A VERY Serious & VERY Real Compulsion
In recent years the general public has become more aware of hoarding than ever before, thanks in part to shows such as A&E’s Hoarders and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. Viewers watch in both horror and fascination of how much debris a single person can possibly accumulate in one single home behind closed doors, before it all finally unravels and becomes the perfect story line for optimal TV ratings. It is important to take a step back, away from the sensationalized perspective of the disorder, and appreciate that hoarding is a very real, very serious and very dangerous compulsion. Behind that immense wall of debris, underneath that seemingly bottomless pit of junk and beyond anything that a camera crew can capture, are years and years of struggle leading up to the intervention and surely years of struggles to come.
Those suffering from the compulsion become highly distressed at the mere thought of discarding any possessions. As a result, the relentless accumulation of possessions leads to a gravely cluttered home that renders parts of the home inaccessible and useless for the intended purposes. Compulsive hoarding ranges from mild to severe. In mild cases, the behavior has little to no impact on the sufferer’s day to day. However, in other, more serious cases, the behavior can seriously hinder the sufferer’s daily functioning, put a major strain on interpersonal relationships, and lead to alarming health and sanitation concerns.
Safety Risks of Hoarding & An Over Cluttered Home
Most hoarders do an amazing job of keeping their hoarding a secret. They’re embarrassed and will go to great lengths to make sure that family, friends and neighbors never know what is going on behind closed doors. Unwanted attention and embarrassment coupled with the extreme anxiety that comes with parting with things makes cleanup an overwhelmingly difficult task. Cleanup is often emotionally draining and physically taxing, but it has to be done for the well being of the sufferer. That is why, more often than not, it is most beneficial to enlist the help of a professional hoarding cleanup company with the necessary tools, training and experience to properly clean and sanitize the home.
Hoarders will go to great lengths to keep all their stuff. However, with enough time, as items build up, the compulsion can lead to serious dangers and hazards that put any and all occupants’ safety and well-being at risk. Safety risks may include the following:
- Lack of Egress – In case of an emergency situation, items and debris can obstruct exists and make it nearly impossible to evacuate the home in a safe and efficient manner. Furthermore, the mobility limitations make it difficult for first responders to navigate the space in the event of an emergency.
- Fire Hazard – Excessive clutter from hoarding increases the risk of fire and limits the ability to extinguish flames or evacuate. Often times, much of the clutter consists of flammable materials. Fires can also occur when objects cover a heat vent or damaged wires. Moreover, clutter obstructs residents in case of a fire and first responders may not be able to navigate a hoarded home to rescue residents.
- Injuries Risks – The likelihood of injury in a hoarder’s home increases greatly. Accidents can occur due to falls or trips on hoarded objects. Also, in extreme cases, hoarded items can stack floor to ceiling, immense piles of stuff can collapse and cause injury. There’s also the danger of getting trapped under debris and contents.
- Diseases Exposure – Pests like rats and cockroaches can infest a hoarded home increasing the chance of infecting people with diseases.
- Mold Growth– The combination of water damage and organic material is the perfect recipe for mold growth. Hoarders also have difficulty throwing away food which can result in mold infestation. Mold can cause respiratory and other health problems, especially for those with allergies.
- Diminished Air quality – Clutter brings dust, odors, and ammonia from decaying waste products. These can cause serious air quality issues in the hoarder’s home. It may be difficult to breathe and respiratory problems may develop for people and pets.
- Structural integrity – Over time, hoarding can cause damage to the building itself due to the overwhelming weight of the excessive contents hoarders put in them.
- Building maintenance – Clutter can prevent technicians from performing necessary maintenance on HVAC equipment and sprinkler systems, creating a safety hazard.
Professional Hoarding Cleanup
Due to the sanitation and health risks involved in cleaning up a hoarding situation, it is recommended that you hire a professional hoarding & bio-hazard cleanup company to complete the work. In many cases there may be bio-hazards, odors, pet feces, human feces and a whole host of other issues – many of which may be harmful to human health. Often times the property will need to be carefully disinfected to ensure safe future living conditions. A professional cleaning company that specializes in hoarding cleanup will have technicians who are trained to handle even the worst cleanup situations and will do so discretely and with compassion for the homeowner or family members.