While not all of us may be full-blown hoarders, there are a large number of us who struggle with or know someone who struggles with a tendency to keep large amounts of items that we don’t use or things that most people would just throw away without giving it a second thought. Having extra stuff lying around can hinder our ability to keep our homes healthy and clean.
The following tips will keep a cluttered home sanitary and help a hoarder conquer some packrat tendencies.
Keeping a Cluttered House Clean
The most important thing is to keep germs and dirt under control, even amidst the extra belongings. Dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning areas of high grime like the kitchen and bathrooms will help to prevent allergens, germs,and mold from getting to an unhealthy level.
It is important to make these jobs a priority even with more stuff hanging around the home.
The best method to accomplish this in a home with a lot of things in the way is to clean smaller areas at a time and place anything in the way in a box. This will free up the surface space that needs to be wiped/cleaned. Of course, this is just a gentle way of getting the home healthy and does not address the problem of too many things hanging around.
Helping a Hoarding Friend
About 5% of people have clinical hoarding behaviors. Hoarding can have a harmful emotional, physical, financial, social, and even legal impact on the person. Clinical hoarding is rare, but there is a large number of us living with a packrat tendency somewhere in our lives and for some of us it begins to take a negative toll.
If you have some concerns about someone close to you exhibiting behaviors and difficulties throwing or giving things away (especially items of no value) you can follow these suggestions to try and help your friend or family member make better choices or better cope with something underlying that may be causing the behavior and hopefully begin to improve the health of their home.
Don’t Take the Clutter Away: “As someone who is not struggling our immediate instinct is to go into the messy space and just gather up all of the clutter and get rid of it, problem solved. Unfortunately, this will fix the issue in your eyes, but it will not fix any underlying issues in your loved one. It will stir up stronger feelings and fears and make the underlying condition causing the hoarding behaviors worse. To prevent a setback, don’t pull anything out of the home without asking.” – Tip by Matthew Kennedy, Lewiston NY Realtor®
Don’t Support the Negative Behavior: It is very difficult and should be left up to professional care providers to fix and change behaviors, but this does not mean you need to support bad behaviors either. As an example: say your friend has a giant collection of crystal figurines and they keep buying more with nowhere to fit them. Don’t buy them a crystal figurine for their birthday. Don’t invite them to go to a store full of crystal figurines knowing they won’t be able to walk out of there without purchasing something. Don’t offer to store some of their figurines for them. If the person lives with you do not allow them to begin storing their collection outside of their room and overtake the home.
Praise Any and All Progress Even Tiny Steps: Years of hoarding or hoarding behaviors are not going to be fixed overnight. To help keep your loved one motivated to make the decision on counterintuitive positive behaviors, praise every positive behavior you notice. Even if the thing they did was just a tiny step in the right direction.
Help with Sorting, but Don’t Lead It: Offer to help go through the extra un-needed items, but don’t dictate the clean-up. You can also hire a hoarding cleaning company, but never take action without the person saying they are ready.
Let Them Know They Can Hire Help
There is never shame in hiring some professional help. There are professional services to help with hoarding behavior, services to help with hoarding clean-up, and services to help just get things clean and sanitized again. All of these people are here to help your loved one and be an extension of the care you give them.
More advice for cleaning and homeowners: