How to Break a Senior’s Hoarding Habits Without Breaking Their Spirit

Most people have a habit of “collecting” something. Perhaps it’s shoes, stuffed animals, paintings or even family photos. However, there are those people who take that natural desire to gather a little too far. When that occurs, collecting can easily turn into hoarding. Seniors are especially prone to this, mainly because they have had a lifetime to collect treasures so it can be difficult to let these items go. Also, many older Americans experienced deprivation during the Great Depression or World War II, according to Smith College psychologist Randy Frost. He stated: “They save everything, keep broken appliances, won’t part with worthless items — empty cereal boxes, rubber bands, paper bags from the market — and acquire more things regularly at garage sales. Soon, they can’t move freely among their possessions, but still, they are unable to part with any of it.”

  • As a caregiver, you may find that it is hard for you to encourage your mom or dad to clean out and let go of items without breaking your loved one’s spirit. The following suggestions may make the process a little easier.
  • Have a Goal – It may be simpler to encourage your mom or dad to clean out items if there is a goal in mind. Maybe the goal is to earn some money for a much-desired trip, clear out before moving to an assisted living in Atlanta, or empty out a room so guests can stay during the holidays. The goal can be nearly anything. The important thing about having a goal so that your loved one can keep his or her eyes on the prize. If you don’t know of anything off the top of your head, spend some time chatting to find out what may motivate your parent to make the decision to let go of some clutter.
  • Consider a Yard Sale/Estate Clean Out – A yard sale or an estate sale can be a great start toward clearing out a senior’s clutter. The reason being that there is an immediate reward in the form of cash. In fact, over $4 million is made each week, on average, at yard sales. It can be difficult to encourage a person to let things go if the items are just going to the trash or even to a charity. But, if your mom or dad knows they will make some extra money (and they have some help with the difficult steps), a yard sale may be encouraging.
  • Encourage Your Loved One to Give While They Can Enjoy – Whether your parents have been proactive about creating a will (statistics show around 55% of adults do not have one), it will not go into effect until after they die. Most people would like to see their treasured items go to a friend or family member who will appreciate it while they are alive. If you can capitalize on this desire, you may be able to convince mom or dad to get rid of hoarded items. Along the same line, if there are items that no one has space for or does not want, now is the time to discover it. Then, you can sell them or give them to charity.
  • If All Else, Involve an Outside Firm – It can often be difficult to handle tasks involving your parents or those you love all by yourself. Not only is there the physical work involved in the process, but you also have emotions to think about. It may be worth hiring an outside firm to help. In many communities, there are companies dedicated to estate clean-outs. Working with a professional organizer can be another option. Look online for local experts. Decide if it is worth the cost to hire a professional to help you during this trying time.

Encouraging your parent to clean out unused or “hoarded” items could be important at any time. It becomes crucial when your parent is planning to move out of the family home and into an assisted living community. When this is the case, cleaning out can turn from a “nice thing” into a necessity. However, remember that today’s assisted living communities aren’t always a tiny room. If your mom or dad needs a place with more storage and space, reach out to the team at CareChoice LLC online at or by phone at (404) 402-1499. We can help you find the right assisted living in Atlanta that meets all their needs. We look forward to hearing from you.