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Waynesboro, Pa., man has helped hoarders tidy up

May 12, 2013|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Dwight Karkan helps people who accumulate too much stuff in their lives and organizes their space.
Kevin G. Gilbert /

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — Dwight Karkan spends his days untangling people’s messes — seeing what they have, what they use, what they need, what holds them back.

He’ll go through kitchen cupboards crammed with 40 years of spices and closets filled with clothing that hasn’t been worn since the Kennedy administration.

He’ll question if you really need a stash of National Geographics that touch the ceiling or hundreds of gift boxes you’ve been saving “just in case.”

And he’ll give a big thumbs down to books and games that are on the floor and not on a shelf.

Karkan is a professional organizer.

It’s his job to clear out the clutter and bring order to people’s lives.

“I’ve been a lifelong organizer, by nature,” said the Waynesboro resident. “I’ve always been fascinated about how cool and practical I could make a space.”

Karkan did corporate organizing in Buffalo, N.Y., before he met and married his wife. When the couple moved to this area, he began looking for ways to use his Youth and Family Counseling degree, along with his organizing skills and decided to start his own business — Organizing by Dwight.

His business, based in Waynesboro, serves clients from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and all points in between.

Karkan describes his clients as “everyday people like you and me who are frustrated with not having enough time or are constantly losing things in their home. There even are people who know they have something in the house and cannot find it, so they purchase the same item because they need it now.”

It’s mostly a matter of guidance in helping people achieve their goals of organizing garages, playrooms, basements and closets, he said.

But not all tasks are so simple. Karkan, who is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors, has worked with his fair share of hoarders.

“Hoarding is not new to the world,” he said, noting that at one time people who hoarded were called packrats or clutter collectors.

Today, however, there is more education about hoarding, he noted, including how to recognize a hoarder  and where to go for help.

“Through Organized by Dwight, I’ve seen a rise in hoarding activity,” Karkan said.

As an organizer, “we first want to evaluate the level of the hoard,” Karkan explained.  “The five levels of hoarding are not the size of the mess, but how much professional help you will need to resolve the hoard. If it is something that is a level 4 or higher, the job will require any combination of pest control agent, mold remediation, waste removal, professional organizer, psychological care and aftercare and possible legal counsel if it relates to a hoard where the landlord or town has taken legal action on the property. We have a partnership with an organization called Compassion Clean that will aid in the process, as well as several partnerships with pest control and cleaning companies.”

Once the level is identified, Karkan said, he sets up a game plan as to what the end result will look like, as well as what steps will be needed to reach that goal.

This involves finding specific items that are called “stressors,” he noted, which are things that will slow down the process.

“For example, on one cleanup, the stressor was Christmas decor,” Karkan said. “If we brought up removing Christmas decorations, the person would shut down because that was the time of year that an incident happened and, during that period, the decor made her feel happy. So, we were able to get rid of a lot of things with the understanding that we would save all of the Christmas-related items as a compromise. Once the stressors are identified, we can start working on the purging process to achieve the goals we had set with the client.”

Karkan said with jobs that are level 3 or lower, “we still identify stressors, but the cleanup process can be done by myself and the client at their pace. Usually at this level, it is much easier in the purging process.”

His biggest hoarding job to date, Karkan said, was a doomsday prepper hoard in January.

“The client wanted to make sure his family was protected in case a solar flare knocked out the world’s electrical grid,” he explained. “Walking into the immaculately kept home with the client’s wife, you would never have guessed that this home had a hoard; but upon entering the garage and basement, we found hundreds of thousands of knives, ammunition, camping gear, treated drums of water and thousands of pounds of food.”

Because the food was not stored properly, Karkan said it was infested with mice and bugs, which were beginning to enter the home. Also, the weapons were accessible young children and the safety of the family was at risk.

A plan was devised to bring in a carpenter to build a sealed door where the owner could properly store the weaponry, making it inaccessible to the children. The infested food was discarded, storage racks were set up and 5-gallon plastic dated buckets could now be used to prep food.

“Once the plan was put in place, we were able to not only give the family back their garage space, but we were able to set up aftercare to make sure the prepping didn’t take a negative turn for the owner,” Karkan said.

To those who are faced with the overwhelming task of hoarding, Karkan said you’re not alone.

“There are people out there who want to help you take back your space, happiness and your life without negativity or judgement,” he said. “Do not hesitate to reach out, because the more time that passes, the harder it will be take that space back.”



To learn more

More information on Karkan’s business can be found at www.organizedbydwight.com

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