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A Day in the Life: Compulsive Hoarding & Clutter Clean-up

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Hoarders911 Clutter Cleaning specializes in hoarder cleanup and junk removal. We offer a variety of services, from clutter cleanup to rubbish removal and fumigation, which allows the client to restore and improve their quality of life within their home. While we acknowledge that hoarding is a psychological disorder, we are able to work in close quarters with our clients to provide them with individualized plans for organizing and sustaining the stability and structural integrity of the residence. 

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, (DSM-V) defines hoarding as a compulsive disorder to acquire and keep unnecessary items; anxieties related to the intrinsic properties of inanimate objects often lead to the inability to discard of them properly. The criteria for compulsive hoarding is explained as, “(a) the acquisition of, and failure to discard, a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value; (b) clutter that precludes activities for which living spaces were designed; and (c) significant distress or impairment in functioning caused by hoarding” (Tolin 2007). Over time, unnecessary objects build up and collect within a residence until they impinge on the lifestyle of the individual, including but not limited to: the inability to use appliances, hazardous breathing conditions, and even pest infestation. Emotional attachments to these objects are formed, making it difficult for these individuals to believe they need help. However, dismissal of these issues can lead to chaos, eviction, social isolation and other psychological disorders.  

Studies indicate the patterned behaviors exemplified by compulsive hoarders perpetuate disordered behaviors until third-party intervention; many hoarders have trouble indicating they are in need of assistance, and believe their situation is fine. While the items collect and add up, these individuals tend to build a barrier around them, distancing themselves from their peers and loved ones, as well as society in its entirety. Hoarding compulsively poses as an issue to the health and welfare of these individuals—addressing the problem and assessing it is the first step in intervening and changing these behaviors. In many cases, the extent of the hoarding can mentally and physically disable said individuals. Studies report, “case reports describe patterns of poor insight, treatment refusal, lack of cooperation, and absence of resistance to the hoarding behavior…even individuals who sought help and received behavior therapy have shown little benefit” (Tolin 2007). These behaviors become increasingly problematic as the issues are dismissed passively and normalized. Areas in the house grow with clutter, while limiting the open space and inflicting upon the livability and safety of the residence. Moreover, the clutter renders necessary appliances useless, as they are covered with clutter and undergo active damage. Our services not only ensure safe removal of clutter, they also provide a clean and livable environment for the resident(s). People who suffer from compulsive hoarding normally live in cluttered, unsafe environments for years on end—many of them have spent their entire lives sustaining these patterns and beliefs.

Breaking the Stigma

In recent times, compulsive hoarding has been widely acknowledged and stigmatized due to the increase in media coverage and progression of psychiatric studies. Hoarders911 Clutter Cleaning empathizes with these issues, and forms a personalized plan of action for every individual who seeks to tackle this issue. We also work closely and discretely with the families of these individuals, and develop a level of trust strong enough to make the individual comfortable and ready to change. Doing so allows the individual to feel like they are in control of the process, which is imperative as they have emotional attachments to most of the items they hoard. We make sure to keep the same team of specialists throughout the process, to minimize the stress of decluttering while strengthening the trust between our specialists and the client. Aside from the immediate physical effects and limitations from compulsive hoarding, the untimely psychological consequences that result from accumulation of clutter also pose a serious issue to the individual. To ensure proper intervention, we make sure to dispatch our experienced and empathetic cleaning/organizing specialists who work collaboratively with the individual to form a plan of action that promotes long-term success, long after the cleaning is done. 

The “Hoarders911” Way

First, we have our professionals assess the issue and determine the level of severity, as well as the amount of time needed in order to declutter, sanitize, and fumigate the house. Consultations provide our specialists with the information they need in order to properly address the problem, physically and sentimentally. These tailored plans of actions are discussed and agreed upon between the cleaning professionals and the resident of the home. Arguably the most important step in the process, this relieves any confusion or anxieties related to clutter clean up and garbage disposal. We understand that organizing the residence can be a very stressful and anxiety-inducing time; our mission is to create a clean and safe living environment, while sustaining the structural integrity of the residence, without creating unnecessary stress for the resident(s). This process is thorough and extensive—our cleaning professionals come to an agreement with the individual about what can and what cannot be disposed of—discreetly. This allows for the client and the cleaning professionals to be on the same page at all times, while guaranteeing that all essential items are kept safe and sound. This appeals to the individual psychologically, in a non-threatening manner; allowing the individual to feel in control of their belongings as well as not being judged promotes a larger inclination to change.

Specialists be sure to address every aspect of the cleaning, organizing, and restoration of living spaces afflicted by compulsive hoarding, even after the job is complete. We are able to do this successfully by creating a secure level of trust between the individual and our specialists, while including them in every step of the process. While decluttering, sanitizing, and fumigating are laborious and emotionally trying tasks for both parties, our specialists minimize the stress and frustrations caused by the massive changes happening by patiently addressing every aspect of the issues, even if that means sorting through the clutter one piece at a time. 

Long-term Success & Safety

Hoarders911 Clutter Cleaning seeks to create an accessible solution for the individual that is sustainable over time. In doing so, we help our clients with obtaining storage units for a lot of their items that cannot fit or have no space in the home. Due to the fact that compulsive hoarders place such an emphasis on their materialistic items, and feel strong sentimental attachments to them, disposing of them and sorting through what needs to be disposed versus what needs to be kept can be quite a difficult task. Nonetheless, our empathy extends beyond just creating a temporarily safe living environment. We understand the psychological difficulties related with hoarder clean-up, and offer different options for sustaining the cleanliness and organization of the home. 

One of our experts speaks on his experiences with hoarder clean up, explaining the extent of the process in varying situations. He recalls, “I try not to stress the clients out. Most of them are only asking for help because they are forced to change, so it is not an easy task. But we consider every situation differently, and tend to everyone’s needs individually, because they are very attached to their items and feel out of control when other people touch or throw out their things. We start small, I usually ask them to point out five items that they can throw out at first. This can be challenging for our clients, but we take all the time we need in order to reverse the problem”. Statistically, resistance to change is common and expected by those who hoard compulsively; our experts are experienced with proper communication skills and patience towards these problems, making sure to never intimidate or instill fear in our clients’ regardless of the severity of the problem.

Once the home is decluttered and sanitized, we also offer extermination services to anyone who may need them. We recommend following up with weekly visits from our experts in order to sustain the cleanliness and structure of the home. Additionally, we offer help with obtaining storage units and moving items into them. Compliance with our plan of action is ultimately the key to long-term success for compulsive hoarders. 

Our biggest priority is ensuring the safety of our clients, while helping them break toxic old habits in order to form new ones. We understand that every person is different, and we pride ourselves on our individualistic and empathetic approach to all of our clients. While we cannot monitor what goes on in the home after we leave, we make sure to cover all bases before finishing any hoarder clean-up job. Our clients are comfortable reaching out to us in the case that they relapse and need our help again. Nevertheless, we are happy to help anyone achieve their goals. A combination of patience, experience and expertise aids us in producing immaculate, long-term results that improve the quality of life of many individuals.

Works Cited

Kalogeraki L, Michopoulos I. Psychiatriki. 2017;28(2):131-141.doi:10.22365/jpsych.2017.282.131

Tolin, D. F., Frost, R. O., & Steketee, G. (2007). An open trial of cognitive-behavioral therapy for compulsive hoarding. Behaviour research and therapy45(7), 1461–1470. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2007.01.001

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