Is there a pack rat in your life? While some people are sentimental and seem to hold onto a lot of stuff, there’s a fine life between “collecting” items and hoarding. Hoarding is more than just a nuisance – it’s a biohazard. What is hoarding, though? How can you determine whether or not your loved one is suffering from a hoarding problem, and what health risks or hazards are associated with their hoard? Our years of experience in cleaning up after hoarders has taught us a lot, and today’s post is dedicated to passing that knowledge onto you.
If you’ve got a messy friend that has a lot of stuff, you may be tempted to label him or her as a hoarder. There’s a lot more to it, though. In fact, experts have agreed on a definition of hoarding that includes three distinct parts:
- Acquiring large quantities of possessions that appear to have little to no value, but having the inability to discard said possessions.
- Having accumulated so much stuff that living spaces are cluttered to the extent that normal functioning or use of the space for the purpose for which it was designed is not possible.
- Suffering significant distress or impairment in functioning as a result of the hoard.
Anatomy of Hoarding
A hoard doesn’t happen overnight. A hoard usually progresses through the following stages:
Accumulated belongings build up in small piles throughout the living space. The hoarder may experience some stress, anxiety, or indecision about what to do with the stuff.
As the hoarder continues to struggle with the inability to address clutter, it continues to remain in place and more is added to it. Clutter is considered to be a “clot” when it has sat in the same area without moving for at least 6 months. Hoarders often feel very anxious about clots. Trash and biohazardous materials may begin to find their way into the clot at this point.
Finally, the clot grows and expands to the point where it prevents certain furnishings from being used or blocks rooms and passageways. By now, the clog is taking away from the functionality of the home, detracting from the hoarder’s quality of life, and very likely contains trash, waste, mold, mildew, or other hazardous substances.
The Dangers of Hoarding
The longer a hoard is able to pile up and the more it progresses in its development, the more likely it is that it contains hazardous or toxic materials. As the hoard takes over, it becomes more difficult – if not impossible – for inhabitants to access trash cans or even to make use of bathroom facilities. Consequently, hoards frequently contain garbage (including discarded food), human waste, and animal waste. Insects and rodents may be attracted to the hoard, leading to even more animal waste and the possibility of the spread of disease. If the hoard has been exposed to moisture, toxic mold and mildew may begin to grow and decrease indoor air quality. The hoarder and other inhabitants of the house are placed at significant risk for illness and health complications.
Addressing a Hoarding Situation
Whether your loved one has agreed to get help with his or her hoarding problem, or a loved one has passed away and you’ve been left with the task of cleaning up the hoard, it’s important that you seek out the help of a professional. Hoards often involve serious biohazards that can make you very sick. Professional cleanup crews are trained on how to handle hoarding situations, are well-versed in how to sterilize the home, and are equipped with all of the necessary tools and gear to do so safely.
The experts at Abbotts Fire & Flood have dealt with numerous hoarding situations throughout the years. We understand that hoarding presents a complex situation, and we are very sensitive to the needs and feelings of both the hoarder and the hoarder’s family. Let us help you reclaim your home and safely remove any biohazards from your space. Give us a call to get started today.