Moving a Hoarder: What You Need to Know


Piles upon piles, heaps upon heaps; the life of a hoarder is not the embodiment of simplicity. Maybe you know a hoarder or two. If you do, chances are the hoarder(s) you know aren’t as bad as the ones you see on TLC, but either way their packrat mentalities make de-cluttering, prioritizing and removing unnecessary belongings a painful experience. A bond few can break, the mere thought of parting ties with seemingly useless possessions could potentially trigger a nervous breakdown. And with respect to panic-inducing scenarios, moving or relocating to a new home probably tops the list. So what can you do to help a friend or family member with junk-clinging tendencies? How can you help them move homes without replicating the same situation in their new digs?

How you can help

If the individual in question seeks your assistance, seriously consider their call for help. Communication is critical in this phase and can make or break the final outcome. The first and best thing to do is to offer your attention by listening to what they have to say. Don’t dismiss their words as irrational jargon, try to understand the conflicting emotions they may be experiencing. Offering a quick-fix solution or ultimatum right off the bat will likely push them away. Listen and ask questions to help organize their thoughts. In giving them your time and patience, you’ll better help them cope with potential setbacks and eventually progress toward a reasonable agreement.

Consider hiring a professional organizer

As one might imagine, separating the good from the bad will demand a considerable amount of work, time and patience. The more the hoarder owns, the longer it will take. If you’re dealing with an acute hoarder, contacting someone at the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) is always an option. The good people at NAPO operate an entire division of specialists focused on hoarding. However, before you dial, get the “ok” from the person you’re moving. Besides, nobody wants to be blindsided with an awkward intervention-like situation…

The best professional organizers are the ones who enter a home with the intent to instill sustainable, yet effective, habits.

Here are some quick checklist items:

  • Determine your budget
  • Only hire a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO)
  • Make sure they are insured
  • Ask about their background and training
  • Have them outline
  • Always ask for references

Consider all outcomes

There are 3 potential outcomes for which you should prepare yourself:

1. A compromise is not possible and the hoarder insists on keeping everything. Everything, including the dirty 10-year old shoes tucked away in a hallway closet. This is a worst-case scenario and usually comes about when the individual feels pressured into making rushed decisions. The methods outlined above will help prevent this from happening.

2. The hoarder agrees to a compromise. Most everyone would argue that a compromise is better than nothing at all. However, this outcome will likely require the most time, effort and patience. Hoarders keep belongings for a reason, and you won’t know what items hold the most sentimental value just by looking at them. For example, the value of those 10-year old shoes could far exceed that of a usable clothing item. You never know. Always double check and never throw away anything without permission because they will notice. Deciding what stays and what goes will be an incredibly tedious process because each item will undergo a manual assessment. After the sorting process finalizes, hiring professional movers and packers in your area can speed up the reallocation process.

3. The hoarder relinquishes their property for a complete junk removal overhaul. Although an unlikely scenario, if the hoarder is emotionally capable of cutting ties with their belongings they’ll be positioned for a fresh start. An ideal scenario? Absolutely. Offering continued support after the move takes place is strongly encouraged.

Additional tips and information

Exercise care and precaution when sorting through or removing materials. Moving around stacks of heavy objects may prove hazardous. When picking up debris from the floor, look out for sharp items. Wear gloves and maybe consider putting on a hardhat if the infrastructure of the home seems questionable.

In a situation where the living space appears excessively unsanitary, bring a supply of cleaning and pest control products. After emptying the home you might realize some damages are beyond repair. If the individual rents, hiring professional cleaners or contractors before the landlord could save them from additional fees. However, this is a slippery slope and you should always confirm with the landlord ahead of time.


Sara MacLennan is the Director of Marketing at Liv Real Estate and a licensed Real Estate Associate. The bulk of Sara’s experience and wealth of expertise lies in on-line technology and marketing both for agents and consumers. Sara is the former National Director for Interactive Marketing for Coldwell Banker Canada where she was responsible for an extensive training program traveling to offices across the country training agents and brokers on marketing and technology. Find Sara on Twitter @edmontonblogger. Digg

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