The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Alumnus Discusses UMW ‘Spirit of Entreprenuership’

3 min read


The University of Mary Washington Office of Alumni Relations and Office of Career Services hosted Matt Paxton from A&E’s Emmy nominated program, “Hoarders,” in Monroe Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012.

Paxton, an alumnus from the class of 1997, returned to speak on entrepreneurism, the UMW spirit and to share stories and tips from his experience with “Hoarders.”

Six years ago, after helping his grandmother move, Paxton realized society’s desperate need to learn how to deal with an overbearing amount of possessions.

In 2006, Paxton started Clutter Cleaner, a business devoted to extreme cleaning services. Along with his four crewmembers, Paxton provides solutions for hoarders, rules for de-cluttering and even a hoarder hotline.

“We treat your stuff as if it were our grandmothers,” the Clutter Cleaner website states. “We understand that there’s a reason you have everything and that some things are more difficult to part with than others.”

Katie Locke, assistant director of communications for career services was excited for the students to hear about Paxton’s experience as a UMW student.

“Think about what your time here is giving you, no matter what your major is,” Locke said.

During his years at UMW, Paxton appreciated the fifth floor of Bushnell Hall’s interactive environment. At the time, there was one hall phone, one television and no cable or Internet.

“It forced us to communicate, we didn’t even shut our doors. The social aspect was really important for us,” said Paxton.

During a period of his life where he felt lost, Paxton’s UMW friends were there for him and continue to be today. Even his old roommate showed up to watch Paxton speak.

“It’s really amazing how important this little place is,” Paxton said.

Senior, Maura Monahan, looked forward to the event.

“I am interested to see how he went from Mary Washington to where he is today,” Monahan said.

Paxton spoke on his previous disappointments, naming his speech “14 Years of Failure.”

He advises students to embrace failure.

“You can only learn from failure. If you let yourself get there, that’s when you learn. That’s what life’s about, failing. Those are the stories,” said Paxton as he called himself a “master of mistakes.”

“After my 14 years, it all makes sense,” said Paxton. “My failures put me in the place where I had no other options… the place to understand hoarders… the place to be compassionate… the place to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Paxton.

“All of these things started because I was at rock bottom and I could not find a job anywhere,” said Paxton.

Paxton’s quick business tips from the talk were to work harder than everyone else, never quit, don’t judge, keep failing, believe in someone, stop trying to make money, start making a difference and that there is opportunity in everything.

“Entrepreneurship is in my blood–it took me 10 years to embrace it. I wanted security the first 10 years of my life, now I run from it,” said Paxton.

As an extreme cleaning expert on “Hoarders,” Paxton is able to use his knowledge to help those who suffer from a life filled with clutter.

The Avett Brothers lyric, “Will I ever know silence without mental violence, will the ringing at night go away?” helps Paxton describe a hoarder’s mind.

“Their mind is never silent. It’s always screaming loud, unable to get started,” said Paxton. “I focus on getting them started…finding the trigger is the key.”

Paxton spends hours on the phone with his clients, working on a personal relationship.

“Everybody’s a good person somewhere, you just got to find it,” Paxton said about creating individual relationships with his clients.

Paxton’s book, “The Secret Life of Hoarders”, which was available for signing at the UMW event, has made him a best-selling author and is an additional source of information on rules to follow when cleaning a home.

In his book, Paxton wrote, “[He] finally figured out how to make sense out of their world.”

“[Paxton] delicately excavates the skeletons in the clutter,” states Kirkus Book Reviews about Paxton’s “easy-to-use” steps in which clarify the stages in hoarding.

Featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Wall Street Journal and Business Week, Paxton is committed to educating others.