Spring Cleaning of the Hoarder
We may not all know people who are hoarders, but for those who do it can be incredibly frustrating to see someone keeping items that are completely unnecessary and rarely if ever, used. However, hoarders are often very reluctant to get rid of anything, which makes it difficult to help them. We just want the best for the people we care about. Spring cleaning season is an ideal time to talk to the hoarders in your life and see if they would be willing to accept some hoarding clean up help. If so, these tips on how to help a hoarder can guide your interactions as you work together on some spring cleaning.
Recognize the signs of a serious hoarding disorder
While hoarding may look to outsiders like someone just hasn’t gotten around to getting rid of items in their home, it can actually be a psychological disorder. In many cases, people who are extreme hoarders are psychologically diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This comes out in the form of compulsive hoarding, and it’s not something you can just solve by going in and cleaning up the house.
If the person you would like to help has signs of a hoarding disorder, you should direct them to get psychological counseling to address that side of the problem. You can help by finding a counselor in your area who has experience with compulsive hoarding. Then when the time comes, you can offer your help with the actual hoarding clean up.
Be compassionate and connect with feelings
When providing hoarding help, remember that your main job is to help your friend or family member. Much of that help is going to come emotionally as you support the person to work through the piles of stuff. You need to be ready to listen with compassion, show empathy, and be sensitive to the person’s feelings. If you come in with a task-oriented mentality, you will likely meet with a lot of resistance that will make it difficult to achieve real progress.
Determine the criteria for deciding whether things are worth keeping
While you may be willing to get rid of everything a hoarder has been holding onto, it’s not your stuff, and you don’t have the right to give it away or throw it away. Talk to your friend or family member and work out a method for answering the critical question of whether you can get rid of any given item. Agree on whether you can get rid of items without consulting your friend, or if your friend needs to be present to make each decision.
Some common criteria for determining what to get rid of in hoarding clean up include:
- Items that have not been used at all in a certain amount of time
- Items that do not bring joy to the owner
- Items that are duplicates of other things
- Sentimental items that can be photographed to preserve the sentiment
Make a plan. Experts recommend an organized plan of action, starting with enlisting help from a group of friends, family members, or professionals. Next, schedule a date, and workroom by room, no matter how hard it is not to think of all the other rooms you must clean and clear out. Finally, delegate tasks to your group members and create a system for setting aside keepsakes and valuables, charitable/donations, and trash.
Prevent future clutter creep. Spring cleaning should only come but once a year, provided you maintain the deep clean you completed on that first warm weekend. With a hoarder, that requires extra due diligence, and often on the part of the caregiver.