Letting Go… following on from last month’s topic

I posed the question to you last month “If you don’t declutter your home now, what will it be like in a year’s time”?

I’ve just returned from a wonderful three weeks with my family in Italy, and I had the opportunity to discuss what I do with some of Jan’s friends during my stay. They were fascinated with the concept of decluttering, but concerned as to what one would do with any items they no longer wanted. Their problem, as they saw it, is that many of the objects cluttering their homes are very old and may have been in the family for years. Italy is such an ancient culture and their history is important to many Italians, consequently many of their homes are full of antiques and family heirlooms which have been passed down through the generations. The problem here though is the accumulation of these objects, and eventually as their homes fill up people find themselves in overwhelm. And it should be noted here that many Italians live in apartments rather than stand alone houses with garages and basements for storage.

I don’t know the complete answer here, though my inclination is always to pass things on, either within the family, or to those in need. I’m still pondering on this one…

Another take on this accumulation of clutter, and overwhelm, eventuates when downsizing, and this really comes into play when a family member needs to go into care. I recently had the opportunity to visit a rest home in Auckland, where the manager [a very good friend] was keen to hear any ideas I may have, as a professional declutterer, regarding the layout of the facilities and the residents’ rooms, and with a particular regard to safety. The common areas were fine as they had been designed around safety for their residents so there was plenty of space around furniture, and no extraneous objects in the way which could result in tripping or falling.

However, the residents’ rooms are another story. It appears that often families bring in furniture, and a multitude of objects, to make the room more comfy and welcoming for their loved one. Unfortunately the result of this, from what I saw, was more than one room so full of large cumbersome furniture that there was little room for the resident to walk around in, particularly if they needed a walking frame. This was definitely a safety issue. Additionally, the surfaces of the coffee table, dresser etc, were covered with so any ornaments and bits and pieces that the rooms seemed hopelessly cluttered. After discussing this with my friend, I prepared a flyer for her to give to families of new residents, and here is some of what I wrote:

“As someone who had both parents in residential then hospital care I very much wanted to make their living space warm and inviting. I am therefore aware of how a family feels when putting their loved one into residential care, and the desire to create a homely atmosphere in their room is understandable. However, it is my opinion that it is preferable for residents to have a minimum amount of furniture in their rooms. If they have large items of furniture, their floor space becomes severely restricted and may therefore make tripping much more likely. In other words, ideally their floor space should be as clear as possible.

My recommendation to families is that they use photos and perhaps paintings to decorate the walls of their loved one’s room. This means that the floor can remain uncluttered and they will have the space to move around their room, particularly if they need to use a walker or wheelchair. Additional furniture such as a chest of drawers, or bookcase, will immediately restrict their space. Generally, residents’ rooms have adequate storage space for clothes and personal belongings, and in my experience, less rather than more is always preferable.

Many of us have had or will have the situation arise where our loved ones go into a care facility. I hope what I have written here is helpful.

I wish you a wonderful month ahead, and much joy and blessings.

In Joy!

Angella Gilbert

P: 09 410 4166
M: 027 224 8937
E: angella@gioia.net.nz
W: www.gioia.net.nz

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