Hoarding may look like someone is just acquiring and keeping everything they possibly touch. However, that's not what it is. A person who hoards is actually dealing with a mental illness. Hoarding is generally linked to a severe anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. Collecting things and keeping everything is one way for that person to try to take some control over their life. If you are dealing with a family member who is a hoarder, helping them clean up their hoard can be difficult.
How to Help Clean Up a Hoard
Before you do anything, you have to remember that the person isn't always in full control of what's going on with their hoard. To the hoarder, everything they are doing helps them feel better, even if there is a part of them that knows that their hoarding is a problem. So, you need to take that into account. Just because it seems irrational to you doesn't mean that it does to the hoarder. Go gently on them.
1. Bring in medical help: There are psychiatric professionals who work with hoarders. If you can get a hoarder in to talk to one of those professionals before you start cleaning, you can use them as support. They will be able to help the hoarder focus on a goal, not on the hoard. When it's time to start cleaning, the psychiatric professional can come to the house and help keep things calm
2. Let the hoarder take the lead: As much as it may seem difficult and counter-productive, let the hoarder make many of the choices. That will help them feel in control of what's going on. Remember, hoarding is a way to maintain control, and cleaning the hoard will make them feel very much out of control. Letting them take as much of the lead as possible will help them feel more in control.
3. Rent some equipment: One of the most important parts of cleaning a hoard is being able to get it out of sight. Cleaning up generally doesn't happen in a few hours, so you don't want to leave things you are throwing away or giving away laying around. That can be too much of a temptation for the hoarder to bring everything back in. For trash, renting a dumpster from a company like Lakeshore Recycling, means that you can throw everything into it, and it will be harder to get trash out of. One of the benefits of renting a dumpster is that you can get a smaller size dumpster and have the company come pick it up every night, or every other night, so that everything is gone.
Hoarding is a huge problem for many people and it can take over their life. If you have a loved one who is a hoarder, and they are ready to clean, knowing how you can help them will make the whole procedure easier.