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Hoarding Categories & Levels

Hoarding Categories; The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) developed the Clutter–Hoarding Scale™ (C–HS™) to serve as an observational guideline tool for the assessment of residential environments and is intended for the assessment of the household environment only.

  • The C–HS™ was created specifically for use in the assessment of a home’s interior, except where the outside structure affects the overall safety of the interior.
  • The C–HS™ is not intended for the assessment of sheds, unattached garages or outbuildings.
  • The C–HS™ is not to be used for diagnostic purposes or for any psychological evaluation of a person or persons.
  • ICD is not responsible for any work performed by a professional organizer, related professional, or any other person when using the C–HS™.

ICD has established five levels to indicate the degree of household clutter and/or hoarding from the perspective of a professional organizer or related professional.
The levels in the scale are progressive, with Level I as the lowest and Level V the highest. ICD considers Level III to be the pivot point between a household that might be assessed as cluttered and a household assessment that may require the deeper considerations of working in a hoarding environment.

Within each level are five specific categories that describe the degree of clutter and/or hoarding potential

1. Structure and Zoning

Assessment of access to entrances and exits; function of plumbing, electrical, HVAC (any aspect of heating, ventilation or air conditioning) systems and appliances; and structural integrity

2. Animals and Pests

Assessment of animal care and control; compliance with local animal regulations; assessment for evidence of infestations of pests (rodents, insects or other vermin)

3. Household Functions

Assessment of safety, functionality and accessibility of rooms for intended purposes

4. Health and Safety

Assessment of sanitation levels in household; household management of medications for prescribed (Rx) and/or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs

5. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Recommendations for PPE (face masks, gloves, eye shields, or clothing that protect wearer from environmental health and safety hazards); additional supplies as appropriate to an observational level

Structure and Zoning
• All doors, stairways, and windows accessible
• All plumbing, electrical, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems fully functional
• Installed and functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
Animals and Pests
• Appropriate animal control (behavior and sanitation)
• Number of animals in compliance with zoning regulations
• No evidence of non-pet rodents or insects
Household Functions
• No excessive clutter
• All rooms being used for intended purposes
• All household appliances fully functional
• Consistent routine housekeeping and maintenance
Health and Safety
• Safe and maintained sanitation conditions
• No odors (animal, food, or natural gas)
• Medications: quantity within normal limits; appropriately stored, current dates, and child-proof lids as indicated
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• PPE Optional
• First aid kit, hand sanitizer, flashlight, and insect repellent

Structure and Zoning
• One major exit blocked
• One major appliance or HVAC device not working for longer than one season (regionally appropriate)
• Some plumbing or electrical systems not fully functional
• Nonexistent or non-functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
Animals and Pests
• Animals: evidence of inappropriate animal control (behavior and sanitation)
• Visible or odorous pet waste
• Visible pet fur/hair/feathers
• Light to medium evidence of common household pests/insects
Household Functions
• Clutter obstructs some functions of key living areas
• Slight congestion of exits, entrances, hallways, and stairs
• Some household appliances not fully functional
• Inconsistent routine housekeeping and maintenance
Health and Safety
• Evidence of non-maintained sanitation conditions
• Odors related to dirty dishes, food preparation surfaces, laundry, toilets; mildew in bathroom or kitchen
• Medications: quantities questionable; expired, current Rx and OTC commingled; haphazard storage; pills not in Rx containers
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Light PPE: as needed and suggested
• Medical or industrial grade latex or nitrile gloves and heavy-duty leather or cloth work gloves with reinforced palms
• Caps (such as baseball) or disposable polyester bouffant caps
• Disposable shoe covers
• First aid kit, hand sanitizer, flashlight, and insect repellent

ICD considers Level III to be the pivot point between a household environment that can be assessed as cluttered and a household assessment that may require the deeper considerations of working in a hoarding environment. Professional organizers, related professionals or others who are working with Level III household environments should have significant training in chronic disorganization and have developed a helpful community network of resources, especially mental health professionals.

Structure and Zoning
• Outside clutter of items normally stored indoors
• HVAC devices not working for longer than one season (regionally appropriate)
• Nonexistent or non-functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
• One part of the
home exhibits light structural damage (having occurred in the preceding six months)
Animals and Pests
• Animal population exceeds local legal regulations
• Evidence of inappropriate animal control
• Inadequate sanitation (fish tank stagnant, reptile aquarium not well maintained, animal odor and waste, bird droppings)
• Audible evidence of pests; medium level of spider webs in the house
• Light insect infestation (bed bugs, lice, fleas, cockroaches, ants, silverfish, etc.)
Household Functions
• Clutter obstructing functions of key living areas
• Clutter exists around exits, entrances, hallways, and stairs
• At least one room not being used for the intended purpose, e.g., items stored in the shower; limited bed access or space
• Several appliances not fully functional
• Inappropriate usage of electric appliances and extension cords
• Substandard housekeeping and maintenance
• One or two obvious hazardous materials in small quantities, such as chemical spills, broken glass, etc.
Health and Safety
• Evidence of non-maintained sanitation conditions (food preparation surfaces heavily soiled, dirty dishes, dirty toilets, visible mildew in bathroom or kitchen)
• Odors obvious and irritating
• Garbage cans not in use, full or overflowing
• Presence of accumulated dust, dirt, and debris
• Dirty laundry scattered throughout the house
• Medications: Rx and OTC easily accessible to people and pets; the presence of expired Rx medications
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Medium PPE
• Face masks: surgical mask or healthcare particulate respirator mask
• Eye protection and gloves: eyeglasses, safety goggles, medical or industrial grade latex or nitrile gloves; work gloves with reinforced palms
• Disposable coveralls, polyester bouffant caps, work shoes/boots
• First aid kit, hand sanitizer, flashlight, and insect repellent

Household environment requires a coordinated collaborative team of service providers in addition to professional organizers and family. Such providers might include mental health professionals, social workers, financial counselors, pest and animal control officers, crime scene cleaners, licensed contractors and handypersons. Mental health and/or medical and financial issues are frequently involved.

Structure and Zoning
• Excessive outdoor clutter of items normally stored indoors
• HVAC devices not working for longer than one year
• Nonexistent or non-functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
• Structural damage to home existing longer than six months
• Water damaged floors, damaged walls and foundations, broken windows, doors or plumbing
• Odor or evidence of sewer backup
Animals and Pests
• Animal population exceeds local ordinances
• Evidence of poor animal sanitation; destructive behavior
• Excessive spiders and webs
• Bats, squirrels, rodents in attic or basement (audible and visible)
• Medium insect infestation (bedbugs, lice, fleas, cockroaches, ants, silverfish, etc.)
Household Functions
• Diminished use of and accessibility to key living areas
• Several rooms cluttered to the extent they cannot be used for intended purposes, e.g., items stored in shower; limited bed access or space
• Clutter inhibits access to exits, entrances, hallways, and stairs
• Inappropriate storage of hazardous/combustible materials, e.g., gasoline, leaking paint or chemicals
• Appliances used inappropriately, e.g., refrigerator being used for storing non-food items
• Improper use of electric space heaters, fans, or extension cords
Health and Safety
• Rotting food, organic contamination
• Expired, leaking or buckling cans and/or jars
• Dishes and utensils unusable
• No linens on beds; sleeping on the mattress, chair, or floor; infestation of bedding and/or furniture
• Mold and/or mildew obvious; visible moisture or standing water
• Medications: Rx and OTC easily accessible to people and pets; the presence of expired Rx medications
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Full PPE
• Face masks: surgical mask, healthcare particulate respirator mask, or respirator with organic filter(s)
• Safety goggles; medical or industrial grade latex or nitrile gloves; heavy-duty work gloves
• Disposable coveralls, caps, and shoe covers; work shoes/boots
• First aid kit, hand sanitizer, headlamp/flashlight, and insect repellent

The household environment will require intervention from a wide range of professionals. Professional organizers should not work alone in a Level V environment. A collaborative team of related professionals needs to be assembled to create and implement clearly defined goals and negotiated timetables. Members might include family, mental health professionals, social workers, building managers, zoning, fire, and/or safety agents. The individual with a Level V home might be involved in legal proceedings, such as a conservatorship, guardianship, divorce, custody, eviction, or condemnation proceedings. Formal written agreements among the parties should be in place before proceeding.

Structure and Zoning
• Extreme indoor/outdoor clutter; foliage overgrowth; abandoned machinery
• Inadequate or nonexistent ventilation; HVAC systems not working
• Non-existent or non-functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
• Water damaged floors, walls, and foundation; broken windows, doors, or plumbing
• Unreliable electrical, water, and/or sewer septic systems; odor or evidence of sewer backup
• Irreparable damage to the exterior and interior structure
• Nonexistent or non-functional fire and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
Animals and Pests
• Animals at risk and dangerous to people due to behavior, health, and numbers
• Pervasive spiders, mice, rats, squirrels, raccoons, bats, snakes, etc.
• Heavy insect infestation (bed bugs, lice, fleas, cockroaches, ants, silverfish, etc.)
Household Functions
• Key living spaces not usable
• All rooms not used for intended purposes
• Exits, entrances, hallways, and stairs blocked
• Toilets, sinks, and tubs not functioning
• Hazardous conditions obscured by clutter
• Appliances unusable
• Hazardous and primitive use of kerosene, lanterns, candles, fireplace/woodstove as the primary source of heat and/or light
Health and Safety
• Human urine and excrement present
• Rotting food; organic contamination; expired, leaking or buckled cans and/or jars
• Dishes and utensils buried or nonexistent
• Beds inaccessible or unusable due to clutter or infestation
• Pervasive mold and/or mildew; moisture or standing water
• Medications: Rx and OTC easily accessible to people and pets; the presence of expired Rx medications
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Full PPE required
• Face masks: healthcare particulate respirator mask or respirator with organic filter(s)
• Safety goggles; medical or industrial grade latex or nitrile gloves; heavy-duty gloves
• Disposable coveralls, caps, and shoe covers; work shoes/boots
• First aid kit, hand sanitizer, headlamp/flashlight, and insect repellent

For more information about getting back on your feet after damage to your home or business, contact ServiceMaster Clean in Des Plaines, Illinois at 1-630-HOARDER, or click here to schedule a free estimate

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