Category Archives: Techniques

Cleaning Distinctions – Let’s Make Them!

One of the difficulties we face as we age is seeing and smelling the dust, dirt and general debris. Sensory decline in older adults increases clutter potential. 

Make a distinction between light housekeeping and general housekeeping and deep cleaning services. Make a push for twice a year deep cleaning to your older or physically challenged clients.

For someone who is aging, especially those who are unfamiliar with housekeeping services, they may think “light housekeeping’ is good enough. But it really isn’t.  Light housekeeping services which are often provided as part of in- home care provider contracts, are just that. Light! Contracted Caregivers don’t seek to do more than is in their required contract. They may in fact be discouraged due to liability limits to do more.

Deep cleaning which involves lifting or moving the heavy furniture (to vacuum the carpet or floor below), dusting the heating or air vents and baseboards, is a household chore that needs to be done at least semi- annually.

Another area to observe for deep cleaning is the computer desk and  television corner. Older PC’s and TV monitors are notorious dust bunny attractors. Fans and air vent areas need to be checked and cleaned for dust build up.

Cleaning out the refrigerator is also a deep cleaning chore. In fact this is not an easy service to find help for. Deep cleaning a refrigerator can take an hours worth of time.  Light housecleaning services do not offer or desire to provide this helpful service.  Often this is because they don’t want to get into a battle with the homeowner about good food and bad. Reaching into the back or bottom of a refrigerator is not an easy job. Many refrigerators have various parts that need removal for deep cleaning and putting them back together is often a puzzle.

In-home servce intake providers (often LCSW) or professional organizers need to start serving as educators. At the onset of client work state firmly that a household will need to get some additional cleaning services in order to keep the house clean and safe, not only for the client but for the contracted caregivers.


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Clutter is the Cholesterol of the Home

I ran across this interesting metaphor for clutter – Clutter is the Cholesterol of the Home (1) . After searching the web I came across earlier usage of this metaphor by Maria Cilley – The Fly Lady in her 2002 book Sink Reflections.  On page 25 she states Clutter is to our home as Cholesterol is to our arteries.

Her points in the book:

  • Clutter invades the pathways of our homes
  • Clutter causes stress in your life
  • Clutter decreases joy in living
  • Clutter pushes money away from you
  • Clutter destroys closeness in families
  • Clutter is a result in overindulging in stuff
  • Clutter causes hearts to harden

Try using this metaphor with your own home or chronically disorganized clients.

Are there any other metaphors you use to describe clutter?


1  LA Times Opinion Article of 2013  by Howard Mansfield titled An American dilemma: Your clutter or your life.

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Filed under Books to Read, Knowledge, Organizing, Philosophy, Techniques, Terms

Home Organizing Notable Authors

Professional Organizers have been tearing up the social media airwaves with their thoughts on the latest book entree into the organizing world. Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the latest star in a long line of New Concept books.  Concept leaders include Stephanie Winston, Julia Morgenstern, Peter Walsh and now Marie Kondo.

Here is a table to help review the New Concept – Home Focused Organizing Books. Be sure to take note of the lower part of the chart which lists the subset of authors who have sold to specific markets and have also done extremely well.

Home Organizing Notables - Organizers – A Historical Perspective

Tell me what you think. Have I missed anyone in the general audience home organizing category?

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February 9, 2016 · p:55 pm

Sensory Decline Increases Clutter

The senses of smell, taste, vision, hearing and touch are taken for granted by many. However,  as one ages,  some sensory decline may occur. I recently gave a presentation in which I discussed sensory decline and it’s effect on clutter and disorganization in relationship to the aging client.

Smell and Taste

  • Doesn’t smell rotting food/trash
  • Doesn’t smell mildew or dirty laundry
  • Unsure if perishable food is “good”

Thirty percent of American’s over the age of 70 have experienced some form of problem with their sense of smell.  Problems with taste, although less common, often appear in older adults.


  • Doesn’t see expiration dates on products clearly
  • Doesn’t see “spills” around toilet or kitchen sink
  • Mail processing takes longer due to changes in vision
  • Doesn’t see dirt or dust

Approximately one in three adults over age 65 have vision reducing eye disease.


  • Doesn’t hear sounds of  invasive pests in attic or basement
  • Doesn’t hear dripping pipe or faucet
  • Doesn’t hear warning beep of household appliance or timers

One third of adults between ages 65 – 75 have some form of hearing loss.


  • Unsure if item is too hot
  • Hard to pick up small objects or physically sort small objects
  • Increased incidences of  cuts or scratches because client does not initially feel sharp edges, chipped dishware, or broken items on floor

Keeping The Clutter- Hoarding Scale in mind, these issues are especially important to explore when working with aging Level II – Level V residential client homes.

PS – check out my presentation on Seven Types of Residential Households

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The Three Losses in Five Years Syndrome

Over the past 10 years, I have come across a subset of individuals who begin a sudden onset of chronic disorganization. These are individuals who are serving as family caretakers who have experienced at least three significant losses in their life over the span of 5 years. This subset has usually served as primary caretaker for either parent(s), spouse or sibling(s). Many of them also serve as the executor of one or more of these estates. Many of these individuals seem to take about 7 to 12 years after the final loss to come to terms with this in their life.

What I would like to see is a more active approach to treating this, more on the onset prevention than as an after effect treatment.

It would be beneficial to have physicians and their staffs work to identify caretakers who are already at two losses in five years, and encourage them to get additional support through grief counseling, caretaker support group participation and for those financially able, consider the services of a skilled professional organizer. A skilled professional organizer can do wonders to help the “primary caretaker client ” in terms of time management, goal setting, project planning and management. Many professional organizers can help establish bill paying and document management systems to handle the growing paperwork that complex and long-term medical conditions usually entail as well as documents for estates probate. A professional organizer can help the client simplify his or her life and environment as well as serve as a body double for difficult and often procrastinated tasks.

While a professional organizers services are not inexpensive, they are a valuable tool that may help the primary caretaker live a more vibrant and fulfilling life while and after experiencing heavy losses in their life.

The Three Losses in 5 Years are primarily death losses. For some, however, one of those losses can be the loss of a pet, divorce or significant job loss.

I believe more research and education is needed in this area. Let’s hope that this syndrome can be more clearly understood and helpful strategies for success developed and promoted to the general public.


This is a best of post


Filed under Caregiving, Client Management Strategies, Communication, Communication Strategies, Knowledge, Organizing, Philosophy, Productivity, Techniques, Terms, Thinking, Time

Use a Lost List

Do you have a “lost list”? I encourage my clients to keep a list of lost physical items. As we go through the clearing process, on site, or via coaching calls we often “find” lost items. This list helps keep the small “wins” or successes in the forefront of  the client’s mind.

Of course, there are the “found” items that one runs across which one does not know what to do with.  I find having a few small files with labels such as “interesting people, places and things” can help for the clippings, photos or mementos.  A small clear box in a junk drawer can serve as the holder of “found” screws and odd parts that seem to accumulate over the years. A single larger box in the garage or basement can be the holder of other found non-perishable  items. It helps to establish these places, but it is also necessary to set limits.

Furthermore, analyzing patterns of clients “lost and founds” can be helpful in developing reduction strategies for lost items.


Filed under Knowledge, Organizing, Productivity, Techniques, Terms

Possession Disposal – Intentional versus Unintentional

This is the third installment of the residential possession cycle. Today I’d like to focus on another element, intentional versus unintentional disposal of possessions.

Intentional disposal is when our clients make a concerted effort to dispose, donate or recycle a product. Unintentional usage is when an accident or incident causes the product to be disposed without their (or a household member’s) specific intent.

How do your clients dispose of their possessions? Is their disposal intentional or unintentional? Here are some examples:

Intentional Disposal

Example 1 – Your client wants to have her first yard sale (tag or garage sale). She identifies a variety of household goods, including clothes, and a substantial quantity of vases. You help your client plan and prepare for the yard sale. You help your client develop a plan for storing the remainders or unsold items overnight with a scheduled drop off trip (the following Monday) to her local Goodwill Express store.

Skills Transferred – Educating client on yard sale basics (date selection, pricing, promoting, display, site security, boundaries with attendees), Selecting suitable time for yard sale,  Discussing components of set up and clean up of a yard sale, Selecting appropriate donation site for left over items.

Example 2 – Your client has worked with you on organizing her linen closet. The client decides to get rid of her older towels, saving only a few for rags. The towels are not in the best of shape, but are clean and still usable by your local animal shelter.  Your client agrees to let you drop the towels off at the shelter.

Skills Transferred – Review of towel inventory, Discussion on regional recycle or reuse potential of household discards.

Unintentional Disposal

Example 1 – Your client has a flood on the lower level of her home, due to a surprise rising of a local creek during unseasonable rains.  You help your client by helping her locate her homeowners and flood insurance policies, and having her call her agent. She uses a reputable restoration company recommended by the insurance company, but they are unable to save her undeclared vintage doll collection.

Skills Transferred: Basic insight into the homeowner insurance claim process, Acknowledging loss, Suggestion for future storage of collections and better inventory and appropriate appraisal of collectibles items, and importance of policy review. Planing and re-purposing of space in lower level due to potential for future flooding.

My earlier segments on Possession Acquisition  and Possession Usage can be found here. By understanding your client’s possession patterns you can develop helping strategies as well as measure their success in the overall possession cycle.

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