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Decluttering for Dementia

Ellen Goodwin, Artifcts
June 28, 2023

Reading time: 7 minutes  

If you’ve ever needed a better reason to stick to or create a resolution to declutter your home, this one might do it: It’s good for your brain. And we’ve seen it firsthand.  

In today’s piece for ARTIcles by Artifcts, we talk openly about facing a loved one’s dementia diagnosis, and how, maybe to your surprise, decluttering can help. We are grateful to include specialist insights throughout from Cathy Rice, certified senior move manager and life-long educator.  

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Dementia is heartbreaking, terrifying, and, so far, irreversible. Even if a loved one is in many ways themself, we know the disease is slowly changing them and shortening their life. I know. I have a loved one who is among the more than 50 million people worldwide with dementia now and already lost a loved one to dementia as well.  

Some of us react to this sort of diagnosis with a desire to do something, anything, to help, to make our loved one’s life in any way better, to take the tiniest measure of control over the disease. We dive into a multi-prong tactical to-do list that we must continuously update as together we progress from diagnosis, to sharing that diagnosis with others, to learning how to manage the disease and being as prepared as possible across legal, medical, financial, and insurance fronts.  

As I sought out my own ways to help, I expected I’d find information about diet, exercise, and social activities, both for my loved one with dementia and their primary, day-to-day care provider. And I did. What I was surprised to find recently while browsing HFC, Shining a Light on Alzheimer's: 5 Brain Health Habits was the hot mainstream topic of decluttering.  

Benefits of Decluttering for Those With Dementia 

You know decluttering well from TV shows like The Joy of Swedish Death Cleaning and The Home Edit, books including Marie Kondo’s famous The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and bins and more from shops like The Container Store. Decluttering to support someone with dementia in some ways is like decluttering for people with normal brain health. Too much stuff can literally be dangerous if we cannot safely navigate our homes. Some of us are also more sensitive to feeling drained by too much stuff lying about around us.  

Of course, when you have dementia, decluttering has other benefits, too. 

      • Reduce stress. Stress reduction is imperative when you have mild cognitive impairment or dementia. And decluttering can mean clearing away some of the to-dos that come to mind when people see stuff to tidy, dust, or keep safe. Have you experienced a loved one with dementia hiding things to keep the item safe? I am sure you have because it's an incredibly common behavior. 
      • Improve sleep. Quality sleep is critical for the brain’s nightly reset. Busy surroundings can lead to busy brains and may even sow confusion in bedtime routines.  
      • Safety, safety, safety. We know, decluttering is about aging well in place for all of us as we age, but it’s especially true for people with health conditions, like dementia, that can make them more vulnerable to confusing and distracting surroundings.
      • Avoiding anything close to hoarding. Keep in mind, hoarding disorder is its own condition, but managing even the clutter of daily life is more difficult when you have dementia because of increased challenges in making decisions.  
      • Purpose. We know finding purpose at any age is important. Here we are talking about giving the decluttering process a purpose to help your loved one part with more items than they might otherwise be willing to do. Purpose might be supporting a local shelter, resupplying charitable builders with tools, or reconnecting with loved ones when you pass down items. You get the idea. 

Decluttering for Dementia

We’ve prepared these tips from our own practical experience helping our loved ones with dementia as we try to help make sense of it all, including one’s surroundings.* In some cases our loved ones were also decluttering to downsize and move. In others, it was more of a practical decluttering, for safety and mental health.  

* We are not medical professionals. If you are considering radical changes to your loved one’s home enviornment, you should consult first with a specialist licensed in dementia care.

LIGHTS ...

Before you start your declutter, check the lighting throughout the home. Living like a cave troll generally does no one very good. But dementia is not only about memory. If you can see well what’s around you, it’s easier to make sense of your surroundings (and of course it’s safer). Make it easy to see the light switches, too. Understanding and interpreting surroundings, like a white switch on a white wall, can become an impediment for someone with dementia. 

Cathy’s Insight: Adding felt pads to any lighting fixture to differentiate the feel of the switch from the fixture itself or a simple icon as a visual cue helps to support the brain's understanding of the item with its function.

… CAMERA, ACTION!

Start from the ground, and work your way up.

What’s on the floor? Stacks of stuff? Wandering power cords? Rugs that slip and shift? Take a fresh look. Then move your eye upward to the surfaces of counters and entry tables. If someone needed to quickly grab onto a surface to prevent a fall, would they have a secure place to grab?  Is there a clear and secured place for common objects, like house keys?

Cathy’s Insight: People with dementia often find comfort in knowing that their stuff is close-at-hand. Create a "command center" within easy reach of their favorite chair for essentials (eyeglasses, books, pencils, fidget items, etc.).  

And about those rugs … if you must keep them, use carpet tape to secure edges to the floor. The same applies to small storage trays, which you can secure with surface-safe tape or museum putty.

Favor simple home furnishings.

As we know stress takes its own toll on the brain; let’s try to minimize the stress home décor can accidentally create. One Arti Member told us, “My loved one was disturbed by a decorative lumbar pillow that had a shaggy fur cover. It looked like a small dog.” Sometimes textures and patterns can be difficult for people with dementia to interpret. Likewise distinguishing whether an object is inanimate. This is why some people with advancing dementia find comfort with life-like pets such as those from Joy For All.

Take it down a notch.

This is about audio clutter. Too much and/or competing noises can be incredibly distracting for anyone, particularly someone with dementia. Think about simultaneous noise from the television, washing machine, and someone on a phone call, for example.

Cathy’s Insight: Taking this point a step further, family, friends, and caregivers should practice standing in front of, and at eye level if appropriate, people with dementia before speaking with them. Get their attention by saying their name and then speak simply and succinctly. 

Set it aside, together. Do not remove it. 

Don’t remove it immediately, if you do not have to, that is. Rushes to declutter in support of someone with memory loss could lead to irreversible loss of cherished mementos that also can serve as visual cues for familiarity and comfort. Is there an alternative way to display the items that the person with dementia says they care most about? Maybe try grouping like items on a shelf or table where they will see them often. For photos, you might even consider a digital photo frame, such as those from Nixplay, Aura, or any of the many other options.  

For items that do not make the cut, if space permits, store them in an appropriate box, and set them aside so you can pull them back out later if needed or as part of a monthly or maybe seasonal rotation. We recommend you Artifct them before they go into the box and tag them to easily recall what you've stored. This approach does not apply to duplicates, meaningless bits and bops, or trash. Consult with your loved one always as well as your own good judgement.

Clarity of Purpose for the Win

Our final decluttering tip is about visual chaos. If you open a drawer and see a jumble of socks, pants, and t-shirts, you could get distracted or confused. If a cabinet has five options for plates, and 10 options for cups, which should you choose? Not only should you streamline what’s inside for simpler decision making but consider visually labeling doors to indicate what’s inside. This gadget could help you get started with easy printing of images from your phone.

Cathy’s Insight: As the disease of dementia progresses, consider only placing the clothes needed for that day in the drawer or use a shelf in a bedroom/bathroom as the place for their daily wardrobe.  

Do you have decluttering tips for dementia? We’d love to hear them! You can contact Editor@Artifcts.com.

Happy Artifcting!

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ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

If you are a caregiver or supporting someone who is, you may find it helpful to browse and share these related resources.

Alzheimer's Society, UK: 10 Ways to Make Your Home Dementia Friendly 

US National Institute of Health: Study of Home Modifications for People with Dementia 

Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute: Communication Strategies in Dementia Care  

Mayo Clinic: Clearing Clutter Benefits Your Health and Well-Being

Psychology Today: The Many Mental Benefits of Decluttering 

AARP Michigan: Dementia Resource Guide for Families

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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10 Ways Genealogists are Using Artifcts That May Help You, Too

Reading time: 4 minutes 

No one knows how to use any product better than the power users among us. One of our power user groups at Artifcts is genealogists.

We've found genealogists as a whole to be tech savvy, detail oriented, creative, outside the box thinkers, and progressive leaning in the evolution of their methods. Curious what draws them to Artifcts and how they use it, surprising even the people who built Artifcts? Let’s go! 

10 Things Genealogists Have Taught Us About Artifcts 

If you are not a genealogist, you may think, “Don’t genealogists stick to family trees and research archives?” To some degree that was our expectation as we began building Artifcts. But the love of the details and the joy of bringing others in on their discoveries has meant Artifcts is solving a problem that genealogists couldn't quite put their collective fingers on until we came along. We suspect their tricks of the trade at Artifcts will help all of us non-genealogists in our quests, too! 

1. Tags are clearly limitless.

Folders are like corsets. Free yourself with tags! Create as many custom tags as you like on each of your Artifcts to later click on or search by (simply start your search term with #) by family member, location, document type and more.   

Fun fact: Genealogists were the first Arti Members we know of to add more than 10 tags to a single Artifct. 

2. The Artifcts timeline is a beautifully simple design and powerful resource.

Unlike traditional genealogy timelines, your Artifcts timeline is not weighed down by black and white details and restrictions on managing. With a click and drag you can reorder or choose to add more detail to your Artifcts. Creating a timeline for each family member? You can do that automatically by simply tagging each Artifct with the applicable family member and then sorting your timeline view by that tag, e.g. #DanielD or more specifically #DanielDb1938.  

BONUS! You can add public or private “time period notes” to your timeline to keep track of gaps you want to address or validate in your research and then Artifct. 

3. The stories and facts you need are available in fewer clicks

You can inter-link individual Artifcts you create using the familiar @ feature you likely know from social media, email, or even leaving comments in a Word document. Just build the people and Artifcts into your Artifcted "story” with by typing @ and making your selection. Once saved, you and others who can access the Artifct will be able to instantly segway to a related person or Artifct. No one you share your Artifct with will have to guess how all the dots connect. You will connect them as you create your Artifcts!  

Only because a genealogist asked did we ever try to write a “life story” in an Artifct. It’s easy to do when you have all your other Artifcts to help tell the story! Check it out in this ARTIcles story >

 
 
Here’s another sweet and silly example using the @ feature that we love from a summer vacation. Click the image to view the Artifct.

 

4. Brand/Artist is a perfect “free form” field.

A free form field, oh boy! Try using the Brand/Artist field to record Grandpa’s name and his link in the family tree for easy reference by anyone who you give access to view your Artifct. But remember, depending on where you build your family tree, you may need to grant them access there, too.

BONUS! Next time you fill in this field, you can select Grandpa again from the dropdown menu without having to retrieve the link. 

5. Location doesn’t have to be a physical place.

You can insert a link to the folder, share drive, or part of a family tree in whatever software you use to look for “more information” related to an Artifct if you need to dive deeper or reevaluate in the future. Remember, even if you privately share an Artifct with someone, no one else can see this field. If you are instead interested in including a video snippet in your private Artifct but want family you share it with to have access to the full hour long video, you could link to it from the Artifct "Description."

6. Artifcts sharing lists and circles bypass the usual pain of sharing.

Never again will you have to text, email, or airdrop a photo or audio or video snippet to a family member. With a free Artifcts account, anyone you specifically grant “view” access will have the option automatically to download any of the great photos, videos, and more you include in the Artifct in their original formats. No tiny, pixelated photos or videos (unless of course that's what you started with).

7. “Documentation” is for more than receipts and appraisals.

Documentation in each Artifct you create accommodates letter collections, chapters of family books, PDF scans of family recipe books, and more. It’s not just for receipts, appraisals, and the like. And thanks to feedback from genealogists, when you click and share an Artifct, you can choose if you’d like to also share the attached documents. By default, no documentation is ever shared.

8. Colors matter, so use them!

The introduction of options to change your font color and highlight your text in various shades as you write the description/story for an Artifct is also thanks to genealogists. Why? Because in the world of genealogy, colors have very specific meanings and help keep branches of the family tree straight. Others may use them for fun, but genealogists reminded us of the value of color. 

9. Ditto: Image captions matter.

While we introduced the option to add captions to photos thinking it would tie each more easily to the stories and people written about in the Artifct, genealogists instead started using them to reinforce information in the photos in a citation format. “Bravo,” we say.

Artifcted diploma by @tmacentee

 
 
We love the detail genealogist @tmacentee uses to record important events and accomplishments. Click the image to view the Artifct.

10. Stories can last for generations with Artifcts.

Start with the mundane black and white details, add in the family lore and research-in-progress as the fuel, and you can capture the interest of your most stubborn friends and family. Okay, maybe we knew this going into the creation of Artifcts, but if research-oriented genealogists are willing to adapt their tried-and-true methods to pick up Artifcting to ensure the STORIES of the heirlooms, trees, photos and more live on, then surely the rest of us mere mortals should do the same.  

It can be a bridge too far for many people to enter the world of sophisticated and complex genealogy software. Artifcts is a powerful tool, with a friendly, warm, and easy to use experience layered on top to welcome all. 

How do you use Artifcts? We’d love to hear all of your tips, hacks, and best practices. Please join us on Instagram or Facebook or write to use at Editor@Artifcts.com.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Artifcts Is Our Love Language

Reading time: 4 minutes 

In 1992, Baptist Minister Gary Chapman published the non-fiction book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. (Side note, if anyone out there has a copy, go Artifct That!) 

The book outlines five ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which he termed, “love languages.” In short, Chapman’s five love languages were words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.  

In our household, although acts of service and quality time are always encouraged, Artifcts has become our go-to love language. It transcends the generations, spans the distances, and lets us all know we are loved.  

Saying I Love You Artifcts Style 

My entire family knows I say I love you with Artifcts. There are freshly baked late-night chocolate chip cookies and banana breads when coming home from school, and of course, the recipes (and love notes) that follow via Artifcts. 

Gifts are given along with the Artifcts (and the explanations for why THIS gift) as are adventures. One of my favorite Artifcts surprises to date has been gifting our then 19-year-old a trip to Iceland, itinerary revealed and documented via Artifcts.  

I am lucky and thankful that the Artifcts go both ways in our household. My husband is especially sweet, Artifcting the moments, mementos, and memories (and cards!) that say, “I love you.” I was brought to tears when he Artifcted a piece of art he bought me AND included an audio recording of him explaining why he picked THAT piece and what it meant to him. Call me strictly sentimental, but I love having his voice safely paired with the Artifct. 

Saying I Love You Across Generations 

My mother-in-law and my husband have an especially meaningful love language in Artifcts. She’s been Artifcting since we launched and now has several hundred Artifcts and counting. She loves being able to share her stories and memories with her children and grandchildren, and my husband loves learning bits and pieces about his mom that he never knew before. (The grandchildren do too!) 

For instance, little did we know that @Grandmom counts an eight-foot python skin among her most prized possessions until she shared the Artifct with us! 

 

 
Who knew? We didn't until Grandmom Artifcted it!

My father has also recently gotten into the Artifcting mode, creating and privately sharing Artifcts with our family, documenting his life from 4H to retirement. I learned things about my father I never knew, and that is the greatest gift of all.  

As for us, and our generation? My husband and I Artifct FOR our children since we know they may not always remember the small moments and otherwise important details. My husband Artifcted the older kids’ swim trophies as we downsized, and I routinely Artifct special moments for my daughter, from learning to ride a bike to skiing her first black diamond. Sure, she’ll have the photos, thousands of them, but photos can’t talk and one day she’ll want to know the stories behind those photos.  

 

First time skiing a black diamond.Important firsts, remembered always. Made with love on Artifcts. 

Saying I Love You Across Distances 

One of the great things about Artifcts is that you don’t have to physically be there to send and share Artifcts. Part of my family lives in Denmark, and we capture and share the small moments, favorite recipes, and special memories via Artifcts.  

I love waking up to a new Artifct from my Danish family. We’ve even utilized Artifcts to subvert the insanely slow snail mail process. This year for my birthday, my Danish family Artifcted my birthday card, complete with photos, a funny story, and videos! It was the best and greenest birthday greeting yet.  

We also create Artifcts Circles when we travel together, or celebrate holidays together, sharing Artifcts, stories, and memories for all to see. It helps make the distances between seem not so large and gives us all something to look back on and cherish until our next time together.  

Creating A Sixth Love Language? 

We’ve come to think of Artifcts as our sixth love language, although I suppose it’s more of an amalgamation of several of Chapman’s original love languages. In our house, Artifcts always include positive words of affirmation. Creating the Artifcts requires quality time and is without a doubt a service to the next (and current!) generation, in addition to being one of the best gifts ever. 

We’re biased for sure, but we can’t think of a better way to say I love you than Artifcts!  

Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane, No Car Required 

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Did you know that over the past 2.5 years, our co-founders and guest editors have authored 218 ARTIcles by Artifcts? That’s a lot of writing AND a lot of information!  

With the genealogy conference RootsTech fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to resurface some of our most popular family history pieces to get us all thinking about how DO we preserve our family histories and tell our stories. We suspect that just like the Artifcts we each create, no two answers will be exactly the same.  

Winning By A Landslide 

First up, and winning by a landslide by number of views and clicks in recent weeks, is What Should You Do With Old Scrapbooks. Scrapbooking is more than a hobby. It’s a time-consuming, big-hearted passion and nearly infinite outlet for creativity. These works of art visualize people’s stories. 

The thing is scrapbooks also take up space and collect dust. They feature people no longer in our lives. They can raise more questions than answers with the items they feature. And then, the physical reality – they fall apart. Read on for more on scrapbooking dilemmas and possible solutions. 

A fun and not-too distant second is Could You And Should You Part With a Family Photo, authored by guest editor and genealogist legend, Thomas MacEntee. In this piece, Thomas explores drastic methods used to ensure future access to precious family photos. You might just discover you have company in your own approach to old family photos! 

How To’s and Family Stories Near the Top 

It seems our members have also really enjoyed digging in and learning HOW to Artifct to preserve all their family stories, memories, and histories tied to the items they keep and pass down for the next generation. Our How to Artifct Family History and Heirlooms was our most popular “How-To” series, and our ARTIcles story titled, I’m The Family Keeper, What Do I Do With It All was wildly popular with folks looking for answers to the perpetual question of “What do I do with all my ‘stuff’!” 

Another fan favorite has been How Two Sisters Overcame the Guilt To Lighten The Load Of Family Heirlooms, authored by guest editor Rachel Donnelly, co-founder of PALS. Rachel shares her heartful and funny story of how she and her sister successfully navigated an 1890s family home chock full of family heirlooms.  

Just Because 

And in our “just because” category our co-founders Heather and Ellen decided to get in on the fun and share their favorite family history themed ARTIcles from the past two years. For Heather, it’s A Family History in Five Artifcts, where Artifcts Community member @Grandmom accepted the challenge of documenting her family story with five Artifcts. Amazing, and daunting when you think about it.  

As for Ellen, her favorite is Did You Know Great Grandpa Was an Inventor? When we don’t pause to ask the questions and listen to the answers, so many great tales—fish tales and those more ... verifiable—are lost to time. 

We hope you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane as much as we did when we researched it! And, if you plan on being in Salt Lake City for RootsTech 2024, please stop by Booth #1517 to say hello to our co-founders and team. We love meeting our Artifcts members in real life! 

© 2024 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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