She’s an American expert who deals with the secret compulsion of hoarding and she’s in Australia to help those hoarders deal with the complications of keeping too much stuff.
Star of the Foxtel show Hoarders, and a regular on Dr Phil, Dorothy Breininger is in Leura this Friday (September 20) for an Organising Australia conference at the Fairmont Resort, one of five towns on the professional organiser’s “de-cluttering” speaking tour of Australia.
A 2008 study conducted by the University of Sydney found that at least one in 1000 people in NSW lives in severe domestic squalor with many more cases not reported to authorities.
Forensic Cleaning is one of two clean-up contractors recommended on the Blue Mountains Council website’s “domestic squalor information package”.
Spokesman Ron Filla said they handle up to eight cases annually in the Mountains and western Sydney and the hoarders were generally older residents.
One man in Blackheath recently “had stuff up to the ceiling and still had his dead mother’s clothing in a wardrobe which couldn’t be opened ... she died 20 years ago,” Mr Filla said.
“It’s just like on that TV show. You can’t see the floor, can’t open the front door.”
Hoarding is a problem that “won’t go away” said Ms Breininger who thought the overconsumptive 80s, 9/11 or the recent recession might see the industry wane. Not so.
“There are 5-6000 registered professional organisers in America’s national association and hundreds in Australasia. Some people just can’t get organised ... or are not able to distinguish between what’s valuable,” she says.
The job has its dangers — the roof in one home was being held up by rubbish, another home where the plumbing had stopped working was full of faeces in buckets.
“I love coming to these conferences because I can wear dresses – I spend my life in a haz mat suit,” she said, laughing.
Visitors to the conference will learn practical tips on how to stop bringing more and more stuff into their homes — like taking a photo with grandma’s unwanted piano or crockery and then giving it up so they can “save the memory and get rid of the eyesore”.
“You can see when hoarders make a breakthrough, it’s very emotional,” she says.