Archive for the ‘Ageism’ Category

Detour the Dumpster—A Better Approach to Overwhelming Clutter

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

By Guest Bloggers Carolyn Quinn and Jaime Angelini

Do you have too much stuff?

Do you have too much stuff?

The people we meet who have “too much stuff” won’t ever be followed by a camera crew that captures shots of perilous, towering stacks of papers, bins or boxes.  There will never be split screen comparisons of their house or apartment before and after workers and family members arrived.

That’s because clean outs are not our approach.

Though clean outs are good for TV ratings and achieving an immediate solution to a problem, it’s not what we do.  Sure, it’s rewarding for viewers to stay tuned and see those transformed tidy, neat living spaces during the final minutes of the show.  And, truth be told, we prefer tidy homes for those living in unsafe situations, but the means we employ to get to that goal do not include a dumpster.

The reason why we don’t endorse clean outs is often highlighted in those shows:  it’s distressing.  People who are strongly emotionally tied to their possessions have big emotional responses.  Sometimes a dumpster-style clean out can be a trigger that leads to a setback of collecting – often ending up worse than the original hoard.  They begin the behavior again; re-accumulating and filling up all that prime, vacant new real estate.

A confession…In the past—in another job many years ago—one of the authors of this blog, has been “guilty” of these clean outs.  While assisting people under the threat of eviction, she cleaned up and cleaned out while working as a residential case manager.  (So, cable TV, we are not picking on you unfairly.  One of us has evolved from that thinking.)

We are better educated and better informed today.  Older and wiser, as they say.  The practices we teach now are rooted in successful programs that were proven to work long-term on changing behaviors for individuals living with hoarding disorder, also sometimes called Finders/Keepers, which is a modern term we prefer to use.

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

Can you identify your rooms on this chart?

How it started

We originally sought out help for people in Atlantic County, following Hurricane Sandy, when we met and identified storm survivors who couldn’t part with their wet belongings.   We saw firsthand people who did not get rid of their water-logged possessions weeks—even months—after the storm.  They were stuck; and we worried about their health and safety as we observed layers of hazards in their living situation.

Jaime (left) and Carolyn (right) as part of The Atlantic County Hoarding Task Force

There was another glitch, a big one.

In our area no one local was working with people who lived with hoarding disorder.  We called and asked…a lot.  No one.

The results of online searching and researching led us to a successful initiative in Boston (now called the Metro Housing Boston’s Hoarding Training Institute).  Luckily, the forward-thinking, helpful professionals there were willing to teach others, like us.  Fast-forward through conferences, training, long-distance phone calls, more training and meetings.

The Mental Health Association in Atlantic County started its, “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Tendency Initiative,” based on Boston’s successful model.   We have been working with people referred to us by code enforcement officials, social workers, nurses, pest control and other professionals who have become partners in our effort to connect help to those who need it and accept it.

Individuals who are ready to make a change start out by attending our “Too Much Stuff” support groups, which are bi-weekly meetings.  During a typical meeting, people at various stages in their own pursuits to declutter are working their way through the process togetherTough topics, like how their possessions affect social relationships, are discussed openly and honestly among peers who understand and offer suggestions based on their experience.

We also provide in-home services to those who are ready for one-on-one support from staff.  Each week staff spends about an hour to offer guidance on sorting/discarding, non-acquiring exercises and practicing other skills critical to manage clutter.

Some of those tips for decluttering include:

  • Start with 15 minutes a day. It’s emotionally draining, so the recommendation is to work in small, daily increments to prevent feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
  • Resist the urge to do more or “get ahead” in a single day. The downside is that you may not return to the task the next day because of exhaustion.
  • Use a timer.
  • Sort in three piles: “Keep,” “Discard,” and “Maybe.” By the end of the session, assign the “maybes” to either “discard” or “keep.”
  • Work in the same room/space. Do not wander from room to room.
  • Maintain the space that is cleared. Mark the cleared space with painter’s tape as a visual cue to prevent the clutter from accumulating again.
  • Use black trash bags to hold items destined for trash or donation.

    Use signs like these for your ‘Keep,’ ‘Maybe,’ and ‘Discard’ piles!

What we know

Many people with “too much stuff” want to change.  They’d like to make healthier lifestyle changes—such as not buying more stuff, not collecting free stuff, or not saving mail and other ways that commonly lead to a house that is cluttered and unsafe.  We also recognize that, if these people could have changed their behaviors on their own, they would.

The reasons behind these behaviors are complex and individualized, and talking about them among peers helps.

We also know that talking about it all—the impact on family and friends, the challenges, and the successes—is an important part of the process.  People feel less alone; they feel understood.  Peer support helps.

Time and time again, we see that working toward the weekly goals is rewarding and worth the effort.  Based on our experience and what’s been reported, this yields positive results and leads to success.

Science and research have come a long way for individuals with too much stuff.  We understand that there is still a way to go to chip away at stigma associated with clutter.  Shame and embarrassment can keep people frozen in place.  We also know that this blog can make a difference to someone who reads it and shares it.

We don’t know all the answers, but we understand more than we did in recent decades.  We keep looking for answers.  And we’re confident that they’re not found in a dumpster.

We have a place for that idea:  the “Discard” pile.

Like what you read here? Need help? Email [email protected] or call 609 916-1330


Carolyn and Jaime are co-developers of  “Too Much Stuff? Hoarding Behaviors Initiative” at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County.  

Carolyn M. Quinn works at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County as the ICE Wellness Program Manager, which provides  peer-led support groups and a variety of wellness workshops to adults living with mental illness and co-occurring challenges. She also is a certified instructor for  Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid as well as a certified Advance Level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) Facilitator. 

Jaime Angelini is the Director of Consumer Services at the Mental Health Association in Atlantic County where she provides support, education and advocacy to individuals living with mental illness, substance use disorders, and those experiencing homelessness.  Jaime is a certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor, parent educator, Disaster Response Crisis Counselor and a trainer for law enforcement officials who respond to individuals with special needs.

 

 

Aging Greatness: Great Achievements by Older Adults!

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

As a culture we tend to praise accomplishments as if there were an age limit. We like to focus on achievements made by people under a “certain age” as if we think “The younger, the better!” But achievements, major accomplishments, even fame and fortune, don’t have a cut-off age.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating accomplishments and great deeds done by a specific age, but we’d like to take time here to point out that major accomplishments are achieved regardless of age. Below is just a sampling of some of the amazing things done by older adults of all ages, arranged alphabetically and in no order of greatness.


Author Harry Bernstein publishes his first book, The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barriers—age 96

Paul Cézanne has his first solo art exhibition—age 56

Julia Child begins the long running The French Chef program on PBS—age 51

Jack Cover invents the Taser stun gun to create a nonlethal weapon—age 50

Benjamin Franklin signs the Declaration of Independence—age 70

Cancer survivor Barbara Hillary becomes one of the oldest people, and first black woman, to reach the North Pole—age 75

Edmond Hoyle begins recording the rules of various card games, publishing A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist in 1742—age 70

Kathryn Joosten, Emmy Award-winning actress of Family Matters, Desperate Housewives, and The West Wing, begins TV-acting—age 56

Mark Jordan sets the World Record in 2015 for most pull-ups in 24 hours—age 54

Ray Kroc begins the McDonald’s franchise—age 52

Nelson Mandela is elected president of South Africa—age 75

Famed American Folk painter Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka “Grandma Moses,” begins painting—age 76

Frank McCourt publishes Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Angela’s Ashes—age 65

Taikichiro Mori leaves academia for second career in Tokyo real estate, where he would eventually become the most successful person in the Tokyo real estate market and twice become Forbes’s “world’s richest man”—age 55

Leslie Nielsen stars in comedy-hit Airplane!—age 54

Nola Ochs graduates from Fort Hays State University and becomes the oldest person in the world to become a college graduate—age 95

James Parkinson identifies what will later be named “Parkinson’s disease”—age 62

John Pemberton invents Coca-Cola—age 55

Diana Nyad becomes the first confirmed person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage—age 64

Peter Mark Roget publishes first edition of Roget’s Thesaurus (originally titled, Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition)—age 73

Minoru Saito becomes the oldest person to do a solo circumnavigation of the globe without stopping at any port—age 77

Colonel Harland David Sanders begins the KFC franchise—age 65

Judge Judy Scheindlin begins the now longest-running courtroom TV show, Judy Judy—age 53

Ernestine Shepherd, former world’s oldest competitive female bodybuilder, begins bodybuilding—age 56

J.R.R. Tolkien publishes The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy—age 62

Betty White becomes the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host—age 61

Laura Ingalls Wilder publishes Little House in the Big Woods, the first of the Little House books—age 64

 


Whose major achievement are you fascinated by? What are your own accomplishments? Leave us a comment below or send us an email if you’d like us to share them! Whether it’s breaking a record, fulfilling a lifelong dream, standing out in your industry, or just doing something you’re proud of, every day is an opportunity for your own achievement—No matter your age!