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How To Help Someone With Hoarding Disorder: 6 Tips for Hoarding Restoration

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Hoarding is a disorder where someone has trouble parting with possessions in an effort to save them for future use. Any attempts to do so generally result in extreme stress and anxiety.

Those suffering from extreme hoarding conditions often find themselves living in unsanitary and unsafe clutter that negatively affects their living space and quality of life. Helping someone with hoarding struggles requires patience, support, and empathy.

Depending on the severity of the situation, decluttering and clearing a hoarding space can take a significant amount of time, planning, and resources. Professional hoarding restoration services from Rainbow Restoration are the best way to recover from a hoarding situation. 

To remediate a hoarding situation, contact Rainbow Restoration® for professional hoarding restoration. Call (855) 724-6269.

5 Steps of Professional Hoarding Restoration

1. Hire a Restoration Team

The restoration process itself isn't an easy task. There's much that goes into property and contents restoration, including supplies and equipment, labor, and time. 

In some cases, permits will be required for your restoration project. Depending on your local ordinance and what the project might include (noise, clutter, hazardous waste disposal). In these situations, hiring a professional team that is accustomed to obtaining the necessary paperwork might be the best option.

For example, Rainbow Restoration's residential hoarding cleanup services can help reduce the pressure and stress from the equation. Rainbow Restoration’s team of professionals is trained to assess the situation, remove unwanted and unnecessary items, recategorize clutter, and sanitize affected areas to reduce health risks. Hazardous waste such as human and animal waste, mold, and rodent droppings can be a challenging hurdle during a restoration project.

2. Assess the Situation

Before any cleaning or organizing takes place, restoration professionals must assess the state of the property and examine any health and safety risks or structural damage, to determine which repairs are needed.

For example, items that pose a hazard, contribute to unsanitary conditions, or have a potential for physical injury should be at the top of the list. Once these issues are identified, the team can start planning how to address each area.

3. Clear Out

Once you have a plan on how to achieve your goals and a team ready to tackle the restoration, it's important to adopt a safe and systematic approach to removing items and debris.

The team will start by identifying items to salvage, discard, or donate, and designate an area for each. It's important to have the space and capacity to complete the cleanup for each area of the property being restored. The team should prioritize waste disposal so they aren't just relocating the mess outside but are properly categorizing and disposing of it as needed.

Any hazardous material must be handled carefully by certified professionals and with safety top of mind to ensure compliance with environmental and safety regulations.

4. Clean and Sanitize

Once the bulk of items and waste causing the clutter has been removed, the team of professionals can begin cleaning and sanitizing the space. During this process, other issues might surface, like structural damage, plumbing issues, fire risks, and decay. Once the clutter is removed, they'll have a better view of the space and any lasting damage caused by hoarding.

It's vital to pay close attention to any potential safety and hygiene hazards as well as structural damage to the property. Issues like mold, termites, and hazardous residues (like insect and animal waste) should be handled before the space is occupied again.

Professional hoarding restoration may take a few days or several weeks, as addressing bigger issues can be an extensive task. Treating hazardous situations sometimes requires multiple sessions over multiple weeks.

5. Restore the Living Space

Once the team of service professionals has cleared and sanitized the space, it's time to focus on repairs and renovation.

This step entails ensuring the property is habitable once again. The team will repair any structural damage caused by hoarding before bringing any restored essential belongings back inside the property. 

This also includes turning the property into a living space that does not encourage clutter and hoarding. A good way to achieve this is by installing multiple organization and storage solutions — enough to help the person create a system that limits the possibility of further clutter and fosters better habits.

6. Offer Emotional Support

While the professional restoration team is working on restoring the space, don't forget to provide emotional support to the person most affected. Be careful with your language, remarks, and comments while planning and initiating the restoration. In the end, working on and restoring the space is only half the solution. Keeping it that way is often the biggest challenge. Consider these ways to offer emotional support and help the person with hoarding disorder make progress.

  • Educate yourself: Do your research about hoarding as a condition. Having all the facts about its root cause and its effects on the person's well-being and confidence can shape how you communicate with them. You're here to help them, so always keep that in mind.
  • Communicate openly: While you should be careful with your words, make sure you communicate honestly and openly. Having a conversation with the person before you plan the restoration is respectful and can help the process go more smoothly for everyone involved. Discuss the issue at length, make sure they know you have their best interests at heart, and use caring, conscious, and supportive language when communicating the plan. Avoid judgmental words like "dirty," "disgusting," "messy," and any other terms that may make them uncomfortable.
  • Encourage professional counseling or support groups: It's difficult to work through these issues alone, and sometimes family support just isn't enough. People who live with these conditions will likely benefit from professional counseling or support groups with others who can relate to their struggles.
  • Set realistic goals: Set realistic goals for both the restoration process and your loved one's progress. Don't expect them to recover from this condition overnight. Recovery is a process that takes time and patience.
  • Maintain boundaries and patience: Someone with a hoarding disorder might not feel comfortable as the restoration progresses. You'll want to be empathetic in your responses here and make sure you don't overstep their boundaries. Help guide them, but don't expect them to change overnight or react positively to the restoration plan. Be patient and let them slowly find comfort with the process and new way of thinking and living.

What Causes Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding disorder stems from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

People with a family history of the disorder can be predisposed to developing the condition. Growing up in a hoarding environment can also encourage its development, making it the "norm" during the person's mental and emotional growth phase.

Trauma and stressful life events can also trigger some hoarding habits. Lack of motivation and desire to organize, as well as difficulties with decision-making and attachment to possessions, are all factors that can contribute to the disorder's development.

That said, any coexisting mental health conditions like anxiety, OCD, and depression can also negatively affect the disorder.

Negative Effects of Hoarding

People often struggle to identify a hoarding disorder in a family member or friend. Earlier stages of hoarding may not seem negative at first glance. But as it unfolds and hoarded items begin piling up, it can turn into a visibly distressing living situation.

A hoarding space is only comfortable from the individual's perspective. Friends, family, and outsiders looking in see the opposite. These impaired living conditions can make it difficult to maintain hygiene. It can get so bad that furniture and even portions of a house are entirely buried under clutter, making it physically difficult to move through the space.

Health and safety risks are another major concern. More often than not, clutter makes it impossible to know what kind of items are within the space, and this can be dangerous. If there are sharp or hazardous objects in the hoarding space, or any mold or pests present, they can be a danger to someone's physical safety.

People with hoarding disorder often grow very possessive and protective of their things, which can lead to social isolation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. With hoarding also comes legal issues, financial consequences of impulsive purchasing, a steady decline in the quality of life, strained relationships with friends and family, and emotional distress that isn't easy to recover from.

Collecting vs. Hoarding

Before taking any action, it’s important to know the difference between hoarding and collecting. There are several important distinctions, including:

  • Collectors have a specific focus (like baseball cards, pop vinyls, Star Wars memorabilia), while those with a hoarding disorder keep random items with seemingly no relation to one another. 
  • Collectors usually keep their items protected and cataloged, while people with the disorder stack items haphazardly and unprotected. 
  • Collectors may have a favorite collectible they don’t want to part with, but they usually have no trouble trading or selling items. Getting rid of anything — even what others would perceive as trash — causes someone with hoarding disorder severe anxiety. 
  • Collectors enjoy their collections but don’t feel the need to have the items with them all the time. People with hoarding disorder feel unsafe unless they are surrounded by their items. 

An estimated 2% of the population suffers from a hoarding disorder. It’s also more common among older people and affects men more than women. 

How to Tell if a Loved One Is Hoarding

There are some warning signs to look for if you suspect a loved one is hoarding, from random items of seemingly no value to inexplicable clutter of unrelated objects. Here are a few other signs to watch for:

  • Difficulty using space as intended: For example, it's impossible to use a bathroom because the entire space is cluttered with random objects.
  • Difficulty accessing rooms/spaces: It's difficult walking into a space because of clutter on the ground and in doorways.
  • Anxiety around parting with items: Someone with a hoarding disorder seems inexplicably attached to their items. The idea of parting with their belongings may cause them anxiety.
  • Denial and anger: They deny having an issue and claim that everything is where it should be, that they know where everything is, and that they like it that way.

These are just a few signs of hoarding to watch out for, but the disorder may look different from one person to another.

How Rainbow Restoration Can Help

How Rainbow Restoration Can Help You Reclaim a Hoarding Living Space

The professionals at Rainbow Restoration are trained to provide specialty cleaning services, leaving even the most extreme hoarding environments thoroughly clean and sanitized. In addition to the sanitizing process with an EPA-registered disinfectant, Rainbow Restoration offers additional specialty cleaning services including  Air Duct Cleaning, Carpet Cleaning, Upholstery Cleaning, as well as Tile, Grout, and Hard Surface Cleaning

We can help those recovering from hoarding disorder to start over with a clean, sanitized, and healthy environment. To find out more, call (855) 724-6269 or request an appointment online.

FAQ About Hoarding

How Can You Help Someone Who Is Hoarding?

You can help someone with a hoarding disorder on two fronts: restoring the hoarding space and providing the emotional support needed to tackle this disorder. To help restore the space, hire a professional to remove waste, clean and sanitize, and restore the living space. To provide emotional support, you can educate yourself on the condition and respect the boundaries of the individual by guiding them toward positive change.

How Do You Help Someone Who Is Hoarding but Refuses Help?

There's only so much you can do to help someone who's hoarding and refuses help. But perseverance is key. Be gentle in your approach; don't try to persuade or trick them. Help them discover resources where they can discuss their feelings, find treatment, stay safe, and encourage good habits.

What Is the Root Cause of Hoarding?

Hoarding is a disorder that comes from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some people are more predisposed to develop the condition than others, but stress, trauma, anxiety, and genetics play a big part in its development.

What Are the 5 Stages of Hoarding?

The first stage is minimal clutter, enough to be noticeable but not so much to cause concern. The second stage is slowly deteriorating attention to hygiene and cleanliness. The third stage is a visible lack of organization and rapidly growing clutter. The fourth stage is excessive clutter and hoarding behavior. The fifth stage is extremely unsanitary living conditions that require immediate intervention. 

What Are the Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder?

Someone with hoarding disorder generally tends to keep random items of little or no value, has no visible sense of organization, and shows difficulty making decisions. Someone suffering with a hoarder disorder is often very indecisive and gets easily stressed when forced to make a decision.

Find a Professional Near Me

Let us know how we can help you today.

Call us at (855) 724-6269
Rainbow Restoration work vehicle with Neighborly wrap.

Find a Professional Near Me

Let us know how we can help you today.

Call us at (855) 724-6269
Rainbow Restoration work vehicle with Neighborly wrap.