Is there a Connection between Diabetes and Hoarding?

Question: My dad has severe Type 2 diabetes and I find that he is hoarding more and more of lately. Is there a connection between diabetes and hoarding?

Answer: As with many chronic illnesses problems from the disease overflow into other parts of our lives. I have worked with clients who have had severe Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and because of issues with the illness, organizational problems have occurred. For example, many times a diabetic may become very overwhelmed or too tired to remember where they put their diabetic supplies, paperwork, or even forget to pay bills. If their blood sugar drops too low, they may have “brain fog” and are not able to function well to perform many everyday tasks. They may repurchase more supplies because they can’t find them or forgot that they had them. I have also found medications and used syringes on the kitchen counter and floor. This of course is not only unsanitary, but unsafe if they stepped on it or someone else does.


Here are some ideas to help your dad stay organized and on task with managing his Diabetes:

  • Work in short amounts of time with him on organization, so he does not become too drained.
  • Ask him how often he needs to check his blood sugar and remind him if he didn’t check it. Your dad might be focused on the organizing and not remember to check his blood sugar.
  • He also might need to take snack breaks in addition to checking his blood sugar.
  • Organize his kitchen so it works well for him in relation to healthy food and storage of food. Make diabetic friendly snacks easily available to him.
  • Designate a spot for diabetic supplies along with room for additional supplies.
  • Have a place for used syringes to be stored, so they can be safely disposed of.
  • Managing and organizing the “stuff” of diabetes can be a daunting task.  From paper management of the disease, ordering supplies, managing doctor’s appointments, blood sugar logs, and nutrition logs.
  • A great resource book for organizing the management of Diabetes is The Complete Diabetes Organizer-Your Guide to a Less Stressful and a More Manageable Diabetes Life by Leslie Josel, a professional organizer, and colleague of mine.


Diabetes is a chronic disease that needs to be managed for your dad to keep on task so he does not become too overwhelmed. You can help your dad understand that Diabetes encompasses a large amount of his time and energy and he needs help in the organizing and management of the disease.

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Un-stuffing Freezers and Pantries

Do you have enough food in your pantry and or freezer to feed a small town for six months to a year?  Are you a pantry or freezer over stuffer or do you know someone who is?  If a disaster ever happens do you know the home to go to with the overflowing pantry so there is enough food for everyone?  This article may be just for you!  Yes, it is a good idea to have some extra food in your home for emergencies, but enough to open your own corner grocery store? You might want to reconsider your shopping habits.

There are many kitchen pantries and freezers that are overflowing with unused or unneeded food. You may be guilty of having just a few extra cans of tomato sauce stored in the basement or garage because you don’t enough room in your kitchen.  I think most of you know someone with a few too many cans of peaches, spaghetti sauce, or boxes of cereal.  You justify your extra purchases because after all, you might need it someday. You are prepared for an emergency. You have also prepared your neighbors, friends, and relatives without them having to do any of the work!


Let’s think about if you need to do a little readjustment in your shopping habits. How many of you while out grocery shopping found a great deal on canned vegetables or frozen bread dough and stock up? After all what a deal!  You go home and stuff your freezer or kitchen pantry with your frugal find.  You think, “Wow, did I find a bargain!” A year or two or three later, you go to the freezer or pantry to retrieve something and that 48 ounce size of pizza sauce is still sitting on the shelf. You think, “Boy I should really use that or I wonder where that came from, did I buy that?” Was it really bargain?

Finding food items on sale and stocking up on them is a great idea, however if you don’t use them or have space for them, why buy them?  So many people fall into this trap of trying to save money, stock up, and have every possible food item on hand.  It can work only if you use what you buy. Our lives change and so should our shopping habits.

Food spoils after spending some time on the shelves of the pantry and in the freezer. The freezer foods stay fresh for only so long. Next time you clean out your freezer and have to throw out your bargains-think about it in terms of dollars. For example, you paid $5 for that frozen bread dough and now you need to throw it away because it is freezer burnt.  You are not just throwing the frozen bread dough in the garbage; you are throwing away $5 and wasting food. As simple as it sounds, it might help you realize you are overbuying. When you find that can of tomato soup that has an expiration date of 02/05/89, do you really want to pop open the top and heat it up? Think about it. You might want to pass on the soup.

If you really found some great bargains and cannot pass them up-great stock up. Keep some for yourself that you will use, and pass the rest onto your local food pantry. You are helping out someone who could use some extra help. You may want to consider going through your food monthly and giving food to the food pantry on a regular basis.

Life goes through so many changes and cycles. It is important to adjust and change with life as we change.  Next time you are in the grocery store, think before you buy and change your shopping habits as your lifestyle changes.

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Recycling Successfully by Staying Organized

Many of our clients love to recycle. Our senior clients, especially those who have lived through the Depression, are experts at reusing and repurposing items. Whether the motivation to recycle or reuse comes from a desire to protect the environment or simply feelings about wastefulness, it’s a great and very important intention.  Sometimes though, recyclables can overwhelm a home and do more harm than good. The key to recycling successfully is staying organized and making the time to get recyclables where they need to be.


Here are some tips:

  • Know what your municipality can recycle: If you have a recycling pick up service in your area, it is important to know exactly what you are allowed to put in your recycling bin. There are some of us who have become so overzealous about recycling that we try to put it in items that cannot be recycled in our area (I.e.: Christmas lights) and actually end up contaminating the recycling stream. Just because something might have a recycling symbol on it does not mean that it can necessarily be recycled in your area.
  • Set up collection areas for main stream recyclables: Many of us already do this in our homes. The kitchen is always a great place to have a recycling bin, as is an office or anywhere you might collect paper. If you don’t have recycling pick up in your area or choose to take your everyday recyclables to a drop off point where items must be separated, I recommend investing in a system of bins to store and sort your recyclables. I find that stackable bins work well – one for each category of recyclables – to store and sort your items. Once they are full, or consistently one day a week, take them to your recycling drop off and empty them.
  • Make space for specialty recycling items: I recommend setting up containers to collect specialty recyclables like Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, ink cartridges, batteries, plastic bags and electronic waste. I have small containers set up in my laundry room where I collect these items.
  • Schedule time to take your recycling where it needs to be: If your recycling is picked up from your curb regularly, be sure to include time in your schedule to put it out. For items that need to be dropped off or specialty items, consider scheduling time weekly or, biweekly, or one Saturday a month to empty those recycling points.  Make a date with yourself and keep it!


Setting up collection containers is a great strategy for any items that may be on their way out of your life. Along with my specialty recycling containers, I keep a box for donations in my laundry room. That way, as I come across clothing or other items that I no longer want, I put them in the box and empty it one Saturday a month. I also have an area set up for expired medications and hazardous waste which I take to special collections once a year. By making space in your home for the recyclables that are leaving your life and making the time to let them go, you’ll do your part in making the world a better place.

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Is Mom a Shopaholic?

Excessive clutter and hoarding are very difficult situations to deal with for seniors and their family members.  Issues with over shopping or compulsive shopping can attribute to the accumulation of way too much stuff. Many seniors who hoard have problems with over shopping or possibly a shopping addiction. Their home may be filled with multiplies of the same item. Many times there are boxes of brand new items that have been unopened and have been there for years. Why would someone purchase a brand new item and not open it up and use it?


Compulsive shopping is defined as ” inappropriate, excessive, and out of control,” says Donald Black, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine. (Source-  According Dr. April Benson who specializes in the treatment of compulsive shopping …”Many people shop for many reasons: loneliness, a high they get from the purchase, avoidance, keeping up with the Jones, and a great feeling they get from shopping.” I have heard all these reasons why many of my clients over shop.

The purchases that people acquire can come in from shopping at the mall, discount stores, big box stores, or the Dollar store. For many seniors shopping online or shopping by catalog is very easy to do. HSN (Home Shopping Network) and other television shopping shows appeal to many people especially seniors. It seems to be an easy fix for the senior for loneliness and all the other reasons mentioned above. For many it seems like the host is talking to them directly and letting them know how much they need this product. Customers are allowed to call in and tell how the host how much they love the product. It can feel like a friendship to them.

Look for some of these signs that your senior relative may have a shopping addiction or a shopping habit that has gotten out of hand:

  • The UPS driver visits their home often-every day or every other day
  • There are empty boxes from known stores that have come via UPS or through the mail
  • Unopened boxes delivered from UPS or through the mail that have been there more than a week
  • Their favorite TV channels including shopping channels
  • Websites tagged as favorites that include shopping websites
  • Your loved one hides their purchases from you


If you think your senior loved one may have a shopping problem or addiction what can you do?

  • Talk to them and ask them to be honest about how much they are spending
  • Suggest they talk to a therapist as to why they are shopping so much
  • You also may be able to re-sell new products that they ordered and didn’t use through auction sites such as eBay and this may help them get some money back on their purchases so they can start to feel a little better about their situation
  • A great book and website for help with shopping issues is To Buy OR Not To Buy-Why We Overshop And How To Stop It by April Lane Benson, PhD.  Her website includes an online support group for those who have shopping issues. Check out her website:

Shopping addictions or problems with shopping can create financial havoc for the senior and their family. If you suspect your senior loved one may have a problem with shopping, remember help is available.

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The Organized Move Guide for Seniors

Have you decided to move from your large 4 bedroom, 2 story home and move to a smaller home?  Or are you an adult child who needs to help your parents downsize and move from their home?

Downsizing and moving to a new home, whether across town or across the country or to a retirement community can be very stressful.  If you have been in your home for several decades making this transition can be very difficult for many seniors and their families. Change can be very overwhelming, stressful, and chaotic.  Moving ranks as one of the top stressors of life.  Downsizing and relocating is difficult, but with a plan it can be achieved and be a little less stressful with some planning and organization.

Tips for an Organized Move:

Downsize—It can take some time to sort through and make decisions on what makes the move to the your new home.  This is definitely the time to let go of items no longer used Not only will you feel better by lighting your load, you will also save time and money on moving costs.

Remember the space you are moving into—Think about what you will really need.  If you are moving to a retirement community, you probably will not need a lawnmower because most retirement communities have maintenance free living.  Really look at the things in your life and ask yourself if you really need them for your new surroundings.

Utilize a Floor Plan—Will your furniture fit into the rooms of your new home or should you consider replacing furniture?  Sometimes it pays to replace furniture and appliances, rather than moving them.  It depends on their age, how far away you are moving, and the cost to move it.  It may be worth replacing the old couch instead of moving it.  Use your tape measure to find out what items will really fit in your new surroundings.  Remember: measure twice, move it once!

Work with the moving company—Ask plenty of questions about their policies regarding moving and packing. Remember they have moved people before, so utilize their knowledge by finding out the information you need.  Perhaps you may think that packing yourself will save you money, but remember you will then be personally responsible for purchasing both boxes and packing materials, not to mention your time.  If professional movers pack, yes it costs more money, but remember they have years of experience in the moving and packing world.

Forward your mail—Remember to get change of address cards from your post office or change your address online.  Places that need notified of your relocation include utility companies, newspapers, magazines, banks, investment companies, doctors, and any place else from which you receive mail from.  Of course, don’t forget to tell friends and relatives!

The Day of the Move—Let the movers do the job you hired them to do.  Sure you want to be there to watch and help, but they do know what they are doing.  Make sure you have a box labeled “open me first.”  This box contains things you will need right away at your new home.  These can include coffee pot, coffee, cups, toilet paper (do you really want to have to search for this?).

Moving In—Remember to share the floor plan with the movers, so they know what furniture goes in which room and specifically where.  The boxes will already be labeled by the movers so you will need to direct them into the right room. After the movers leave, start unloading large boxes and get them out to the curb or garage.  Before you know it, boxes will be unpacked and things put away.  It may take a few days to fully unpack and organize your belongings in your new home, depending upon the amount of hands you have, but it will happen with patience and hard work.

Downsizing and relocating can be a difficult experience for many seniors, but with a good plan and a little organization it can become a little less stressful and achieved.


This article, written by Vickie Dellaquila, was featured in The Senior Citizen’s Guide to Pittsburgh. Learn more at .

Annette’s Story

Annette lived in her 5 bedroom, 2 story home for 42 years before she made the decision to move to a smaller place. Her husband Tom had past away 2 years ago and her only child Mary lived on the other side of the country. It was time to let go and move on. She was tired of the maintenance in the home, such shoveling the driveway, and paying high property taxes. The thought of downsizing from her large home and going to an apartment, paralyzed Annette. Organization Rules® came to the rescue. Working with Organization Rules®, she customized a timeline and plan which met her specific needs. She loves her new apartment.

“I could never have done my move from a house to an apartment without the help of Vickie. She is not only very organized, but one of the most professional people I have ever worked with. She helps to keep you calm when things get hectic. Vickie is an expert at finding places to items that you would want to get rid of and helping in getting your personal life together. She certainly meets the supreme standard of excellence.” –Annette

This is just one example of how a Senior Move Manager/Professional Organizer can help:

  • If you are an adult child who does not know where to start, live out of town, just busy with your own life (raising children and your career) let Organization Rules® help you with your parent or parents.
  • If you are a senior and need to downsize, let us assist you with your move to a new home.
  • We can help you start and finish the process of letting go and moving on.


When Your Loved One is Reluctant About Downsizing

Perhaps you have a loved one like Albert. Albert’s son is renovating part of his home so that Albert can move in and be close to his grandchildren. Albert is downsizing from a good-sized 1-bedroom apartment that is quite full of books, papers, magazines, newspapers, and mementos from Albert’s career and marriage. I’ve had many clients like Albert. He’s incredibly intelligent, has been a lifelong learner, and still has many passions and interests.

Part of my job with Albert is helping him to let go of some of his things and embrace the reality of his new lifestyle. Many times, when I work with clients like Albert, their family members want to know how long it will take to organize and downsize their things. The truth is that it is entirely dependent on the person and their decision-making ability. Some clients I’ve had are quick decision-makers and are ready to embrace change.

Some are more like Albert, who is having a more difficult time with this transition and is reluctant to let go of his beloved books and information. In either case, downsizing can be a tedious process that requires patience from all parties involved.

If your loved one is reluctant to downsize like Albert, here are some organizing strategies that might help:

•    Give it time: Some people need to take more than one pass through their items before they are ready to let go.  If your loved one is having difficulty deciding about an item, it’s okay to set it aside and let it “marinate” for awhile.

•    Tell stories: I find it sometimes helps my clients to spend a few minutes telling me about an item before they make a decision.  Simply sharing their story with me is sometimes enough to help them say goodbye.

•    Take photographs: Having a photograph of an item, particularly a piece of memorabilia, is sometimes a good substitute (and less space consuming!) for the item itself.

•    Sort into categories: Giving a person one category of items (I.e.: WWII books) to look through at once will help them stay focused and make better-informed decisions about what they’re keeping.

•    Set boundaries: Especially when it comes to paper, working with the person to establish boundaries around what stays and what goes can help speed the process along.  For instance, simply establishing that any expired coupons or utility bills older than a year can go will help them make quicker decisions and also allow you to help sort and discard.

•    Containerize: Setting a container limit can sometimes help people prioritize.  For instance, determining they will have space for 2 bookcases might help them limit their book choices.

•    Work in small increments of time: Decision-making can be exhausting, especially for seniors.  If time allows, looking through items for a just few hours a day is ideal.

It also may be helpful to bring in outside help, like a Professional Organizer.  Downsizing is an emotional process for everyone!  Sometimes having an outside party involved will help mediate tension and reduce frustration.  You can find a professional organizer near you by searching the National Association of Professional Organizers’ directory.

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