‘Hoarders’ TV show enlists Falmouth, Portland businesses

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FALMOUTH — When the reality television show “Hoarders” came to Maine last year to film an episode for its eighth season, producers enlisted some local help for the cleanup effort.

Falmouth- and Auburn-based ServiceMaster Restore and Clean was asked to lead the cleanup of the featured home, with help from Portland-based OrganizeMe.

The one-hour episode, which is set in a Lisbon home, will air 8 p.m. Sunday, March 13 on the A&E network.

Steve Cox, owner of the two ServiceMaster locations, said most of what his company does is clean up after fire and water damage, or damage from other causes such as mold, sewage and other disasters. He said according to national estimates, 5 percent of the population has some type of hoarding disorder, but it is becoming a larger issue in Maine.

“We’re just taking care of the symptoms,” Cox said. “Hoarding is a psychological issue.”

Cox added if individuals don’t get the help they need, after the ServiceMaster teams leave they will end up right back where they were. He estimated his company goes into several hundred homes per year.

Dawna Hall, owner OrganizeMe, said she and another person were in charge of sorting through the boxes of items the ServiceMaster team would bring out. She said they would go through the items and decide what the homeowner needed. That’s different from the traditional role of a professional organizer, she said, who let’s the client decide what is necessary to keep.

“The magnitude of the whole thing was overwhelming,” Hall said. “It was coming out so fast.”

Hall said OrganizeMe typically has one extreme case a year. She said the root cause of hoarding is mental illness, which should be professionally addressed.

She said there are five levels of hoarding; at the fifth level, individuals can’t sleep in their own bed, cook in their own kitchen or use their own bathroom. She said the Lisbon home fit that description. Hall said she had seen levels three and four in the past, “but nothing quite like this.”

Like Cox, Hall said she recommends people with a hoarding disorder work with a professional therapist to address the causes.

Cox and Hall could not disclose the identity of the homeowner or details about the cleanup, because the episode has not aired. But Cox did say the homeowner reached out to the show.

Crews spent three days on the scene, Hall said. The ServiceMaster team removed nearly 20,000 pounds of material from the house and filled seven 40-yard dumpsters, Cox said.

Cox said the homeowner is not always the one to call his team. Sometimes the local Fire Department calls them in, and they need to make the home safe as soon as possible. If the homeowner does call them, Cox said hopefully the individual has the support they need, and then “we’re working directly for them, whatever their goals are.”

“It’s an exhausting process for people afflicted with it who have placed sentimental value on things,” he said.

The ServiceMaster team was trained by Matt Paxton, the show’s host, on both safety and understanding the triggers behind hoarding, which are generally traumas the individual experienced and can’t deal with. They may include a death in the family, divorce, job loss or others.

“Oftentimes it’s more than one thing at the same time,” Cox said. “It just becomes overwhelming.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Matt Paxton, the host of the television show “Hoarders,” goes through a home. An upcoming episode set in Lisbon features Falmouth and Portland companies in the clean-up effort.

The Falmouth- and Auburn-based ServiceMaster Restore and Clean crew with “Hoarders” host Matt Paxton, center, last year in Lisbon.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.