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How To Clean Up After A Hoarder Dies

Updated: Apr 10

How To Clean Up After A Hoarder Dies Graphic

Inheriting a hoarder's house or helping clean a family member's home who passed away and had a hoarding disorder can be a tedious task.

The easiest course of action would be to contact a professional cleaning company, but that's not always possible.

You'll have to approach the house room by room, taking care not to injure yourself amongst the chaos and junk.

This article will discuss exactly how to clean up a hoarder's house after they've passed away and when the help of an expert cleaning company is required.

How To Clean A Hoarder's House Yourself

Cleaning a cluttered home is easier, in a sense, if the owner is no longer around, as they can't dispute which items must be kept or tossed.

Below is a step-by-step process for cleaning a hoarder's house after their death.

1. Come up with a cleaning strategy

Before you can begin, you need to mentally prepare yourself for the task you're about to undertake. When close family members pass, we're not always in the correct emotional headspace to go through their personal belongings - of which hoarders have a lot.

Begin by assessing the situation, and if you feel overwhelmed, contact a cleaning company to help.

But, if you're ready to tackle the hoarding house yourself, here's how to compile a cleaning strategy:

  • Assess the area you're going to clean. Note the size and layout of the different rooms, any clutter that needs immediate attention, and any stains or dirty areas.

  • Break down the tasks into logical order. These need to be prioritized based on importance. It helps to tackle one room at a time, starting in the smallest rooms.

  • Once you have your tasks, compile a list of equipment and cleaning supplies you'll need for each task.

  • Further divide each task into step-by-step procedures, such as how to clean different surfaces and any safety gear necessary for the task.

  • Clear any walkways. This will make it easier to get around and start sorting through all the junk and items.

2. Sort through the possessions

When it comes to the personal belongings of your deceased family member, you need to decide what to keep, donate, and throw away. It is helpful to have these three piles or labeled boxes in each room as you sort through the possessions.

Avoid going through the hoarder's belongings by yourself. It can be dangerous, as stacks of books could topple over or you could cut yourself on unseen sharp edges. Having someone else nearby will not only ensure your safety, but they can also offer emotional support.

It is also possible that the deceased person left instructions on how they want their possessions to be treated. If this is the case, then abide by their wishes.

Sorting through piles of (perceived) junk can be tedious, but there are some steps you can take to simplify the process:

  • Remove any rotting food or clutter that can be considered a biohazard. Make sure to wear gloves and protective gear.

  • Declutter everything considered trash, like junk mail, newspapers, and actual trash. You may have to contact a junk removal service company to haul away the waste in a rented skip.

  • Throw out items that are broken or unsafe.

  • Only keep items that you can donate, sell, or have sentimental value. It can be tempting to hold on to items linked to deceased loved ones, but most of it will just end up being stored in a box in your home.

Move from room to room to not get overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of items in the hoarder house.

3. Start cleaning the house

Once you've sorted through the possessions and have clear surfaces, it is time to start cleaning. You need to be prepared for what you might find. Hoarding disorder is a serious mental illness, and the deceased person may not have attempted any cleaning in years.

There might be fungus, mold, pests, and even feces to deal with. This poses serious health risks, so you need to wear protective gear (goggles, gloves, respiration mask) when you start cleaning. Don't hesitate to call pest control if you have live critters in the home.

  • Open up all the windows to allow the flow of fresh air.

  • Prepare all your cleaning equipment:

  • Disinfectants

  • Soaps like laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid

  • Buckets

  • Brushes

  • Cloths

  • Towels

  • Broom and scoop

  • Vacuum

  • Dust rags

  • Wipe down all the surfaces and sweep or vacuum the floor to get rid of dust. Start from the top (curtain railings, window sills) and work your way down (counters, floors).

  • Use soap and disinfectant to clean hard surfaces. Leave no surface untouched. Make sure to clean:

  • Cabinets

  • Counters

  • Windowsills

  • Shelves

  • Walls

  • Floors

  • You'll also have to wash any fabric or upholstery. Take down curtains, cushion covers, and clothes you wish to keep or donate, and either wash these yourself or send them to the dry cleaners.

Properly cleaning the hoarding house to make it habitable again will take a lot of time - even several days.

Foster a light atmosphere while cleaning. Listening to music or having a friend around can ease the mental toll of the task.

4. After cleaning

It's possible that during the cleaning process, you were focused solely on the task. But, dealing with the death of family members or loved ones can bring up a lot of emotions.

Once you've cleaned the hoarder house, you need to take some time to deal with your grief and any emotions that may come up.

Contacting Professional Cleaners

Dealing with the death of a loved one and their home can be too much to handle. If you've inherited a hoarder's home and have no idea where to begin, contacting a biohazard decontamination company like Chore-ology is a good starting point.

Chore-ology's team of cleaners understands the emotional burden that a hoarder house can become, especially if the person who passed was someone close to you.

We take a sensitive, comprehensive approach and treat all of the hoarder's possessions with respect. Our aim is to help you transform the chaotic home into a serene, habitable, and hygienic environment.

Will Hoarder House Cleaning Be Covered By Insurance?

This can be tricky, as it depends on the policies taken out by the hoarder as well as the person inheriting the home.

Most home insurance companies cover theft, fire, and water damage, but not cleaning or decontamination. However, the hoarder's insurance policy may have specific clauses related to the cleaning of biohazards and pests.

It is best to consult directly with the home insurance company to determine whether hoarding cleanup is covered, especially since it could be considered a form of negligence that will be excluded from the insurance policy.

How Long Does Cleaning A Hoarder's House Take?

The time it takes to clean a hoarder's home after the homeowner has passed will depend on the severity of the situation and the size of the home.

Although it will be much quicker to sort through items without the hoarder present (as they tend to consider each item), it can still take longer than a day per room if there is a lot of clutter.

Once all the items have been sorted through and removed from the house, the deep cleaning process can take up to 5 days.

Getting the help of a hoarder clean-up team will speed up the process significantly.

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