For his final episode of Hoarders, Matt Paxton is tackling the show’s biggest hoard ever, in its longest episode ever: two hours for one hoard.
That’s Sunday’s episode of Hoarders (A&E, 9 p.m.), which ends the show’s ninth season, could potentially be the series finale—though the show has bounced back from the bubble and even from cancellation many times before, including being revived on another network, and then made its way back to A&E.
The show’s production company, Screaming Flea, told me that they are ‘optimistic’ that the show will be renewed for another season of helping people who suffer from hoarding disorder and are in crisis. The show provides on-location cleaning services and the guidance of a therapist, but also pays for aftercare: giving the hoarder the chance to keep working in therapy and/or with an organizer.
If the show continues, it will be without Matt Paxton, the extreme cleaning specialist who first came to viewers’ attention as the owner of Clutter Cleaner. I spent time with Matt on location during season four for the Randy/Vicki episode, and profiled him as part of this Playboy story. Prior to meeting him, I’d grown to appreciate Matt as Hoarders’ hero—the person who could dig through the bullshit, literally and figuratively.
The show’s cast of therapists and cleaners is used to the uncertainty—this is the “third time now they’ve told us it’s wrapping,” Matt said, though “it kind of feels diffeent this year” and “I was kind of surprised we got this season.”
But he’s decided to exit for a different reason. Well, three reasons: his kids.
“How do you turn it off?”
“I’m ready to come home, ready to be with my kids,” Matt told me. He started Hoarders seven years ago as a newlywed; now, he’s living a version of the show at home: “Now I’m just cleaning my house.”
“Oh my god, I live with three hoarders,” Matt laughed. “My three kids are like the messiest kids in the world—I kind of feel like I’m a show. I find myself having the same communication with my sons as I have on Hoarders.” That’s such a familiar role for Matt after seven years that he said he often finds himself “looking for a camera guy to say, Yes, good soundbite!”
To be clear, Matt said, “I’ve never been happier being home with my kids.”
He’s been cleaning for 12 years, and will still be involved in extreme cleaning, but that’s taken a new direction: “focusing now on the aging population.” Matt told me that had become “more than half of our work,” because “families are just lost … people just don’t know what to do when someone dies.”
His new company, Legacy Navigator, offers any kind of help that a family needs, from figuring out how to access bank accounts to cleaning out hoards. “We walk them through start to finish.” The “we” is “a whole team that we’ve trained,” Matt said, and that training uses “all the stuff I learned when I started doing Hoarders. … I’m still helping people, and I’m getting a lot of joy out of that.”
Legacy Navigator takes advantage of his fame—or more specifically, what the fame has yielded, which is trust. “We get requests literally around the world now,” Matt said. “I really need some help and I don’t know who to call.”
Throughout our interview Matt was both humbled (“I’m really lucky. I was doing what I do every day.”), grateful (“It’s changed my life; I’m the luckiest guy in the world. My kids have a better life because I was on TV.”), and honest (“It was breaking me down. Every day in my life was the worst day of their life. You can only get yelled at, screamed at so many times.”)—including about the final challenge he’ll face on the show.
“The most difficult hoard I’ve ever seen in my entire life”
Matt will exit the series having worked on “hands-down the four hardest I’ve ever done.” He added, “We just keep continuing to find bigger and harder—sometimes ‘harder’ is just a deeper illness.”
After cleaning two or three thousand houses in his career, the one we’ll see Sunday “the most difficult hoard I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Matt told me.
“I’ve never seen Dr. Zasio and myself crying in the same location.”
On the episode, people who’ve bought a house discovered that they’d also acquired a hoarder, Sandra, and her hoard. “Her whole goal was to make us all leave,” Matt said. “She would pit the producers against each other.”
I asked if the episode—it’s two hours long and focuses on just one person—would break the fourth wall to show this, and Matt said, “I hope they do, I begged them to.” He said, “Robin and I are very upfront in the episode.”
Working with Sandra made Matt realize, “I’ve officially met my match. It’s time for me to retire from this show.”
The show’s popularity has changed how the organizers and therapists work with the hoarders. That’s because “the clients are fans of the show, so they know the show, they’ve studied them,” he said. “If you think of it like a chess match, they know all my moves.”
I asked what he learned from them. “What did I learn on Hoarders? The human mind is amazing, amazing,” he said. And from the show, “a lot of people have learned more about the disorder and gotten help.”
“I do hope for everybody the show keeps coming,” Matt said. “It’s still helping people.”