Call 888-741-5172 for Home Instead Senior Care services in your area.
Sharing is Caring:

If Your Senior Won't Let Go...


Find home care near you or your loved one:

December 15, 2010

Getting rid of stuff is actually a two-step process: sorting and deciding, on the one hand, and disposing on the other. That's according to University of Kansas Professor Dr. David Ekerdt, who is coordinating a "household moves" project to determine the role that possessions play in older people's housing decisions. But convincing seniors can be a challenge.

Following are strategies if your loved one doesn't want to let go from Katherine "Kit" Anderson, CPO-CD, president of the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), and Vickie Dellaquila, certified professional organizer and author of Don't Toss My Memories in the Trash.

  1. Arrange And Cheer Small Victories.
    Suppose you spend a short time helping your loved one clear off a table. Celebrate the accomplishment together.
  2. Conduct An "Experiment."
    If your loved one has 150 empty margarine tub containers, suggest donating 15 of those to a school for a painting project. Allow some time to go by and ask how she felt giving those up. Chances are she won't feel as awful as suspected.
  3. Gently Approach The Idea Of Health And Safety.
    Remind your loved ones that too much clutter can actually keep them from being safe in their homes, which could jeopardize their ability to stay at home. They could trip over papers on the floor or lose bills and medications.
  4. Draft An Agreement.
    Agree to box up unused clothing or tools. Carefully list what's in the box and track that for six months. If your loved one does not use the items in that time, suggest they donate them to a charity.
  5. Consider The Control Issue.
    Clutter is all about control, but so is being the one to decide where stuff goes. Remind your loved ones if they don't decide where something will go, someone else will.

For more information, contact the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD) at or visit For tips on talking to a loved one about sensitive subjects, go to

If you notice these characteristics about your senior loved ones or their homes, clutter could start creeping up on them.

  1. Piles of mail and unpaid bills.
  2. Difficulty walking safely through a home.
  3. Frustration trying to organize.
  4. Difficulty managing activities of daily living.
  5. Expired food in the refrigerator.
  6. Jammed closets and drawers.
  7. Compulsive shopping.
  8. Difficulty deciding whether to discard items.
  9. A health episode such as a stroke or dementia.
  10. Loneliness.

Download this list, If Your Senior Won't Let Go (PDF 354K)

Explore these pages to learn more about

Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.

Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 5, 2013 at 10:11 pm | Posted by Gwen A. Steen

    I'm 82 & have a spine problem. My husband is 90 with his mind fairly intact. He is also disabled with a spine problem; can't walk or stand is incontinent. We applied to the VA for assistance and was refused because our wages top the required amount. The reason is that I have cashed in all annuities, sold 2 houses to use the capital gains to pay our caregivers. The VA uses all this money and adds it to our income. In 3 months are money will be gone. What do we do, then. I am totally stressed.


    • February 11, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Posted by Sheri Schuchardt

      You need to reapply once the money is gone. You will need to be able to show the VA that this money has been used for you and your husband's care.


Share your thoughts, stories and comments:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *