Respectfully Re-organizing

I think depression era adults are 2020 era hoarders and there’s a theory that Hoarding Disorders manifest in childhood and adolescents. When you grow up without the basic necessities, I imagine throwing things away can be very difficult. But an excess of things is a safety issue, especially for a gentleman with sporadic blood pressure dips, occasional dizziness and a walker. Creating a safe space for an elder or disabled person is important in mitigating fall’s, promoting wellness, and decreasing a sense of burden for the caregiver. But before you Marie Kondo your granny’s family room, here are some considerations.

  • It is their stuff, not yours, be clear about this

What you value and what they value may be different. What you believe may be unnecessary garbage could be a very important artifact to someone else. I remember coming home from college to find that my mom threw away my collection of Power Rangers VHS’s and my collectible ninja sword. I am still pissed 15 years later. My anger comes from a violation of my sacred space and a decision that Power Rangers VHS tapes were garbage. That was not her decision to make. Be clear with yourself, these are not your things, you did not invest memories, time, or money into these items. So you do not get to decide their value.

  • Include them in the process

The entire premise behind the Marie Kondo method is ridding yourself of possessions that do not spark joy. It is a mindful and thoughtful method of separating yourself from your possessions. The treatment method for Hoarding Disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the teaching of organizational skills. Basically, chucking someone else’s possessions in hefty bags while they sit helpless and anxious is the wrong approach. They should actively take part in the discarding or organizing of their home or possessions. Yes it might take 5 days longer than you expected, but at least it is getting done. And please re-read the first bullet point.    

  • Seek Professional help when necessary

Addressing conditions of squalor or a Hoarding Disorder requires professional help. Hoarding is a diagnosable mental health condition that needs to be addressed with therapy. Hoarding is a persistent difficulty with discarding items due to the distressing condition associated with discarding these items. This means that those with hoarding disorders experience actual stress when attempting to throw away items. They perceive these items as valuable even though the actual value of the item may be debatable.

This may require the help of a therapist and/or a professional organizer. Even though your organizational skills are great, you are also emotionally invested in the outcome and you may want to sit this one out. If the person you care for shows a resistance to de-cluttering, than perhaps there is more happening than meets the eye. You may need to recruit the help of a professional organizer, therapist, or doctor. Having an unbiased third party involved is a great way to decrease potential conflict, blame, or resentments.

  • Timing is important

Now may not be the best time to consider respectfully re-organizing. Although we are in a pandemic and you may find yourself with extra time, the added stress may be counterproductive and/or harmful. If your care receiver has difficulties parting with items, help may not be readily available for you at this time and perhaps you should postpone this endeavor until more support is available. For now, perhaps making the space habitable and as safe as possible is all you can do.

Also, now may be the perfect time to consider de-cluttering. It could be a wonderful way to bond, spend time together, and revisit old memories while making room for new experiences.

Decluttering is beneficial and important for several reasons. As people get older mobility becomes more of an issue and now is not the time for broken bones and hospital visits. Also, as we age, our immune system doesn’t work as well which makes us more susceptible to allergies, bacteria and germs. It can become difficult to ensure a hygienic environment if there is an excess of stuff. For caregiver’s, less stuff means less stuff to clean, sort and organize. It can be the difference between one hour of cleaning on Sunday or one hour everyday. Our time and energy is important.

The takeaway:

Respectfully reorganizing is important to ensure a safe and hygienic environment however keep in mind:

1. You are dealing with someone else’s memories and life experiences so be respectful.

2. Get consent when possible. Carelessly disposing of someone else’s things can lead to more harm than good.

3. If you witness a high level of distress, unprovoked anger, tearfulness, or anxiety about discarding or decluttering then perhaps you need to enlist the help of a professional doctor, therapist, or organizer.

4. Perhaps today is not the day, maybe tomorrow could be.

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