How Do You Motivate a Hoarder to Clean?

Convincing a hoarder to get rid of their stuff is all about having the right approach.

Discovering that someone you care about is afflicted by a hoarding disorder can be an incredibly emotional experience. But, it’s important to remember to keep a cool head. Ultimately, you won’t be of much use to anybody if you don’t stay calm.

Getting over a hoarding disorder takes time.  Try to be understanding. Packing a home may not be the healthiest way to live, but this is not the time for pointing fingers or demanding everything be put in the trash.

There are things you can do to help your loved one take that first step towards freedom. But, it’s important to go into things prepared.

The best thing to do is to learn as much as possible before taking action.


How Is Clutter Related to Hoarding?

  • Clutter is usually an unsightly pile of random items taking up space where they don’t belong. It can range from laundry, to junk mail, to piles of recycling. You name it.
  • Anyone can have clutter, not just hoarders. But, hoarders will tend to accumulate so much clutter it can become hazardous.
  • Disorganization leads to both clutter and hoarding, but they are not mutually exclusive. A healthy person will usually have limits they won’t go beyond, but a hoarder may not.
  • Clutter may be messy, but it’s much less severe. Hoarding is excessive and can take over entire rooms. Clutter is usually at least somewhat contained.
  • When a pile of clutter starts to grow out of control, it might be a sign that a hoarding problem is developing in the home.

Why do hoarders have a hard time getting rid of things?

People who struggle with hoarding usually have underlying mental health challenges that can contribute to the disorder. Anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD are all linked to hoarding. 

For some the need to compulsively collect might be a result of trauma. The fear that they might one day need something and not have it can be incredibly distressing. 

Others develop such a strong sense of attachment to their belongings it becomes hard to let go. It isn’t that hoarders are happy living in squalor. They just can’t see a way out of it. After experiencing an extreme tragedy, hardship, or traumatic event, people tend to cling to what they have. In extreme cases, this coping mechanism can spiral out of control. 

Once it’s gone too far, it can feel too overwhelming to even know where to begin. When people feel hopeless, they are more likely to be resistant to change.

What does a hoarder's house look like?

Every hoarding situation is different. But there are a few common signs of hoarding that you can look out for.

In a hoarder’s home, junk can be piled so high it makes an entire room unusable. Extreme cases may even result in entrances, stairways, or windows being completely obstructed.

Appliances may also be completely inaccessible. 

Broken plumbing, stove-tops that don’t function, or refrigerators that no longer keep food cold are all common side effects of an over accumulation of stuff. 

Hoarders with syllogomania may be keeping a huge pile of trash that makes the whole house unsanitary to live in. Food hoarders often hold onto large amounts of expired food.

In the worst of hoarding conditions, the home itself may be completely uninhabitable.

Bed bugs, cock roaches, rodents, and other pests may have completely infested the area.

Mold, water damage, and structural damage may even make the home too dangerous for residents to occupy. Hazards like this can wind up contributing to serious injury, or worse.

The clutter in a hoarder’s home is an extreme fire hazard. Not only because the clutter itself could ignite, but because of the potential consequences of its existence.

Should an emergency unfortunately take place, blocked entryways caused by clutter packed in behind doors and windows can prevent 911 responders from accessing the home. Anyone inside becomes at risk of not being rescued in time.

What to consider before talking to a hoarder about decluttering

  • The overall state of the home is important. Make sure it’s even safe to enter before you start thinking about a plan to clear out the junk.
  • Your loved one is most likely going to experience stress when you finally confront them. Do your best to make sure you can be understanding so they don’t feel attacked.
  • The type of hoarding situation you are about to walk into also matters. Take some time to assess what is being collected, and why.
  • If your loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, you might want to do your homework and talk to a professional to get them the help they need.
  • Gather resources. It’s going to take a lot of time, energy, and support to do this the right way. But, it will be worth it to see your loved one happy and healthy again.

Step-by-step guide on how to encourage
a hoarder to declutter

1. Don’t judge. This is the most important part. Judgment will put your loved one on the defense and create manageable conflict. It will do more harm than good.

2. Show them you care. Before you open the conversation about your concerns, just being a kind presence in someone’s life can help to make them more receptive to help.

3. Learn about hoarding disorder. It’s a complex issue. Do your due diligence to avoid making snap judgements that may result in unintended consequences.

4. Plan ahead. Know exactly what you’re going to say before you say it. This will help you be more confident, and put you more in control of the situation.

5. Practice what you’re going to say. Rehearsing may feel a little awkward at first. But, you will be able to stay calm and collected if your loved one doesn’t take things well.

6. Make a checklist. Planning your hoarder’s clutter cleanup is just as important as figuring out what you want to say. A list of goals will make things feel achievable.  

7. Start small. Getting something done can motivate us to get more done. On the other hand, getting overwhelmed can be discouraging. Just take it one step at a time.

8. Be respectful. Always remember to let your loved one have the final say in what stays and what goes. It takes patience, but it’s the right thing to do.

9. Get help. A professional hoarding cleaning company can lend you the manpower you need to get things done quickly. They’ll also have some great strategies for you to use. 

10. Stay in touch. Decluttering a hoarder’s home can take some time. Make sure you follow through and help them learn healthy habits to keep things tidy.

When to consider professional intervention

Helping a hoarder declutter is not the same as cleaning and organizing a slightly messy, but otherwise normal home. There are some safety concerns that might require an expert. Living in a hoarder’s home is enough to put someone’s health or safety at risk. But so can trying to clean and restore one. Unfortunately, the risks involved make hoarding cleanings a little complicated. Dust, mold, and allergens can be released into the air when cleaning. In extreme circumstances, the bacteria from these homes can cause serious respiratory issues. 

Tripping hazards are everywhere in a hoarder’s home, and falling on something unexpected can lead to severe injury. Structural damage is another cause for concern.  

A loose banister, a sinking foundation, sharp edges on countertops. All it takes is one wrong move to put your life at risk.  There’s also the risk of bringing bed bugs home with you when you leave. 

Quick Estimate Request

The hoarding cleaning professionals at Hoarders911 come fully prepared to take on any situation. They are rigorously trained professionals who know how to put safety first.  Calling in a professional is the best way to get the job done without causing harm to those involved. The right team will know how to make things go as smoothly as possible. When you work with Hoarders911, you are in control. We just make sure the job gets done right.

Be patient.

A hoarding situation does not develop overnight, and it won’t get resolved overnight either. But, with the right attitude and the right help you can encourage your loved one to overcome their struggles with hoarding and get back on track to a healthy, meaningful life. It is possible to recover from hoarding. You just need to stick to it.

For those who need an extra hand, call Hoarders911.

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