Health & Fitness

Ask Nancy: Help with sorting through years of accumulated stuff

Q. I help an elderly neighbor who is legally blind but incredibly sharp. The problem is his house. It’s not very tidy and he’s managed to accumulate an abundance of stuff over the years. He needs someone to help him clean it out, but as you can imagine he’s not very trusting of strangers. I can help but I know the job is too big for me to do by myself... Is there some sort of service that can help with this? Thanks in advance.

Elizabeth T., Miami

A: You are kind to be so helpful to your neighbor. I do have some suggestions to make this task a bit easier.

If your neighbor has been accumulating papers for a long time, there’s a good chance that many papers are both financial and confidential in nature. Because you don’t want to risk tossing something that is important. I suggest you first call in a seasoned organization pro who can help him with the first level clean up. This would involve both of them going through everything to separate important-looking documents from paperwork, mail and other “stuff” that can be disposed. The Association of Daily Money Managers has a user-friendly directory at that can help you locate a professional in your area.

If your neighbor has numerous financial papers, or it appears that bills have gone unpaid, I’d suggest hiring a Daily Money Manager (DMM) who can evaluate what appears to be important paperwork and set up a good filing system. He or she can also arrange for proper shredding if that’s needed. Daily Money Mangers provide an array of financial services including paying bills, keeping track of medical and other insurance papers and organizing your files and home office. Going forward, your neighbor may want to have this person come in once a month or more frequently to help manage his finances and maintain the filing system.

To find a daily money manager close to you, use the “search by proximity” link on the website of the Association of Daily Money Managers (

Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of, a local caregiver advisory and referral service for South Florida seniors and their families. You can contact her at