How to Clean A Hoarder’s House When It Feels Impossible


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.

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.

Now before we begin, let me tell you – I am not a psychiatrist, and I speak only from experience. You can learn more about Hoarding from the American Psychiatric Association HERE.

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 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 number 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.

If there are children involved, it may be a good idea to read THISOr you personally might benefit from THIS.

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.

Before and After - How to clean a hoarders house in 10 easy steps

5. Begin Sorting – Throw / Recycle / Donate

You should always have 3 bags (or boxes) with you in each room.

  1. Throw – Anything that is obviously rubbish. There will be heaps of it.
  2. 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 hesitate. I donated 110 clothes hangers!
  3. 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.

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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.

8. Donate

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 space, but it also helps you see progress in what you are doing.

9. Repeat 

Now – as I said, it takes time. It took me 9 days to do it for a 2 bedroom house.

10. Maintain

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

Shop Your Resources To Get Started

Large 30 Gallon Trash Bags – Multipurpose




Hefty Recycling Bags – 13 Gallon, 60 Count



Purell Multi-Surface Disinfectant Spray


Canister Vacuum HEPA Sealed – Powerful Deep Cleaner




Get Organized - This Blended Home of Mine

10 Easy Steps to Cleaning A Hoarder's House When It Feels Impossible - This Blended Home of Mine - Cleaning, How to clean, Hoarder
10 Easy Steps to Cleaning A Hoarder's House When It Feels Impossible - This Blended Home of Mine - Cleaning, How to clean, Hoarder
How to Clean a Hoarder's House When It Feels Impossible - This Blended Home of Mine _ Hoarder Help - organizing tips, cleaning tips

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34 thoughts

  1. cupcake1007 says:

    I have some hoarding tendencies that are in direct contrast with me OCD which is the only reason I think I don’t have this problem. These tips are awesome and the progress impressive. Thank you for sharing.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      I’m glad that you don’t have this problem. It can be quite difficult to deal with. We’re now focused on maintaining it xx

      1. Hordergrandma says:

        Your article was helpful. The first time someone called me a horder, I was so offended. After all, I had to give or vermin and there wasn’t so much filth as there is mountains of stuff! It took years and lots of reading and I’m trying to understand how I got here so I can change it. My son rented a dumpster and hired friends to help but he told me to sort and they would throw out. Turns out he told them to ignore me. I shut down. I tried to explain the anxiety to him as irrational as it is, but he felt like I was just taking advantage. So now a year later I just get it cleaned. My daughter is due to give birth and because of personal issues can’t care for the baby. There is no way social services will accept this. I have a chronic painful condition, so it’s difficult. I haven’t brought new stuff home in a couple years but my son doesn’t believe that. We no longer have a relationship and were once very close. I don’t expect him to understand but empathy would be nice. I want a different life. I want to care for my grandbaby. It is overwhelming but I vowed to at least throw out two large bags daily even if I don’t feel so great. On good days, much more. Wish me luck and the strength to make a normal life that I deserve.

  2. These are really great tips and good to use with every day and a deep house cleaning too.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      I now use it for our home too – it just makes so much sense and makes things a lot easier especially when done regularly.

  3. I can’t say I’ve ever known a hoarder but these are great tips for some deep cleaning and decluttering!

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      I know right? I now use the same and do it monthly in my own home 🙂

  4. So important to go about this with sensitivity and love. Thanks for highlighting this issue and providing practical tips.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      Thanks Helen. Yes, it certainly it is important. It has been a difficult road and I hope that people gain some takeaways from our experience xx

  5. This is my worst nightmare. I am a bit OCD about cleaning and minimalism and cleaning a house like this would completely overwhelm me. Great tips and truly such an important topic to address.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      Thanks Bethany. I’m the same and I had to take so many breaks to keep from reaching my breaking point 🙁 It’s so important to be able to deal with it in a sensitive manner.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      Thanks Meghan 🙂

  6. Amy Groves says:

    I grew up with a single parent mother who is Hoarder now that i’m 34 yrs old with my own family I want her house to be clean an picked up so my family and I can go visit her an she can even have her 2 grand children to visit an stay overnight but it is difficult to convince her that I want her to be able to enjoy a nice clean picked up house an invite family and friends over. I need all the advice I can get to help my mother.

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      Hi Amy.I definitely understand what you mean about the children having a place to stay when they visit. I’m the same. It really is quite difficult because whenever I raise the subject, my mother gets very defensive and eventually… very upset. Some days will show progress, while other days will highlight regression. I must say – at this very moment, “we” have regressed once again. I guess we all just need to take it one day at a time. The place is back to its previous state. Big hug xx

      1. Paula Duet says:

        I have been through this for my own hoarding. I suffer with OCD to the extreme of hoarding. Anxiety, depression, panic attacks. It’s terrible to deal with. I have 2 bedroom house that was cleaned and beat by family problem was they did it without my knowledge. So things were thrown out I would like to have kept. Anyway it lasted a few years then things became difficult again. I was overwhelmed. Couldn’t handle it anymore. I moved into small apartment at independent living which I love but still fight the urge. Now I’m at a crossroads in deciding on what to do with my house. Having read your article this gives me hope. I’m going to start one room at a time by myself. This is something I must do. Need all the encouragement I can get and suggestions.

  7. Hi Amy, I believe that individuals who keep things,that no longer serve them a positive purpose any longer, are perhaps psychologically frozen, in a survival state, so to speak. People, places and things, come and go, but they can not move past the items that are attached to the people, and the places, associated with them. For them, it is difficult to move past the moment when they actually purchased, received or some how acquired the item or items. Many people consider this type of behavior to be merely an anxiety disorder. I believe that it is a unique form of survival, that is not quite understood yet, much like the Autism Spectrum Disorders, in fact, I suspect that it could be a form of intellectual Autism. There is a medication that I have seen work wonders in these type of situations. It is called LDN, or Low Dose Naltrexone. It is incredible, in that it actually encourages the body and mind, to heal itself. It is also being used to help cure Crohns Diseasem Multiple Sclerosis, and many other conditions. It is prescription, therefore must be prescribed by a doctor. I also wanted to say, that I admire your desire to help, and to understand this painful condition. We are learning more about each other, with every day that passes. I think that is a good thing.

    1. Paula Duet says:

      Cathy Jean, you have good insight. Ive suffered with OCD/hoarding/anxiety/depression for years yes I’m on meds and therapy. It is an ongoing thing unfortunately.. I have not heard of this Low Dose Naltrexone. Is it new? I will ask my Dr about it.

      1. Jeanine Hoffas says:

        My boyfriend is a compulsive hoarder and is in therapy for 4 months. He barely began scratching the surface. I am not sure how effective she is. I just need to put it in God’s hands. Hopefully he will make progress as time goes on.

  8. I am glad you mentioned that after you are finished cleaning you should have a regular maintenance plan. When we were helping my grandma clean up her home we had to get a biohazard cleaning company to help us. I’m grateful for all the tips on cleaning a hoarder’s home.

  9. Thanks for the advice on helping a loved one with hoarding. I think you made a great point that you should get the person out of the house before you begin organizing and throwing things away and that it can take a really long time to do it on your own. I can’t believe you were able to do it all in nine days! think if I had to clean out a home I would probably hire someone to save me the time, but it’s great that you were able to do that.

  10. So we have huge storage spaces and all the clutter was pretty organised there and my home is almost always very neat tidy and sort of minimalstic but because the stuff in the store rooms had not been used for some twenty years so we thought of getting rid of it and then it all happened, we opened the pandora box and for the past two months our home is as messy and filthy as can be, all the clutter is spread all over the place and it’s so overwhelming, I don’t think my home will ever be the same again, i am frustrated🤧

    1. You and I are in the same boat. I moved from a 2 BR, 2 BA home with a garage. Now,. I am in a 1 BR, 1 BA apartment and I feel like my “stuff” is taking over. What I realize that you (and I) would have to do, is some serious purging. I have a policy of touch it once…meaning only handle the item once and then assign it to a purpose…Donate, trash, and keep… Do not stop until the whole room is complete and then move onto the next task. It will get done slowly, but surely.

  11. I am very concerned about removing the loved one from the home. I didn’t work with hoarders as a Professional Organizer, but many friends did & do. There is a very good chance this will make things worse for the hoarder if you just go in like this, I would talk with a Professional before removing the loves one from the situation & make sure they understand what is going on…

    1. thisblendedhomeofmine says:

      Thanks, Gretchen. I agree with you, which is why I said, when my loved one asked me for help, I hesitated. I also state that I am not a psychiatrist, and I speak only from experience. The reason I say that if possible, you should organize for the person to be out of the house, is because having the person around can be a difficult experience for them. I’m not saying that it’s always possible. In my case, they admitted to feeling overwhelmed. So I helped. Why? Because asking for help is the first step for your loved one. It’s a difficult situation to be in.

  12. I am currently helping my sis-in-law clean up her home…it’s taking me 3 days to clean the play room room, 6 hours a day. Thankfully, she was the one to ask for help. It’s so bad that I will have to wait till the summer when I have another week off to do the living room. Christmas tree is still up and I can not see any space in the living room. Youre a champ! This was a very encouraging read!

  13. Any advice on how to clean out a hoarders home when the hoarder needs and insists on doing it their way? My dad insisted he needs to go through it all himself. I can see him coming up with a reason to save everything and it’s too big of a job. His heath is also, not the best. I want to hire someone to just get rid of everything. I know if I do that he will be beyond pissed off. I have POA so it’s not like I’ll get in trouble with anyone but him- even though it’s for his best interest. The house has been empty now for almost two years… and very little has been done to clean it out- it’s just getting worse (mostly the yard). I think it’s best to get rid of the house because it needs so much work, and my dad can’t go back to it- at least not in the condition it’s in. It was hard enough getting him out of the house. When I go to the house I see trash… and he sees things he thinks maybe someone would want. His house smells so bad though that everything seems to have an awful odor and he really only collects junk. I am the executor of his will. I really want to deal with the house now and not when he passes away. I also hate the idea of just not doing anything until he passes away. Idk if there is something in his side of his family but his two brothers are also hoarders. One I work with and will go over every 3 months and he will let me throw out some things… I have to sometimes act like I want something so he will get rid of it… then he turns around and I’ll throw it out.

  14. It’s good to know that a hoarder’s items need to be sorted to be properly disposed of. My mom has been keeping a lot of items that she really shouldn’t since my dad died, and I think it’s reached the point where it can be considered hoarding. I’ll pass this information along to her so that she can look into her options for professional hoarder cleaning.

  15. Thank you for your tips. I am beginning to feel like I may be a “Closet” hoarder. Any space seen by company, is clean and clutter free. However, behind cabinet doors, in cabinet drawers, within any unused room or closet, I shove stuff to the point of ridiculousness. Nothing gross or dirty, but definitely stuff that I do not need. In my head, my reasoning seems logical, I’m too busy to go through piles of stuff to sort out what can be tossed from what should be kept, so I just throw it in an inconspicuous place. Eventually, there is a mountain of stuff so overwhelming, that I can’t bring myself to begin going through it. Then, I have always had a problem with getting rid of anything that isn’t broke and could be eventually used. But since I have been able to admit, there is something not quite normal about this situation, i believe I am going to be able to follow your advice. Wish me luck. I will update you once i have finished.
    Memphis, TN

  16. katneedle says:

    9 days, wow, it took my friend and i about 25 days, working 4-5 hours a day to clean our other friends house. There were times I just wanted to sit and cry, when I saw the amount of money wasted on things she never used. the frustration knowing that each day would bring more trash bags. Every day I pray that she gets the help she needs to understand the compulsions to buy things and to not throw away trash. it is a heart breaking thing to watch.

  17. Christina says:

    I recently helped my mom overhaul her craft room. You could only open the door about 6 inches as the room was completely full. It took us 24 days to empty, pull up the carpet, paint, sort and organize. This was the room that her mom lived in before she passed away. I understand the sentimental connections and while patience was tough (for me) on some days, we finished and still love each other. 😉 She was a good sport and did indeed part with a lot of stuff. For the material that belonged to her mother, we donated it and matching thread to people in our community that are making masks for COVID 19. It made my mom feel better to donate in that regard as opposed to taking to thrift stores. We did still donate to thrift stores but for the sentimental items that were a bit harder to part with, we got creative in our donation process, to ease her separation anxiety. I never donated or disposed of anything when she wasn’t around. She’s sensitive and I wanted to, in no way, upset her or chance losing her trust.
    Now, we’re moving onto the garage. I’ve mentioned the cost of a 30yd dumpster to my mom. She seems on board. Now, I have to wait for her to find the right time to mention the dumpster to my dad and we’ll see how that conversation goes. Fingers crossed he’s ok with it. My dad feels ill 90% of the time. If we pay hundreds of dollars for a dumpster for 14 days, I want to go into this with the best plan to ensure money and time are spent well. My biggest concern is that, no matter how much advanced emotional and mental planning we do, there’s a chance one or both parents will freeze up and the dumpster will end up being a waste of money. I’m praying about it and hoping that by me putting a plan, on paper, to present to them, it will set us up for a successful purge.

  18. Thank you for a great and empathetic article. I NEED HELP. I’m working on this alone. I don’t feel that I have anyone I can ask to help me, and I’m on disability income for Major Depressive Disorder and Myasthenia Gravis, so I can’t afford to really pay for professionals.

    I’m actually more than ready to purge my home of the 3 years of junk, trash, and a shopping addiction that have built up. My depression is not completely gone, but so much better after TMS therapy.

    I am filling trash bags almost every day, but I just feel overwhelmed and alone.
    Are there any organizations that can help me get going? I know I can get my house clean once I can get it decluttered.

    I’m ready to let material things go. So many people I love have passed away in the past several years that I completely understand that material possessions just don’t matter.

    My 14 year old daughter is my greatest love, and her dad now has primary custody of her. He used my history of depression against me in court. But, I realize that she’s better off with him until I sort out my life (literally).

    Letting go isn’t going to be a problem for me. Having a disability that affects my muscles, and not having help is the problem. I’ve been doing the emotional work, but need empathetic help with the physical work, and I completely lack organizational skills. I need help LEARNING to clean and organize. I’m a totally right brained painter. :-/

    You can see my artwork, if you like, at or on Instagram at Hubbard_Street_Art. I really am a pretty good artist and creative thinker. My mother never taught me to clean or organize, she did everything herself (Love language: Acts of Service!)

    God bless,


  19. Alicia Hursley says:

    The clean as you go tip was by far the most helpful for me when we had to get my mom’s house cleaned up to avoid an eviction. The goal was to get it to the point where we could feasibly repair and deep clean the carpets. Thanks to your tips we were able to get the job done and the carpet cleaning went great. Thanks for sharing.

  20. John Roberts says:

    Am cleaning my late father’s house. 1 month so far with me and another retired man going flat out every day and only 1/3 of the way there. Would be faster but there are valuables (eg. my grandfather’s watch) among the bags of thousands of 1990s-2000s VHS movies recorded from TV and newspapers/magazines going to the dump (comprising 95% of the 5 tons so far), so have to go through every bag.

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