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Home organization & decluttering

7 Decluttering Tips On How To Help A Hoarder

 (modified Mar 7, 2023)

What is a Hoarding Disorder?

Hoarding is a clinically recognized mental health condition. The world-renowned Mayo Clinic defines hoarding disorder as the persistent difficulty discarding or eliminating possessions. These can include items that have no value and may even otherwise qualify as garbage. A person afflicted with hoarding disorder experiences significant, even debilitating, distress at the thought of having to part with items.

As a result of hoarding disorder, excessive accumulation of items occurs. Over time, the sheer volume of these items affects upon and ultimately eliminates the livable space in a residence. This can be items taking up space in the bedroom, kitchen, basement, garage or other rooms of the home. This is the definition of hoarding. How to help a hoarder clean up requires both physical and mental assistance and patience. This disorder is a mental illness and should be treated with tact and professional help, when called upon. Not only can a hoarding disorder impact the life of the hoarder but also can impact the lives of their family members and loved ones.

For these individuals, these 7 decluttering tips for hoarders will be extremely beneficial.

More Information on the Hoarding Disorder as per the American Psychiatric Association

Hoarding Video

7 Tips on How to Help a Hoarder Declutter

That said, if you know someone exhibiting hoarding symptoms, these tips below must be implemented with patience and tact because If you have a person in your life who meets the classification of a hoarder, and checks off the hoarding symptom checklist, this individual probably needs professional mental health intervention along with these decluttering tips.

  1. Listen Without Judgment
  2. Suggest Multifaceted Assistance
  3. Develop a Plan of Action to Help the Hoarder Clean Up
  4. Ease into the Declutter Process
  5. Let the Hoarder be the Ultimate Decision Maker
  6. Don't Hesitate to Obtain Professional Assistance to Improve Mental Health
  7. Implement Strategies to Prevent Accumulation and Clutter in the Future

1. Listen Without Judgment

The first step on how to help a hoarder purge is to gently and non judgmentally approach that individual and express your support and willingness to listen. Initially, you do not even need to direct attention in your conversation to the hoarding disorder itself. The ultimate purpose of this initial step is to establish a direct rapport with a person struggling with hoarding and to let them know that you can be a trusted confidant.

Gradually, you can ask general questions about the state of that individual's live and broach the subject of the number of items that person appears to be accumulating. You must be patient and this is not the time to pass any type of judgment on the hoarder. This remains a time for listening.

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2. Suggest Multifaceted Assistance

Properly communicating with a hoarder is vital. The importance of remaining nonjudgmental throughout this process cannot be under-emphasized. Once you feel you've established a rapport with your hoarding loved one, once you feel that the individual has at least a decent amount of trust in you, suggest the possibility that the person might benefit from certain types of assistance.

In reality, a hoarder needs help along two general courses. First, he or she needs hoarding treatment, i.e. professional therapy. Second, an individual in this position needs practical assistance to aid in decluttering and eliminating the hoard.

You must keep in mind that many, if not most, hoarders do no not initially perceive that they have a problem. This is one of many characteristics of a hoarder. Indeed, a person with a hoarding disorder is likely to think he or she is doing what is proper, doing what is necessary in accumulating items. Such an individual may be inclines to go to fairly significant lengths to protect a hoard, including becoming combative.

The key is to remain patient and never push the hoarder and demand that items be eliminated immediately. A proper strategy is to suggest that getting rid of some items in the residence will make it more livable for the hoarder. For example, if the kitchen is filled with items (as often happens), reducing the hoard can free up appliances. The same holds true for the bedroom and bathroom. Eliminating items from these areas allow a person suffering from hoarding disorder the ability to begin having a more comfortable, balanced - normal - life.

Hoarder needs help decluttering

3. Develop a Plan of Action to Help the Hoarder Clean Up

Considering the state of hoarder's home and the vast amount of clutter collected, you're inclined to question, "how can I implement these decluttering tips fast?". Unfortunately, this mentality will leave you spinning your wheels and may have you back at square 1 before you know it.

Another important tip to bear in mind when helping a hoarder declutter is to get that person to buy into the process as much as possible. At the heart of that objective is developing a plan of action with the hoarder, an action plan the hoarder has ownership in creating.

At the heart of the plan is the establishment of specific criteria pertaining to what items will be kept and what items will be discarded. The action plan also needs to delineate the manner in which the discarding process will operate.

For example, when items are initially selected for elimination, they can be placed and kept in a staging area for an agreed period of time. Taking this interim approach gives a hoarder the comfort of knowing that if he or she has second thoughts about a particular item, it is not going to be immediately irretrievably gone.

Decide if the best course of action is to rent a dumpster or to haul the junk yourself.

Woman decluttering a room

4. Ease into the Decluttering Process

Your initial inclination may be to dive into the decluttering process and get moving quickly. That is a natural inclination - for you. However, taking such as approach with a person with a hoarding disorder may derail the decluttering process all together. Bear in mind that a person did not become a hoarder overnight. A hoard typically did not develop in a short period of time.

Decluttering a hoard is something that by definition cannot be undertaken with the bat of an eye. You don't have to know the root cause of hoarding or the psychological causes of hoarding but it is a deliberate process that you must recognize the feelings of the hoarder.

5. Let the Hoarder be the Ultimate Decision Maker

Reference to the hoarder having a sense of ownership over the decluttering process cannot be understated. Indeed, it is so important that it bears repeating here as its own, separate tip.

When it comes to the pace of the decluttering process, and helping a hoarder eliminate unecessary clutter and restoring order, the hoarder is the decision maker - period. The only exception is in a situation in which a person has become physically or mentally incapacitated to the point of lacking the ability to understand what is going on around him or her.

6. Don't Hesitate to Get Professional Assistance to Improve Mental Health

You do not need to take the burden of hoarder cleanup on your own shoulders. There are experienced compassionate professionals that can assist you and a hoarder in cleaning up and decluttering. Such a professional understands the tactics and strategies that need to be followed to accomplish the objective of decluttering and cleaning up a hoard.

Decluttering improves mental health

7. Implement Strategies to Prevent Accumulation and Clutter in the Future

Finally, in the absence of a specific strategy to prevent accumulation and clutter in the future, a majority of people with hoarding disorder will start hoarding again. As a result, implementing specific strategies to prevent an over accumulation of items in the future is vital.

Prevention can be looking for warning signs of potential hoarding. If your family member or loved one doesn't know how to downsize or doesn't want to downsize their home after their kids or loved ones have moved out, it is possible that the thought of a smaller home with less storage space will cause your loved one a lot of anxiety.

In this situation, listen, without judgement, to reasons why your loved one does not want to downsize. There could be other sentimental reasons they won't entertain the idea of downsizing a home but asking questions about relinquishing sentimental items should help you discover those aforementioned warning signs.

To recap, utilizing these strategies will be how you help a hoarder declutter:

  1. Listen Without Judgment

    - Builds trust and support for the one in need.
  2. Suggest Multifaceted Assistance

    - The loved one will not only need professional help but an action plan to declutter the hoard.
  3. Develop a Plan of Action with the Hoarder

    - Letting the hoarder have ownership of the plan increases success of overcoming disorder.
  4. Ease into the Declutter Process

    - Keep in mind the hoarder has been collecting for a while, consider their emotions during this process.
  5. Let the Hoarder to be the Ultimate Decision Maker

    - While assisting the hoarder to clean up, still allow them to have control of their items.
  6. Don't Hesitate to Obtain Professional Assistance

    - Hiring experienced professionals will let you focus on giving the hoarder the support they need.
  7. Implement Strategies to Prevent Accumulation and Clutter in the Future

    - Continuosly support and work with the hoarder towards a better future.

By following these decluttering tips for hoarders, you will be able to provide meaningful and ultimately effective assistance in helping the hoarder clean up. You will be in the best position to see positive results when it comes to helping a hoarder declutter - staying clutter free into the future.

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