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Section 16
Making Time for Alzheimer's & Low-Functioning...
with the Seven-Step Activity De-clutter Plan

Table of Contents

The Seven-step Deep Clutter De-clutter Plan
Deep clutter is serious clutter! I’m not talking about the occasional cup of dirty paint brushes left in the Activity Room sink for a day.  I am talking about the water cup filled with dirty paint brushes from two months—or how about from two years-ago in the back of your Activity cabinet.  You know, the one with the doors that hide everything?  Or, it’s scads of activity books and articles about new Activity projects that have been sitting around, untried, for seven months.

But don’t feel guilty. No matter how old your clutter is… your clutter is simply a collection of individual things that can be put away, given away, or thrown away.  Remember the Three-Question “To Keep or not to Keep” Test from the preceding Section?

Dealing with deep clutter requires two things: determination and a solid de-clutter plan. Hopefully, if clutter is a problem for you, like it is for most activity departments, you’re already determined.  So here’s the plan.

#1.   Set time bites. You don’t need to take a deep breath and charge into the mess in the corner of your Activity Room in one fell swoop. Setting unrealistic goals can be paralyzing. I know they are for me.  Here's a trick you may already be aware of.  Do not plan to work more than half an hour a couple days a week plowing through a pile. You probably are more likely to get the job done if you set regular “time bites”—every day if you can, but at least once or twice a week—and stick to them.

Remember to write these de-clutter work-sessions into your calendar.

Set time bites.  When will you schedule your first 30 minute Activity Room de-cluttering session?


#2.   Prepare. How?  Get two boxes. Mark one “Giveaway” and the other “Goes elsewhere.” Get a box of big plastic garbage bags for things you are going to toss.

Prepare.  Set a time for gathering boxes and bags for sorting.


#3.   Get started. Many Activity Director’s may cry, “I don’t know where to begin!”

Start with something small and not intimidating—
per­haps a small drawer next to the sink in your Activity Room.

If it all seems intimidating, approach de-cluttering with a light hearted attitude.  Stand in the middle of your Activity Room, close your eyes, turn around once, and point to a spot to start your first 30 minute de-clutter session.

Get started.   What small area will you start with?  One drawer?  One shelf?  One corner of your desk?


#4.   Taking Action:   You have committed yourself to working for half an hour.  Right?  Hopefully?!  But set your timer for twenty minutes, not thirty, to allow yourself ten minutes for cleanup and pushing your sorting piles to the side. You have your timer set.  Now start de-cluttering!  Go to your first deep-clutter location (selected in Step 3), pick up the first item closest to your hand, and follow these easy instructions.
•   Decide whether to keep it, toss it, or give it away.  
             a. A “keep” goes in the “Goes elsewhere” box,
             b. a “toss” goes in the garbage bag, and
             c. something with use left in it (that you no longer care about)goes in the “Giveaway” carton.
•   Keep going!!! Pick up the next-closest item to your hand.  Yes, you can do this! Now, do the same.  Keep repeating this simple process… pick up and sort… pickup and sort… You only have to do this for 20 minutes, remember?
•   Make notes on your “To-Do List”.  Some items will call for action, for example, hanging a picture or finding the cord for the tape or CD  player.  Write these tasks that call for future action into your To-Do List and put these items in a visible corner of your activity room.  Remember out of sight out of mind.

Taking Action:   Point and start… just do it!  Commit yourself!  Below write a benefit to de-cluttering this area.


#5.Wrap-up. When the timer goes off, that’s your signal that you have ten minutes left. This is the time to distribute items from your “Goes elsewhere” box to where they really belong: paint brushes in with the other paint supplies, paper clips belong in your desk drawer, books in the bookcase, etc. Very important: Do not get scattered and try to organize your Activity closet or the bookcase at this time.  That’s another project for another day. Just return the items to their appropriate places as best you can or else you will end up with even more clutter and an even less professional looking activity area then you started with.

Wrap-up   After 20 minutes of sorting, how will you organize the area until your next de-cluttering session?


#6 Start again tomorrow. Start tomorrow, if possible, where you left off and keep moving, first perhaps around the     periphery of your Activity Room, and then in toward the center.  The system  you select does not matter just as
    long as you start again for a 20 minutes de-cluttering session tomorrow, if possible

Start again tomorrow.   When is your next de-cluttering session?


#7.    Take care of loose ends weekly. Once a week, give away your giveaways, and take care of those to-do items: hang     that picture, find the cord for the tape or CD player, etc.

Take care of loose ends weekly.  When will I give away my giveaways and take care of those to-do items?


Two hints to make de-cluttering less stressful
1. Get a clutter buddy. If you have trouble making decisions about what to keep and what to toss, ask a staff member to stand by and be your conscience.  Do you know Activity Directors from other facilities who are chronic clutterers?  Form a support group of like-minded friends to support you and share progress.

2.  Record your progress. Some Activity Directors find that recording what they have accomplished that day—“Cleared out  right drawer next to sink”—in a notebook spurs them on and gives them a real sense of achievement. 

Culture Change and Respect:  Think de-cluttering is silly?  Not at all.  You want respect form other departments?  Visuals send a loud and clear message to other staff regarding your level of professionalism.  Sure a certain amount of clutter is a natural part of every activity room, but after reading this Section take an honest second look at your Activity Room.  If you are planning to schedule a Culture Change department head meeting or CNA Inservice, what message is your Activity Room sending to other staff and your volunteers? 

Forward to Section 17
Back to Section 15

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