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How to Start Decluttering a Hoarder

How to Start Decluttering a Hoarder

You know someone who is a hoarder and you want to help. This can be a challenging task, but worth it in the end. In this article I will give you some tips on how to start decluttering a hoarder.

Most of us have certain things that we keep longer than we should. Some of us keep old love letters or those jeans that made our butt look great, even if they haven’t fit since high school. The thing with hoarders is that they keep everything.

What others may perceive as junk to them is a memory of a specific part of their life and they have a really hard time letting go. It is not going to be easy to help someone declutter, but with the right tools it can be therapeutic, having a positive impact on the person’s life.

Understand What Hoarding Is

The items that the person you are helping has are very important to them. For some, they may have sentimental value, others may think it’s something they will need at some point, and some just feel safe with all the stuff around them.

According to The American Psychiatric Association, 2% to 6% of people are affected by this disorder, and it is seen more often in older adults. Hoarding can have a very negative impact on a person’s life. It can result in:

  • Emotional instability
  • Physical problems
  • Social issues
  • Financial problems
  • Legal problems

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says hoarding can be associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) because some people compulsively look out for bargains, free stuff, or one of a kind items. It becomes an obsession for them, and thus they accumulate a lot of clutter.

Just remember, a hoarder is not doing it because they are too stubborn to get rid of the stuff. This is a real illness and they need help to overcome it. They are not proud of having all this stuff, but they need assistance when it comes to letting it go.

To better understand hoarding as a mental health issue, Ceci Garett shares her story about living with a mother who was a hoarder and explains that it is not about the clutter, the clutter is simply a symptom of the illness.

Come Equipped and Ready to Go

This is not going to be a walk in the park. Their home is likely dirty, there could be bugs and rodents, and there could be potential health risks involved. Some important items to have on hand are:

  • Gloves
  • Dust masks
  • Goggles
  • Proper footwear
  • Hard hat
  • Flashlight
  • Insect repellant
  • First aid kit with allergy medication and pain relievers

Renting a dumpster and having a team of people to help you is important. According to CRM Roll Off Division Inc., which provides dumpster rental in Orlando, when decluttering a hoarder, there will be a lot of work to be done, and you will be throwing out a lot of stuff. You will also need to have people who are able to do heavy lifting.

Bring cleaning supplies, disinfectant, big garbage bags, and boxes. Have some tools on hand in case you need to take some furniture apart or repair things that may be broken.

Have a Plan in Place

What rooms need decluttering? Which types of items are going to be the hardest to let go of? How much stuff do you want to get rid of? These are all things that need to be figured out before the cleaning begins.

Plan which room you will begin with and how long you anticipate each one will take. Know what everyone’s task is and explain it to them.

Find Some Open Space to Make Piles

You will need to find some space to make four separate piles. Keep in mind, you may have to use outdoor space if there is no room in the house. The four piles you will make are:

  • Keep – These are the items that are used regularly, items of value, and the items that have real sentimental worth. Somebody will need to keep an eye on what is being placed in this pile as hoarders tend to think that everything is important.
  • Donate – This is for the items that are still in good condition but not of use to the person. Encouraging the person to donate their items can be useful as they will know that they will go to someone who needs them.
  • Recycle – Some items will be in too rough shape to donate or keep but can still be recycled. The person may even make some money depending on what they have that is recyclable.
  • Garbage – This pile is for everything else, and this is where renting a dumpster will come into play.

After you have figured out what goes where, this is where the hard work begins. Keep in mind that the person you are helping is going to find this very difficult. It is important to be understanding and patient with them throughout the process.

In the end, it is important to remember that a hoarder suffers tremendously because of their condition and they need assistance to get through it. Talk therapy before, during, and after the process is very beneficial. This will help them better understand and work through the emotional problems associated with their illness.