FOR NEARLY 30 years, Liza Curtis’s father did not allow anyone – not even her and her brother, to visit him at his home.

At first, Liza thought her father was being difficult.

But when her father was diagnosed with cancer, Liza returned to her childhood home for the first time in 28 years.

In 2013, she travelled back to her hometown in Newcastle to clear out her father’s home, sell it and buy a retirement property for him.

When her father was in hospital, he handed her his keys – asking her to sort everything out.

And when Liza entered the house, she finally discovered why her father had barred home visits.

The 47-year-old, who lives in Hangleton, said: “Dad didn’t let anyone, including my brother and I, to come to the house after my parents divorced.

“At first I thought he was behaving badly. But when dad got very ill and had to stay in hospital, he asked me to sort the house out.

“I was so shocked to see just clutter everywhere, from the floor to the ceiling.

“It was like one of those homes you see on hoarders’ programmes on TV.

“I could barely see the floor.

“I then went into my bedroom, thinking it would be OK but it was crammed with with my grandparents’ stuff.

“Dad didn’t show any hoarding tendencies before the divorce because it was mum who looked after the house.

“I found all sorts of things. There was old fishing gear and darts, which were considered as a valuable collectors’ item at one point.

“I also discovered dad had kept Christmas decorations which were 20 years old.

“There was a whole drawer full of birthday cards.

“My dad passed away when he was 65 and there were cards from when he was a boy.

“I found receipts in plastic bags and just other random things.”

According to the NHS, hoarding is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner.

Usually, the mess is unmanageable, and the items can even be of very little value.

This compulsive behaviour becomes a major problem when the amount of clutter interferes with a person’s everyday living. Sometimes, a person can become upset or defensive if someone tries to clear their belongings.

Many do acknowledge they have a problem yet they are reluctant to ask for help because of shame and guilt.

The mother-of-three said: “When I found out how he had been living all that time, I said to him why didn’t he ask me for help.

“He said he regretted not doing so and just let it accumulate.

“He wouldn’t even let tradesmen in. The house was so full of clutter to the point where he couldn’t manage it, and he wouldn’t deal with it.

“He just kept piling and piling up things. I even found a prosthetic leg and my father wasn’t disabled. I was terrified when I first saw it because I thought it was real.

“My father passed away three months after he was diagnosed with cancer.

“I couldn’t clear out the home and sell it in time to buy a retirement property for him.

“It took my brother and I several months to clear out everything.

“We sold things at car boot sales and Ebay, and donated to charity.”

Hoarding is also a safety hazard which can cost people their lives.

In June 2018, two people in Suffolk died in a fire caused by a toaster because their house was so crowded it was impossible for them to escape.

The men, Andrew McInnes, 60, and William Cooper, 62, died of smoke inhalation.

The back door was also blocked with a freezer and the front door was jammed.

In March 2018, an 87-year-old woman was found buried under rubbish in her cottage in Aberaereon, West Wales.

Neighbours reported they had not seen Gaynor Jones for four years.

Emergency services found Ms Jones’s daughter collapsed under a pile of papers and she was taken to hospital. Police spent four days looking for the remains of her mother.

Liza admitted she felt cathartic while she was clearing out her father’s home. She began to think how she could turn her passion to help liberate people from mountains of clutter into a business.

She started her own company, Mother Clutter, earlier this year.

Liza already manages another company in Hove, Red Mutha, which recycles clothes.

Liza said: “I started doing some house decluttering through the local Neighbourhood Care Scheme.

“In the past year I have decluttered my own living space and nothing feels better than clearing out the things you don’t need. I help schools, charities, care homes, clubs and shops. Last week I helped clear my son’s secondary school of unwanted things.

“There were hundreds of books and a bag of crafting materials.

“Currently I am helping a woman whose husband has recently passed away. I found thousands of DVDs, which belonged to him, piled up.

“She is blind and could hardly get around her house.

“I have cleared so many of the things and it has changed her life so much. I love seeing the positive effect decluttering has on people.

“No two houses are the same, every house has different things.

“There was a woman who had all this cricket gear for boys and she didn’t know what to do with it.

“She had it in her hallway and they were covered in dust.

“Another lady’s home was full of art books and a lot of receipts and hundreds of shopping bags from Liberty.

“I sometimes find mummified mice in boxes that haven’t been opened for a long time. I also help clients with selling, donating and recycling all the things they don’t need. People have different reasons for holding onto things but I don’t judge and I’m not afraid of clearing out icky things.

“I am just there to cheer lead you through the job so you get it done. “Cluttering causes anxiety and I want to help people turn their lives around.

“The most difficult thing for a hoarder is opening up and getting help.

“Once people get started, they won’t stop until they have achieved their aim.”