It’s estimated that as many as 1.2 million people, or roughly 1 out of every 300 people, suffer from compulsive hoarding. Yes, hoarding is common — and while there’s been much more awareness brought to hoarding in recent years, thanks to television shows and mainstream media reports, it’s important to keep in mind that perception isn’t always reality. If you’ve purchased a home that was previously occupied by a hoarder or you are tasked with cleaning a hoarder’s house, there are a number of hazards that you may have to deal with upon taking ownership of it. Some of these hazards are outlined below:
Hoarders have a tendency to attract rodents like mice and rats. These vermin can carry some potentially harmful diseases, such as hantavirus, a respiratory illness that can be fatal. Rodents can also turn a hoarding job into a biohazard situation because of the accumulation of their waste. If there’s evidence of a rodent infestation in the home, always call the trained professionals to clean up.
Accumulated items can hide structural damage. For instance, the continued pile up of items over time can take its toll on the flooring of a home, possibly weakening its support. Debris can also hide water damage and/or mold growth, which may require remediation, and subsequent reconstruction or restoration. Mold won’t just grow on drywall either, but it can infest carpeting, boxes and more. Plus, mold doesn’t just have the potential to be destructive to property or belongings, but to an occupant’s health.
Hoarders have an inclination to continuously accumulate items, stacking them as high as a room will allow. This can present a fair share of danger when the house is getting cleaned, such as falling debris. In order to avoid the potential danger associated with this, try to come up with a plan where you remove the items that are easiest to eliminate first. After you’ve done away with the more manageable items, there should be adequate space to haul out some of the more hard-to-move items to minimize the potential for injury.
As previously noted, hoarders have the tendency to pack every room in the home to the seams with items. Obviously, this can pose some problems as it pertains to exiting the home in the event of an emergency. To make entry and exiting more attainable, first work to clear a manageable walking path around each exterior door of the home. Not only will this path serve as quick access to getting out of the home, but it can also be used as a means of hauling items out of the home.
Broken glass, knives and other sharp objects can pose a hazard to a hoarding cleanup — especially if there is a lot of debris to be removed. That’s why it’s always best to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in a hoarding job, and ensure that you’re up to date on all of your immunizations to avoid risk of injury and contracting a disease.
While hoarding cleanup may seem like nothing more than just throwing away trash, such jobs are generally much more complicated. That’s why it is often best to hire the professionals to handle these situations, as they’re equipped with the right PPE and knowledge to properly clear the property and take care of any other hidden damage in the meantime.
Bill Robinson has years of experience dealing with disaster relief contracting as the Commercial Solutions Vice President of Operations. DKI is a nationwide residential and commercial disaster remediation contractor that specializes in water and fire/smoke damage, mold remediation, and contents packout/cleaning.