That Hoarders Smell
The house I bought was not as bad as some of the houses you see on Hoarders, at least the whole house wasn’t. But the third floor attic bedroom was as bad as those hoarders’ houses. This is where the man who I call PissMan, his girlfriend and their cat (sans litter box) stayed. The cat just relieved itself on all the stuff up there — clothes, cardboard boxes, etc. I needed this room to be a bedroom for two of my kids. It had to be completely transformed.
The master bedroom that became my room was the second worst. That is where the family matriarch stayed until she was confined to a hospital bed downstairs, and eventually passed away. See What Happened In My House? Murder? It was in this room where at least one cat was confined with a litter box, sans litter. This cat threw up a lot on the old hardwood floor. Nobody cleaned it up. Old hardwood floors –150 year old unmaintained hardwood floors– have many cracks, they do not have thick coats of Polyurethane to repel liquid. They act as sponges, soaking up whatever is dropped on them. Cat urine, feces, canned food and cigarette ashes had been dropped on them and left there in the Summer months, with no air conditioning or adequate ventilation.
This house had been a house of smokers for many, many years. The walls and ceilings had once been white but had turned a brownish-yellow. So, underneath all of the animal and human excrement smells was the smell of years of cigarette smoke. In addition, there had been some water damage in some of the rooms.
This added another smell — wet plaster, wet rugs and mold. Hmmm Hmmm Good!
Some rooms were worse than others as far as the hoard goes, but the whole house stunk. The smell was bad, really bad. It was so bad that I could smell it from the outside, while I was on the porch roof painting the exterior of the house with oil based paint.
Imagine — a beautiful Spring day, being up high in the sunshine — flowers blooming, birds singing — yet I could still smell the inside of the house — and it was enough to make me nauseous — and seriously question my decision to purchase that house. What was I thinking? (Well, I was thinking I had to move, I wanted to keep the kids in the same schools, and with five children and no money I had very little choice . . . but I digress . . . )
Paint fumes? Not a problem. Fumes from in the house? Problem.
The smell is difficult to describe, but I’ll try. You know when a smell is so pungent that you begin to taste it? Have you ever smelled a diaper after days in the trash, or after it has gotten wet? Are you familiar with that neglected service station bathroom smell? Cat urine? A litter box that hasn’t been cleaned in — months? Well, that shouldn’t happen, but just imagine. Adult human urine and feces? Has anyone ever let milk or cream go bad — like until it gets lumpy? Let’s see what else — food. The family cooked in a kitchen with absolutely no ventilation. Oh yeah, and soap. These people washed, but the usually comforting smell of soap just added to the soup of nastiness. The home’s overall smell was sour and sweet and nauseating, stronger in some areas yet pervasively throughout everything.
It was nasty.
Eventually, however, the family who had lived there for four generations, left. Five people, two cats –at the time (previously there had been many more cats, I’m told, and various other pets. The mom/grandmother loved her animals. See Accidental Exhumation; Be Careful For What You Dig For) plus human urine, feces, trash, piss soaked carpet remnants — all gone, though not in one trip.
Finally, the only thing left was their security deposit. Given the items they tried to leave me, i.e. bottles of urine, and various other debris including used adult diapers and crack, yeah, I kept their money.
So they were gone. Their stuff was gone.
The odor, however, remained — not surprising considering all the piss bottles and all. See Piss, Puke and Porn.
Damn, thinking back on all of this. I can almost taste that smell again. Ew.
Anyway, the following is my public service announcement and my personal account of how I got rid of . . .
That Hoarders Smell:
Hard scrubbed with good old-fashioned Pine Sol, barely diluted, rinsed and wiped down with water, repeat. Repeat until layers of dirt and smoke were removed. Spackle, sand.
Primed with oil-based primer. This is the kind you cannot wash off with soap and water. This is the hard stuff. If you get it on your clothes, they are ruined. If you get it on your skin or hair, either suffer through washing with turpentine or paint remover, or wait until it wears off on its own. The oil-based smell is strong. A mask is required for safety. Given the smells I was trying to eradicate, I welcomed the chemical smell of the paint, though, I admit.
Paint. I bought the thickest (and unfortunately the most expensive) paint I could find. Paint, repeat. The walls and ceilings required two coats of paint to deal with the smell and smoke stains.
Scrape the cat feces and vomit, and tape residue (they used tape for many repairs),
Sand the floors (some floors I had professionally sanded, but taking off a layer of floor did not, unfortunately, take away the smell, it some areas it made it worse).
Seal the floor (and odors) by painting with oil based floor paint. (The floors were in pretty bad shape, staining and them and covering them with clear polyurethane probably still would not make them look good, plus there was a time issue, since we had to move in immediately and therefore needed to be able to walk on the floors right away.)
All in all, smell removal was a huge process. Though it was nice to choose wall colors for my new digs, my painting of every surface of the house had very little to do with decor. No, my painting had to do with odor control. It had to be done.
Not surprisingly, now I enjoy watching the show Hoarders on A&E, though I had never heard of it when I was cleaning my house. Watching now I’m never surprised when those Hoarders houses get a fresh coat of paint. It’s not a makeover, it’s a smellover.
Now? Now my house smells good. But it’s a freaking miracle. A miracle brought about by hard work and some angels, very extremely cool people who volunteered to help me. A post dedicated to these folks is forthcoming.
Just Me With . . . no more smell, and a sudden urge to clean.
Related, Goodbye Hoarders — The television show Hoarders has been cancelled.
One of my daughters wants a cat. I have nothing against cats, but after going through what I did to clean this house, I can’t do it. I just can’t. I don’t want to smell a litter box, even just to clean it.
Piss, Puke, and Porn
Piss, Puke and Porn. Ahhh, my new house. Just Me and the Kids had been living in the marital home since the Husband moved out. I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t take care of it. But I have five big kids so it’s not like I could hole up in a one bedroom apartment. Plus, the kids and I loved their schools and I did not want them to have to change, for academic and emotional reasons. So, I bought this little house because I could make the bedrooms work and my kids could stay in the same schools.
But the house was in deplorable condition (which is how I could afford it). The people living there had owned the house for generations but had done no maintenance. Plus, they were sick and poor. The house looked like it should have been condemned. Actually the back part of it was condemned by the county and had to be demolished.
I couldn’t even tell the kids about the house because it looked so bad it would have been too traumatic for them. We drove by it every day and the kids had no idea. The prior owners rented it back from me for 6 months and I worked on the outside of it when the kids weren’t around so that it wouldn’t look so bad when I told them.
Meanwhile, the marital home finally sold. I would have two weeks from the time the prior owners/renters left the new old house before I had to move the kids and I there. The prior owners were heavy smokers, and I say this with no judgment, just the facts — and nasty. I knew that I would be undertaking an extreme makeover but . . .
I get that it was a tough move for the prior owners. Their family had lived there for over 60 years. I stopped by on move out night and they asked if they could leave a couple of boxes to pick up the next day. Sure, I said, because I’m nice that way. But when I went over there the next day and could see in broad daylight what was left behind, it made me sick.
These people kept cats but did not take care of them. They left me litter boxes with cat poop and no kitty litter. The boxes merely had newspaper lining the bottom of the pan. They also left used wet cat food cans. This was late Spring, people. Temps were in the 80’s and rising. Also, there was cat poop that didn’t make the cat box at all. They had apparently kept a cat locked up in what would become my room. The cat had yacked numerous times and they hadn’t cleaned it up. Add that to the cat urine which had soaked into the floors and the remnants of wet cat food — the smell was indescribable.
But the third floor attic bedroom was even worse. A grown man (like in his 40’s) and his girlfriend had lived up there — like hoarders. The side of the attic which was used for “storage” had clothes and debris thrown over there, not in boxes, not in bags, and another cat had free rein up there. Think about it. The storage area was nothing but a big litter box.
Anyway, after the move out there were some boxes and debris left there. Well, okay, I thought, they said they’d leave some things and be back to get them. But I had to inspect the property anyway and start to clean. I had to.
This is what I found: bags of trash, well, actually garbage, including used tissues and vintage porn with sticky pages, more cat poop and litter boxes without litter, an adult diaper (used), little green baggies (which I’m told was crack), and, 2-liter soda bottles — a lot of them strewn about, in boxes, under debris, etc.
These soda bottles were not empty — but no soda, either —
I found approximately fifty 2 liter bottles of HUMAN PISS!
Understand that the bathroom was always in working order. Understand that the guy who lived up there, though collecting disability, was not immobile — he could walk, climb stairs, etc. Understand that he was not developmentally disabled to the point that he was incontinent. In other words, he was capable of carrying his lazy ass to the bathroom and knew that’s where people are supposed to urinate! Understand also that he had a girlfriend who must have allowed this!!!! (What kind of woman would . . . ??????)
That whole Hoarders TV show — finding piss collections? Turns out it is very very real.
Let me say it again — 50 bottles of human piss — in my new house. I knew I’d have to do major renovations, but piss removal?
Thank goodness the kids weren’t with me when I made this discovery. Even my therapist said she’d never heard of anything like this. (This was before the show Hoarders was so popular.) I stopped looking through stuff. My daughters’ future bedroom was a toilet, literally. And people, this was an attic bedroom — in June! It was ten degrees hotter up there than outside. It was nauseating. Truly. And I was going to move my kids in this house in a matter of days. Looking back on it I still shudder. Yeah, I’ve been through some crap . . . and piss.
Just Me With . . . 50 Bottles of Piss in My House, 50 Bottles of Piss . . .
For more new old house stories, see:
Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell?
What Happened In My House? Murder?
Exhumation by Accident — Be Careful What You Dig For