Hoarder houses are tricky, and no two houses are alike. The key to successfully cleaning a hoarder’s house is understanding the total amount of work to be completed, including the job hazards, the time frame to complete the project, and the different components of the job. Depending on the situation, the client may want a complete cleanout, re-organization, detailed cleaning and sterilization, air duct cleaning, carpet cleaning, and home repairs. Other times, there may be only a portion of the job that the client desires to be completed. Understanding the short-term and long-term goals of your client will help you become more effective and efficient when cleaning a hoarder’s house.
Itemize the list of tasks
Each client and each job are different. Some jobs require only debris removal, while many jobs require multiple tasks. Always operate in a safe manner and begin closest to the safest exit. Many times, one or more entry/exit doors are semi- or completely blocked and operating around blocked exits presents unnecessary risks. If a fire breaks out, you may become trapped and unable to leave the property. Removing the obvious trash and debris from the room with the safest exit is usually the best place to start. The trash out phase will usually yield many items that are salvageable and can be dealt with later. Once enough room has been created, it is usually convenient to create a staging area for those items.
Prepare a staging area
Staging areas are critical in planning to clean a hoarder’s house. Many times, the rooms, porches, attics, and basements are so cluttered that identifying a staging area is almost impossible. Consider using folding tables on the lawn of the property to use as a temporary staging area. Use them to present items from the home to your client to determine if the item will be kept, donated, auctioned, or thrown away. Keep in mind that the weather may be another factor in determining a temporary staging area.
Identify an area to take trash and debris
Many jobs will require a large amount of debris removal. Once the debris and trash have been removed from the home, it is critical to remove it from the property as soon as possible to prevent the client from rummaging through it again. Using roll-off containers is recommended for large jobs, while smaller jobs may only require a pickup truck or a trailer. When using pickup trucks and trailers to remove the debris, make sure each bag of debris is properly tied. Ripped bags can become more ripped during transportation and lead to litter on the highways, and possibly a large fine.
Prepare an area for donations
Identifying donations is a tricky part of cleaning hoarder’s house. The client sometimes has an unrealistic estimate of the value of the items they have or an unrealistic perception of the condition of the items. Donations are favorable because the client will get a tax donation for them. Sometimes, more importantly, they save room and total weight in the roll-off containers. However, not all donation centers will take all items. Goodwill has a pickup strategy where they will schedule a truck to be sent out to a home, for free, if the client has large, resalable items of furniture to be donated. They will also pick up other items while they are on site, such as books, TVs, appliances, clothes, and mattresses. They will not, however, send out a truck to pick up small donations.
If a donation pickup isn’t available, decide to have a pickup truck or trailer available to take items to a donation center. Keep in mind that you will have to properly secure the items before transport. Call ahead to the donation center to make sure they will accept all the items you are donating. Box trucks are usually a good way to transport donatable items as well.
Clean the home
Once the debris has been removed and the home contains only the items that will remain in it, plan to clean and disinfect the home. Include all areas of the home, including fan blades, ceilings, cabinets, window sills, baseboards, toilets, bathtubs, showers, etc. You may have to detail a room and clean it again once all the dust settles. Keep in mind any item you bring into the room after is has been cleaned will have to be cleaned too.
Organize the remaining items
Once the bulk steps have been completed, organizing the remaining items will be a challenge. Consider purchasing utility shelves, placing a shed on the property, or hiring a professional organizer to get the home completely functional again. Many clients benefit from hiring a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning company to maintain the cleanliness of the home. Cleaning companies can help by reducing the amount of trash and debris in the home while keeping it clean and disinfected. Scrubby Corp offers full-service hoarding cleanup services and can help you with the task. Call us today!