Getting rid of junk can be difficult, including for the people who are in the business of it.

There are many reasons for this. Just ask the staff of Junk King, one of Colorado Springs' junk removal and hauling services. There is the obvious reason: Sometimes it's plain nasty. Sometimes it means stepping into a Teflon suit and spending a hot day in someone's backyard where a man-made, 6-foot-deep landfill has been stuffed with moldy food and dog poop among other things.

"Me and the crew that were on that job, we were all sick for about two months after that," says Justin Miller, 23, recalling the assignment alongside Junk King's other five workers, each in their smudged red polos.

At the back of one truck dangles a raggedy monkey doll, meant to cheer up kids upset over their houses being emptied. This leads to another reason that makes junk removal difficult: the emotions surrounding it. As difficult as it is to clear the atrocity that is a hoarder's home, it is doubly difficult to do so through the screaming and wailing of that hoarder - among the estimated 2 to 5 percent of Americans who have the disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

It is all the more difficult when homes in disarray have infants in them.

"We had to clear a path one time, diapers on one side, diapers on the other, crap all over the place," recalls another Junk King worker, Gary Bowling, 59. "There were two babies. It's like, 'Why? Why?'"

Also, it can be difficult to remove junk when, well, when junk doesn't seem like junk at all. Take, for example, the grandfather clock that stands at Junk King's warehouse, wrapped safely in blankets.

The dimly lit place overlooked by an American flag is tough to walk around. There is wooden furniture and furniture that's not wooden, totem poles, china, DVDs and CDs, pastoral paintings, bikes, hockey sticks, computers, printers, microwaves, fridges, boxes and more boxes.

It's stuff waiting for a new home.

Finding those is the proud task of Junk King, with 60 branches nationwide. The majority of what Junk King collects is either recycled or donated to nonprofits, churches, schools and families.

"We have people who have too much stuff, then we have people who have nothing," says John Busby, owner of the Springs' Junk King. "We try to help both."

It's the end of the summer, the end of the season in which the junk business booms. Junk King workers spent the past months doing 18 to 20 jobs a day, six days a week, Busby said. One recent job took them to a local storage facility - one of America's 49,000, according to the Self Storage Association, the lobbying organization.

Workers cleared three of the facility's units that had been occupied with a company's old office stuff: racks, filing cabinets, desks, chairs.

"Some of this stuff's just been sitting here for three, four years," Busby says. "It's just been sitting here."

He's at the end of his first year as Junk King's owner, and he's learned some things over that time. One: "People have too much crap," he says. He bought the business last summer as he was inspired by something he learned from the 2013 Black Forest fire that ravaged the community he calls home. He spent days helping out in burned homes. And here's what he learned: "It seems it takes extraordinary circumstances to help each other," he says. "Until then, hey, you might not even know your neighbor."

After a long career in IT, he got to thinking about a business that he could better serve people. He learned about Junk King. And the idea of passing on one's junk to be used by another reminded him of his upbringing in Burlington, "a poor little community," as he describes the town northeast, "where, if you had an extra dresser, the neighbors would want it."

And with Junk King, he was happy to hire people in need of work, including Bowling, a friend who had recently been laid off. One of the toughest parts of the junk business is the competition, between other companies and between the junk removers making cheap offers on Craigslist. But the toughest part, Busby says, is finding willing laborers.

"A typical day is you sweat your butt off," Bowling says. "Soon as you get home, you look at the bottom of the shower and go, 'That came off of me?"

Of course, no day is typical. And many days, it's easy to feel sad, as workers did at that diaper-filled home Bowling recalled.

For Busby and his workers, the feeling of helping makes the job worthwhile. At the warehouse, Busby points to that grandfather clock wrapped safely in blankets. It came, he says, from a widow who couldn't afford to get it fixed, and she cried as workers took it away.

"The goal is to get it fixed," he says, "and get it back to her for Christmas."

Seth is a features writer at The Gazette, covering the outdoors and the people and places that make Colorado colorful.

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