Inside Hoarders: An Interview With Matt Paxton @cluttercleaner #hoarders

Hoarders Matt Paxton Interview ~

Hoarders

Many of you know Matt Paxton from the hit A&E TV Show Hoarders. But what you may not know about Paxton is that he also runs a successful cleaning service called Clutter Cleaner. Over the past 9 years, Clutter Cleaner has tackled approximately 100 homes yearly. Matt Paxton was very cool to talk to {and very busy!} and he was very open and honest about all of the aspects of his job that many might find unbearable but that he finds extremely rewarding.

Q&A With Matt Paxton of Hoarders

*Many of you submitted questions for Matt Paxton and several of them are addressed below. Many of you asked that these questions be asked anonymously and some of you asked the same questions. Due to the nature of the questions, I have decided to leave all questions anonymous.

 

Can You Tell Us A Little About How You Got Into This Line Of Work?

Paxton: I was in a really bad situation. I had hit rock bottom. I had a gambling addiction that had gotten out of hand. I was beat up by a bookie who had broken my nose – and I had one week to come up with $40K to pay him. I admit that I could only think of illegal things to get out of the mess I was in. It was then that I had to make some serious decisions. In the end, I did not pick the illegal route. I got a job with a friend and lived on his couch. I was completely broke, my Dad had died and I was depressed.

So, I begged my grandmother to let me clean her attic for rent money. As I was cleaning out her attic I saw that she was grieving over her stuff in attic, and it hit me. It was an aha moment! I realized that this collecting and hoarding of things had nothing to do with the stuff but that it had to do with the emotions surrounding the stuff. By end of week I had cleaned a few houses and made more money doing that in one week than I had previously working an entire year. I even approached a competitor company and asked what houses they absolutely would not clean – the hoarded houses. So, I started cleaning the houses that competition wouldn’t do. I am still an addict, but now my addiction is  cleaning and helping people.

 

What Is The Worst You Have Ever Seen In Your Line Of Work?

Paxton: This season’s premiere was really difficult – the cat episode. I cleaned the house a couple of months ago and I have talked to her {the client} every week since the cleaning. I have become really close to her. But when the episode aired, I have had nightmares every night since. I think what makes it worth it is that for every episode we air, potentially thousands of people and pets are helped. That makes it worth it.

 

What Is The Best Way To Approach A Person About Their Hoarding?

Paxton: The key is to take the judgment out of it. This situation is not about you. It’s about the hoarder and the tragedy. Take all negativity out and get the hoarder out of house, if possible and away from hoard. This helps to keep the hoarder from feeling defensive. It is very important to stay calm and to show that you care. Don’t judge or blame, just let the hoarder know that you love them and are here to help.

Do not do an ambush cleaning. This happens when someone cleans a hoarder’s home when the hoarder is in the hospital or otherwise unable to participate in the process. This is done without the hoarder’s permission. Many people think the hoarder would be happy to come home to a clean home. Instead, this is very traumatic for the hoarder.

 

What Should Someone Do If They Realize They Have Hoarding Tendencies?

Paxton: You should definitely read my book, The Secret Lives of Hoarders. It goes into a lot of depth about this subject. However, if you concerned that you might have a problem then you are already ahead of the game. Find out what caused it, what was the trigger? There are lots of things that can precipitate hoarding. Are you looking for self worth? Was there a divorce? Did your spouse die? Focus on why you hoard, not what you hoard. Go to therapy and treat the trigger. There are 100 reasons that it could be but it’s never about the stuff. If you are bored and have fun buying and that has turned into a hoard, than you need a new hobby.

Here is a cleaning tip that I recommend. Every night, make a 10 minute sweep of your home. Pick a one foot by one foot area in a room and put stuff that is in that area where it actually belongs in your home. Put groceries in cabinets, etc. You are setting your goal and accomplishing your goal, so you should be proud and reward yourself. This process needs repetition and then it becomes a habit.

 

How Do I Make A Hoarded Home Safe Enough For My Elderly Father With As Little Intrusion As Possible?

Paxton: The main thing is that you need enough space to get out in case of fire. There need to be paths wide enough to fit a wheelchair through. The biggest issue is that many guys of that generation were in the war. They are a proud, hard working generation and now they are older and frustrated with no control over anything, including their bodies. So they are naturally upset. These people built America. The main thing is that you have to involve them and let them be in charge of every decision in the cleanup process. I recommend cleaning once a week for 1 hour and do not make choices for them. Let them be in charge.

 

Do You Know If Estranged Children Can Be Held Liable For Deceased Parents’ Hoards? 

Paxton: If you are the recipient of that estate you could be held liable. You can’t just say “I will take the money and leave the house.” You could pass on the entire estate and let the state take care of it. It would be a state by state basis.

 

Can You Tell Us A Little More About Your 5 Decisions Away Podcast?

Paxton: To stay sane in this line of work, you have to have a dark humor. In the 5 Decisions Away podcast, we tell funny stories from the road and form our lives. Some of those stories are graphic and disgusting. We see people at their lowest point and when people are at their lowest point is when they and we learn something.  {*WARNING* This is not a family friendly podcast, so please listen at your own discretion}

How Did You Come To Be On Hoarders?

Paxton: Originally I was approached because Hoarders was having a hard time finding actual hoarded houses. After they met me, they decided to put me on the show.  I had no idea that it would be so successful and last so long. Hoarders is currently in it’s 6th season and there have been 80+ episodes. {Editor’s Note: Matt Paxton has appeared in every season of Hoarders}

 

How Many People Generally Rehoard Their Homes After Cleanup?

Paxton: Cleanup is the start but the real help begins with therapy. We are finding that about 100% of people who refuse aftercare, including therapy, hoard their homes again. They have to actively improve their mental state to be successful. However, there is about a 60-70% success rate for those who accept and actively participate in therapy. We also see many angry family members. We are coming in and helping with a situation in a week that their families have been dealing with for years. The family members tend to be very angry with the hoarder. We welcome this discussion in therapy. The entire family has things to deal with, not just the hoarder. The key to long term success is that the hoarder gets mental help and the hoarder becomes an active part if their family.

 

Many People Refer To Hoarders As Lazy. What Do You Think?

Paxton: Any hoarders who have worked with us are not lazy, they are mentally ill. It takes a good hoarder years to build up the hoard. There is a trigger and depression and then the hoarding begins. It is a slow buildup. A lazy person would eventually get sick of the mess and clean it up.

 

Socialize With Matt Paxton

Check Out 5 Decisions Away

Follow Matt Paxton on Twitter

Like Matt Paxton on Facebook

Win an Autographed Copy of The Secret Lives Of Hoarders

One lucky Cheap Is The *New* Classy reader will win a copy of The Secret Lives of Hoarders signed personally by Matt Paxton. All you have to do is follow the easy peasy rafflecopter below. Be sure to come back daily for extra entries! Don’t forget to show Matt Paxton some love for this awesome giveaway, too. ;) Good luck!

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*All photography courtesy of Matt Paxton, Hoarders on A&E and 5 Decisions Away

About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn is a full time travel and lifestyle blogger. Besides Cheap Is The New Classy, she also owns and writes for Eat Play Rock and State By State Travel. Her interests include traveling, home decor, DIY projects, organizing her home and enjoying a nice cup of coffee {or two}. She currently resides in North Carolina with her husband, Jay, and their fur babies.

Comments

  1. My spouse has hoarder syndrome. I am at my wits ends and do not know what to do. I have my good days when I can clean and my bad days when I just can’t. He does not help me and watching the show makes me believe one day I will get things in order. My spouse is 25 and has no excuse to act this way. He grew upo in a well off family with no clutter. His only relative that hoarded was his grandfather who passed away a long time ago.

  2. What a great interview! I hate having clutter in my home. I know this is a huge problem though. Thanks for bringing it to the forefront again

  3. How cool is this!! Great interview!!!

  4. Sometimes I ambush clean my son’s room when he is in the shower. He has a hoarder personality. I’m the “less is more” personality so sometimes his room just bugs me.

  5. I need that book. I save everything. Every once in a while though, I will have a throw away party.

  6. Kimberly Davis says:

    I’m sorry but I don’t know how people get to this point. From the beginning when something drops on the floor how do you not pick it up?

  7. that he teach you how not to horde andthen how to organize

  8. in his book and then in the movie or show are important in life and then tell the people what going on aound you

  9. no but i have lean house that look like horde type of house a long time ago and they left it so bad it would take up to 3 day to clean

  10. Megan Cromes says:

    they travel to where u live and help you.

  11. Megan Cromes says:

    that the author is a horder to.

  12. I have never watched the show – I don’t think I could handle it – but I really do have an amazing amount of respect for this guy and people in his line of work after reading your interview and looking at the website. I really admire his ability to be practical and non-judgmental.

  13. After looking at the website for the book, I still don’t know if I could handle reading it – but I’m kind of curious because he mentions a case with a huge collection of cartoon p*rn, and a girl I used to work with was involved with cleaning out her grandfather’s house after he passed away and they found a huge collection of WWII-era things like that from all over Europe which turned out to be very valuable – their sale paid off all the expenses for his funeral and settlement of the estate, with money to spare! So I’m curious if their situation might be the one in the book, since I know they hired a service to help!

  14. I sometimes worry that I have hoarder tendencies – but at the moment I think it is more of a case of laziness and two people with hobbies requiring lots of equipment crammed into a too-small house!

  15. oh my all that “suff” in the pictures wow! I thought I had alot of stuff! I have only seen this show a few times. I can’t imagine all the stuff this crew sees!

  16. I didn’t realize until about a year into our marriage that I married into a hoarder family. My husband’s grandmother’s house, when she was alive, was downright scary. My mother-in-law wouldn’t let anyone else in it to clean it when she passed. It took her about 4 years to get through it all. My mother-in-law herself has several hoarded rooms in her house, but she’s constantly sorting thru things, having garage sales, giving stuff away, that it hasn’t become a problem. The hoarding gene seems to have skipped a generation — my brother-in-law’s house goes through periodic cycles of scariness. He occassionally decides to clean house, but the last time he did that was 4 years ago. He has 2 young kids, so fortunately the house is clean and mostly sanitary — there’s just way too much stuff in it! I sometimes tease him I’m going to turn him into the Hoarders show, but I wouldn’t actually do it, I’m afraid he’d lose the kids.

    My husband, though, seems to have gone in an opposite direction. He was always something of a minor hoarder, and I was able to keep his stuff confined to a spare bedroom. But when his grandmother passed, and he saw the state of her house, and when he realized it was taking his mother years to deal with it, he threw away 95% of everything in his room. And now he never buys anything. And I do mean Never. He won’t even willingly buy essentials like new shoes. I’ve been nagging him to replace his one pair of shoes for months now, they’re old and breaking down. Is there such a thing as an anti-hoarder?

  17. My grandfather is a hoarder and I just don’t know how to help him. I really need this book.

  18. Christa Krebs says:

    I didn’t know that you could actually hire someone to come in and “organize” your clutter for you!

  19. Christa Krebs says:

    He has an interesting concept with the “5 Decisions Away”. I’ve heard of similar theories, but he is definitely more convincing than most!

  20. Christa Krebs says:

    I have never been personally affected by this issue, I am, however, an organization “nutcase” but have struggled with staying organized ever since my youngest son passed away three years ago. And it drives me nuts! But I know my little OCD problem is very small compared to some struggles people face.

  21. This was such a great interview. Thank you! It was so interesting to learn about how it isn’t about the stuff, but the emotions that surround them. Very insightful! We don’t have TV so I haven’t seen the show, but I found this very enlightening. My son has a tendency to want to horde everything he brings home from school. We are working on understanding why he wants to keep everything and trying to teach him at the same time about how it’s not healthy to live in so much filth. He’s starting to understand; but I think if he saw an episode of this series it might help him understand why Mom and Dad are so adamant that the problem not start in the first place. It may also help us open up new lines of communication.

  22. WOW – very impressive.
    Wish I could enter but I don’t live in the US.

    Good luck to everyone.

    XO
    Tairalyn

  23. This was such an interesting post! My mom has hoarding tendencies and I can relate to almost everything he has said about the behavior of hoarders!

  24. The things Max Paxton must see! Entered the giveaway above.

  25. And I thought my IL was bad – LOL

  26. Jenna M Wood says:

    Oooh, I love Hoarders, and we watch Matt all the time. Thank goodness there isn’t smell-o-vision. I find the psychology behind hoarding fascinating. Thanks for the interview!

  27. No, I am such the opposite… I can not stand ANY amount of clutter and if I feel like it is becoming so… I start pitching things. Probably too much of a pitcher! :)

  28. They have a hoarder hotline.

  29. He guides compulsive hoarders and their families successfully through every step of the clean-up and healing process.

  30. I am an organized person living in a household full of dis-organized people. I am constantly cleaning and throwing things away and there never seems to be a dent put in anything.

  31. While I totally don’t think I’m a hoarder, I do have tendencies to keep things for emotional reasons. I LOVE how he talks about doing a 10 minute sweep of the house every day. That’s kind of where I am right now. I recently started a schedule for my family and me, and found out that I have what my psychiatrist called “severe ADHD”. I became paralyzed when I had too much to do. As much as I wanted to do those things, I physically, mentally couldn’t. I’m medicated now and I can’t even tell you how much it has helped. The 10 minute nightly sweep has kept my house quite clean since we started our schedule.

  32. What a great interview! Although I do not have a hoarding issue (nor family members that I know of). I have watched the show from time to time and can see where this is a control type issue. Your interview was so nicely done and gave a lot of interesting information. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post!

  33. What a wonderful interview. I am an organized freak! Everything needs to be in its place!

  34. What he said about there being a generation who “built America” and now isn’t in control is so true – those who learned frugality out of necessity in the depression era really have a hard time letting go of things there really is no use for. I was raised in this manner; in order to “make do” you have to have things to make do with – but am learning to let go as I realize how much we really DON’T need. I’m no hoarder, but the stuff is leaving, and I get it. ;) Great article, thank you!

  35. I have only ever seen an episode and a few pieces of ones here and there but I know people who love the show. If the show helps people get the help they need then I hope it continues. Hoarding is a very deep rooted issue the breaks families apart.

  36. I can’t get through a single episode of Hoarders because generally at some point I get disgusted but I have family who watch it regularly. I’m glad the show is on to help those who need help. My personal issue isn’t hoarding, but I have a horrible time getting organized.

  37. I am the total opposite of a hoarder! I can’t stand to much in my house and will go on an all out trash spree throwing everything away when I get frustrated with clutter in my house LOL. I couldn’t imagine walking into some of the houses I see him clean on Hoarders!

  38. I think at times I could fall under being a hoarder. I just have a hard time getting rid of things that we might need. Such as kids toys. if we end up with another kid, I don’t want to get rid of them.

    So i make it easy. I leave the house and tell my husband to clean that section of the house. he does it, and decided what can and can not stay. and honestly i dont’ care.

  39. What a great interview! Although I am not a hoarder, I do have a lot of clutter that I need to clear up!

  40. Nice article! I have often been referred to as a pack rat from my mom. I don’t think I am a hoarder but I will hold on to things for a really long time…I have notes from Jr. High I can’t seem to get rid of :/

  41. Hoarding is a strong word. I don’t hoard,I collect. Maybe a bit too much. UGH!!! I need to get rid of some things!

  42. We’re all just 5 decisions away from a life changing reality.

  43. It started in 2006 when he moved his grandmother.

  44. krista grandstaff says:

    I didn’t realize that his company offered all of those different services… that’s fantastic!

  45. Krystle(Baking Beauty) says:

    Clutter Cleaners: I never knew that they offered downsizing for seniors.

    5 Decisions Away: I learned Matt he once had 40k in gambling debts.

    Impact: My cousin was a hoarder who left his family with tons of stuff once he died!

  46. I love that there are people that can help with this issue. I have never seen the show though, I am so completely OCD the other way, I panic when I see things like that. Loved this interview.

  47. Michelle C says:

    I learned that the website has an entire section devoted to tools and resources. Thanks for the chance to win!
    mrsmchappell at gmail dot com

  48. kim burnett says:

    tips on organizing

  49. Sherry Compton says:

    Nothing like the show..We don’t call it hoarding. My mom is a big “pack rat.” Their attic is full as is their shed. She just has lots of things she wants to keep, but she does keep it pretty well organized…at least, some of it. :)

  50. Sherry Compton says:

    I learned that it is important for hoarders to have people backing them and the type of communication to use with hoarders.

  51. Sherry Compton says:

    Matt understands about problems and seeking help…I learned that he had to seek help for gambling debts.

  52. Michelle R. says:

    One of my friend’s mothers was a hoarder and I helped clean out the house which his junk piled up to the ceiling. There were skinny paths throughout the house. She also had a barn-like garage filled as well as three metal sheds. It was a mess and very traumatic for my friend to have to deal with it.

  53. Kayleen Considine says:

    I watch Hoarders on a regular basis. I have to admit I get mad at them and have been known to yell at the tv and tell them to just get a bulldozer and tear the whole house down all ready. I think some of them are just lazy, I mean, how can you just take garbage and throw it on the floor and not even bother to pick it up and throw it away? But Matt says they’re not lazy, they’re sick, so I guess I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I have to say though, before I started watching the show, I had no idea they even existed. How they can live that way, I have no idea. The animal hoarders are the worst to watch because the animals didn’t ask to live in those kind of conditions.

  54. Kayleen Considine says:

    I learned that no matter what kind of good work you do, there are still critics out there.

  55. Kayleen Considine says:

    I don’t know any hoarders, in fact, my husband is the other way around. I have to specifically ask him to put things that I want to keep in a safe place or I’ll never see them again because chances are they’ll get thrown away.

  56. I learned that Matt’s first job was cleaning his grandmother’s house. The company was started in 2006. I’m a big fan of the show. Thank you for the cool giveaway! :)

  57. Matt has learned to understand this disorder with compassion and concern. Matt is very gifted to do what he does. I could never do that. I cleaned houses as a living and I came across some gross things but never what Matt deals with. I admire and have so much respect for Matt for helping people the way he does. I enjoyed reading the comments there too. :)

  58. No hoarding hasn’t affected me. Everytime I watch that show I pray for these people. It’s heart breaking to see what caused these people to end up in the predicament(sp?) they’re in. Matt is a cleaning angel, and I’m sure those people think of him as just that.

  59. It is not so much that I have a tendency to hoard–but to buy-which I have recently stopped–My biggest problem now is that all of my clothes are 4 sizes too big–and I really have to get around to either throwing them out or putting them into a good will box!! I will get through this!!

  60. Beth Hargett says:

    I learned that Clutter Cleaner was started when Matt was cleaning out his Grandmother’s house before her move. He realized how much it meant to her to have it done. He and his crew are respectful about how they handle people’s things because they realize that those things have meaning for the people who have kept them.

  61. Beth Hargett says:

    By visiting 5 Decisions Away I learned that it is important to try and recognize that you have a problem before it gets out of hand. I also learned that Matt is very compassionate and understanding (and a little tough when he needs to be) and tries to ‘speak’ the hoarders’ language. I also learned that I really want to read this book!!!

  62. Beth Hargett says:

    I haven’t really had a hoarder impact my life but I do realize that at one time I was growing very close to becoming a hoarder. Well, I was a hoarder but it wasn’t quite as bad as the ones I see on tv. I was in an abusive relationship and I didn’t care about taking care of the house and there was so many things I just couldn’t throw away because they reminded me of happier times. I’m a lot better now, but I still tend to keep things most people would probably throw away. The good part is, I get to a point where I go on a cleaning spree and have to declutter. Luckily that now happens before the clutter grabs hold!

    • Sorry to hear about your past relationship. I am glad that you are doing better now, though. I wish you continued happiness.

      Dawn

  63. I learned that there is actually a hoarder hotline. I had no idea that a hotline even existed for hoarders!

  64. great interview

  65. Thanks for this great interview!

  66. This is a great interview.. Thank you

  67. A little late to the game…but if people are addicted to hoarding they need help (obviously). If you want help for free, I highly recommend a program called Reformers Unanimous. I volunteer at a chapter in my local church.

    http://www.reformu.com

  68. makasih gan infonya dan semoga bermanfaat

  69. mantap bos artikelnya dan sangat menarik

  70. terimakasih mas buat infonya dan salam sukses

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  1. […] you would like to learn more about hoarding, be sure to check out my interview with Matt Paxton from Hoarders. He has worked in some of the worst hoarding houses and has really seen it all. No matter what your […]

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