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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

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In Kids & Family

Three of the eight local professional organizers who volunteered for "Hoarders."

"Hoarders" crew digs out local dad


An upcoming episode of A&E TV's "Hoarders" -- a series about people with compulsive hoarding disorders -- will feature a Milwaukee single father of two adopted, special needs kids and the eight local professional organizers who volunteered more than 100 hours to help him get a handle on his home.

Two weeks ago, the crew came to Milwaukee to shoot the episode that will air Monday, Feb. 8 at 9 p.m.

Cedarburg's Richard Taft was one of the professional organizers who volunteered to help unclutter the house. Taft is currently the marketing director for the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and will soon serve as the organization's vice president.

Taft rallied eight professional organizers to help, and within two days, the group donated more than 100 hours.

"Over a two-day period, we went through the entire house, creating usable living spaces, installing storage solutions, sorting clothes and getting rid of the items that they did not need," says Taft.

The owner of the home is a single father living in Milwaukee near the airport with two adopted special needs children.

"Due to the attention that the children needed, he was not able to maintain the home," says Taft. "It had become packed with stuff, including rooms full of clothes, lots of toys and ordinary household items until there were just paths to move around in the home. He takes very good care of the children, but had the compulsion to give them everything that he could, until the house got to the condition that we found it."

The hoarding homeowner makes the final decision on what goes and what stays, and because it is often difficult for "hoarders" to let go of their stuff, a therapist is on site to help. For the Milwaukee project, A&E hired a Chicago-based therapist to support the father.

During the cleanup process, the organizers called 1-800-Got-Junk to haul away six truckloads of stuff. A local carpenter donated his time and materials to build bunk-beds for the children. SecurX provided shredding services for stacks and stacks of papers, and, at the end of the process, The Maid Brigade cleaned the entire house.

"It was really amazing how we transformed the house in two days," says Taft.

Hoarders debuted in August 2009 as the most-watched series premiere in A&E network history among adults age 18-49. The 60-minute episodes profile one or two interventions that last two or three days. Usually the intervention is due to the threat of eviction or the possible removal of a child.

Jenny Rushizky, a professional organizer based in Bay View, volunteered in the unkempt South Side home for 14 hours.

"At times it was a challenge. Mostly because you could see how difficult it was for the client. He was trying so hard to raise his kids and just got overwhelmed," says Rushizky. "The hoarding was pretty bad, but there weren't any animal or food issues as has been seen in previous episodes of the show."

Rushizky opened her business, Mighty Organized, in 2007, and her advice to pack rats is plain and simple.

"Take it slow and focus on one area at a time," says Rushizky. "Never be afraid to ask for help."

The Milwaukee family will receive ongoing support from professionals to keep their house orderly. It has been two weeks since the transformation, and Taft says, so far, the dad is staying on track.

"To have a group of people work together so well with the single goal in mind of helping out this family was really amazing to be a part of," says Taft.


Talkbacks

Stellaneverlostit | Feb. 10, 2010 at 1:35 p.m. (report)

I know this guy personally peripherally due to the fact that I am also a single parent who adopted two children and we belonged to the same organization. Mine have their issues due to the drug abuse they suffered at the hands of their birth parents but nothing like what this guy is dealing with. He is a devoted, loving father and completely overwhelmed. Yes, he is a bit obsessive-compulsive but we all are in many ways. Trust me my house is getting a bit crazy too but I can certainly relate to him feeling tired and frustrated and just giving up. This did not start until after the kids arrived. I am very glad he has gotten some help both mentally and just some people to give the guy a hand. Kudos A&E.

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Bob | Jan. 27, 2010 at 2:11 p.m. (report)

Steve: Apparently you can't read. The house became like that because he was devoted to his two children. You obviously have no clue how difficult and both time- and energy-consuming it is to raise one special needs child, let alone two...

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Steve | Jan. 26, 2010 at 1:37 p.m. (report)

Why is this dysfunctional mess of a man allowed to adopt TWO special needs children? What the hell is wrong with CPS, DHS and the whole state of Wisconsin? This is like the second Hoarders to come to Milwaukee...seems like Human Services is not doing their job...then again...the NEVER do when there is REAL abuse or neglect. SICK!

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