My father was recently diagnosed with fronto-temporal dementia. His life's work was as a craftsman/modelmaker and as such has amassed a lifetime's worth of very specialized, high end tools & equipment. His whole life he had a hard time getting rid of things (but not to a hoarding level); his equipment and tools have always been meticulously cared for and organized. Since the FT dementia diagnosis, he has become obsessed about his possessions which due to the loss of a house are now in 6 storage units. He now seems to be clinging to the possessions as a hoarder might. He has spent the last year sorting and puttering in the storage trying to find things, sort them, and misplacing them. The importance of items ranges from recollecting past projects, memories and dreams, to clinging to future projects and endeavors that unfortunately are no longer realistic. For several reasons it is now imminent that the things need to be sold, given away, and just downsized. He is adamant that he will not give up a single thing. We are fortunate to have family here to help with downsizing the things. My question is, we are now uncertain of the best tactic to use with him. We have considered either a) dealing with selling/donating the tools ourselves and saving what we know he would cherish most, then showing him and telling him what we've done, or b) trying to include him in the process although we expect this to be not productive and perhaps trigger traumatic outbursts and anxiety. We are at a complete loss and hopeful of coming up with a way to address this while preserving his dignity and sense of control. I would be grateful for any advice or shared experiences. Thank you

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
All the tools are in SIX storage units? That must cost a fortune every month! (And be a heck of a lot of tools!)
Maybe you can appeal to his economic sense. "Dad, can we consolidate these tools into two units so you don't have to pay so much?" In the process, you could suggest that a "couple" of the tools that aren't used could be given to cherished friends or sold.

My dad was a hoarder, so I understand and sympathize with you. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (0)

Definitely include him; he needs to know that he's playing a role rather than that the role has been taken away from him. And he obviously has a bond with his tools as representative and symbolic of his past craftsmanship.

What I've found through experience is this: Do only one section at a time, no more than one day at a time, or less if your father becomes stressed out. Going through a whole room at one time is too much, not only for him but also for you. You'll find yourself getting confused and a bit disoriented. I never thought I would, but I did, and I'm still not sure why.

Start with a small section in one room and stop if/when he becomes confused or agitated. Keep family participation to a minimum; you don't want him to feel outnumbered. The best thing you can do is help him participate and contribute rather than moving forward and making decisions for him.

Even though I had a plan when I did it, by the end of the day I was disoriented and had difficulty making decisions. So I took a break. That was when I did it alone. When my parent participated, we did the same thing, taking it slow and easy and making his participation and decisions the most important factor.

We first addressed items that had no meaning, things like piles of address labels. That order allowed things to be discarded, and created a sense of progress, as well as easing into the process of recycling or throwing things away. Gradually important things were added, but they were generally saved to be considered another day. However, at least they were separated and some progress was made on unimportant things.

With tools, you might want to get some boxes, inventory the tools (identifying them will help your father feel as though he's part of the cleaning team that keeping them), and put them in numbered boxes with an inventory list on the outside.

If you've got a good camera either in your phone or as a stand alone, photo the items, and add them to the inventory. Keep a copy in addition to the one on the boxes, so you can refer to it, and your father will realize that he can find anything that's been through the evaluation process. Try to emphasize that this a sorting and evaluation process rather than a discarding process.

If you have to, and if it doesn't upset your father, you might tell him you'll save the boxes in a storage unit, or someone's garage or basement. That'll allow him to know they're not discarded, but they're out of his house.

If there are any woodworking shows such as those held at Gibraltar Trade Center, a booth there might yield some good prices as attendees are in the mood to buy. (I almost bought an expensive dovetail set and I went there just because I was taking my Dad. I got hooked quite easily.)

Take breaks while you're sorting and packing so that you have a semblance of an ordinary day. And stop or take a break when you sense your father is becoming overwhelmed. Find a treat to break the process, or to end it, so he associates sorting with something he likes. I've found ice cream works quite well.

It'll take longer but it'll help him participate and feel like a major contributor, instead of someone who's being pushed aside while his possessions are parceled out.
Helpful Answer (2)

Oy, it is not easy. He will identify with the tools, since they are the memory of who he was and what he wants to do again. His anxiety and anger will be great. He may tell you that he is willing to try, but when it begins, his anxiety will be quickly triggered and he'll want to stop. That is the way it normally goes. What you can do is try to get rid of the tools that are least sentimental to him first. After the first "sacrifices" he may be willing to let go of more.

Tools are expensive and sell well if they are in good shape. Snap-On tools and some others made in the USA sell for good prices. You don't want to just give them away. I would get online and do some research before deciding what to do. You may be throwing away thousands of dollars if you donate good quality vintage tools without doing your research first. If you don't want to sell individually yourself, you can probably find a tool picker who will be glad to give you a low but fair price (25-35%) for good tools.

If something is common and goes for little you can sell them as a lot and still make a bit of money.
Helpful Answer (1)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Subscribe to
Our Newsletter