A hoarder's home reborn - WDRB 41 Louisville News

A hoarder's home reborn

A Louisville woman who describes her home as a dump says she's been too embarrassed to let anyone inside for years.  She's a hoarder, but she let Fox 41 cameras inside because she's finally ready to dig herself out.

This is a job she can't handle alone.  The woman we'll call Sue is so embarrassed about the way she's been living for years, she did not want to be identified.

Like the homes of most hoarders, it's a chore just to walk through it. There's stuff covering nearly every square inch of space.  "It's totally humiliating," she says.  "I am an educated professional who lives in a dump."

Hoarding is tough to treat.  Experts say hoarders collect things and have trouble parting with them because they have emotional ties to the objects.  Sue grew up poor and says her problem started with shopping to fill voids in her life.  "If I see it, I like it, I want it, I buy it...I know a lot of it stems from not having a lot as a child and a lot of it stems from wanting to feel better for the moment, but then it got into this major problem."

A team of professional organizers will tackle it, and a therapist offers some advice and encouragment.  Dr. Jeffrey Romer tells Sue, "Your willingness to want to organize things is the big step.  The big part is you have to have say over the things they're taking away, otherwise it's being violated."

Organizer Tracie Utter tells Sue, "So if you'll go up there with us and tell us what you're willing to let go of, then we'll get it out and get it off to charity.  One thing I noticed was the pool table -- your son, does he still use the pool table?"  Sue answers, "No."

It's one of the first things to go -- but a safety hazard, the steps, have to be cleared to get to it.  While one organizer tackles that project, another takes on the bedroom, starting with the piles on the floor, and the third dives into the kitchen.

Another organizer, Melanie Stokes, says, "The things that don't live in this room need to leave, so this is obviously Christmas."

Sue hopes cleaning up will accomplish more than clearing off surfaces:  "I certainly hope that I won't feel the need to hide, which is what I've been doing, hiding in these walls because I was too ashamed."

After just a few hours, you can see lots of progress in Sue's bedroom -- the piles of clothes are gone, sorted into groups on the bed.  The ultimate goal is to get each item in a drawer or into a closet."

Four days later, an amazing transformation has happened.  It's like a new house.  Sue is enthusiastic:  "It's been quite a process.  I haven't seen it look like this in a long time."

There's a bedroom you can actually sleep in.  It's the same with Sue's room -- before, it was cluttered with piles of clothes and anything else you can imagine.  Now you can see the floor and all the other furniture.  "I feel calmer, less chaotic," Sue says.

But cleaning up is only part of the job.  Maintaining it will be another, as organizer Tracie Utter points out: "Sue is showing me such excitement about the situation, so I have higher hopes than maybe any other client I've worked with in this situation that she will succeed.  I'm crossing my fingers."

As for Sue, she says, "I really believe and know there are a lot of people out there who need to know that you don't have to be so ashamed and hide -- that you can get help and you can walk through the shame without it killing you."

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