Few people dream of living in a home that is filled to the brim with newspapers, old food, and other useless items. However, an abusive relationship, a health scare or other traumatic life circumstances can lead to a person becoming attached to their possessions in a way that is not healthy. Such a person is often referred to as a hoarder.

What Should You Know About Hoarders?

The typical hoarder is much more than a collector or even a pack rat. Often, they allow their things to pile up—sometimes from floor to ceiling—to the point where there is very little living space left in their home. They may have to walk through piles of random items to get from room to room. They may have even carved out narrow pathways to help them navigate through their home.

This is not a healthy state of living. It can become overwhelming and stressful to keep up with the home’s cleaning which can then lead to a health hazard type of environment. Not to mention, but some (not necessary all) hoarders are known to hold onto things—like food, diapers, cat litter, etc.

Mental health is another part of this situation to consider as well. It also prevents people from feeling comfortable coming over and, therefore, creates isolation. Throwing away all of their things, however, is not a simple solution as you have to consider their unhealthy attachment to their things.

To help you properly face a hoarder situation, let’s look at some ways to convince a hoarder to change their ways.

Start Slowly

Instead of attempting to clean out an entire house at one time, it may be a good idea to start with one room or one part of a room. This can help to get a hoarder comfortable with the idea of getting rid of things. If possible, get the friend or family member with the hoarding problem to participate in the cleanup process.

Allow the Person to Keep Some Items

There is a case to be made for keeping plastic bags or boxes for storage purposes. It is also possible that your friend or loved one has a sincere passion for dolls or for electronic equipment. By allowing a person to keep possessions that have value, a hoarder won’t feel as if his or her whole life is being taken away. However, it’s important to help them recognize which items are actually valuable. For example, old tissues or even generic stuffed animals are not valuable. If needed, talk through each item with the person. This may allow that person to be more engaged in the process and take it more seriously.

Provide an Incentive to End the Hoarding

Hoarding can cause significant damage to a home over time. As garbage piles up, it can become a health hazard to anyone who lives in a hoarder’s home. Threatening to call the town to have a home condemned if it isn’t cleaned properly may provide an incentive to a person to change their ways. Conversely, promising to allow your child to spend more time at the house if it’s cleaned could also provide motivation for a person to embrace a cleaner lifestyle.

Get Outside Help

Cleaning a hoarder’s home can be a long and tedious process. To help complete it in a timely manner, don’t hesitate to ask a professional for help. Using a dumpster rental service can also provide the space necessary to store garbage outside the home and remove it in a timely manner.

You may also Need other types of outside help as well—like volunteers to help with the cleanup process and maybe even a counselor to help the person mentally process their things being thrown away. Not every hoarder is able to take it in stride and may need professional mental help to get through it.

If you know someone who has a tendency to hoard items, it is critical that you help them in any way possible. Providing assistance could be as easy as recommending a charity group that will provide free cleaning services or the name of a therapist. It can also mean working to clean the home to make it safe to live in.