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The worst mess ever

by respaced on June 17, 2009

When I go over to a client’s house for the initial consultation,the client almost always asks, “Is this the worse mess ever?” And the answer is always an emphatic no! Let me tell you about the worst case of clutter chaos ever …

The worst case of clutter ever was discovered in 1947 in New York City. Langley and Homer Collyer were brothers and eccentric recluses who lived in a brownstone building in Harlem. Homer had gone blind, so it was up to Langley to bring food and water to his brother. In addition to bringing home food, Langley would also bring home countless pieces of trash that he found interesting and saved newspapers. When asked why he saved newspapers, he said,”I am saving newspapers for Homer, so that when he regains his sight he can catch up on the news.”

Langley set up booby traps in the home to ward off would-be thieves. In 1947, someone called the police to report that they smelled a dead body at the Collyer residence. It took seven policemen to break through the solid wall of junk in the foyer in order to locate the body of Homer Collyer. Wikipedia reports, “The brownstone’s foyer was packed solid by a wall of old newspapers, folding beds and chairs, boxes, parts of a wine press and numerous other pieces of junk.” An autopsy determined that he had only been dead 10 hours, so he couldn’t be the source of the smell.

It took crews weeks to clear out all the rubbish — 100 tons of it in all. And almost two weeks later, the source of the smell was revealed. The body of Langley Collyer was found decomposing about 10 feet from his brother’s body. Wikipedia reports, “His partially decomposed body was being eaten by rats. A suitcase and three huge bundles of newspapers had covered his body. Langley had been crawling through their newspaper tunnel to bring food to his paralyzed brother when one of his own booby traps fell down and crushed him. Homer, blind and paralyzed, starved to death several days later. The stench detected on the street had been emanating from Langley, the younger brother.”

Hoardhouse.com has an excellent slideshow about the Collyer brothers and an interview with Don Tagatac, owner of Trauma Scene Cleaning Management Inc. About 75 percent of TSCMI’s work is cleaning up the homes of hoarders. The worst home his crew ever had to tackle took 11 people four days to clean up, and resulted in the disposal of nine ton’s worth of stuff. By contrast, Tagatac speculates that were he called in to help the Collyer brothers today, it would take his team of 11 people 40 days to clean up and would result in 20 dumpsters of garbage (remember, there was 100 tons of stuff in that house). At $400 an hour, it would cost $164,730 in today’s dollars.

That was the worst case of hoarding ever. And I’d bet my son’s (minuscule) college savings fund that the clutter chaos in your home, while distressing to you, cannot top the amount of clutter found in the Collyer’s home.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the use of the photo. License to republish info.

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