Senior Citizen's Guide digital books
Senior Citizen's Guide to Connecticut

Aging Clutterers
Time For Safe & Smart Actions

Lois walks through the narrow lanes in her two-bedroom condo. Her shoulders brush against piles stacked haphazardly. Her walker gets caught on a box jutting out and the paper contents fall onto the floor: past-due bills, receipts, newspaper clippings, catalogs, computer print outs. Lois bends her short, stout body unsteadily down to pick up the mess, an action she repeats all day long.  Lois, a 69-year-old widow, is prone to falling, has been hospitalized for bone fractures, and has survived fifty years with diabetes.  

Retirement, her husband’s death, and more recently becoming unable to drive anymore, has led to unhealthy social isolation. Even Lois’s two sons visit her only once a year: there’s no room for them to sit and visit, and it’s also an unsafe environment for her young grandchildren. Often, relatives of out-of-control clutterers may feel resentful and hopeless about the situation and withdraw.

Lois was influenced by attitudes about scarcity, like many who lived through the Great Depression, and their children. These folks derive comfort by collecting, saving everything, and keeping it all close by. Lois compounded the issue by marrying a clutterer. Each had successful professional careers. Yet, her sons grew up feeling suffocated and embarrassed by their parents’ hoarding. The behavioral problem of overloading a home can affect several generations in a family.

Over-the-top collecting and saving behaviors create risks to Lois’s physical health, safety, and financial security.

Approximately 30% of the U.S. population are clutterers and 1% of them are hoarders, behavioral patterns that may be caused by depression or exacerbate it. The common underlying cause is often childhood deprivation or abuse. People who save too much will tell you they feel safer when surrounded by so many belongings – but actually they are less safe.

What happens when clutterers age into their 60s, 70s, and older?

What solutions are available to clutterers and those in their life?

Chronic disorganization is time-consuming and mentally draining. Making headway to de-clutter and reorganize brings healthy, pleasurable benefits.  Finding lost items can be thrilling. Lois is an extreme example, but if you identify with any of what I’ve described, or recognize the pattern in a friend or family member, I recommend acting now to tackle the problem. Stop procrastinating.

After working side by side with me for two years, Lois is making good headway. Pathways are clear, her sofa and two chairs are uncovered for company to sit on. She has begun cooking again, after removing hazardous items from the counter. Lois has managed to organize, donate and toss a third of her stuff. She shared with me, “Now I enjoy moving around my apartment with ease”. The new housecleaner can now reach uncovered areas to clean. Her house smells fresh. “My kids said the place looked even better than last year, when they came recently.” Lois smiled as she commented, feeling pleased about her progress.

This is a true story; let it inspire you!

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