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Hamptons Life

Feb 4, 2013 2:46 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Two Local Businesses Lend A Hand On 'Hoarders'

Feb 5, 2013 10:04 AM

C

ompulsive hoarding: a mental disorder marked by an obsessive need to acquire and keep items, even if they are worthless, hazardous or unsanitary.

More than three million people in America are compulsive hoarders. This is a story about one of them, and the two local companies—C’s Home & Office Management in Sag Harbor and Styled & Sold in Westhampton Beach—that stepped in to help fix her problem.

Meet Dolores. She is a Greenport-based artist and she lives for the unusual. When something catches her eye, she gravitates toward it. If she can afford it, she buys it. If it’s free, she takes it—no questions asked.

“There’s lots of fascinating stuff out there,” Dolores said during an episode of A&E’s television series “Hoarders,” which aired on January 28. “I guess you have to have an open mind.”

But the Greenport Fire Department firefighters weren’t feeling particularly open-minded last year when they couldn’t get into her house to shut off a faulty smoke detector. They had to send in their smallest man and it took him nearly a half hour to get to it.

Officials informed her that if she didn’t clean up her house, it would be condemned as a fire hazard.

“I got a notice in the mail that said I have to empty out the place,” Dolores said. “I realize it’s not a livable house. There’s too much stuff in it.”

Stacks of books, artwork, antiques, eccentric knickknacks and clothing littered the house, piled high in the living areas and bedrooms. Bowls, pans and cooking ingredients covered the stove and kitchen table, rendering them useless. The only means of navigating the house was by way of a single path weaving through Dolores’s sea of belongings.

Something had to be done. And so, the “Hoarders” crew stepped in. Over the course of four days in October, they unloaded, scrubbed down and redecorated Dolores’s home at no cost to her.

Interior designer Allegra Dioguardi, the owner of Styled & Sold, was on site for the entire process, she said during a telephone interview last week. They began by laying out huge tarps and separating Dolores’s home into three categories: keep, trash or auction.

“She was not a typical hoarder in that it wasn’t that she loved her stuff. It’s that she saw it as having financial value,” Ms. Dioguardi explained during a telephone interview last week. “She would go to yard sales and rummage sales and tag sales and just pick up stuff and resell it. And I guess she got overwhelmed and wasn’t able to keep up with the selling, but she was still buying.”

After two days of sorting, the producers, Screaming Flea Productions, brought in C’s Home & Office Management. When they got the call, owner Cindy Ward Capalbo said she was thrilled, until she realized what she would be up against. Many of the other hoarder houses featured on the show are riddled with garbage, insects and even animal feces, she explained.

“They asked us if we wanted to view the job, which we think is absolutely necessary when we’re dealing with a hoarder,” Ms. Capalbo said during an interview last week at her office in Sag Harbor. “If I personally wouldn’t clean it, I wouldn’t expect them to clean it.”

“Some of them are filthy hoarders,” office manager Susan DePetris added. “We were very lucky.”

“Our first reaction was still like, ‘Holy mackerel.’ She was an antique collector and she just got bombarded with stuff. The worst of her house was just the dust,” Ms. Capalbo said. “But it was bad. It was really bad. We had to take a few minutes to catch our breath. It was an unbelievable amount of stuff in there. Just piles and piles. Two rooms, it took us 15 minutes to get through.”

At that point in the process, the crew had already cleared out half of Dolores’s house, she said.

“It was still wall-to-wall covered. It was shocking,” Ms. Capalbo said. “It was really hard to witness because you feel bad for the person, but at the same time, you want to help them and get them cleaned up so they can see what people live like because they’re in a delusional world.”

The next day, Ms. Capalbo’s army of 12 cleaners arrived at Dolores’s house dressed in uniforms, masks and booties, with vacuums, dusters and chemicals in tow. They spent four hours scrubbing down every inch of the kitchen, front bedroom, dining and living rooms.

“This was the worst we’ve seen and we find some pretty gross things cleaning,” Ms. Capalbo said. “I remember there was a dead bird, just a random dead bird, at a house on Sagg Road. You never know what you’re going to find. Anyone who watches the show will definitely go home at night and just double check to make sure they’re not hoarders. It really wakes you up.”

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