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How to clean a hoarder's house

How to clean a hoarder’s house

Hoarder’s are defined as people who excessively save items that others may view as worthless. They have difficulty getting rid of, or parting with possessions.  Hoarding is defined as an OCD disorder (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  Hoarder’s don’t display their possessions; they are normally kept in disarray and usually there is a large assortment of clutter collected over time.

Without getting into the effects and struggles of hoarder’s, as well as the emotional and financial cost, we are going to focus on how you can help to clean a hoarder’s house.

It is important to note that offers of help may not be well received by hoarder’s.  This is also not something you can simply go in and fix, it may take a considerable amount of time to develop trust to be able to help to clean a hoarder’s house.

You must have a strategy to move forward and step it out:

  1. Assess the situation – how many skips will you need, how much stuff needs to be thrown out, what part will the hoarder play in the clean up? This step needs patience and compassion and needs to be well thought out.
  2. Form a cleaning strategy – book cleaners if necessary, hard rubbish pickups and skips.It is also advisable to purchase equipment to protect yourself, such as disposable gloves, dust masks and goggles.
  3. Gather supplies needed –cleaning utensils and chemicals such as disinfectants.
  4. Sort hoarded items – what can be given away, thrown away and kept. This will probably need to be done outside as there will most likely be no room inside the house to sort items.
  5. Clean and restore the home – this may need to be done over a period of time and tasks shared among a number of people. Start with one small room.  The bathroom is recommended as the first area to clean so there is access to soap and water. The next room should be the kitchen to get rid of food and rubbish.  Then work through the rest of the house, one room at a time.

It’s only when the house is emptied of all rubbish, furniture and perishables that the intensive cleaning can begin.  This is a laborious process and time consuming. Start with the ceilings, lights and fans and then move to walls and windows.  The whole house will need to be disinfected.   Once the cleaning is finished, it is then any repair works can be done, and any restoration or renovation work commenced.

Cleaning a hoarder’s house is exhausting and emotional, and will require patience and understanding. There is also the option of hiring a professional company to clean for you, and there are companies who specialise in decluttering and cleaning for the aged. They have the training and experience and it may be a better option for those time poor or who just don’t want to do this.  Depending on what or where the hoarder goes after this clean up, you will need to do some regular maintenance on the house as it’s likely it will just get out of hand again.

There are a number of support services and groups available to help hoarder’s and their families.  We suggest you google for your relevant area and level of support needed.

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