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Organizing and Downsizing with Seniors: A Case Study – Final

unhappy seniorsDuring our last session with these clients we had completed the organization of their closet. The next focus for these wonderful clients was their guest room.  Unfortunately, over the last few years this room had turned into a catch-all for anything and everything that made its way to the second floor of this home.

The goal for our clients was to get the room in shape so that in the event family and friends were visiting and stayed over there would be a comfortable and safe place for them to sleep.  This included their much-loved grandchildren.

Another health hazard

From the amount of dust that had accumulated in this room it was clear that it had been impossible to clean with all the items that filled the room.  Dust was literally caked on most surfaces and the carpeting and was not only a health issue but it was clearly in dire need of a good cleaning.  Staining from spilled liquids was evident in many sections of the room.

Working with an organizing assistant we methodically sorted and categorized all items.  We brought in our working table and placed it in the hallway adjacent to the guest room, using it as a staging station for smaller items.  When working with older clients it’s very important that we don’t require them to continually bend to review items.  Therefore the table works very well for easy review of items we sort.

There was quite a bit of furniture in this room and many drawers to empty.  There was also a closet which required emptying as well as desks and side tables.

Anger and sensitivity

At one point Mr. X came up to the room needing to have a talk with me about Mrs. X.  She was apparently quite angry with him over the state of clutter in the home and in this room in particular.  She was feeling embarrassed by the dust and debris and Mr. X was feeling the strain in their relationship.  He was sincerely concerned about the level of anger expressed by Mrs. X and asked me whether that level of anger was “normal” in these situations and whether I had come across this type of behaviour before.  He stated that he had never seen Mrs. X this angry and he was quite worried about it.  It was also evident that he did not know how to deal with it.  My assistant, sensing the sensitive nature of my discussion with Mr. X, quietly left the room so that we could talk without Mr. X feeling embarrassed.

Organizers are often called to counsel clients as well

It’s not unusual that in my role as a professional organizer I also play the role of confidant, counsellor and teacher.  While Mr. X. shared his personal concerns I listened attentively, providing reassurance and understanding.  Only when he asked for advice did I actually provide him with some solid ideas to communicate with Mrs. X. in an open and understanding manner and help him to understand what was behind Mrs. X’s emotions.  He found this very helpful and later in the day he spent some time with Mrs. X working through some of the issues.

In the meantime, rather than be downstairs with Mrs. X., Mr. X preferred to give her some breathing room and time to cool down so he decided to stay upstairs with myself and my assistant.  It was as if being with us was a safe haven for him at that particular time.  It was easy for me to sense this by his actions, verbal and non-verbal clues.  I therefore provided him with some simple tasks for him to complete, keeping in mind his physical restrictions.  I did not want Mr. X. working in the guest room directly due to the thick dust and his respiratory issues so I made him comfortable in an adjacent room with a task that would keep him occupied and feeling useful until the air had settled between him and his wife.

By the completion of this session we had not only transformed the guest room into a functional space for visitors but also created various zones in the room for the storage of children’s toys, storage for Mrs. X and storage of extra linens. And just as important, Mrs. X. was thrilled with the results and was joking, teasing, smiling and cuddling up with Mr. X quite nicely.  He had a great big smile on his face when we left!  All was well once again.  Another happy client!