November 6, 2015

Why Do Some Seniors Hang On To Stuff?

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The problem

If you enter your dad’s house and see Closets are overflowing, Beds are spread with books or magazines, piles of newspaper, clothes on floor, refrigerators filled with stale and expired stuff it could be a case of hoarding. And you wonder how it got this bad.

Hoarding is excessive accumulation of things and then finding it difficult to discard them. Hoarding is more common among elderly and  gets progressively worse as a person gets older.

The risks of living in a clutter are Pest infestation, rodent attacks, fire risk, fall risks, health deterioration.

It is important to note the difference between hoarders and clutterers.

Hoarders are obsessive about their stuff. Clutterers, the more common type, are more apt to let go with a little encouragement and support.

Why do some seniors clutter – reasons

  • Sentimental Attachment
  • A Sense Of Loyalty- reluctant to part with gifts they have received.
  • Need To Conserve.
  • Fatigue.
  • A Change In Health condition.
  • Love of Shopping.
  • Loneliness.
  • Recent traumatic experience like loss of spouse.

How do I handle this problem

Your parents aren’t doing this to hurt you––they may very well not even grasp how much their hoarding impacts you.

What not to do

  • Do not force.
  • Don’t call what you see “junk” or “clutter” because a hoarder sees value in each possession.

What to do

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  • Educate yourself about hoarding.
  • Express your feelings “I feel sad when you hoard” is appropriate.
  • Tell them the dangers about fire, allergies, rodents.
  • Have a plan. Is the whole house a mess or is it just one or two rooms? If most of the house needs attention, determine which room demands attention first.
  • See if you can make the room safe by organising and stacking things in a different way without having to get rid of the things.
  • Tell your parents stories about people who really need the clothes, shoes and other items they’re clinging to but do not need. Your parent may be more comfortable in giving stuff away once they understand that someone else would use it and love it.
  • Relocate things not being used to another difficult to reach storage location. Then, if in a few months they do not ask for it,  let the stuff go.
  • Provide storage space for objects that your parents don’t seem to be able to part with. At least make things tidier and easier to move.
  • Be satisfied with slow, steady progress. For many, starting is the hardest step, so be prepared to put in the extra time.
  • If loneliness is the problem then create situations that they get out more often.
  • Acknowledge  how much cleaner the house feels, etc. By acknowledging you reward the steps that they have taken to make a difference.

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