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What Are the Best Tips for Hoarding Cleanup?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated May 16, 2024
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Some of the best tips for hoarding cleanup are to call a professional, notify the hoarder’s insurance company, and prevent recurrence with treatment. Many hoarding messes cannot be properly and safely cleaned without the help of a professional cleaner. The hoarder’s insurance may need to investigate the problem and, in some cases, may pay for the entire cleanup. In addition, much like other mental problems, recurrence is likely without treatment. Experts often stress not to be ashamed about the problem, since hoarding tendencies are true mental health problems rather than someone just being lazy.

One of the best things to do is to call a professional for hoarding cleanup. These professionals are usually the same people who clean up crime scenes once the local police are finished investigating. A house that has experienced hoarding damage might be a bio-hazard, meaning it is a risk to peoples’ safety. There are often specific laws to follow when cleaning up such messes, laws which the average person is unaware of or does not have the proper equipment to follow. It is important to call a professional hoarding cleanup company rather than a maid service who may not have the appropriate knowledge to deal with the situation.

Sometimes hoarding cleanup is paid for by the hoarder’s renter or homeowner insurance. This is always worth looking into because of how expensive cleanup can be, especially for long-term or multiple hoarders. The insurance company should be contacted before cleanup begins. Depending on the policy and local laws, the hoarder’s insurance premiums may rise in price due to the claim.

Hoarders must deal with their problems to prevent recurrence. There are hoarding experts who can come to a hoarder’s home and help him or her on a daily basis. Knowing what kind of hoarding is being dealt with can help with finding a hoarding expert. Digital hoarders, for example, are people who collect useless files on their computers. They are much different from animal hoarders, who are people that obsessively collect cats, dogs, or other animals that fit in or around their homes.

Sometimes hoarders are mistaken for lazy or dirty people. The truth is that hoarders have a real problem. People who hoard should be encouraged not to be ashamed by their problem because it is fairly common and treatable. In addition, it is often not the hoarder’s fault that he or she is hoarding, but usually stems from an unpleasant past experience.

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Discussion Comments
By anon990412 — On Apr 20, 2015

My sister-in-law is a hoarder. She wasn't always this way, and her previous home, while not spotless or uncluttered, was what I consider "normal". Her parents did not keep a dirty or hoarded home, so this isn't learned behavior.

Anyway, after my mother died, my brother and his wife moved into my mother's always immaculate house and the hoarding began. And the compulsive shopping also began, which led to more hoarding. Where any of this stems from is unknown. She suffered no huge trauma in childhood, nor did she grow up deprived in any sense of the word. At my brother's request, several family members staged an intervention to try to get her to admit her hoarding issues and seek professional help. We tried this method on two occasions, and they both ended with her getting extremely upset and belligerent and steadfastly refusing to admit that she has a problem, and then she didn't speak to any of us for months. We finally gave up.

Meanwhile, now 10 years after my mother's death, the once lovely little home is unrecognizable. It is filthy, cluttered to the ceiling, and virtually unlivable. My brother has resigned himself to his fate. He merely comes home from work, hides in his relatively clean and uncluttered "man cave" and puts on blinders when he has to venture outside of that room. Visiting is heartbreaking. Not only because I hate to see them living in such conditions, but because my mother worked so hard to buy that house, furnish it and decorate it, and now it is a pile of garbage.

I'm one of the few family members who will even step foot in the house these days, and lately I've been making up excuses not to visit because I always leave feeling depressed, bewildered and angry.

By anon932458 — On Feb 12, 2014

Wow. Yes, it is extremely hard to live with someone who has this problem, but calling them a "psycho case" is way out of line. There are so many things in the brain that each of us has no choice about having occur. Yep, we can choose our way out, but to stand back like you're some kind of superior human being just because you don't do this behavior is really unnecessarily harsh. What makes you so perfect?

By anon353666 — On Nov 01, 2013

Hoarders ruin the people's lives who live with them. They need to be put in institutions. It's a waste of time to clean up after them, and it's even worse when they have children, not to mention the animals that suffer from a hoarding situation. I'ts like living with an out of control psycho case.

By anon284260 — On Aug 09, 2012

My oldest sister is a hoarder, and she's disrupted our lives as long as I can remember. As I child (I'm 12 years younger than my oldest sister), I was forced to endure her temper tantrums over trivial things, her verbal abuse towards my mother, her manic-depressive episodes and her entitlement attitude.

I'm not sure why hoarders are treated with kid gloves all of the time. It's just not fair to the normal people who are forced to coddle them and walk on eggshells in between their flare-ups. I'm in my upper 40s now, and I am still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from her temper tantrums.

My sister lived at home until she was 40 years old, and she stole my childhood in so many ways it's not even funny. Not to mention the man she brought into her, and into all of our lives. He is a previously institutionalized man who was very mentally ill. This story is way too long and way to sad to even tell. Just let it be said: If your child is a hoarder, get help now! Especially if he or she has brothers and sisters! Because he or she will screw up your family beyond repair! Do not treat the hoarder with kid gloves, do not let them manipulate you. They are pros at taking advantage and playing the “woe is me” card. --from a sister of a hoarder, and I wish my parents had done things way differently.

By sunnySkys — On Feb 12, 2012

I agree with the article. It is pretty useless to clean up a hoarding mess without treating the hoarder. Since this is actually a mental problem, the person probably won't just magically change their behavior if they all of a sudden have a clean house!

I would hate for anyone to spend time and money cleaning up a hoarding mess, only to end up in the same situation later on.

By Monika — On Feb 11, 2012

I would caution against filing an insurance claim for hoarding cleanup. Or at least get an estimate first!

Depending on how much it's going to cost, it might be better just to pay for it out of pocket. As the article said, a lot of times when you file a claim on your homeowners insurance, your premium will go up.

A lot of people don't know this, but the insurance companies get you twice in these instances. They surcharge you for filing a claim, which raises your rate. Then, usually you lose a discount. A lot of companies give a certain percent discount for being "claims free." The surcharge plus losing the discount can add up to paying a lot of extra money on your homeowners insurance.

By JessicaLynn — On Feb 10, 2012

@jholcomb - Something similar to what you're describing happened in my county. There was a man who was hoarding animals, just like your aunt. He had about 60 or so cats in his house. The sad part was, he had started by billing himself as a cat "rescue," but really the cats weren't very well taken care of and the house was falling apart.

The cats were rescued and taken to a real shelter, but I have no idea how many of them actually got adopted. I do remember reading that the house needed extensive repairs though. I believe they actually brought in professionals, because it was more than the average person could handle.

By John57 — On Feb 10, 2012

@honeybees - I do have a success story when it comes to hoarding clean up. This was not a quick process, but took many years of counseling.

Once my nieces were grown, my sister had a really hard time, and began hoarding. Eventually her house was completely full of stuff and she found herself very depressed as well.

I realized enough to know this was going to take professional help. Instead of focusing on cleaning up the hoarding, I encouraged her to get some counseling for her depression.

Through this, she was able to deal with some of her issues and talk about the hoarding without getting defensive.

It is hard for most people to understand the way a hoarder thinks, so I would encourage people to seek professional help on an ongoing basis.

This is something she will probably always struggle with, but it has been 2 years and she has been able to keep her house clear of the hoarding.

By honeybees — On Feb 09, 2012

I didn't realize that renters or home owner insurance would cover hoarding clean up costs. This is something that I might mention to my sister-in-law, but know this is a touchy subject to bring up.

When you see in her public, you would not have any idea what her houses look like. She has two houses, and both of them look exactly the same way. She barely has a path to get from one room to another.

She is single and has never married, and this problem just gets worse every year. Of course, she never has anyone over to her home. The people she works with would probably be very surprised to know she lives this way, as she always looks well put together when she is out and about.

I don't know the best way to approach her about cleaning up her hoarding as she has never made any comments that she is concerned about it. I think this is something that she has to take the initiative to do, or it probably wouldn't do any good.

It would be easy for me to go in and start throwing things away, but I think that would only cause hard feelings and not get to the root of the problem.

By MrsWinslow — On Feb 08, 2012

@jholcomb - I'm sorry to hear about your aunt. I hope that she is getting better. People don't always realize that hoarding is a mental illness and that people don't do it on purpose. I'm sure your aunt meant well. Poor kitties.

A friend of mine bought a house a couple of years ago that sounds like your aunt's house. The occupant had died and the cats been removed one way or another and the family was eager to unload the house. They were not interested in superintending the extensive renovations it would take to make the house livable, so my friend got it at a rock-bottom price.

He's actually a contractor, so he was able to do most of the replacement work himself, but he had to have professional help for some areas that were biohazards. Like you mentioned, he had to replace the subfloors. The fixtures were so old that even without the cat issue, one would have wanted to gut the place and put in all new cabinets and appliances and so forth. In a few places, he even had to replace drywall.

But the place is a real showplace now that it's finished. I was skeptical - when I first saw the place after he bought it, I thought he'd be better off bulldozing the whole thing!

By myharley — On Feb 07, 2012

Years ago, before it was common to hear about hoarders, there was a lady in my small home town who could not turn any animal away.

Between the cats and dogs she had, I think she had over 30 animals in her small house. Since this was such a small town, everyone knew about it, but nobody did anything about it except talk about it.

Even though I love animals and don't like to see any of them suffer or have bad homes, there has to be a line between what is reasonable.

Of course all the stray cats in town ended up at her house because she would feed them. What is sad is that this lady was known to be a loner, and as far as I knew, didn't have any friends or family who visited her.

Once I grew up and moved away, I never found out what happened to this lady. Years ago this was a problem that was never discussed as it is today. There weren't people or organizations available that knew how to treat this kind of problem.

By SarahSon — On Feb 07, 2012

My only experience with hoarders is what I have seen on TV. I know this is a common problem, but personally don't know anybody who is a hoarder.

At first I just thought people were hoarders because they were lazy. It is easy to look at a hoarder's house and just see it as junk to get rid of.

I didn't realize this is really a mental condition and must be treated professionally and with extreme care. If you just go in and get rid of the stuff for them, their house will end up looking exactly the same way a few months down the road.

Before dealing with the hoarding clean up, you have to determine why that person is a hoarder. It is interesting to learn all the different reasons someone has become a hoarder. Many times it is because of something traumatic that happened earlier in their life.

By jholcomb — On Feb 07, 2012

This is an incredibly intractable problem. We always knew that my aunt had a lot of cats around, and she never invited us to her house. We kept trying to talk to her about it, but she brushed us off, saying that she could handle them. When we would see her (never at her house, but out in public), she could be covered with cat hair, often with fresh scratches, and frankly she smelled funny. She resisted all attempts to get her into therapy.

Even so, we just didn't realize the extent of the problem - until we saw her house on the local news. Yes, she was one of *those* cat ladies. They removed 57 cats from her home; many of them were inbred, most were not neutered, and most were not housebroken. I think most of them had to be put down - they were not really in adoptable condition.

Now my aunt is finally getting help, but whether it will stick or whether she will start the process all over again remains to be seen. Meanwhile, her house is uninhabitable. We're told that it will have to be completed gutted - that the counters and cabinets will likely have to be removed and that not only the carpet, but possibly also the subfloor will need replacement. Cleaning up from cats can go beyond "cleanup" to "renovations"!

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