Buried in Trash: 5 Tips for Cleaning a Hoarder’s House

Maybe you’ve noticed that a friend or family member has accumulated an unhealthy amount of possessions, belongings, and garbage and volunteered to help clean out the hoard. Or perhaps you’ve purchased a home at a great bargain because the previous owners were hoarders. Whatever the reason, cleaning out a hoarder’s house must be done correctly to avoid illness and truly cut out the clutter.

1. Understand Hoarding

Hoarding is more than just making a mess; it’s a recognized mental illness in which the person has trouble parting with possessions, even those that would be worthless to most others (such as old magazines and newspapers). They recommend remaining supportive and non-judgmental throughout the clean-out process and recognizing that anxiety manifests differently among individuals.

2. Develop a System

However you choose to organize the clean-out process, devising a system and sticking to it will make the work more effective. For example, designate the least cluttered room as the temporary storage space for soft items such as bedding, linens, and clothing. Keeping those items all in one place can make it easier to clean the more cluttered areas.

3. Gather Resources

Tackling a hoarder’s home isn’t a job you can do alone. Ideally, you’ll be able to gather a team of friends and relatives to help. If you don’t have extra hands, your best bet is to hire professionals. Even if you remain actively involved in the clean-up, they’ll be able to offer both manpower and guidance. You’ll need someplace for all that junk to go, so make sure to arrange for a rentable dumpster from a company like Green Bin ahead of time.

4. Remove Hazards First

The risk for fire is one of the biggest dangers for a hoarder. When embarking on the clean-up, remove obvious fire hazards first. Clear the cooking area completely. Remove items that are placed on or touching lamps, heaters, and electrical equipment. Dispose of bulk papers such as magazines, newspapers, and mail, which are most likely to ignite if a fire breaks out. Ensure that your family member has a clear path into and out of the home in the event of a fire.

5. Know When You Can’t Go It Alone

The most severely hoarded homes become toxic, particularly if animal waste, infestation, or spoiled food is involved. If you suspect this may be the case for your loved one, it’s not safe to take on this task without professional help.

While a hoard can seem insurmountable, keeping these five tips in mind can help the process go more smoothly.

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