The Dire Consequences of Hoarding Disorder: The Challenges of Extreme Hoarding Cleanup

When people read or hear the name Jackie Kennedy or Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, they think of the former First Lady of the United States. They think of a woman renowned for elegance and style. What nearly no one thinks of when Jackie Kennedy is brought up is extreme hoarding. The reality is that after her husband John Kennedy’s assassination, and she married shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy was called upon to assist in extreme hoarding cleanup.

Jackie Kennedy had an aunt named Edith Bouvier Beale, her father’s sister. Kennedy had a cousin, her aunt’s daughter, had the same name as her mother. The women were known within Kennedy’s father’s family as Big Edie and Little Edie.

Growing up, Jackie Kennedy would spend a good deal of time at the Beale’s resplendent estate known as Grey Gardens. By the time Kennedy was the First Lady, the Beales had begun to live reclusively at Grey Gardens. Big Edie never let Grey Gardens; Little Edie rarely left the property.

By this juncture in time, the Beales had become extreme hoarders. Not only did a wide array of items accumulate throughout the property, the Beales hoarded cats and, even more unusually, racoons.

Eventually, the stench from Grey Gardens became overwhelming. Neighbors complained and local authorities started to take action based on the contention that the property had become a public nuisance. Because of the connection between the Beales and the former First Lady, the situation made the newspapers, indeed newspapers across the country.

Until the media began to report on the state of affairs at Grey Gardens, Kennedy had no idea what was going on at the estate, nor did she know the condition of her aunt and cousin. When Kennedy learned of the situation, she traveled from New York City to Grey Gardens to ascertain the state of affairs. Kennedy, her husband, and her sister got together to hire extreme hoarding cleanup services to address the situation at Grey Gardens.

The situation at Grey Gardens involving an aunt and cousin of one of the most elegant First Ladies in U.S. History underscores the reality that nearly anyone can become a hoarder or have a family member suffering from this disorder. Kennedy hired one of the local companies that clean out houses and specialize in extreme hoarding cleanup.

The matter of Grey Gardens demonstrates what extreme hoarding looks like. It oftentimes involves a hoarding situation that has extended over a more significant period of time. The residence of an extreme hoarder will have largely become unusable. As was the case of Grey Gardens, showers and toilets are not likely to be functional. Hoarded items (including objects that could only be fairly categorized as garbage) accumulate to the point that the rooms of the once beautiful mansion became unusable.

As a result of the hoarding of cats, and even racoons, coupled with lack of properly functioning toilets, feces and urine could be found throughout the house. Grey Gardens presented a major health hazard to its pair of occupants and to others.

The Progression of Hoarding

Hoarding is classified as a mental health disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic. Hoarding disorder is defined as a persistent inability to part with or discard possessions. A person with the disorder has a perceived need to keep or save these items, even if they have absolutely no value whatsoever.

When extreme hoarding occurs, a residence becomes unusable and a health hazard, precisely like what occurred at Grey Gardens. Oftentimes, hoarding is made extreme because it also includes the accumulation of pets or other animals.

Extreme hoarding technically is classified as Level 5 Hoarding. At this level, extreme hoarding cleanup is necessary because of the state of the premises. These types of conditions typically exist when an extreme hoarding cleanup specialist is required:

  • Kitchen and bathrooms are unusable
  • No suitable sleeping space exists in the residence
  • Residence is generally unlivable
  • Residence has structural damage
  • Residence lacks power, water, and sewer service
  • Human (and animal) waste is located throughout the property
  • Insects and rodents infest the premises

Extreme Hoarding Cleanup: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to Resolving a Crisis

In order to truly address all aspects of extreme hoarding cleanup, and to ensure that a person with hoarding disorder doesn’t relapse into the same situation once a property is brought under control, a multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary approach must be taken to resolving what really is a crisis situation. As mentioned a moment ago, this includes engaging the services of an extreme hoarding cleanup specialist. The team also needs to include:

  • A mental health professional (or professionals, depending on the specifics of the situation)
  • Medical professional (primary physician, if there is one)
  • Financial professional (or counselor)
  • Organizational professional
  • Family member(s)
  • Friend(s)

The idea of a family, or other individuals associated with a person afflicted with hoarding disorder, taking on the task of extreme hoarding cleanup on their own can fairly said to be misplaced. In the final analysis, when hoarding has reached Level 5, the multi-faceted approach involving the professionals (and others) identified a moment ago represents the only way in which the situation can be safely and thoroughly addressed.