Hoarding Case Studies

Working With A Professional Organizer To Establish Housing Compliance

A local professional organizer recently reached out to me to assist in a hoarding cleanup for one of her customers.  The customer had a prominent career, but a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) wasn’t discussed nor signed during the bid or cleanup process.  This was very strange, as professional organizers are generally obliged to protect their clients and client’s confidentiality.  Since there were kids living in the home, this cleanup could be problematic.

Red Flag #1 – The professional organizer showed up late to the bid.  I spoke with her client for about 15 minutes before she showed up to the home.  It was apparent to me that she was not accustomed to working in these environments.  We toured the home and I left to write up a bid for deep cleaning services.

Red Flag #2 – The professional organizer agreed to the terms, then underpaid before my team arrived on day 1.  The professional organizer was late on day 1 as well.  My team completed the required areas and 3 additional areas of the home.  The professional organizer didn’t want to throw out the urine soaked couches and chairs, but rather wanted to wash the covers.  She seemed surprised when I told her we didn’t bid to clean the couch and chairs and that they should likely be tossed, as they were contaminated.  It was possible that she simply didn’t understand that urine soaks into cushions and simply cleaning the cushions would reduce, but would not eliminate, the odor and bacteria.

Red Flag #3 – I returned to thoroughly scrub the floor.  The professional organizer was again late – so late this time that I left before she arrived.

Red Flag #4 – The professional organizer and her subcontractor showed up late again.  The rooms we agreed to clean were occupied and we were not able to access those rooms.  The kitchen we previously cleaned was filthy again.  The organizer made comments about finding crumbs in a drawer 4 days after we completed the last cleaning and demanded that we carpet clean the urine soaked carpets for free.  I refused.  She was furious.  She “forgot” to pay before we arrived for this cleaning, then blamed her client.  She underpaid this as well.

Result – I stopped working with this professional organizer and her client.  I checked the National Association of Professional Organizers, Institute of Chronic Disorganization and other professional organizing associations and she didn’t appear to be part of them, or was no longer a part of those organizations.  Professional associations will not allow unethical behavior as the behavior displayed by that professional organizer.  That organizer was running a side hustle, not a legitimate business and her client may pay the price for it.

Takeaways:

Do you research before working with professional organizers.  I have worked with several professional organizers and they generally turn down jobs with urine, feces, mold and/or other environmental contaminants.  This professional organizer didn’t have any personal protective equipment (PPE) for her, her subcontractor or her client or client’s kids.  This PO didn’t have an NDA.  This PO expected free work to be completed.  This PO was routinely late.  This PO wasn’t part of a professional association.  Had I known this before I started the job, I would have simply turned it down.  If this case gets reported to the Department of Social Services, I will likely have to disclose the living situation, contaminants, and failure to maintain the cleanliness of the areas after the work was completed (before and after pictures).