Hoarding: Collyer Bros. Syndrome

What is hoarding?   Hoarding, can be described as the excessive aquisition and retention of possessions of limited utility or value, to a point that interferes with a person’s day to day life. Hoarding is also know as Collyer Bros. Syndrome because of an extreme case involving two New York City brothers in the early 1900’s.   This excessive collecting crowds a “hoarders” living spaces and dramatically limits their use for their intended purposes.  Extreme hoarding frequently hinders family relationships, job performance, personal safety, and in some cases, may cause a spiral into self-neglect and abusive behavior.

Because of our expertise and sensitivity in handling clients’ personal property, our contacts have referred to us people who have been burdened by their advanced and hazardous hoarding, putting themselves and often others at risk.  In the last 5 years alone, there has been an alarming increase in the number clients needing our services.  More than 100 clients have been referred to us whose hoarding has developed into conditions that are hazardous to themselves, neighbors, and even to their buildings.

The times they are a-changin’…Real Estate, all up and down the North East coast and in New York City especially, has gone through some dramatic changes in recent years.  Co-ops and condos are springing up all across the city and rents are sky rocketing.  In addition, landlords are facing pressure to phase out rent controlled and rent stabilized apartments.  This scenario can paint a bleak picture for the vulnerable elder and fixed income tenants, especially those with hoarding issues.

Fortunately, there has been an increased public awareness of hoarding and an expanding group of professionals who are committed to studying the causes, and to helping those suffering with this condition.  BERGFELD’s has responded to their needs by providing specialized services to help restore order to their lives and homes.  We clear and reconfigure their homes in collaboration with family members, social workers, guardians, attorneys, and building managers as well as community and public agencies. We provide effective, comprehensive, and sensitive assistance.  Unless carefully managed, the client’s transition to an orderly home can be a distressing and even humiliating experience.

The first step is meeting onsite with a client and their support team.  The resulting action plan typically includes a combination of sorting personal property, reorganizing, storing, selling, donating to charity, removing clutter and discards, heavy duty cleaning, and recommendations for ongoing maintenance and care.  BERGFELD’s makes all the arrangements, including dumpsters, complying with municipal and state regulations for recycling and disposal, and handling private medical waste.

Hoarding – more information and resources