Trapped in her stuff for 24 years, how one hoarder found help

Kingston Whig-Standard - - OPINION - IRIS WIN­STON

We treat ev­ery sit­u­a­tion as unique and we love our clients through it. By work­ing to­gether, we give peo­ple the power to change their lives.

“I have been trapped in my stuff for 24 years. I have lost room after room.”

Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Shel­ley Mor­ton has long been aware of her prob­lem as a hoarder.

“It’s a men­tal ill­ness,” she says can­didly, “and there’s a ge­netic con­nec­tion. My mother kept ev­ery­thing. She was a fully delu­sional hoarder.”

Mor­ton is far more re­al­is­tic, un­der­stand­ing the con­fin­ing ef­fects of hoard­ing, even though she has never been able to keep per­sonal spa­ces at her home or of­fice well or­ga­nized. Over the years, clut­ter and waist-high stacks of books, pa­pers and other items have en­croached on the shrink­ing space around her.

“I lost part of ev­ery room,” says Mor­ton. “The din­ing room was never fully func­tional be­cause, since I moved in, peo­ple just put stuff on top of the ta­ble. A lot of it is still there. It hap­pened slowly, but it was so over­whelm­ing that I gave up.” About three years ago, Mor­ton says, “I rec­og­nized I was out of con­trol. The stuff had formed an egg around me and I couldn’t get out.” Two events prompted her to seek help. One was a com­ment from an Al­go­nquin el­der. “He said ev­ery­thing had a pur­pose and when it is not ful­fill­ing its pur­pose, you are dis­hon­our­ing it,” says Mor­ton. “Those words seared into my mind.” More re­cently, the threat of evic­tion be­cause of her hoard­ing is­sue, led her to seek help from a com­pany she refers to as her “an­gels of mercy.” The team of ex­perts from Enviropure Home Ser­vices, named Ot­tawa’s premier clean­ing ser­vice for nine con­sec­u­tive years, stepped in to deal with Mor­ton’s prob­lem. “We of­fer a com­pre­hen­sive ser­vice with full client in­volve­ment,” ex­plains Richard Stick­lee, Enviropure’s vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions. “Our hoard­ing clean­ing team re­claims clients’ homes, while help­ing them cope with the psy­cho­log­i­cal depth of the sit­u­a­tion. “We are not there just to throw their stuff away,” he em­pha­sizes. “The big­gest part of what we do is to help peo­ple, to let them know ev­ery­thing they have has a pur­pose. If they are un­able to use some­thing, we make it clear that other peo­ple can use or re-pur­pose it. Know­ing they’re let­ting it go so that it can con­tinue be­ing use­ful helps them to feel good.” This ap­proach has re­ally helped her, says Mor­ton, who in­tends to have a for­mal give­away ses­sion when the Enviropure team has fin­ished clear­ing, clean­ing, dis­pos­ing of garbage and mov­ing boxes of items to stor­age units for the next stage of sort­ing, do­na­tion and dis­posal. The process is slow and hard, says Mor­ton. “I con­sid­ered killing my­self a cou­ple of weeks ago just to stop the pain. I spent months ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied, then went into psy­chi­atric shock. Then I pulled my­self to­gether, got an­gry and de­clared war on stuff and the sit­u­a­tion.” “We also coun­sel clients based on our ex­pe­ri­ence,” notes Stick­lee, point­ing out that the com­pany is not only cer­ti­fied to deal with all aspects of hoard­ing, but the nurs­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and com­pas­sion­ate na­ture of com­pany pres­i­dent Tina Mon­geon, also sup­ports clients through a dif­fi­cult time.

“Tina is the kind, nur­tur­ing part of the equa­tion. I’m the one keep­ing the train on the tracks,” says Stick­lee. “I don’t care if it slows down. I just don’t want it to stop or go back­wards. We know that 99.9 per cent of hoard­ing starts be­cause of a trau­matic event in some­one’s life. They feel help­less and hope­less and then find worth in hold­ing onto things.”

There­fore, the process of sep­a­ra­tion is bound to be time-con­sum­ing and must be gen­tle, he em­pha­sizes. “We treat ev­ery sit­u­a­tion as unique and we love our clients through it. By work­ing to­gether, we give peo­ple the power to change their lives.

“We’re there to han­dle the hoard­ing sit­u­a­tion from one end to the other, start­ing with com­pas­sion for the client to hard-core cleanup and restora­tion of the home,” says Stick­lee, not­ing that clients fre­quently have res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems be­cause of the ef­fects of mould on the air qual­ity in hoard­ing sit­u­a­tions. “We’re cer­ti­fied for pro­fes­sional mould in­spec­tion and re­me­di­a­tion and have all the in­dus­try lead­ing equip­ment and train­ing to fix the air qual­ity. We make the home safe, emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally. It’s quite a process and we’re very good at it.” As for Mor­ton? She has “no in­ten­tion of ever get­ting into this sit­u­a­tion again. If some­thing comes in, some­thing else has to go out from now on. It’s that sim­ple.” For more in­for­ma­tion on Enviropure Home Ser­vices visit www.en­vi­rop­ure­home.com or call 613 513-7873.

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process. Enviropure have the ex­pe­ri­ence and com­pas­sion to help hoard­ers clean up their homes and emo­tion­ally deal with the

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