As published in the Savannah Morning News - 30 June 2013
with hoarders – oh my!
Hoarding has become a popular
subject, written about in magazines and is even the focus of television reality
shows. This is the first of a two part series,
as we explore hoarding from a real estate and move management perspective.
It is often a source of
embarrassment for the person who suffers from this disorder, and is always
frustrating for the family members who spend their lives trying to “fix” the
situation. I have spent quite a bit of
time studying the subject, and this psychological condition is very real, requiring
professional treatment to effectively help individuals with hoarding disorders.
In the past, hoarding was regarded
as an obsessive compulsive disorder; however the medical community now
recognizes the disease as one that has earned its own category. I am not a doctor, so my intent is not to
write from a medical point of view, but as a Realtor® and Move Manager. From time to time, I do face the challenge of
selling a hoarder’s property and relocating them to another home.
All the hoarders I have met are
single. This disease does not always
manifest itself in obvious ways until the hoarder is older, so later in the
marriage, spouses lose patience with it and cannot live in the condition they
find themselves. They divorce, and the
children, feeling helpless to cure the problem, distance themselves as
well. It can be a very sad and lonely
existence for some hoarders, but others can hide the disorder by keeping people
from entering their homes. They can simply
go about their lives on the outside without the world knowing.
My first point of contact is usually
with the adult children, attorneys or even financial planners trying to help
their client. Most often the “client”
is not the hoarder, but they are obviously the fragile part of the puzzle that
must be considered.
The move is
initiated because of concerns for the hoarder’s safety, and usually motivated
by physical ailments that require assisted living. With children, there is always frustration
expressed on the other end of the phone, and embarrassment to have to bring an
outsider into the mix. It is difficult
for them to expose the situation, but I assure them that in my profession of
selling homes and moving people, there is very little I have not seen.
When I am called to list a home for
sale, the family secret is out, and the hoarder must expose their condition to
me. I become the obvious threat to their
continued way of life, and the comfort they feel surrounded by their
stuff. Upon entering the property, I am
not only assessing the home, but I am also considering the owner. Removing a person from their home, throwing
away all their “treasures”, and simply expecting them to adjust, is not
reasonable. This remedy, as simple as it
seems, can cause psychological damage. Care must be taken to ease the concerns and
fears that hoarders feel when threatened by this situation.
There are many forms of hoarding, so
when I enter a home I am also assessing the environment; is it safe for me and
my crew to be there? My job is to move
the parent to a new location, then prepare the house for sale and get it sold.
If the house is toxic, however, our safety
and health become the primary concern.
Yes, I have turned down toxic jobs, and will continue to do so if we are
in danger. The only solution is to call
in a company who covers themselves with protection against air born and
physical hazards. Once the house is
cleaned out, we can perform our duty to get it sold.
Fortunately, most of the hoarding situations
I see do not require hazmat suited professionals, and we can handle the task.
So how do I approach these
situations, and what are some of the solutions for successful moves with
minimal collateral damage? Next week
I’ll describe some of my experiences, and how they were handled.
week in Moving Mom…Working with hoarders, Part II – Oh my! Stay tuned!