A few years ago, a relative of ours passed away, and we were shocked at what we found. Our relative had been hoarding things for years. With their passing, we were responsible for cleaning a hoarder’s house. Here is how we did it and how to clean a hoarder’s home.
How to start cleaning a hoarder’s house: Before you begin
When you begin to clean a house, you will need to sit down with the hoarder and talk to them about the hoarding situation and what will happen. This can be a tricky conversation. Ensure that they know you are there to help and that there is no blame for what has happened. Discuss with them that they need to be a part of the process and that they will be able to keep some of the items.
Doing this is best to give them control about what should stay, while at the same time knowing that most of it will need to go for them to gain control over their living situation.
This may be a painful process for the person, so it’s best to remove them from the situation. Discuss with them the need to speak with someone (either a coach or mental health professional ) so that they can get help and improve their living situation.
You can read more about hoarding here at the American Psychiatry Society.
How to clean a hoarder’s house in 5 steps
Step 1: Have these items
When you arrive at the hoarder’s house, make sure you are properly prepared.
It’s important that you dress accordingly in the right protective gear and equipment. Depending on the hoarders’ house, there can be years, even decades of items built up. This can have a host of dangerous items in it, from mold to allergies to animal fecal matter or dead animals, so be prepared and have the right clothing for the situation.
It’s good to have all of these items:
- Long sleeve shirt
- Disposable Gloves
- Protective gear (mask, eye protection)
- Hard hat
- Steel toe boots (or other sturdy shoes)
- Moving straps
- First aid kit
- Fire extinguisher (for any flammable materials)
You don’t know what you will come across when you are cleaning a dirty home, so it’s best to have these and hope you don’t need them.
Want to learn about cleaning? Check out our best house cleaning tips.
Cleaning supplies for cleaning a hoarder’s house
It’s also important that you have the right cleaning supplies. If you are going to be selling the home, you will want to make sure that you give it a thorough deep clean before you take any photos and list the home to sell. This will happen later on in the process, but it’s good to have all the items you will need in advance. Here are your cleaning supplies fr your hoarding cleaning checklist.
- Cardboard boxes
- Heavy-duty trash bags
- Mop and bucket
- Vacuum cleaner or ShopVac
- Wet wipes
- Broom and dustpan
- Cleaners (or homemade cleaners)
- Music (wireless headphones are a lot better and a worthwhile investment)
If this feels like a lot, you can always contact a professional cleaning company to clean the house. There will be a lot of items that will need to be thrown out.
It will likely take you days if you are doing this on your own, or even longer depending on the scope of the number of items to be removed. Renting a dumpster is an easy way to get rid of things quickly.
Step 2: Have a plan
The best way to clean a hoarder’s house is to take it one room at a time. When you arrive at the house, it will feel overwhelming. The expression, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, applies here.
Successfully cleaning a house that has had a hoarder living in it will be easier if you give yourself wins along the way. The best way to do this is to pick one room and clean it. Find a cleaning process you can work with and run with it.
Once you have finished one room, give yourself some kind of reward and then pick the next room and begin fresh. This is the best way to do it, and it will keep you on track and focused.
One of the great tips is to start with a small room, you can get through it faster and it will feel like you have made some early progress.
Step 3: How to clean a hoarder’s room
The cleanup process is pretty simple, but it can take time. This is a major cleanup, and it’s best to approach the house systematically. The best way to approach a room lived in by a hoarder is to take the following steps:
Step 1: Empty the Room
Begin cleaning by getting rid of all the clutter. As you do this, you will find items you want to keep items that you will want to sell. But the bulk of the items will likely be thrown out. Make sure you have some heavy-duty trash bags and fill them up one at a time. Most of what you will find is trash.
We found things like old magazines, broken glass, expired food, and documents from over a hundred years ago. This is a time-consuming task so be prepared for when you get there to know it will take time. It’s a good idea to enlist the help of friends and family members if possible.
Step 2: Put aside the items you would like to keep
You will likely find items you will want to keep for yourself or the owner. Set these aside in the empty boxes and label them as kept. It’s important to understand what is a hoarding disorder and what is causing it.
Hoarding tendencies can arise for a variety of reasons. One of them is that they attach a sentimental value to all of their possessions. This needs to be addressed if you are going to help them get past their hoarding behavior. They may need professional assistance but it’s good to address hoarding and know why it has become an issue for this person.
Step 3: Separate the items you will sell
Some items may be sold to a local scrap yard, and other items may be sold on Craigslist or in a future garage/ yard sale.
You will be tempted to start listing items as you go along cleaning. This will slow down the progress of cleaning the hoarders’ room and double your time. Right now, focus on cleaning the room, and in the end, you can start selling these items.
Step 4: Donate pile
Just because you are getting rid of a lot doesn’t mean that someone else can’t have a use for it. Contact the local thrift shops or second-hand stores to see if there are families that could use these items and donate them.
In our area, there are always new families immigrating here, and every item they get helps. Arrange for someone to pick up these items once you are done.
Step 5: Throw out the rest
The rest of the stuff is non-salvageable items. This is why you have a dumpster (you can search for dumpster rentals near me for more). It is a lot easier to take larger items that have no other place. Each room will have obvious trash that needs to be thrown out in the hoarder house so throw it in the trash bags and get rid of it.
When you have this system for cleaning a neglected house, you will likely come across a variety of items. If you have the system in place, you need to mentally label any item as “Keep, Sell, Donate” if it’s none of these, it goes in the trash. Simple!
Step 6: Pick the next room and begin again
Once you finish a room, take a break. Treat yourself. Then pick the next room and begin in earnest on that one.
Step 4: Repair the home
Once you have removed all of the items and decluttered the hoarder’s house, the next step will be to determine what repairs are needed.
This will depend on what your plan is for the home. If you are planning on selling the house, you will want to repair the obvious issues and most visible issues immediately so that you can bring in a real estate agent for listing the home.
If your plan is to live in it or have the reformed hoarder live in it, then you will want to take on the repairs that need to happen before they move back in. Then you can repair the other parts of the house that can be done while someone lives in it.
For example, if you find in your decluttering that there was water standing on top of the hardwood floors, you may need to refinish them. This is a lot easier to do when there is nothing in the house and no one living in it rather than when someone is living there. The same goes for any structural issues and other foundation repairs that may need to happen. Some repairs are easier to do when there is no one home.
Step 5: Deep clean the house
Once all of the repairs are done, you will need to do a deep cleaning of the house before anyone moves in or before you list the house to be sold. You can do this on your own or hire some cleaning services to come in and help with it. You can even see if they will help with the clean-up process.
Getting the house clutter-free is only the first part, next you will need to properly disinfect items and remove any health hazards that might exist in the house.
Hoarder Cleaning Tips
To make sure you clean the house properly make sure you follow these hoarder cleaning tips.
Assess the situation
Determine the resources you will need. Before you jump in, inspect the home and get an idea of what is needed. Get the things you will need (like a dumpster) ordered and ready for when the time comes to start cleaning.
Remove the hoarder
Hoarders have a hard time distinguishing what is valuable and what is not. In their mind, all of these items have some value, whether it’s emotional or monetary, and because of this, they will want to keep everything. It’s best that they are not around when the cleaning of the home is done to make things go smoother. It will also be less stressful for the person not to see all of their belongings be taken away because to them, it’s all valuable.
Create three piles (Keep, Sell, Donate) and put the rest in the household trash
We mentioned this system earlier, having these 3 piles of keep sell and donate. Make it very easy to decide what goes where.
When they do not have a place in one of these piles, they go in the garbage. This also makes it easier if you have a larger group of people helping you clean.
How to Clean a Hoarders Home FAQ
How long does it take to clean a hoarder’s house?
Depending on the situation and the number of items that need to be removed from a house, it can take a day to a month to clean a hoarder’s home or more. The more people you have helping, the faster it will go.
What is the fastest way to clean a hoarder’s home?
The fastest way to clean a hoarder’s home is to hire a cleaning company to come in and remove everything; they will have the right tools and vehicles to get rid of everything in the house quickly. There are some that specialize in hoarding cleaning services.
Is hoarding cleanup covered by insurance?
House insurance is a tricky thing to navigate. It’s best to contact your insurance agent to see if this type of clean-up is covered by your insurance. Usually, this is not covered by insurance because the mess is caused by negligence and not by a circumstance that is insurable.
What are the dangers of cleaning a hoarder’s home?
The dangers of cleaning a house that has had a hoarder live in it are that you could be exposed to things that could harm you. From insect nests, allergens, or even rabid animals, you never know what you may encounter when cleaning a hoarder’s place. For this reason, you want to make sure you wear the protective gear we mentioned above.
Another thing you may encounter is biohazard materials. If you encounter biohazardous materials, do not attempt to clean this yourself; contact a professional restoration company because these items cannot be disposed of in the local garbage.
How to clean up after a hoarder dies
When a hoarder dies, it’s important to assess the situation; because they have issues putting values on things, you need to inspect all the items you throw away.
When we were cleaning the house, we found a stock certificate for several thousand dollars (this is how people used to own their shares before everything went online). It was next to a bunch of old books. Had we not seen it, we would have literally thrown away thousands of dollars.
Because the owner has passed, you may be tempted to throw everything out, but there could be items of real value. That is why it’s best to make sure you know what you are throwing away. Open the boxes and drawers and inspect them; you never know what you may find.
How much does it cost to clean a hoarder’s house?
Cleaning costs will vary on the size and the scope of the job. If you would like to get a quote on how much it will cost to clean the house, click on the button below to find a cleaner in your area. There are hoarding clean-up services that help with these types of hoarding situations.
Final Thoughts on Cleaning a Hoarders Home
Taking on the responsibility of cleaning a house lived in by a hoarder is a big task. To make sure you are ready for it, follow the suggestions in this article to make sure you are best prepared for the job ahead. Remember, one room at a time, and give yourself a reward once you finish. You have earned it!