I never planned to have so much stuff, but I do. When I lived on my own, I asked my caregivers to see what health and beauty aids I needed before I went to the store. They seldom did, so I bought an extra shampoo, conditioner, or both, to assure I did not run out. This practice followed me to my first nursing home.
Again, I asked aides for help. They always said they would check my stock, but they seldom had time. Though I had little to start with and did not shop often, I had no way to quickly get something if I ran out. That is why I always bought more.
When I moved here six years ago, to a semiprivate room, I had minimal space. When I needed a secure cabinet to lock, a friend brought mine from storage. However, the aides seldom have time to check it.
I would like to reorganize but cannot do it often. Several weeks ago, an extra aide cleaned off two cabinet shelves. She found hair care items that were gifted to me three years ago.
Comedian George Carlin used to do the "There's a place for my stuff" routine. He said we do not want anyone to mess with our stuff, adding "It is, after all, 'just stuff.'"
In an endeavor to minimize my reserves, my sister goes through my cabinet before shopping so we both see what I have. While shopping, I envision where my purchases will fit in my room. That helps me buy less. But, I am not saying minimizing is easy. When I find it difficult, I remember my mother's house was always neat and tidy. There was no clutter.
I am also going to start a list of what I purchased from my receipts. I used to do this but at some point stopped. It seems to be a necessary and helpful exercise. I can always check those lists to see the last time I bought an item. That way, if the aides cannot find it in my cupboard, I have proof that it should be there.
Perhaps in the future, nursing homes could help us residents to clean out our belongings. I am sure other residents also have too much stuff. Maybe a scheduled cleanup day with activity staff assistance would help motivate residents to sort through their things. Then, possibly all residents could be rewarded with a special meal or an outing outside the facility. The items could be added to the facility clothing stash in the basement for resident needs. Or, we could donate them to a charity or possibly plan a rummage sale for later.
Most residents give up their things to come here. Many do not bring large things—just their clothing and what can be packed with them. We residents like to have our own things nearby because they make us feel comfortable. But, we have to be cautious or our things will get out of hand.
Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is an incomplete quadriplegic and uses a power wheelchair to get around. Her computer is her “window on the world.” This blog shares her thoughts and view of life as a nursing home resident as well as ideas of how it might be improved in the future.