I was recently at the restaurant The Cheesecake Factory for dinner. I have not been there for a while and picked up the menu to make a choice on what to order for dinner. As I was reading the menu, “I thought that salad looks good, but so does that sandwich, or maybe I should have pasta?” After 10 minutes or so, I became overwhelmed by the number of choices available for dinner and not to mention dessert!
The Cheesecake Factory is a great restaurant with good food; however, their menu is so large and filled with many choices, it is easy to become overwhelmed and having trouble making a decision.
Many seniors who are hoarding or may be downsizing or aging in place can feel this way with all the choices they will make of what belongings to let go of in their home or to keep. When you have so many choices, it is easier not to choose and not make a decision.
There are the costs too having many choices:
• Having too many choices can lead to indecision. I cannot choose, so I am not going to do anything. As in the case of senior’s home, clutter can grow and get out of hand.
• Wanting perfection. I want to make the “right choice.” They might think if it isn’t perfect, then I won’t do anything. As result, clutter will grow because they don’t know where to start and they may feel that they will make a poor choice and it will not be perfect, then it may result in a bad choice.
• According to researcher David Tolin, PhD, a psychologist at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, “The task seems to overload the network.” That brain network goes into hyper drive, starts freaking out.
• When it comes to their own possessions, Tolin says, the decision-making process for people who hoard becomes very difficult, even painful, so they avoid it. And so, stuff keeps piling up. “It’s very common, and it can be very sad,” he says.
Helping a senior who is hoarding with making decisions:
• Limiting choices. Instead of overwhelming your loved one with several choices at once, limit the amount of choices offered.
• Group small amounts of like things together. For example, if your loved one has 100 coffee mugs put the mugs with the same color together first. They may 10 red coffee mugs. Of those coffee mugs put the same color of reds together limiting the amount of cups to 3 or 4 mugs for them to make decisions about. They only have to make a few decisions at a time.
• Work in small amounts of time so they don’t become overwhelmed.
• Take brain breaks often. Everyone needs to rest their brain after a while decision making. It can be exhausting.
If your senior loved one is hoarding and you want to help them, start by limiting the amount of decisions they need to make at one time. Hoarding is a very difficult situation for seniors and their families to face, but starting to help them in small steps may help.