Consciously De-Cluttering: 3 Emotional And Physical Tools Needed To Help A Hoarder

Helping a friend or family member who suffers from compulsive hoarding is essential, but it can be difficult to know exactly how to help the person remove excess memorabilia and waste from the home without offending or upsetting daily routines. If you've been charged with the task of helping a friend or family member who's a compulsive hoarder, keep the psychology of shedding excess belongings in mind before arming yourself with the proper removal equipment.  

Item #1: An Appropriate-Sized Dumpster

Although there may be stacks of magazines up to the ceiling or expired food containers filling the pantry, you probably shouldn't rent the biggest dumpster available before you see how well your friend or family member responds to purging the excess items.  Individuals who hoard often do so because they don't want to lose the positive memories associated with items they've kept, even if those items or memories seem insignificant to others.

If you start with a 40 yard dumpster rental, you'll likely make the individual feel overwhelmed, as if they literally have to get rid of everything in the home.  Instead, start small.  On the first day of clean-up (and you will need more than one day), simply bring a garbage can.  As your friend or family member makes strides in purging items, build up to a 20 yard dumpster.  Use the dumpster as a source of celebration, commending the person for how far they've come in ridding the house of dangerous debris. 

Item #2: Storage Bins

One of the most important aspects of purging for a hoarder is helping him or her organize the items that are left within the residence.  Because piles of clothing, books, and toys might have been left out on the floors for years to decades, it could take weeks to months for the family member to work his or her way through all the belongings deciding what to keep or throw out.  

You can help create a safer environment and easier tossing process by dividing the items within the house into several storage bins.  Clearly label them and stack them safely so that your family member can sort through them when others aren't over to help clean.  

Item #3: Protective Clothing and Cleaning Equipment

People who have been living with an excessive hoard for years typically become desensitized to the unhygienic nature of their surroundings.  Small water leaks, animal droppings, and rotting food will often have little to no effect on your family member, although it will be very striking on you and anyone else you enlist to help. 

Try to reserve judgment when you find these areas of the house, but come prepared to deal with bio-hazards within different areas of the home:

  • Clothing: Provide face masks, thick rubber gloves, disposable clothes, and rubber boots for those cleaning the house.
  • Trash Bags and Pick-Up Sticks: Regular kitchen trash bags won't do the trick.  Instead, you'll need the thickest black bags you can find along with stabbing sticks for those who don't want to make the process more expeditious. 
  • Trash Cans and Dumpsters: Unlike clutter and knick-knacks, bio-hazards are non-negotiable in terms of immediate removal.  Those who suffer from compulsive hoarding sometimes struggle to get rid of even the most dangerous of waste, so you'll need to be there with firm support to help them remove things that are dangerous to their health. 

Helping a person who's suffering from compulsive hoarding is a difficult task but essential to his or her emotional and physical well-being.  You'll need to understand the psychology of the disorder before you can help him or her make strides in cleaning out the residence.  When choosing your cleaning equipment, keep the causes and symptoms of compulsive hoarding in mind in order to procure the right supplies.