Janet Watson spent her first weekend in a home that is not full of trash and debris. For the first time in 28 years, she feels safe to maneuver her wheelchair through the halls.
"This is like the first days of the rest of your life," Watson said. "It gives you a new outlook on a lot of things that I have been putting off for years. I just didn't have the peace of mind to start."
Watson says she called a company to help with the cleanup when she heard scratching in her upstairs condo. She thought rats, raccoons or something worse had made a home out of the mess she created over the past three decades.
Turns out, it was only Watson's imagination. There were no animals living in her home. She believes it was the first signs in her head telling her that enough was enough. She didn't want to die alone surrounded by trash and debris she'd collected for 28 years. The day she started hoarding is a day she will never forget.
"My mother and sister were killed in a car accident," Watson said.
Watson said she was trying to fill the void over the loss. She began to buy items she didn't need, and over time the compulsion, the urge and emotional connection to having the items took over. In late October, suffering from poor health and the prospect of her brother moving in to live with her, something snapped.
"My priorities changed, now I don't want to buy anything," Watson said. She joked that because of her poor health she can't go out and buy anything even if she wanted to. But the reality of turning 60 and having health issues like diabetes, nerve pain and a leg that doctors wanted to amputate made her realize she would die alone, surrounded by trash.
"I don't want the last part of my life to be smothered by stuff," Watson said. "Basically, it is like I was just waiting around to die, and I didn't want my last days to be like this."
Watson found the courage, picked up the phone and called the first person she could that was an expert in hoarder cleanup. That man was Ronnie Cruse, who owns Atlanta Hoarder Cleanup.
"I feel compelled to make this happen," Cruse said.
Cruse said after doing a walkthrough of the home he estimated the cleanup would cost $6,000 to complete. That was money Watson doesn't have. But, hearing her story, and learning that Watson prayed that God sent Cruse to help her, he decided to clean the house for free. After four years in the business, this is the first job Cruse has ever done pro bono.
"We don't come in with hoarding all over our shirts, as a many of fact I don't even like that word hoarding, it is just a cleanup we help," Cruse said. "Turning my back on this lady or anybody for that matter and walking away, I wouldn't be in this business. I would find myself something else to do."
Watson agreed to open up her home to CBS Atlanta's Mike Paluska. She hopes that telling her story will inspire someone else in a similar situation seek help.
As she showed us the pathways she has created through the canyons of trash, she hoped one day the "stuff" as she called it would be gone and friends and family could come over and visit without her feeling guilty and embarrassed about what her home has become.
And even though Cruse said she deserves to live the rest of her life "stuff" free, she cried, overjoyed that Cruse would help her get back control of her life.
"I will live the rest of my life trying to deserve this, it is hard you know for me to accept because I don't feel really worthy, so I will strive to deserve this for the rest of my life," Watson said.
Cruse said there are serious structural issues with Watson's home that can only be taken care of after the items are removed. She has mold from roof leaks in two of her upstairs bedrooms and has plumbing problems.
The team removed 150 garbage bags full of trash and filled a 30-year roll-off container full of other items.
There is a fund set up at any Regions Bank called "Help for Hoarders Relief Fund."
Watson said Cruse is her own personal angel. Without his kindness and generosity, she doesn't think she would be where she is today.
"I just never dreamed something would ever come of it," Watson said. "I never would've been able to start without Ronnie. I would have never gotten to this point."
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Charitable Account, with Help for Hoarders Relief Fund, Being the Beneficiary and Myself, Ronnie L Cruse, being the Custodian of the Account. Thanks!
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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