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Declutter and Organize

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Clutter and Disorganization

Have the years of collecting things made it hard to organize?  Have you downsized your home but not the amount of stuff you own?  Or maybe you are less mobile so online shopping has taken on a life of its own.  Sometimes emotional attachment to items can get stronger for seniors who have lost someone they love.  There are many reasons why clutter may have taken over your home.  The good news, no matter how frustrated you feel or whether you don’t even know how to organize your home, getting rid of clutter in your home one step at a time can make a huge difference!

The first thing  to realize is it may take a little time, so be patient.  Here are some home organization tips.  Find a small area to tackle first.  Have empty boxes and/or trash bags on hand.  When I have helped others, it was best to make three piles – one is trash, one is charity and one is to keep.  Remember that just because something works, is in good condition, or could be useful does not necessarily mean you should keep it.  For instance, you do no need multiple coffee pots.  You may no longer be able to use the item such as a jump rope.  It just does not make sense to keep some things.  And you do not have the room to keep multiples or items that no longer make sense for you.  But there is definitely someone else who can use it.  There is always someone in need.  So why not share it forward?  If you find it difficult to part with items due to attachment or anxiety, take pictures so you can make a photo album or collage to hang on the wall.  For items such as clothing, you might keep a small swatch and make a quilt, throw, pillow or other item from them.  Similarly, for items such as jewelry, trinkets, and the like, you might keep a small piece and glue them on a board for a unique wall decoration.  The point is, if separation is an issue, there are still ways to de-clutter and maintain a personal connection to the items you love.  If your attachment to items is excessive, you may need to speak with a professional counselor.  That is not to say you cannot be extremely attached to some items.  But when your attachment leads to excessive cluttering or dangerous level of cluttering, you should seek professional assistance.

Once you have separated the items in the small area, take the trash out and put the items to donate in a place convenient for you or someone you know to transfer.  Make a list of the items to donate for income tax purposes.  If you no longer itemize or are no longer required to submit an income tax return, put the donation in the name of a family member or friend so they can claim the donation.

Now you are ready organize.  Take into account the size and type of items to be organized.  If there are multiple smaller items that are similar, use of labeled plastic storage containers are perfect for shelves.  Put items that you use regularly somewhere easy to reach for ready access. Some items can actually be hung on the interior of a closet.  And use the power of stacking with larger items you need less often at the bottom.  If you are not comfortable or unable to lift and install hardware, make a list of things to do and get family or friend to help.

Storage containers come in a variety of sizes.  Before you buy new containers, look around your home to see if there are items you can reuse.  Shoe boxes, large empty nut containers, and plastic cat litter containers are examples of reusable storage containers.  Use a bold permanent marker to label the contents. Labeling does more than classify your items.  It makes storing items in an orderly fashion and relocating items at a later date much easier.  You can then use the power of stacking to reduce the area required to store your items.

Be sure to consolidate like items.  It does not make sense to have several different containers of the same type of contents.  In fact, when you consolidate, it is likely you will find duplication and can donate duplications.   Do your best to use wasted space for storage.  Space under beds or other large furniture on legs, closets, and shelving should be used for storage before considering use of any surface area.  Keeping your home clutter free is a safety measure to prevent falls, tripping, and other household accidents.

Don’t push it.  Take several days if needed.  Admire your work.  This is your first step to clutter freedom.  How to organize your home is a start in how to organize your life.  When you have enough energy, pick another small area.  Go through the same steps.  Soon you will have an entire room done and you can really benefit from your hard work.  The key for decluttering your home; one small area at time and then one room at a time.  Those areas that lost utility are once again functional!  For organizing ideas, hardware and containers go to Walmart.com, Get Organized and Organize.com.

Find everything you need to organize you life Organize.comBut what happens when disorganization grows to something more, something that is beyond your ability to handle.  It could mean you have just waited too long to organize and just need help to address the overly large task.  However, there may be an underlying issue that need to be addressed.  The disorganization may have actually become hoarding.  And hoarding can be serious and dangerous in which case professional assistance is absolutely necessary. Hoarding comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Very often hoarders will say they are collecting items.  However, the type of times collected often have little real value, only a seemingly emotional value to the collector.  There is nothing wrong with having collections.  Many people have collections.  It is when the collecting gets to the point where it actually begins to interfere with your ability to function normally.

Hoarding versus collecting versus disorganizationThere will be six criteria that are used to assess whether a person has gone from disorganization or collecting to hoarding.

  1. A difficulty discarding or parting with personal possessions, regardless of their actual value.
  2. There is a strong urge to save items and/or a person has a large amount of distress associated with discarding them.
  3. The collecting and cluttering of the home causes the living environment to become unlivable or unusable.
  4. There is a significant amount of distress in social, occupational, or other major functional areas of life that interfere with proper maintenance making the home unsafe.
  5. There is no underlying medical condition, such as dementia, that could be the cause of the behavior.
  6. There is no underlying psychological or mental disorder, such a major depressive disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder that could be the cause of the behavior.

There is one note of caution.  You should be aware that a new subgroup has recently been identified.  While collectors are differentiated from hoarders and considered healthy behavior, there are some individuals who become extreme collectors. As with hoarders, their living spaces become increasingly overrun by their objects but may appear to be organized.  Depending on the size of home, they may quickly be forced to live among their objects which in turn may a negative effect on their health and wellbeing.  In addition, the time and money it takes to be an extreme collector can negatively affect their financial wellbeing, impact their employment, and/or interfere with normal relationships with family and friends.  Depression may be a result of realizing their behavior is having these negative impacts but they may feel the inability to stop the behavior.  There could be a psychological or medical condition, i.e. dementia, causing the behavior.  If the behavior is extreme, and is causing affects as described above, professional treatment is advised. In order to determine whether the above criteria are applicable, it is important to understand the behavior associated with each.

Difficulty Discarding Items

Collectors may have an attachment to their items but that also appreciate the value of their items and are typically more rationale in establishing attachments and can define the actual valuable of their items than do hoarders.  Collectors may also collect items of little intrinsic value that gain worth due to their rarity.  Collectors actually consider and may even decide to trade or sell their collection, or items in their collection, without experiencing the mental anguish of a hoarder.

Strong Urges to Keep and Distress at the Thought of Discarding Items

Collectors va hoarders don’t typically express worry at the loss of their items and do not exhibit the same strong urges to keep items.  The items collected by a hoarder often have little or no value to anyone else.   While the specification of willing a collections of financial value is common place, if a collection of no apparent value is put in a will, this may be a sign that the collecting is or is heading toward hoarding behavior.

Clutter and Disorganization from Collecting

One very distinct difference between collectors and hoarders is that collectors display their items.  On the other hand, hoarders do not display their items.  They have their home so packed and cluttered with items that simply moving about can be a challenge.  The urge to collect is stronger than the need to ensure the environment is able to support normal activities of daily living.  Not all collectors have the means to properly display their prized items, but they are much more likely to do so and often show people items in their collections.  The ability to do so is supported by the organized storage of collected items that may not have a showcase of their own.

Clinically Significant Distress and Interference with Daily Life

In order to be categorized as a hoarder, the behavior must cause clinically significant interference in functioning normally.  In other words, you may have difficulty holding a job, maintaining normal family relationships, and functioning and participating in social circles within your community.  This challenge can result in feelings of shame or regret.  Down deep there is often a realization that the situation is getting out of hand but they do not k know and/or are unable to stop the behavior.

Underlying Medical or Psychological/Mental Conditions

As with any unusual or concerning behavior, it is important to eliminate the possibility of a medical or psychologist/mental condition that is in need of treatment.  So be sure to seek professional for the proper diagnosis and establishment of the right treatment, if needed.

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