Hoarding FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I’m ready to seek help?

First of all, that is amazing! Contact the Hoarding Task Force or ServiceMaster of Kalamazoo. Please do not hesitate to reach out to someone no matter what the situation is. Don’t worry, chances are we have heard about situations that are much worse than yours. We also understand this may take time, so your initial contact doesn’t really have to lead anywhere. What’s important is that you reach out, even for a moment, because that is the first step and you’ve recognized an issue and now are addressing it. Keep up the good work.


What should I do if my family member needs help?

Ultimately, the person hoarding needs to decide if they’re ready to be helped or not. Having compassion and giving positive support is critical. Saying things like, “It’s really dirty in here; time to clean it up,” is not being a positive support. A different thing to say might be, “There are people in Kalamazoo that help, and I would be happy to set you up to talk with someone if you ever want.” Leave it at that. Try to use your best judgment, be patient, and have a nonjudgmental attitude when you decide to bring the situation into a conversation. This process takes time and we all need to be understanding.


What does a hoarding clean up cost?

Every job is unique and pricing will vary in many situations. We provide free estimates and will work with you to find the needed solution. Prices may vary due to: size of home, type of items kept, amount of time, and hazards found in home.


How do you handle resistant customers?

Focus on building trust first and teaching skill sets second. While the person may get pushed beyond their original comfort zone as the cleaning advances, specialty cleaning teams are trained to identify and communicate with the customer when the cleanup becomes challenging.


What do you do with valuables found in the house?

Any valuables found in the home are the property of the customer. During a cleanup, finding valuables is an exciting event that we use to build confidence and momentum. Something of value (emotion or monetary) is brought to the customer immediately, and hearing about the story behind an item is an important part of the process.


What if the person I want to help doesn’t want to be helped?

Ultimately, the person living in the hoarded home has to decide if they’re ready to be helped or not. Being kind, compassionate, and nonjudgmental are the first steps. Then, willingness to contact specialists is the next step; keep in mind being patient is crucial.


Are professional cleaners really needed?

Helping clean out a hoarded house can be overwhelming, and we recommend professional help. Hoarding can be a sensitive topic and a serious situation to work through. The ServiceMaster team has received specialty training, including training from extreme cleaning specialist, Matt Paxton. We use insight and techniques shared by Paxton to help those who are hoarding gain back their space and, in turn, their lives.


Should you clean the home without the person who hoards being present?

You should never clean out a home without the person’s knowledge, approval, and understanding. Preferably the house should be cleaned with the owner in the home, but under specific medical situations, it can be done with their input, even if they’re not present.


How long does cleaning take?

Timing differs for each home depending on volume, size, hazards, and more. Professional cleaners can clean a home in 3-5 days. Depending on the person who is hoarding, the process can easily be extended for several weeks.


Does the customer get breaks during the cleanup?

Each job will be tailored to customer’s ability to focus and make decisions. Whether that means we work half days or full days, we’ll monitor the customer’s well-being and encourage breaks as needed.


How involved must the customer be in the cleaning process?

While it is not necessary for them to physically move items, it is suggested to ask for their guidance when it comes to making decisions. After all, the more involved in the cleanup the person is, the greater chance they’ll have a positive experience and outcome.


Can you help donate items?

Yes. Our team can assist with the details of donated items. Once the customer selects a preferred donation organization, our team can sort and document all items and can take them to the donation center. We can take a detailed inventory, fill out the donation receipt, and return it to the customer for tax purposes.


Can you help sell items?

While we can connect the customer to partners specialized in selling specific items, our team does not personally sell the items. The sales partners will typically take a commission for selling the items, but our team does not share in any profit of sold items.


Can you store items?

We have partners nationwide that can affordably store items, and our team can help you figure that out. However, long-term storage after a clean-out should only be used in special situations.


Do you remove animals from hoarding situations?

Animal hoarding is a reality of our business, and we understand that our customers have the best intentions for their pets. Depending on the severity of the situation, we may partner with local animal organizations to gain the healthiest and safest location for the animals.


Are you bonded/licensed/insured?

All of our teams nationwide are licensed, bonded, and insured. You can trust that anyone entering your home from our team will be trained, trustworthy, courteous, and compassionate.


What if mold or other hazardous materials (feces, asbestos, etc.) are found in the house?

These are perfect reasons to use professional cleaners. Animal hoarding is a reality, and we understand that people usually have the best intentions for their pets. Depending on the severity of the situation, partnering with local animal organizations to gain the healthiest and safest location for the animals may be necessary. The right professional cleaners offer many services to clean and repair mold, water, fire, and smoke damage, as well as odor and hazardous materials. These services can be discussed during the cleaning evaluation and again at the end of the cleanup. Highly trained teams recognize dangerous situations, from structural issues, to mold and fecal matter, and everything in-between. After walking through the home, they will let the customer know if there are any dangerous situations and will discuss how they can best be handled. Professional cleaners should be licensed, bonded, and insured. You need to trust that anyone entering the home will be trained, trustworthy, courteous, and compassionate.


What if we find a dangerous situation in the house?

Our teams are highly trained to recognize any dangerous situation, from structural issues to mold and fecal matter and everything in between. After walking through the home, we will let the customer know if there are any dangerous situations and will discuss how it can best be handled.


After the cleaning process, can you help maintain the newly cleaned home?

We’ll help the customer and family to create a plan to keep a clean home. In addition, we can follow up by phone to see if the customer is doing well, or if help is necessary.


How discreet is this process?

We understand privacy is of extreme importance. We work with the customer to be as discreet as possible.


Can friends, neighbors, and church groups help?

Because these homes are usually attached with high emotional stress, our experience has shown that friends, neighbors, and church groups are best suited to be support groups after the cleanup has been completed.


Can you help family members educate another family member on the cleaning process?

Absolutely. Our team will work with the customer and their family members to help them better understand the cleaning plan. We’ll invest time to make sure all parties are fully informed.


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