Ask A House Cleaner, Volunteer - Hoarding Cleanup, Angela Brown, Savvy Cleaner

Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup

Volunteer hoarding cleanup is a church members gift. And the cleaning business owner in charge of the project wants to Ask a House Cleaner about the legal issues. 

Volunteer hoarding cleanup is a lovely gesture if delivered with tough love. Angela Brown, The House Cleaning Guru warns about the comfort zone of the homeowner. Yes, this is a church project. And while you’ve made commitments, there are a lifetime of issues buried in stuff. 

Create a start time, and an end time for the volunteer hoarding cleanup. Remember this is a charitable project, helping hoarders. And your object is to clear clutter, not try to cure or rescue the family.

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Hey there, I’m Angela Brown, and this is Ask a House Cleaner. This is a show where you get to ask a house cleaning question, and I get to help you find an answer.

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Question: Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup

Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup saving thingsToday’s question comes from a woman business owner who runs a cleaning company and goes to church on Sunday.

As a special project, her church group is going inside one of the members’ homes to clean up her hoarding problem.

Now the woman asking the question is in charge of the project. She says; “None of the volunteers have bonding and insurance. Nor are they trained as professional house cleaners. What is the best way for me to manage this project?”

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Answer: Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Crew Not Professionals

Alright, well that is an awesome question and we’ll see what we can do here as far as an answer. Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup with bags of trash.35-min

Now as the person that’s in charge and the manager of this project,
you too are a volunteer. They are not hiring you as a business owner, but you are in charge because of your business experience.

I’m guessing there’s no money involved – since you mentioned it’s a volunteer project.

And if that’s the case anything that malfunctions on this job is going to be back on the church. Not on you as a house cleaning business owner.

Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Crew Can Sign Waivers

Most volunteer church projects don’t have members sign waivers for damage or injury. But if it would make you more comfortable, you can bring copies of a blank waiver for them and the homeowner to sign. This will release everybody from responsibility or law suits, if something goes awry. 

Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Requires Tough LoveVolunteer Hoarding Cleanup, keeping things

Okay, so the next thing about this project is because of the nature of hoarding, there is going to have to be some tough love.

Now, what you have to realize that you are not here to rescue this person.

When you leave, the situation is just going to duplicate itself. Because that is the comfort zone of the person who lives there.

And so what you’re doing is the volunteer hoarding cleanup crew is just ridding the home of some clutter. You’re making room for more to take it’s place.

You can’t change this church member. There is a life of behaviors locked up in their stuff. They have to be the one who wants to change.

Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup is Temporary at Best

So don’t make ongoing commitments. You’re not going to go back to keep cleaning this person’s house.

So it is lovely that the church group has decided they’re going to help this family out. But you need to be crystal clear about what it is you’re doing there.

Choose a Date and Time for the Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup - Save the Date

Pick a specific date when the volunteer hoarding cleanup will happen.

Like Saturday morning from 9 until 12. And put a start time on it and put a finish time on it.

Because you just don’t want the members of the church showing up randomly through the morning.

And you don’t want the project to continue on all day.

Because the truth is even with eight or ten volunteers this project might take a couple of days. And so there needs to be a start time and a stop time. You’re not here to magically reinvent this family’s life. You’re here to get them started on a life changing program.

Rent a Van – Or Borrow One From a Church Member

Uhaul Rental Van Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup

Did you know you can rent a van from U-Haul for $20 a day plus mileage? It’s true in the United States. If none of your volunteer hoarding cleanup members have a van they want to donate to your cause. Renting a van is a great option.

Now the church may want to pay for a van rental. Maybe some of the members of the church want to chip in. Or maybe the homeowner will pay for the cost.

Show up with the van at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning to meet your volunteers. Begin work at 9:00 am. You only have three hours. Don’t screw around for an hour getting coffee and chatting. Jump in and get to work. 

Delegate Work to Your Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Crew

Create four piles.Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup donations

  1. Keep
  2. Toss / Trash
  3. Donate (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Thrift Store)
  4. Consign / Sell

And so then what you do is you put a different volunteer in front of each pile.

The volunteer can either do the work themselves or delegate it further to more volunteers. 

Your Keep Pile

In the keep pile, you will have daily used items. Books, shoes, clothes, dishes, gardening items. If they are not currently using their stuff, encourage them to move these items to one of the other three piles.

Your Trash Pile Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup throwing away stuff

This is stuff with no redeeming value. Nobody is using it. Or nobody can use it. And nobody wants it.

Your Donate / Recycle Pile

This is stuff somebody somewhere can use – just not this family. Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup, thrift shop

Your Consign / Sell Pile

This pile is stuff that gets removed today. It goes to a consignment store or sold to the church volunteers. This is not stuff you will sell at a yard sale, or on eBay. Hoarders don’t have the discipline to follow through on selling and shipping items. It’s got to go today.

The Homeowner Only Speaks To You

Volunteer Hoarding CleanupNow, as the manager of this project, you are the face to face person with the homeowner. There can’t be fifteen people asking the homeowner where everything goes. This will confuse and overwhelm the homeowner. And little or nothing will get done.

You and the homeowner work together. You hold up an item to the homeowner and they will give you one of four answers.

  1. Keep
  2. Toss / Trash
  3. Donate (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Thrift Store)
  4. Consign / Sell

Don’t give her five choices, don’t give her seven choices. It goes in one of those four piles.

Then you turn around and delegate that item to the leader of that specific pile.

Expect Resistance Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup, cottage cheese container

You will get some initial resistance from the homeowner. They are not used to making these four choices. If they were – they wouldn’t be in this situation. 

Create a safe environment for them to start the “giving up” of things.

There will be an emotional attachment to many of the items. And it won’t make any sense to you. They might be reluctant to give up empty cottage cheese containers. They are planning to make some craft project with it. 

Remind them that there will be more cottage cheese containers in their future. And they are not going to do the craft project today. “Today we’ll get rid of just this one empty carton.”

The More You Toss – The Easier It Gets

Once you get in the groove of separating these items into piles, the quicker the work goes. When one of the piles fills the van, have a driver go deliver the stuff and come back for another load. 

You Won’t Finish By Noon – But Leave Anyway

Exhausted Volunteer Hoarding Cleanup Workers

Do not make this an all Saturday project. If you do, it will wear out all your volunteers. And it will wear out the homeowner. This is an exhausting project.

And so three hours is about max. That keeps everybody fresh. Everybody feels good about the project. And if in the future there’s another project like this, the volunteers will come back.

But if you burn them out on this project, they’re not coming back for the next. Whatever that is.

At quitting time, thank your volunteers. Hugs, high fives, and kudos. Send everybody home.

Leave the Homeowner Encouraged

As you leave, give the homeowner a “great job” for getting rid of the stuff. Encourage them to keep going after you leave and get rid of more stuff every day.

Don’t hang out. And don’t sit there and play therapist. Don’t try to help her overcome her hoarding addiction.

Because there is so much more to hoarding than can be cured one morning by a volunteer church group.

There’s a lifetime of issues buried in that stuff.

You Are The MiracleVolunteer Hoarding Cleanup, high fives all around

Don’t expect a miracle from your efforts. You are the miracle. And your charitable act for the day may be all that ever comes from this volunteer hoarding cleanup.

And so don’t try to go in and rescue anyone. You have your own family to go home and rescue and take care of.
So just keep that in mind, and God bless you. This is a lovely gesture from you and all your church members.

Alrighty, so that’s it for today. And until we meet again, leave the world a cleaner place than when you found it.

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About the Show

Learn how the show came to be, interesting facts about the show host, and other frequently asked questions about the show.

Resources For This Episode:

The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life –

Zen of Hoarding: 108 offerings for deciding what you own –

Don’t Let Your Stuff Suffocate You! Simplify Your Life & Free Your Space –

If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Get Rid of this Clutter?: Tools to Get it Done! –

10 Steps to Declutter Your Wardrobe: Organize Your Closet in a Snap! –

Practical Ways to Simplify Your Life –

Simplify and DeClutter Your Life: 78 Tips for Organized, Clutter-free Living –

Beneath The Clutter: Why it’s Hard to Declutter and How You Can Organize Your Home, Decrease Stress and Simplify Your Life –

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