Northbrook man ordered to clean up house

August 2, 2011 (NORTHBROOK, Ill.)

Village officials say the man is a hoarder and the house is filled with trash and materials collected at auctions and flea markets. They say hoarding is a growing problem for many communities.

An upside down flag signals distress at the man's home as a sign of protest.

"These are important things and they are my life and other people's lives," he told ABC7.

The Vietnam veteran, who wants to remain anonymous, lives in the home his girlfriend. He says he has been collecting items from estate sales for decades.

"These people cannot deal with diversity. If you don't fit the mold, you don't fit the profile...nor do we want to in this town," he said.

In the fly-infested backyard ABC7 saw framed pictures, bottles and other items.

Entering the home is nearly impossible and photos taken by village officials show the bathroom, kitchen, and other rooms in a similar state.

"It's basically filled from floor to ceiling throughout the house and there is just a very narrow passageway," said Tom Poupard, Village of Northbrook.

Village officials say they were forced to go to court after more than a dozen neighbors complained.

This isn't the first time Northbrook has taken the matter to court. The property was cleaned last year following a judge's order, but afterward the homeowner says he continued collecting.

The court order obtained by the village is not unique. Alexian Brothers psychologist Patrick McGrath has been featured on the TLC reality show "Hoarding: Buried Alive." He says more municipalities are choosing to go to court.

"Cities have this awkward balance they have to take care of. If they go in and do something, people can complain and say, 'how dare you go and this person just needs some help and there's not these thing you ought to be doing.' But then if something happens to them, they are going to hear, 'why weren't you there,'" McGrath said.

"People have gambling and drinking habits. I might have too much art," the homeowner said.

For now, the homeowner's art is headed to storage, and the village says it plans to make sure it stays there.

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