Fearful about making changes during COVID

May 9, 2021

Q: How do I downsize during COVID? I’m fearful about going to donation centers and/or having people in my home. Sherry P., Lewes

A: Although we all hope we’re at the end of this pandemic – or at least at the beginning of the end – the coronavirus has certainly changed the way we live, and in many cases altered the way we think about where we want to live. Most realtors, moving companies and senior relocation service companies have instituted safe, contact-free methods for decluttering and packing up your household, selling your home and moving your big items. And even if you’re not moving anytime soon, coronavirus has given us all time to think about the clutter in our current homes. Clutter can cause physical and emotional concerns. It can present mobility hazards in many rooms, so simply removing items that are rarely used can make your home safer. Other clutter from a lifetime of accumulated items can cause emotional stress. Letting go of what does not serve you any longer is emotionally freeing. Try it. Start with one room, one box. Rest. Repeat.

Q: My wife and I are building a new, smaller house in a nearby over-55 community. We’re having some spirited conversations about what to get rid of, what to take with us, and what to buy brand new for the next house. My wife wants to invite her sister from out-of-state to help “mediate” our discussions. I don’t. Help! Ronald G., Georgetown

A: This may be an unsatisfying answer for you, Ronald. On one hand, I often find myself mediating among extended families involved in a loved one’s move, and I can attest that this “help” often strains familial bonds! On the other hand, your wife is onto something important: Sometimes having an impartial eye – a person who is not emotionally attached to your stuff and the memories hidden therein – can provide exactly the push you need to make those difficult take-or-heave decisions. The questions you two must answer: Is your sister-in-law impartial and able to view your possessions with a detached and practical mind-set ... or is she equally invested in some of the memories? Would a true, but empathetic outsider be more helpful to you in moving forward?

Q: I think my mother is a borderline hoarder. I’m worried about safety and finding important things in the midst of all the unnecessary stuff. What should I do? Mary V., Dagsboro

A: We see several levels of hoarding, so it’s important to look at the situation impartially to determine how bad it really is. Understand that hoarding can be a psychological disorder, as evidenced in the extreme on hoarding-related television shows. If you believe your mother’s situation has grown to that proportion, a social worker or therapist might be your best route. But, hoarding to a lesser degree can also be a generational habit. People who grew up during the Depression (or had parents who did) tend to save insignificant things ... those “you never know what you might need” items like rubber bands, old/expired coupons, and the like. My own mother used to save boxes – “You never know when you are going to need a good box!” One of my colleagues’ mothers saved stacks of old magazines because there was one good recipe in each of them – recipes, mind you, that she never referred to again! With all that said, here’s my advice: Get help ... whether it be a mental health professional at one end of the spectrum, or a non-judgmental, certified move manager/declutterer for less-extreme, but still worrisome cases. Good luck.



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