March 2nd is the day to celebrate National Old Stuff Day! The purpose of the day is to encourage you to get rid of your old stuff and to try something new!
But in this article – we’re going to focus on the “getting rid of your old stuff” – because that is an important factor in home safety issues for seniors.
Whether you are a caregiver or an older adult, this is a great day to go through your old stuff and either sell, donate or store those things or any combination of these three. Whatever you do, start doing something to clear out your living space.
Old stuff can quickly become clutter and that in turn can make your home environment unsafe, not to mention that living in a cluttered environment can contribute to depression and anxiety.
Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. – psychologytoday.com
The process of decluttering is very much like traveling. When you go away anywhere the act of getting there is most always a big hassle. But once you are there – it’s wonderful. Getting rid of items that you’ve become attached to can be difficult but the end result will give you more freedom and happiness and less stress.
How Can You Celebrate National Old Stuff Day?
When I had to clean out my house after my husband passed away – the way I started the process was to ask several friends to come help me get started. It was just a few hours but it was enough to get the ball rolling and start me on the path to cleaning out a very large home filled to the brim with stuff!
So go ahead, call a few friends and make a party out of it! Who knows, your friends may want some of the stuff you’re getting rid of!
But before we get to some details – I do want to let you know about a new service I just found on Neighbor.com. The idea is to store your stuff in someone else’s home vs. storing it in a storage unit. It’s generally less expensive than renting a storage unit so it’s a way for YOU to save some money and a way for homeowners to make some income. A very unique idea so check it out to see if it’s a good solution for you.
Steps you can take to begin decluttering and celebrating National Old Stuff Day:
- Begin with ONE area of your home to declutter that space. It could be a corner, a shelf, a drawer, a closet, etc. Whatever it is, the point is to start.
- Take the items from this space and either throw them away or put them in a box or bag to give away.
- Then put that box or bag in your car.
- Mark your calendar – pick a date to take all the items that you will have collected in your car to your local thrift store.
- Take out a sheet of paper and write down a list of all the spaces in your home that need to be cleared out. Here’s an example of one below:
- Now, on a separate sheet of paper, make yourself a schedule too! It can be weekly, biweekly, every 3 days, whatever fits your current schedule.
NOTE: Sticking to this schedule is a priority!
- Mark on the schedule what item on your list you will be tackling on what day.
I used this very technique to work on my own home as I began the process of downsizing and it worked very well. Even though there were many days when I didn’t want to do what was on my schedule, I did it anyway because I knew that the end result was the prize of an easier, smoother move to a smaller home.
How Can You Help Your Senior Parents To Declutter?
For children of aging parents, convincing them to get rid of their stuff is no easy task. It’s not easy for anyone but it’s much worse for older adults. Professional organizer Vickie Dellaquila has years of experience with this, so much so that she wrote a book on the topic. Check it out – Don’t Toss My Memories In The Trash.
She has outlined 10 reasons why the elderly population has such a difficult time parting with so many things in their homes.
- The Sentimental Attachment
We all have sentimental attachment to things, that’s natural and very human. Dellaquila recommends that the best way to deal with this issue is to minimize the space these items take up.So, instead of boxes of photos, convert them to DVD’s. Instead of closets of clothing that hasn’t been worn in years, create a quilt or set of shadow boxes with pieces of cloth from those clothes. Instead of keeping an entire set of china (that is never used) just keep one plate and discard the rest.
- The Sense Of Loyalty
There’s a reluctance to give away an item that was a gift.The solution here is to encourage re-gifting to pass it forward. My mother had a crockpot that was given to her a few Christmases ago. She hadn’t used it in at least 3 years. I told her that her granddaughter could use that big crockpot and it would be a great thing for her to have. Knowing that she was helping someone else made it much easier for my mother to get rid of something that was given to her.
- The Need To Conserve
If your parents lived through hard times at any point in their lives they will most likely be very conservative. Things like re-using a tea bag more than once, keeping an old pot with a broken handle (cause it still kinda works), holding on to that 50 pound vacuum cleaner even though they can’t push it around any more, etc. It’s difficult for them to give away something that still works.The solution here is to donate these items to a specific local charity (home for battered women, homeless shelter, etc.) If your parent(s) feel that they are helping someone else, they are more likely to part with these things.
- The Fatigue
It’s overwhelming when there is so much clutter around. It’s hard to know where to start. One factor that contributes greatly to this is mail. Older adults tend to receive alot of junk mail, solicitations, catalogs and much more.You can work on keeping this clutter down by switching to online statements and unsubscribing them from catalog and junk mail lists. Also, a shredder is a wonderful thing to have these days. It should certainly help to protect against identity theft which is so very common amongst the elder population.
- The Change In Health
It’s natural for most seniors to experience some decline in health as they grow older. It can be anything, a shoulder injury, a stroke, dementia, etc. This change of course makes it much more difficult to keep up with daily household chores.The solution here is to hire help or seek help from family members. There are professional organizations such as Care.com where you can search for help in your area but you can also talk to friends, church members, etc. about anyone that may be available to help.
- The Fear
Change is frightening for most people, but especially for seniors. Giving up what they have and what they are familiar with can provoke anxiety. The solution here is to be as pragmatic as possible and to remove items slowly.My late husband had a very difficult time giving up “his stuff”. What helped us was to work together to remove a few items at a time. But instead of giving them away, I simply stored them away. In a closet, store room, etc. My husband agreed that if he did not need that item within the next 6 months or a year (whatever he was comfortable with) then that item would be donated to someone who could use it. It’s a gentler way of decluttering. It worked very well for us and will hopefully work with your parents too.
- The Dream Of The Future
Many individuals who hold on to things will usually say something like “But we may need that in the future.” (My late husband used to say that all the time!). The solution here is as I mentioned earlier, to remove those items and store them away for a period of time you both agree on. If that item has not been used in that time, then it will be donated.
- The Love Of Shopping
I have a friend whose mother has a bit of a shopping addiction. In today’s environment, you don’t even have to leave your home to shop. With QVC, Google and Amazon – it’s so extremely easy to buy just about anything you want from the comfort of your sofa!The only solution here is to have a candid one-on-one with your parent about this problem, especially if the shopping is simply adding to the clutter. The more extreme action would be to take away their credit cards but that is something that the family will have to decide on. I would recommend to seek help from addiction support groups, credit counseling and therapy.
- The History and Memories
Items that represent specific memories and/or have a history such as family heirlooms should be kept but they don’t necessarily have to be kept in your parents’ home. Encourage them to give these items to other family members or if they have historical significance to donate them to a museum.
- The Loneliness
I can tell you from personal experience that loneliness can easily lead to depression and anxiety. It’s certainly not uncommon for anyone who is lonely to compensate by surrounding themselves with lots of things, new and old. The solution here is to help your parent by encouraging them or enrolling them in outside activities or have frequent visits by family and friends arranged – to alleviate the loneliness.
For more tips on decluttering for yourself and/or your senior loved one check out my article on Decluttering Tips For Seniors. There’s alot to know about this very complicated process of cleaning out our living spaces!
Oh, and Happy National Old Stuff Day!