How to Stage a Hoarding Intervention

Mar 19, 2016

How to Stage a Hoarding Intervention

Hoarding goes beyond just the junk drawer, a household staple. It’s a subject that’s been captured on the television show “Hoarders,” continuously shocking viewers–but in reality, it’s a serious threat to both mental and physical health. It often stems from depression, anxiety or other psychological conditions, namely obsessive-compulsive tendencies. A hoarder endures severe bouts of anxiety when it comes to throwing items away, and a person with hoarding issues tries to drum up reasons to keep what most would deem junk. As clutter accumulates, so do problems with relationships, financial struggles, legal troubles and health hazards.

An intervention of this kind requires patience, but those intervening must also maintain a firm demeanor to show how serious the hoarding has become. Don’t let a loved one spiral out of control–follow these tips on how to stage a hoarding intervention.

Before you begin.

The authors here at Moving Insider were able to reach out to ADAA or Anxiety and Depression Association of America for some helpful pointers. They recommend the following:

  • Forced Clean Outs: Health care professionals do not recommend starting with a forced clean out because the hoarder just repeats the problem due to not addressing the difficulty with decision-making, prioritizing, feeling attached to the clutter and difficulties with organization and relationships.
  • Cleaning: The ADAA recommends clean outs once the patient feels ready to do this-often times about half way or more through treatment.
  • Getting Proper Help: Having professionals who are trained in motivational interviewing and hoarding intervention helps the hoarder agree to the fact that they are indeed a hoarder and helps them learn how to stop acquisition behaviors and how to sort and discard. This helps make a big difference towards securing a successful outcome.

For more information on hoarding, The Anxiety and Depression Association of America offers helpful tips here on how to stage an intervention.

How to Stage a Hoarding InterventionPlan your approach.

Gather close family and friends to get this point across: You need help, and we want to help because we care about you. Consider bringing in a professional to help propel the conversation and prepare you for possible backlash from the loved one you’re trying to assist. Explain why this hurts the hoarder and those around him or her. Add suggestions for how you can help, and a “gentle-but-firm” approach is the best way to tackle a hoarding problem.

How to Stage a Hoarding InterventionStart the de-cluttering process.

It’s important not to start the decluttering process before the hoarder is ready and has addressed their issue and the feelings around hoarding.  Before starting the cleanup, be sure the hoarder is out of the house so they can’t ration why they need every item you’re trying to toss. As close family members and friends, you can use your best judgment regarding what to keep and what to dispose of or donate. Rent an open trailer to haul the cleaning supplies to the residence and carry junk out. When executing a deep clean in a hoarding zone, be sure to wear proper protective gear (gloves, face mask, etc.) since you’re dealing with dirty–and potentially hazardous–surfaces.

How to Stage a Hoarding InterventionGet a storage unit.

This step will help someone with excessive clutter learn how to properly manage their items they truly value keeping but don’t need in the house. This provides a good lesson in confining valuable items to one single storage unit, rather than piled in a house. As someone close to the loved one dealing with hoarding issues, you can also control the storage unit online and ensure no hoarding situations happen there. Even organizing a unit smaller than the hoarded living space can be therapeutic for someone accustomed to hoarding. Not everything needs to be tossed, but not every valuable needs to remain in the house–that’s why a storage unit is a useful tool in a hoarding intervention.

How to Stage a Hoarding InterventionEnlist the help of boxes and labels.

Your loved one afflicted with a hoarding problem can learn how to organize the must-keeps and toss the unnecessary junk with boxes–each one labeled for every room in the house. Many hoarders wallow in clutter that’s piled in every room, no matter where it actually might belong. For instance, keeping silverware, plates and other cooking items in the box wrapped with “Kitchen” tape will help your loved one develop better organizational and prioritizing skills.

How to Stage a Hoarding InterventionRecruit psychological help.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a hoarder won’t be cured right after a full house cleaning. A professional therapist who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder is your best bet to help retrain a hoarder’s mind to distinguish between trash and valuables. The depression and anxiety that accompany a hoarding disorder should also be treated by a professional to help your loved one through these challenges. You can get more information from the Anxiety and Depressions Association of America.


Without our health, we don’t have much. That’s why it’s crucial to stage an intervention for a loved one who is battling a hoarding problem so that he or she can happily start anew.

Do you have a loved one who has experienced a hoarding problem, or have you staged a hoarding intervention? Give us your tips in the comments section below.


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