We’ve written articles about “hoarding houses” before, and how contents valet go about cleaning them out, but one of the most fascinating stories was published in Restoration & Remediation Magazine. It was written by Michelle Blevins and is well worth a read.
One of our authors spent time on a hoarding job himself and recalls spider webs festooning the ceiling, massive gemstones found under three feet of compacted garbage and even watching the front door dismantled just to get into the house.
The hoarding situation Michelle reported included 21 automobiles (14 of which were parked around the neighborhood in prime parking places) and the owner was a 3rd generation hoarder (the trash and treasure in his home had been accumulating since the 1920’s).
One of the problems with such situations is that the typical walkthrough for the purposes of an estimate is almost impossible – as one layer is excavated, another generation is seen. Change orders are inevitable.
Another challenge is the fact that a hoarder might have collected thousands of matchbooks and stuffed them in coat pockets right next to solid gold coins. Money can be found in the toes of shoes, or in a rolled up window shade. And curiously, to the hoarder, the matchbooks seem to be as valued as the gold and cash.
At one point, the contents valet found that a Ferrari (which had been empty when they arrived) was now full of things the owner wanted to save.
The contractor on the case had meticulously and slowly won the owner’s trust, but the owner was constantly squirreling things away that he truly prized.
On the case in which our author assisted, the owner was not on site. In both cases, the owners were about to be evicted due to fire laws and indignant neighbors (even though both men owned their properties).
Such owners often have extremely fragile psyches and possess an undefinable dread of having their hoards taken away. In fact it was a restoration contractor who named the syndrome, “Disposophobia.”
The contractor on Michelle’s case study arranged for an auction house to accept many of the truly valuable items and to auction them in order to pay for the cost of the restoration and to create a viable “nest egg” for the owner.
If ever you find yourself on such a case, don’t be too surprised to find that the hoarder is not someone of diminished intellect – contractors have found hoarding attorneys, judges, university instructors, physicians and others held in esteem in their communities – yet obsessed with gathering things that fill their homes so full, there is little or no room for them.
And if you hire inexperienced laborers to restore the home, you are very likely to lose massive amounts of valuables. We have even seen cases where deeds, birth certificates, wills and jewelry were tossed out because it was faster than sorting through a lifetime of valued items… and untrained workers couldn’t tell the difference.