One in every 300 people suffer from compulsive hoarding. Hoarders generally have an inability to let go of unnecessary items and clean up their environments. The most common hoard items include books, pictures, clothes, mail, recipes, souvenirs and magazines. Mental stress and emotional exhaustion make it difficult for hoarders to decide what to throw away, making cleanup efforts overwhelming and difficult.

Here’s a look at some safety precautions to keep in mind when on a hoarding job, via Rainbow International:

Cleanup efforts

Be prepared for animal (rats, mice, vermin) droppings and live animals running through the items and trash. Be careful of sharp objects and wear pants, long sleeves and gloves when cleaning. Begin cleaning in small places like bathrooms and linen closets. Next, empty the refrigerator and remove perishables and opened boxes of food from the pantry. Separate clutter into four piles: “Keep,” “Donate,” “Trash” and “Recycle” to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Health impact

The effects of hoarding are harmful physically and mentally. Hoarding is harmful physically because rodents, cockroaches, rotting food and waste can carry a multitude of diseases. An occupant can potentially contract a variety of communicable diseases, viruses or other health related problems. Occupants can also slip on clutter or clutter may fall on occupants. Be aware of your surroundings as you move around. Hoarding is harmful mentally because it can lead to family strain, conflicts and isolation.

Structural integrity

Structural integrity of the house can be jeopardized because of the weight of the clutter. Floors can collapse and liquids can clog pipes and cause decay. Mold and mildew can ruin furniture and decay walls. A house filled with papers, boxes and clutter is also a fire hazard and often prevents medical emergency teams from accessing victims in need of help.

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