Quarryville personal organizer Bobbie Spera usually reports to work in a neat white polo shirt embroidered with her company logo.
But on a blistering hot day last May, Spera donned gloves, boots and a face mask. She made the tough last-minute call to endure a possible encounter with roaches or mice instead of sweating it out in a full hazardous-materials suit.
Spera's battle-ready attire was entirely appropriate for her appearance on the TLC reality show, "Hoarding: Buried Alive."
"Hoarding" connects people who compulsively save and store items with licensed therapists and professional organizers. The episode featuring Spera will air at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
"This was definitely the most extreme (hoarding) case I've worked with," she says. "It was an experience."
Spera's agreement with TLC forbids her from discussing specifics of the episode - titled "It's a Horror Story" - including the exact location and timing of the shoot.
The Hanover Evening Sun previously reported that filming began May 17 in Hanover, York County.
According to TLC's description, the episode follows Susan, a feisty 70-year-old night-shift convenience store worker who must thin her hoard or risk losing her home and boyfriend.
Susan's granddaughter, Carly, finds refrigerators full of spoiled food and evidence of rodents inside the home - and a demolition notice on the door.
Meanwhile, TLC says, Susan has moved in with her boyfriend, Frank, and turned a blind eye to the problems in her own home. Her hoarding habit has begun to creep into Frank's house, and he is ready to kick her out.
"Hoarding" is now in its fifth season. Show producers found Spera in the National Association of Professional Organizers database.
Personal organizer Bobbie Spera appears on TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" at 10 p.m. (Bobbie Spera photo)
"Having a local is essential," executive producer Mike Kane says. "We'd like for (the organizer) to work with the hoarder for four to six weeks before we return for the reveal shoot."
Spera, 34, started her business, Simplified by Bobbie, in 2010. She has loved organizing since her childhood in York County, when she cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and neatly stacked the Tupperware.
"There's nothing I love more than seeing the before and after," she says. "It's not just an organized life but usually a changed life in the process."
Spera has worked with a handful of hoarders, but most of her clients are average people who need help organizing their homes and lives.
Hoarding is a mental-health issue, Spera says. She has seen hoarders' emotional attachments to such seemingly pitchable objects as a rotten head of lettuce or 10-year-old magazine.
"What seems so blatantly obvious for us isn't for them," she says. "It's not their fault. ... It's not just about stuff."
Spera worked with one hermit-like hoarder who didn't leave her home or allow others inside. By the time Spera finished her work, she says, the woman was entertaining in her home.
At first Spera thought the TLC producers' email was a scam. She had just days - and a few photos - to prepare. She did her own hair and makeup and was given minimal wardrobe guidelines. (She knew better than to wear anything fancy.)
"I was sort of mentally prepared," she says. "But it was hard to walk into. It was a hazmat situation."
Floor-to-ceiling piles filled the four-bedroom home, with narrow "goat paths" carved out for walking, Spera says. Some of the show's cast wore full protective suits.
"A lot of it, I couldn't even say what it was," she says of the piles. "There was no usable or functional space in the house."
TLC photos show mounds of toys, clothing, food, holiday decorations and trash. Collectibles and other valuables were mixed with what most people would consider junk, Spera says.
The York County home featured in the episode held refrigerators full of spoiled food and evidence of rodents inside - and a demolition notice on the door. (Barbie Gilardi photos)
"Clutter is nothing but delayed decisions," she says diplomatically. "This was years of delayed decisions."
At first, Spera was overwhelmed. But with such a big project, she figured there was no wrong place to start.
She and Susan met several times, but cameras captured only the first visit and final "reveal." Clinical psychologist Dr. Samantha Morrison also helped Susan and her family.
"I was really surprised about how open (Susan) was to the process," Spera says.
The family was very motivated and hardworking, she says. Still, she had to resort to tough love to convince Susan to part with certain items.
Spera can't discuss her compensation for appearing on the show. But the producers apparently liked her work: She was asked to appear on a second episode of "Hoarding."
Unfortunately that episode was scrubbed when hazmat inspectors declared the house beyond help.