How to Reach Out and Help a Hoarder
Hoarding disorder has gotten a lot more national attention over the last several years with the popularity of TV shows like Hoarders that draw attention to the devastating effects it can have on hoarders and their families. Those that struggle with the disorder suffer from extreme anxiety that causes them to engage in common hoarding behaviors. This anxiety is strong enough to prevent hoarders from throwing away anything that they have collected in their home, leading to a dangerous level of clutter.
The following are some of the dangers that result from hoarding symptoms:
- Increased fire risk: The extreme amount of clutter caused by hoarding makes a fire much more likely and dangerous.
- Risk of falling objects: Hoarded items are usually piled high in the home which makes it difficult to move around and increases the risk of injury caused by falling piles. There have been instances of people being trapped under piles of objects that have fallen on them.
- Health risks: Extreme clutter can harbor mold, bacteria, and other substances that are harmful to your health.
- Structural damage: The weight of the clutter can put too much stress on a home and cause structural damage.
If you have a close friend or family member that hoards, it is important to reach out to them and provide help. However, helping a hoarder is not a simple task. You must approach a hoarder with an understanding of the disorder and be sincere and honest as you talk to them about the problem. The affected individual must agree to have the home cleaned and be included in the process. Therefore, doing it against their will or without their knowledge will only make matters worse.
The following tips will help you approach a hoarder and begin the cleaning process:
- Compassionate discussion: Start with an honest but caring and compassionate discussion about your concerns. It is very important to let the individual know that you understand them and that you care about their feelings as well as their safety.
- Discuss the conditions of the home: You must bring attention to the amount of clutter in the home and talk about the many dangers this presents. Be careful to only talk about the amount of clutter and the resulting conditions. There is no need to talk about the type of objects collected because the individual may feel that they are being judged. Stick to the facts about how the clutter can cause injury, fire hazards, sanitary issues, damage to the home, and pest infestations.
- Ask the hoarder if they want to make the home safer: It is important that you present this idea to the individual as a question to make it their decision. Make sure you ask if they want to “make the home safer” and avoid using phrases like “cleanup” and “throw away.” The point is to help the individual understand that the home is unsafe and something needs to be done. Addressing the main safety concerns will naturally clear the clutter and include cleaning and reorganizing the home. You cannot forget that all decisions must be made by the individual, the home and possessions belong to them.
- Form a plan: Once the individual is ready to improve the safety of their home, create a plan with their help. Ask the individual what their idea of a safer home is and listen to see if their answers would result in a safer living environment. You must establish the goals of the plan at this stage and make sure that the individual agrees with the goals. The plan could involve help from friends and family and you may also consider hiring a professional that specializes in hoarding cleaning.
- Create a timeline: Once everyone has agreed on the plan, a timeline must be created for completing the plan. This will help keep the individual accountable and motivated to get the job done.
- Reach out for additional help: Helping a hoarder restore their home is a huge task. Do not hesitate to reach out for additional help from a social worker, support group, or hoarding cleaning professional.
- Visit regularly: After the plan is completed, visit the individual on a regular basis and spend time with them in their new home. This is a great way to show your emotional support and make sure the home stays in a safe condition.
Contacting the Professionals
Providing help for hoarders is a difficult task both physically and emotionally. It is natural to want to reach out and help a loved one who hoards, but you must approach the situation delicately and with compassion. The affected individual must agree with the plan of action and be involved in every step of the process. If you need professional help to clean out the home of a hoarder in the New York City area or northeast New Jersey, contact ServiceMaster Restoration by Complete for our hoarding cleaning services. Our technicians understand the sensitive nature of these situations and we will handle the cleanup for even the most extreme cases of hoarding.