We’ve cleaned our fair share of homes, so we know a thing or two about hoarder cleaning. We assembled this checklist so you can clean it as effectively and safely as possible. Safety is a huge priority when cleaning a hoarder’s home. Even if it’s your living space, you don’t know what could lie underneath the mess.
Mold, sharp items, and even dead animals are not out of the question.
Oh, and if this is your living space. We want to say “congratulations” on taking the first step. We know it’s difficult to change habits, so good on you.
Let’s start with the items you’ll need.
- Shop Vac: Hoarder homes are usually covered with dust. Vacuums and dust are a match made in heaven. The problem is other items that can clog and break even the most expensive vacuums. We’ve found that HEPA vacuums get the job done. Get one that uses a bag to collect and easily throw away dust.
- Disinfectant Wipes: Several containers of Lysol wipes… Seriously.
- Bathtub Cleaner: We recommend The Pink Stuff Miracle Bathtub Cleaner. Bathtubs and showers can accumulate dead skin cells and dirt from your body.
- Nitrile Gloves: Nitrile gloves are the most common for handling laboratory chemicals. They are great for keeping your hands clean when handling nasty items. You can get a decent amount in a pack for no more than $20.
- Steam Cleaner: If you have items or surfaces with dust or dirt, you can rent a steam cleaner. Mattresses that have mold deep inside don’t need a steam clean; they need to be replaced.
- 3M Virtua Protective Eyewear: 3M products are a staple in our business when we renovate homes. The last thing you want is to get sick from mold spores, standing water, and other nasty stuff.
- Tyvek Suit: Not just your eyes, you need to protect your whole body from health hazards like mouse droppings, mold, and expired food.
- Heavy-Duty Trash Bags: Our record is 60 trash bags in one day of cleaning a hoarder’s house.
- Empty Boxes: Get as many cardboard boxes as possible and label them for:
- Items to keep
- Maybe keep items
- Items to discard
- Items to repair
- Items to donate
- Unsure items
- Respirator: You can pick up a respirator mask that painters and waste control companies work with from your local hardware store.
This list of items will get you through a cleaning. If you want to restore items, you’ll need more items.
1. Get Help
We never clean a hoarder’s house on our own for two reasons.
- One plus one equals three. With at least two people, you can have one person as a mover and another as a cleaner/fixer. The mover picks up items and moves them to the trash or another area. The cleaner vacuums, cleans items, etc.
- Cleaning a hoarder’s home is a safety hazard. You can step on a nail, ingest a biohazard, or worse.
On a softer note, if you’re cleaning your home. Ask yourself this question:
“Will the people I ask to help help or hinder me emotionally?
2. Assess The Situation
Never enter a situation you don’t feel confident you can safely clean. Call a professional if there’s a large amount of mold, animal droppings, or active rodents.
Can you clean yourself? Ok.
Take another look at the item list and determine what you’ll need and what you already have. After assessing the situation, you want to ask yourself what the ideal end result is?
- Is it preparing the home to be sold?
- Having a safe space for yourself and/or children?
- Feeling confident to host friends and family again?
- For your overall mental health and well-being?
Hoarding Assessment Checklist
Download or save this checklist when assessing a hoarder house
3. Create A Staging Area
You’ll want to have at least one staging area. Ideally, the weather is nice enough so you can move items outside. Set up a table outside for items that you’re 100% getting rid of. Use a kitchen table for items you want to keep but need out of the way for reorganization later.
A guest bedroom is another great place for a staging area. We’re looking for progress here, not perfection. If you need to keep items in one room to clean the rest of the house, that’s ok. Just promise to return and give items in the guest room a proper home or remove them.
4. Remove Clutter & Tidy
Cleaning a hoarding situation is like peeling back an onion. You do it one layer at a time. The first layer we will peel back is clutter and small items. Pick up anything that will get in the way and put them in one of your six boxes.
Oh, and before you jump to step #5. Remember that just because you can’t see clutter doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. This means emptying every cabinet and dresser and cleaning under beds.
5. Move Large Items
If it’s been a while since your home’s last clean, you likely need to do a deep clean. Cleaning the outside of dressers, vacuuming, and dusting the walls isn’t enough. You need to move furniture away from walls, clean in the dark hidden corners, and sanitize the places nobody ever sees.
To do this, you must move large items into the middle of the room or outside. See why we started with removing clutter first?
6. Deep Clean
When we say deep cleaning, we mean DEEP clean. That means washing hands and knees to mop the floor, removing tough stains, and scrubbing tubs and sinks. Don’t forget the areas you don’t think about, including corners of rooms, windowsills, baseboards, and inside cabinetry.
- Go room by room and remove objects necessary for cleaning.
- Remove items from countertops in the kitchen and temporarily place them in another room.
For every room in your home, we’ll use the process of cleaning in the dry and then in the wet.
- Vacuum everything using various attachments to clean windowsills, baseboards, corners, under cushions, and inside lampshades.
- To clean in the wet, use dish soap, water, or another appropriate cleaner to scrub and clean all surfaces.
- Start high and work your way down. Look high, look low, and look in little crannies, windows, baseboards, appliances, and more.
- Give all items you moved away from the cleaning area the same dry/wet treatment.
You’ll want to do the same for drawers, cabinets, and more. Get rid of junk that doesn’t serve a purpose.
7. Give Items A New Home
By now, you can take pride in knowing you’ve made huge strides. If you need to take a break, do so knowing that you can access parts of your home you may not have seen in years. That you’ve transformed your home from a health hazard to a safe place.
The last step is to give items a new home.
To do that, you want to start by giving each room a purpose. Decide what you’ll use each room for. More specifically, what you’ll use each part of a room for.
Here are two things to commit to:
- No longer stuffing items, clothing, paper, or trinkets inside dressers, cabinets, or storage containers. Give them a purpose, and use it only for that.
- No longer make areas inaccessible because of clutter. If an item is in the way, you either need to get rid of it, give it a home, or get rid of something else so it can have a home in its place.
- Commit to cleaning at regular intervals. No, you don’t have to clean your entire house every day or week. Make small progress each time you clean.
A fun game you can play is the 12-12-12 game. Identify 12 items to throw away, 12 to give away, and then 12 to return to their proper home. If you want to pace yourself, do this once a day. Over the course of a week, you’ll have taken care of over 200 items. You also won’t allow yourself to keep too many items or feel pressure to give too much away.