Book Club – Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash – Vickie Dellaquila
Author Interview – Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash
This month, Organizing Maniacs read the senior resource book Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash, which we all found to be both compassionate and helpful. We also had the opportunity to speak with Professional Organizer and author Vickie Dellaquila, CPO-CD® about her book and how she hopes it will help people working with seniors in transition.
OM: Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash is a great resource for those looking to help an older adult transition to a new lifestyle. What inspired you to write on this particular topic?
VD: I’ve been a professional organizer for over 11 years and worked in social services as a case worker and as a nurse in a nursing home hospital. As a case worker, I noticed that for example Mrs. Smith would fall and break her hip but her son lived far away. Suddenly there were all these decisions that had to be made so quickly about what to do for Mrs. Smith and how to get her ready for her new situation. It was hard for everyone. I thought, ‘Wow wouldn’t it be nice if someone would help before Mrs. Smith fell and hurt herself?’ When I started working with the senior population as a professional organizer, people had the same questions about what to do so I thought I’d write a book for anyone dealing with elder care. I have found a lot of people see themselves in the book or see their mom in the stories and that is helping a lot of people. All the stories in Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash are true – they are all clients I’ve had.
OM: Did you learn anything that really surprised you in the course of writing this book?
VD: I was surprised at how long people live in their homes. People here in Pittsburgh are in their homes for fifty to sixty years. I knew the Depression and WWII frugality would be a stickler for people giving out of their homes, but the length of time did surprise me. I didn’t think people would be in their homes that long. However, I do see that this is changing with the baby boomers. It will be interesting to see how the next generation differs due to their different experiences growing up in the world.
OM: How do you hope people will use this book in their lives?
VD: I know that a lot of retirement communities give it away instead of a coffee mug because it’s a useful product for the senior entering their community or for the adult child. It’s something they can use in their lives. There are a lot of professionals working with seniors who feel totally alone when that senior moves. Attorneys, for example, how can they help their senior client through a transition to a new home? They need support. Also, I think sometimes people get a copy and keep it for a while then one day they pick it up and really think about downsizing. It’s kind of a push to get the process started early.
OM: What do you feel is the most important take-away from this book for people starting our work with an older adult?
VD: They have to remember that it’s different than working with a younger crowd. You’ve got to give them time. It’s so important to remember that if the person you’re working with is eighty-five, they’ve had decades to keep that item and form an attachment to it or what it represents. It’s emotional. It’s not as simple as just giving it up and people easily dismiss this. In the older world it’s important to remember that this is their life that they are downsizing. You need to allow them to process this emotion. And this is why it’s important to get started early. So I guess I would say two things are the biggest take-aways: respect and time. Always have respect and start early. It will be such a better process for the senior downsizing.
OM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
VD: Just to reiterate the respect. It really does help seniors and their families to deal with this process because it is a really emotional process and people forget that – especially adult children. A lot of times they say “Oh come on Mom, we’ll just buy you some more stuff” to try to convince their parent to let things go. But it’s not about that. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that Mom has a thousand copies of Reader’s Digest and she needs to get rid of them. But no one deserves to get beat up about that. She’s in a different place in life where she’s closing one chapter and opening a new one. That has to come with a great deal of respect from those helping her to do so.
Thank you so much to Vickie Dellaquila for writing Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash, and taking the time to talk to us about it.