When You’re Left To Deal With Your Parents’ When You're Left To Deal With Your Parents' HoardHoard

Helping your parents downsize for a move can be challenging, but when your folks are hoarders, clearing out their home can feel overwhelming. If you’re on a deadline—before the lease is up or before the house is to go on the market as part of your parents’ estate settlement—you need to get the clutter gone fast. Here’s what to do when you’re left to deal with your parents’ hoard.

Dealing with the hoard if your parents are moving

Before a move to assisted living, it’s a good idea to hire a senior move specialist or professional organizer who can tactfully help your parents decide what they can part with. These pros can also preserve keepsakes in a compromise way that saves space (like photographing collections for display on the walls at your folks’ new home, rather than bringing the entire collection.) If your parents are parting with things that have resale value, an estate sale can help offset the costs of hiring professional sorting and decluttering help. Some estate sale agencies offer cleanout and sorting as part of their services.

Cleaning out a hoarder house if your parents have passed away

If your parents have passed away, the ideal solution is to hire professional help to clean out the home as soon as possible. Doing it yourself may seem like the best solution–until you’re exhausted, have a sore back, and have only cleaned out one room after a week. Decide how much your time, money, and emotional wellbeing are worth to you. According to a Newsweek article on adult children of hoarders, cleaning out a home yourself can cost you months away from work and your family, but hiring pros can cost several thousand dollars.

If hiring a cleanout service isn’t an option, here are some tips to make a big job easier:

  • Ask for help. Doing the work alone is exhausting and not always safe. Ask for help from friends and family.
  • Stay safe. Rodent droppings are common in hoarder homes, attics, and sheds and can expose you to dangerous diseases. Everyone who helps clean out a hoarder home should wear safety goggles, gloves, a mask, eye protection, shoe covers, and disposable coveralls.
  • Contact your parent’s city offices or Area Agency on Aging to see if they have resources for finding junk haulers, pest control services, and even biohazard services, which are sometimes needed to make a home ready for market. You can see this list from the Hoarding Task Force of Greater Dallas as an example of what may be available.
  • Let yourself grieve and even feel resentful or angry. You may understand that your parents’ hoarding was an illness, but frustration is natural when you’re cleaning up after them. Talk to supportive friends or a therapist so you don’t add guilt about your feelings into the mix.

If the home is uncontaminated by waste and pests and there are items of potential value, an estate sale agency may be able to save you some time by cleaning up and selling what’s valuable. But if the place is filled with junk, don’t sink your time into searching for heirlooms. Most hoarder homes are in such poor condition that any items you find may be damaged, mildewed, or soiled by pests. Also, consider that hoarding tendencies run in families—it may be a better bet for your psychological health to just let everything go, focus on your positive memories of your parents, and move on.

Get Senior Living Advice Now

If you’re looking for the best value options for senior care, be sure to visit SeniorAdvisor.com to see reviews, ratings, and prices for assisted living and more.

If you need to talk with a local expert about your senior care options, we’re here to help. Give us a call toll-free at (866) 592-8119 – we’re available 5am-9pm Mon-Fri and 5am-5:30pm Sat-Sun (Pacific Time).

Learn more about choosing a senior downsizing service and mental health resources for seniors on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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