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Hoarding Cleaning Checklist: Step-by-Step Guide


Helping a hoarder clean takes a lot of effort. Use this hoarding cleaning checklist to stay on track and accomplish your goals.

While we recognize the importance of maintaining a clean and tidy home, being a hoarder is so much more than just having a little bit of clutter here or there. Hoarding is an intricate and compounded issue – usually the result of severe underlying mental health problems.

Many hoarders struggle with depression or anxiety, resulting from some kind of trauma. This leads many to experience disposophobia – extreme distress towards discarding things.

These complex mental issues are usually the reasons why people hoard. It is not as simple as just being a little messy or unmotivated.

For this reason, helping a hoarder clean up requires special planning.

Make sure you educate yourself on the symptoms and causes of hoarding. Get help from a mental health professional whenever possible.

We have been helping hoarders clean up their homes and get on track to leading happier, healthier lives for nearly 30 years.

If you’re looking for a good place to start, our step-by-step guide can help.

The difference between clutter and hoarding

It can be difficult to tell clutter and hoarding apart if you’re not familiar with their distinguishing factors. Many people will unwittingly refer to them as if they are interchangeable. But they are very distinct from one another.

Aside from the fact that hoarding is usually a sign of a much deeper mental health issue, clutter and hoarding occur on two totally different levels of untidiness.

The difference between clutter and hoarding

Clutter is any kind of small mess that builds up over time. It could be a pile of old mail, a few empty water bottles on your nightstand, or a couple of coats balled up on the couch. In small amounts, clutter can be irritating, and larger amounts can make your home feel uncomfortable.

But clutter won’t destroy the structure of your home and attack your physical health.

Hoarding, on the other hand, can create an incredibly toxic environment. When clutter amasses to the point that the entire home is overrun that is a hoarding issue. An overpacked closet here or there might be a sign of disorganization.

But hoarding is what happens when so much stuff accumulates whole rooms become inaccessible. A cluttered home will be generally free of dirt and grime, although it might not look the most streamlined or attractive.

Hoarders often live in squalor – often among pests, mold, and other filth. Before you try to enter a hoarder’s home and clean anything up, make sure you are ready.

Hoarding Cleaning Checklist

Hoarding Cleaning Checklist

First thing’s first. Before we share our methods for helping a hoarder recover there are some key things that you need to know. As we’ve mentioned, hoarding disorder relates to mental illnesses. That means you cannot just barge in and start throwing things away.

It takes patience, but you need to be honest with your loved one about your concerns.

Include them in every step of the process, and never make any decisions about their belongings without them. Forcing things will only trigger another hoarding episode.

Whenever possible, always seek help from a mental health professional. They can help guide you through the cleanup process and help everyone manage their stress better.

A professional will aid your loved one in developing healthy coping mechanisms and problem-solving skills. Forming these kinds of habits will help them maintain a more organized home and avoid more hoarding in the future.

Once you’ve got your support system together and you are ready to start, our hoarding cleaning checklist will help you to stay on track.

How to Help a Hoarder Cleanup Step-By-Step:

How to Help a Hoarder Cleanup Step-By-Step

Follow this simple checklist to help your loved one recover from hoarding.

1. Supplies

Before you even think about entering the home to start cleaning, make sure you have everything you need to get the job done. You may have to stock up more than once as you clean each room.
Keep an eye on your inventory so you can replenish what you need before there’s none left.

You will need:

  • Protective coveralls
  • Old clothing
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face masks
  • Garbage bags
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Disinfectant/Bleach
  • Pest control spray
  • Rags and sponges
  • Paper towels
  • Empty boxes
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Mop and bucket
  • Vacuum
  • Basic toolkit
  • Handtruck or dolly
  • Tarps

2. Assess

The next most important thing is to assess the situation before you start cleaning. It will help you to better understand exactly what needs to be done. Make sure the home is safe to enter before you begin.

Get a feel for what you will be dealing with so that you can set goals, track progress, and stay safe throughout the hoarding cleanup.

Here are some things to look for:

  • Structural damage to the outside of the home
  • Structural damage to the inside of the home
  • Every space of the home is filled with clutter
  • Large amounts of recycling on the counters
  • Roaches, bed bugs, and other insects
  • Items piled in the front or back yard
  • Broken or otherwise useless items
  • Collection of spoiled food or trash
  • Too many poorly cared for pets
  • Rooms with blocked entrances
  • Overstuffed storage areas
  • Broken appliances
  • Mice and rodents
  • Plumbing issues
  • Mold

3. Plan

Put a strategy together that’s easy to follow. You will be facing some challenges as you clean up the home and help your loved one recover from hoarding. Planning out your next steps is a great way to stay focused and make things feel more manageable.

Here’s a checklist that you can use to create your own hoarding cleaning strategy:

  • Designate a staging area to sort through things and make decisions
  • Set up boxes and label them “keep”, “discard”, and “donations”
  • Make a list of rooms in the order that you plan to clean them
  • Determine the areas of improvement for each room
  • Set attainable goals for every stage of the cleanup
  • Throw away as much garbage as possible
  • Identify broken items and furniture
  • Clear clutter room-by-room
  • Clean the entire home
  • Perform pest control
  • Make any repairs
  • Haul away junk
  • Organize

How to maintain a hoarder's house once it's clean.

How to maintain a hoarder's house once it's clean

Helping a hoarder clean up their home takes a lot of hard work and compassion. But the work doesn’t stop once the house is finally clean. The underlying mental health issues that your loved one is struggling with may still be there.

This means that they still need your help forming the healthy habits they will need to keep their homes clean long after you are done.

Remember to schedule regular check-ins so you can act as their support system.

Help them learn how to make better decisions about what they should keep or throw away. You will need to make sure you follow up often so their new lifestyle sticks.

The high cost of cleaning a hoarder's house

The high cost of cleaning a hoarder's house.

Oftentimes, the state of a hoarder’s home is so severe that the costs of DIY hoarding cleanings add up pretty quickly. You’ll be going through hundreds, even thousands of dollars of supplies – and those are just simple things like garbage bags or Lysol.

Then, there are the expenses of pest control treatments, mold remediation, fixing appliances, and repairing any structural damage to the home.

You may have to pay to relocate pets, replace backed-up plumbing, or rent a vehicle so you can haul away large furniture and trash. If someone gets injured, there may even be a medical bill.

In the worst-case scenario, your loved one can even face fines or eviction.

All this, and you still have to clean the home mostly by yourself.

When to hire a hoarding cleaning professional.

Getting help is always a good idea. Once you’ve assessed the situation, but before you invest in all those supplies, is the best time to consider what kind of help you need.

It’s fine if you want to maintain control over the situation.

The right hoarding cleaning company for you will always be willing to work with you. But there may be some things that a professional can do for a lot less money and a lot less stress than you would be able to on your own.

When to hire a hoarding cleaning professional.

Home Clean Home will help you recover.

We do so much more than just throw things away and disinfect the home – although that’s definitely an important part of the process.

Our team is trained to come ready with a solution to every problem.

When you work with the experts at Home Clean Home, all of your needs can be resolved under one roof. We will declutter, remove odors, repair damage, exterminate pests, and do whatever else you may find yourself needing.

If you have documents you’d like to keep, we’ll scan them. If you have salvageable items to sell, we’ll help you list them!

We even come with our own, unmarked vehicle to discreetly haul away all of your trash.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a hoarding disorder, don’t wait.
Call today for a no-obligation consultation. 718 627 5781