There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding hoarding, and many people reduce the problem to either mental illness (referred to in a very dismissive, negative way) or laziness. While those can apply to some cases, most are much more complicated. Cleaning out a hoarder's home is necessary, but the process might surprise you.
The Cleaners Might Not Know How Long It Will Take Until They Start
Hoarding is a very general term. The situations that count as hoarding vary so greatly that you have to consider each case unique even if it looks like a situation you've seen before. The time it will take to clean out the home depends on what's in there, and while the cleaning crew might be able to give you a rough estimate when they start, do not be surprised if that estimate expands greatly. The crew could find something that requires extra care when cleaning out the place, for example, or they could realize that there is so much stuff hidden behind the piles they saw initially that they need a lot more time. Before the crew gets to work, ask them what their company policies are regarding extra time needed to clean the place out.
You Have to Assume Unwanted Housemates Are Hiding in There
It's very common for hoarding situations to involve infestations, and the cleaning crew has to have a pest control expert come in to evaluate the home. (If you're lucky, the cleaning company will have pest control people on staff.) If you have to clear a home, anticipate that there's a pest problem. You will be pleasantly surprised if there's not. That can extend the amount of time needed to clean out the place (especially if the hoarding situation has led to bed bugs, which are notoriously hard to get rid of).
On a related note, do not try to throw things out yourself or take things home until the cleanup crew has verified that the items are not carrying unwanted passengers.
Crews Can Look for Specific Items
Cleaning crews are not going to go into a hoarding situation and simply grab everything and throw it away unless they have the owner's permission. They know that there will be important papers, family heirlooms, and items of both sentimental and practical value. However, they need to know what those are. As such, when you arrange for the cleanout, ask the crew to look for whatever it is you need. For example, if the person who was hoarding is deceased, you may need to find a copy of any wills or trusts along with the person's ID and Social Security cards. The crew can look for those, along with whatever else you ask them to find. Again, that can add time to the whole process, but it's necessary, and you won't regret it.
Cleaning up a hoarding situation can be distressing, and it must be handled with care. Because of the potential health ramifications for anyone going through the piles in the home, you should call a professional cleanup crew who has a lot of experience with hoarding situations. They know what to look for and what steps to take to stay safe. Contact a hoarding cleanup service to learn more.