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Decluttering Extreme Hoarding

April 13, 2024

Decluttering Extreme Hoarding

Understanding Hoarding Disorder

Hoarding disorder is a complex mental health condition characterized by a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value. Individuals suffering from hoarding disorder experience severe anxiety and distress at the thought of letting go of their belongings, resulting in an excessive accumulation of items that can eventually clutter and overcrowd their living spaces.

Hoarding disorder is a recognized mental health condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is estimated that between 2-6% of the population suffers from this disorder, which can have profound impacts on their daily lives and relationships.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact causes of hoarding disorder are not fully understood, but research suggests that it may involve a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Some potential risk factors and contributing factors include:

  • Brain Chemistry: Studies have shown that individuals with hoarding disorder may have imbalances or abnormalities in certain brain chemicals and neural pathways related to decision-making, emotional regulation, and information processing.
  • Genetics: Hoarding tendencies can run in families, suggesting a potential genetic component.
  • Traumatic Life Events: Significant traumatic or stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one or a major life transition, may trigger or exacerbate hoarding behaviors.
  • Emotional Attachment: People with hoarding disorder often develop strong emotional attachments to their possessions, associating them with memories, comfort, or a sense of identity.
  • Cognitive Distortions: Individuals with hoarding disorder may exhibit distorted thoughts and beliefs about their belongings, such as an exaggerated sense of the items’ value or usefulness, or a fear of losing important information or memories associated with the items.

Consequences of Extreme Hoarding

Extreme hoarding can have severe consequences for individuals and their families, both physically and emotionally. Some of the potential consequences include:

  • Safety Hazards: Clutter and excessive accumulation of items can create fire hazards, obstruct exits and pathways, and increase the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Health Risks: Hoarding environments are often unsanitary, with accumulations of dust, mold, and even animal waste, posing serious health risks to the occupants.
  • Social Isolation: Individuals with hoarding disorder may become socially isolated due to the shame or embarrassment associated with their living conditions, or because they are reluctant to invite people into their homes.
  • Strained Relationships: Hoarding behaviors can put a significant strain on personal relationships, as family members and loved ones struggle to understand and cope with the situation.
  • Financial Burdens: Acquiring and storing excessive amounts of items can lead to financial difficulties, as individuals may spend a significant portion of their income on unnecessary purchases.
  • Legal Issues: In extreme cases, hoarding can violate local housing codes or landlord-tenant agreements, leading to potential evictions or legal actions.

The Decluttering Process

Decluttering an extreme hoarding situation is a challenging and complex process that requires a sensitive and compassionate approach. It is crucial to involve professionals, such as mental health therapists, professional organizers, and cleaning companies specializing in biohazard and hoarding situations.

  1. Seek Professional Support
  2. Work with a mental health professional who specializes in hoarding disorder to address the underlying psychological and emotional issues.
  3. Collaborate with a professional organizer or decluttering expert to develop a plan and provide guidance throughout the process.
  4. Consider hiring a reputable cleaning company like that offers biohazard cleaning services specifically designed for hoarding situations.

  5. Develop a Plan

  6. Establish clear goals and priorities for the decluttering process, such as addressing safety hazards first or focusing on specific areas of the home.
  7. Break down the process into manageable steps and create a timeline for each phase.
  8. Involve the individual with hoarding disorder in the decision-making process to build trust and cooperation.

  9. Sort and Categorize

  10. Work systematically, sorting items into categories such as “keep,” “discard,” “donate,” or “undecided.”
  11. Respect the individual’s emotional attachments to their belongings and provide guidance and support during the decision-making process.
  12. Consider photographing or documenting items with sentimental value before discarding them, to preserve memories and ease the letting-go process.

  13. Dispose and Recycle Responsibly

  14. Arrange for proper disposal or recycling of unwanted items, considering local regulations and guidelines.
  15. Donate usable items to charitable organizations or community centers.
  16. Hire a professional cleaning company like to handle the safe and efficient removal of biohazardous materials, such as excessive accumulations of waste or contaminated items.

  17. Maintain and Prevent Relapse

  18. Implement strategies to maintain the decluttered environment, such as setting limits on new acquisitions or regularly scheduled decluttering sessions.
  19. Continue working with mental health professionals to address underlying issues and develop coping mechanisms to prevent relapse.
  20. Involve family members or a support system to provide ongoing encouragement and accountability.

Real-Life Examples and Success Stories

Decluttering extreme hoarding situations can be a long and challenging journey, but many individuals have found success and improved their quality of life through perseverance and professional support.

One inspiring example is the story of Mary, a 72-year-old woman who had been living in her hoarded home for over 40 years. With the help of a professional organizer, a mental health therapist, and a dedicated cleaning crew from, Mary’s home underwent a complete transformation. Over the course of several months, the team worked tirelessly to sort through decades’ worth of accumulated items, safely dispose of biohazardous materials, and create a clean and livable environment for Mary.

Throughout the process, Mary’s therapist helped her address the underlying emotional and psychological factors contributing to her hoarding behaviors, while the professional organizer provided guidance and support in making difficult decisions about her belongings. The team ensured a thorough and safe cleaning process, ensuring that Mary’s home was free from any potential health hazards.

After months of hard work, Mary’s home was transformed into a comfortable and clutter-free living space. She expressed immense gratitude for the support she received and the newfound sense of freedom and peace she felt in her decluttered home.

Another inspiring story comes from John, a 45-year-old man who had struggled with hoarding tendencies since his childhood. With the help of a local support group and a team of professionals, including a therapist and the biohazard cleaning crew, John embarked on a journey to declutter his two-bedroom apartment, which had become overwhelmed with clutter and waste accumulation.

Through regular therapy sessions and the guidance of a professional organizer, John gradually learned to let go of his emotional attachments to objects and develop healthier coping mechanisms. The team meticulously cleaned and sanitized John’s apartment, ensuring a safe and hygienic environment.

Today, John continues to maintain a clutter-free home and has regained control over his life. He credits the support and understanding he received from professionals and his local community for his successful recovery.

These real-life examples demonstrate that with the right professional support, compassion, and perseverance, it is possible to overcome the challenges of extreme hoarding and reclaim a safe and comfortable living environment.


Decluttering extreme hoarding situations is a complex and multi-faceted process that requires a sensitive and comprehensive approach. By seeking professional support, developing a structured plan, and involving mental health professionals, organizers, and specialized cleaning companies like, individuals can overcome the challenges of hoarding disorder and regain control over their living spaces.

Remember, recovery from hoarding disorder is a journey, and progress may be gradual. With patience, understanding, and a commitment to maintaining a decluttered environment, individuals can improve their quality of life and foster healthier relationships with their possessions and loved ones.

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