How To Clean A Hoarder's House.

DIY Or Hire A Hoarding Clean Up Service?

What is hoarding?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, hoarding is “[the] persistent difficulty getting rid of or parting with possessions due to a perceived need to save the items”. It affects approximately 2.6% of the population, especially people over the age of 60 years old.

If you’ve ever seen the show Hoarders on A&E you likely have a vivid picture of the extremities of hoarding.

Hoarding Cleanup

What are the signs of hoarding?

There are several common signs of hoarding. However, just because you or someone you know meets some of the marks, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a clinical “hoarder”. Here are some common signs of hoarding:

  • You have trouble getting rid of things even if you don’t need or use them
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Possessiveness over belongings
  • Anxiousness about needing items in the future
  • You don’t know where to put things
  • The thought of throwing things away causes extreme stress

What causes hoarding?

Just like addiction, hoarding can be triggered by certain life events, a family history of hoarding, or simply a personality trait.

Life events
Everyone copes with difficult life events in their own way. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol, some turn to food and excessive eating, and others may turn to hoarding. As with addiction, hoarding can serve as a coping mechanism for such difficulties. Here are some life events that may trigger hoarding:

  • Divorce or break up
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Physical or mental abuse
  • Long periods of stress
  • Family history of hoarding

Most people resort to what is familiar. If you live in a household where hoarding is the norm, you’re bound to pick up the tendencies and habits of the hoarder.

Complacency with clutter, trash, and overall disorganization is likely to seem normal to someone living with a hoarder. If you’re not attentive, it's easy to begin picking up some of these habits and making them your own.

The dangers of hoarding

Aside from the usually overwhelming sense of disorganization in your physical surroundings, hoarding can pose serious health and legal risks.

Hoarding is not something that happens overnight. It's a problem that builds and gets progressively worse over time. As things pile up around the house and the years go by, things like food, pet feces, bug infestations, and garbage accumulate amongst the clutter.

Mold and infestations can build up over time, resulting in respiratory problems leading to serious health complications.

Hoarding is illegal in most residential buildings and cities. If your landlord takes action, they can notify the Department of Public health to have you removed from the building for violations of your lease.

According to website, many homeless shelters are “known to bar individuals whose hoarding puts other shelter guests at risk.”

How to clean a hoarder's house

Now that we have a good idea of what a hoarder is, how to identify the signs of hoarding, and the risks that it imposes both legally and physically, let’s get to some actionable items for cleaning up a hoarder’s house.

Step 1: Cleanup the trash

Although they might not see it the same way, hoarders have a tendency of holding on to trash. Whether it's food waste, empty boxes, cardboard, or old appliances that no longer function, a great place to start is by getting rid of all the trash.

Things you’ll want to consider:

  • Trash bags - to easily move about the home and pick up items to discard
  • Gloves - for your own protection and handling any toxic or unsanitary materials
  • Dumpster rental - a designated space for all the trash
Organize Hoarding

Step 2: Organize
After you’ve cleared the home of all the obvious trash, the next step is to organize things into “save” and “discard” piles. As mentioned above, people who hoard can have an extremely difficult time letting go of their belongings.

Whether those items are sentimental or not, it's important to be sensitive and aware of just how challenging the process can be for a hoarder.

Go room by room and start to organize the items you plan on saving, and the items you’ll be throwing away, selling, or donating.

Once you’ve decided what you’ll keep, you can start to neatly organize the items into their respective places. As the saying goes, “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

There are several methods for organizing items and rooms in your house.

Here are a few you can try:

  • KonMari method: popularized by Marie Kondo, this method prioritizes what items to keep and get rid of the rest.
  • Four Box method: process boxes categorized into put away, give away, throw away, and undecided.
  • One method: get rid of one bag or one box of items each day and maintain this consistency over an extended period of time.
  • Packing party method: pack up everything you own as if you were moving and take out only the items you use. After several months, you can sell or donate the items remaining in boxes.

Step 3: Disinfect
Depending on how long a person has been hoarding, the disinfecting process can vary in scope. Likely though, every room in the house will require some amount of deep cleaning and disinfecting. Once you’ve cleared each room in the house, go room by room and deeply clean as necessary.

  • Vacuum the carpets
  • Sweep and mop the floors
  • Sanitize bathrooms, toilets, sinks, and appliances
  • Dust fixtures and furniture
  • Clean the windows and mirrors

These are just some ideas to get you started. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may consider hiring a professional cleaning service to steam clean furniture and carpets to ensure they are fully disinfected.

Step 4: Implement systems
It’s unlikely that a person just decided to start hoarding overnight. Their habits are deep-seated. In order to help prevent hoarding situations in the future, it is imperative to have systems in place so that you can
maintain a clean home environment.

The system might look different for everyone, but you can start with the basics:

  • Empty the trash every week
  • Vacuum once a week
  • Keep surfaces clean (countertops, furniture, floors, etc.)
  • Fold the laundry
  • A monthly purge of items you plan to donate or no longer need/use

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into cleaning up a hoarder’s home. If the job seems too tough to tackle with friends and family, you can always hire a professional hoarder cleanup service.

Hire Hoarding Cleanup

Professional hoarding services

As you probably know by now, hoarder cleanup is not just throwing away junk and getting organized. There’s a deep psychological component that requires empathy as you work alongside people who hoard.

That’s why in some instances it makes sense to hire a professional hoarder clean-up service to address both the process of cleaning up as well as the emotional aspects.

Here are a few hoarder clean
-up services you can hire to help do the job for you:

What is the cost of hoarding cleanup services?

There are a number of factors that come into play when it comes to pricing and hiring a professional service. For example, the square footage of the house, the amount of debris, location, etc.

According to
Fixr the average price of cleaning up a hoarder's house can vary anywhere from $1,500 all the way up to $25,000. On average you can expect to pay about $2/sqft to hire a hoarding clean-up service.