When people hear the word ‘hoarder,’ oftentimes their only familiarity with it stems from how it’s portrayed in media. This misrepresentation and dramatized view of the condition can be damaging to those who suffer from it.
So what causes hoarding? And how do you help a hoarder? First, let’s talk about what is a hoarder and what isn’t.
What is a Hoarder?
Hoarding is a complicated and often misunderstood condition. By Mayo Clinic’s definition, it’s when a person has persistent difficulty parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. It can be a standalone issue, or a symptom of another condition. It can range from mild cases which involve clutter, to severe cases that create unsanitary and unsafe living conditions. Whatever the severity of it is, without intervention, it only worsens with time, which can negatively impact the hoarder’s mental and physical health as well as the relationships in their life.
Many people lump collecting items with hoarding, but there is a difference. Collecting does not necessarily negatively impact a person’s life, whereas hoarding involves emotional attachments and not being able to let go. A predisposition to a hoarding disorder can begin when a person is going through puberty, at around ages 11-15, but it’s more common in older adults.
As far as causes go, there is no single clear cause for why a person develops a hoarding disorder. It could be genetic, (having a predisposition to indecisiveness) or triggered by stressful life events.
How to Help a Hoarder Clean
If someone you care about suffers from hoarding, it’s understandable you want to help them clean their living area. Hoarding does not only affect the individual’s life but the people who love them as well.
First and foremost, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and support. You may want to know how to help a hoarder get rid of things, and while this is possible, it’s a delicate matter that must be handled with support and understanding.
Never, ever clean their space without their knowledge or permission. To the hoarder, every item they have is valuable to them in some way, even if you may perceive it as trash. One of the most difficult parts about helping hoarders is most of them do not believe they have a problem. It can seem impossible to know how to help a hoarder who doesn’t want help. Agreeing to help is a huge step forward, and it’s important to acknowledge any positive change.
If they have agreed to some help, there are some minor levels of cleaning you can help them with, mostly tasks that don’t involve getting rid of their stuff. For example, you can help wash their dishes/put them away. Or, you can clean their bedding.
However, it can be very difficult to complete these minor cleaning tasks if the hoarder’s stuff is in the way of everything. This is when you should look into hiring a professional cleaning service.
When to Bring in a Professional
There are many reasons to hire a professional cleaning service rather than doing hoarder cleanup all on your own. For one, there is a lot of overwhelming mental stress involved in such a large cleaning task. It can be very mentally taxing navigating how to deal with a hoarder, especially one you love.
Hiring professional help for hoarder house cleaning is not only better for your mental stress levels, but for safety reasons too. A disinfection services company is especially vital when the hoarding is beginning to pose a risk to the hoarder’s health and safety. Severe clutter in tiny areas can create serious fire hazards, as well as a greater potential for mold. When these areas aren’t sanitized for long periods of time, they also attract animals like bugs and rodents, whose feces pose another health risk.
Typically, a professional hoarding cleaning service will first help provide decluttering services. They are specially trained to conduct this with the utmost kindness and compassion. The goal of most of these companies is not only to clean, but to teach the hoarder how to organize and keep their space clean using various methods, so the hoarder is less likely to relapse. It’s always important to focus on the person just as much as—if not more—than the stuff.
With proper PPE, these companies will then provide the necessary cleaning and disinfection services, to rid the living space of any potential diseases, unhealthy substances, and pollutants in the air.
When looking into hiring a cleaning company, just make sure it’s one that is certified/specialized in helping hoarders. They should not only be trained in cleaning/disinfecting, but helping the hoarder psychologically as well.