Kathy, who lives in Chicago, recently visited her mother, Rose, who resides in Orlando, Florida. As Kathy set down her luggage inside the living room of her mom’s condo, she was instantly stunned at the paper clutter she saw everywhere around the room – so unlike her tidy mother. There were stacks of daily newspapers and glossy magazines, along with piles of catalogs teetering off every surface including the floor.
At first, Kathy tried making light of it to her mother although inwardly she felt on high alert. She knew that sometimes older adults can get easily overwhelmed by the daily paperwork of life arriving in their mailbox each day. Kathy was sad to see this situation seemed to have now befallen her mother.
“Mom, you’re killing a lot of trees in here!” she joked. But, as she watched her mother gesture hopelessly around at the clutter, she saw her discouragement.
“Kathy, I don’t know how this happened. I wanted everything to look so nice before you got here, but honestly I just didn’t know where to start.”
“That’s ok, Mom. We’ll figure it out together.”
As Kathy later picked through the paper piles, she also discovered that time-sensitive bills were mixed in with junk mail – 2nd and 3rd notices stamped on the front of their envelopes.
During her plane ride to Orlando, Kathy, a busy third grade teacher, looked forward to spending spring break with her mom envisioning afternoons shopping together, dining at quaint neighborhood restaurants, driving to the beach, or just hanging around the pool at her mother’s condominium complex.
Not happening, Kathy feared as she thought back to her plane ride musings.
“Mom, let’s sort the bills first, go to the bank, and set things up so I can pay these online for you each month. Would you be OK with that? It would be easier and save you money in terms of buying fewer checks and postage stamps. Plus, it will save you late fees.”
Rose readily agreed and they headed off to her local bank.
The next logical project was tackling Rose’s many magazines and deciding which to keep or cancel. Kathy learned her mother was confused by the many magazine offers and billing practices.
“Mom, did you realize you are paying twice for some of your magazines?”
“WHAT?” her mother asked.
“Looks like you’re actually being scammed.”
Sifting through her mother’s checkbook registry revealed that Rose was often paying twice for favorite magazines. When Kathy called the magazines’ subscription number she learned her mother was evidently paying a third party that was not directing payments to the magazine. She was also paying the legitimate subscription invoice sent from the magazine. And lastly, Kathy saw her mother was paying fake subscription invoices for magazines she wasn’t even receiving.
Rose told Kathy that she had agreed to special savings offers of magazine subscriptions from telemarketers because she thought they seemed like a good value.
After cleaning the condo of all the paper piles that even included cancelling catalog deliveries, Kathy prepared extra-large, self-addressed, and stamped envelopes for her mother’s use.
“Now, whenever you receive something in the mail, and you don’t know if it is a legitimate bill or not, just put it in one of these envelopes and mail it to me,” Kathy explained.
By the time, Kathy’s vacation was over, both mother and daughter felt they had crossed a major hurdle together for Rose’s continued independence. And, yes, there was still time for them both to soak up some sunshine at the beach and pool. Overall, Rose felt tremendous relief with Kathy’s many solutions especially corralling the paper clutter so her house could be neat and tidy once again.