Hoarding has become a major problem in our materialistic society. It is easy to gather possessions and easier to find places to store them. With the massive basements, sheds and storage units to which we now have access, many people find themselves nearly helpless in the face of their natural instinct to collect and keep.
While this magpie-like tendency may affect lots of people, however, the propensity to let useless possessions pile up to the point of blocking the living area and dramatically reducing quality of life is less common. This characterizes a person with full hoarding disorder.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, compulsive hoarding or hoarding disorder “is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”
If you’re reading this post, then you most likely know exactly what that looks like … and would love to find an answer. The good news is, there’s a right way to do hoarder cleaning. The bad news is, the cleaning process won’t address the anxieties and neuroses that led to hoarding in the first place, so you must also make a plan to help the affected individual change their life.
That said, cleaning is the first step. Here’s how it’s done.
Each hoarding situation is different, depending on the state of the home and how long the hoarder has spent collecting possessions, the house may need a light removal of excess clutter or full repairs to undo the damage. Here are some questions to ask:
Is there just excess clutter, or is it more than that?
Are walkways in the home impacted by the clutter?
Is stacked clutter a safety hazard to people in the home?
Is the lack of cleanliness creating health issues in the home?
Are there pest or animal control issues in the home, either live or dead?
Is the bio-hazardous material, such as blood, feces, needles, etc?
Is there damage to the house, such as contaminated carpeting, damaged flooring, broken pipes, etc?
A thorough assessment, with the help of a consultant or on your own, will help you understand what level the hoarder’s home is at. Then, you can determine what type of cleaning plan is needed.
Your cleaning plan, whatever level it’s at, will require the following steps:
Remove and Dispose of Clutter and Debris – This includes arranging for dumpsters, trucks and/ or other disposal needs.
Locate and Deliver Valuables – This includes cash, jewelry, and other valuables.
Coordinate Recycling and Shredding – Outdated documents with personal information need to be properly shredded and anything that is recyclable sent to the proper recycling center.
Distribute Donations – Determine which organizations donations will be sent to or picked up by.
Address Pest control – Pest control companies or animal control might need to be called in to deal with this issue if necessary.
Coordinate Bio-hazard Removal – Hypodermic needles, blood, and other bodily fluids will need to be handled by a disposal company that specializes in this type of work.
Deep Clean the House – Proper cleaning needs to be done, depending on the condition of the house.
Disinfect Areas of Contamination, Mold, or Mildew – These can be a health hazard and need to be dealt with appropriately.
While you can do most of the above steps yourself, it’s a good idea to call in a professional for pest control and bio-hazard removal. Neither is safe for a layperson because of the dangerous chemicals involved. Besides, with the time you’ll save, it’s worth the money right there.
Sometimes it’s not enough simply to remove the junk; it’s also critical to replace damaged systems and surfaces in the house. This might include:
Carpet and flooring replacement – Sometimes the buildup of newspapers, junk, mold and other nasty substances can damage carpet and flooring, and you’ll need to replace it.
Drywall repair – Drywall is a durable substance, but its not indestructible. Water damage, mold and mildew, and pest infestation can all damage drywall.
Paint – Paint is easily scratched, scraped or otherwise damaged, but a fresh coat can make all the difference to a room.
Electrical, water faucet and other damage – In severe cases, home systems may suffer severe breakdown. If some rooms or systems haven’t been used for a long time, or they’ve gotten damaged from other factors, you’ll need to replace them as well.
If your hoarder’s home needs any of these, it’s smart to hire a professional who can do both the cleaning and the repairs. That way, they can transition seamlessly from the one to the other. There are a few other reasons to bring in an expert as well.
It’s not always necessary to bring in an expert. If you catch the disorder in its early stages or have a number of family members willing to pitch in with the cleanup, then you may not need to hire an expert. However, if the mess is dangerous, a health hazard, or just plain overwhelming, there’s hoarding cleanup services that are available for help. Professionals who have experience with cleaning will possess the right tools and mindset to complete the task most efficiently.
You should also bring in an expert if you or someone else has brought a legal injunction that requires the individual to clean the home or allow someone else to clean it. Legal orders can result from child or elder abuse, public health or fire safety issues, mistreatment of animals, and incipient condemnation. In this case, a professional can get the job done immediately and help sidestep further consequences, so don’t wait.