10 Reasons Seniors Hang On To Stuff – And What To Do About It

by Vickie Dellaquila

1. SENTIMENTAL ATTACHMENT. The beloved prom dress represents the history and memories of the event; it’s not the dress itself. Save only a piece of the dress to make a quilt or display in a shadow box. Scrapbooking and converting photos to DVDs are other ways to save treasured keepsakes.

2. A SENSE OF LOYALTY. Older adults who’ve received gifts from family and friends may be reluctant to part with them. Encourage your loved one to give unused gifts back to the giver or to grandchildren.

3. THE NEED TO CONSERVE. Seniors are the original green people. Appeal to his/her desire to help others. “You went through the Great Depression, now it’s time for you to let go and help someone else.” Counter their inclination to conserve by appealing to their desire to give back.

4. FATIGUE. A home with a lifetime of memories can easily become too much to handle. Help manage clutter by establishing online bill paying. Get your senior off junk mail lists, which can put them at risk for identity theft, and buy them a shredder.

5. A CHANGE IN HEALTH. Seniors who have suffered a brain trauma or stroke, who are wheelchair bound or who are experiencing dementia may no longer be able to manage household duties, which could contribute to clutter. If you see a health change, encourage your loved one to visit a doctor, and consider a professional organizer and caregiver for help.

6. FEAR. People often fear what will happen if they give up their stuff (the reasoning behind saving three generations of bank statements). Use logic and information to help them understand it’s okay to let go.

7. THE DREAM OF THE FUTURE. Those clothes in the closet don’t fit anymore, but your loved one is sure that someday she’ll lose enough weight to get into them. Fill a box with the clothing they don’t wear much, making a list of the items in the box. Agree that if they haven’t gone back to the box in six months to wear the item, they’ll donate it to charity.

8. LOVE OF SHOPPING. Today’s seniors have more money than previous generations and they love to shop. Clutter can become so bad that someone can’t find something and ends up repurchasing items they already have. Try to convince your loved one to cut back and to say “no” to free stuff.

9. HISTORY AND MEMORIES. Keepsakes represent history and memories. Encourage seniors to take old photos to a family reunion to share with several generations. Let them know they can contribute to the history of their time and leave a lasting legacy by donating to museums and historical societies, a theater, library, church or synagogue.

10. LONELINESS. Stuff can become a misplaced companion. Loneliness may also lead to depression, which makes it difficult to get organized. Consider the services of a professional organizer and caregiver.

National Association of Professional Organizers: www.napo.net
National Association of Senior Move Managers: www.nasmm.org
Challenging Disorganization: challengingdisorganization.org
To be removed from junk mail lists: www.dmachoice.org, www.catalogchoice.org, www.optoutprescreen.com.

Vickie Dellaquila is a certified professional organizer and author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash.

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