Before cleaning you should:
- Earn the hoarders trust so that they will choose to follow through with cleaning. Let them know that you can be relied upon throughout the process and that you will not get rid of any of their items without their permission.
- Find a hoarding therapist, this is important to do before cleaning starts, to begin addressing the underlying psychological issues that may be causing the hoarding behavior. There are therapists that specialize in treating hoarding disorder that you can approach who will be able to help with your specific situation.
The Mayo Clinic defines Hoarding Disorder as, “a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them” (Mayo Clinic). It is important to remember that this perceived need to keep items causes negative emotions in the mind of the hoarder when it comes time to remove an item so gaining the trust of the hoarder from the beginning is important. When the hoarder trusts you, they know that you will not get rid of any of their items without their permission and that you have their best interest at heart during the cleaning process. Hoarding interventions from loved ones of the hoarder are sometimes needed to develop trust and get the hoarder on the road to recovery. After you have gained the trust of the hoarder and they have agreed to move forward with the cleaning project you and the hoarder must decide if you want to go through with cleaning the home yourselves or use a hoarding cleanup service.
For many hoarders and their loved ones do it yourself cleaning is too overwhelming but if you decide to try, keep the following cleaning tips for hoarders in mind.
Cleaning Tips for Hoarders:
- Invest at least 15 Minutes Every Day in Cleaning
- Start Small to Avoid Mental Overwhelm (focus on one room at a time)
- Use an Organization System (The 3 Container Method)
- Follow Through with Consistent Cleaning
- Stop Taking in New Things - “One in, two out” (buy one item, remove two items)
- Donate Items to Charity! (501c3 tax deductible*)
*Check with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) before deciding where to donate to determine if the donation will be tax deductible.
Hiring a hoarding cleanup service makes the cleaning process easier, not only because they physically do the cleaning themselves but because they will work with the hoarder to confirm which items are of value and should be kept. Also, hoarding cleanup services will work in combination with a mental health professional and the hoarder to organize the house in a way that will help cope with their feelings and loss of connection with their items. If you would like to investigate using a professional hoarding cleanup service, read the tips below to help your decision making.
Guide: Helping a Hoarder Clean Using a Professional Hoarding Cleanup Service (9 Tips)
- Earn the Hoarder’s Trust Before You Address Cleaning the Home
- Seek Professional Help through Therapy & Hoarding Cleanup Service
- Follow up with the Hoarder Until the Cleanup is Complete
- Prioritize Safety for All Involved in the Project
- Let the Hoarder Know You Agree that the Items Are Important
- Let the Hoarder Know that You Will Keep Everything Confidential
- Help the Hoarder Find Out Why They Have Hoarding Behaviors with a Respectful Tone
- Promote Donating Items to Give Value to the Item Being Let Go
- Be Patient on Progress Made on the Project by the Hoarder
See each tip explained below.
1. Earn the Hoarder’s Trust Before You Address Cleaning the Home
As mentioned above, earn the hoarder’s trust in your intentions. Place yourself in the hoarder's situation, most likely there will be a lot of emotion attached to the idea of having a hoarding cleanup company moving or removing items in their home so having trust that they will not remove any items without their permission is key to getting the hoarder to agree to a cleanup project. Also, let the hoarder know that you will be there for them throughout the cleaning process for support, including afterward. Make sure that you communicate to the hoarder that you trust the hoarding cleanup company that is coming in to do the cleanup project to help develop trust between the hoarder and the cleaning team. A good hoarding cleanup company will know the emotional vulnerability of the hoarder coming into the project and will communicate and interact with the hoarder with this in mind to gain their trust.
2. Seek Professional Help Through Therapy & Hoarding Cleanup Service
Again, there are hoarding therapists and hoarding cleanup services to find that specialize in treating hoarding disorder and cleaning for hoarders that you can approach who will be able to help with your specific situation. Do not go to a general therapist or cleaning company, treating hoarding disorder requires a specialized approach to psychological treatment and cleaning and organization. Experienced hoarding cleanup companies will be able to work with the hoarder and their mental health professional to get the best result possible for the cleaning project and help put the hoarder on the road to recovery.
3. Follow up with the Hoarder Until the Cleanup is Complete
Follow up on the project so that the hoarder is motivated to follow through too. Do not get angry if there is a lack of progress. Getting angry may cause the hoarder to stop the project, slowing down the process. In hoarding situations where the authorities are involved (when a law has been broken or code violations have been found) not following through on the timeline set forth by the authorities is especially important. A benefit of a good hoarding cleanup company is that they will help keep the project to a specified timeline and work with the hoarder to complete the project on time.
4. Highlight that Cleaning & Organization Leads to a Safer Home
Respectfully highlight safety issues to the hoarder to help motivate them to cleanup and improve their standard of living with psychological and physical selfcare along with cleaning and organization. Hopefully, over the long term, this will also motivate the hoarder to change their lifestyle with consistent selfcare, cleaning, and organizing. A reputable hoarding cleanup company will teach the hoarders they work with about good cleaning and organizational habits, keeping the long-term wellbeing of the hoarder and the safety of all participating in the project in mind throughout the project.
5. Let the Hoarder Know You Agree that their Items Are Important
Let the hoarder know you agree that their items are important. This will help earn their trust to allow you and others to handle their things. Items have an emotional connection to a hoarder so they should be thought of as important to all involved. Speaking with the hoarder, a good hoarding cleanup company can determine what items the hoarder has less attachment to and would be ready to remove now and what may need to be negotiated to make progress.
6. Let the Hoarder Know that You Will Keep Everything Confidential
Usually, hoarders like to keep their lifestyle a secret because they realize that their living situation is not normal to the average person. To keep the hoarder on your side, promise not to talk about anything related to their situation to anyone without their permission. A knowledgeable hoarding cleanup company will know to come to the project without identifying company details on clothes, vehicles, or any other public facing object to keep the project private and they will never speak to anyone about the nature of the project without the hoarder’s permission.
7. Help the Hoarder Find Out Why They Hoard, with a Respectful Tone
In combination with a mental health professional, helping the hoarder find the reason behind why they are keeping these items is very important to the recovery process. For many hoarders the cause of their hoarding behavior is a traumatic experience such as a death in the family, a loved one leaving them, an abusive relationship, or any other traumatic experience from their past. It is important to find the answer to this question for the recovery process but ask the question in a respectful tone & let the answer come in due time if the hoarder does not know. If you are interested in reading more about why people hoard try Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things” by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. An effective hoarding cleanup company will be able to work with the hoarder to create healthy cleaning and organizational habits based off the work the hoarder does with their mental health professional.
8. Promote Donating Items to Give Value to the Item Being Let Go
Everyone loves to help the needy, so let the hoarder know their extra stuff may go to better use if they allow it to be given to someone in need. Some professional hoarding cleanup companies will donate your items to charity for you as a part of their service.
9. Be Patient on Progress Made on the Project by the Hoarder
Be patient with the hoarder, especially when progress is slow, the project must be taken one step at a time. If you try to go to quickly out of impatience, the hoarder may become overwhelmed. Many well-meaning people make a large task list for the hoarder, trying to make the process go faster, unfortunately this often overwhelms the hoarder and results in making the project go slower. A good hoarding cleanup company will know to separate out tasks for the hoarder individually, instead of giving them all the tasks, this helps the hoarder focus on one task at a time, avoiding overwhelm for the hoarder.
Hiring a professional hoarding cleanup service will not only help make the cleanup process easier and teach the hoarder good cleaning and organization skills but it may help preserve the relationship between you and the hoarder. Reputable hoarding cleanup services work with the hoarder and a mental health professional and as a team they will be able to identify what should be given away and what should be kept, with the final permission of the hoarder.
Find a Hoarding Therapist: Hoarding Therapist
Why do Hoarders Hoard: Randy Frost and Gail Steketee Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things”