A few years ago we were called out to do a fire damage restoration project for a homeowner in Haddonfield, NJ.
The fire started in the kitchen when the homeowner went into another room – “just for a second.”
The fire was contained to the first floor, and everyone was able to get out safely. So thankfully there were no injuries to the residents of the home!
However, the water damage in the basement that put the fire out was extensive. And, there was massive smoke damage to the contents throughout the home.
What made things worse were the piles and piles of belongings throughout the home.
Every room of the home was filled with clutter!
To add insult to injury, the homeowner had several cats. Before the fire, the cats used the piles of clutter in the basement a litter box.
So, now, not only was the home damaged with fire, smoke and water, the contents in the basement were infested with fleas and cat feces. . . .
And, you can only imagine the smell!
Before we could even begin to do the smoke and fire remediation, we had to call in an exterminator.
The saddest part was that the owner of this home had a beautiful collection of Coach® handbags she had received as gifts from friends and family members.
Because the Coach® collection was mixed in with all of her other belongings, many of them were destroyed by the water the fire fighters used to put out the fire, and the smoke that permeated everything in the home.
We were able to help her by getting her home clean, dry and sanitized. And, we cleaned as many of the the undamaged items as we could so they could be moved back into the home.
But, it took several months for all the work to be completed.
And, the homeowner lost many of her cherished belongings – including several of her cherished Coach® handbags.
So here are the top 8 reasons that just might motivate you to de-clutter your home right now:
The first and most important reason to de-clutter your home now: Piles of books, papers, and clothing on the floor are a fire hazard because they make exiting a burning home much harder. Keep your home safe for you and your loved ones and de-clutter now so nobody trips and falls if they need to make a fast exit from your home!
Second, the cost of cleaning water and fire damaged homes increases with the amount of “stuff” you have because there’s so much more work to do.
Yes, your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover the cost of damages and restoration after a fire.
But, if you have a fire, it takes a lot longer to get back into your home after the remediation is complete because all the contents have to be cleaned off-site.
What that means is that the contents have to be packed out. In a pack out, we clean each item and treat them for smoke damage. Then we re-pack and store the contents until the remediation and repairs are completed.
Do you really want to wait months for something to be cleaned and de-odorized and moved back into your home when you just don’t care about it anymore?
The third reason you want to de-clutter now: As with our Haddonfield, NJ homeowner with the Coach® handbag collection, the loss of precious personal belongings goes way up when there is smoke and water damage to a home that has suffered a fire.
Remember: In a fire damaged home, valuable items that are mixed in with items that no longer have any meaning for you might sometimes end up getting discarded.
Fourth, basement clutter, more than clutter in any other room, increases the chance that toxic mold will grow because there’s a decrease in the amount of air circulation. Decreased air circulation the in the basement increases the chance that moisture will be trapped in and among the clutter. Moist, stagnant air in your basement feeds mold growth. And that’s even without a significant water damage event like a sewage backup, a sump pump failure or fire water damage.
The fifth reason you want to de-clutter now: Insurance Adjusters are only human. When adjusters see a well-maintained fire and water damaged home, that is neat, clean, and tidy, it’s a sign to them that the owners care about their property and their belongings. If the home is cluttered and dirty, it’s harder for the adjuster to place a value on the contents of the home. And, while there is estimating software that helps adjusters place value on fire and water damaged homes, it’s much harder to make a judgment estimating the damage to the contents. It’s just not possible for an insurance adjuster to understand the meaningful or sentimental attachment you might have to some of your belongings if your home contains a lot of other things that no longer matter to you.
Sixth, de-cluttering now can save you money. There are some tax advantages (albeit small) to donating your unused belongings – housewares, clothing, toys. All you have to do is save your receipt when you donate and report it on your income tax return. If these items are sitting in your basement, don’t you think they could be put to better use for someone in need?
Seventh, if you plan to down-size later in life to a smaller residence, the move will be a lot easier if you “de-junkify” now. Why wait?
The eighth reason to de-clutter now: If you have adult children, it will be much easier for them to manage your estate after you pass. They won’t have to sort through items that have no meaning for them. So, if you love your children, save them undue physical and emotional hardship. De-clutter now!
While we specialize in compassionate and caring treatment of fire and water damaged homes, we also hope that you never have to experience this kind of loss. And,thankfully, the statistics for fires in the homes in our region have been decreasing steadily for the past several years.