Helping a Hoarder
How to Help a Hoarder
If you know someone with hoarding tendencies, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to cleaning out their home. Hoarding is a serious psychological disorder which makes it difficult for a person to throw away anything and everything. Before helping a hoarder clean, we advise seeking out professional help for them. Once their disorder is addressed by medical professionals and mental health experts, you can be a part of their journey to health by helping them clean.
Identify Hoarding and Finding Professional Help
If you know someone you suspect has a hoarding disorder, take some time to learn about it. Hoarding is a very serious condition that can effect a persons emotional, social, financial, and even physical state.
The behaviors and situations below are tell-tale signs of compulsive hoarding:
- Avoids throwing away possessions that have no value to them or anyone else.
- Experiences mild to severe anxiety about getting rid of anything.
- Repeatedly adding to the hoard without recognition that there is a problem.
- Rooms in their home can no longer be used for their intended purpose.
- Possessions are negatively impacting their safety, health or hygiene.
These tendencies can vary in severity, if you do recognize more than one of these symptoms in your loved one, we suggest finding a professional to assist before moving forward.
The International OCD Foundation can help you find a local therapist who specializes in hoarding disorder.
Cleaning and Organizing The Home
Once you’ve brought in professional help and addressed the underlying issues of their hoarding tendencies, you can start helping your loved one clean their home. If your loved one has a level three or higher disorder, you may want to consider working with a team of professionals who specialize in the disorder, and are trained health professionals to improve the living conditions. A professional organizer can be a huge help if your resources allow.
If you decide to work with an organizing professional, they can guide you through the process. If not, use the steps below to get started.
Step 1: Talk About Cleaning and Organizing
The first to cleaning out a hoarder’s home, is to start a conversation with your loved one. Tell them about your plans and emphasize the ideas of safety and confidentiality. Discuss how cleaning their home will make it safer to live in and be sure to communicate that you’re only there for support, not to judge. Professional organizer Rachel Sager says it’s important to involve your mental health professional in these conversations as well. Try to remember, they are the owners of their stuff, and should be in charge of the process. Talk with the person to understand how the items they are keeping meet their end goal, whatever their end goal may be.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Once all parties involved have agreed it is time to start cleaning the hoarder’s home, you will need to create an action plan to complete the project. Work with your loved one to create a plan they approve of and are ready to attempt.
Follow these tips for making a plan to clean a hoarder’s home:
- Determine criteria for getting rid of items: Sit down with your loved one and help them create a list of criteria to determine if something can be thrown away. Remember that these are their belongings and they are in charge of this process. Write down the criteria so everyone assisting can refer to them as needed. An example could be: All mail older than six months can be thrown away.
- Make a schedule: Decide the order you will tackle the rooms and how much time you’ll plan to spend in each room. Remember, tackling rooms individually is much more manageable than tackling the whole house.
- Set Goals: Setting goals is an important step in helping someone with hoarding tendencies. Set concrete and attainable goals to keep everyone motivated. A goal could be organizing their items and moving them to an area of the house that can be used for storage; clearing enough space in entrances and hallways to improve accessibility and safety; or clearing a space where they will feel comfortable hosting company.
Step 3: Figure Out a Waste Removal Plan
When cleaning out a hoarder’s home, you’ll need to figure out a waste removal plan. As you go through the home, you’ll want to have a fast and simple solution for the waste. Consider renting a dumpster for this part of the project, you can take your time filling the dumpster and have it removed as soon as your work is done.
Step 4: Start Organizing the Home
Now that you’ve got a waste removal strategy in place, it’s time to start organizing the home. Remember, cleaning and organizing are two different things. Start with decluttering the home, then organizing, and finally begin cleaning. Make a plan and go room by room, be sure to identify and throw away any worthless clutter, create piles for items to be kept and donated as well.
Remember, helping someone with a hoarding disorder can be incredibly challenging. It’s an emotionally exhausting process, especially when it’s someone you care for. Try to stay positive and be patient, take breaks and encourage your loved one.
If you know someone suffering from a hoarding disorder, and need help removing the waste contact us at Waste Solutions 123.