Open Accessibility Menu

What to Know When Cleaning a Hoarder’s Home

At first glance, cleaning the home of someone who hoards seems like an impossibility. After all, the home environment is engulfed with serious junk. Piles of rubbish teeter close to the ceiling; maneuvering from room to room is like crossing a minefield; and dangerous waste releases unbearable, noxious odors.

Tidying up the property of an individual with a hoarding disorder requires some proven tactics. It is essential to know a few key elements prior to confronting a person who hoards and beginning the cleanup process.

Is the individual simply messy?

People who hoard accumulate mass surpluses of needless goods. Such individuals have what is known as a hoarding disorder. The American Psychiatric Association defines a hoarding disorder as a mental condition where the afflicted person has persistent difficulty discarding possessions.

The APA estimates that two to six percent of the population suffers from a hoarding disorder. The APA also finds that hoarding issues are more prevalent in women than in men. Findings conclude that adults aged 55-94 are more likely to engage in hoarding than those who are middle aged.

Collecting items becomes hoarding when the act of accumulating goods that others deem as worthless begins to disrupt the ability to make use of a living space. The disorder results in isolation and problems with relationships, work and other life activities. Health concerns also arise in the hoarded environment.

Given the distress that erupts when affected persons attempt to throw out possessions, they are more likely to retain the item in order to avoid the emotional upheaval. Individuals who hoard may also shut out people who try to persuade them to discard their excess belongings.

Approaching someone who hoards thus requires enormous compassion and sensitivity. One indifferent remark, and the sufferer will shut the door to improvement. Creating a supportive environment through understanding and patient persistence results in the likelihood of cooperation and eventual cleanup.

How does one approach the situation?

Cleaning a hoarder’s home first requires a conversation. Aim to reduce the sufferer’s distress by convincing her that cleaning up the home permits better safety for both the one who hoards, their family, and invited guests. Ensure that complete confidentiality will be upheld.

Persuading a hoarder to allow a cleanup of the home requires neutral language. Rather than point fingers by using trigger words, such as “clutter” and “mess,” opt for less offensive language. Using non-threatening terminology will keep the one who hoards from becoming defensive.

What is a workable action plan?

Once the person with the hoarding disorder is on board with cleanup measures, it is the ideal time to chart out a cleanup plan. Work directly with the affected individual and obtain approval during every phase. Keep in mind that the hoarded goods belong to the hoarder.

A solid plan of action includes criteria for items that may be discarded. For example, all expired cans of food should be thrown out. It is important to write down the criteria so that the people involved in cleaning may refer to them as needed.

Develop a schedule. It is far more manageable to first tackle the cleanup of a single room, like the bathroom. Plus, working in a room with running water aids the cleanup process. Stay safe and begin cleaning areas nearest to the exits, which can be life-saving in an emergency.

Setting small goals and reaching them encourages those assisting with the cleanup. A typical goal may be to clear out the hallway for better access to other rooms or cleaning paths to the exit for improved safety. Attaining cleanup goals during the lengthy process sustains the motivation of all involved.

Create three categories for the medley of junk: one to keep items, a second to discard unusable goods and a third to donate possessions that are in good condition. Know beforehand that items that remain unused for over a year or that are broken belong in the trash category.

What equipment is needed?

Proper safety equipment is critical when cleaning a hoarder’s home. Dangerous pathogens teem in the accumulated waste. Cleanup crews are exposed to biohazards, like E. coli and Staph. Be equipped with disposable gloves and face masks during all phases of the cleanup.

Given the innumerable flammable materials inside a hoarded home, fires can break out at any moment. It is crucial that those assisting with cleanup come prepared with a fire extinguisher. Necessary gear also includes a flashlight and first-aid kit. Keep repellant spray on hand to ward off rats and vermin.

What happens after cleanup?

Once all the waste is properly disposed of according to local regulations, the home must be repaired. Typical repairs include repainting and re-carpeting. Mold will likely be an issue, so mold remediation and water damage restoration procedures should be performed.

Cleaning up the home of a person with a hoarding disorder may require professional help. Bring in a therapist, who will work with the individual to change their thought processes and reduce hoarding tendencies. Another type of professional who can significantly improve a hoarded home is a professional hoarding cleanup service.

ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete offers professional cleanings of hoarded homes. Specialists from the company are experienced in working with people with hoarding disorders. The first step in addressing the hoarded property is discussing the issue with both the individual and family members. Once the affected person provides approval, cleanup measures start.

Upon successfully cleaning the home, donating items and discarding goods, ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete technicians develop a follow-up cleaning plan to help the individual maintain their newly cleaned environment. Specialists also follow up via phone calls, offering future cleaning services if necessary.

ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete is prepared with advanced tools and skilled technicians to return any hoarded home to its pre-disaster condition. Our professional crews are dedicated to serving the families in New Jersey’s Franklin Township. ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete hoarding cleanup specialists are one call away from a clean and organized home.