Erica DiMiele’s home is immaculate — everything in its place. Even her underwear and sock draw is labeled.
“It looks like a serial killer lives there,” she said.
DiMiele has kept a neat, clean, organized home since birth. She was known for tidying up her friend’s desks in elementary and middle school.
But DiMiele’s day job as a chronic disorganization and hoarding specialist takes her deep into the chaotic mess of others.
DiMiele, 27, is the youngest hoarding expert in the nation, she said, and she’s been a featured expert on season nine of A&E’s TV show “Hoarders.”
DiMiele owns and operates Steri-Clean Washington, the local franchise of the country’s leading hoarding cleanup provider specializing in hoarding disorder and the restoration of homes.
Most of DiMiele’s clients live in Kirkland, Issaquah and Bellevue, said DiMiele, of Edmonds. Though she serves the entire Eastside. She also does crime scene biohazard clean up jobs.
“Unlike companies that specialize in junk hauling, trash outs, and debris removal, Steri-Clean, Inc. employees are trained in the hoarding disorder,” according to Steri-Clean’s website. “Each Steri-Clean, Inc. team member attends training which includes the psychology behind the disorder, triggers which cause people to hoard, and how to make the most progress while working with people that struggle with the hoarding disorder.”
The company touts that it doesn’t just come in and toss out a person’s belongings — instead, its specialists take a “customized approach to each individual customer, to make sure we have the plan for them.”
Nineteen million people across the nation — that’s about six percent of the population — have compulsive hoarding disorder, which is classified as a mental illness. DiMiele said about 15,000 people in the state of Washington have the disorder.
Compulsive hoarding, or hoarding disorder, inhibits the functionality of the home or a person’s ability to properly use their home because of their inability to discard or part with possessions, regardless of the items’ actual value.
For example, collecting to the point at which one can no longer use the bathtub or the oven is hoarding. Though, DiMiele has seen far worse than that.
“Sometimes a hoarder has biohazard in their home,” she said.
She described a hoard in Marysville where there was 5-6 inches of cat excrement covering the surfaces; about 12 or 13 cats lived there.
She said she gently challenges people when they use words like “future,” “someday,” “maybe,” or “I might” or “I should.”
But ultimately, if the person isn’t willing to make a change and reduce the clutter, there’s nothing she can do.
She said the risks of hoarding are many, but the fears are few.
Risks include fire hazards, roaches, insects, rodents, possums and toxic chemicals in the air, to name a few.
“Hoarding is a symptom of something greater,” DiMiele said. “While it would be easier to say it’s just laziness, it’s a lot more complex than that.”
She wants people who might have hoarding disorder to know that they’re not alone and the “bravest thing you can do is make that call” for help.