Reader Misty sent us this question:
I want to help my mom do some uncluttering. The entire house is in need of some help. My sister passed away three years ago — she was a collector and many collections there are! Do you have any ideas on how to deal with packed closets and chests of drawers, etc.? In order to clean, one must have a place to put things away. The answer might be simple, except that mom isn’t ready to do a major cleansing of clothing, shoes, etc. Do you have any ideas on beginning with baby steps? Mom has lost great deal of her vision and has had three strokes. I’m the one to help her clear out and make safe where she is walking.
First of all Misty, thank you for being willing to help your mom with such a project. It’s obvious that you are concerned about her safety and well-being and it is important to emphasize this when you start your project. It will be a challenge for both of you but working together to make your mother comfortable can bring you closer.
We’ve written before about strategies to use when helping someone else unclutter and this advice may be useful to you as you proceed. Remember that forced clean-outs are rarely successful and can create a lot of resentment between family members.
Her health issues indicate that she may not be as mobile and active as she used to be. She may feel that removing items from her home amplifies her belief that her world, and her ability to influence it, is shrinking. She may struggle against this loss of power by refusing to let things go. Remind her that you are not uncluttering to “get rid of her stuff,” you are uncluttering to keep her safe and independent for as long as possible.
Consider doing many mini-projects. Even just one drawer, cupboard, or surface per day may be enough. Choose a time of day that works best for your mom, when she has the most mental and physical energy — maybe first thing in the morning or perhaps just after lunch. Keep your sessions short and always end the project on a positive note sharing your successes over a cup of tea or some fancy chocolates.
Keepsakes will be important to your mother. While many of us may select certain aesthetic features when keeping and displaying memorabilia, these may not be practical for those who are visually impaired. Objects with bright and/or contrasting colours and those that have a unique, distinctive structure that can be felt rather than seen, may be a better choice. Consider keeping one or two items from your collections that meet these criteria and let the rest go.
When it comes to clothing, help your mother decide on easy-wear/easy-care pieces. Build a colour coordinating wardrobe that will make it easy for her to be independent.
All the best of luck to you Misty as you work together on this project. For more helpful tips on whole house organizing, check out our Organizing Jumpstart.
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