Transforming 27 tonnes of rubbish back into a home

Sylvie’s story: Sylvie, a York woman in her 60s, had not let anyone, not even her own family, into her home for almost 20 years. 

Her neighbours, Craig and Sarah, noticed that she never put her dustbin out for collection, and that she would sit outside on her front doorstep for hours at a time watching programmes and playing on her phone. 

Craig and Sarah wanted to help; they started to chat to Sylvie more and more regularly. And slowly she started telling them how she was feeling. 

After some time, Sylvie explained that she was suffering from depression, feeling worthless and hopeless, and that she had never let anyone into her home for years and years because she was completely embarrassed and ashamed of how it had become. 

“I felt very embarrassed, it had got so bad. But I couldn’t see it because of my depression.” 

Eventually she let Craig inside the house so that he could see for himself the burden Sylvie had, with the hope that he might be able to help.

What Craig found was a house that was almost impossible to enter, a house full of bags and bags of rubbish accumulated over years and years. There was so much rubbish, that is was impossible to get into the bathroom, kitchen or onto Sylvie’s bed. 


Sylvie was essentially living in a small space at the top of the stairs, surrounded by 5 or 6 feet of rubbish in all three bedrooms, as well as down the stairs, along the hall and into the kitchen. Piles of hoarded items also filled the two downstairs living rooms.

She had not put any waste out into her dustbin for over a decade.

The squalid state of her house was not only massively affecting her physical and mental wellbeing, it was also putting her health at risk. 

“The rooms were really bad from floor-to-ceiling you couldn’t get into the house really. I slept on top of the rubbish, I only had use of the bathroom if I clambered over the rubbish, and I had no kitchen as I couldn’t get to it.  I didn’t have a sink, I couldn’t get to my fridge or my freezer.
I just used to sit on the doorstep during the day.”

After a lot of phone calls to try and find the support Sylvie needed, the neighbours were given details of Michaela at Community Bees. Michaela came to visit Sylvie and confirmed she would be able to help. 

“I needed some help and I was put onto Community Bees. Michaela put me at ease straight away. She didn’t judge, she smiled and was happy to look at my situation 
Michaela said, No problem, we can work together and get this sorted.”

Over the course of the next week, Michaela and her volunteer Pauline donned PPE and visited Sylvie’s house every day to clear it of rubbish and hoarded items. Three large skips were needed and a huge 27 tonnes of waste was removed. 

It look over a week to clear the house, and that included the help of three neighbours alongside Community Bees. 

As more things were removed, It became apparent that Sylvie had had a flood some years previously, and there were bare floor boards throughout the house. The boards were full of holes, created by the weight of the rubbish, and those holes had allowed flies and vermin to enter the house. 

There was no running water downstairs, the gas cooker was condemned, and Sylvie could not access her fridge or freezer because of the volume of rubbish surrounding it. 

She had been surviving by ordering food shopping to be delivered, and keeping it in the hall and stairs, eating it without storing it in the fridge or freezer.

After a mammoth overhaul, and with a lot of help, Sylvie’s house is now clear and clean. New floorboards are down, the bathroom, her bedroom and living space are all tidy and easily accessed and a new oven, kitchen sink and units are all in place. 

“Community Bees even contacted Social Services for me to get help with rails for the stairs, hand rails for the bath and stools. I am eligible for these things and this is going to be a great help to me.”

Sylvie’s house is now back to being a home.

But the support doesn’t stop there. Michaela visits Sylvie each week for an hour to see how she is coping and to have a chat. 

“I cannot thank Michaela and Pauline enough, and they still come and see me and help me every week. They don’t just come and see me, we chat, laugh and enjoy each other’s company, you can just give them a ring and they are there for you. 
There’s not enough words in this world to say how much they’ve helped me and if people are suffering like me, get in contact with Community Bees you’ll never regret it, you will not regret it at all. 
Call them now.”

Happily, Sylvie is engaging well with health professionals, keeping up with appointments and her medication. 

Sylvie feels so much better in herself, and it visibly shows. 

Michaela of Community Bees said:

“A big thanks you for letting Community Bees in to your home and being part of your incredible life change.
What a massive turnaround. 
You have been so brave and I know a lot of tears have been shed, but good ones. You have come so far in the past 4 months turning your life around. 
Although you suffer with anxiety, depression and a food disorder, you now have have the support needed to help you from the hospital. 
Having 3 online meetings a week is helping you so much. 
It is so lovely to see you each week, telling me how you’re getting on and what you have achieved.  
You are keeping on top of your housework which is a big improvement. 
And going to the super market for the first time in years on your own is such an achievement. 
I am so proud of you.”
Support us, so we can support more people just like Sylvie

Sylvie is fortunate to get support, but there are many other people in similar situations who would benefit from our services. 

We rely on personal donations and grants to fund this project. If you can Support us to help others, please do.