How To Help A Loved One With Hoarding Cleanup

Posted on: 29 October 2014

Most junk removal teams have seen and done it all, and cleaning up a hoarding site is just another day on the job for some of them. For the people facing down a compulsive hoarding problem and their families and friends, though, it is anything but business as usual. The process of having a home cleaned up is trying on everyone involved, but there are ways you can help the process go more smoothly. 

What is Your Role at a Hoarding Cleanup?

Some people with compulsive hoarding disorders rely heavily on their friends and family to get through what, for them, seems like an impossible task. Talking to them ahead of time about their expectations of the the cleanup, and what they want your role to be can help clarify the plan and give you an idea of where to start. Don't wait until the day of the cleanup to have this important discussion, because your loved one's nerves may already be wearing thin. Addressing these issues the day of the project can result in your loved one shutting down or becoming angry or hostile.

What to Expect from Your Loved One

Hoarding is in the same group of disorders as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. For hoarders, their things are often not a collection, but are seen as a necessary part of life. Avoiding discarding items helps them to avoid anxiety and panic. During the process, many hoarders do suffer with extreme anxiety, which can lead to a range of behaviors, like:

  • Lashing out at those trying to help
  • Withdrawing emotionally
  • Withdrawing physically
  • Physical symptoms like hyperventilation, cold or clammy skin, excessive sweating, and fidgeting
  • Outbursts of intense emotion including anger, sadness, gratefulness and hopefulness

These feelings and actions may not make sense to you. That might put you at risk of becoming frustrated or angry. Preparing yourself mentally for the trials ahead can help you remain calm when things get hairy, which is one of the most important elements of helping someone cope with an anxiety disorder. Go into this project knowing that your loved one will likely experience a wide range of emotions and difficulties during this process, but that none of those feelings or actions are your fault.

What Kinds of Support Can You Offer?

If you're committed to helping your loved one recover from this affliction, you will want to know what kinds of support you can offer during the cleanup. Here are a few dos and don'ts for the day of the cleanup.

  • Do make it clear to your loved one that you are there to help them, not to judge them. Having a hoarding problem is embarrassing and isolating for many people.
  • Do allow your loved one to have the final say in the fate of their belongings. Throwing something away when your loved one wanted to save it can derail the whole project and cause intense anxiety.
  • Do remind your loved one of their motivation for trying to get better. Saying things like "Remember how important this was to you yesterday?" can sometimes help gently bring a hoarder down from the brink of panic.
  • Don't use harsh or condescending language. When you are helping with a hoarding cleanup, you are often helping a very fragile person recover from a debilitation condition. 
  • Don't bail on your loved one. If you have committed to helping with the clean up, be there. Allowing you to help is a sign of your loved one's trust in you, and being flaky can result in damage to that trust.

For most people, having a bunch of junk hauled away from their home is a relief. For hoarders it can be a nightmare. You can help soften the blow, and aid in your friend or family member's recovery if you follow the above advice. Click here to find out more about a removal services to assist. you.