Hoarding is a very real and very serious compulsion that is far more than just a dramatization seen on television. Hoarders are incredibly skilled at masking their hoarding behavior and maintaining seemingly normal, well put together lives outside of their home, in the presence of others. There is a great deal of underlying shame that comes with hoarding– thus, secrecy. Meanwhile, behind closed doors, there is a real-life, “As seen on T.V” situation.
Coming To Terms With a Hoarding Situation
Coming to terms with a hoarding situation is an overwhelming ordeal. If you yourself are the hoarder, admitting you have a problem and accepting the need to clear out the junk can be a challenging process. For family, friends and loved ones involved, seeing the conditions of your loved one’s home may be shocking. No Matter the hoarding situation, it is undeniable that something needs to be done. Hoarding behavior can render a home uninhabitable due to a wide variety of health risks caused by hoarding and safety hazards associated with hoarding. However, coming to terms with a hoarding situation is often easier said than done.
Behind that immense wall of various debris, underneath that seemingly bottomless pit of junk and beyond anything that is even physically tangible, are years and years of deep struggle leading up to that moment of revelation– and the struggle won’t end there. The emotional journey for the hoarder and others involved can be difficult enough on its own, you do not need the added stress of handling cleanup on your own. You don’t have to go at it alone. There are professionally trained hoarding cleanup technicians who can handle the actual cleanup, while you focus on dealing with the emotional roller coaster ride.
Risks With Attempting A Hoarding Cleanup On Your Own
The hoarder’s family and friends are often compelled to attempt cleanup immediately and on their own. Soon enough, they realize it is far more than they can handle, without help. The sheer amount of stuff should be enough of a challenge to deter DIY hoarding cleanup. However, the amount of stuff is actually the least of your worries. Hoarding cleanup can be very dangerous. There are all kinds of health and safety risks and hazards present in a hoarding situation.
Hoarding Cleanup Hazards:
Sanitation Issues- Overly cluttered homes are difficult to clean. Dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, trash removal and other daily cleaning chores become exceedingly difficult to complete as the hoarder brings in more and more contents. When dirt and debris collects in large quantities, you have the perfect environment to breed germs, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Poor cleaning habits might mean trash buildup, which may include rotting food and other waste that can release hazardous byproducts.
Without adequate personal protection, you might be exposing yourself to dangerous bacteria and possible disease when you attempt hoarding cleanup on your own.
Biohazard Contamination- Rotting food and decomposing materials may lure in a variety of unwanted rodents and pests. With time, they will nest and thrive, while remaining completely camouflaged by all the hoarded contents. As a result, hoarding cleanup often means dealing with biohazards. This might include removing animals (live or dead) and cleaning up urine, feces or other bodily fluids.
Sometimes hoarding animals (like cats) is part of the hoarders compulsion. Animal hoardings are especially sensitive. Animal hoarding is a serious issue that is unhealthy and dangerous for occupants of the space as well as the animals themselves. The combination of feces, urine and unsanitary filth create biohazards that put the health of all living things in that space at risk.
Attempting to handle biohazards on your own can be extremely dangerous. You could be exposing yourself to a variety of bacteria, viruses and bloodborne pathogens.
Limited Mobility & Injury Risks- Excess clutter makes it very difficult to safely maneuver around the space during cleanup. There is a high risk for personal injury if you are not careful.
Unstable Conditions- With so much contents in one space, the conditions may be unstable. Piles of junk can easily topple over, furthering the risk of personal injury or entrapment.
Fire Hazards- With so much clutter, there is an increased risk of fire with limited ability to extinguish the flames. If the hoarder collected a great deal of flammable materials, this will heighten the risk. Fires can occur when objects cover a heat vent or damaged wires. The clutter in a hoarder’s home inhibits safe evacuation in the event of a fire. There is also limited access for emergency responders for rescue.
Structural Issues- Like with daily cleaning tasks, property maintenance often falls to the wayside. As contents begin to accumulate, thorough maintenance checks become increasing difficult to complete. The home of a hoarder often suffers from a variety of maintenance issues. Lack of proper repairs can meaning worsening property damage and possible structural issues. The combination of poor maintenance and excess weight from the contents can really compromise the structural integrity of the property and become serious safety hazards.
Mold Growth- Excess clutter can greatly reduce airflow and restrict proper ventilation throughout the home. Signs of mold growth become increasingly difficult to identify as contents begin to accumulate. If mold growth goes unnoticed and unaddressed, it will worsen and spread. All that stuff also makes it extremely challenging to assess for signs of water intrusion. Clutter can hide leaks and other water problems from plain sight. Unaddressed water intrusion will lead to extensive mold growth and can compromise the home’s structural integrity–rendering the home unsafe for occupants.
Poor Indoor Air Quality- All of the above and various other indoor air pollutants (germs, bacteria, mold, etc.) are constantly cycling through the air. Prolonged exposure to contaminated air can lead to various health risks. If you are handling the hoarding cleanup on your own, and you do not wear the necessary personal protection, you could be breathing in all those contaminates and endangering your health.
The Unknown- Perhaps the most worrisome part of cleaning up a hoarder’s home is the unknown. There is no way to be certain what is hidden among that junk. At the very least, if you knew what was there, you would properly prepare for it. However, in a hoarding situation, some times, there is no way to be certain what kind of dangerous material you might come across.
For example, our crew was contacted by a client whose father was a hoarder and recently passed. He needed us to clean the property up in preparation for sale. With the actual hoarder not around to confirm the contents of the home, and our client ignorant of the full extent of the hoarding up until his father’s passing, our crew had to be prepared to come across anything. During the hoarding cleanup process, our crew uncovered a box of live grenades, illegal fireworks and live ammunition– all items, if handled improperly, could put lives in danger. Hoarding cleanups require special care and attention in order to ensure everyone’s safety and deliver an effective cleanup.
Why Hire A Professional Hoarding Cleanup Crew
Due to the health and safety concerns involved with hoarding cleanup, it is best to leave it to the professionals. Don’t put yourself in danger by attempting a hoarding cleanup on your own. The sheer physical demand of such a cleanup can be very draining. Furthermore, hoarding situations can be extremely tense and emotionally charged. Contact the professionals and let them help with the physical cleaning. You should be focusing on being an emotional support system for your loved one.
Whether you are a hoarder coming to terms with your own compulsion or you are a loved one trying to help a hoarder, you should enlist the help of a hoarding cleanup professional. If you are in need of hoarding cleanup service in the New Jersey and South Jersey area, our team at Mastertech Environmental may be able to help.