When A Loved One is A Hoarder
Having a loved one who is a hoarder can be a painful, difficult, infuriating, and traumatic experience. You tend to make excuses for them and ask whether arguing over rubbish is worth it… all the while trying to remember that it is not rubbish to them.
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I have experienced literally having a tug of war over a plastic bag filled with empty toothpaste tubes.
I have put things into the rubbish or recycling bin, only to find that everything I put in was being taken out and brought back inside the house.
I have walked inside a loved one’s home, where there was no place to sit because every surface was taken.
When a Loved One Asks for Your Help
When my loved one asked me for help, I hesitated. I knew that even if I did something, that it would all go back to the way it is – why bother? But they admitted to feeling overwhelmed. So I helped. Why? Because asking for help is the first step for your loved one. Not just a first step – a BIG first step. SO – Let’s begin.
How to Clean A Hoarder’s House
1. Understand the Practice of Hoarding
Before we talk about cleaning a hoarder’s house, it’s important to understand what a what hoarding is. As it stands, hoarding is often loosely misused.
Just because you have a 50 odd hair ties in your drawer, it does not mean you are a hoarder. Having 100 books you may or may not have read does not make you a hoarder.
Hoarding is not to be confused with Collecting. Collecting old stamps is not hoarding. Hoarding can either be a disorder on its own… or be a symptom of another disorder – like anxiety or depression.
Hoarding behavior can be seen in the quantity of items collected – and let me tell you… it’s not always a quantity of newspapers, plastic containers, or supplies that you will find. This behavior can manifest itself in the way of the person collecting what they see as one-of-a-kind items that in actual fact have no value to you or me (like wooden hangers); collecting freebies (like posters or flyers); or never saying no to bargains (even when they are bargains from thrift shops).
Some Symptoms of Hoarding
- Unable to throw away or let go of things with no value
- Gets anxious when trying to get rid of things
- Unable to organize the items
- Feeling overwhelmed when trying to tidy up or organize the home
- Fear of running out things
Why do people Hoard?
People hoard for many different reasons, mostly in response to their disorder whether it be depression or another kind of trigger.
The obvious reason being that they feel that the items they keep will be of value or use some day. The less obvious – and probably the reason they get away with it – is because they feel the things they keep have sentimental value that cannot be replaced.
2. Get the Hoarder Out of the House
If possible, you should organize for the person to be out of the house. Perhaps you have a relative that they can stay with for some time? I’ll be honest now in saying that it cannot be done in one day – unless you have a whole team of people helping you like in the TV shows. I did it on my own, and it took me 9 days. NINE DAYS!
3. Organize Your Supplies
You will need at least the following:
- Rubbish Bags – Large
- Recycling Bags – Large
- Rubber Gloves
- Multipurpose Disinfectant Spray
- Vacuum Cleaner
If you can get the following, even better:
- Large Boxes – Labeled for Donation
- Hire a Skip
4. Start With the First Room By the Main Door
The reason you should start with the first room by the main door is that you want to make space. If you start with any other room in the house, you will find yourself – well… trapped.
5. Begin Sorting – Throw / Recycle / Donate
You should always have 3 bags (or boxes) with you in each room.
- Throw – Anything that is obviously rubbish. There will be heaps of it.
- Donate – Anything that can be used, but is not needed in this particular home you are cleaning. Again… there will be heaps of it; so do not hesitvate. I donated 110 clothes hangers!
- Recycle – Anything that cannot be donated, but is of recycling material ie, plastic, paper, or glass.
Tip: When you are sorting through things, there are many times that you will hesitate – that’s okay. Think about the person who lives in the house. What have you seen them actually use? Keep only what you know is of real sentimental value to them, for example photos.
6. Clean As You Go
I know this sounds redundant, since you’re already cleaning as it is. But trust me – as you begin to clear up some space… go ahead and vacuum those floors and spray and wipe those surfaces. Seeing clear spaces will help you to keep moving forward.
7. Take Regular Breaks
As I mentioned before, it can be a very difficult experience; and you will feel a myriad of emotions while you are doing this herculean task. Allow yourself to take breaks – you deserve it.
Take the bags marked for donation to the thrift shops / op shops at the end of every day that you are clearing up. Not only does this clear up the space, it also helps you see progress in what you are doing.
Now – as I said, it takes time. It took me 9 days to do it for a 2 bedroom house.
After you’ve finished, it is a good idea to do some regular maintenance. Remember that your loved one is hoarding for a reason – so it is bound to get out of hand again, if you let it.
You can do this! Good luck xo
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