Minimalist Clothing Lesson Learned: Dressing the Elderly

Very early this morning, Dad called me to ask for help. He had had a bad bout of incontinence and his pajamas and bedding were soiled. This necessitated a change in underwear, pajamas, and bed linens and a quick trip to the laundry room at an ungodly hour. When Dad starts off the day like this, it is a sign that the remainder of the day is likely to be similar.

We are currently changing some of Dad’s medications around to meet the progression of his Parkinson’s disease and the result is more side effects of some drugs and fewer beneficial effects of others. Parkinson’s disease is known as a moving target disease because the patient’s condition is constantly changing. Although the overall progression of the illness is down, patients will experience up days and down days for reasons currently unknown. Physicians respond to the situation by trying to find a happy medium that will mitigate the effects of the down days without dampening the up days too much.

Being the caregiver of a Parkinson’s patient, or any elderly person for that matter, requires a great deal of flexibility and spontaneous problem solving. One chore that is a frequent problem for caregivers to tackle is incontinence, which can occur anytime, anywhere with varying severity. On a bad day, a caregiver may help change their parent’s underwear 5 or more times, making removing and putting clothing back on complicated and time-consuming. Clothing may also become soiled, requiring quick changes.

Despite these challenges, there are some things that caregivers can do to make dressing easier on themselves and their parents. Here are some things I have learned:

  • Prevent incontinence in the first place by having parents visit the toilet at regular intervals and before outings with family. Due to memory loss and dementia, the elderly may not logically connect feeling “the urge” with needing to make a trip to the bathroom. Or they may not think to visit the bathroom until it is too late to prevent incontinence. The elderly move slowly and will also need more time to get to the bathroom.

  • Dress your parent in clothing with a minimum of fasteners. The more buttons, laces, and zippers on clothing, the more time it will take to dress and undress your parent.
  • For relaxing at home, encourage men to wear t-shirts and sweat pants. For ladies, look for nice lounge wear. These can double as pajamas and exercise wear.
  • For street clothes, look for mock turtlenecks or polo shirts, and elastic-waist chinos for men. For ladies, try elastic waist slacks or skirts, and blouses that pull on over the head.
  • Dress your parent in separates. Avoid one-piece clothing like jumpsuits, and dresses since these will complicate clothing changes and create more soiled laundry. The one exception to this is a bathrobe since it ties and easily comes off.
  • Look for warm socks with rubber tread on the bottom that can function both as socks and slippers at home. The socks provided in hospitals to patients are great because they prevent falls due to slipping.
  • Use suspenders for men’s pants instead of belts because the pants will be easier to remove when changing.
  • Look for shoes that slip on or fasten easily with Velcro. Avoid shoes with laces unless a physician directs the parent to wear lace shoes for proper foot care.
  • Try slippers with a rubber non-skid sole that are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor use.
  • Look for shoes that can be washed easily in a washing machine. Based on personal experience, I do not recommend leather shoes, unless they are washable leather, because thoroughly cleaning soiled leather shoes is terribly difficult.
  • Look for multi-functional clothing. Don’t worry about changing outfits frequently for fashion reasons as soiled clothes will need to be changed regularly anyway. Any time caregivers can cut down on clothing changes it will be easier for both the caregiver and parent.
  • Choose fabrics that wash easily in a washing machine and do not require ironing or dry cleaning.
  • Carry a “man bag” or “lady’s bag” on outings that contain several pairs of Depends, baby wipes, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, apron for the caregiver, a plastic bag for soiled garments, and a change of clothing. Include a clean pair of socks and shoes with the change of clothing.

Spiced Pumpkin Pancake Recipe

I created this eggless, dairy-free spiced pumpkin pancake recipe as a Thanksgiving treat for my family. The pancakes are moist due to the pureed pumpkin that substitutes for eggs. Cinnamon, cloves, ginger and vanilla add just the right amount of spice. This recipe is a good way to sneak some beta-carotene rich squash into the diet of picky eaters.

The recipe is good for those sensitive to eggs, and lactose intolerant, or on a low-cholesterol or vegan diet. The low sugar content and high fiber content from the pumpkin are a good choice for diabetics. The recipe is not gluten-free, but could be made so if potato flour were used instead of wheat flour.

Recipe makes approximately ten 5-inch pancakes.

  • 2C canned, pureed pumpkin
  • 1t vanilla extract
  • 1C dairy-free milk
  • 1t sugar, maple syrup, or agave syrup
  • ½ t baking soda
  • 1t baking powder
  • 2T vegetable oil
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 ¼ C flour
  • 1t ground cinnamon
  • ½ t each ground cloves and ginger


  • Mix pumpkin, vanilla, dairy-free milk, sugar/syrup, salt, and vegetable oil together.
  • Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and spices into bowl.
  • Mixture will be thick.
  • Spoon batter into preheated, oiled frying pans. Smooth into 5 inch cakes
  • Pancakes will not bubble on top during cooking.
  • Flip cakes when edges begin to firm up and brown.

Frugal Eldercare: Free Winter Humidifier

Earlier this month, my husband complained that he had started having nosebleeds due to dry winter air. He felt that I should fire up the humidifier for the winter. Indeed, the nighttime temperatures have now sometimes dipped into sub-freezing, and the air does feel dryer.

I have a very cute, pink plastic Hello Kitty humidifier that amuses my family and most visitors when they see it. When running, the water vapor comes out of the top of the cat’s ears, almost like an angry cartoon character. It’s a strange juxtaposition because the cat’s face is an innocuous smile. Despite my liking for the appliance, I decided to delay starting it and try a cheaper, lower tech solution instead.

This year, we moved our laundry drying rack indoors for the winter, and placed it in the attic, which is warmer than the unheated portion of the basement it usually lives in during winter. While I have to trudge up the steep attic stairs with a laundry basket of wet clothes, the effort has turned out to be worthwhile. Drying the clothes indoors has the same effect as running a humidifier. My husband has stopped having nosebleeds.

There have been other benefits as well. The clothes dry faster in the attic than in the basement, usually in one day, instead of several. In the past, I used to pull damp clothes off the drying rack and toss them into the electric dryer because they were needed before they were dry. Now, the clothes are drying nearly as fast as in summer, and I have only used the electric dryer for drying bed linens which are too large to fit on the clothes drying rack.

I also checked my electric bill and saw that this simple change in behavior caused my electric usage to drop from 1067 kWh in 2013 to 817 kWh this year. Or, a drop from 17.49 kWh per day to 14.58 kWh per day, a decrease of nearly 17% in my electric bill over last year!

Without an itemized electric bill, it is very difficult to know exactly how much energy an appliance is actually consuming. A device, called the Kill-o-watt, can measure each individual appliance’s electrical load. The user then needs to convert the kWh used per appliance to cost per kWh in order to ascertain the cost of running each appliance. Seattle residents can rent a Kill-o-watt from the Seattle Public library for free.

The Kill-o-watt costs somewhere around $20 to purchase, but we took advantage of a state-subsidized professional home energy audit instead for $125. The professional audit gave us a lot of useful data that a single meter like the Kill-o-Watt could not provide, like the fact that our attic was so poorly insulated that we were losing an astonishing 70% of our home’s heat through the roof!

From the graph, you can clearly see that I started hammering away at all the electrical usage in the house starting in June of this year. This summer was the tipping point of reversing our trend of using more electricity with Dad living with us. However, by August there wasn’t much left that I could change except running the electric dryer.

Clothing also lasts longer when air-dried, saving a large sum of money. This is a hidden benefit of using a clothes line or drying rack instead of an electric dryer. However, I had to do some research to figure out how much longer clothes last. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a lot of information that tells us exactly how much longer clothes last with air drying. One website mentioned that air drying garments with elastic will double the life span of the elastic. That means if the average bra costs $40, and needs replacing once a year with heat drying, a woman can cut the annual cost of a bra to $20 per year by air drying. If the lifespan of all garments are doubled with air drying, then the annual cost of clothing purchases will drop by 50%. Since Americans currently spend $1700-$2000 per year on clothing, cutting that cost in half would yield an extra $850-$1000 per year. When trying to come up with the extra $5000 per year needed for eldercare with a finite income, increasing the lifespan of clothing makes sense.

Senior and Debt Collection

Below is a link to a post about the struggles seniors have with debt collection. I am not surprised by this article’s news. Getting your parent’s financial and legal affairs in order will protect them from the predatory elements in the business world.

With his memory loss, Dad has trouble remembering to pay his bills, and his health insurance went unpaid at one point before I suggested to him that I help him set up autopay. In fact, each month Dad and I sit down together and pay his bills and balance his checkbook. Some of his bills are on autopay which simplifies the process for Dad.

The autopay option also helps me sleep better at night. Although I have power of attorney and can pay Dad’s bills for him if needed, I’m not looking forward to the day that occurs because Dad will probably be in the hospital and paying bills will likely be the last thing on my mind.

Frugal Eldercare Part 4: Helping Seniors Save Money on Medical Care

Every month, Dad spends nearly half his income on medical care. As shocking as this may seem, it is not that uncommon, especially for seniors living on Social Security checks alone. The elderly often have multiple medical conditions that require a number of medications and doctors to manage. Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, are on the rise as people live longer and these long-term conditions require a great deal of care. Add in acute care episodes that require unplanned emergency room trips, and the cost of medical care for seniors can rise to the point that they cannot afford other basic necessities such as food or utilities.

While Medicare is a great help to seniors, it does not cover all medical costs. It also is not entirely free to seniors. The average senior will pay around $105 per year for Medicare Part B, usually taken from the gross Social Security check. Medicare Part A is free to most seniors, and covers a number of hospitalization costs, though not everything.

Medicare is also divided into a dizzying alphabet soup of sections, each covering a different type of healthcare need. For example, prescription coverage is covered under Medicare part D. Medicare does not cover dental care except under certain circumstances, so seniors will need to plan their dental care into their budgets. Seniors who can afford it will also need to purchase a Medicare supplemental plan of some sort to cover those items that Medicare does not. Thus, medical costs add up quickly.

Despite this, there are ways seniors can save on medical care. Here’s what I have learned over the past year and a half working with Dad, or learned while working on my MHA. Ask your parent’s healthcare practitioner for more ways to save money.

  • Use a general or family care practitioner for most healthcare needs. The co-pays for a generalist can be half that of a specialist. Americans tend to overspend on specialist practitioners when they can get many of the same care needs taken care of by a less expensive doctor. I see a physician’s assistant (PA) for my basic healthcare. Another option for a healthy senior is a nurse practitioner (ARNP). Dad sees an MD because of his multiple medical conditions.

Another advantage to seeing a generalist is that they will help manage the communication between specialists, including prescriptions. Monitoring prescribing by specialists is extremely important to preventing dangerous drug interactions. When Dad first came to live with us, his medications were a mess. After a first go-around with organizing them, I realized that I needed to have someone with greater drug knowledge review them. Dad’s family care practitioner had retired, so we got him signed up with a new doctor who was comfortable coordinating his care.

  • Stay up-to-date on vaccines. Preventable infectious diseases are a significant contributor to medical costs in the elderly. Medicare covers some or all vaccine costs depending on the particular vaccine. Even with any out-of-pocket costs, vaccines will be a far better price for healthcare than hospitalization for diseases like the flu or pneumonia. Getting your parent vaccinated properly may also save their life.

Seniors should receive the following vaccines according to each vaccine’s schedule:

  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)- note this is the same virus that causes chickenpox, but the elderly should not receive the chickenpox vaccine
  • DpT (diphtheria and tetanus)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)- note that the childhood vaccine for whooping cough does not confer life-long immunity so adults will need a booster shot
  • Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)

  • Eat a good diet and get regular exercise. This seems obvious, but with aches and pains, tremors, dementia, and memory loss, seniors can miss out on important basic lifestyle choices that maintain good health and prevent expensive medical care.

For example, Dad needs help preparing meals because of his tremor and memory loss. If no one is around to prepare him food, he tends to snack on the closest item available because it is easiest for him, regardless of whether it leads to a balanced diet. And, without someone to help him maintain his balance while walking or exercising, he tends to remain sedentary.

  • Get enough sleep. Many elderly suffer from sleeping problems. Parkinson’s disease disrupts sleep cycles, but not all insomnia in the elderly is disease-related. Regardless of the cause, fatigue due to sleep deprivation will make any symptoms worse and can lead to injuries and accidents that increase medical costs. See a physician about treating insomnia since many elderly are on medications that can cause insomnia or interact with over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids.

  • See the eye doctor. There is growing evidence that some falls in the elderly, and the resulting serious injuries, are due to poor vision. Correcting vision problems in your parent will protect them and their bank account. Additionally, some medical problems like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are treatable with intervention. Medicare will not pay for all eye care associated costs, but the supplemental insurance may pick up what Medicare does not.

  • There are several ways to save on prescription drug costs. Medicare covers drugs under Part D, but covers drug costs at a lower rate once the dreaded “donut hole” kicks in. The Medicare donut hole is a coverage gap period in which beneficiaries are required to pay a higher percentage of their drug costs. After seniors pay a certain amount of money, Medicare kicks back in again at the higher rate. The donut hole rates change yearly, so be certain to review statements from Medicare.

Like many people, Dad moved into the Donut Hole after the first quarter of the year, and will not leave the donut hole this year. Although we ask the pharmacy every time for a cost estimate for each prescription, the estimate is never quite accurate because Medicare can update pricing throughout the year. This moving target scenario makes budgeting difficult, so the pharmacy actually has an account for Dad with money sitting in it. When Dad needs a prescription filled, the pharmacy deducts the cost from Dad’s credit first, before we need to cut a check.

Your healthcare practitioner or pharmacist may be able to help you reduce drug costs, so be certain to mention to them that you would like to lower your parent’s drug costs. Here are some common ways to do it:

  • Switch to generic drugs when possible
  • Order from a mail order pharmacy when possible
  • Have a pharmacist review your parent’s drugs. The pharmacist that reviewed Dad’s prescriptions found that one drug was prescribed at too high a dosage, and another that was likely to cause a dangerous drug interaction, putting Dad at risk of a quick trip to the ER. A couple of drugs were also easily switched to generics. The pharmacist called Dad’s doctors and got the drugs changed. The result was that Dad paid less money for safer prescriptions.
  • Ask your parent’s healthcare practitioner for drug samples. Dad was able to get a 90 day supply of one of his more expensive drugs via free samples at his doctor’s office.
  • Ask your parent’s healthcare practitioner if any prescription dosages can be lowered. Many drug dosages are based on body weight. A small adult may get relief from a smaller, and therefore cheaper, dosage.
  • Check out different supplemental insurance plans, they may have different coverage rates for drugs.

For seniors that require more assistance beyond the ideas listed above, there are a number of government programs that help with drug costs:

  • Take care of your parent’s teeth. Investigations into dental health point to a link between healthy teeth and gums, and a healthy heart. Although dental care is not covered by Medicare and most supplemental plans do not cover it either, there are ways to save on dental care.
    • Ask if the dentist offers a senior discount. Dad’s dentist gives a 20% senior discount, and his dentist’s charges are not much different from the state-contracted dentists for seniors.
    • Ask if the dentist will give a discount for paying cash. If your parent does not have dental insurance, the dentist may provide the “I don’t have to haggle with an insurance company” discount.
    • Dentists may also be willing to set up a payment plan with you. Ask, and get the payment plan agreement in writing.
    • Seek out free dental care from dental schools or dentists offering pro bono services.
    • RAM events are also one way to acquire free dental and medical care.

  • Review medical bills carefully for errors. More than once I have found errors in medical bills. Errors are common, and providers do not have much incentive to improve since the unwary will pay bills for which they are not responsible. Most medical providers have a lot of bad debt these days, or patients unable to pay, so they look for any area in which they can recoup costs. The American medical system is for-profit and thus any medical systems which are backed by shareholders are under enormous pressure to make a profit. Even non-profit medical systems have ever tighter bottom lines as numbers of indigent patients grow, and the numbers of wealthy benefactors decrease.
  • Most hospitals and insurance companies now have free patient advocates which can help people read and check medical bills for accuracy. Some state programs will also help through programs like SHINE or the state insurance commissioner’s office. Patient advocates will also help set up billing payment plans with providers on behalf of patients. Professional billing advocates are also available for hire to review bills, but depending on the frequency of medical care and size of bills, these services may or may not be cost effective.

  • A common error I see on Dad’s bills is failure to bill the secondary supplemental Medicare             insurance. The provider billed Medicare and then sent the remaining charges directly to Dad. If you see this, call the provider and give them the secondary insurance information. Make sure to take notes of the call for future reference.
  • Another error I have seen less commonly is billing for services that were not provided. Medical billing is incredibly complex. Every insurance company has their own CPT/DRG, or billing codes, for services rendered. As a result, there will be some rate of unintentional error in billing. I was once charged for a blood draw that never happened. I was able to prove this because there were no lab test results to accompany the blood draw. The hospital quickly reversed the charge.

  • However, a common and pervasive rate of errors is known as upcharging or upcoding, and is illegal. It should be reported to CMS or your insurance company. CMS inspectors have uncovered upcharging schemes in some medical centers and fined the medical centers for fraudulent charges, often in millions of dollars. Some of the mergers that have occurred in medical systems were due to high CMS fines. Common signs of upcoding are billing for pneumonia when the patient simply had a bad cold. This may be harder for a single patient to uncover. But, do check your parent’s bills for accuracy. If something doesn’t look right, or you don’t understand the charges, call the provider and ask. If it still doesn’t seem right to you, call Medicare or the insurance company and talk to them about it.

  • Other causes of extra charges can be for duplicate tests, or bundled payments. Some types of testing and treatment are bundled together. A common bundle is for an annual physical exam and accompanying tests. If the provider erroneously unbundled the charges, that can lead to extra billing costs. Medicare lists bundled tests, so you can cross check against their recommendations. Or just call them up and ask.

  • Save money by preventing unnecessary or duplicate testing. Because the US is the most litigious society in the world history, many medical providers practice defensive medicine to protect themselves against the possibility of a malpractice lawsuit. They will order tests that they expect to be normal just to prove that they did not forget anything that would lead to a medical error.


Talk to your medical provider about what tests are actually necessary for your health. Ask if it would safe to run some tests later if the first tests your provider expects to be the cause of your illness turn up negative.

If your lab tests were recently performed, you may not need to have them run again. If you are switching providers, have your records transferred through release of information. You will need to request the transfer of your records, as your previous medical provider will not transfer them automatically for you because of privacy laws. Expect to be asked to sign a release of information form. It would also be a good idea to review your medical record for accuracy at this time to ensure that your new provider does not get erroneous information about your health.

Minimalist Clothing Lesson learned: The weekend I forgot my T-shirt

Thanks to my sister, I was able to take 4 days off with my husband for the first time in a year and a half to celebrate out 11th wedding anniversary. We missed our 10 year anniversary last year because both Dad and Lainie, our dog, had surgery within 2 weeks of one another. So, we decided to celebrate our 11th anniversary much as we had planned to celebrate our 10th.

I spent several days before we were supposed to leave cooking food for Dad and my sister, writing up 5 pages of instructions for my sister to work from while we were gone, doing laundry, and packing. We booked a one-bedroom condo in Westport, WA on the coast.

The morning we were to leave, I awoke with a terrific headache. Despite this, I was excited to have some time off and determined to enjoy myself. It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, and we were only expecting 1 day of bad weather on the coast. I was continuing my “Life is Short, Wear a Dress” minimalist clothing project from Project 333,, so I dressed in a comfortable skirt, layered tanks and soft cashmere sweater. Finally, we drove out with our suitcases, some food, and Lainie.

Somehow in the process of packing, however, I forgot to pack a t-shirt for myself. I wear a t-shirt pretty much daily, so this was a large oversight on my part. I normally pack from a carefully constructed list, but this got misplaced and I didn’t have time to write a new one. At the last minute I decided that I had packed for enough vacations in my lifetime that I really didn’t need a list.

For 4 days on the Washington coast in winter, I determined I needed one set each of rain gear, pjs, and lounge wear, in addition to my street clothes, hat, and gloves. I wasn’t going to bring jeans because of my clothing project, which is when I normally pack my t-shirt. However, I had assumed that I would be wearing a t-shirt during my stay, perhaps with my lounge wear. After an initial period of angst about the possibility of being cold and immodest, I accepted the fact that I would spend 4 days of my life without the benefit of a baby blue cotton ¾ sleeve t-shirt. I was going to have to make-do.

The reality: I didn’t suffer in the slightest without my t-shirt. My layered tank tops and a zippered hoodie were all I needed to stay warm indoors. I wasn’t immodest when we went out in public either. I wore my rain gear or jacket when we went outside, and this was enough to keep me warm. It turned out that I actually enjoyed the look of layered tanks and a hoodie enough that I plan to incorporate such pairings in the future. And, I realized that I don’t need as many t-shirts as I thought I did.

My Life is Short, Wear a Dress project has already driven home a number of lessons about what I really need in a wardrobe and why. And why I haven’t successfully addressed some of my concerns about the size and functionality of my wardrobe in the past. This weekend has taught me another lesson as well. Besides the climatic reasons my t-shirt was unnecessary, I also further found that my assumptions about my clothing were at least partially psychologically ingrained.

This is what I learned from my serendipitous minimalist clothing experience:

  • Many of our clothing needs are assumed needs, not what actually is required for modesty, individual style, or climate.
  • Living life without one “essential” article of clothing requires that we utilize our creative problem-solving abilities.
  • Learning to improvise is an important life skill to deal with unexpected circumstances.
  • The creative outcome of improvising can yield pleasant surprises and unexpectedly good solutions.

Frugal Eldercare Part 3: The Thanksgiving Holiday

This year we are hosting Thanksgiving at our house, despite the fact that the interior of our house closely resembles a nursing home.

The holidays can be a lot of fun, but also a lot of work and stress. Both you and your parent may find the experience tiring and less socially engaged than you would prefer. Travel can be a challenge when the elderly are incapable of rising early and packing extra baggage and assistive devices will quickly eat up trunk space in a small car. Holidays and associated travel can be more costly than the budget will bear, creating social isolation for caregivers and seniors.

The solution to our quandary presented itself.

We had been wondering how we would get Dad to a traditional Thanksgiving with his mobility problems and holiday traffic. Through the generosity of an anonymous donor, Senior Services of Seattle is giving Thanksgiving baskets to families of seniors. Dad qualified for a basket, intended to feed a family of 4, which includes a 10lb. turkey and all the traditional sides like dressing and cranberry sauce. Recipients must cook the turkey and heat up the sides, and prepare the gravy. We will need a few extra dishes to account for the increased party size, but not too much because left-overs often don’t get eaten before they spoil. I also need to be mindful of dietary restrictions that include diabetes, lactose intolerance, food allergies, and vegetarianism.

In addition to food preparation, we will need to move furniture around to accommodate everyone and have a bathroom that is accessible to guests. I also realized that after Dad moved in last year, we acquired a large amount of clutter that should now be promptly disposed of prior to guests arriving. The holiday has to be carefully orchestrated in order to care for Dad, cook a Thanksgiving meal, and host 6-7 relatives, including 2 children, 1 dog, and 1 puppy. Despite the challenges, I think it will work out and be fun. We are very fortunate to have this opportunity.

Here’s my plan as it currently stands.


Clean out clutter 2-3 weeks before a holiday to reduce the stress of the holiday itself. Safety is the main reason for de-cluttering your home, as seniors and guests are vulnerable to booby traps in the home.

Your second goal is to make rooms so easy to use that guests will not need your assistance. Identify serving pieces and linens guests will need and make them easily available. This will free up some time to continue your caregiving duties during the holiday itself.

De-cluttering is a challenge when trying to care for an elderly relative at the same time, but will pay off in the long run. Consider enlisting help from family and friends to watch an elderly relative for a few hours or help sort through belongings.

Play some music you like during the de-cluttering process. Part with any items that lack sentimental value first: junk mail, broken items, spoiled food, etc. Tidy the most possible in the shortest period of time. Finish tidying your sentimental items last to prevent burn-out.

If you are finding the de-cluttering process difficult, consider the reasons why that is the case and start with the easiest items and rooms. While I am no expert, I have noticed in myself and others that items which are difficult to part with are due to emotions connected to the item, and not the actual item itself. Getting past that emotion is the most important part of de-cluttering.

For example, the blender my grandparents had given me broke and could not be repaired. Once I realized that my grandparents would not want me to store a useless appliance, I easily put the burned-out motor base in the trash and set the heavy glass pitcher in a box to donate. Donating or giving useful items to others is another good way to resolve emotions surrounding an item. Just don’t foist an item onto a person who does not want it; perpetuating clutter is not a gift!

  • Start in the kitchen since hosts spend a lot of time in that room on a holiday and need to have full access to everything.
  • Clean out the fridge and freezer.
  • Organize your left-over food storage containers and match lids to containers. Toss damaged or mismatched items that don’t fit.
  • Inventory herbs and spices to ensure that you will have everything you need on hand. Also inventory baking supplies, fridge, freezer, and pantry. Make a list of what you will need to purchase as you move through your de-cluttering and inventory process.
  • After completing the kitchen, move onto the dining room and repeat the process.
  • Finally, tidy the living room, bathroom, and any other rooms guests will be using.


The last time we hosted Thanksgiving, it added $120 to our grocery bill for the week. The turkey, field roast, and other exotic ingredients we did not normally purchase bumped up the price significantly. To make the cost of a holiday more reasonable, start with a plan so you only buy what you need for the meal, and purchase ingredients that fit in your budget.

  • Decide how many people will be attending, and then count up their ages and gender.
  • Estimate the actual amount of food the average person will eat. The elderly, children, and women often eat smaller portions. Teenage boys will eat significantly more. For example, a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards.

  • Only prepare food needed for the meal, unless you want to have left-overs.
  • Cook the turkey on the grill to free up oven space for heating side dishes
  • Store drinks in a cooler on the porch to free up fridge space
  • Ask relatives to bring a few side dishes/desserts to round out the meal (my mother-in-law has a delicious cranberry relish recipe, my sister-in-law will bring a vegetarian green chili)
  • Offer both whipped cream and whipped coconut cream (lactose free) for dessert toppings.
  • Cook some dishes the day before and reheat.

Furniture and Home:

  • Move furniture temporarily to free up space in the living room/dining room.
  • Floors should be free of all obstacles, and rugs should be secured.
  • Dispose of any unstable or broken furniture that could contribute to falls
  • Ensure that power cords and outlets are safe
  • Add extra lighting to dark hallways and stairs
  • Ask friends and family to help move furniture


  • Borrow any linens or serving pieces you identified as needed during your inventory before buying them. If you buy an item you only use once, it will become future clutter and detract from the value of your bank account at the same time. Be sure to thank the lender with a card or home-made treat!
  • If you cannot borrow an item, try to find it for free from neighborhood recycling networks such as Craigslist and Freecycle. No one will care about a gently used item as long as it is clean and in good working order. Guests care more about eating good food and having fun.
  • If you have to purchase an item, check thrift and consignment shops first. These will cost less. You may be able to donate an item you don’t plan on using again, and recoup the original cost in the form of a tax receipt.
  • If you have to buy new, consider an item that is simple in style and multi-functional so that you can use it more than once. Lend the item to others in the future when they are hosting.