Derelict Property Clean Up Helps Keep Community Tidy

trash strewn alley points out need for derelict property clean up project

Last Updated: December 10, 2022

Derelict property clean up can be a great benefit to your community beautification efforts. This term just means a vacant lot, parking lot, or building that is neglected and therefore chaotic, unsightly, or dirty. 

Don't underestimate the impact of a cluttered, dirty, abandoned property on visitors and even current residents. If you live or work close to such real estate, you may have grown slightly immune to how bad it looks. However, for some people, such neighbors drag down morale and even motivation for keeping up their own property. And visitors certainly notice even if the residents have become accustomed to it.

But when businesses are seeking site locations, prospective residents are considering investing in your neighborhood, or criminals are figuring out whether anyone cares about your particular neck of the woods, the appearance of abandoned homes, abandoned factories, and vacant lots matters. We do not know exactly what the psychological mechanism is, but we can tell you for sure that these properties often become dumping grounds for others too.

This is not simply an aesthetic preference. Rodents and other pests love to hang out in such places, and the weeds enjoy such an environment too! 

In this space please share with us what works to clean up these properties. Use words and photos to just tell us the story.

Use the form at the bottom of the page. Then under that, you will see links to the accumulated stories of people who know about a successful cosmetic makeover of a parcel of land or a building, or perhaps a disastrous attempt at one. We welcome failure stories too on this site.  Sharing all of these experiences about derelict property clean up is valuable to others.

If your community has a large number of derelict property clean up needs, you will need to recruit a large quantity of volunteers and some free use of suitable equipment. There is just no other way around it. Our checklist of equipment needs for a typical project includes garbage bags or containers, work gloves, brooms, shovels, hedge or edge trimmers, loppers, rakes, hoes, and protective gear if you think you will encounter poison ivy or another poisonous plant or snake. 

From our experience in staffing events organized by neighborhood associations, we would say the number one mistake is underestimating the amount of garbage bags, cans, rollout containers, or dumpsters that will be required. Try not to make this error, because at the end of the day, if you cannot haul everything away, you will be forced to leave it on the property and thus not have the sense of accomplishment that you want.

When prosperous communities are hit by a tornado, flood, earthquake, or hurricane, they mount a massive campaign to get all the debris together and then have the equipment lined up to transport it to an appropriate location. Often in neighborhoods that are a little more challenged, the projects tend to recur, resulting in clean ups in several different months every year.

If you have several neglected properties, or one larger one, consider it to be equivalent to a natural disaster, and give yourselves a sense of urgency about getting everything cleaned up at once. A slow tornado is how one respected activist described what had happened to his community over a period of years.

This mentality of "we must clean this up now so we can move on" is really helpful to community revival and investor confidence. We consider home owners and building owners to be investors too. Their lack of belief is what has led you to need a derelict property cleanup in the first place.

Of course you will need to seek property owner permission for cleaning up the derelict property. Sometimes you will encounter resistance, especially if you try to shame the owner. Occasionally owners who do not live on the property will be unaware of the actual extent of rubbish or overgrown vegetation at the location in question, and will think you are just being nosey. So use your best human relations skills to show that your intent is to be helpful, not to humiliate or pry into why the derelict property clean up has become necessary in the first place. If you are kind, often the story will be volunteered, especially after most of the project has been copleted.

So make it a blitz if you have several derelict property cleanups facing your neighborhood. Perhaps you can organize at the beginning of the summer to take care of one property each weekend. 

If it is just one property keeping the neighbors in a complaining mood, then you can see a variety of tips on the abandoned homes page.

Can you tell us how to clean up abandoned properties?

What's your experience? Do you know who did the work, how long it took, how it was organized, and so forth? If so, please share those details!

How Others See the Abandoned Lot Clean-Up Problem

Click below to see contributions from other visitors or editors.

The Saga of Silver Springs, Nevada 
Nightmare or feng shui challenge? This place is sadly lacking in prosperity, overflowing with derelict trailers, ugly buildings and the general epitome …

Down Town Vacant Lot Clean Up 
Visitor Question: I live in Detroit Michigan and we have different groups of volunteers to try and clean the streets of Detroit. The group that I participated …

Illegal Dumping: A (not) Love Story 
Having the unfortunate duties of looking over trash from a municipal aspect involves a lot of difficult tasks. One of these was undertaken during the …

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