The Rapid Clean-Out is a popular strategy employed on television shows to resolve a hoarding situation. The shocking environment, resistant hoarder, frustrated family and amazing transformation make entertaining viewing.
In real life, the Rapid Clean-Out is characterised by a team of cleaners and/or rubbish removalists quickly discarding large quantities of accumulated clutter with limited consultation with the hoarding householder. The Rapid Clean-Out may be the result of a legal intervention (such as a compliance order) but is also frequently instituted by family members with the well-intentioned idea that their loved one would benefit from a “fresh start”.
Unfortunately, Rapid Clean-Outs focus on taking care of the result of the hoarding but do not address the underlying issues. It is generally accepted by mental health professionals, government departments and outreach agencies that the Rapid Clean-Out technique is expensive, distressing to the client and ineffective in the long run. For the client it can feel like a crash tackle approach. Feelings of loss and anger can create severe emotional distress and statistics from the USA indicate that in over 50% of cases the person will quickly reacquire and in 15% of cases the hoarding behaviour worsens.
Out in the Real World
Susan is 47 and has been hoarding for 30 years. On four occasions, her family have organised a rapid clean out of her unit. After each clean out her hoarding worsened. When Susan was 38 her family sent her overseas on a holiday. When she returned they said, “Surprise! We’ve cleaned out your unit for you!” and she said, “Surprise! I’m pregnant!”. In the nine months from the cleanout to the birth of her son she re-acquired to the point that she was not allowed to bring her baby home from the hospital. Her son has spent his entire life in the care of a family member.