It is estimated that around 1.2 million people in Britain struggle with hoarding.
It’s not unusual for homeowners to be worried about how the hoarder house next door might affect the value or saleability of their property, but what can you do if you are in that position? What if you are the one who struggles with hoarding? Are you worried about how you’ll get your property ready to sell?
What is hoarding – Help for Hoarders UK?
According to Help for Hoarders UK, hoarding affects people to a variety of degrees. A lot of people will, at some point in their lives, become ‘collectors’ of something, whether that’s coins, stamps, albums by a certain band, crockery, or pieces from an artist you love. When this ‘collecting’ becomes excessive and problematic, it is referred to as hoarding.
Hoarding had previously been thought to be a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but in recent years it has been listed as a separate mental health problem.
Symptoms of Hoarding Disorder include severe difficulty in disposing of, or parting with, possessions, regardless of any monetary value, and high levels of stress at the idea of doing so. As a result, a large number of possessions are collected, filling up and cluttering living space or work space, to the extent that the space is no longer usable.
Some people who have difficulty with hoarding are very aware of their struggles. Others do not see their behaviour as a problem. When sufferers are unaware of a hoarding problem, it can cause a great deal of distress to friends and family. This is largely due to a reluctance to access any help or support.
What can I do if I live next door to a hoarder?
Living next door to someone whose hoarding has spread out to the front of their property is not only unsightly, it may also have serious pest control and health implications.
It is important to recognise the difference between a lazy, untidy neighbour, and one who is suffering from a serious mental disorder.
Your first step should be to speak to your neighbour in a calm and friendly matter about the situation. They may not realise how bad the hoarding problem has become.
You could perhaps let them know when you are planning to do work to the front of your own property, and say you’d be happy to lend them a hand in getting it cleared?
If your neighbour is not responsive to your approach, try speaking to a family member who might act as a go-between.
If you’re still not able to make satisfactory progress, it may be worth contacting your local council. A garden that is simply overgrown is not something the council have any power over. However, if the garden contains waste that cannot rot away, if it is attracting vermin, or if the appearance of the property is detrimental to the surrounding neighbourhood, they may be able to act.
The council have the power to issue a section 215 notice, which will specify what action needs to be taken. Non-compliance with a section 215 notice is an offence and would be dealt with accordingly.
Help, I’m buying a hoarder house – what should I do?
You were able to see through the clutter enough on viewing the property to put in an offer, but now you’re worried about the state the property will be left in when you get the keys.
Unless specified in the sale agreement, the property should be sold with ‘vacant possession’; that means they and their possessions should have left the property.
If you are concerned that this may not happen, make sure you specify it as a term of the sale. To do this, you should speak to your solicitor and the estate agent. If it is specifically included in the contract, but does not happen, the seller will be in breach of contract. Should this happen, you will be entitled to take action.
How to clean a hoarder’s house
The biggest obstacle to cleaning a hoarder’s house is the clutter. Once the clutter is cleared, it’s simply a case of giving the property a deep clean. If a hoarder has been living in the property, it is likely that the clutter may have prevented them from giving the property a good clean for a while. If that’s the case, you’ll have a big job ahead of you. You may want to call in the professionals.
Decluttering tips for hoarders trying to sell a property
Whether you are the hoarder, or you are living with a hoarder, the idea of trying to declutter your property to sell it is likely to be incredibly overwhelming.
These top tips could help you on your way to a property sale:
It is easy to become overwhelmed by the idea of having to declutter your entire property. It can help to break it down into manageable chunks. A drawer, a cupboard, a room; start with whatever is achievable for you. Visible progress and achievements will help you see how far you have come and motivate you to keep going.
Don’t put yourself under too much pressure by creating a tight deadline. It won’t be an easy process, so start early and give yourself plenty of time. This will help to ease the pressure and make it a little easier to deal with the difficult emotions that decluttering is likely to bring up.
Use a keep, donate, recycle/bin system
Make decluttering a little easier by using a quick three-option system. Using three boxes or bags labelled ‘keep’, ‘donate’ and ‘recycle/bin’ will speed up the decluttering process and will help you to feel in control. Once you have separated the items, remove the ‘donate’ and ‘recycle/bin’ boxes or bags as soon as possible. This will reduce the stress associated with the process and eliminate the opportunity to go back through them.
Ask yourself some key questions about each item/group of items
a. When did I last use it?
b. Truthfully, what are the chances of me needing it in the next 6-12 months?
c. What could be the negative consequences of me keeping it? (space, clutter, bad for my mental health, unable to enjoy my home etc.)
Take ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos
Sometimes it is easier to see the progress that has been made by looking at photographs rather than in person. Taking before and after photos can help you to see the benefits of the decluttering and the difference that it is making.
Admit the problem and ask for help
One of the most difficult parts of decluttering your property will be admitting that you need help with it. If you know that parting with possessions will be challenging, it is important that you are supported. You can ask loved ones, or, if appropriate, a relevantly qualified health professional. If it will cause you too much stress to be present for the declutter, you may decide it is best to leave it to someone else. If decluttering is likely to cause significant distress, it is important that you seek medical advice before proceeding.
Where can I find professional cleaners for hoarders?
If you think it is time to call in the professionals, there are several UK companies that can help you achieve your decluttering goals with a sensitive and sympathetic approach. They will work with you and your loved ones to help declutter, using clear, pre-determined guidelines. Calling in the professionals can help to reduce the stress that you might experience during the decluttering process.
UK clearance and cleaning companies that specialise in working with those who struggle with hoarding, include:
If you are decluttering in order to sell your property, you could take the stress out of the process by selling to a professional homebuyer. Quick Move Now could buy any property, in any condition, anywhere in England or Wales. You can also choose the date that the sale completes on, which can reduce a significant amount of anxiety. Although your property would still need to be sold with vacant possession, and therefore you would still need to go through the decluttering process, the flexible completion date takes the pressure off and means you don’t have to conduct endless property viewings or deal with estate agents. For more information about how a sale to Quick Move Now could offer you a stress-free move, and to get your free, no-obligation cash offer, call the Quick Move Now team today on 0800 068 3366.