Hidden Hoarders: The Pack Rat Next Door
"It just broke my heart. This was a nice house. It hurt to see it look like that!"
Carol Bishop is talking about her house in La Mirada. It's a house knee-deep in papers and books, with a bedroom carpeted in cat feces, the kitchen and bathrooms breeding bacteria, with every drawer, every closet, every square inch exploding with junk.
"I love this house," Carol says, her voice breaking. "And it really bothered me to see it get into condition it got into. Because there wasn't much I could do about it."
Shows like "Hoarders" on A & E have held the hoarding lifestyle up to the light. For Carol and her husband Richard, recent health issues sent both of them drowning in a homespun sea of debris.
"I don't know," Richard concedes, "It seems like it just gradually built up."
So the Bishops hired the hauling and cleaning team from Steri-Clean to help dig them out of their homemade disaster area. Case manager Robert McKeever says there's probably a hoarder like the Bishops living near you.
"It's in every neighborhood," McKeever says. "Our statistic is ten percent of the population."
First the Steri-Clean crew sets to paring down the piles of papers, keepsakes, and books consuming their home. And while they work with the Bishops on the hard decisions about what to keep downstairs, it's upstairs where the real nastiness is hiding.
Since Carol's weakness from cancer, chemotherapy, and kidney dialysis have made the stairs a challenge, the Bishops gave over their upstairs master bedroom to their 15 cats.
Along with the piles of cat feces and books soaked in cat urine, our KTLA cameras discovered buried in the piles of debris a dead cat. The stench and the filth have of course driven the Bishops' kids and grandkids away.
"I'd like for it to get clean enough so that my daughter can bring her kids here," Carol says wistfully.
"Nobody should live like that," McKeever says. "And it can be very sad. The family doesn't want anything to do with them a lot of times."
After a full, long day of hauling and cleaning, the Bishops' home is transformed. Our cameras return to discover a livable living room, a tidy family room, a functional kitchen and bathrooms, Carol's precious books neatly shelved, and a master bedroom minus the cat mess.
Just how much had been hauled out of the home?
"We did order a 40 yard dumpster," McKeever explains. "An average 40 yard dumpster can hold five to seven tons of waste. And we filled it just to the top."
Richard tells us that their newly-transformed home has meant a return of their loved ones. "Our daughter and son-in-law and our grandkids have been down to see us three to four times since the work has been done."
It's also provided Richard with a hard-earned lesson: "That I saved a whole lot more than I should have," Richard says with a laugh.