The weather is still warm, and many of us are taking the time to complete our spring/summer cleaning. For those caring for an older loved one, the thought of spring/summer cleaning their home may be a bit overwhelming. Decades of memories and their physical reminders may have left Mom's home cluttered. But what if she can't or won't give up all the stuff?
First, it helps to understand why they are holding on to the items.
There may be a sentimental attachment to the item, or they feel obligated to keep things that were given as gifts. You may not be able to convince her to give these items away, but perhaps she would consider regifting an item to a grandchild or dear friend.
For many older adults, there may be a fear that they may need the item someday. For those who lived through the Great Depression, conserving items and reusing them became a staple. Reassure your loved one, that someone else may need this right now, and that you'd be happy to let them borrow yours when they need it.
Believe it or not, loneliness and fatigue can be reasons seniors hold on to items. Unneeded objects can become a companion for lonely seniors. Loneliness may also lead to depression, which makes it difficult for seniors to get organized. Consider the services of a professional caregiver. And if there is just too much stuff for your loved one to go through, or their health makes it difficult, consider hiring a professional organizer, helping them establish online bill paying, and getting them off the junk mail lists.
So how do you go about getting all the clutter in its place? Make a game plan.
Understand this likely won't be a one-day event. Take a quick inventory of the house and list what needs to be done. Are the areas your loved one can do on their own like a linen closet or a cedar chest? They can try to organize these areas on days you may not have time to work on a bigger project with them.
Go through your list of areas that need to be organized, and tackle them one by one. Be sure to have three containers: keep, donate, and trash. Also consider bringing some paper grocery bags. These come in handy if Mom wants to give something as a gift – simply put the item in the bag, write the recipient's name on it and get it delivered.
Keep an eye on your aging loved one through the process. Beyond the physical toll of the work, the emotional toll may be difficult. Take breaks when you need to, but try to push on the best you can. It's also important to remember that your aging loved one needs to make the decision on each item. You can keep the project going, but ultimately, they need to have the control of deciding where items go.
After you've gone through everything, put the keep bin items away, toss the trash, and take the donate bin to a local charity.
And do remember that many of the things you'll be going through have a special memory for your loved one. Don't get too caught up in the organizing that you forget to take a little stroll down memory lane.
You might be surprised at the stories you'll hear.
Posted by Cat Koehler, April 07, 2015