Pack rats come in all shapes,sizes…and ages. Those messy homes on reality TV shows like “Clean House” with Niecy Nash are sometimes the everyday work of senior relocation companies across the US. After years accumulating items during the course of life, many seniors are finding themselves overwhelmed by not only artifacts but plenty of junk and need assistance to clean and organize. As seniors and boomers age, many have clung to the belief that “they never should throw anything away” that resonates back to their childhood and upbringing.
Senior relocation companies are having to battle the mindset, sickness and habits of seniors when they come into their homes to start the downsizing process. Combining an aging mind, habits and routines, many seniors are having more difficulty seeing all of their options and making decisions on what to do with their possessions from their lives. These challenges are typically what is prompting seniors and their loved ones to hire outside services or use assistance from their new residence on coming to terms with their possessions and what the ultimate disposition will be for their possessions.
“The most junk that we’ve seen was enough to fill a dozen dumpsters. The client hoarded items and was part disability and part illness,” said Jane Lott of Silver Rain Estate Transition Services, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “ Most of the time we work to donate, re-purpose and recycle instead of tossing things into the landfill.”
Rather than going to the landfill, self storage facilities are filling up faster as more consumers are downsizing due to the economy and become a temporary rest stop between homes and the local dump. Some independent and assisted living facilities have established referral relationships or in some cases rented space in bulk to help their residents part with their items over time in some cases. Other storage facilities are offering senior discounts for referrals from local senior housing companies. In some cases, hanging on to memories can be an expensive proposition costing thousands of dollars over many years for items that aren’t part of everyday life.
“If we don’t see them come to their storage for any of their items in the first six months, we know that the senior, their children or other representatives will most likely becoming to clear that locker out before long,” states David Smith a self storage facility manager from northern Virginia.
Be sentimental but selective. Choose a beautiful box in which to keep sentimental items. Keep a few cherished baby clothes and give the rest to someone who will use them. Put photos into albums only keeping the best ones and let the others go.
ii. Broken things Give yourself a deadline for broken items to be fixed, if not discard them.
iii. Presents – if someone gives you an unwanted gift and there is no polite way to refuse, accept gracefully and respect the other person’s feelings. But remember it is your home and if you do not like something, it will drag your spirits down every time you look at it. So dump the guilt and let it go.
iv. Paper Be ruthless with paper. Put junk mail straight in the recycling and decide how long you will keep newspapers For example in Barnet we have kerbside recycling so every Thursday I go though my house and gather up any newspapers read or unread. Remember no-one has time to read everything.
v. Fear The “what if” thoughts are some of the hardest to deal with. I call these clutter thoughts. I recently bought a new light weight hoover. Then the thought crept into my head, what if the new one breaks down. Perhaps I will keep the old one. But I overcame my wobble and gave away the old one. A useful tip is “one in, one out”
If you really feel panicky about letting go of something then store it for 6 months in the loft or shed. Put the date on it. If you haven’t used it in 6 months then give it away.
Once you have decluttered and decided what to keep, then it’s time to look at storage. To maintain a clutter free home it is essential that everything has a home, so it’s easy to find. So store like with like, such as all vases together. We use 20% of our possessions 80% of the time so put this 20% in the most accessible places. Treat yourself to storage items such as a filing cabinet, a shoe rack or a pretty box in which to keep sentimental items.
- How do you interact with children and other family members with working with going through items as part of a relocation process?
Navigating family dynamics is the trickiest part of helping seniors move – but also the most rewarding. It’s very satisfying to help families recognize the love that sometimes lies buried under bickering and rivalry. On the other hand, since that can be more like therapy, it requires skill. I find that acknowledging everyone’s different perspective is helpful. Still, no matter what anyone else thinks, in the end, you have to do what your professional experience tells you is best for your client.