Trapped in her stuff for 24 years, how one hoarder found help
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.
process. Enviropure have the experience and compassion to help hoarders clean up their homes and emotionally deal with the