Affecting nearly six million people, hoarding disorder is nothing to sensationalize. It affects twice as many people as OCD, and people joke about both. Hoarding disorder is no joke. People who suffer from the inability to organize and those who accumulate unnecessary items to the point that their homes and spaces are unlivable, suffer from a terrible disease. It is no different helping someone with a hoarding disorder clean their home than it would be to help a cancer patient who feels overwhelmed.
What is Hoarding Cleaning?
Hoarding cleaning is when a company comes in and works with you to remove only what you want to be removed and get a home or structure back to a livable or usable condition. This might mean you take everything out. Then you sort items into areas or piles to distinguish what goes back or what gets donated and what gets discarded. Three piles seem to be the key. Keep, Trash, and Donate. Hoarding cleaning is different than housecleaning in the fact that people with hoarding disorder are usually unwilling to part with items that have no significant value. Sometimes, to a person suffering from hoarding disorder, every item has a purpose and a function. This type of thinking is often brain-based and social workers or psychologists are involved. Police may have ordered the cleanout, and a compassionate team is readily available to help on the day of the intervention.
Hoarding Cleaning Interventions
Sometimes families find themselves in situations beyond their control, and the clutter has run amok. Remember, these times can be highly sensitive and embarrassing for families, especially if it is an estate cleanout. Hoarding was originally called Collyer Syndrome because there were two brothers that literally filled their Harlem estate with garbage and buried themselves in it. There are times that cluttering becomes hoarding, and there are specific instances when people who are overwhelmed with grief appear to have a hoarding disorder. In The Age of Overwhelm, a book related to trauma and it’s aftermath, clutter and feeling stuck, the main premise is to just do something. One thing done is positive and changes a person’s outlook. Another day of cleaning, or just getting one room done can feel like an accomplishment and will propel the momentum forward.
There are times that interventions are staged. If a property has become so overrun, families or cities may call for an intervention. You can call in professional organizers and companies to do the job and get the cleanup underway.
Hoarding Cleaning and 5 Levels of Hoarding
There are five levels of hoarding based on the functionality of each room in the home as an entity. There is a 16-page clutter-Hoarding Scale, developed by the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. You can download the entire document here.
The fifth level, the worst level, and represented by the color red, involves feces and rodent infestation. It also involves electrical and water service no longer working in the property.
The fourth level, the orange or high level is where there are sewer backups, hazardous electrical wiring, fleas, and rotting food on counters. Lice may be present on bedding and there will be evidence of pet damage to the home that has gone unrepaired
The third is hoarding level three. Colored yellow and titled: elevated, level three involves one bedroom or bathroom mostly unusable. Excessive dust will be present and there may be heavily soiled food preparation areas. Extraordinarily strong odors will linger throughout the home, and there may be mold. An excessive number of pets may be present as well as visible clutter outdoors.
Next, a blue or guarded level of hoarding describes level two. Clutter is pervasive in two or more rooms in the home. Light odors will be present as well as overflowing garbage cans or garbage that is piled up and not removed from the home. There will be evidence of light mildew in kitchens and bathrooms. Surprisingly, one exit may be blocked. There will be some pet dander or pet waste. Puddles from animals will remain uncleaned. There is also limited evidence of housekeeping.
Finally, a hoarding level one is categorized as low and represented by the color green. This level is where the clutter is not excessive, but present and represents a level one. All the doors and stairways are accessible, although there may be evidence of tunneling. There are no orders present in the home, and the home is considered safe and sanitary. This house could be cleaned by a regular house cleaner.
How do I clean a hoarder’s house?
There are many pieces of advice and many ways to go about cleaning out an estate or property. Companies specialize in helping seniors downsize. Organizers abound. If you can, break the cleaning into small chunks. Have someone work by your side to sort, organize, and transport unwanted items out of the house.
Call a junk removal service like ServiceMaster or rent your own dumpster. Depending on the size of the project, consider parsing out portions of the cleanup.
Now, Hoarding Disorder is listed as a mental health issue and it affects many people when you think that everyone who stuffs their home has someone who cares about them. Sometimes they have many people who care about them, and they do not need help with the job of cleaning out the estate. You need to know that a one-time cleaning of a person suffering from true hoarding disorder will only start them on the path back to accumulating things. You will want to consider moving them into a smaller, more manageable space. Sometimes, families just seal off basements or attics, so there is less space to clutter, thereby keeping seniors in their homes. If someone is suffering from overwhelm, a complete cleanout will be received as a gift and it may be the only time that help is needed.
Hoarding cleaning of spaces is always a good idea. Good intentions and compassion must be present. If you find yourself needing help, contact us. We will gladly do our part of removing and cleaning items from the home.