Knowing how to help a loved one (or anyone) deal with hoarding is challenging. Shows like “Hoarding: Buried Alive” have shined a light on a problem that is more common than anyone knew. As a restoration company that offers hoarding clean up services in San Diego, we are well aware of the possible tension and emotions involved in bringing a hoarded property back to livability. At Clean Earth Restorations, we have a professional protocol for handling the physical locale, and we also have a few tips of what NOT to do when approaching a hoarding situation:
1. Do not remove belongings from a hoarder without their permission.
Though their belongings may appear valueless to you, they are an integral part of a strong emotional ecosystem that serves a deep purpose to the person who hoards. When you take away possessions without consent, you create an emotional danger for the hoarder and will most likely be met with anger, defensiveness, panic or other strong emotions. It has been shown that removing hoarded belongings does not “cure” the hoarder and it is likely that they will continue amassing belongings if the root problem is not worked out.
2. Do not use anger or threats to initiate change.
They don’t work. Frustration is common for people trying to help a hoarder, and this can morph into anger or even threats. It is helpful to understand that hoarding is not a “decision” but a psychological system, and an officially recognized disorder with specific treatments. For more information about what is known about hoarding and hoarding treatment, see the Mayo Clinic’s article, Hoarding Disorder.
3. Do not “go it alone”.
Enclosing yourself in a duel of wills with a hoarder is not usually the most effective strategy, and can lead to strained or broken relationships, in addition to a stalemate of the situation. There are many people and organizations who can help you deal with your situation, whether you are the hoarder, or the person trying to help a hoarder.
We are lucky to have an internationally recognized university and medical center in San Diego that offers an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Hoarding Program. Read more about it and find contact information here.
Clean Earth Restorations also has its own free tip sheet about helping a loved one who hoards. Download it here:
We can answer your questions about hoarding clean up or provide you a free estimate on services through this link: