Thursday, June 10, 2010

Emotional Attachments and Other Reasons Seniors May Accumulate Clutter

Home Instead CAREGiverSM Betty Collins remembers the half a dozen strips of yarn she found on her client's rug. When she bent down to pick up and discard the yarn, her client stopped her with a resounding "no, no, no." "She told me that her daughter, who has since died, played with the yarn when she was little," Collins said. "She had to see that every day." Seniors hang on to their possessions for a variety of reasons from sentimental attachment to health issues that stand in the way of home upkeep and even safety. "In addition, older adults are often set in their ways and everything to them becomes important," Collins said. "Junk to us is their life. That builds up and some seniors just don't know what to do with it. A lot of older adults walk with a walker and live by themselves. They just set things aside and then become overwhelmed."

Getting rid of possessions is actually a two-step process: sorting and deciding, on the one hand, and disposing on the other. But convincing seniors can be a challenge that requires a measured approach. Katherine "Kit" Anderson, CPO-CD, president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), and Vickie Dellaquila, certified professional organizer, offer these strategies for helping seniors let go.
Arrange and cheer small victories.
Conduct an "experiment."
Gently approach the idea of health and safety.
Draft an agreement. Consider the control issue.

How to Spot "Clutter Creep"

If you notice the following characteristics about seniors or their homes, clutter could start creeping up on them.

Piles of mail and unpaid bills;

Difficulty walking safely through a home;

Frustration trying to organize;

Difficulty managing activities of daily living;

  • Expired food in the refrigerator;
  • Jammed closets and drawers;
  • Compulsive shopping;
  • Difficulty deciding whether to discard items;
  • health episode such as a stroke or dementia;
  • Loneliness.