How to know if your Hoarding Situation has reached Level 4 

The National Study on Compulsive Disorganization created a scale to help categorize hoarding behavior into 5 stages. This scale helps those in the periphery of the hoarder’s life to step in, recognize the severity of the hoarding disorder, and seek the appropriate help for the person who is hoarding.

Stage 4 hoarding is the second most severe level of hoardingPeople who have reached this stage with their hoard are usually suffering from a mental health crisis of some kind.

They almost always cannot see how dangerous their situation is nor do they recognize extremely unsanitary conditions.  


Hoarding level 4 behavior has the following characteristics: 

  • Multiple Unusable Rooms 
  • Multiple Exits are Blocked 
  • Sewage Issues 
  • The Hoarder Has Not Bathed in Weeks 
  • An Overpowering Odor 
  • Large Quantities of Mold and Mildew Throughout the Home 
  • Structural Damage to the Hoarder House that is At Least 6 Years Old 
  • A Large Quantity of Rotting Food in the Kitchen and Refrigerator 
  • Bed Bugs, Lice, Fleas, Cockroaches, and Rodent Infestations 
  • Excessive and Aging Animal Waste 


Multiple Unusable Rooms 

Multiple rooms are so full in a stage 4 hoarding situation that they are completely unusable. Hallways and doorways are inaccessible due to the height and breadth of the hoard because the encroaching clutter has overtaken liminal spaces like staircases.  


Multiple Exits are Blocked 

More than one major exit into and out of the hoarder house is blocked by items. The state of their hoarded home now poses a real danger in the face of a fire or an emergency that requires getting out of the house quickly. Pathways exist between towering levels of clutter. It is impossible for the hoarder to move through their home quickly due to the excessive amount of items they have collected.   


Sewage Issues 

Bathrooms have become unusable in the hoarder’s home. The toilet no longer flushes, and sinks are often backed up to the point that they are not functioning. These items have been neglected because they are too hard to reach through the hoard that exists on the floors, around the toilet, in the tub, and on all other surfaces available.  

The bathtub is usually so full of objects it is not used. Pipes and other plumbing in disrepair may be causing water damage. While the water may not have been shut off yet, the running water situation within the hoarder house is already compromised.   


The Hoarder Has Not Bathed in Weeks 

Due to sewage issues, nonfunctioning bathroom fixtures, and/or a lack of space, the hoarder cannot maintain their hygiene. Their clothes will be soiled, and areas designed for bathing within the home are too full to use. At this point, the hoarder usually develops strange bathing habits like using a bucket in the backyard to avoid defunct bathrooms.  


An Overpowering Odor 

This odor usually permeates the entire property and becomes surprisingly stronger when someone enters the hoarder’s house. Once inside, the hoard has many displeasing odors. This is usually caused by urine, feces, and rotten food.  


Large Quantities of Mold and Mildew Throughout the Home 

There’s irreversible damage occurring from mold and mildew. The quantities of mold in the house make it unsafe to enter without PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) since mold spores can make you sick. No amount of cleaning will lift off certain mildew stains in a hoarded bathroom or kitchen.    

Mold and mildew exist near water damage, on windowsills, and other portions of the hoarded house. If the house is in a humid area, the mildew and mold will be on objects throughout the hoard. It may be contributing to structural damage by weakening things like beams and roofing.   


Structural Damage to the Hoarded House that is At Least 6 Months Old 

There is structural damage that threatens the viability of the hoarded home, and that damage has existed for more than six months. Windows may be broken, floorboards are rotting, the roof is leaking, or walls could be crumbling. Moisture, mold, and the weight of the hoard will be contributing to this structural damage.    

The house can still be salvaged once a thorough decluttering and sanitization have taken place. However, the damage will be extensive, and some areas of the home may not be repairable.  


A Large Quantity of Rotting Food in the Kitchen and Refrigerator 

Fresh foods are rotting in various places around the hoarded home, and there is an excessive amount of expired canned and bottled food stored around the house. There are no dishes or silverware that are clean, and most that are not buried under clutter have spoiled food on them.  


Bed Bugs, Lice, Fleas, Cockroaches, and Rodent Infestations 

All the furniture and beds in the house have lice or bedbug infestations. Rodents have chewed on objects around the house and cockroaches are easily seen throughout the hoard. There may be bats living in the attic and spider webs are spread across most objects and walls.  

The infestations are so bad that most of the items that may have been valuable are now worthless because they are soiled. Some hoarders, when confronted with the level of pest infestation in their home, start to realize how dirty the things they are trying to keep really are.  


Excessive and Aging Animal Waste 

The hoarder may have also hoarded animals on their property. A stage 4 hoarder usually has more animals than allowed by local regulations. There are at least 3 spots of excessive animal waste accumulation. This failure to dispose of excrement properly has created unsanitary conditions for the animals, and the hoarded pets are often ill.  


How to Help a Level 4 Hoarder 

Cleaning up a stage 4 hoarding situation will need PPE and a group of trained professionals that specialize in helping hoarders and cleaning up hoarded spaces. When you have recognized the above signs and symptoms in your loved one’s hoarded home, it is time to seek help.    

At Spaulding Decon, our trained biohazard remediation professionals know how to clean up a hoarder’s home and we understand the emotional attachment that exists to the belongings.

Our teams can create custom cleanup plans while working with mental health professionals to ensure that your loved ones get the help and support they need during the difficult cleanup process.   

To find a Spaulding Decon team nearest to your location: Spaulding Decon Locations | Professional Cleanup Company

Free Ebook – Dealing with Hoarding Around You

Learn from our 15+ Years Experience with Hoarding Assistance. Hoarding is destructive to your property values as well as theirs. There are many ways to go about working with a harder to get them to clean up the mess. In this free eBook download, Spaulding Decon teaches you lessons learned from dealing with Hoarding Cleanup and the psychology behind hoarding disorders.

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