Safety Day

So what is “Safety Day”? Safety Day is a term we’ve coined to talk about conducting a “modified clean-out” of a hoarded home. The term came from a conversation about needing to call the process something other than a “clean-out” as that term seemed to heighten the anxiety of the clients with whom we were working. The goal of Safety Day is to ensure safety in a client’s home. In other words, we aim to make sure that a client can use and access his or her home in the way it was intended to be used without significant risk of harm to his- or herself. The way we do this is through a carefully planned and structured, team-based approach to clearing “just enough” of the possessions in the home to create a safe living environment (also called a “Harm Reduction approach”). This is done with the client’s mental health and stress level during the process as the number one priority.

How is this different than the stuff we see on TV? From the outside, it can look very similar, since we will be moving, sorting, and discarding large amounts of possessions from the hoarded home. Safety Day is different, however, in that we have taken steps over the weeks leading up to the day to ensure that the client’s stress level is as minimal as possible going into the day. We have talked about details and made important decisions before Safety Day in order to minimize the stress on the day of the clean-out. We not only continue this process during the day with a trained mental health provider on hand to ensure that the process runs smoothly and the client minimizes their distress; we also provide continuing after-care to do our best to ensure that the client is taking steps to prevent relapse by maintaining and improving the living situation beyond Safety Day.

Why do you do it this way? Isn’t it just easier to hire someone to clean out a home? Safety Day originated out of the need for an approach to doing mandatory clean-outs in a way that is least distressing for a client. What we know about clean-outs currently is that, for individuals who have a severe hoarding problem, the process of having possessions completely cleaned out of their home is a traumatic event. We know this because studies show that people who undergo a total clean-out are likely to re-hoard their spaces afterwards, as if the hoarding was a coping response to feeling distressed. Through our work, we have found that, in situations that necessitate a clean-out, if we take preventative action- like building coping skills and planning- leading up to Safety Day, practice stress management skills and maintenance during Safety Day, and process distress and other related mental health concerns after Safety Day, we get the best and most sustainable results from our clients.

If you would like to train your agency or team on how to run a Safety Day, please contact us at: