Ann Arbor residents facing the city’s mandatory footing drain disconnection–which aims to keep rainwater out of the city’s sanitary sewer system and reduce the chances of basement backups–also may be facing a more daunting task: cleaning out their messy basements. In targeted neighborhoods, engineers first must inspect the area in the basement where the drain will be disconnected and a sump pump installed.

Karen Duff, an assistant construction manager with CDM, the company that does the inspections for the city, says she often has to reassure homeowners who are embarrassed by the mess. “It’s a basement, and basements are for storage,” she says. “We all have stuff.” Duff says she’s helped elderly and disabled residents make room for the contractors to work, but of the roughly 1,500 homes done so far, she knows of only one basement that required a professional cleanup crew–and that one was a health hazard.

Barb Gala, who lives in the Dicken neighborhood and runs Honeymoon Hauling with her husband, Dennis, had her home’s footing drains disconnected several years ago. The work was done in the laundry room, so the Galas didn’t have to worry about removing any junk–but Barb says they’ll gladly tackle other people’s messes. In twenty years of hauling, they’ve dealt with hoarders, pet birds flying free in homes, and mountains of stuff they’ve sorted for estate sales. “We all have our secrets,” she says.