A New Look at How to Help Our Loved Ones Stop Hoarding
Now that Spring has sprung, our focus is on how we can stop hoarding and start getting rid of the things that no longer serve a purpose.
It takes a lot of effort, energy, and preparation whether we’re trying to stop hoarding or help our loved ones stop.
Since it’s easier to diagnose and deal with other people’s behaviors, we’ll focus on helping our loved ones.
Simple steps taken consistently over a period of time will yield the results we want.
Keep the area where your loved one spends most of his/her their time organized. This will create a comforting familiar and predictable environment.
As I organized my father’s important papers in his home, his concerns that I might misplace something or lose something were eventually replaced by comfort and confidence that I was helping him get organized. Each time he asked me a question about his finances I answered. And when he didn’t believe me, I easily retrieved the appropriate document as proof.
Go through your loved one’s closets and help him/her organize where everything is kept. Loved ones feel more secure that everything is where it belongs. Even though they may forget moments later, the emotional memory of going through the process of organizing may be comforting to some depending on their cognitive abilities.
After my father was living with us, my husband and I took pains to organize and then review with him the things in his closet. So long as he could understand and remember, he gained confidence that we are not taking his possessions; but were helping him find them more easily.
This review with loved ones helps engender trust, which gradually disappears as the disease progresses. Until this time; however, they may grow to appreciate and depend on us being able to locate their things when they can’t.
At the same time, gradually begin discarding things that are no longer useful.
As mentioned in Hoarding things: Why? my father kept dozens of tin-foil containers from the Home Delivered Meals program and lots of toilet paper that had long dried out and would be painful to use.
If done very gradually–a few items at a time–your loved will not be stressed about missing his or her things.
Another approach is to ask if you can borrow or use something. Members of the older generation don’t like to waste things. If they feel someone can truly use something they no longer need, they’ll feel good about giving it away.
These strategies will work effectively as long as their cognitive abilities are sufficient to comprehend.
Brenda Avadian, MA
For more information, please click on
How to Handle Hoarding
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Updated March 2010 (Originally published July 2009)