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How to Help a Hoarder


    What is Hoarding?

    Hoarding in Michigan - and everywhere - affects 2 to 6 percent of the population, according to the International OCD Foundation.

    Hoarding is a mental health disorder often associated with feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness. Hoarders often experience a persistent need to save objects of perceived value, and their behavior can interfere with relationships and daily tasks like cooking, bathing, and cleaning.

    Hoarding can range from mild to severe and have varying degrees of impact on a person’s life and on those around them.

    Unorganized clutter is typical of hoarding disorder. Individuals who suffer from hoarding disorder impulsively acquire and retain objects of all kinds. Some commonly hoarded items include paper and plastic bags, cardboard boxes, food, clothing, newspapers, magazines and other household items.

    The amount a hoarder saves is what usually sets them apart from other people without hoarding disorder.

    According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, a hoarder may exhibit several symptoms including:

    • Severe anxiety when discarding items or the inability to throw away items
    • Anxiety or suspicion of others touching items
    • Indecision about what to keep, where to put things or how to organize items
    • A feeling of embarrassment regarding their possessions
    • Obsessive thoughts and actions - fear of running out or needing certain objects
    • Impairments or barriers in the living space
    • Isolation and/or dysfunctional relationships.

    Not everyone who hoards sees it as a problem. They may not recognize the impact their hoarding has on those around them which can make treatment a challenge.

    How Do I Know Whether My Loved One is a Hoarder, or Just Messy?

    Approximately 19 million Americans suffer from some level of hoarding disorder. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the “prevalence of hoarding is similar across all countries and cultures.”

    Hoarders are often triggered by certain objects. They feel a compulsive desire to own that object and others like it. Hoarding can have a significant impact on not only the individual, but also the hoarder's friends and family.

    The APA confirms that the disorder occurs equally among men and women and recognizes that hoarding tendencies typically begin relatively early in life and become more severe as a person ages.

    Five Levels of Hoarding Disorder

    The Institute for Challenging Disorganization has identified five different severity levels of hoarding. Understanding the levels of hoarding severity can help with treatment protocols and the approach taken to help those affected by the condition.

    • Hoarding level 1: Level 1 hoarding is the least severe. Hoarders at level one usually have light amounts of clutter, no noticeable orders, and they still have access to all doors, windows and stairways in their home.
    • Hoarding level 2: Level two hoarding is more severe. Hoarders at this level may have one major exit to the house blocked or inaccessible. Cleaning is inconsistent so there may be odors from dirty dishes, mold or mildew. They may also have non functioning appliances and the beginning evidence of household pests.
    • Hoarding level 3: At this stage, hoarders have visible clutter inside and outside of the home. The clutter makes areas of the home unusable and at least one space is completely non functional due to the hoarding. Hoarders at this stage typically have significant cleaning and sanitation problems and significant evidence of household pests. Individually, the person may also have poor personal hygiene and suffer from weight problems.
    • Hoarding level 4: Level four hoarders are approaching the most severe level. They usually have significant levels of mold and mildew in the home. Several hallways, doorways or stairs in the home are completely inaccessible due to the hoarding. They typically have rotting or expired food, no usable dishes, and several non functioning spaces throughout the home.
    • Hoarding level 5: Level five is the most severe hoarding level. Hoarders at this level typically have a lot of structural damage in their home, noticeable animal and sometimes human waste, a large infestation of household pests and several areas of the home, if not the entire home is nonfunctioning. Most of the appliances will be unusable or not working either.

    Helping Hoarders: What to Do and What Not to Do

    How Hoarder Cleanout Michigan Can Help With Hoarding Problems?

    Our team at Hoarder Cleanout Michigan recognizes how difficult a hoarding situation can be for everyone involved.

    Compassion and patience are key to working with hoarders and their loved ones. Our goal is to help navigate the decluttering process in a dignified and judgment-free manner.

    We know individuals with hoarding disorder have a difficult time parting with their possessions for a number of different reasons, including:

    • They feel a personal connection to items. Sometimes they serve as a reminder of happy memories.
    • They strongly believe the items they’ve accumulated are unique and are, or will become, valuable.
    • Hoarders sometimes feel safe or safer when they are around their objects.
    • Hoarders sometimes have a strong desire to not waste anything and so refuse to throw anything away.

    We strive to work with the individual to understand and empathize with their individual concerns. In most cases, we will not conduct a cleanout without the hoarder’s consent.

    Why Empathy and Compassion For Hoarders is Important

    Hoarding is a mental health disorder. So, it’s imperative we take time to understand the person and the reasons they feel the way they do.

    By the time our team is contacted, we know emotions are running high and the situation is often both sensitive and dire. Our goal is to help everyone involved focus on the person, not the stuff.

    We understand that cleaning out the home is only part of the solution. If we don’t treat the underlying condition, a hoarder is likely to continue the behavior or become so distressed they become more attached to specific items.

    Our team at Hoarder Cleanout Michigan works directly with hoarders and their loved ones to achieve a successful outcome. We are always transparent in our process and strive to develop a partnership of trust between all those involved in the situation.

    How Does Our Hoarding Cleanout Program Work?

    Once contacted, our team at Hoarder Cleanout Michigan will assess the situation. We will get to know the people involved and provide a thorough no-cost estimate of the hoarder clean-up. A full explanation of our process is available on our How We Work page.

    It is important that your hoarder remains involved in the process. Our goal is to help everyone through the process.

    We are one of only a few hoarding cleanup companies in the region that prioritize salvaging items in the property.

    We know how important that can be, for not only the hoarder but also loved ones. Whenever possible - though it isn't always - we try to recycle, up-cycle or donate items from the home. Everything that becomes waste is thrown out in a respectful and dignified manner, and always without judgment.

    Because of the nature of the work that we do, and the importance of maintaining that partnership of trust, our job doesn’t end when the house is cleaned out.

    Once we’ve completed your cleanout, we can work with the homeowner or the family to arrange for deep cleaning, painting, new flooring or whatever else is needed to make the space a home again.

    Call or Email Today For a Free On-Site Estimate.

    Hoarding Cleanout Michigan serves communities throughout the state of Michigan. We are a fully insured, veteran-owned, local company. We strive to complete work quickly and efficiently, without delay. Call (231) 331-3253 today for your free on-site estimate.

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    Click below to learn more about helping yourself or your loved one with hoarding disorder.