Levels of hoarding: some guidelines for recognizing the problem

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The National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization created a Clutter Hoarding Scale in 1993 as a guideline for professional organizers making their first contacts with clients:

Level One:

All doors and stairways of the home are accessible. Normal household pet activity with light evidence of rodents or pests. One to three pet accidents evident. Clutter is not excessive. Home has normal, healthy housekeeping and safe and healthy sanitation. No odors.

Level Two:

One exit is blocked and/or one major appliance or heating/cooling/ventilation device has not worked for at least six months. Some pet odor, pet waste puddles, light pet dander, three or more incidents of feces in litter boxes. Limited fish, bird or reptile care and light to medium evidence of common household rodents/insects. Clutter inhabits two or more rooms. Functions are unclear for living room and bedrooms. Slightly narrowing pathways throughout the home. Limited evidence of housekeeping, light unpleasant odors, overflowing garbage cans, light to medium mildew in kitchens and bathrooms, and moderately soiled food preparation surfaces.

Level Three:

Visible clutter outdoors, including items normally stored indoors, such as televisions and sofas. Two or more broken appliances, inappropriate/excessive use of electrical cords and light structural damage in one portion of the house has occurred in the past six months. Pets exceed local limits, excluding well-cared-for new kitten and puppy litters. Stagnant fish tanks, neglected reptile aquarium and/or bird droppings not cleaned. Audible rodent evidence, light flea infestation and a medium amount of spider webs. Indoor clutter leads to narrow hall and stair pathways, one bedroom or bathroom isn't fully usable and small amount of obviously hazardous substances or spills. Excessive dust, dirty bed linens and no recent vacuuming or sweeping. Heavily soiled food preparation areas and full or odorous garbage cans. Dirty laundry exceeds three full hampers per bedroom. Strong unpleasant odors throughout the house.

Level Four:

Structural damage older than six months, mold and mildew, inappropriate use of appliances, damage to two or more sections of wall board, faulty weather protection, hazardous electrical wiring and odor or evidence of sewer backup. Pets exceed local limits by four animals, more than three instances of aged animal waste, pet dander on all furniture, pet damage in home, excessive webs and spiders, bats and raccoons in attic and flea infestation. Bedroom is unusable, hazardous materials are stored in the home, and flammable, packed materials are in the living area or attached garage. Rotting food on counters, one to 15 cans of aged canned goods with buckled surfaces, no clean dishes or utensils in kitchen. No bed covers, lice on bedding.

Level Five:

Obvious structural damage, broken walls, disconnected electrical service, no water service, no working sewer or septic system. Standing water indoors, fire hazards and hazardous materials exceed local ordinances. Pets are dangerous to occupant and guests. Rodents in sight, mosquito or other insect infestation and regional critters, such as squirrels, inside the home. Kitchen and bathroom unusable due to clutter. Occupant is living or sleeping outside the home. Human feces, rotting food and more than 15 aged canned goods with buckled surfaces inside the home.

Information: www.nsgcd.org.

Source: National Study Group on Compulsive Disorganization.


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