By Nancy Abiade, LMSW
If you ever struggle with having too much stuff, you are not alone. Eighty-four percent of Americans worry that their homes are not organized enough, impacting their quality of life. Average US home size has increased from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2600 in 2018, and with size increase comes the need to fill the space with “stuff”. Not only do we have all the things that we have collected over the years, but many inherit items from their parents and relatives when they die. The emotional attachment makes it difficult to part with things that we may not need or love. In my work as a hospice social worker, I encounter people contemplating how to deal with their own or others’ possessions. I have seen families in deep disputes over its division.
Professional organizer, Katie Tracy led a virtual seminar on how to deal with clutter and suggested how to view each item –“Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it? If we cannot answer yes to at least one question, we can give ourselves permission to sell it, give it to others, donate to charity, or as a last resort, discard it. She noted that we are often torn because the attachment is really more to the memory than the item itself. After my mother moved to Assisted Living, all my siblings gathered in her home as she encouraged children and grandchildren to take what they could use and the rest was donated to her favorite charities. She was present for this event and it gave her great joy and a sense of control, knowing that her items would bless others. Hearing her tell the stories associated with the items made the time even more special.
Too often, our inability to figure out what to do with our things immobilizes us from doing anything at all. Children are faced with the daunting task of dispersing their parents’ possessions after their death, feeling disloyal if they part with items that their parents valued. I have heard statements from my patients saying, “I will let my kids fight it out after I am gone.” How much greater the gift to have a dedicated discussion with the children and make a list of who will receive which items.
Clearing some of the clutter from our lives frees us to enjoy our physical and mental space and can do a world of good for others in the process, a win-win!
Article published in Senior Perspectives July-August 2021 Issue (distributed and published by Senior Resources)
About the author
Nancy Abiade LMSW has been a social worker for Harbor Hospice serving the Poppen Residence, assisted living, and home patients and families for over 8 years. She previously worked as a skilled nursing facility, hospital, and geriatric day care social worker. Her favorite activity is making memories with her husband and grandson.
Harbor Hospice and Harbor Palliative Care is committed to alleviating patients’ symptoms and providing choices to help the patient achieve optimum well-being. For almost four decades, Harbor Hospice has provided experienced, compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients and their families, focusing on medical, emotional, and spiritual needs regardless of ability to pay. Serving residents of lakeshore West Michigan, their team of professionals and volunteers connect patients and families with resources to align their goals of comfort and improved quality of life.
Learn more at HarborHospiceMI.org or by calling 231.728.3442 / 1.800.497.9559.