Research indicates that people are increasingly less likely to divest of their possessions as they age. In fact, 30 percent of people past the age of 70 do not part with a single possession over the course of a year, according to research published in the Journals of Gerontology. For seniors who are preparing for an upcoming or eventual downsizing, January’s “Get Organized Month,” sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers, offers the perfect opportunity to step up, take stock, and start getting organized.
Seniors and “Stuff”
Over our lifetimes, we collect countless things. Some have financial value, some have sentimental value, some have a combination of both, and some have none at all. Unfortunately, when merged with the prospect of moving, letting go of these things can be both a physically and emotionally challenging process. If left to accumulate, however, excess possessions can become an obstacle not only to moving, but also to living well.
Whether your aging loved one is preparing for an imminent move or you’re planning ahead, a few simple yet significant steps can help seniors and their loved ones address the issue and make positive change.
Three Steps to Getting Organized
1. Talk About It
While initiating the conversation about such a potentially loaded topic can be difficult, open lines of communication are essential. Explain why decluttering is necessary, taking care to acknowledge and validate any fears or anxieties your loved one may have about moving.
This phase of life can be a momentous transition, and approaching your loved one with understanding and sensitivity is essential. After all, seniors aren’t just pondering losing their things, but also their independence and way of life.
2. Start Small
Your loved one’s life’s possessions weren’t accumulated in a day. It's not realistic to expect to get rid of them all in a day, either. Start small, and involve your aging loved one in the process whenever possible. While she may not be up to the task of cleaning out the attic - organizing the kitchen “junk” drawer or sorting through a bookshelf in the den are manageable yet rewarding projects. While seniors may initially be reluctant to let go, most find the end results surprisingly pleasing.
3. Make a List
Making a list of organizational tasks can help you and your aging loved one prepare for what’s to come. Plus, just think of the satisfaction you’ll both feel each time you cross an item off the list.
One last thing to keep in mind? The expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” absolutely applies in this situation. Many seniors take solace in the fact that things they no longer want or need can be used by others, so look into donating whenever possible.
Ultimately, the organizing process can lighten both the physical and emotional load of seniors and the people who love them, but the task does come with its fair share of challenges. January’s “Get Organized Month” offers a terrific opportunity to start taking steps toward a more organized future and happier present, too.
While organizational tasks can be dreadful for most people, letting go of belongings can be particularly agonizing for seniors.
Opening lines of communication, involving your loved one, taking -- and celebrating! -- baby steps, and keeping track of your progress are all helpful parts of the process.
My journey into the world of senior living began when I started working for United Methodist Homes in 2010. Starting as an Activities Director at one of our-winning assisted and independent living communities and then transitioning to Marketing and Promotions Manager for UMH, I now work as the Manager of Mission Development, fostering the Mission and Values of our organization. I love sharing stories about the many ways we build meaningful relationships and enrich the lives of those we serve, and am proud to be part of building UMH’s 140-year legacy of caring. Wondering what makes our communities such special places to live and work? Connect with me and find out!
Connect with Marissa Salvesen
Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.