According to research there is an estimated 14 million hoarders in the United States. Hoarding can be a difficult problem to tackle since it can encompass everything from mental illness to financial trouble. Additionally, hoarding also carries the risk of the loss of homeowners insurance. With hoarding carrying the added risk of injury or fire due to clutter, it’s not surprising that more insurance companies are beginning to take notice. A claim investigator who visits a home with evidence of hoarding may recommend not renewing a policy or only renewing at a higher rate, or even deny a claim.

There are some fairly easy signs that there may be a problem that could affect your safety, your guests’ safety, or your homeowner’s insurance. Keep an eye out for clutter that could cause someone to fall or might block them from reaching safety in case of emergency. Anything like paper or plastic products that have built up and could cause a fire hazard. Large amount of animal waste or decaying food products are a problem, especially if clutter blocks proper ventilation. Finally, a homeowner’s policy can be at risk if the level of junk has reached a point that it’s impossible to detect or repair damage from problems like water leaks.

With that in mind here are five tips to tackling a hoard:

  1. Take Inventory. Have a loved one make a thorough list of all personal belongings. Identify what is worth keeping and what is clutter.
  2. Hire Professionals. With hoarding becoming such a problem there are now companies that recognize the problem’s sensitive nature and specialize in cleaning them up. They can give an estimate of cost and time, then remove the hoard privately.
  3. Protect Yourself. If you chose to remove the clutter yourself, make sure you wear proper safety equipment, including gloves, goggles, and dust masks. In cases of extreme hoarding, a hard hat and first aid kit might also be necessary.
  4. Prepare for Fire and Pests. Fire hazards and pest infestations are two of the biggest problems when dealing with hoards. When you start digging through clutter, you run the risk of stirring something up, so keep a fire extinguisher, insect repellent, and rodent traps nearby just in case.
  5. Be Ready to Clean. This means not only do you need to have plenty of cleaning supplies on hand, you probably need to have a dumpster on site to accommodate the amount of trash contained in the home. Additionally, you’ll probably want to have a toolbox to repair any minor issues that are uncovered.

Tackling a hoard may be a daunting task, but removing huge piles of clutter that are associated with hoarding not only can ensure the safety of you and your loved ones, but also your homeowners insurance.

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