Clean Out a Hoarder's House

Understanding the mindset of a hoarder is crucial before embarking on the cleaning journey. Hoarding is not just about having too many items; it’s often rooted in emotional and psychological challenges such as depression, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety. This guide aims to provide a step-by-step approach to how to clean out a hoarder’s house, ensuring safety, efficiency, and sensitivity throughout the process.

Recognizing the Signs of Hoarding

  • Abundance of clutter in a disorderly fashion
  • Emotional outbursts when confronted about the clutter
  • Resistance to change or letting go of items
  • Heightened sensitivity about possessions
  • Materialistic attachment to even trivial items

1. Hoarders Clean Up: The Basics

Hoarders Clean Up basics

Understanding Hoarding:

Recognize that hoarding is more than just collecting items. It’s a deep-rooted issue often linked to emotional attachments and underlying mental health problems. When you’re figuring out how to clean out a hoarder’s house, it’s essential to understand that you’re not just dealing with physical clutter. You’re navigating a maze of memories, emotions, and sometimes, trauma.

Hoarding Disorder: A condition where individuals excessively save items that others might view as worthless. They have persistent difficulty getting rid of possessions, leading to clutter that disrupts their ability to use their living or workspaces. Emotional Attachments: Items might be linked to significant events, precious heirlooms, or memorabilia that hold sentimental value. Mental Health Links: Depression, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety can all be intertwined with hoarding behaviors.


Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s crucial to assess the situation. This isn’t just about the physical space but also understanding the individual’s mindset.

  • Extent of Hoarding: Does it cover one room or the entire house? Is it just clutter, or are there health hazards like mold, animal feces, or pest infestations?
  • Potential Hazards: Identify areas with extreme grime, dangerous germs, or rubbish piled so high it’s a safety concern.
  • Items of Value: While many items might seem like junk, there could be precious heirlooms or valuable items hidden amidst the clutter.

2. How to Help a Hoarder Clean: Pre-Cleaning Steps

Mental Health Considerations:

As you embark on this journey of hoarding cleanup, remember that mental health is at the core of this challenge. Approach the individual with empathy, patience, and understanding.

  • Depression & Anxiety: These can make it hard for individuals to start the cleaning process or part with items.
  • OCD: Some hoarders fear something terrible will happen if they throw things away.
  • PTSD: Items might be linked to past traumas, making them hard to part with.
Hoarders Clean Up basics plan

Setting Boundaries:

While empathy is crucial, it’s equally essential to set firm boundaries. This ensures safety and efficiency during the cleaning process.

  • Involvement: Ensure the hoarder is part of the decision-making process. This can reduce feelings of violation or distress.
  • Clear Goals: Set tangible goals for each cleaning session. For instance, today, we’ll clear the hallway and walkways.
  • Breaks: Recognize when emotions run high and take breaks. This isn’t a race; it’s a marathon.


Developing a hoarding cleanup plan is essential. This provides structure and direction, making the process more manageable.

  • Decide on Areas: Start with smaller rooms or areas with less emotional attachment. This can provide a sense of accomplishment early on.
  • Gather Supplies: Ensure you have cleaning supplies ready. This includes heavy-duty trash bags, cleaning masks, gloves, and protective equipment.
  • Professional Help: Depending on the size and severity, consider if you need to hire a professional cleaning company or specialized hoarding cleanup services.

3. Essential Tools and Supplies for Cleaning

When you’re figuring out how to clean out a hoarder’s house, having the right tools and supplies can make a world of difference. Not only will they help you tackle the physical mess, but they’ll also ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved.

Boxes, Bins, and Bags:

Sorting and discarding items is a significant part of the cleaning process. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Boxes: Ideal for items that are to be kept or donated. They’re sturdy and can hold a good amount of weight.
  • Bins: These are great for items that need to be recycled. Think paper, glass, and plastics.
  • Heavy-Duty Trash Bags: For items that are to be discarded. Ensure they’re durable to handle the weight and prevent any spills.

Cleaning Agents:

A hoarder’s home might have layers of dust, grime, and sometimes even mold. You’ll need:

  • Surface Cleaners: For wiping down surfaces and making them shine.
  • Glass Cleaners: For windows, mirrors, and other glass surfaces.
  • Heavy-Duty Cleaning Solutions: For areas with extreme grime or stains.

Safety Gear:

Safety should always be a priority. Depending on the condition of the house, you might encounter mold, pests, or other hazards.

  • Gloves: To protect your hands from dirt and any potentially harmful substances.
  • Masks: Especially if there’s a lot of dust or if there’s a risk of inhaling dangerous germs.
  • Pest Control Products: In case of pest infestations, have some repellents or traps on hand.

Other Supplies:

These are the everyday items that will assist in the cleaning process.

  • Rags and Paper Towels: For wiping surfaces clean.
  • Broom, Mop, and Vacuum Cleaner: Essential for cleaning floors and getting rid of dust.
  • Garbage Bins: To dispose of trash immediately.

4. Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

clean out a hoarder's house

Understanding how to clean out a hoarder’s house requires a systematic approach. It’s not just about cleaning; it’s about restoring a living space while respecting the individual’s emotions.

One Room at a Time:

Tackling the entire house can be overwhelming. Instead:

  • Start with the Smallest Room: This gives a sense of accomplishment and sets the momentum.
  • Empty All Rooms Before Cleaning: This ensures a thorough deep clean.
  • Clear Hallways and Walkways: Safety first! Ensure there’s a clear path to move around.

Sorting Items:

This can be emotionally taxing for the hoarder, so tread with sensitivity.

  • Keep: Items that are still useful and hold sentimental value.
  • Dispose: Items that are broken, damaged, or no longer needed.
  • Donate: Items in good condition that can benefit others.
  • Recycle: Items that can be processed and reused.

Deep Cleaning:

Once the clutter is out, it’s time to make the space shine.

  • Dusting: Use rags, dusters, and vacuum cleaners to get rid of accumulated dust.
  • Scrubbing: For surfaces with stubborn stains or grime.
  • Sanitizing: Ensure surfaces are not just clean but also germ-free.

Safety First:

A hoarder’s house might have hidden hazards.

  • Check for Mold: Especially in damp areas like the bathroom or basement.
  • Look Out for Pests: From rodents to bugs, be prepared to handle any uninvited guests.
  • Use Protective Equipment: Masks, gloves, and even protective clothing if necessary.

5. Post-Cleaning Steps

Post-Cleaning Steps hoarder's house

After the rigorous process of cleaning out a hoarder’s house, it’s essential to implement measures to maintain the newfound order and cleanliness. This not only ensures a healthy living environment but also supports the individual’s mental well-being.


Implementing organizational systems is the first step to preventing future hoarding tendencies.

  • Create Different Storage Areas: Use boxes, bins, and bags to categorize items. Label them clearly to make retrieval easier.
  • Designated Spots: Ensure every item has a designated place. This reduces the chances of items piling up and creating clutter.
  • Declutter Regularly: Encourage the individual to periodically go through their belongings and decide what to keep, dispose of, or donate.

Routine Maintenance:

Establishing a regular cleaning schedule is vital to maintain the cleanliness and order of the house.

  • Weekly Cleaning: This includes dusting, vacuuming, and surface cleaning. It helps in keeping the environment lively and free from disorderly fashion.
  • Deep Clean: Depending on the size and usage of the space, a monthly or quarterly deep clean might be necessary. This ensures areas prone to grime, like bathrooms and kitchens, remain sanitary.
  • Clear Hallways and Walkways: Regularly ensure that pathways are free from obstructions, ensuring safety.

Stay Connected:

Regular emotional support can prevent the individual from reverting to old habits.

  • Regular Check-ins: Stay in touch with the hoarder, offering support and encouragement.
  • Support Groups: Encourage them to join support groups where they can share their experiences and learn from others.
  • Therapy: Consider therapy sessions focusing on underlying mental health factors like depression, OCD, or PTSD.

6. Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, the task of cleaning out a hoarder’s house can be too overwhelming to handle alone. Recognizing when to seek professional help is crucial.

When to Seek Help:

  • Extreme Cases: If the hoarding situation poses severe health hazards or is too extensive to manage.
  • Mental Health Concerns: If the individual shows signs of severe depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders.
  • Physical Limitations: If there are physical constraints that prevent effective cleaning.

Benefits of Professional Help:

  • Expertise: Professionals, whether they’re from cleaning companies or specialized hoarding cleanup services, come equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge.
  • Efficiency: They can handle the task more quickly, ensuring the house is cleaned in a timely manner.
  • Safety: Professionals are trained to deal with potential hazards, ensuring the cleaning process is safe.

7. Keeping a Hoarder’s House Clean

Maintaining the cleanliness of a hoarder’s house is an ongoing process. It requires consistent effort, understanding, and support.

Designated Spots:

Place for Everything: Every item should have a designated spot. This reduces clutter and ensures items are easily accessible. Labeling: Clearly label storage areas to make retrieval easier and reduce the chances of misplacing items.

Regular Check-ins:

  • Stay in Touch: Regularly check in with the hoarder, offering support and encouragement to maintain a clean environment.
  • Create a Schedule: Establish a routine cleaning schedule. This not only keeps the house clean but also instills a sense of discipline and order.
  • Encourage Independence: While support is essential, encourage the individual to take charge of their space, fostering a sense of responsibility.


Navigating the complexities of how to clean out a hoarder’s house often brings up numerous questions. Here, we address some of the most frequently asked questions to provide clarity and guidance.

Q1: Why do people become hoarders?

Hoarding is not just a result of laziness or carelessness. It’s often linked to mental health disorders such as depression, OCD, PTSD, and anxiety. Emotional traumas, loss, or other significant life events can trigger hoarding tendencies. It’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and understanding.

Q2: How can I support a loved one who is a hoarder?

Supporting a hoarder requires patience and understanding. Here are some steps to consider:

– Educate Yourself: Understand hoarding disorder and its associated mental health factors.
– Open a Dialogue: Approach them gently, expressing concern without judgment.
– Offer Help: Whether it’s helping them declutter, seeking therapy, or hiring professional cleanup services, be there for them.
– Stay in Touch: Regular check-ins can make a world of difference.

Q3: Are there professional services specialized in hoarder clean-up?

Yes, there are specialized hoarder clean-out services and cleaning companies that offer junk removal, deep cleaning, and other necessary services tailored for hoarders. These professionals are trained to handle the unique challenges of cleaning a hoarder’s home, ensuring safety and efficiency.

Q4: How can I prevent hoarding tendencies in the future?

Yes, there are specialized hoarder clean-out services and cleaning companies that offer junk removal, deep cleaning, and other necessary services tailored for hoarders. These professionals are trained to handle the unique challenges of cleaning a hoarder’s home, ensuring safety and efficiency.

Q5: What are the health risks associated with hoarding?

Hoarding can pose several health hazards:
– Physical Risks: Blocked exits, tripping hazards, and the risk of items falling.
– Hygiene Concerns: Accumulation of rubbish can lead to mold, pests, and dangerous germs.
– Mental Health: Increased stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation.
– Fire Hazards: Piled items can be a fire risk, especially if they block exits.


Cleaning a hoarder’s house is not just about decluttering; it’s a journey that requires understanding, empathy, and support. With the right approach, tools, and mindset, transforming a cluttered space into a clean, safe, and welcoming environment is achievable. Remember, it’s not just about the physical transformation; it’s about helping an individual reclaim their life and space. Whether you’re dealing with this personally or supporting a loved one, patience, persistence, and compassion are key.