How to clean up after a hoarder dies

woman in hazmat suit

The NHS define a hoarding disorder as:

‘A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter. The items can be of little or no monetary value.’

Often sorting through a dear one’s possessions after they have died can be a good way to achieve closure. It will of course be terribly upsetting and some people may not be able to face up to the task so soon after someone has departed but others will find that it sparks lovely memories as they sift through old photographs and memorabilia.

The truth is, however difficult the task, it has to be done. What nobody expects to do is a clearing out job that could take weeks and may even endanger their health but that’s what cleaning out a hoarder’s house can easily involve.

When you are required to clean out a hoarder’s house, the task can be on another level altogether.

Cleaning out a hoarder’s house after death

The chances are you won’t even know what kind of state the house is in because a hoarder tends to reject visitors before they’ve had a chance to step over the threshold.

But when they’ve passed on and you have to sort out their possessions you’ll discover that they don’t really discriminate between things that have a value, whether monetary or sentimental, for them everything is to be stashed away to the point where the home is unable to navigate.

Cleaning out a hoarder house isn’t just about sifting through possessions it can involve clearing away toppling piles of magazines and newspapers and boxes stuffed with empty food trays, It can be learning that the person has been living in a small patch of house without access to the bathroom or kitchen as they’ve been blocked by debris and it can mean facing up to the fact that you can’t do it alone.

Why you should get a professional to clean a hoarder house

There are some hoarder situations where the house is so rammed with clutter that it will be dangerous and be a source of both physical dangers and biohazards.

Hoarding can result in;

  • Structural damage to the property
  • Toppling stacks of papers and other debris
  • Infestation of insects and vermin
  • Exposure to biohazards
  • Exposure to rotting food

A professional cleaning company will come prepared and equipped for any of these possibilities and know how to deal with them. Once all the clutter is cleared and the threat of injury or contamination is removed then if you need to sort out the remaining possessions of the deceased person, it becomes a lot easier.

How to sort out the possessions of a hoarder who has passed away

  • Do not do it alone. For one thing it’s dangerous. A stack of magazines, books or shelving may topple over and injure you, for example, so make sure someone else is there, or simply hire someone to help.
  • Take a look at the will as the deceased person may have left instructions about what should happen to their belongings after they have died.
  • Declutter before you start going through the pieces that you might want to keep. Sure, the person may have a lovely antique table in the kitchen but you won’t know unless the piles of worthless trash have been cleared away. Again, a professional service would be able to clear in hours what it might take you days.
  • Removing rotting food and other debris should be made a priority.
  • When someone you love dies, the temptation is to try to hang on to a lot of their stuff. This usually ends up in a box or bag in your attic, or shed. It’s often best to let things go and just keep things that have a meaningful connection to the person such as the watch they always wore, or their wedding band.
  • Don’t feel guilty about getting rid of someone else’s possessions. It’s good to let them go. Most people find that photographs and memories are all they need to take away with them. Anything valuable may be sold and the rest of the person’s recyclable property sent to a charity shop.

If you are faced with the prospect of cleaning out a hoarder house, our expert cleaning team are here to help. Find out more information about our hoarding cleaning service and contact us today for more information on 03300 02 02 88.

Clients of Direct Cleaning Group