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Hoarding Uncovered

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – Do you have trouble throwing things away? Worried you may need them one day? Do you have large piles of items growing in your home making it hard to live your day-to-day life?

Nearly five percent of Americans, closer to nine percent in the Midwest, suffer from hoarding disorders.

The Kalamazoo Hoarding Task Force formed to help those with the disorder.

Newschannel 3’s Lourin Sprenger met with a woman working to overcome her hoarding tendencies in this special report.

We met with a crew that cleans as a full-time gig, tackling the toughest jobs. But for this team, it’s not just about the work, but the people they serve.

“A lot of times cleaning companies will just come in and throw stuff away,” said Clayton Lyczynski, Servicemaster Business Development, “and that can create a more negative impact.”

The crew is helping a woman, who asked not to be identified, that has been struggling with a hoarding disorder for years. She says it started as something small, but grew over time, as did the feelings of embarrassment and shame.

“It will help relieve the depression, the hopeless feeling,” said the woman. “You get in this cycle like this, it’s really hard to know where to begin, and you try to make an attempt, but when you do you don’t see any progress and then you’re back in another depression cycle.”

The woman told Newschannel 3 that she hasn’t been able to sleep in her bedroom and instead camps out on the couch. She says just moving around her home has become a struggle.

“I was taking a lot of falls,” said the woman. “I was tripping over things.”

Most recently, she says she hurt her ankle after slipping down the stairs.

“I think I was getting concerned that you can’t live with clutter from a safety standpoint,” said the woman.

The woman’s daughter contacted the Kalamazoo Hoarding Task Force. Clayton Lyczynski is a member of that team.

“There is a lot of projects going on, a lot of activity, that’s common, sometimes those projects just get too big,” said Lyczynski.

For the hoarding task force, the main focus is safety. Cleaning the clutter comes second.

“Taking a look at the water heater, the furnace, making sure we can get to those easily,” said Lyczynski.

After a full day, the team cleared the bedroom and basement completely and made major progress in the kitchen and living room as well.

“My initial reaction was like, wow,” said the woman.

“If we can get this back to a safe place, back to a place where she is comfortable, the quality of life will improve,” said Lyczynski.

The team sorts the clutter. Black bags are for donating, clear bags are for trash, everything else is consolidated into boxes.

“There is no pressure, they don’t tell you what to do or ask you what to do, they guide you,” said the woman. “He took a supportive role, he understood what I was going through.”

While there is a long way to go, the woman was so impressed with how far a little help could carry her in a day.

“It’s a self-feeding cycle that you go through,” said the woman. “The biggest part is you don’t see the process and you don’t see the progress.”

The Kalamazoo Hoarding Task Force hopes that talking about the issue will help others realize it is okay to ask for help.

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