Hoarding and clutter: 5 tips to help seniors tackle their beloved possessions…

July 30th, 2015 No Comments

Clutter and hoarding in seniors

Does your older parent or loved one have a hoarding or clutter problem? Have they had a lifelong struggle with clutter? Regardless, you may find yourself in the position to help encourage them to “edit” their belongings for one reason or another. Maybe you’re helping your in-laws pare down in preparation to move into a smaller home, or assisting your mom in going through your late father’s possessions. Just thinking about it can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not the type of person who enjoys organizing and de-cluttering.

There is a difference between being a hoarder and being a person who just tends to save and collect things over time, a.k.a. packrat. Hoarding is a compulsive behavior in which people stack, pile, collect, and generally excessively accumulate all types of stuff (or even animals) throughout their home. In this behavior, people may not even recognize they have a problem. Others will be ashamed and become anti-social. Hoarding can have several causes such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), a psychological disorder such as bipolar, or even dementia. Extreme hoarding situations may warrant a psychiatric/health evaluation.

A person who saves and collects isn’t necessarily a hoarder. They may collect and save items throughout the years, but not to the excess where it interferes with daily living and safety.

5 Tips to help tackle decluttering jobs:

  • Take small bites. Don’t look at the entire job or you’ll become discouraged. Start with a small task, in small time chunks.
  • Be sensitive. When going through items with your loved one, realize it has more meaning to them than to you. Don’t just charge in and start throwing things out without regard to their feelings.
  • Make 3 piles: Keep, donate, and discard. Don’t have an undecided pile.
  • Make suggestions that promote compromise. For example, if your mom has a large collection of salt and pepper shakers, suggest she chooses 3 sets of her favorites and donate the remainder (offer to take photos of the ones donated as visual keepsakes).
  • Get outside help. Professional organizers, moving managers, and “neat” friends and relatives can assist with sorting, garage sales, etc.


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