I set up a cleaning company to help hoarders reclaim their homes. On one of the worst jobs I found 6 dead cats. – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer

DAVID RAUDALES UK

I set up a cleaning company to help hoarders reclaim their homes. On one of the worst jobs I found 6 dead cats.

Damian Simon came up with the idea for London Blitz Clean for 2015

Courtesy of Damian Simon

Damian Simon set up London Blitz Clean in 2015 to help hoarders clear their homes.The company often gets bookings from local authorities so people don’t live in unsafe properties.He said some people hoard bodily fluids, trash bags, and food waste. 

This is an as-told-to essay based on an interview with Damian Simon, a former care worker who set up London Blitz Clean, a company that helps hoarders clear their homes. Insider has verified his current company and previous employment with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity. 

I worked in the care industry for around 20 years, first as a care worker, then as a manager helping to care for people who are unwell, elderly, or have disabilities. 

During that time we would often get asked by local authorities to have carers assist people who were being discharged from hospital. It was quite common for some carers to refuse to work in homes that were extremely unsanitary and cluttered. 

This meant patients were kept in hospitals longer as they couldn’t be discharged to an unsafe property, putting further strain on the National Health Service, which was already stretched and in need of spare beds. I realized that this was costing the NHS more and that led me to come up with the idea for the cleaning company London Blitz Clean in 2015 to try and solve these problems. 

At first, it was just myself and another former care worker who would do odd cleaning jobs. Then I got a call from a local London council asking for help with a big cleaning job for a hoarder. That council came back with another job a month later and before I knew it, we grew from there and I had five care managers booking jobs with us. 

We are often called to homes that have been neglected. This could be where someone is using the kitchen to make meals but they don’t clean up for months and then there’s a huge build-up of trash. That can come in various levels. 

Some might just have a small amount of mess or there could be floor-to-ceiling trash. Every single job is different. There are also examples of people living in neglect and hoarding deposits of bodily fluids. From experience, around one in every 16 jobs people have hoarded feces and urine. 

We had one job where a guy was renting an apartment and he’d smashed all the windows, plug sockets, and doors and kept rubbish stacked up to knee height. He was using the toilet but not flushing it. When it wasn’t working, he kicked the toilet off the hinges and defecated in the outer pipe until it couldn’t take it anymore. He didn’t get it fixed, instead, he bought buckets and portable commodes and filled every single one of them, and then left the apartment. I had a team of three people clean that property.

A before and after photo of a toilet at a property Simon had cleaned

Damian Simon

We have three teams of cleaning crew that are made up of two people each who work together to complete a job. Most jobs can be done in a day, but the most extreme ones can take around two days. 

We take the trash bags to landfills using an unmarked truck, so as not to cause embarrassment for people. We try to be as sensitive and empathetic as possible toward people living in severe neglect as we often hear from them that they’re embarrassed. Most hoarders are often older, but we do also work with people in their 20s and upward. 

Two of the worst cases I’ve seen were an old lady who died in her apartment during the summer when it was extremely hot, and another person who has a seizure and died in the bedroom at around the same time. No one had visited their homes so their bodies decomposed in the heat and had essentially melted through the floor into the neighbor’s home below. There were millions of flies. I’ve never seen anything like it and the stench was unbearable.

Some people may hoard cardboard boxes, comic books, and other items, while others hoard trash. We once went to a property where six dead cats were found at various stages of decomposition. 

In my experience, people who hoard and live in these environments often have severe mental health disorders. Some have told me that keeping their homes clean was difficult as it “just got on top of me.” Others have been unaware of how bad their living conditions are.

I’ve had some people say we’ve saved their lives after we completed jobs, and that they never could have done it themselves. They say they feel much more positive in their lives and that their mental health has improved. It’s good to know we’re helping people. 

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