7 Secrets to Organizing a Hoarder’s Home

For those with hoarding disorder, getting rid of possessions is extraordinarily difficult. This is the case even if the item doesn’t hold any value, either monetarily or emotionally.

Hoarders feel they need to save things and become distressed at even the thought of throwing away something. They may even offer excuses like, “I plan on selling that at a yard sale.†Or, “I’m saving that for a friend.â€

Whether you’re cleaning up your own house, or that of someone you know, here are 7 secrets to organizing a hoarder’s home.

1. Be understanding.

If you struggle with hoarding disorder, practice self-care. Don’t beat yourself up about past actions. Identify the problem and move forward.

If you’re working with a family member, friend or neighbor, practice empathic listening. What may seem like an easy decision for you may be an arduous process for someone who struggles with hoarding. Be patient and stay positive.

2. Consult other professionals.

If necessary, contact professionals in your area for help. If you don’t know where to look, city and county officials can point you in the right direction.

Professional organizers will help you sort through what items can be donated or thrown away and give advice on how best to organize the rest of your belongings. Biohazard specialists dispose of dangerous materials like blood, animal droppings and certain types of trash. Therapists identify the compulsive behavior and provide long-term support.

3. Wear protective clothing.

Depending on the types of items contained in the hoarder’s home, and how long “stuff†has been allowed to accumulate, you may need to wear protective garments.

ALWAYS wear close-toed shoes to prevent yourself from stepping on broken glass or other sharp objects. Wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt you don’t mind getting dirty. If excessive animal feces or other biohazards are present, wear protective eyewear, gloves and a particulate respirator mask.

4. Grab the right gear.

At a minimum, you’ll need a few basic supplies to begin the cleanup. Bring heavy-duty trash bags, a few empty boxes, some masking tape and a few Sharpie markers. You’ll also want a small stepstool or ladder, broom, vacuum, flashlight and first-aid kit. And don’t forget cleaning supplies like Lysol, bleach, all-purpose cleaner and plenty of paper towels.

5. Clean the bathroom first.

Hoarding cleanups are a marathon. You’ll most likely be working all day and will inevitably need to use the restroom. At a minimum, clean out a walkway to the toilet and sink. Make sure the facilities are in good enough condition to use. Bleach the toilet and disinfect the counter.

6. Sort through the clutter.

Before you organize, it’s important to get rid of as much “stuff†as possible. Create 3 piles: keep, donate and throw away. If there isn’t room inside for the piles, move the items outside and use tarps if necessary.

Ask questions to decide what should go where.

  • Does this item work? Things in good condition can be donated to a local charity.
  • Why am I saving it? A meaningful heirloom is worth keeping. A large collection of hotel shampoo bottles is not.
  • Is this a duplicate? Make sure to keep only one of each item.

For large donation piles, ask The Salvation Army or another charity to arrange a pickup. That will get everything out of the house immediately and avoid any inadvertent regression.

7. Take breaks.

Bring plenty of bottled water and non-perishable snacks. You’ll need to keep your energy up as you clean throughout the day. If the weather is nice, go outside and get some fresh air. The homes of hoarders tend to be stuffy and full of dust and other allergens. A little sunshine will go a long way.

Do you need hands on help or online coaching? Call us at 925-548-7750

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