Hoarding Clean-up – Freedom Maids of Houston, The Woodlands, Texas

Freedom Maids: Hoarding Clean-up


Defining Hoarding and its History

Per Frost and Steketee, hoarding involves the acquisition of and inability to discard large numbers of possessions that clutter the living area of the person collecting them. It becomes a disorder when the behavior causes significant distress or interferes with functioning. Epidemiological findings suggest that hoarding (2-6% of the adult population) is two to three times more common than obsessive-compulsive disorder. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) now includes Hoarding Disorder as its own distinct disorder within the OCD and Related Anxiety Disorders section.

Hoarding has been an attribute of mankind for centuries. References to hoarding occur in the earliest literature—for instance, in Dante Alighieri’s 14th century poem Inferno. In the poem, Dante and a guide descend through nine circles of Hell, each involving increasingly harsh punishment. As they enter the fourth circle, two armies form a circle and clash, crashing stones against each other only to retreat and taunt, “Why do you hoard?” while the other side responds, “Why do you waste?” Charles Dickens seems to define hoarding in Bleak House, where in the shop, “Everything seems to be bought and nothing sold.”

Ten Steps to the Compassionate Remediation of a Hoarding Situation

Are you, or someone you know, suffering from chronic disorganization, extreme clutter, or hoarding on any level? We provide an array of services key to the proper clear-out and clean-up of homes affected by chronic disorganization, i.e, hoarding. We have been helping people reclaim their homes in and around Houston since 2012. Our place is not to judge, but to understand and help. Our goal in each, unique circumstance is to return the home to a clean, safe and healthy living environment on behalf of our client(s). The way we accomplish this sometimes seemingly-impossible task is to follow a proven process that we have perfected over hundreds of projects, at the heart of which is, and will always remain, a profound sense of compassion and respect for our customers that we have the opportunity of helping.

Rate the situation on the following scale:

Ten Simple Steps to a Safer and Healthier Home

  1. Agree With Customer What is End Goal of Project.
  2. We Partner With You to Decide What IS and what IS NOT Trash and Debris.
  3. Remove and Haul Away all Trash and Debris.
  4. Partner With You to Sort Between What Can be Given Away and What Will Remain in The Home.
  5. Remove and Deliver Giveaway Items to Charitable Organization of Customer’s Choice. Any recyclables will be gathered and delivered to proper facilities at same time.
  6. Consult with You and De-Clutter and Organize Those Items Remaining in Home.
  7. Perform a Deep Cleaning and Sanitation of all Surfaces of Home Interior.
  8. Make Suggestions and Provide Estimates for All Small or Large Repairs Necessary for Basic Functions, i.e., Kitchen, Bath, other.
  9. Perform Any Repair Work That Has Been Agreed.
  10. Agree To a Follow-Up Program (if applicable) to Assist You with Maintaining Your Newly Cleared and Cleaned Home!

Many times, we are doing this work during one of a family’s most difficult times: The transition of a loved one from the home they have lived for decades into a downsized living space or assisted-living center. It can be a stressful and painful time for all involved. We understand and strive to act in accordance with the highest standards of professional and respectful conduct at all times.

Contact us today at (281) 748-0055 to schedule on on-site assessment and project estimate.

The manifestation of this condition is that living spaces become so cluttered that they cannot be used for their original purpose. This leads to significant risks to the person or persons living under hoarding conditions.

These risks include:

  • Falling
  • Fires
  • Sanitation problems
  • Social isolation

Also, there can be significant distress or dysfunction that results from the act of hoarding itself.

Using a compassionate, holistic approach, Freedom Maids helps individuals with hoarding organize and dispose of clutter, debris and trash, enabling them to get back to living in a safe, clean environment.

Usually, the tasks we undertake to effect a solution include:

  • Sorting
  • Cleaning
  • Sanitizing
  • Organizing
  • De-Cluttering
  • Moving
  • Packing

In all cases, a person or family struggling hoarding, with the help of family, friends, must have already made the decision to change their condition before we are able to begin the process of planning and executing a clean-up. We are not mental health professionals and as such cannot and do not provide therapy. Nonetheless we are knowledgeable of the condition of hoarding and research new approaches on a regular basis. Also, we have provided many helpful links at the bottom of this page for anyone wanting to learn more.

Project Sample #1 – SW Houston


Recent Project Sample #2 



Hoarding Services Overview – Breakdown of the 10 Steps

1. Agreement of all Parties On What is End Goal of Project:

Downsizing a Loved One and need Home Cleared and Prepared for Sale\Lease? Planning to Remain In Home and Want to Achieve a Better Quality of Life? Other?Because these events typically come at a time of transition, it is healthy to frankly discuss what is the end goal in mind. The more we know about an individual’s or the family’s wants and wishes the better we can help with the right services.

2. We Partner With You to Decide What IS and what IS NOT Trash and Debris.

Once we have established a clear plan and are moving forward with a clean-up project, we start by working room by room determining what is trash and debris, and focus on removing that first. This is sometimes referred to as the Rough Sort.

Respectful and compassionate sorting among a person’s personal belongings is a delicate process. For that reason, we very much want the individual we are helping – You, in this case — to be present during the process and assist with decision-making on items in question (Your natural response to this statement may be “Ok. Duh.” But believe me, you would be surprised…)

You will be matched with one of our Sorting Partners (SP) who will be assigned to you for the duration this phase. This person will remain at your side to ensure that, as the process takes place we are keeping a sharp eye out for any items that may have monetary value, are of a sentimental nature or any important documents such as deeds, mortgages, investment statements, etc. The SP will also be directing and supervising the clean-up crew. At this point we are sorting for and removing trash\debris such as papers, mail, magazines, broken items small and large, etc. While you and your SP are sorting, the crew will be helping with bagging and removing trash, while placing items requiring further sorting in a separate area.

3. Remove and Haul Away all Trash and Debris.

Depending on the volume\density of accumulation, we may place a rental dumpster on the property to speed the removal process. If there is not enough stuff to warrant a dumpster we will haul away the trash and debris with a truck\trailer.

All trash is taken to a state-approved landfill and disposed of in accordance with all environmental regulations. We also will remove recyclable items and hazardous material such as old paint and see that these are recycled properly

4. Partner With You to Sort Between What Can be Given Away and What Will Remain.

Some degree of this phase may well start in Step 2 and that is fine. This phase is what we call the Fine Sort. This is where many times we are literally down to parsing carpet fibers for paper clips, coins and pins. But, it is hugely important because this is where we might find something valuable and\or sentimental that has been lost for a long time such as a ring or broach. We have seen it happen many times.

This is the phase where we look at everything: Excess furniture, clothing, electronics, toys, books, and general household items, including garage. Your SP will again assist with the sort, making sure your wishes are acknowledged. We balance a gentle approach with respectful questioning when there is an issue about what to do with a particular item. After some gentle prodding, if a client is simply unwilling to part with something, we just let it go. Usually, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of items to sort through, it’s not worth arguing. We will set it aside and move on.

5. Remove and Deliver Giveaway Items to Charitable Organization of Customer’s Choice. Note: Any recyclables will be gathered and delivered to proper facilities at same time.

All usuable items to be given away will be loaded up and delivered to a local charity of your choice, such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, Purple Heart, for example. We will use a variety of moving\delivery trucks of different sizes depending on the amount of stuff that needs to be moved.

6. Consult with You and De-Clutter and Organize Those Items Remaining in Home

Many, many people that do find the strength and resources to obtain help with cleaning out their home, unfortunately, will allow their home to become cluttered again eventually. This step is designed to mitigate against that possibility.

Even after we have cleared the trash, debris and removed all the giveaway items there is still a lot of work to do. Now we need to seriously look at what is left and find or create proper places for everything to stay so that they are out of the way. Every item should have a “home.” This is where we put on our professional organizing hats and assist with maximizing the space in the home to ensure that it remains a safe and fully functioning living space at all times!

It can be as simple as categorizing and dividing stuff across plastic bins and labeling them accordingly. Putting like things with like things. Tools with other tools, all gathered into one container or one area of the home that make sense…like the garage! You see where this is going. It is NOT rocket science. Thank goodness!

7. Perform a Deep Cleaning and Sanitation of all Surfaces of Home Interior.

Since any home in a similar situation probably hasn’t been professionally cleaned for a long time, this time is our opportunity to clean and sanitize it from top to bottom! Think of all the build-up of dust and dirt, allergens, bacteria, odors over time that will be eliminated with this step – especially true if the home has not had adequate and well-maintained ventilation and air conditioning over several years.

We will apply our more than 10 years of cleaning experience to deeply and thoroughly sanitize the entire interior, including inside and outside of all appliances; inside of all cabinets, vanities, closets, shelves; window blinds, all woodwork (trim) such as baseboards, doors and trim; inside windows that may be reached by step stool; and all lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. These are inclusive with all the standard services: clean and sanitize kitchen and bathrooms, dust all rooms, vacuum all carpeting, damp mop laminates and hardwoods, normal mopping of ceramic tile and stone. Laundry services are available if needed.

Our Deep Cleaning Checklist details all the steps we take to properly sanitize each living space in which we work.

8. Make Suggestions and Provide Estimates for All Small or Large Repairs Necessary for Basic Functions, i.e., Kitchen, Bath, other.

We have the resources to make any and all repairs, from the roof to the foundation. While we are in your home working on the clean-up project, one of our repair specialists will be on the lookout for any repairs that may be needed to attain minimum functionality of all the major systems in your home. This could be a clogged toilet or tub, a broken ceiling fan, or damaged drywall or interior trim, for example. Larger repairs may include replacing the roof, painting the exterior\interior or replacing a major appliance. We partner with Modern Solutions Construction for all of our roof and exterior repairs. They are insurance specialists and will work on your behalf to not only get your roof replacement approved by your insurance company, but also will ensure that the installation is done correctly and to the highest standards possible.

9. Perform Any Repair Work That Has Been Agreed To.

Once estimates have been approved, we will supervise all the repair work that has been scheduled to be completed. All work is guaranteed and backed by the strongest workmanship warranties in the business.


10. Agree To a Follow-Up Program (if applicable) to Assist You with Maintaining Your Newly Cleared and Cleaned Home!

Unfortunately, it is a very strong likelihood that whomever we are assisting with a hoarding situation is going to allow the home to again become cluttered and unsafe. This is why we strongly recommend that some sort of follow-up program be put in place to assist with keeping the home at minimum-functioning level. Otherwise, all the expense, time and energy invested in cleaning up the home will be wasted. More importantly, the health and well-being of the person living there is put at risk. Please visit the links provided at the bottom of this page to learn more.


We Have Found That Compassion and Understanding
Lead to More Successful Outcomes!!  Who Knew?!!


Most of what we do involves the elderly.

Here are some ideas for effectively working with this group:

  • DO contact the older adult face-to-face
  • DO use a soft, gentle approach and let the older adult tell his/her story.
  • DO treat the older adult with respect and dignity.
  • DO respect the meaning and attachment to possessions by the older adult, often as intense as human attachment.
  • DO remain calm and factual, but caring and supportive.
  • DO evaluate for safety.
  • DO refer for medical and mental health evaluation.
  • DO go slowly and expect gradual changes.
  • DO reassure the older adult that others will try to help and work with him/her.
  • DO involve the older adult in seeking solutions.
  • DO work with other agencies to maximize resources.
  • DON’T hospitalize unless there is a clear plan for what this is to accomplish.
  • DON’T force interventions.
  • DON’T be critical or judgmental about the older adult’s environment.
  • DON’T use the older adult’s first name unless he/she gives permission.
  • DON’T press the older adult for information that appears to make him/her uncomfortable.
  • DON’T make negative, teasing or sarcastic comments.
  • DON’T talk about the older adult to others as if he/she is not present.

Helpful Links

International OCD Foundation on Hoarding

Minimum Acceptable Standards for Hoarding

The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring

About Randy Frost, Co-Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring

About Gail Steketee, Co-Editor of The Oxford Handbook of Hoarding and Acquiring

Diagnostic & Statistical Manual – Hoarding Disorder DSM-5 300.3

Clutter-Hoarding Scale

Behavior Therapy of Houston

Houston-Area Support Providers

The Houston Center for Valued Living


Get Out Of Your Mind and Into Your Life – Steven C. Hayes

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT

– Russ Harris

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind To Yourself – Kristen Neff

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions  – Christopher K. Germer

Act on Life Not on Anger: The New Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Guide to Anger – Eifert, McKay, Forsyth, & Hayes

The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety –  John Forsyth & Georg Eifert

A MAGICAL REORIENTATION OF THE MODERN: Professional Organizers and Thingly Care in Contemporary North America – Katie Kilroy-Marac

Working with families of people who hoard: A harm reduction approachMichael A. Tompkins

Disposal and simple living: exploring the circulation of goods and the development of sacred consumptionHélène Cherrier

Compulsive hoarding: a site-security model and associated psychological treatment strategiesStephen Kellett

Assessment of hoardingRandy O. Frost, Veselina Hristova

The dark side of home: Assessing possession ‘clutter’ on subjective well-being – Catherine A. Roster, Joseph R. Ferrari, & M. Peter Jurkat


Freedom Maids is committed to helping sufferers and their families deal with the environmental effects of this condition. To schedule a clean-up consultation, please call Freedom Maids at 281.748.0055.