Judging by the popularity of Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, many of us have too much clutter in our homes. For about 2%-6% of the population, however, the clutter interferes with daily living.
Hoarding is now a recognized mental health disorder, in which a person accumulates excessive possessions and feels distress when parting with them. We have begun to recognize the emotional impacts of hoarding, but it’s important that we also think about how hoarding affects the environment.
Hoarding is a Community Health Issue
Hoarding can affect the air quality within a home. Many times, so much clutter builds up that it becomes impossible to properly clean. Irritants such as mold, dust, ammonia, and pet dander increase to unhealthy levels. That can lead to breathing problems for people who live in or visit the home.
The buildup of trash, food, and filth invites pests into the home. Fleas, rats, bedbugs, roaches, and the like may infest the property. The crowded conditions also make extermination more challenging.
Hoarding of all types can create exposure to disease, but animal hoarding is of particular concern. In such cases urine, feces, and sometimes even dead animals build up in the home. Diseases and parasites can spread to humans and become a threat to everyone in the area.
People who hoard often live in unhealthy conditions, with malfunctioning heating and cooling systems or broken appliances. They are too embarrassed to call a professional to help, so the situation only gets worse.
Emergencies and Disasters
Hoarding directly causes some emergencies. It may also prevent first responders from being able to help residents during an emergency or disaster. Additionally, hoarding puts neighbors at risk when it occurs close to other homes or apartments.
Hoarding creates a risk of fire due to clutter coming in contact with heat sources. Once a fire starts, the amount of flammable material causes it to burn hot and spread quickly. Burning materials may also release toxic fumes. Blocked pathways make it difficult for firefighters to enter the home. Residents also have trouble escaping, so many occupants die in such fires.
The weight of hoarded objects may weaken the structural integrity of the buildings that store them. Many homes are simply not designed to hold a lot of heavy things, like furniture and books. Spilled liquids, leaking roofs, or broken pipes may also damage the home. Over time, that can cause the building to collapse.
Obviously, all that stuff has to go somewhere. The objects that were hoarded impact the environment whether a home is cleaned out, lost to fire, or collapses. Rotting food releases methane gas. Plastic takes a very long time to break down. It is filling our oceans. Smoke from fires releases toxins and carbon dioxide. Improper sanitation may lead to contamination of water and soil. In short, hoarding affects us all.
We need a clean environment inside and outside of our homes to be healthy. It is in our best interests to address hoarding, but it must be done with care and compassion. Simply throwing away everything in a hoarder’s home will not solve the problem. Doing so without permission may ruin your relationship. It will always cause distress. In fact, the experience can be so traumatic, it is thought to have led to the death of some people.
If you or your loved ones need help with hoarding, give Ecos Environmental and Disaster Restoration a call. We will work with the family, therapist, and person suffering from hoarding. You can trust us to treat you with respect and compassion. We’ll discretely restore your property to a safe environment.