I’m a professional de-hoarder – I’ve found mountains of poo and sick, month-old leftovers under the sofa & even BONES
SHE has immaculate nails and beautifully styled hair but Rachel Burditt’s job is far from glamorous.
It includes such delights as clearing cat sick from window sills and tidying chicken bones from under sofas.
The 40-year-old mother of two is a professional organiser who helps hoarders declutter their unruly homes.
From tackling wild animals to clearing up vomit and confronting clients about their clutter, she has done it all.
Rachel says: “I’ve seen some sights that made my stomach churn. People forget that I’m a professional organiser, not a cleaner.
“I have encountered everything from mountains of poop and vomit to month-old takeaway leftovers hidden under sofas.
“I’ve had live creatures climb inside my jacket.
“But I’ll never turn down a challenge. I won’t leave a room until it looks perfect.
“At this stage, there is nothing I haven’t seen.”
A former fashion merchandiser, Rachel lives in Lutterworth, Leics, with her husband James, a 45-year-old banker, and daughters Macy, eight, and Indiana, five.
'WHAT ON EARTH AM I ABOUT TO WALK INTO?'
She launched her organising business The Declutter Darling six years ago after being inspired by organisational expert Marie Kondo.
Rachel says: “I love my job but before entering a house for the first time, I do wonder, ‘What on earth am I about to walk into?’
“And often, that is with good reason. Some jobs have made me feel ill but you just have to get on with it.
“On one of my first jobs, a young couple didn’t warn me they had a cat and pet chickens inside the house.
“I was horrified when I had a closer look and started finding lumps of chicken poo around the house, which had been hidden under piles of clutter.
“And then I found cat vomit on the window sill.
“They didn’t seem like unhygienic people but it’s amazing what horrible things you uncover when you get rid of piles of clutter.”
Then there are clients’ homes that Rachel can barely get inside at first.
She says: “One I visited had less-than-hygienic owners.
“I could barely open the front door for all the mess and I could tell within seconds of entering that there was no chance I could do it in a day.
“I pulled on my thickest gloves and mask, as I strongly suspected the house would be a mess after I spotted piles of days-old used pans in the sink.
“My suspicions turned out to be even more accurate than I had first anticipated when I started looking under the sofas in the living room and pulled out piles of bones. I picked them up — then immediately dropped them in total shock and horror.
“Luckily there was a crumpled-up KFC box beside them. Otherwise I might have mistaken them for a dead pet.
'I HAD A LONG SHOWER'
“Clearly someone had finished their chicken and just dumped the bones on the floor.
“Of course, I got on and finished the job. But people like that need to make a lifestyle change to see a real impact.
“You can’t declutter away dirty habits. I had a long shower after that day.
“I won’t let anyone in my family get near me when I get home from work until I’ve peeled off my clothes and had a good scrub to wash off whatever horrors I might have encountered that day.
“I don’t wear a hazmat suit but there are some houses where I could do with one!
“I got through mountains of latex gloves and heavy-duty dust masks even before the pandemic.”
Business is booming, with punters paying Rachel £30 an hour to tackle their mess post-lockdown.
She says: “One of my most vivid hoarding horror stories came when I was decluttering an old, disused barn attached to a farmhouse. I had the weird feeling of a shiver on my back.
“A mouse had climbed all the way up the inside of my clothes.
“By the time I spotted it, the mouse was on my shoulder. I was horrified — it was such a shock.
“The owner of the barn was very apologetic and offered me a glass of wine to calm my nerves.
“But I made sure to wear tighter clothes the next time.”
Many of the people Rachel helps are not lazy, she says. Rather, they can’t bear the thought of throwing things away.
She says: “Some of my most difficult jobs come when the client has got hoarding tendencies and they struggle to say goodbye to any of their unused items.
“These can be some of my biggest challenges — or my most rewarding experiences.
“Hoarders who invite me into their home then stubbornly refuse to throw away any of their junk can be very tricky.
“But usually they are really nice people.
“One lady had more than 30 mugs but wouldn’t let me bin one on which the handle had broken off. People like that are a nightmare to work with.
“If you want my help, you have to let me help you.
“It’s a case of reading and understanding the person and their situation, then supporting them through the process.”
'IT IS VERY REWARDING'
When decluttering, Rachel sometimes finds her presence in itself can be more help than her tidying skills.
She says: “I visited an elderly lady who had recently lost her husband and was struggling to clear out the bedroom, where things were beginning to pile up.
“On that occasion, I was as much a friend to her as an organiser.
“We sat, had lunch and chatted about memories of her husband before starting on the house. Understandably, it was very difficult for her but we got through it together.
“That can be one of the best parts of my job because I like helping people.I want to understand someone’s life to help them turn it around.”
Despite all the challenging homes and clients she encounters, Rachel loves her job.
She says: “It is very rewarding. I love to see a dull, cluttered home transformed into an organised and beautiful one.”
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