Does someone you love have a problem with hoarding?
An estimated 5 million to 14 million Americans suffer from compulsive hoarding, according to Scientific American. Some researchers even suggest that the higher end of this figure could be grossly underestimated.
Normal People Don’t Hoard, Right?
Most hoarders are everyday people, and their problem may go unnoticed for some time. And although many people associate hoarding with old age, from an elderly next-door neighbor or your grandmother to your 30-year-old sister or twenty-something spouse, compulsive hoarding knows no age restrictions. According to the same Scientific American article quoted above, research now suggests that “indications of compulsive hoarding sometimes appear early in life, between ages 11 and 15.”
Compulsive hoarders are also often thought of as those in poverty, however, people of every income level can be hoarders. Further, many people assume that hoarders are those diagnosed with other known mental illnesses, but this is not always the case. While a compulsive hoarder may oftentimes also suffer from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder,) depression, or a personality disorder, this is not always the case. Many times, you may have no idea that your friend, family member or neighbor is a hoarder until you start to notice an abnormal piling-up of collectables, an accumulation of useless things or even a veritable backyard zoo of pets. And this realization very often comes on in stages, because hoarders are notorious for keeping their situations a secret from most other people.
How Bad Does It Have To Be?
You may well wonder, how bad does a living situation have to be to be considered hoarding? The answer to this question is not simple. Hoarding can take place on a small scale, effecting only a small part of the home, which makes it much harder to initially detect. On the other hand, it can go as far as to fully compromise a person’s health and the safety of their entire living space.
According to the Clutter Hoarding Scale, crated in 1993 by The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization, there are five levels by which professional organizers and cleaners can assess a home to determine if hoarding is taking place.
Signs of Hoarding To Watch For
In a Level One home, a person lives fairly normally, with, perhaps a few minor instances of clutter, pet accidents, household pests, etc. Homes that begin to show real signs of compulsive hoarding are classified as Level Two. In such cases, you may notice things like a blocked entrance, a disused major appliance, pet odors, rodents, noticeable clutter in more than one room and narrow pathways throughout the house. But many people can successfully hide their compulsive hoarding tendencies from friends and family until they reach a stage beyond the first two levels.
By Level Three, you will almost definitely be able to see the hoarding, especially if you are invited inside the house. When a home has reached Level Three on the Clutter Hoarding Scale, you will notice things like accumulation of junk outside the home, multiple disused or broken appliances, a bedroom or bathroom that is too cluttered to function as intended, excessive pets or poorly cared for pets, overflowing trash cans, poorly maintained kitchens, hazardous spills and excessive dirty laundry.
In a Level Four living space, you will may notice everything from structural damage to the actual building and wall damage inside to dangerous wiring and backed up sewers. Other signs of hoarding in a Level Four home include pet accidents that have been left for some time, excessive pet damage to furniture or floors, fleas or other insect infestations, rodents, bats or racoons in the attic, stores of hazardous or flammable materials, decomposing food and trash, lack of clean dishes and lack of clean bedding.
By the time a home reaches Level Five on the scale, there is usually significant structural damage to the entire living space. One or more of the following may be cut off: electricity, water or sewer. You will likely find pet accidents, rotting food and human feces throughout the home. The bedroom and bathroom will likely be so cluttered that they are impassable, and cannot be used as they are intended. The inhabitant of a Level Five home may even be so overrun by clutter, trash and safety hazards, that they are forced to sleep outside on a porch, in a shed, in their car or on the lawn.
What Can You Do To Help?
More often than not, the first step in helping a compulsive hoarder is to get them to admit there is a problem. This may prove far more difficult than you might imagine. However, there are several steps you can take.
First, you may wish to try talking to the individual one on one. If you are not close to the person yourself, ask someone who knows the individual well to have this conversation so that the hoarder does not feel as nervous or threatened.
Another thing you may wish to try is an intervention. Interventions, when well planned, and attended by loving family and friends, are often hugely successful in getting people to seek help and treatment.
Therapy may also help a person to accept that they have a problem with hoarding. Psychology Today offers a list of therapists in California who deal specifically with compulsive hoarding, and who may be able to help with this stage of the process.
Professional Property Cleanup for Hoarding
Once someone admits they need assistance, or they have been otherwise forced to take assistance, such as through eviction or removal to an assisted living community, you can begin arrangements for cleaning the property.
Facing biohazards and physical dangers, let alone the sheer overwhelming presence of clutter, is a lot for anyone to handle. Cleaning the home of a hoarder is definitely a job for professionals. Professional hoarding cleaners will come to the property fully equipped with all of the gear, tools and chemicals required for the job.
When you are ready to have cleaning and removal on a hoarding property done, contact Eco Bear for timely, affordable and professional services in Long Beach, California.