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How to Clean a Hoarder’s House

A guest post by Sara Thompson, Gresham Sanitary Service, Gresham, Oregon

You have probably seen these homes on TV, or maybe you’ve seen them in person. People known as “hoarders” Hoarder Homecompulsively accumulate any and all kinds of things in their homes until it is packed to the ceilings with their every possession. Hoarders usually have an inability to let go of unnecessary items and clean their environment. In some cases, hoarders’ homes become dilapidated and dangerous. If you are managing such a property, this can present a serious problem, but with careful planning and consideration, your house can be habitable once again.

Dealing With a Hoarding Problem People who become hoarders are in need of help, both with the situation at hand, and in terms of dealing with the disorder. Concerned family members and friends should have the hoarder examined by a doctor, and perhaps consult a therapist.

Helping the hoarder also involves completely cleaning out and organizing the home. Piles of clutter can make a home unlivable, creating both safety and sanitation issues. Thus, it’s critical for the home to be cleaned and organized before more problems arise. Possible issues involve fire (due to blocked exits, and huge amounts of paper and flammable objects) as well as the danger of illness from unsanitary conditions in the kitchen and bathroom.

Creating a Strategy People who are involved with a hoarding cleanup project need to develop a strategy for cleaning the home, as many hoarding situations can become overwhelming. The best strategy is to break the cleanup into several projects, thus making the cleanup more doable. Here’s a list of jobs that will need to be accomplished in order to clean a hoarder’s home:

  1. Assess the situation. Take a look at the overall clutter in the home and prioritize the work that needs to be done. It can be helpful to start in a small places like closets and bathrooms. When one small space is cleaned out quickly, it can motivate you to move on to bigger tasks.
  2. Sanitize the worst areas first. Some hoarders seriously neglect sanitation in the bathroom and kitchen, which can lead to health hazards. These areas should be cleaned out and sanitized first, especially if there are areas with pet or human feces. While this is often a disgusting task, it can go rather quickly because you shouldn’t have to sift through items worth keeping. Most of what is in a bathroom, like half-empty shampoo bottles and expired toiletries can be trashed without consideration. The cleanup crew should bring plastic bags, mops, rubber gloves and disposable cleaning items like sponges and wipes to deal with the cleanup.
  3. Do a major decluttering of useless objects. Some objects in the home may be useable if cleaned. Other items, like leftover mail, old newspapers and trash, must simply be disposed of. The junk items should be thrown out first before dealing with reusable items.
  4. Get a drop box from a waste disposal company to help deal with major junk items. These large waste containers can be rented by the day at reasonable rates, depending on the time frame and size of the container. Many companies will pick up the full container and dispose of the waste once the job is done.
  5. Once the home has been cleared of waste items and sanitized, sort through the other items. Make three piles for clothing and other items, and sort them into piles of what can be reused once cleaned, what should be given to charity, and what can be sold.

Creating a clean environment for a hoarder is a healing and healthy act. It’s a great gift to give a person who needs help. It can also be very rewarding for you as a property manager when the home has become rentable again.

This blog submission is only for purposes of disseminating information. It does not constitute legal advice. The statements in this blog submission do not necessarily reflect the opinions of RPM Midlands or its clients. No attorney-client relationship is formed by virtue of reading this blog entry or submitting a comment thereto. If you need legal advice, please hire a licensed attorney in your state.

We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. See Equal Housing Opportunity Statement for more information.

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