We were called by a neighbour of an elderly lady who had been living alone in her house and following a fall, were requested to assist with returning her house back to a liveable state. Neighbours were unaware of the extent of the accumulation of items, including old rubbish and reading material within the property. Her home had been rated off the scale when assessed by the authorities and would need to be cleared and cleaned, gas appliances and plumbing serviced.
The house is a large Victorian property, bay fronted with original doors and windows, not double glazed. We meet the owner who is lovely but extremely anxious about us going inside her house and seeing it and losing treasured possessions during the process. It’s clear that as an elderly individual living alone maintaining this property externally and within would pose great difficulty and it is quite understandable that she has been overwhelmed. No one besides an ambulance crew has entered this house for a very long time so I reassure her that we have seen many houses like this before, she is not alone and not to worry too much about what we will find as this is a normal day for us. We discuss the first steps we will take today when go inside to assess the best way to remove items and store the kept ones for our client to sort.
She tells us she would like the bedroom, entrance way and hallway cleared first and we discuss the loss of important documents within the property how imperative it is that they are found. She shows us a collection of rare china which she is clearly passionate about and we promise to sift through everything coming out of the house to find other pieces along with anything relating to gardening or photography. After receiving further instruction from our client on what cannot be discarded we don suits and gloves and enter the property to begin removing waste.
We begin at the front door which will not open and clear the entrance to allow us entry to the hallway. These areas always take time due important mail etc being amongst the items, keys etc which need to be kept. The house has pathways and points such as banisters or boxes that are used to hold onto when navigating her way through the house. As piled items can avalanche we must be careful to leave these walkways intact or clear them completely to prevent our client stepping on unstable material when climbing over items to get to another room in the house. Every room in the house has items and rubbish one to two feet high and it will take time to sort, clear and remove the waste from the house. The front room, dining room and kitchen are filled to approximately three feet with reading material and other collectable items and shopping bags, all of which must be opened and the contents checked. There are several tons of newspaper and magazines within the property and, as most rooms have been unused for many years except to store items, this has become attractive to pests. The doors of all rooms are wedged open only a few inches and only a little light is entering the rooms but we can still make out a continuous pile throughout each room reaching approximately three feet covering all the furniture. We go up the stairs through the pathway of piled boxes and bags to look in to the bathroom, also piled high, concealing the toilet and bath and the bedroom, which has so many bags and books in it that the bed and furniture cannot be seen. The top landing is completely piled to about five feet preventing access to the other two bedrooms until we have cleared it. It’s very dark inside and there is clear evidence of rats, making our protective clothing a must.
We agree our team of two is the most our client will cope with as she is very anxious that she will lose precious items during the process and may feel she is losing control if she is not able to personally check what is being kept and what is being discarded, and will only just manage with two of us asking her for decisions.
It takes three days for the two of us to clear the area from the front door down the hallway to the adjoining rooms, and the stairs, with approximately 80 bags of waste removed from the property per day. We will carry this away in our large closed in and unmarked van at the end of each day as our clients prefers to maintain some privacy during the clearance and not have a skip outside the property. These three days will not be consecutive, as our client needs time between days to rest and sort the collectable items we had saved for her. Neighbours help throughout this process, putting saved items into boxes which is helping to support our client who is extremely anxious about losing anything
We save family photographs and books throughout the three days, along with vintage photographic equipment, mail, family albums and slides, and vintage china which pleases our client very much; this however is now mounting up and needs to be stored while we make space within the house. We clear one side of the living room floor and use the cleared entrance way until we have a room free.
We then spend another three days each in the dining room and front room, clearing and saving precious items, revealing furniture within the property which has not till now been visible. There are now vintage televisions, hi fi, crockery cabinets, shelves, armchairs, couches and a dining table and chairs all previously concealed. These are quite salvageable, having been covered for some time and the house begins to look as it did before, including carpets and china cabinets. As it becomes possible to walk about within the property the clearance becomes a lot faster. Solutions are found within the house for the vintage china that has been found during the clearance and these now take the place shelves which previously held the obsolete videos that have been disposed of.
The kitchen and bathroom take three days between them to clear to reveal the units and furniture within along with considerable deterioration, and the need for repair before they can be returned to use. Mouse infestation has also caused much damage within the kitchen and amongst the items within the house. With help from neighbours, the mail and precious items are sorted for our client to look through later when more time is available to her. Precious documents are found bringing much relief as they have been lost for some and caused much anxiety. A builder and plumber are now able to investigate work required.
Our client now requires help with sorting the saved items and we spend a day together cleaning and sorting her rare camera and Victorian china collection onto new shelves installed in the dining room. I clean the room, de-cobweb it, wash the windows, clean the woodwork and shampoo the carpets and she is extremely pleased that we can now sit in it on furniture surrounded by family pictures and mementoes that that she hasn’t seen for some considerable time.
We return to a two person team to clear and sort the bedrooms, another four days and many tons of waste and furniture removed from the property ahead of a deep clean and the restoration of the original furniture, now uncovered and cleaned. Along with input from pest control, a plumber and gas fitter, her home is now restored to a warm and liveable standard in time for winter.