The popularity of certain television shows makes it clear that hoarders and hoarding behaviors fascinate many people. Though it’s interesting to watch from a safe distance, hoarding is dangerous for those who live in and around a hoarding property. In addition, helpers trying to clean out a hoard are also exposed to certain dangers during the process. These are three common dangers of hoarding.
Hoarding properties create fire risks in two different ways. The first is the flammability of the hoard itself. The more items that get packed into a home, the more fuel there is to feed a fire. Once the fire begins, the excessive clutter inside the home can make it difficult or even impossible to reach a safe exit. Unfortunately, hoarders have died in their homes because fire crews were unable to reach them. It’s not just the hoarder who is at risk. A fire that starts in the house of a hoarder can easily move into attached or neighboring homes.
There are multiple avenues through which a severely cluttered home causes health problems. Poor air quality is one common issue as the vents, ducts, and window of hoarding homes become blocked. This reduces airflow through the home and traps dust, mold, and mildew spores inside the house with its occupants. Broken plumbing and toilets can cause sanitation issues. Hoarding situations also encourage the proliferation of pests like insects and mice. Cockroaches and others love hiding in cluttered homes and often bring disease with them. And while pet mice tend to be pretty clean, wild mice carry all sorts of germs.
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A home is typically the largest purchase people make in their lifetimes, and hoarding can seriously damage this investment. The weight of a hoard can cause structural damage to a home as can issues resulting from damaged plumbing, mold, and vermin. When left neglected too long, a house can be damaged beyond repair. Even if the structure survives the neglect, those who own hoarding houses can still lose them. When local authorities discover a hoard, they typically try and work with the property owner to facilitate a cleanup. If orders to fix the problem go ignored, however, the city can seize the property and take possession of it. At this point, the city will clean the property but charge its owner with the associated costs.
Hoarding is a serious problem with real consequences. If you or someone you know is struggling with a hoarding problem, it’s important to help him or her if you can. Before you start cleaning, however, understand that hoarders need emotional support to deal with their clutter without relapse. You should also consider professional cleaning help to make sure you don’t expose yourself and others to any potential hazards during the cleaning process.