The tendency to hoard is a specific manifestation of OCD that, left untreated, can present serious risks to human health and welfare. When a home has been hoarded to the point that trash has overtaken walking paths, appliances have malfunctioned, and the smell of rotting food chokes the air, it’s too far gone for a regular person to handle. A biohazard cleanup team needs to address the mess safely.
It may not seem like cleaning out a hoarded house could be that different from regular cleaning. Really, there’s just more of the same work to do, right? Actually, hoards have a tendency to take on a life of their own. Hidden dangers lurk under and amongst the items and you’ve got to be prepared to handle them. Let’s dig a little deeper to see exactly how biohazard teams restore a hoarded house to a healthy house.
By the time the biohazard team is called in, a hoarded home is likely so full of stuff that it is hard to tell what will be found at the bottom. Trash is almost always part of a hoard, whether the hoarder is attached to the trash itself or just can’t reach the trash can anymore.
That makes a fertile environment for rodent infestation and mold growth. Other hazards often found in hoards are broken glass or needles, human and animal waste, and damp papers. Therefore, when a team comes to clear out a hoard, they are prepared with full-body protective gear, face mask and/or air-purifying respirator, and puncture-resistant gloves.
Hauling and Cleaning Supplies
Professional biohazard teams maintain a huge stock of supplies for safely moving items and disinfecting the rooms once cleared. This can include but is certainly not limited to: tarps, dollies, and shovels for transporting items, boxes for storing things that will be kept or donated, pest repellant for bugs and rodents, all manner of cleansers, brooms and dustpans, vacuum cleaners, buckets and mops, flashlights, hand tools, fire extinguishers, and heavy-duty trash bags. You may also find that the team has equipment designed to test air quality and electrical safety.
Many of these supplies are available to any consumer, but to purchase all of them would be more expensive than hiring the team. When facing a job as huge as clearing out a hoarder’s house, it’s really helpful to have a crew that has seen it all and can quickly access the right tool for any challenge.
A lot can go wrong in a home that has been hoarded. Oftentimes the mess will have damaged the home’s plumbing and electrical systems as well as degraded building materials. These issues can elevate the risk of fire, mold, and accidents in a space that’s already pretty dangerous due to impeded movement, persistent moisture, and a lot of loose paper.
Specialists in biohazard cleanup are trained to recognize the risk factors present in a hoarded home. They should be able to tell where damage has resulted in structural instability, find the source of a rodent or insect infestation, and determine if the home’s electrical and water supply is working properly. Additional experts will be required to fully diagnose and fix each of these issues, but the biohazard team is your first line of defense in terms of identifying them.
Patience and Sensitivity
At its heart, hoarding isn’t truly about the stuff but about the dread of loss. In the mind of the hoarder, holding on to physical items becomes a form of protection against devastating emotional loss. Buying and keeping items offers the illusion of control in a world that’s chaotic and hurtful. Hoarding can also provide a pleasurable boost in an anxious or depressed mind. Therefore, removing a hoarder’s belongings in their presence causes them a lot of discomforts and they aren’t able to view the process rationally.
Biohazard crews that specialize in hoarding recognize the emotional complexities of the disorder and do their best to work respectfully. They often have a team member who liaises directly with the hoarder in order to make sure that items of the highest sentimental value are retained while remaining firm in the necessity of clearing out potentially dangerous items. It is an exhausting game of push and pulls that is almost impossible to manage by a hoarder’s loved ones because they, too, have painful emotions associated with the hoard.
All of these elements – protective gear, advanced tool kits, specialized knowledge, and sensitivity to the disorder – make professional biohazard teams extremely valuable in a hoarding situation. But beyond all of these factors is the simple reality that clearing out a hoard is a lot of work. If you’re faced with the need to reduce the size of a hoard, for whatever reason, you’ll need plenty of support to get it done in a timely and relatively peaceful manner, and professional biohazard cleanup costs can be cheaper in the long run than handling the work on your own. Don’t try to take it on by yourself. Help awaits. You are not alone.