set against it. It seemed that there would be no cleaning her home out in her lifetime.

Her children had no choice but to wait until the home became such a serious health hazard that they could call on the authorities to intervene; that became their plan. Unexpectedly, Agnes passed away from natural causes before her home reached that point.

After she passed, when the children saw the state of her home, they felt completely overwhelmed, not just by the amount of stuff, but they were even more overcome by emotion when they saw how their mother had chosen to live. They called on Moving Forward to help them empty the home.

Three people from Moving Forward joined the family for two days. The family pulled out financial records, photographs and the items they wanted to keep. Moving Forward cleared debris from the stairways so they could access the basement and the second floor. While the family salvaged old keepsakes, Moving Forward removed all the expired food from the kitchen. The family scavenged garden tools and equipment from the garage while Moving Forward bagged trash and shoveled spilled bags of dirt and seeds. At one point, there were eight people working on this huge project.

Underneath all the accumulated papers and trash, some rather nice furniture and a vast quantity of sewing, knitting and crocheting supplies were found. As soon as it seemed appropriate, Moving Forward helped the family schedule with an estate sale company.  It took another 2 days working side-by-side with the estate sale company to finish emptying the home.

The rule of thumb with estate sales is don’t throw anything away until they have a chance to look! You can throw away food, liquor, newspapers and magazines that are newer than 40 years old.  But leave everything else.  In an estate sale, the money is in the clutter. After the sale, Moving Forward returned to the home to donate all the items that didn’t sell and to arrange for a final cycle of junk removal.

Agnes’s children were effusively grateful to be relieved of the burden of emptying their mother’s home and were pleasantly surprised that the estate sale generated several thousand dollars.  Because of Moving Forward, the project went smoother than even they could have imagined.

Moving Forward was proud to help this family in getting back to their lives as quickly as possible and having as best an experience as possible, given the circumstances.  Call us, we can help!

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