A thorough checklist can help the process of cleaning a hoarder’s home stay on track.
Making a home safe, clean and habitable is an important step in helping hoarders who struggle with this obsessive compulsive disorder. However, cleaning up a hoarder’s home can be a long and frustrating process for both the hoarder and those wanting to help.
Before you begin, it’s important to develop a checklist as part of a strategy that ensures you’re taking care of the most pressing issues first and including each step necessary to return the home to a healthy condition.
Here are the items we recommend including:
Assess What Help You Need
Before you begin, one of the most important actions you should take is to assess what help you need to be successful.
We always strongly recommend consulting with a mental health professional, who can provide support throughout the cleaning process. A mental health professional also will identify the underlying cause for the hoarding and any additional mental health disorders your loved one may be suffering from, as well as offer treatment for those issues.
Professional cleaning services that have extensive experience in hoarding situations also can provide a number of resources, especially if the hoarding situation is severe and has resulted in a legal injunction that requires the individual to clean the home. 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.
You may also need assistance from other resources, which a professional cleaning service can recommend. These include:
- Licensed exterminators
- Garbage bin rental companies
- Licensed contractors, including plumbing, electrical and appliance specialists
- City zoning officials
- Real estate professionals
To help you determine what type of resources you may need, ask yourself:
- Is there just excess clutter, or is the problem bigger?
- Are walkways and doorways blocked by clutter, creating a safety hazard?
- Is there damage to the home?
- Are there pest or animal control issues?
- Is the lack of cleanliness creating health issues in the home?
- Are there biohazards, such as blood or feces, apparent?
- Does the hoarder realize there is a problem and want help?
Once you have resources in place, you can move on to the cleaning process with the help of trained professionals who can ensure a greater likelihood of success.
Put Protection In Place
Before you begin to clean, make sure you are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the seriousness of the hoarding situation, you may need advanced equipment that protects you from biohazards, such as:
- Disposable gloves
- Dust masks
- Glasses or goggles
- Boots or shoe covers
It’s also important to have a first aid kit nearby, as well as flashlights and hand sanitizer. Ensuring proper PPE is an important step since cleaning up a hoarder’s home may expose you to E.coli, Staph, mold spores, Salmonella, unsafe ammonia levels and other dangerous health hazards.
Create A Staging Area
Find some open space that an be used as a staging area. This might be difficult in severe hoarding situations, but can include an area of the yard, a garage or room that is not yet cluttered.
In this staging space, you will place contents from the hoarder’s home temporarily so that you can better assess the belongings. Make sure you have a clear, open path to this space.
Pick Your First Room
Cleaning a hoarder’s home can quickly become overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to begin with a small space, such as a bathroom. Getting a bathroom cleaned first also provides a dual benefit, since you’ll need access to running water and soap as you clean the rest of the home.
Leave spaces that are designated as storage areas, such as closets or garages, for last. These can be some of the most challenging spaces to clean since they often overflow with items.
Begin Cleaning The First Space, And Repeat
After choosing your first space to address, begin by getting rid of any trash first. This includes garbage and items that are too dirty or damaged to keep. Put aside items that should be recycled or disposed of properly, such as medications.
Next, begin sorting. Take the room’s contents to the staging area you created earlier. Separate these belongings into groups with similar items, which allows you to assess how many of the same item the hoarder possesses. Pick one to keep, and donate the rest.
Often, this can be difficult since even the most everyday or mundane items can hold value to the hoarder. This is where a professional hoarding cleanup service can also assist by providing compassion, respect and professionalism during this emotional time as hoarders must sort through their items.
Lastly, once there is no more clutter, begin a deep cleaning process. Many cleaning companies will provide this service once clutter is removed, making this an easy step in your strategy.
Once you have accomplished the steps above, it’s time to move on to the next room, and repeat.
Call In Additional Help
Once cluttered rooms are free of items, professional cleaning and extermination services can assist with pest, mold, mildew and other biohazard removal. Since hoarding situations, especially those that are extreme, also result in damage to the home’s structure, licensed contractors can begin repairs that may include:
- Carpet and flooring replacement
- Drywall replacement
- Fresh coat of paint
- Electrical, water faucet or appliance damage
Set Up Continued Help
Many individuals struggle to overcome their hoarding disorders. That’s why working with an experienced hoarder cleaning service that knows relapse can occur will provide additional benefits as the hoarder’s journey continues.
Check to see whether a cleaning company provides ongoing services, which can make it easier to get help next time.
Each hoarding situation is unique and complicated. Creating a plan that keeps the cleaning process on track, as well as accounts for any future assistance needed, is essential to a favorable outcome for both your loved ones and all those involved in getting them the help they need.