tdobard1028 Asked August 2011

My elderly parents are hoarders. How do I help them clean and organize their home?


My mom has had many health conditions including schitzophrenia and now fell and broke her hip. My step dad has had back surgeries and both are not able to do what needs to be done. I need someone who would be able to do this quickly and at low cost. They live in about a 700 square foot house that is over 73 years old. So much stuff that they can barely walk through the house without tripping on something.

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EXPERT Carol Bradley Bursack Aug 2011
Will they let someone in? There are many "organizers" around, but I'd check your locale and interview those who work well with elders. Your parents will likely fight this - all of this "stuff" is their shield against the world. It's not going to be easy to clean this up without upsetting them. But many organizers can work with elders better than families, as the family dynamic is removed. Still, they don't run cheap.
Good luck,
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psalm27sjb Aug 2011
As a person who was raised in a hoarder home, and has twice cleared my mother"s home (currently working on #3), I strongly recommend you work with a mental health professional who can assist your parents through the process. It would be better if it's someone at least one of them knows & trusts. Otherwise, the trauma to them may be more than you realize. Often, a person hoards to alleviate anxiety/ fact, hoarding is sometimes treated as a form of OCD. When someone throws away a hoarder's things (especially if they have no say in the matter at all), they feel violated, their anxiety skyrockets & things usually don't go so well. I learned this the hard way. In stark contrast, this time around, I'm working w/my mother's counsellor, & things are going *much* more smoothly. She's actually getting rid of some things on her own. Whichever route you decide to take, I hope things go well for have my empathy & prayers.
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rdhdwmnscv Aug 2011
Been there, done that! We (family) finally convinced my then 82 year old mother to move from her house that was a 2 story house, filled to the brim with "stuff" into a senior facility where there were other seniors she could enjoy time with. We then convinced her that the house was a fire hazard, would be condemned if the health department saw it, etc. and needed to be cleaned out. She reluctantly agreed. Since she was still driving at that time(but shouldn't have been because she had the beginning stages of Alzheimers) she was at the house every day that I was there and it was always a battle. We finally came to an agreement that on the days that I was there (3 - 4 days a week) she wouldn't be there so that we didn't fight. Unfortunately, the days she was there she would go through the bags and pull stuff we had to take them to my dumpster every day that we were there. I thought it would only take a month or so to unload all of the stuff, but it actually took 6 months..two of us doing it. We bagged up 150 33 gallon trash bags and filled a dump truck twice with it. There was nothing rotton, garbage, dead, or otherwise...just lots of paper, bottle caps, magazine articles, coupons that were 30 years old, etc. The hard part is that much of the stuff in her house was wrapped in either plastic or kleenex and we had to go through every single one since she had fine jewelry and money hid in it. Some were in coffee cans, some were in little plastic bottles, some were outdoors in cans. I wish that I could have hired a company to do this, but I knew that mom hid important stuff and I was the one who needed to go through it. I convinced my friend who helped me that this would be a treasure hunt...and I was right. I pulled out all of the family heirlooms, photos, jewelry, and important papers and bought a 7 x 7 storage building and put it on my property and put all of this stuff here. I showed her the building and told her that I had saved all of her important stuff. So she knows it's safe and visits the building and looks at her possessions whenever she visits me. She is now 84, we "disabled" her car a year ago, and her Alzheimers has gotten worse. I'm glad we did what we did at the time. I was NOT an easy task, it was a full time job, but when we were done, the house underneath all of that stuff was beautiful and we were able to sell it. Good luck to you.
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michfla317 Aug 2011
If your parents are financially able and live in a location where it would be allowed, you might consider getting a POD, which is a portable storage unit that could be put on their property. It would make it easier to remove things from the house, put them in the POD, and still be able to convince your parents that their "stuff" is safe in the locked pod. You should be able to find someone at a reasonable rate to move the items from the house to the storage. It doesn't sound like your parents are able to get out very easily to shop for more "stuff" so the house would stay "unstuffed." Good luck to you!!
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mariesmom Aug 2011
My daughter spent MONTHS going through her grandmas house of 60+ years where she kept every slip of paper.

But if you're in a hurry, heres my suggestion based on having moved a number of times IF you plan to sort through the stuff at a more convenient time.

if you plan to move the things out of the house, you're going to need a storage place, a big attic or basement or dry shed. if not you're going to need to rent one.

Best plan may be to just stack boxes for now in the room where they are packed. This would allow your folks to know their stuff is there, anfd even to 'go through it' one box at a time. (This is what we did with my Mom)

Buy 'moving' boxes (Lowes or Walmart are cheaper than the moving places). Also get a tape gun and multiple rolls of tape and a magic marker or two.
Also get a roll or two of bubble wrap for breakables.
Get heavy duty contractor bags AND regular heavy duty garbage bags.

If you can, try and recycle. magazines, newspapers, etc can go in those tall brown bags sold for lawn debi. If its filled with paper, recycle should pick it up.

MAKE SURE YOU FAN through any books or mags before tossing them! We found hundreds in cash and there were savings bonds stuffed between magazine pages).

Do one room at a time. Mark the box Living Room 1 (for example)
Ignore the breakables and heavy items at first.
Clear countertops and tables into a box. if you are doing drawers, dump those in too.
DON'T let the box get so heavy you can't move it.
When its full, tape it closed, and move on to the next box.
Breakables should be bubble wrapped and put together in a box LR2-FRAGILE. These can be stacked on top of regular boxes.

Keep a 'special' box aside for anything that looks important. (We found my Mom & Dads wedding album beneath the china cabinet, )

These suggestions might help. Good luck and let us know how it goes..
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JBZgirl, I have suggestion for the Beanie Baby collection. A friend donated her's to Ronald McDonald House and now every child that is going through a difficult time gets to sort through the Beanie Baby basket and pick out an animal. The siblings of a child going through a difficult disease often feel left out and it's just a nice thought.
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TheFixer Aug 2011
My mother wasn't a hoarder but she had accumulated a lot of stuff over the years. It was much easier for her to part with items if she felt they were going to someone who wanted or needed them. She also wanted certain item to go to specific children or grandchildren. Perhaps with the need to make room for her to get around better since her broken hip, suggest it would be a good time to give those items to family now. Also approach your parents with the idea that with the economy being so bad maybe they could donate some things to people who need it. emergency shelters, goodwill even animal shelters take old towels and rugs. When sorting through items you usually make three piles save, keep and donate. Good Luck, it is a lot of sensitive work.
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Many elderly people who lived through the great depression have a hard time getting rid of things. The idea of a storage unit is a good one.

I got rid of a great deal of my Mom's things and she's constantly remembering things she "needs" that I got rid of. I also kept many of her more valuable things in my own home. I dedicated a walk in closet to her things, but it wasn't anywhere near enough.

It's a source of many arguments and if I had to do it again I think I might go with the storage unit idea.
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JBZGIRL Aug 2011
I feel for you, I am currently in the process of going from a 10 room house to an effecincy apt.My stuff went to storage and was not packed by me. It was due to the death of my spouse. Nothing was marked correctly.I have met a great friend who has been going to storage & we have been going thru stuff. Realizing the down size of so many precious items is hard. My husband collected everything, all his big stuff was sold in a month long yard sale after he passed, but it's the photos, computers, software, china, coin collections, his cameras, we have a beanie baby collection of 3000 (worthless now, but did pay son's college tution at the time) I sold a surround sound stereo system worth 500.00 for 35.00 in July. Next yard sale is Sept 3 here at our apts, i'm getting rid of DVDs, VHSs,computer printers, how many can one person need?My storage unit is finally seeing daylight, but we have to go thru every box & say keep, go to apt, apt is getting crowded.I have a therapist & I know I am not a hoarder, but it feels like it sometimes. I cant wait totake out the bag of trash
Good luck & God Bless you,
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linda09 Aug 2011
keepon--- that is a wonderful idea about donate the beanie babies to the childrens .
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