Working with Hoarders and Seniors

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA

 When working with seniors, hoarders, and people who either lived through the Depression, or watched their parents live through the Depression, you must be patient and plan ahead.

 One of the seniors I'm working with now is actually very intelligent, has numerous interests,and is a " collector." I knew from the start it would be hard for her to donate and/or throw items away. She has been in same house for 40+ years, and still has many items from 40+ years ago.

 She saves things that many of us would throw away. I happen to also know her mother, who is 96 years old and in a nursing home. Her mother was the same way. I have found magazines from 1905 in her mothers house while I was working there. In the daughters house, I recently read part of a Washington Star newspaper from 1976.

 You name it, they have saved it. There is actually a horse drawn buggy in the garage at her mothers house.

 I have learned that I need to mention the same thing over and over again. They both need time to think about what they are going to save, put in storage, sell, or donate. Sometimes it takes 1-2 weeks for them to finally say, I guess we should throw that 1950's couch away, or donate that to Lupus Foundation or Salvation Army, or Viet Nam Vets Foundation.

 I could see where I to would save many of the items they have saved, so I just adjust and work a the pace that keeps them comfortable. As long as the job gets done, I'm fine with the slower than normal pace.

 I have also noticed that they don't see what I see. This photo is a good example. This is a recent photo of one room. Add 4 more rooms upstairs, 4 more rooms on main level, 3 rooms in basement , and a 2 car garage that all look similar to this photo. The owners made the statement last week that " We only have a few more things to move". I just said, ok, if you say so. We'll just keep getting a load when we have time."

 Some might see junk. Owners might see their deceased husbands belongings that he worked hard for. She might see toys she bought for her kids. Or things a brother or sister or relative gave her 30+ years ago. She might have ideas and plans for some things that might look like junk to others.

 I'll continue to work for "Hoarders" and Seniors. I know what to expect, and it doesn't bother me. The last time I visited her mother in the nursing home in Frederick MD, her mom asked me what was new in Lovettsville. She said that I was the only one other than her daughter that ever stops by to visit her. I tell her what's new, who has died, etc. She even asked me about her relatives who are still living in Lovettsville, yet none of them have ever visited her, and she's been there over 6 years. That generation saved everything. I found her old family bible for her, and inside she had newpaper clippings of obituaries of friends and family members. She has photos from the early to mid 1900s. Also Scrap Books of family events. Church bulletins from the 60s and 70s with things and names underlined that she wanted to remember, high school news bulletins from 1939, etc, etc. I have to describe things for her because she is also blind. I think her memories are what keeps her mind working and keeps her going at 96!


Jeff Pearl | Lic in VA

Remax Distinctive


Equal Housing


Comments (5)

Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Jeff, it is a challenge working with a hoarder, and have sold two homes, one of which I suggested they move out before listing.    Could not see the floors or walls, as there was way too much stuff! 

Jan 08, 2017 01:18 PM
Cody Carmen
Adhi Schools, LLC - Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Market Analysis--Educational Content, Adhi Schools

A great perspective piece, Jeff. Hopefully some who read this will be able to apply it to their careers. Different tasks take different skills as this blog so clearly demonstrates. 

Jan 09, 2017 09:13 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

I do have a few friends who suffer from this collection obsession, so far I have been at a loss as to how to help them. 

Feb 13, 2017 09:48 PM
Margaret Rome Baltimore 410-530-2400
HomeRome Realty 410-530-2400 - Pikesville, MD
Sell Your Home With Margaret Rome

Jeff Pearl You make us all proud. Working with classic clients, understanding them emotionally and going to visit a 96 year old former client. 

May 08, 2017 06:15 PM