Hoarding is a serious form of obsessive compulsive disorder that affects millions of people throughout the United States. There are many different types of hoarding, but all varieties lead to health hazards and unsafe living environments.
Hoarding Risk Factors
Hoarding introduces a long list of potential dangers. Let’s look at a few of the most common and concerning risks:
- Bacteria and Mold
Hoarding creates the perfect environment for mold and bacteria to thrive. Mold spores can make it difficult to breathe and pose serious risk to people with asthma. Likewise, bacteria from rotting food or trash can easily make you sick.
Hoarding also attracts pests such as rodents, ants, flies, cockroaches, and other unsavory critters. Many of these pests carry dangerous parasites or pathogens like E. coli, and an infestation puts everyone in the household at risk.
- Poor Air Quality
When vents or other airways are blocked by stacks of clutter, air is not able to circulate freely, leading to poor air quality in the home. Combined with other common dangers of hoarding like mold or animal droppings, this lack of airflow presents a major risk to respiratory health.
- Tripping Hazards
Aside from the internal health risks of hoarding, there are also physical hazards to consider. It’s easy to trip when trying to navigate cluttered spaces filled with stacks of junk, and collapsing stacks can cause items to fall and injure anyone nearby.
- Structural Hazards
Homes that are crowded with clutter are very difficult to maintain. Pests, mold, or water damage may compromise structural integrity over time, and general wear and tear that would normally be caught and repaired may go unnoticed until it’s too late.
- Fire Danger
One of the most serious dangers of hoarding is fire. Not only does excessive clutter increase the risk of a fire breaking out, but it also makes it infinitely more difficult for emergency crews to respond safely and effectively.
- Mental Burden
Hoarding is a legitimate mental health disorder that is usually intertwined with a larger issue such as depression, anxiety, or a traumatic event. To address hoarding behavior and prevent it from worsening, it’s very important for individuals with hoarding tendencies to get the support they need from friends, family, and if necessary, a licensed mental healthcare professional. Please also read Impact of Hoarding Disorder.
Cleaning up is the best way to address the risks of hoarding — but keep in mind that once a hoarding situation has become severe, it is not always safe to approach it like a typical cleaning project. Many of the same hazards that make it dangerous to live as a hoarder make it dangerous to clean a hoard. Airborne mold, nesting animals, and potential structural damage all present serious risks during any hoarding cleanup attempt.
It’s best to consult a professional cleaning company that can assess the situation and recommend the best way to proceed. If necessary, a biohazard cleaning service like Clean Keepers can employ specialized tools and equipment to restore your space to its pre-hoarding condition safely and efficiently.