Helping parents downsize their home

An AARP Magazine article from earlier this year effectively addresses the topic of transitioning a parent from a family home to a retirement community or nursing facility.

“If it’s your child [helping with the process], it’s twice as irritating,” agrees [Terry] Prince [a Sacramento professional organizer]. “It’s a lot easier when it’s a third party.” Much of her work involves simply listening to her clients talk about their stuff, a ritual that the kids may no longer have the patience for. You also have to avoid the drastic measures that many exasperated family members might take when faced with an overloaded home, a stubborn parent, and a moving deadline—just throwing everything out on the curb. At a time of life when loss of control is a painful reality, forced decluttering can be devastating. “Clients need to make the decisions themselves,” Prince says. If you throw things out for them, “they’re not going to feel happy. They’ll feel violated.”

See the full article from the January/February 2007 issue “Conquering Clutter” written by David Dudley here. The article contains many suggestions and insights on this emotional topic.

Thanks to my mom for pointing us to the article!

5 Comments for “Helping parents downsize their home”

  1. posted by liz on

    Lord, help me, when the day comes that I have to clean out my mother’s house. I cleaned out her refrigerator and it was a big screaming fight over each item. The refrigerator was filthy with spilled food on everything and she argued for every little thing with expiration dates of 2005 and beyond. I honestly don’t care if she kills herself with bad food but she entertains all her other widowed friends constantly and I don’t want her killing any of them.

  2. posted by Anonymous on

    Just stick old people in a community home and be done with them. It’s not my job to take care of their shit. And really, who takes advice from the self-involved, selfish, “what can you do for ME” crowd of the AARP?

  3. posted by Sue on

    My mother-in-law is still grieving over things that disappeared when house was sold almost two year ago. Her six kids and the in-law spouses (including me) kept some, tossed some. Mom-in-law didn’t have room for it. She wasn’t there to direct the tossing, joined the group when deed was mostly done. She was already in nursing home over a year and her husband had joined her there.

  4. posted by Dianna on

    I thought this article was helpful in pointing out – It’s not about the stuff, it’s about everything else.

    Kindness, empathy and patience helped my family clear out my mom’s house. It was a simple job, but not an easy job.

    Five years after clearing out the house, we still haven’t tackled my mom’s Christmas ornaments and the costume jewelry – it is just been too painful and so that is that – no big deal. We are storing it till we can deal with it.

    Now the lockets of the kid’s hair that my mom stored in little envelopes, that’s gone – long gone – thank goodness.

  5. posted by jehb on

    My recommendation – start early. I’m 23, and my mother (56) who has spent most of her life as a strong and independent individual (she did contract archaeology for much of her life) is finally starting to see age catch up with her. She’s not incapable in any sense, but until recent years it was a given that she could lift, stack, and reach anything that I can. Recently, we started to tackle (together) her garage (which is pretty much packed floor to ceiling in places), our den (which looks like a filing basement to a midsized business), and my old bedroom (which has become the throw-it-in-there pile for anything which we figured ought to be kept). Go slow, start early and make it a process. You’d be surprised how much stuff that gets kept in the first wave of organizing seems silly to keep by the third or fourth wave. Once you know just how much of your childhood artwork your mother saved, she might feel a little more comfortable saving just representative pieces and tossing the other seven boxes worth. 🙂

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