Many people have trouble parting with their possessions—even when they no longer need them. Yet some people take their keepsakes to the extreme, holding onto decades’ worth of receipts, newspapers, and other seemingly useless items. They have hoarding disorder—a mental health condition characterized by a compulsive need to acquire and keep possessions, even when they’re not needed.
You have probably seen these homes on TV, all kinds of things, packed to the ceilings and almost impossible to move around the piles and piles of boxes and all kind of stuff. Hoarders usually have an inability to let go of unnecessary items and clean their environment, and their homes become dilapidated and dangerous. If you are managing such a property, this can present a serious problem, but with careful planning and consideration, hoarder’s house can be habitable once again.
Dealing With a Hoarding Problem
People who become hoarders are in need of help, both with the situation at hand, and in terms of dealing with the disorder. Concerned family members and friends should have the hoarder examined by a doctor, and perhaps consult a therapist.
Helping the hoarder also involves completely cleaning out and organizing the home. Piles of clutter can make a home unlivable, creating both safety and sanitation issues. Thus, it’s critical for the home to be cleaned and organized before more problems arise. Possible issues involve fire (due to blocked exits, and huge amounts of paper and flammable objects) as well as the danger of illness from unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and bathroom.
Creating a Strategy
People who are involved with a hoarding cleanup project need to develop a strategy for cleaning the home, as many hoarding situations can become overwhelming. The best strategy is to prepare and break the cleanup into several projects, making the cleanup process more doable.
First, here’s a list of things that may be needed:
- Face masks, respirator masks
- Heavy blouse with sleeves
- Work pants or jeans
- Heavy boots with high ankles to protect them
- Goggles to protect the eyes
- Work gloves
- First aid kit
In order to clean a hoarder’s home, this needs to be accomplished:
- Assess the situation. Take a look at the overall clutter in the home and find out with what type of hoarding you are dealing with. There is an everyday filthy hoarder -paper, trash, filth and there is actually a collector with stacks and stacks and stacks. Prioritize the work that needs to be done, maybe start in small places like closets and bathrooms. When one small space is cleaned out quickly, it can motivate you to move on to bigger tasks.
- Sanitize the worst areas first. Some hoarders seriously neglect sanitation in the bathroom and kitchen, which can lead to health hazards. These areas should be cleaned out and sanitized first, especially if there are areas with pet or human feces. While this is often a disgusting task, it can go rather quickly because you shouldn’t have to sift through items worth keeping. Most of what is in a bathroom, like half-empty shampoo bottles and expired toiletries can be trashed without consideration. The cleanup crew should bring plastic bags, mops, rubber gloves and disposable cleaning items like sponges and wipes to deal with the cleanup.
- Do a major decluttering of useless objects. Some objects in the home may be useable if cleaned. Other items, like leftover mail, old newspapers and trash, must simply be disposed of. The junk items should be thrown out first before dealing with reusable items.
- Get a drop box from a waste disposal company to help deal with major junk items. Many companies will pick up the full container and dispose of the waste once the job is done.
Once the home has been cleared of waste items and sanitized, sort through the other items. Make three piles for clothing and other items, and sort them into piles of what can be reused once cleaned, what should be given to charity, and what can be sold.
Creating a clean environment for a hoarder in is a healing and healthy act. It’s a great gift to give a person who needs help. It can also be very rewarding for you as a property manager when the home has become rentable again.