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What not to do with a hoarder?

Top Seven Things Not to do with a Hoarder

Talking to a family member or a friend about their compulsive hoarding situation, must be done carefully. Hoarders are highly defensive of the items that they have gathered, and a person that is trying to help must be careful when assessing the situation. Listed below is helpful advice on what not to do when working to help a family member or friend who is a hoarder.

7 Things Not to Do with a Hoarder:

  1. Touching Items Without Permission: Hoarders have an unnatural attachment to the things that they have gathered. If a person tries to move the possessions without the hoarder’s consent, the hoarder can become emotionally upset or angry. This can potentially result in the helpful individual’s expulsion from the home.
  2. Using Derogatory Language: The use of judgmental language can cause harm. Not only can it upset the hoarder, but cause them to withdraw further from the outside world. Avoid saying that the hoarder’s items are “junk, garbage or trash.” Those words are highly offensive to the hoarder, because of their emotional attachment towards the items.
  3. Argue with the Hoarder: Arguing with the hoarder can make the situation worse. Hoarders in many cases suffer from high anxiety and arguing raises anxiety levels. Moreover, these items give the hoarder a feeling of security and safety, which lowers their anxiety . Arguing with the hoarder can only raise the hoarder’s stress levels and make helping them more difficult to help.
  4. Facial Expressions: Facial expressions can speak louder than words. Showing signs of grief, dismay, or anger can convey judgment on the hoarder. Hoarders’ can read a person’s judgmental face, therefore the hoarder can still feel the shame.
  5. Asking Why?: Asking a person why do they hoard is not an advisable approach to handling a hoarder. Hoarders do not want to explain why they are gathering items. In many instances, hoarding is brought on by a traumatic event. They prefer not to relive that event or be reminded of what occurred.
  6. Removing Items without Their Consent: Removing a hoarder’s items without their permission, can be disastrous. The hoarder will quickly return to their cluttered lifestyle by gathering new items and shutting the helper out of their life.
  7. Criminalizing Their Actions: The hoarder does not have control over their actions. A person trying to help should not berate the hoarder by declaring them criminals for their behavior. This can only result in exacerbating the hoarding situation because it will lead to the hoarder further withdrawing from society.

Hoarding is a sensitive issue for all parties that are involved. If you are a person who is looking to help, please take this advice into consideration. However, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the hoarding situation, please seek out help. There are professionals out there that range from therapists to a specialized hoarding cleanup service that can help solve the hoarder’s severe clutter problems.

Guide: Do’s & Don’ts of Hoarding Help

How to Talk to a Hoarder Do

Video: Do’s & Don’ts of Communicating with Hoarders

Please consider our company Address Our Mess for professional hoarding cleanup service. Call 410-589-2747, email, or use our contact us page for more information. We are here to help!

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Cleaning Up a Hoarder? Here’s What to Do and Not Do.

Cleaning Up a Hoarder? Here's What to Do and Not Do.

Dealing with hoarding is difficult for everyone involved. If a friend or loved one has started to hoard belongings in their home, they may be unwilling to accept they have a problem.

As their possessions begin taking over their life and making their living area unsafe, family, friends, or public authorities may need to intervene. This delicate situation requires sensitive treatment and the right approach to avoid causing more harm than good.

Many people have clutter in their homes and hang on to possessions longer than necessary. However, sometimes that sentimental attachment to an old toy or item of clothing can get out of control. Suddenly everything seems important and worth keeping, and the mess builds from there.

Read on as we explore what hoarding is, and how you can help if you find yourself cleaning up a hoarder.

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding is a clinically recognized mental health condition. The Mayo Clinic defines hoarding disorder as the persistent difficulty of discarding or eliminating possessions. A person afflicted with hoarding disorder experiences significant, even debilitating, distress at the thought of having to part with their belongings.

As a result of hoarding disorder, the resident accumulates an excessive amount of items. Over time, the sheer volume of these items affects and ultimately eliminates the livable space in a residence. At the more severe levels of hoarding, the accumulation of items (or animals) can cause a health and safety crisis, as well.

Clutter versus Hoarding

While excess clutter can exist in the early stages of hoarding, it does not necessarily indicate a huge problem. Specifically, a person with hoarding issues retains harmful items that eventually create a toxic environment.

However, people with clutter in their homes typically store accumulated items in the basement or attic, where the objects have little impact on everyday household functioning. The excess items may be unnecessary, but they aren’t impeding normal living standards.

The Stages of Hoarding

Did you know that there are defined levels of hoarding? According to The Institue for Challenging Disorganization, there is a scale you can use to evaluate hoarding situations.

Stage 1:

At this stage, homes are often considered heavily cluttered rather than symptomatic of hoarding. All rooms, windows, doors, and areas are passable and the house is still clean and safe.

Stage 2:

This is the stage where possessions are starting to take over the home. One or two rooms might be difficult to navigate, and there may be bad odors present. For example, mildew may be observed in the kitchen and bathroom, or pet waste may be present. One exit (door or window) may be unusable.

Stage 3:

Progressing through to this stage means only one bedroom and/or bathroom is usable, and there is a limited living area. Dust and spoiled food have accumulated and the home has a strong odor. Clutter may be visible from outside the home now.

Stage 4:

This stage is where things truly become a public health issue. Infestations of fleas and lice may be present, along with sewage backup and other unsafe conditions. Rotten food and pet damage are common.

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Stage 5:

This is the most severe level of hoarding. The home may have rodent infestations, and the kitchen and bathroom are unusable, leading to the accumulation of human and pet excrement. Utility services might not be functional. Many areas of the home are completely inaccessible. This level involves extreme clutter and animals that pose a risk to people due to the seriously unsanitary conditions and biohazards.

How to Help Cleanup

First, you will need to ease into the declutter process. That means starting with communication with the person who has been hoarding. A gentle, non-judgmental approach is best. Once your friend or relative is not feeling defensive but is open to change, you can move into planning.

Suggest multifaceted assistance to help them address their issues. In reality, a hoarder needs help in two general areas. First, he or she needs hoarding treatment, meaning professional therapy or counseling. This will address underlying issues and prevent the problem from recurring. Second, an individual in this position needs practical assistance to aid in decluttering and eliminating the mess.

Once all parties involved have agreed that it’s time to start cleaning the home, you’ll need to create an action plan. Develop this plan by working with your loved one to draft a strategy they approve of and are ready to attempt. The more they buy into the process, the smoother it will be and the likelier you are to achieve success.

What Not to Do

There are a few things that can make resolving a hoarding situation more difficult. First, don’t blame the friend or relative you are assisting. Hoarding cleanup can resolve the mess, but the underlying issues that led to the hoarding should be addressed by a professional with experience counseling people with hoarding disorder.

Second, if at all possible, don’t resolve the hoarding situation without input from the resident. If they can be involved with making some decisions about items to keep (within reason), it may be a less upsetting experience.

And the biggest mistake: Don’t hesitate to obtain professional assistance with the cleanup. A professional hoarding cleanup company will be trained to handle even the grossest of hoarding messes. Their staff will have the appropriate equipment and protective gear to address potentially hazardous conditions.

For example, if you are in a hoarding situation, professionals can more quickly remove and dispose of unwanted and unsafe items. They can also sanitize and organize those items you or your loved one wish to keep. Importantly, professionals will do a better job ridding areas of odors and bacteria that have built up, as well as remove and dispose of medical and hazardous waste.

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How to Help a Hoarder Who Doesn’t Want Any Help?

Hoarding disorder is a serious condition that involves compulsive accumulation of possessions regardless of their value. It can be a health hazard and cause conflicts with family and friends, financial issues, and even evictions. Helping a hoarder requires patience, listening, and encouragement to seek professional help. It’s important not to clean up for them or throw anything out without permission. Small victories should be celebrated, and education about the disorder is necessary to understand it better. Dealing with a hoarder in the family requires respect and talking with them without being judgmental. It’s crucial to act promptly before the situation worsens. Ultimately, looking for ways to help the hoarder is essential, and failure is not the end of the road.

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Hoarding disorders require help from those nearest them

Many people take hoarding lightly, even though it’s a very serious disorder. Like most other things, hoarding starts slowly, and most people who suffer from this disorder aren’t even aware of it until it’s too late. However, people who compulsively acquire new objects are sometimes aware of it but refuse to acknowledge and deal with it.

If you’re wondering how to help a hoarder or are perhaps struggling to deal with a hoarder in your family, take a moment to check out some of the points we’ve made in this article. While it’s far from being a collection of rules, it’s designed to help and offer you a better insight into the mindset of people who are hoarders.

What is a Hoarding Disorder?

Before we dive deeper into the matter, it’s important to get familiar with the condition itself so that we can understand the concept and make the battle against it a bit easier.

According to the Mayo Clinic,

“Hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with a hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items. Excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”

As you can tell, hoarding has nothing to do with the value of the items that are being accumulated, nor does it have anything to do with collectibles. The difference between hoarding and collecting is pretty simple – hoarders seldom seek to display their possessions, while in collecting, people proudly display their belongings and keep them organized.

How To Help a Hoarder Who Doesn’t Want Help?

The first thing you should remember if you’re looking to help a person in need is to avoid forcing them to do anything. Nothing good ever comes from forcing one to change their habits, and that’s why this is a process rather than being an intervention.

  • Providing Motivation and Listening to What They Have to Say

One of the best things you can do is — listen, even though it doesn’t seem effective at first glance. Many hoarders struggle to articulate the reasoning behind their behavior, and more importantly – most of them are quite embarrassed to admit that they have a problem.

Being a good listener allows you to help them open up about the issues that have been troubling them for a long time. Instead of acting like a psychologist and offering a bunch of quick solutions, you should listen carefully and ask questions that might help streamline the process of getting rid of this horrible addiction.

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Try to get to the bottom of the problem by circling around with important questions, and you will, sooner or later, find success.

  • Encourage Them To Seek Professional Help

There is nothing embarrassing in admitting you have a problem and asking for help. In fact, it might be one of the only effective ways to deal with this problem, especially if it’s particularly severe.

If you’re looking for the answer to the question of how to get help for a hoarder, scheduling an appointment with a professional would be an excellent start. However, not all people are eager to share their predicaments with another person (even if that other person is a licensed professional), so be sure to bring this up gradually rather than insisting on it.

  • Do Not Clean Up For Them

Even though you’re looking to help your friend or family member, one thing you should NOT do is take it on yourself and cleanup for them. Individuals who are struggling with hoarding disorder should make a conscious and independent decision to better themselves. While it’s good and recommended for you to intervene as a friend, cleaning things up for and instead of your friend is definitely a bad idea.

  • Help Them Sort Out Their Stuff

In some severe cases, hoarders accumulate so many things that it fills up the whole house. Even if you manage to persuade them to stop hoarding, something has to be done about the already hoarded items or else your endeavors are in vain.

There is no easy way around this. You will have to volunteer to help your friend or loved one sort their things out, get rid of worthless items, and more importantly – prevent them from doing it all over again.

  • Take Some Time to Educate Yourself

As we’ve mentioned, hoarding is no laughing matter. Even though some people might think they are familiar with this particular disorder, it’s often not the case. In fact, helping your friend the way you are not supposed to is always going to cause more harm than good. That’s why it is important that you inform and educate yourself about this condition and take the right steps rather than doing what you think is right and (seemingly) helpful.

  • Praise a Change and Celebrate Small Victories

Very rarely will you manage to “cure” your friend in one go. As we’ve mentioned, going through hoarding rehabilitation is more of a process rather than being an intervention, and that’s why it’s important to take things slowly and celebrate small victories. Don’t hesitate to commend an improvement because that’s one of the most effective ways to motivate your friend to keep pushing even further. It will definitely take a lot of time before you see a massive improvement, but small steps are what counts here.

How to Help a Hoarder Who Doesn't Want Any Help

How To Deal With a Hoarder in the Family?

Even though there is not much difference between dealing with friends and family members, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind.

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Firstly, you should acknowledge that the person has a right to make their own decisions. This shows a healthy amount of respect as well as affection. Team up with them and ask them about their issues; family members tend to have a stronger bond in comparison to friendships. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to sit down with your brother, mother, father, or anyone who needs help and just talk to them. Naturally, you should avoid being judgmental as that will only worsen the situation.

Also, never toss anything out without permission. Even if you think a particular item is worthless, obsolete, or simply doesn’t belong somewhere, you don’t have the right to throw something out that isn’t yours.

What are the Negative Effects of Hoarding?

While most people are aware of the obvious downsides of compulsive hoarding, there are some things that aren’t as apparent. Here are a couple of alarming downsides of hoarding:

Severe clutter is not only visually unappealing, but it’s also a serious health hazard. On top of that, it can also be a structural and fire hazard, depending on the severity of the case.

Many hoarders simply forget about 90% of things they have underneath the first few layers of clutter. This can be extremely dangerous because a single pack of white-phosphorous matches can self-ignite and cause a catastrophe, even though they have been buried under a pile of worthless stuff for decades.

  • Conflicts with Family and Friends

No matter how affectionate and tolerant you are, there will come a time when you’ve just had enough of it. This is a serious issue, and it has affected numerous families and tore them apart. That’s why it’s important to act promptly and help your friend or family member as soon as you notice something is off (a room full of worthless and disorganized stuff is a rather obvious clue).

  • Evictions and Financial Issues

It goes without saying that most landlords won’t tolerate any level of hoarding, let alone the severe cases. Consequently, your friend will end up on the street sooner or later, and more importantly – this can lead to hospitalization and homelessness, both of which are alarming, to say the least.

Look for Ways to Help Them

Instead of looking at how to deal with a hoarder, you should instead look for ways to help them. We have covered a few methods and ways you can use in order to help your friend or family member, but rest assured there are plenty of other options out there.

The essential thing you should remember is to stay calm, collected, and most importantly – tolerant. You will, most certainly, have to go through a lot of tough moments, but in the end, all that counts is the level of success. With that being said, don’t be afraid of failure because you’ll very rarely manage to help your loved one right from the get-go.

If you would like to know more about disorders, hoarding cleanup procedures, and similar subjects, don’t hesitate to read our other articles! They are a great resource for anyone who’s looking to solve a particular predicament but isn’t sure how.

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