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Hoarding Cleanup: A Comprehensive Guide

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Hoarding is a serious issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be a challenging and overwhelming problem to address, both for the hoarder and their loved ones. Cleaning up a hoarded space can be a daunting task, but it is a necessary step towards creating a safe and healthy living environment.

In this article, HCH, a leading cleaning company in new york will provide you with a comprehensive guide to getting started on hoarding cleanup. We’ll cover everything from the psychology of hoarding to the practical steps you can take to begin cleaning up.

Whether you are a hoarder or a loved one of a hoarder, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to begin the journey towards a clutter-free and organized life.

What is hoarding disorder?

Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition characterized by difficulty discarding possessions, even when they have little to no value, leading to clutter and congestion in living spaces.

 

It is distinct from collecting or being messy and can cause significant distress and impairment in social, occupational, and academic functioning. Hoarding disorder can also lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

The DSM-5 recognizes hoarding disorder as a distinct mental disorder, and treatment and support can help people with hoarding disorder achieve significant improvement.

Signs of a hoarded house

  1. Cluttered living spaces
    A hoarder’s living spaces are often cluttered with excessive amounts of items that may have little to no value. These items can include old newspapers, magazines, clothing, and even food containers.
  2. Difficulty navigating through the space
    In a hoarded space, it can be difficult to move around or access different areas of the home. The clutter may block doorways or even entire rooms.
  3. Neglected living spaces
    Hoarders often neglect their living spaces, which can lead to unsanitary and hazardous conditions. Dirt, dust, and even mold can accumulate in the clutter, creating health risks.
  4. Emotional attachment to possessions
    People with hoarding disorder may have a strong emotional attachment to their possessions, making it challenging for them to discard items even when they are no longer useful or valuable.
  5. Social isolation
    Hoarders may avoid having visitors to their home due to shame or embarrassment about the condition of their living space.
  6. Difficulty with daily activitiesHoarders may struggle to carry out everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or personal hygiene due to the clutter and disorganization in their living spaces.

 

If you notice any of these signs in your own home or the home of a loved one, it may be time to seek help from a hoarding cleaning service provider or mental health professional.

Things to consider before doing a hoarding cleanup

Before embarking on a hoarding cleanup, there are several things to consider. Here are some important factors to keep in mind:
  1. Safety
    Safety should be a top priority during a hoarding cleanup. The cluttered space can be hazardous due to potential tripping hazards, sharp objects, and even mold or other health hazards.

     

    It’s essential to wear protective clothing and equipment, such as gloves, masks, and goggles, to avoid injury or illness.

  2. Mental health considerations
    Hoarding disorder is a mental health condition, and cleaning up a hoarded space can be emotionally challenging for the hoarder.

     

    It is crucial to approach the process with sensitivity and empathy, and to consider working with a mental health professional who can offer support and guidance.

  3. Goals
    Before starting a hoarding cleanup, it is essential to establish clear goals and expectations.

     

    This may include defining which areas will be cleaned, how much clutter will be removed, and how the space will be organized once the cleanup is complete.

  4. Time and resources
    Hoarding cleanups can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. It’s important to set aside enough time and resources to complete the cleanup effectively.

     

    Depending on the severity of the hoarding, it may be necessary to hire a professional organizer or cleaning service to assist with the process.

  5. Support system
    It can be emotionally taxing to clean up a hoarded space, both for the hoarder and their loved ones.

     

    Having a strong support system in place, such as family members or friends, can make the process more manageable and less overwhelming.

  6. Long-term maintenance
    A hoarding cleanup is not a one-time solution, but a process that requires ongoing maintenance to ensure the clutter doesn’t return.

     

    Establishing a plan for long-term organization and maintenance can help prevent future clutter from accumulating.

Consideration of these factors can help ensure a safe, efficient, and successful hoarding cleanup process.

Essential tools used in hoarding cleaning

Hoarding cleaning can be a challenging task that requires specific tools and equipment to ensure a safe and efficient process. Here are some essential tools commonly used in hoarding cleaning:
  1. Heavy-duty trash bags
    Large, heavy-duty trash bags are a must-have for hoarding cleanup. They can hold a significant amount of clutter and are durable enough to handle heavy or sharp objects.
  2. Gloves
    Wearing gloves is crucial during a hoarding cleanup to protect against injury and illness. Thick, heavy-duty gloves can help protect against sharp or hazardous objects and prevent the spread of germs.
  3. Masks and respirators
    Depending on the condition of the hoarded space, masks and respirators may be necessary to protect against airborne particles, such as mold or dust.

     

    N95 respirators are highly recommended for filtering out small particles and can be purchased at most hardware stores.

  4. Cleaning supplies
    Basic cleaning supplies, such as all-purpose cleaners, sponges, and disinfectants, can help remove dirt, dust, and grime from surfaces in the hoarded space.
  5. Organizational tools
    Once clutter has been removed, organizational tools can help keep the space clean and clutter-free. Shelving units, storage bins, and label makers are examples of organizational tools that can be helpful.
  6. Power tools
    Power tools, such as drills and saws, may be necessary to remove large or bulky items from the hoarded space. It’s essential to use these tools safely and with caution to avoid injury.
  7. Professional assistance
    Depending on the severity of the hoarding, it may be necessary to hire professional organizers, cleaners, or mental health professionals to assist with the cleanup process.

 

Having these tools on hand can help ensure a safe and efficient hoarding cleanup process. However, it’s essential to approach the process with sensitivity and empathy for the hoarder and to prioritize their emotional well-being throughout the cleanup.

Safety precautions when doing a hoarding cleanup

Hoarding cleanup can be a hazardous process due to the presence of clutter and potential health hazards.

 

It’s important to take appropriate safety precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved in the process. Here are some safety precautions to consider when doing a hoarding cleanup:

  • Avoid electrical hazards: Check for exposed wires and damaged electrical outlets, and avoid using electrical appliances in areas with wet or damp conditions.
  • Watch for tripping hazards: Keep pathways clear of clutter and avoid walking on unstable surfaces or objects.
  • Beware of sharp objects: Use caution when handling sharp objects, such as broken glass, needles, or knives.
  • Handle hazardous materials properly: Dispose of hazardous materials, such as chemicals or expired medications, in accordance with local regulations.
  • Avoid heavy lifting: If lifting heavy objects is necessary, use proper lifting techniques, such as bending at the knees and keeping the back straight.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration during the cleanup process.
  • Take breaks as needed: Cleaning up a hoarded space can be physically and emotionally taxing. Take breaks as needed to avoid exhaustion or burnout.

 

Taking these safety precautions can help ensure a safe and efficient hoarding cleanup process. It’s essential to prioritize safety and to approach the cleanup process with sensitivity and empathy for the hoarder and their loved ones.

Cleaning a hoarders house room by room

Cleaning a hoarder’s house is a challenging task, but it can help make the process more manageable and efficient. Here’s a suggested order for cleaning rooms based on priority:


Bathroom

The bathroom should be a top priority as it is an area where cleanliness is essential for health and safety reasons. Start by removing any clutter or trash from the bathroom, such as empty containers, old towels, or expired medications. Dispose of these items appropriately. Clean surfaces thoroughly, including the toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub, using appropriate cleaning supplies.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean a hoarder’s bathroom:

  • Wear protective gear: Put on gloves, a mask, and other protective gear to protect against potential hazards.
  • Remove clutter and trash: Remove all clutter and trash from the bathroom, such as empty containers, old towels, and expired medications. Dispose of these items appropriately.
  • Empty cabinets and drawers: Empty all cabinets and drawers, sort the items into categories such as keep, donate, or dispose of, and clean the inside surfaces.
  • Clean the toilet: Apply toilet bowl cleaner to the inside of the bowl and let it sit for the recommended amount of time. Scrub the inside of the bowl with a toilet brush, including under the rim. Wipe the exterior of the toilet with an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Clean the sink: Spray an all-purpose cleaner on the sink and faucet, and scrub with a scrub brush or sponge. Rinse with water and wipe dry.
  • Clean the shower and bathtub: Apply an appropriate cleaner to the walls, floor, and fixtures of the shower and bathtub, and let it sit for the recommended amount of time. Scrub with a scrub brush or sponge, paying attention to hard-to-reach areas. Rinse thoroughly with water and dry with a clean towel.
  • Address mold or mildew: If there is any mold or mildew in the bathroom, address it using an appropriate cleaning solution or seek professional assistance.
  • Clean bathroom fixtures: Clean all bathroom fixtures, such as faucets, showerheads, and towel racks, using appropriate cleaning supplies.

 

Remember to approach the process with sensitivity and empathy for the hoarder and prioritize safety throughout the cleanup process.


Kitchen

The kitchen is another high-priority area due to the potential health risks associated with dirty dishes and spoiled food. Remove all items from the kitchen, including dishes, food, and appliances. Dispose of any expired or spoiled food and clean all surfaces thoroughly, including the countertops, stove, oven, and refrigerator. Organize and store remaining items in designated areas.

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean a hoarder’s kitchen:

  • Clean the countertops: Remove all items from the countertops and wipe them clean using an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Clean the sink: Spray an all-purpose cleaner on the sink and scrub with a scrub brush or sponge. Rinse with water and wipe dry.
  • Clean the stove and oven: Remove any food debris or grime from the stove and oven using an appropriate cleaner. Wipe clean and remove any burnt-on food or stains.
  • Clean the refrigerator: Empty the contents of the refrigerator and dispose of any expired items or old food. Clean the inside of the refrigerator using an appropriate cleaner, and wipe the exterior with an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Address pests: If there are any signs of pests in the kitchen, address them using appropriate methods or seek professional assistance from a reputable pest extermination company.


Bedroom

The bedroom is a place of rest and relaxation, so it’s essential to create a clean and clutter-free environment.

Start by removing all clutter and trash from the bedroom, such as old clothes, papers, and empty containers. Organize and store remaining items in designated areas, such as drawers or closet shelves. Clean all surfaces, including the bed, nightstands, and dressers.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a hoarder’s bedroom:

  • Remove clutter and trash: Remove all clutter and trash from the bedroom, such as old clothes, papers, and empty containers. Dispose of these items appropriately.
  • Empty the closet: Empty the closet, sort the items into categories such as keep, donate, or dispose of, and clean the inside surfaces.
  • Clean surfaces: Clean all surfaces in the bedroom thoroughly, including the bed, nightstands, and dressers, using appropriate cleaning supplies such as all-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and scrub brushes. Pay attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as corners and under the bed.
  • Address bedding: Wash all bedding, including sheets, pillowcases, and comforters, using appropriate detergents. Consider using a disinfectant solution to kill any germs or bacteria.
  • Organize remaining items: Organize remaining items in the bedroom, such as clothes and shoes, in designated areas such as drawers, shelves, or storage bins.


Living room

The living room is a high-traffic area and is often the most cluttered room in a hoarder’s house. Start by removing all clutter and trash from the living room, including old magazines, papers, and other items.

Organize and store remaining items in designated areas, such as shelves or storage bins. Clean all surfaces, including the couch, chairs, and coffee table.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a hoarder’s living room:

  • Remove clutter and trash: Remove all clutter and trash from the living room, such as old magazines, newspapers, and empty containers. Dispose of these items appropriately.
  • Clear out furniture: Clear out furniture, such as chairs or couches, to make it easier to clean the room.
  • Clean surfaces: Clean all surfaces in the living room thoroughly, including coffee tables, side tables, and shelves, using appropriate cleaning supplies such as all-purpose cleaners, disinfectants, and scrub brushes. Pay attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as corners and under furniture.
  • Address flooring: Clean or vacuum the flooring, such as carpets or hardwood floors, to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Organize remaining items: Organize remaining items in the living room, such as books or decorative items, in designated areas such as shelves or storage bins.
  • Deep clean: Conduct a deep clean of the living room to address any underlying hygiene issues, such as dust, dirt, or grime. This may involve dusting or wiping down all surfaces, steam cleaning carpets, or washing curtains or blinds.
  • Address any mold or mildew: If there is any mold or mildew in the living room, address it using an appropriate cleaning solution or seek professional assistance.


Hallways and entryways

Hallways and entryways are often overlooked in hoarded homes, but they can become cluttered quickly. Start by removing all clutter and trash from these areas, such as old shoes, coats, and papers. Organize and store remaining items in designated areas, such as coat closets or storage benches.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to clean a hoarder’s hallways and entryways:

  • Gather your cleaning supplies: You will need a broom, dustpan, mop, bucket, cleaning solution, and cleaning cloths.
  • Remove any debris or clutter: Pick up any items that are lying around in the hallway or entryway and put them in their proper place. This will make it easier to clean the floors.
  • Sweep the floors: Use a broom to sweep the floors and remove any loose dirt and dust. Make sure to sweep in corners and along the baseboards.
  • Vacuum the floors: If your hallway or entryway has carpeting, use a vacuum to clean the carpets thoroughly.
  • Mop the floors: Mix a cleaning solution with water in a bucket and mop the floors. Make sure to wring out the mop well before mopping to avoid leaving excess water on the floor.
  • Clean the baseboards and walls: Use a damp cloth to wipe down the baseboards and walls, removing any dirt or dust.
  • Clean the entry door: Wipe down the door with a cleaning cloth and cleaning solution to remove any dirt or fingerprints.
  • Replace any items you moved: Put back any items that you removed from the hallway or entryway.

 

Following these steps will help you clean your hallway and entryway effectively and efficiently.

Remember that the order in which rooms are cleaned may vary based on the specific hoarder’s home and needs. Be sure to approach the process with sensitivity and empathy for the hoarder and prioritize safety throughout the cleanup process.

Keeping a hoarder’s house clean

Hoarding disorder can create a cluttered and disorganized living space that can be overwhelming to clean and maintain. However, with consistent effort and a practical approach, it is possible to keep a hoarder’s house clean and organized.

These steps include establishing a cleaning schedule, promoting daily habits, creating designated storage spaces, limiting incoming clutter, seeking professional help, maintaining good hygiene, and approaching the process with patience and empathy. By following these steps, you can help the hoarder and their family members maintain a safe and healthy living environment:

  1. Establish a realistic cleaning schedule
    Work with the hoarder to develop a cleaning schedule that is achievable and suits their needs. Some hoarders may prefer to clean every day, while others may find it more manageable to clean on a weekly or monthly basis.
  2. Encourage daily habits
    Encourage the hoarder to develop daily habits that promote cleanliness, such as making the bed, putting away dishes, and throwing away trash.
  3. Set achievable goals
    Instead of focusing on achieving a perfectly clean and organized home, set achievable goals that focus on progress. Celebrate small victories along the way and acknowledge the effort that has been made.
  4. Create designated storage spaces
    Designate specific areas for items that are kept, donated, or disposed of. Label storage containers and keep them in a visible and easily accessible location.
  5. Limit incoming clutter
    Encourage the hoarder to be mindful of what they bring into the house, and establish a system for organizing mail and paperwork. Regularly purging items that are no longer needed can help prevent clutter from building up.
  6. Seek professional help
    Consider seeking the help of a therapist or professional organizer who specializes in hoarding disorders. They can provide guidance and support to the hoarder and their family members.
  7. Maintain good hygiene
    Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces, and encourage the hoarder to practice good personal hygiene habits. Address any mold or mildew promptly to maintain a safe and healthy living environment.
  8. Be patient and empathetic
    Remember that maintaining a clean and organized living space is a long-term process, and it’s important to approach it with patience, empathy, and a willingness to work together towards a common goal. Take breaks as needed to avoid exhaustion or burnout, and celebrate progress along the way.

When to seek a help from a hoarder cleaning professional

Hoarding disorder can have serious consequences that go beyond the physical clutter in a home. Here are some additional details on why these specific signs indicate that it may be time to seek professional help:

  1. Hoarding has become a safety hazard
    In extreme cases, hoarding can create a serious safety hazard. Piles of clutter can block exits, making it difficult to escape in case of an emergency such as a fire or natural disaster. 

    Excessive clutter can also increase the risk of falls or other accidents. A hoarding cleaning professional can help remove clutter and create a safer living environment.

  2. Hoarding has affected daily functioningHoarding disorder can make it difficult to complete daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or even moving around the home.This can make it challenging to maintain personal hygiene, prepare meals, or even invite guests into the home.

    Seeking professional help can provide the support and resources needed to address these challenges and restore daily functioning.

  3. The hoarding has caused emotional distress
    Hoarding disorder can cause significant emotional distress for the hoarder and their family members.

    Hoarders may feel overwhelmed or ashamed by the clutter, while family members may feel frustrated or helpless in trying to manage the situation.

    Seeking professional help can provide the emotional support and guidance needed to address the underlying issues and promote healing and recovery.

  4. The hoarding has been ongoing and has not improved
    Hoarding disorder can be a chronic condition that is difficult to manage on your own. If the hoarding has been ongoing and has not improved despite your efforts to manage it, seeking professional help may be necessary to make progress.

    A hoarding cleaning professional can provide the expertise and resources needed to effectively address the disorder and support ongoing recovery.

  5. Decline in physical health
    Hoarding disorder can impact physical health by creating unsanitary living conditions, exacerbating allergies or respiratory conditions, or attracting pests such as rodents or insects.

  6. The clutter has become overwhelming
    If the clutter in their home has become overwhelming and is making it difficult to move around, find items, or complete daily tasks, it may be time to seek professional help. A hoarding cleaning service can help declutter and organize their home in a safe and efficient manner.

  7. Unsuccessful DIY hoarding cleanup
    If a hoarder or their loved ones try to declutter and organizer on their own without success, or start the process but are unable to follow through, it may be time to seek professional help.

 

Keep in mind that hoarding disorder is a complex and challenging condition that requires a multifaceted approach to treatment. Seeking professional help can provide the necessary resources, support, and guidance to address the underlying issues and promote long-term recovery.

Conclusion

Hoarding disorder can create significant challenges in maintaining a safe and healthy living environment.

However, with the right approach, it is possible to overcome the clutter and create a clean and organized home.

Whether it’s establishing a cleaning schedule, promoting daily habits, creating designated storage spaces, limiting incoming clutter, seeking professional help, maintaining good hygiene, or approaching the process with patience and empathy, there are many steps that can be taken to maintain a clean and clutter-free living environment.

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