How To Help A Hoarder In Denial

Tuesday 16th November 2021

Sophie Rioch

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If your friend, relative or neighbour is living in serious clutter, it can be hard to know how to help.  

On the one hand, you want to improve the hygiene and safety of their living conditions. On the other hand, they may not recognise there’s a problem.  

Hoarding is a sign of mental ill health, so you need to take a sympathetic approach and tackle the root causes of the issue, not just the clutter.  

Here at ICE Cleaning, we’ve got in-depth understanding and expertise in helping people affected by hoarding. We provide sensitive, non-judgemental and thorough hoarder cleaning and trauma cleaning services to clear and sanitise living environments across the UK. 

Key characteristics of a hoarder 

The most obvious trait of a hoarder is the need or desire to acquire items. To the outsider, these may appear worthless – but to the owner, they have some value, beauty, or potential use. If the items are broken, the hoarder believes they will repair them one day. 

Hoarders struggle to organise or prioritise their possessions – they collect too many, and regard them all as indispensable. Items that they actually need get buried under all the others, prompting the hoarder to find replacements.  

Hoarders also find it very hard to decide what to discard. They are frightened at the prospect of throwing something away that they could later discover they need. Eventually, this fear of discarding things might extend to items such as pizza boxes or general waste. 

Underlying all the above is an excessive attachment to objects. Hoarders place huge emotional value on all their possessions, even if they can’t explain why. If a well-meaning outsider marches into their space with a bin bag, it feels hugely invasive and distressing. That’s why at ICE Cleaning, we ensure our hoarder cleaning services are done with great sensitivity.  

The above characteristics are likely to be noticeable in other areas of the hoarder’s life: they will find it hard to make decisions, organise themselves, get things done, complete everyday tasks, or look after themselves properly.  

As their hoarding problem worsens, they tend to grow ashamed of their clutter and avoid socialising. They start to believe their problem is insurmountable, so there is no point trying. If they live alone, it can be some time before anyone else realises the extent of the issue.  

What is hoarding disorder? 

Hoarding can be a sign of a wider mental health problem, or a disorder in its own right.  

People are more likely to develop hoarding disorder if: they grew up with a hoarder; they had a deprived childhood (materially or emotionally); or they live alone. The condition often starts in the teenage years (sometimes younger) and worsens over time.  

Other conditions that can lead to people hoarding include: obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety-related disorders; depression; brain injury; and dementia.  

If you want to help a hoarder, it’s these underlying conditions that you need to tackle, with support from professionals.  

You can also contact ICE Cleaning for sympathetic hoarder cleaning services.  

How to approach a hoarder 

Hoarding can develop into a severe issue, creating living conditions that are uncomfortable, dangerous and unsanitary. It can impinge on others: those the hoarder lives with, and eventually their neighbours, too.  

Hoarders may be aware of this and distressed by it, but feel unable to tackle it. Or they can be in denial that it’s happening at all.  

Mental health charity Mind advises the following.  

First of all, let the hoarder know that you care about them and will support them when they are ready to make changes.   

Understand that they see their possessions as valuable items. Don’t describe them as junk or rubbish.  

Be patient and gentle: don’t force or trick them into letting you into their home to clear up. If they manage to clear a small area, celebrate this with them. 

Don’t try to take over, or move their things without their permission. This is counter-productive: they might respond by shutting you out.  

Explain what treatment is available, and how professional hoarder cleaning services could work with them to restore order to their home. Many hoarders are scared of outsiders coming in and seizing their prized possessions, but might be willing to accept help once they understand the process better.  

Set limits and look after yourself. It is important that you think about your own mental health, too, as caring for someone with hoarding disorder is stressful. Think carefully about how much help you can offer.  

Where to seek professional help 

There are several places where you can seek support for someone with hoarding disorder or related mental health conditions.  

It can help to look at resources online together: Mind is a good place to start. This will better explain the types of therapy on offer, and hopefully provide reassurance. 

If the person will attend a GP with you, they can be referred to specialist mental health services. Alternatively, you could seek private therapy from a registered therapist.  

Treatment usually involves cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or talking therapies. Sometimes, the GP might prescribe medication, for example, to treat depression.  

Consider whether you need support, too. Mind has a list of resources, including peer support groups for those trying to help someone with hoarding disorder or OCD.  

Alongside mental health support, you can get help from ICE Cleaning. Our teams are discreet and meticulous, and will work with you on a plan of action.  

Hoarder cleaning services 

We know the huge dilemma you face in trying to help someone with hoarding disorder.  

Our technicians are trained and qualified in hoarder cleaning, and will put you both at ease. We will work with you and the hoarder to determine what should be discarded, keeping you both in control at every step of the process. This includes providing you with a comprehensive quote before we begin work, so you know exactly what to expect.  

We also have extensive expertise in trauma cleaning services, so can handle items that present a biohazard, such as dead rodents, safely and effectively.  

Ask our team about the new ICE SHIELD® solution, too. Added onto the end of every clean, this free-of-charge service helps to fully sanitise the area and leave behind a persistent layer of 28-day surface protection. 

We have friendly teams nationwide ready to help. Contact us today on or 0208 066 0360

Zoe Dunning

Zoe Dunning

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