It can happen to someone you care about. It might be a friend, a member of the family or the neighbor next door. Perhaps you’re responsible for the property.
When you find yourself facing this unique challenge, you need to know how to declutter a hoarder’s house. These guidelines make it easier to tackle the job with a sense of understanding and purpose.
How to Help Someone Declutter Their House: 10 Effective Steps
1. Understand the Cause
Hoarding is a recognized mental disorder, and it often has a root cause. The individual may have suffered through a traumatic event or the death of a loved one.
You don’t need to know the origins of the problem, but you do need to recognize its effects. Most hoarders can’t address their condition by themselves, so your understanding is very important.
2. Communicate With Compassion
Before you start the property cleaning process, establish a solid, honest connection with the hoarder. Respect the situation. Make it clear that you care about how the project goes forward. Assure the hoarder that you’ll be there with support and guidance before, during and after cleanup efforts.
3. Explain the Dangers
A hoarder’s environment is dangerous. The individual knows this but doesn’t know how to solve the problem. In a calm manner, explain these common hazards found in hoarders’ homes and how they can be handled.
• Insect, rodent and mold infestations
• Biohazards generated from accumulated trash
• Potential collapse of rotted walls, floors and ceilings
• House-wide fire hazards and blocked escape routes
4. Develop a Recovery Plan
Don’t try to start decluttering the property without a recovery plan. Sit down with the hoarder, and work together on a cleaning strategy. Focus on the best ways to separate salvageable belongings from clutter and trash.
5. Assess Everything Together
The hoarder will want to keep everything, so use a 3-tier assessment system.
• Important belongings to keep
• Items for storage or donations
• Things that must be thrown away
Once you start cleaning the hoarder’s house, apply the guidelines to every room. Stress that these are standards you both agreed to as part of the overall recovery plan.
6. Work Up a Realistic Schedule
It takes years for a hoarder’s property to reach the tipping point. It can take weeks to restore order and longer to completely declutter, clean and reorganize the home.
Develop a flexible schedule that addresses one room at a time. Break that down into different areas in each room. Don’t try to put 40 hours a week into the job.
7. Be Ready for Setbacks
This is one of the most critical cleaning tips for hoarders. Let him or her know that unexpected problems can interfere with recovery plans. For example, you have to stop working if you uncover toxic mold or discover extensive water damage. Be prepared to call in professional backup.
8. Explore Storage Options
Make it easier for the hoarder to let go by suggesting nearby self storage as a temporary option for extra possessions. Most storage facilities offer affordable month-to-month leases.
This strategy works well for things that fall into the undecided category. Often, a move is enough to break the attachment between a hoarder and excess belongings.
9. Encourage Charitable Donations
Many things that can be salvaged from a hoarding environment can also be donated to local charities. Encourage the individual to think of others and share things that have been so important over the years. Most charities will pick up donated items including furniture, appliances and clothing.
10. Offer Special Help
Your help is invaluable, but you can only do so much. Mental health professionals understand how to stop hoarding behavior or modify it in extreme cases. Advise the individual to seek professional help. Assure him or her that they can trust you to keep personal decisions private.
Are You a Hoarder?
If you think you may have a problem, there are many resources available ranging from self-help for hoarders to professional counseling. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out to family and friends. By taking the right steps, you can stop hoarding and change your life for the better.
Why Bring in Professional Cleaners?
Cleaning a hoarder’s home can be an enormous task. Whether you’re helping someone in trouble or overcoming hoarding on your own, consider bringing in a professional cleaning service.
Outsourcing the work significantly reduces the time it takes to recover a property. You enjoy the assistance of industry-certified technicians who specialize in hoarder cleanup. These are just a few of the services you can expect.
• Property-wide mold removal and remediation
• Small leak and plumbing pipe repairs
• Whole-house air duct cleaning and sanitizing
• Deep cleaning for carpets and furniture
• Floor, drywall and ceiling restoration
We’re Here to Help
Please know you’re not alone with a hoarding situation. Our teams are ready to help with expert cleaning capabilities and caring customer service. ServiceMaster of Lake Shore stands ready to support your efforts with compassion and understanding. Give us a call today at 312-707-8597.