Clutter is an everyday occurrence and there comes a point when we all need to clean up our messes. Leave things long enough, and we all start to fall into one of the 5 levels of hoarding.
But what are the 5 levels of hoarding?
What moves a messy room from Level 2 to Level 3?
Understanding the hoarding level of your space can help you prioritize which messes are one-person tasks and which may need some help from a back-up team.
Let’s walk through each level of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization’s Clutter-Hoarding Scale to better understand just how normal hoarding is.
There’s no doubt that many of us would like our homes to look as pristine as a real estate listing ad. But life’s hectic! With busy work and family schedules, numerous responsibilities and obligations, and competing priorities it’s easy to put off a small mess for later. However those moments of procrastination stack up to put our home at a Level 1.
Signs of this level of hoarding include clutter and messes that do not threaten your safety:
Ok, that last one MIGHT be dangerous if you’re barefoot.
None of these messes block exits in your home, and they do not cause an immediate bad odor. If we’re honest, we can admit that all of us—at one point or another—have had our home come in on this level of the hoarding scale.
Leaving your house in this state does not necessarily affect your health.
However, it may exacerbate avoidance habits that lead to snacking and more procrastination—which might lead to more clutter, shifting you up the scale.
This is another common level of hoarding. Most of us frequently bounce between Level 1’s clutter and Level 2’s disarray.
At this level, things literally begin to stack up:
At Level 2, the clutter can begin to impact a variety of areas of our lives. Some studies claim intense clutter increases our stress, makes allergies worse, and overall causes us to feel less satisfied with life.
These negative impacts are sometimes the trigger that leads to the situation getting worse.
Level 3 is where things begin to get concerning.
At this point, the mess itself may seem too daunting to tackle, and the increase in clutter results in a decline of cleanliness. There may be piles of objects obstructing multiple exits—or even a whole room used for storage instead of living.
It’s at this stage that pest infestations may become an issue. With the clutter, there are lots of places for unwelcome pests to hide and find food, and infestations of ants, lice, and cockroaches may warrant an exterminator. However, all that clutter makes it difficult for the exterminator to do a good job. Unfortunately, failing to clean up the source may set the stage for another infestation within a few weeks.
Another area of concern may be repairs needed around the home. Work may need to be done, but technicians or repair personnel may not be able to physically get to whatever needs to be fixed. This means small problems may become large ones as minor repairs are left to turn into bigger problems.
This state of things deeply impacts your ability to socialize. Messy and infested living spaces make it difficult to relax with your partner or family. Friends may prefer to outright avoid hangouts at your home. Your loved ones may be concerned about your living situation at this point.
The longer your home sits at Level 3, the higher the chance that leftover messes become long-term damage.
Hygiene and safety take a backseat in a house at Level 4. Long-term spills and messes create bad smells, and much of the house cannot be adequately used for each room’s purpose.
Those whose homes fit this category face daily irritation and inconvenience, all of it eventually leading to high repair bills, tripping hazards, and health hazards.
You may not think tripping hazards are a big deal, but falling over them certainly can be. Depending on how high the stacks are, they could even fall on you and do some damage that way.
There have been well documented cases where people have become trapped in their own home due to tripping hazards. Don’t let that be you!
Health hazards stack up in level 4 almost as quick as the clutter does. Issues like water damage that can no longer be reached lead to structural decay. Larger pests like bats or rodents may make their nests in the attic or basement and contribute to higher possibilities of disease.
A person or family living in this state may find it difficult to be comfortable doing anything.
Tackling the job to get the home back to a healthy and safe state may seem impossible on their own.
This is often what people think of when discussing hoarding behaviors. The situation may be the result of a psychological hoarding disorder or difficulty due to disability. It may have been compounded by depression or generational trauma or habits. The contributing factors are nuanced, varied, and often highly personal.
But whatever the reason, a Level 5 household is in need of serious, professional help.
Those in a Level 5 house live in outright unsafe conditions. On the daily they are coming in contact with:
Not only is it difficult to socialize with others in your home, you may find it difficult to even leave because of the sheer volume of things in the home and the blocked entryways.
Many who are at this stage find themselves disconnected from reality in a number of ways:
At this stage, the structural damage to the home is often irreparable and fire hazards begin to enter the picture.
Houses at level 5 are prone to fires because of the flammable piles of clutter. If a flame were to spark anywhere, it could easily catch something and spread from there.
Not only that, but it’s very difficult for firefighters to enter. If a fire were to start there’d be little to no way of stopping it. With so many flammable objects and no way to enter the home, all it can do is burn.
So how did your home do? Do you have an idea of where your home fits on the hoarding scale? The vast majority of us are on there somewhere, and the good news is that no matter the level your home scores, there is always help available.
After walking through all 5 levels of hoarding, it’s clear we all struggle with cleaning up the house sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with a messy house. It’s a part of normal, everyday life.
However, your health and safety are important, particularly when things advance to those higher levels. When facing a daunting clean-up, here’s quick tip for each level of hoarding:
Your home falls into one of these levels—just like everyone else’s! The next step is determining what you need to get back to a manageable Level 1.
Our team at Bio-One understands messy homes, and we’re here to offer discreet, compassionate help when you or a loved one is trying to dig out from a higher level mess. We offer affordable, professional services that include cleanup, disinfection, and decontamination.
Every job has a unique remediation plan tailored to the specific needs and goals of the client. Rest assured, wherever you may fall on the levels of hoarding, we have the experience and equipment necessary to help you.
Consult with our team today to discuss your situation and determine how much time you can save with professional help.
Hoarding situations can be quite traumatic, and whether you are a landlord left with a mess from a tenant or a family member struggling to help someone with hoarding disorder, it’s best to call in professionals to remediate these situations. At Bio-One® Augusta, we offer fast, comprehensive and compassionate hoarding cleaning services.
Clutter Vs. Hoarding
Clutter is something that can be hard to avoid, and with our busy lives, it’s not surprising if a person has a few piles of clutter here and there. It might be a pile of bills that need filing or perhaps a few loads of laundry that need folding or even a few bags of discards you keep meaning to take to a charity shop.
Clutter cleanup can be stressful, but while it’s not uncommon to have a pile papers and perhaps a cluttered closet or two, this isn’t the same as hoarding. With hoarding, you begin to find that piles of clutter begin overtaking all of the common areas of a home as well as the yard and garage.
It might start with a pile of papers on the dining room table, but eventually, there might be piles all over the dining room floor and then piles of junk begin to accumulate in other rooms, often leaving these rooms uninhabitable.
With hoarding, we typically see that most rooms of a home are filled with papers, clothing and other items, and often most rooms are difficult to access. The kitchen, for instance, might be unusable due to items on every surface as well as the floor and inside cupboards. Refrigerators and cupboards often are filled with rotten and expired foods, etc.
What Is Hoarding Disorder?
While excessive clutter can be a sign of mental illness, such as depression, hoarding is a disorder in its own specific category. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is produced by the American Psychiatric Association, was added to the manual’s list of disorders in 2012.
Hoarding is classified as “persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value.” Additionally, the person who hoards believes the need to save items and suffers from distress when discarding items, including those with no actual value.
This hoarding must cause a significant disruption in the person’s daily life, impairing their ability to engage with others socially or even occupationally. The hoarding also prevents the person from being able to “maintain a safe environment,” for themselves and others.
While hiring us for hoarder cleaning services can be a huge help, the person with hoarding disorder will need additional help from trained professionals. There are psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists that specialize in the treatment of hoarding disorder, and therapy is crucial if long-term success is to be achieved.
Many people with hoarding disorder, also have co-occurring disorders such as depression or anxiety, so these issues also need to be addressed to help a person achieve a healthier, happier life.
Why You Need A Professional Hoarding Cleanup Company
In many cases, we are called in to help by a landlord or family member to help remediate a hoarding situation. There are several good reasons to contact a professional hoarding cleanup service rather than trying to tackle the mess in a hoarder’s home on your own.
1. Hoarding Cleanup Can Be Dangerous
Through the years, we handled many hoarding cleanups, and we know that many dangers are lurking in a home or yard filled with personal items and junk. Often, we encounter dead, decaying animals and animal feces, which can be toxic. Sharp objects, biohazardous material, toxic odors and mold are common, as well.
None of these items should be removed by a typical cleaning service. Hoarding cleaning services are a type of biohazard remediation and you truly need a team of professionals to come, assess the situation, and create a cleanup plan.
We use personal protective equipment, and we ensure that all biohazards are removed from the home and yard. A maid service or house cleaning service generally does not have the protective equipment or special cleaners that a hoarding cleaning service would use, and we don’t simply handle junk removal and surface cleaning. In many cases, carpeting, flooring and even drywall will need to be removed as well as furnishings, as these items all could be contaminated with biohazards.
2. Hoarding Cleanup Is Stressful
For families, hoarding cleanup can be deeply emotional and stressful. Even for a landlord, simply viewing a property in such a state of filth can be traumatic. Obviously, this is a traumatic situation for the person who suffers from hoarding disorder, as well.
While our team strives to provide compassionate services, with a professional crew, we can detach ourselves from the emotional aspect of the cleanup process. It’s much easier for a third party to come in and handle cleanup because we don’t have any emotional attachment to the items or to the person who hoards them.
However, while we are a third-party cleaning company, this doesn’t mean that we don’t understand that this is a highly stressful situation. Our cleaning crews are experienced and respectful and trained specifically to handle these unique situations.
While part of the process is “junk removal,” we truly do understand that these items are not considered to be “junk” by the person who hoards, and we strive to be understanding throughout the entire process.
Our goal is to make hoarder cleanups as easy as possible for our clients and provide them with a fresh start. This can be especially emotional in situations where animal hoarding has occurred, and we do our best to remediate any hazards, but also to provide respectful, supportive services.
3. We Offer Fast Hoarder Cleanup Services
While our services are comprehensive, we always strive to restore a property to safe living conditions as quickly as possible. Our hoarding cleaning services include removal of all excess items, as well as animal hoarding cleanup and gross filth cleaning, as well as deep cleaning after everything has been removed.
Deep cleaning isn’t just cleaning floors and counters. We clean under and behind heavy appliances. We clean inside appliances and cupboards as well as cleaning walls and ceilings and even doorknobs, light switches, trim, etc.
Additionally, we do our best to recover anything of value and restore those items. There may be collectibles and other cherished items that we can clean and restore. Likewise, we will do our best to clean furnishings or household items that can be restored, such as appliances, tables, cabinets, etc. In some cases, items with porous surfaces are best disposed of, but we always do our best to clean everything that we possibly can.
Call Bio-One® 24/7
At Bio-One® Augusta, we provide hoarder cleaning services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Additionally, we can provide 24/7 biohazard cleanup including trauma cleanup, suicide cleanup, crime scene cleanup and much more. We serve the entire Augusta area and surrounding counties, so feel free to call us at (706) 305-5029 at any time.
Rebecca Wallace, Bio-One owner, recently visited with Arizona Midday to share how the Bio-One team makes a difference on and off the job in Arizona and throughout the United States.
Arizona Midday - "Well we've got some help for your home right now. If you're feeling overwhelmed by a clean-up project, we've got help for you today. Rebecca Wallace is with Bio-One. Hi Rebecca. What is Bio-One?"
Rebecca - "So Bio-One is known for crime and trauma scene clean-up. However, we do a lot more than just that. We help people when there is a hoarding situation, so that they can regain their home and their lives again. We help with infectious disease decontamination, rodent droppings, odor abatement, basically if you think you might need a respirator to do the job we're the people you want to call."
Arizona Midday - "Wow, that's incredible. It's stuff we don't want to do. What made you decide to get into this line of work?"
Rebecca - "So, me and my husband live in Flagstaff most of the time and we were talking with some first responders and heard how when people pass away or they're hoarders there is no one that can help them. There's just no one who does this kind of work. So we decided we want to be able to help our community, help those around us during a time of need so they can actually move forward in their lives and not have to deal with the mess of maybe things that have happened that they don't want to have to think about."
Arizona Midday - "I love that idea. So in order to help your clients as much as possible, do you work with other companies? Tell me about that if you do."
Rebecca - "Yes, we do. We work with quite a few other companies, because what we do is just a piece of a whole puzzle. So we work with a lot of restoration companies, Best Option Restoration, they are state-wide like us so they can help us anywhere as well. We work with animal rescues, so if there is a hoarding situation that animals are involved in we can get the animals out safely and get them rehabilitated. We work with quite a few non-profits that help first responders if they're in a time of need or crisis. It's across the board. We work with all kinds of different people. Contractors. Mental health professionals. Anyone that can be a piece of that puzzle with us, we want to work with them.
Arizona Midday - "Oh, I love that. So what areas of Arizona does Bio-One cover?"
Rebecca - "We have offices all the way down from Tucson up to Flagstaff, and everything in-between. Our goal is to be able to help our clients within 90 minutes or less if there is an emergency. So we have offices everywhere. Any we're national. We have 120 offices throughout the US as well.
Arizona Midday - "Wow. That's incredible. So you work with businesses. You work with non-profits, but you're also really involved in the community too, right? Tell me about that."
Rebecca - "Yeah we are. It's important for us to give back. Our community is important. We live here. We're part of it. So in 2020 alone, we gave out over 25,000 bottles of chemicals that are approved by the EPA for COVID-19 decontamination. We have blood drives all throughout Arizona to help with the blood shortage. We donate PPE to first responders and victim advocates. And we have BBQ's throughout the state as well for all of our first responders just to tell them thank you for what they've been doing. They work hard and we want to make sure that they know we care.
Arizona Midday - "Rebecca Wallace, incredible work that you're doing with Bio-One. And thank you so much for spending time with us today.
Rebecca - "Thank you for having me."