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How To Clean A Hoarder's Garage

Updated: Apr 9

How To Clean A Hoarder's Garage Graphic

Garages tend to feed into the 'out of sight, out of mind' mentality, which means this space can get messy really quickly.

However, in the case of someone with a hoarding disorder, this can become a far more dangerous problem.

Unfortunately, people with a hoarding disorder can't always help themselves and require someone to get their homes back to a safer state. If you're planning to assist a friend, loved one, or neighbor, there are a few things you should know about how to properly clean a garage.

Here's a brief overlook of the garage hoarding cleanout process:

  1. Pick a day and time

  2. Decide on sorting piles

  3. Clean out the garage

  4. Organize your 'keep' pile

  5. Have a garage sale

Steps for Cleaning a Hoarder's Garage

Cleaning a garage can feel like a daunting task at first, but with the right tools and a proper plan, you can assist someone who is struggling with a hoarding disorder. Here are the steps you should follow:

Pick a day and time

Depending on the size of the garage, you may need an entire day, if not two, to clean and organize it thoroughly.

It also helps to pick a clear day as you will more than likely need the space outside of a garage to sort and organize the items that come out of it.

Lastly, you may want to enlist some extra help. This way, you can break things up into smaller tasks, which will speed up the overall process.

Decide on sorting piles

Once you start removing items from the garage, they should be placed into specific piles, for example:

  • Keep

  • Toss

  • Sell or donate

This is not the time to start trying to sub-categorize items that fall into the 'keep' pile. This pile will more than likely contain everything from exercise equipment to holiday decorations, but you can organize these items later.

Keep in mind that there may be a number of larger items that need to be tossed, so consider hiring bigger bins that you can take to the dump later. You can also call on the services of professional cleaners to assist with the removal of these items.

This can be one of the slower parts of this process as the owner of the garage will want a say in what stays and what goes. Hoarders are known to want to keep even some of the most badly damaged items, so some negotiation and logical conversations may be necessary here.

Clean out the garage

Next, you want to clean the garage thoroughly using cleaning tools and disinfectants. It's highly recommended that you purchase protective gloves and masks for this part of the process. Along with cleaning the garage floors, any shelving and even the walls should be cleaned. You may even find that a fresh coat of paint is required.

In the event that the garage contains biohazards, you will need help from a special cleaner. Biohazard decontamination professionals, like Chore-ology, follow strict protocols and have specialized equipment for dealing with hazardous cleaning jobs.

Organize your 'keep' pile

After cleaning out a hoarder's garage, you can start organizing the items in your 'keep' pile.

Shelving units can keep smaller items tucked away for future use, while a peg board is great for when you need to hang tools. Storage bins are handy for categorizing items and keeping the garage more organized.

You may want to get a clear idea of your storage needs before you head down to the hardware store. This way, you can make one trip knowing all items can be organized efficiently.

Have a garage sale

A garage sale is one of the best ways to get rid of items that aren't needed and earn some extra money. It's wise to set a time and date for the sale as soon as possible to prevent items from sitting out in the elements. This will also prevent the owner from being tempted to place more stuff back in their garage.

For all the items that you weren't able to sell, you can contact local charity organizations about donations. Many of them will even be willing to collect the items themselves, which will save you a few trips.

What Causes a Hoarding Disorder?

When you start cleaning out a hoarder's garage, it's natural to wonder what causes this type of problem in the first place.

Unfortunately, there is no one cause of hoarding, but according to experts, it's most often linked to a significant life event. The loss of a job and income, the death of a loved one, and even divorce can all trigger hoarding.

Many people use hoarding as a way to process difficult feelings that they cannot express or overcome naturally. The illness is often also linked to people who are scared of making mistakes, making it difficult for them to plan or make decisions. Something as simple as deciding whether to throw away a pile of newspapers can be impossible for a hoarder.

Even though hoarding is deemed to be a chronic mental health disorder, it can be overcome with the help of a psychologist and support from friends and loved ones.

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