Anyone who's ever seen Niecy Nash, the host of the television show "Clean House," and her crew work their magic on messy rooms know it's not always easy to snatch people from the clutches of their clutter.
Above: Entrance of the Loria home before the "Clean House" crew arrived.
Below: Living room of the Loria Home in Piscataway, N.J. after the "Clean House" team worked its magic.
But Nash, designer Mark Brunetz, go-to guy Matt Iseman and yard-sale diva Trish Suhr faced the mother of all messes when the show held a contest recently to find the Messiest Home in the Country. Pittsburghers obviously keep their homes redded up because no one from this area entered.
The messiest home mantle went to the Loria family of Piscataway, N.J., whose four-bedroom home will be featured in a special two-hour episode of "Clean House" 9 p.m. tomorrow on the Style Network.
Deana Loria, 36, who lives with her mother, Sue, and sister, Suzanne, 24, entered their home in the contest after hearing about it from friends.
"I kind of just coerced everyone into going along with whatever I wanted to do because I thought it was a great idea, and we never win anything so I didn't think we'd ever actually win."
But they did, and show producers had to talk Sue Loria into letting them film.
"She wanted no part of it at all," Deana Loria said. "She didn't want people to see how the house was, how bad it had gotten."
How bad was it?
You had to squeeze through the front door -- literally, she said. Stuff "was piled up everywhere with just room enough to get through it."
Producers got Sue Loria to envision what she could do with the house once it was cleaned out. For example, her son, his wife and their new baby would have a place to stay when they visited from Florida.
Deana Loria said she needed help de-cluttering, a task she'd been trying to do little by little since she moved back into her parents home in 2003.
By that time, two of her siblings had married and moved away but left most of their things there.
"I can't even explain to you the volume of things that were in the house," she said.
When she returned to her parents' home, she cleaned out the laundry room, where tons of laundry were left in baskets, and then started on the family room.
"That happens a lot of times with parents and adult kids," said professional organizer and time management expert Deirdra Gross of South Park. "The parents' house just becomes free storage. Parents want to respect their things, but if the kids wanted them they'd take them with them."
Ms. Gross said sometimes people develop an emotional attachment to things and find it difficult to let go. Also, once things get overwhelming, she said, it's difficult to know where to begin cleaning it up.
"I don't think anybody wants to live like that, but you would be surprised with some things that people are willing to live with," Ms. Gross said.
Initially, Deana Loria cleaned her brother's old room and moved into it because it was smaller and had less stuff to move. Eventually, she moved into a bigger bedroom, which had belonged to her sister. She put out 30 bags of items for a charity truck.
"It hardly looked like I'd made a dent in the room," she said.
The "Clean House" crew members put more than a dent in it -- they cleaned up the entire house, a feat they'd never attempted in the show's four seasons.
Usually, they do just one or two rooms. For 21/2 weeks they organized, arranged, painted, decorated and helped get rid of things the family didn't need.
"We had to empty out the entire contents of the house, basically," Deana Loria said. "It required a lot of bodies to get that done." There was one glitch, however. Some things that the family marked not to be sold ended up in the yard sale. Other things the family is still looking for, Deana Loria said.
"Right now, we still haven't found our dishes. We're eating with plastic silverware," she said. But she's confident they're in the bottom of a plastic storage bin somewhere.
While she said her mother was less than happy about some of the color choices on the walls, "I'm thrilled because I know that whole task would have rested on my shoulder.
"Before my dad died I made a promise to him that I would take care of my mom. Even though, she's nitpicking things, I'm so happy to have a house that I can bring people to, entertain in."
Monica Haynes can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1660.