Depending on who you ask, Matt Paxton is either a Canadian folk singer or an extreme cleaning specialist on the A&E reality TV show Hoarders.
Each episode of Hoarders features two people who suffer from hoarding and are in a personal crisis because of it—such as getting evicted, having their children removed from the home, or even facing jail time. The show premiered in August of 2009, was canceled in 2013, and is now rerunning on Lifetime with as “Where Are They Now?” episodes.
Paxton launched his own business in 2006 called Clutter Cleaner following a very low period in his life. After he lost his job, ended an engagement, suffered through his dad and stepdad’s deaths, and was $100,000 in debt from three failed startups, he did what any good depressive would do: went on a two-year drinking and gambling bender.
When his friends intervened, he got sober and started Clutter Cleaner specifically with the idea in mind to help senior citizens who were moving out of their homes clean their houses. He found that that niche was already nicely filled by someone else, which is when he saw where he could be of most service: helping hoarders.
Hoarding is not just about being messy. As of 2013 it’s an actual mental disorder, according to DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic reference guide. With Paxton’s struggles with his own addictions, he was able to understand that hoarding was a compulsive behavior triggered by a crisis that proved too much for the hoarder to deal with.
The TV show, and what Paxton does in his business Clutter Cleaner, focuses on both the physical cleanup of the participant’s home and the psychological aspect of the hoarder. A professional organizer teaches the hoarder how to maintain the decluttered space, and a psychologist works with the hoarder on his emotional traumas and coaches him on new ways of seeing material possessions.
In Matt Paxton’s line of work, he often comes across some pretty bizarre things as he’s removing piles of junk from people’s homes—sometimes things even the hoarder didn’t know was there. One time he discovered 200 live chickens in the person’s bedroom and a live goat in the bathroom. In another instance he opened a fridge to find it full of dead cats. And on yet another occasion he found $13,000 in cash underneath a 6×8-foot rat’s nest—which the vermin left alone because apparently they don’t like the taste of money.
Because his first client was his grandmother, whom he helped move out of the house she’d lived in for 20 years and into a nursing home, he understands very clearly that people’s belongings are not trash to them—they’re treasures, to be dealt with respectfully and gently. And that is why he is extremely successful in what he does.
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