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When Albert Einstein said, “Out of clutter, find simplicity,” he may have understated just how difficult that is to do. We live in a world of “stuff” that we accumulate over the years. Some people are collectors who like to save items with personal meaning and then there is the day-to-day build-up of papers, clothing etc., – not necessarily treasured, but hard to sort through.

There’s clutter… and then there’s CLUTTER!

Clutter may be messy but it doesn’t usually pose any serious dangers in the home. Taken in the extreme, however, is the real issue of hoarding – a compulsive need to acquire more and more and an inability to discard anything. The fact is that hoarding is a debilitating mental illness that can impair day-to-day functioning. Just three years ago, hoarding was classified as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association. Only 2-5% of the population have been labeled with this diagnosis, but the disorder is likely more widespread.

Common Characteristics of Hoarding

Hoarders are not sloppy or lazy, but struggle with a chronic condition and their compulsive need to amass “stuff”. Research points to the fact that signs of hoarding may begin early in life but the symptoms appear to increase with each decade of age. Hoarding disorder has been linked with obsessive-compulsive disorder as well as dementia in the elderly.

Hoarders share some common characteristics such as depression or overwhelming anxiety and an intense emotional attachment to possessions. While their surroundings may be full of unused or useless items, they have reasons to hold on and are resistant to offers of help with discarding them.

According to Julie Wetherell, a psychiatry professor at the University of California, San Diego who has studied this chronic condition, some common items that hoarders amass include junk mail, books, clothing, plastic containers & bags, newspapers, food, and dollar store items.

Clutter is a Concern for Seniors

Whether the problem is typical clutter or the serious chronic condition of hoarding, both present hazards for the elderly. Seniors are more prone to falling and may have to live with the challenges of navigating around cluttered living areas. The severity of the problem may be hidden until there’s a need to downsize to safer, simpler living quarters like an adult child’s home or an assisted living facility. At such a time, accumulated possessions become an obstacle and it is both physical and emotional work to try to scale down.

Be Proactive

On Thursday October 6th, from 9:30-11:30am John Odalan, a professional organizer, will present How to Organize Your Home and Stuff. Join us at Jewish Family Services, 52 Concordia Shopping Center, Monroe Township. For more information or to attend this program contact us at 732-568-1155 or email [email protected].

Considering a Move?

If you or a family member are considering a move to assisted living, contact our senior care specialist or visit the assisted living section on our website for more information. Our goal is to make you or your family member feel comfortable and to make this transition comfortable and smooth. We have experts that can help you pair down and organize your belongings. For more information, contact us or call (732) 568-1155 

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