It was October 3, 2013 when Rainbow International of Sioux Falls, S.D., arrived at a twin home in the city to assess a hoarding job they had been contacted about. Upon arriving at the home, they found it to be in fair condition from the exterior. But what they came across inside was a whole other story.
“The home was so cluttered that most rooms were inaccessible and were no longer being used for their intended purposes,” says Melissa Baysore, Project Manager. “The kitchen could not be used for food preparation, the refrigerator was filled with expired and rotting food, stovetops with combustibles as well as old food piled on top of burners. The table could not be used for dining.”
Baysore continued, “In the bathroom, the bathtub and sink were filled with items and only a path to the toilet was accessible. The couches, chairs and beds could not be utilized. This project was one of the most severe we have encountered. Very little of the actual structure could be seen from the amount of floor-to-ceiling clutter. The amount of items could have easily filled two four-bedroom homes.”
But the amount of clutter and uncertainty of what it was hiding in the home wasn’t the only hazard that the crew would encounter throughout the duration of the job. Upon inspecting the property, they also came across a strong ozone odor. The homeowner had placed numerous ozone machines in her closets and bedrooms to keep her clothes free from malodors. Ozone is heavier than air and not considered safe for humans or animals, Baysore says. Upon inspection, crew members experienced eye and throat irritation, but long-term ozone exposure can lead to more severe symptoms like fatigue, migraine headaches and lung damage.
In prepping for the cleanout, crew members had the ozone machines shut off. The homeowner and her family also underwent counseling prior to the cleanout. Suiting up in full PPE which consisted of gloves, suits and dust masks, the six-person Rainbow International crew sorted items, designating some to save, others to donate and the rest they discarded into a 20-yard on-site dumpster.
“The bedroom was bursting with items – you could barely make out a bed that was overcome by clothes, purses, magazines, etc.” Baysore said. “The first goal was to reach the floor and create a path to work in. After reaching the floor, 5 hours later, the second goal was to remove the clothing. We finally reached the closet 75 contractor bags later.”
Aside from cleaning out the property, Baysore and crew also cleaned all hard surfaces, flooring and carpets, HEPA-vacuumed the walls, and disinfected the bathroom and kitchen. Surprisingly, aside from the clutter, the home was in good condition and no reconstruction was deemed necessary.
The crew started the cleanout at 7 a.m. and ended at about 5:30 p.m. Upon completion, areas of the home were seeing daylight for the first time in a decade.
“It is a process that requires delicate hand holding and is very slow to make progress,” says Baysore. “It is not as simple as walking into the home and hauling out trash, items and clothing to a dumpster. If the hoarder is pushed or the rules are not adhered to, the risk to the mental state of the individual and the success of the project are in jeopardy.”
Today, the homeowner still resides in the home and Baysore said that conditions are similar to how they were when the crew departed the property following the cleanout last fall.
The cleanout was documented for an episode of TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive” show.