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Old 10-05-22, 07:00 PM  
sugar rose
 
Join Date: Apr 2014
OT - Need advice on a sensitive issue

Hi all, maybe you can give me some advice. I'm trying to help a sweet older relative clear out her house. She's had lifelong struggles with multiple mental disorders, and it's very hard for her to sort and organize, and also to part with things. She's also had to pinch pennies her whole life. She doesn't have much in the way of mental health support.

I just don't know where to start with her stuff! Most of it is just ordinary household stuff - clothes, lots of books, kitchen stuff, craft & art supplies, also mail and papers - but there's just too much of it. When she tries to sort through things, she gets overwhelmed with anxiety and cries... It really breaks my heart and I want to help her.

My siblings are helping a little, but they are not nearby. One of my siblings is also a little bit "ruthless" and it upsets her.

The nitty gritty of deciding between two sweaters, for example, is hard for me - I don't know which sweater is scratchy, or which color she likes better...

Has anyone had experience dealing with this sort of thing? (Maybe this problem is outside the scope of most people's experience...)

I'm so distressed over this! - Thanks for reading. All replies are appreciated.
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Old 10-05-22, 08:01 PM  
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Maybe social services in your state or town can help?

Hope things work out for you.


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Old 10-05-22, 09:33 PM  
Dena
 
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Location: Ice Box of Pennsylvania
Maybe some steps to lessen her anxiety before or during the sorting process would help? Perhaps you can play some calming music (or whatever music she enjoys that relaxes her), do some deep breathing exercises, have an aromatic cup of tea, coffee, and/or hot cocoa for her to sip on, or maybe have the TV or a radio talk show on to actually lessen her focus so she's not so immersed in the task (if that makes sense).

It also may be good to start with the small, easier tasks first. For example, start with the mail with the intent of discarding all the junk mail and setting the rest aside for another time. Or sorting through the kitchen stuff and getting rid of duplicate items or those she has not used in years.

Regarding the arts and craft supplies, perhaps once she goes through them, you can take her to a local school or nursing home to donate them. Seeing the joy her items will bring to others could make it easier to give them away and even put a smile on her face!
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Old 10-06-22, 11:27 AM  
annette
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Join Date: Nov 2001
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I've been through this twice and you have my sympathy, it is NOT an easy or simple task. I had to keep in mind how I would feel if someone was going through my things and tried to be patient. The two folks I dealt with were more willing to let things go if they were going to someone they knew. I know it was mean of me but I got to the point where I'd say "yes, so and so would like to have this or that" then I would just donate it or if it wasn't worth donating just threw it out.

You mentioned a sibling that was a bit "ruthless". I guess that was me but sometimes you have to go there or nothing gets accomplished.

I am determined to have so much less stuff for my kids to deal with.

Editing to add the people I "helped" were pretty much hoarders and while I know it is considered a sickness there's only so much tolerance within me.
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Old 10-06-22, 12:08 PM  
toaster
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There are services that do this. My dad is in Philadelphia, and I found several services geared towards the elderly in particular that will help. Unfortunately my dad was not willing, so I can't make any specific recommendations (And my sisters are not nearby.)

If there are things that just need to be hauled away, 1-800-GOT-JUNK provides this service; my mom has used them and loves them.
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Old 10-06-22, 12:53 PM  
bzar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by annette View Post
I know it was mean of me but I got to the point where I'd say "yes, so and so would like to have this or that" then I would just donate it or if it wasn't worth donating just threw it out.
this is a good strategy - you were kind compared to what my mom and I did w/dad's stuff!

with Dad, there was a large collection of old magazines, maybe 5 banker boxes worth. i showed my mom, and she nodded that I could get rid of them. they were originally stored out of sight, under the house. so i secretly got rid of them. magazines were just one of many groups of items he owned.

before he passed, he had a workshop in the house full of tools and parts for his last job. while he was alive, he occasionally used the tools and supplies for some of his clients who still kept in touch with him. we tried to find a buyer for the items, but only one person came.

i got his permission to donate the items to my kids' band/orchestra teacher (dad was a musical instrument repairman) if we were unable to find a buyer. on the side, i told my mom we would wait until dad passed away to do this. when that time came, i took a video of all of the items and gave it to the band teacher, who was elated - he even came down to help pack and transport the items a few times.

a few months after my dear dad passed away, my mom purged a great deal of his things by giving them away to the grandkids.

you need to do it in chunks - otherwise you will get overwhelmed and burned out.
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Old 10-06-22, 03:13 PM  
kat999
 
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I'm not a hoarder, but my spouse and I have different ideas about what constitutes "clutter." We decided to clear out our home office a few weeks ago, and what helped was timers, segmenting the room into small quadrants, and playing very calming music. We gave ourselves permission to take very short, under 15-minute breaks whenever we needed it, but we also agreed to work on it for six hours and not really dither too long. You can always try the Marie Kondo question of "Does this spark joy?" or the series of questions about clutter that goes, "Do I use this? Is it beautiful?" and if it fits neither, it goes.
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Old 10-06-22, 03:57 PM  
Karla25
 
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With clothes, I would simply ask her how long it's been since she's worn it. Make separate piles based on years since it's been worn. I wouldn't worry about colors or texture. If she's not worn it in over two years, it should probably go.

I think the same can apply to other stuff. Best wishes. She's lucky to have you helping her
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Old 10-06-22, 05:30 PM  
annette
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With clothes, I would simply ask her how long it's been since she's worn it.
One person I was helping had a receipt for a sweater she purchased in 1958 that she was unsure of throwing away. I asked her if she till had the sweater, she said no. I told her she didn't need the receipt any longer.
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Old 10-06-22, 06:29 PM  
hdw
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If she has been pinching pennies, she just keeping 'stuff' just in case she needs it again. It's part of growing without. You don't want to have to buy it again. Rich people would get rid of stuff and think 'I'll just buy it again if I need it later'. I don't know if you can break it. You are what you experienced.
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