Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking

Welcome to the HABIT page for people living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and program participants.  The HABIT Program is for individuals with MCI and their loved ones to learn the best strategies for adapting, coping, and living their best lives with MCI.

Follow the HABIT page to receive updates and information about adjusting to MCI and combating dementia. Our goal is to connect you with others and provide you with information and support.

Apr 28, 2019


By An Oskarsson, @an_oskarsson


The staff at HABIT tend to be people who like organization (did you notice?), and this goes beyond calendaring.  Anyone else binge watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo?

Well, at our most recent HABIT session, we were reminded of how helpful simplifying your space can be when  memory loss occurs. So, we thought we would repost this blog from Dr. Oskarsson last year.  Hope you are inspired to get organized!

-Melanie Chandler

Got stuff?

By Dr. An Oskarsson

Most of us have accumulated a lot of stuff over the years.  Think back to the last time you moved – were you surprised by how much you had?

If you do a search on the internet for keywords like “de-clutter”, “minimalist living”, or “Konmari method”, you will find that there is a recent hot trend in the housekeeping world. People such as Marie Kondo, author of the books “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy”, suggest that we all should dedicate some time to organize and simplify our home environment (read: GET RID OF STUFF).  The rationale is that doing so would ultimately reduce our stress and make us happier being surrounded by only the things we need or love.

The Importance of Simplifying

Before I go on to describe a specific method for de-cluttering, let me explain why this is the topic of a blog designed to help those living with MCI blog.

During Mayo Clinic’s HABIT program for people with MCI, we teach participants how to effectively use a day planner to help increase independence and compensate for memory issues.  Participants learn strategies for writing the important information you need and want to remember, how to organize the information (i.e., where to write it down so that you can easily find it), and how to use the planner effectively. As it becomes a habit, participants’ worry less about whether something has been forgotten and gain confidence in their abilities.

It’s a similar concept when applied to our physical surroundings!  While just about everyone can benefit from a simplified and organized home environment, imagine how it could be helpful to persons with cognition and memory problems.  Let’s use the clothes closet as an example.

Example: The Overflowing Closet

Do you really need to hang on to the clothes that don’t fit anymore, or that you haven’t worn in a year?  Do you need 5 similar belts, 10 pairs of jeans, 20 handbags…?  Are you going to be invited to a 70’s party anytime soon? Now suppose you reduced the closet to only the clothes that you actually have worn in the last year and the clothes you love… imagine how much easier it would be to find the items of clothing you are looking for when you need them!  Would it be easier to pick out an outfit to wear, or find that favorite shirt?

I myself have a 6-year-old son who is very opinionated about what he will wear. I finally figured out that the fastest way to get him dressed is to go straight to the laundry basket of clean clothes to pick out his outfit for the day. The clean clothes laundry basket is filled with his favorite items and if he wore it recently, I know it’s something he will accept! I’m not suggesting that you live out of a laundry basket, but I am saying that reducing the amount of un-used and un-loved stuff in your home has its benefits!

A De-Cluttering HOW-TO

Organization experts often suggest a specific method for purging your things, believing that some ways are particularly effective. The following is a basic description of one de-cluttering process that is loosely based on the Konmari method.

STEP 1.  Pick a category of stuff to declutter: Clothes, Books, Papers, Personal care/Bathroom, Kitchen, Miscellaneous Household items (e.g., electronics, DVDs, medicines), Sentimental items.

Continuing with the clothes closet example, let’s suppose you’ve decided to work on your SHOE inventory.

STEP 2.  Lay it all out.  Now you can survey everything and get a good sense of how much you have of each item type.

For your shoes, find a space (e.g., table, floor) where you lay all your pairs of shoes out in front of you. Put your sport shoes next to each other, all your dressy shoes together, your sandals, loafers, boots, and so on. (Now it will be more obvious that you have half a dozen pairs of white tennis shoes!)

STEP 3. Pick up an item one at a time, and ask yourself whether the item is has been recently used. If not, does it bring you joy?  If the answer to either of these questions is yes, KEEP the item and designate a space for it.

Pick up a pair of tennis shoes – when was the last time you wore them? If it’s been a while, why is that? Will you be wearing it them anytime soon?   Perhaps they are your favorite most comfortable pair (KEEP), perhaps they are a too small, or utterly hideous (DON’T KEEP). Maybe you’re keeping them because you never really used them and they look brand new – but should you keep things that make you feel guilty (DON’T KEEP)!?

STEP 4. If it’s not a keeper, thank the item for its service and then decide to THROW AWAY or GIVE AWAY.

With the pair of tennis shoes still in your hands, you can think “I really enjoyed wearing you in the 1990’s. ” Now put them in the trash pile or the donation/give-to-a-friend pile.


  • If you are having a hard time discarding things, try focusing on whether you can come up with reasons to keep something (rather than reasons to discard it). While it may be true that there is “nothing wrong with it”, if you cannot think of a good reason to hang on to it (e.g., this was a present from my beloved aunt, I need it for upcoming special occasions), it’s time to let go.
  • Don’t try to do too much all at once, or you risk getting overwhelmed! Break the project into smaller tasks, and pick a category or subcategory of items that you feel is do-able in the time you’ve allotted for it. For example, in our closet scenario, you might work through the following categories in separate sessions over the course of a week if you have time, or a month if you are very busy:
    • Tops & Bottoms
    • Dresses/Suits, Jackets
    • Handbags, Belts, Scarves
    • Shoes, Hats, Gloves
    • Socks & Underwear

The Bottom Line

The reason we keep utensils in the utensil drawer in the kitchen and our underwear in the underwear drawer in the bedroom is the same reason we put our doctor’s appointments in our day planner and our to-do’s on our to-do list – so we can form a habit of looking in the right place for important things and being sure to get those things BACK into the right place so we can find them later.  Furthermore, making the effort to reduce how much stuff we have in each designated place - to only the things we really need and love - makes it easier to find what we’re looking for when we need it. We at the HABIT team feel that persons with MCI may especially benefit from an organized and simplified home environment.

So, why don’t you schedule some time in your planner to start de-cluttering? Give it a try and let us know how it goes and more importantly, how you FEEL!


Winston Churchill said the plan is unimportant, but planning is Essential. Do have any planning guides? I thank you in advance. Dr Ron Rubenzer – author – How the best handle stress, your first aid kit


Great. Do you have an example of a simplified daily planner


If you are interested, here are a few websites that have more resources :

For a summary of the steps I outlined above —
For a short simple checklist of items to work on, and the order in which to de-clutter —
For a a more thorough and comprehensive checklist of items —

Dr. An Oskarsson


Winston Churchill said the plan is unimportant, but planning is Essential. Do have any planning guides? I thank you in advance. Dr Ron Rubenzer – author – How the best handle stress, your first aid kit

Jump to this post

Hello Dr. Rubenzer,

If you are asking about a simple checklist or plan for your de-cluttering process, here are a few websites that have good ones :

For a summary of the steps I outlined above —
For a short simple checklist of items to work on, and the order in which to de-clutter —
For a a more thorough and comprehensive checklist of items —

Thanks for reading!

Dr. An Oskarsson


Great. Do you have an example of a simplified daily planner

Jump to this post

In general, we recommend a day planner that is small enough that you can carry it around with you everywhere. It should be simple but have 3 essential sections: The day's schedule, a task list for to-do's, and a notes section. We encourage you to write in it and review it consistently, so that it becomes a HABIT!


For sure something I need to do, clutter has affects!

Please login or register to post a reply.

Invite Others

Send an email to invite people you know to join the Living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) page.

Please login or register to send an invite.