As published in the Savannah Morning News - 14 July 2013
with hoarders – oh my! Part III
For the last two weeks,
we have looked at various hoarding characteristics, levels of hoarding, and
discussed the dilemma we find ourselves in when a hoarder must be moved to a
downsized home or to assisted living.
Most often, family members, estate attorneys or financial planners
contact me to help them with cleaning out a home, moving the occupant and
ultimately selling it. Sometimes the
elderly parent or occupant is still living there, but in dangerous and
I have seen every kind
of hoarding situation:
“collections” of treasures
- broken pipes, roof leaks and toxic mold
bug and rodent infestations
animals left behind to fend for themselves
experience is that even if the hoarder is unsafe in their home and their health
has deteriorated, their fear of losing their stuff overrides what is ultimately
in their best interest: moving. It seems no amount of coaxing on the part of
the family makes a difference, and although we can discuss the need to make it
happen, the parent refuses to move. It
is often a catastrophic event that forces the move, such as an accident, a life
threatening illness or death of the occupant.
is no easy way to force a move, but when trying to help a hoarder agree to move
to a safer environment, here are some ideas that have worked for me and other move
Paper hoarders: we move the person and the piles to the new
residence and put it reasonably back the way we found it. Piles can be labeled, photographed and
organized so that the hoarder is again surrounded by the same piles that were
moved. If space in the new place is an
issue and this is not possible, renting storage to hold the boxes is an
alternative solution. The occupant can
be moved to assisted living and the parent has the peace of mind that their
treasures are still there. For
reassurance, they can even visit the storage facility from time to time. Seem drastic?
Maybe, but the psychological state of the parent must be considered when
dealing with this disorder.
treasures: I met with a woman who had dishes piled in
every room. It was not an unsafe
situation, but there were hundreds of stacks of dishes, all in hues of blue,
and very important to her. Her daughter
was desperate to move her to an assisted living community, and the new place
would not fit the dishes. We decided to
take a sample of each place setting and combine them, then sell the rest. Her mom was satisfied that she could still
have the dishes she had chosen, but not have to take the full sets. We showed her pictures of mix-and-match table
settings in some of the latest magazines and that did the trick. This can apply to other collections as well –
keep a sampling and sell the rest.
for legitimate collections, there are professionals who can assess their value,
and sometimes selling the collections for a nice amount of money is attractive
to a hoarder.
Furniture: This depends on what we find. If there are antiques, we call in antique
specialists to determine the value and the best way to sell the pieces. Consignment or auctions are usually the way
to go, and again, the parent may agree to sell if the value is there.
antiques? For high-end furniture,
consignment or estate sales are an option.
If the furniture is not necessarily valuable, but usable, it may be
consignable, or there are auction companies that will pick it up and sell it
for you. If selling it is possible, putting
it in storage is an option.
Piles of trash: Bag it up in black construction bags. Simply put, if it is not toxic, move it to
the next home. If there is no room,
consider storage. I know this sounds
crazy, but it can facilitate the move and keep the parent or client from having
psychotic repercussions. The goal is to
make the move happen, right?
Animals: This is where I draw the line. Neglected animals are a serious
situation. The psychological well being
of the occupant is secondary to an unsafe environment created by unsanitary
conditions, affecting the health of the occupant and the animals. The proper authorities should be contacted
and the animals and occupant should be removed from the unhealthy house. A Hazmat crew will need to clean out and
treat/sterilize the home before it can be sold.
hoarding cases, project management is always involved, and once the occupant
has moved out, preparing the house for sale is the next step. The level of hoarding, and whether the
property has been damaged in the process, will determine the amount of work to
be done. The process can be a daunting
endeavor for the hoarder and the family, but it can be done. Patience, compassion, and professional help will
ensure a successful outcome, one step at a time.
week in Moving Mom…Ditch the lawn mower!
Is condo living for you? Stay