Hoarding and New Year Organization

Jim Bauer Home Maintenance and Repair

At the start of the new year, millions of people set goals to make changes that impact their health, job, finances, family, home and lifestyle. For many people, their New Year’s resolutions include home organization and a promise and commitment to clean up their house and get rid of clutter. For others, the issue of runs a bit deeper and affects a larger portion of their life. Whatever category you fall in to, there are several things for you to know and be aware of as you begin to organize and restore your life this year.

Are You a Hoarder?

For some people, a messy house means a few unwashed dishes or a pile of laundry. For others, commonly referred to as hoarders, it goes beyond simple home organization. It means an extreme amount of clutter that creates dysfunction in daily life. Hoarders struggle with something as simple as throwing away an old college sweatshirt or a worn out pair of sneakers. To them, many items represent memories or a piece of personal history, and throwing them out can feel like throwing away a piece of their life. As a result, they collect items such as clothing, personal mementos and novelty items. In extreme cases, they may hold on to stacks of old newspapers and magazines, old food, receipts and bills, and even trash. People with hoarding tendencies are typically unwilling to give up the things that clutter their space and cause dysfunction.

The Dangers of Hoarding

Hoarding causes a slew of dangerous conditions for residents and anyone else who enters the home.

Home Organization - electrical outlet burned from fireFire

Fire is one of the biggest dangers in a hoarded home because of the potential for large amounts of flammable materials lying around. If objects are near or are covering a heating vent or electrical outlet, the chances of a fire starting are much higher. In the event of a fire or other emergency, the excess of clutter obstructs access to exits. This could pose a huge danger as residents and first responders may not be able to easily navigate a hoarded home. If a fire does strike your home, your belongings and the physical structure of your home could be damaged, potentially leading to much larger problems.

Learn More: Fire Prevention Checklist

Diseases

Pesky pests such as cockroaches and rats can easily infest a hoarded home, increasing the risk of illness and infection. With clutter filling your space, it becomes nearly impossible to spot unwanted critters, drastically extending the time that they call your home theirs. Many hoarders also struggle with their hygiene, further increasing the risk of illness or disease.

home organization - construction worker wearing face maskAir Quality

With clutter comes dust, odors, and ammonia from decaying waste products. These can cause serious air quality issues in the home. It may be difficult to breathe and respiratory problems may develop for both people and pets.

Injuries

Hoarded objects are often fall risks and can cause injuries to residents and their guests. In some hoarded homes, piles of clutter sometimes as high as the ceiling can collapse and trap people or pets underneath.

Water Damage

Home Organization - water damage on wall and baseboardsThe combination of water and organic material is never a good one. In a hoarded home, spills and puddles of water can go unnoticed for long periods of time, causing damage that may be difficult and expensive to repair. Water damage that is ignored can quickly cause unwanted growth, which could lead to respiratory and other health problems. This is especially dangerous for people who already have pre-existing allergies. Be sure to thoroughly examine the ceiling, floors and walls for signs of water damage and have it repaired immediately.

Learn More: What is Water Damage?

Building Maintenance

It’s a general rule of thumb that, when living in a home, things often break and need to be repaired. Large amounts of clutter can prevent repairs from being noticed. It can also prevent maintenance technicians from coming in and safely fixing what is broken. Even if it’s a simple job, in a hoarded home, fixing things like HVAC systems, electrical wiring, and plumbing could be huge safety hazards.

Structural Integrity

Due to the overwhelming amount and weight of the contents hoarders hold on to, the structural integrity of the building itself could be damaged over time. This makes for dangerous living conditions, and could cause injuries if a floor or wall were to collapse.

Home Organization - PuroClean VanEmergency Restoration

If your home does get damaged by fire, smoke or water, it’s important to get it fixed as soon as possible. Waiting to get any damage repaired could end up creating even worse conditions for anyone who enters your home. Don’t ignore it. Emergency restoration specialists have the tools, knowledge and experience to restore your home to its original condition and create a safe and healthy living environment.

Learn More: What is Emergency Restoration?

Cleaning Up Your Home

Most hoarders tend to need professional help with cleaning and organizing. But don’t worry, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The first step to a clutter-free life is recognizing that there is a problem that needs to be fixed and pushing forward.

Recognizing the Problem

A house that’s a little messy because of a busy work schedule or family responsibilities is very different than a house where clutter keeps you from walking from room to room. A person who hoards has very different behaviors than a person who simply needs to clean up the house. Hoarders accumulate an excessive amount of items that often fill up every space in the house, so living and functioning in the home becomes nearly impossible.

Getting Help

For some people, their hoarding tendencies may warrant professional help and intervention. If this is you, connect with a therapist who understands the process and the difficulty of throwing things away due to emotional attachments.

For others, it may simply be a matter of taking charge and committing to cleaning and getting rid of things. Consider making a New Year’s resolution to go through your house, room by room, and get rid of things you don’t use or need; things that are just taking up unnecessary space. After that, think twice about items you purchase and what you bring into the house. Being more intentional with your purchases can help you be more diligent with living clutter-free.

Cleaning and Organizing Tips

Hoarding clean-up and de-cluttering is not an easy task. Depending on the size of the job, it may be in your favor to hire restoration professionals who have the expertise and equipment to perform the job safely and efficiently. Either way, there are some simple and achievable things you can do to help you be on your way to living a clutter-free life.

Home Organization - Fire ExtinguisherEnsuring safety

You never know what may be waiting for you in a hoarded home. So it’s extremely important for workers to be as protected as possible. This means wearing protective gear such as disposable gloves, goggles, and dust masks to guard against bacteria and diseases. It is also wise to have a fire extinguisher, bug repellent spray, a flashlight, and a first-aid kit on hand.

Designate Space

A free, open space or staging area is a must in order to have somewhere to temporarily place the contents that are emptied from the home. Set aside a portion of the yard for sorting. Get a dumpster for all trash and debris.

Start Slow

If you are experiencing feelings of stress and anxiety, start slow. Don’t try to go through your entire house and clean and organize all at once. Tackle one small space or one room at a time before moving on to the next area.

Home Organization - Someone cleaning toilet with yellow rubber glovesGet a Cleaning Partner

If you have hoarding tendencies, the cleaning process may be a fairly large task. Consider getting a partner that can help you in this process. Ask a friend or family member to help you form a plan to create a healthy, clean living environment.

Cleaning Supplies

You will most likely need tools and cleaning equipment to remove the trash and clean the home. Make sure you have supplies such as heavy-duty trash bags, buckets, empty boxes, disinfectants, and cleaning agents on hand and in a place that is easily accessible.

Home Organization and De-Cluttering

Once everything is ready, it’s time to tackle the clutter. Start in the room that is closest to the exit. This will not only make it easier to enter and exit as you need to, but will also be safer in the case of an emergency. Then, start from the top of piles and work your way down to prevent collapsing. As you go, give your home a home safety assessment. If there are still things around that could be potentially hazardous to your health and safety, decide whether they simply need to be relocated or if they should be thrown away.

De-Clutter Your Bathroom

Go through your bathroom cabinets and throw away all expired prescriptions and medicines. Clean your countertops, sinks, toilets, bathtubs, and showers at least once each week to avoid contact with germs and bacteria. Choose a natural cleaning solution that will protect you from toxic chemicals.

Home Organization - man cleaning kitchen with mopDe-Clutter Your Kitchen

Rotten food, leftovers, and open food items pose huge health risks. They also attract unwanted roaches and rodents. Whether you have old food in the refrigerator or scattered on kitchen countertops, get rid of it. Bad food can contaminate your air and cause unforgivable odors and health problems. A dirty kitchen will quickly create an unsanitary living environment, so it’s important to clean and disinfect this space as best as you can.

Sort and Put Things in a Box

If you are going through rooms and can’t decide which items to keep or toss, put things in a box and set them aside. If, after several months, you haven’t opened the box, get rid of it. This is a great idea for people who hoard and accumulate items they never use. If you are able to decide, designate boxes for things you want to keep and things you want to donate. Once all is said and done, go through the box of things to keep one more time to see if you still truly need everything in it.

Take out the Trash

Many hoarders’ homes are filled with trash, cans and plastic bottles, old newspapers, and rotten food. To keep up with it all, make a regular routine for taking out the trash and recycling. Taking the trash out on a regular basis will help keep your space free of items that could re-clutter your space and pose more problems.

Home Organization - laundry in dryerKeep up with the Laundry

Everyone gets behind on laundry chores, but leaving dirty clothes around for too long can cause bad odors and unsanitary living conditions. Wash and dry clothes on a weekly basis and put them away when they come out of the dryer. This not only keeps things sanitary and organized, but it also helps you stay on top of this sometimes daunting task.

Handle Things Once

Hoarders often have difficulty making rational decisions, especially when it comes to getting rid of items in their home. As a result, cleaning and organizing becomes nearly impossible. When getting rid of clutter, don’t put things aside thinking you will get to it later. Take time to make a decision about an item in that moment so you don’t have to handle it again later.

Tip: Once your home is clean and de-cluttered, have it inspected to bring peace of mind and ensure nothing has been missed or overlooked. You’ll sleep soundly at night knowing your home is completely safe to live in again.

Repairing and Cleaning the Home

Once the entire home is clutter-free, repairs should be done if needed. Look for places that may need repainting or re-carpeting. If you’ve had fire, water or biohazard damage, you may even need to call in a damage restoration contractor to do some larger renovations. Once the home is safe and fully repaired, be sure to take the time to disinfect all of the contents in the house. When all is said and done, it’ll be much easier for you to create a regular cleaning system to keep your house clean and clutter-free.

Whether you have hoarding tendencies or just need to get more organized, de-cluttering your home can have a positive impact on your life. If you have problems with hoarding, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Ask family members and friends to help you get things back on track. When it comes to taking care any damage in your home, our emergency restoration specialists have the tools and knowledge it takes to get your life back in order.

You don't have to do this alone!

Download our De-Cluttering Checklist to help you get started clearing the clutter this year.