Help!! My Parents Will Not Get Rid of Anything

How to Help and Encourage Your Senior Adult Parents Organize and De-Clutter Their Home
By: Kim Diehl
Nov. 30, 2010 - PRLog -- Heard this?? Felt this?  Well, you are not alone.  With our ever-increasing society of baby-boomers, active and senior adults this exclamation for help will be common, as we as a society, struggle to deal with the wave.  

Hopefully your parents have voiced their wishes for what to do with items they have acquired as they continue their life journey.  This is very helpful but not always accomplished. You will at some point, face the need to help your parents organize, sort through, de-clutter or even move, which almost always includes downsizing.    Even with preparation, the task to address your parent’s wishes will still have to take place.

It is beneficial to understand a few things about your parents and their need to acquire and keep things that you might not see as beneficial or needed, especially those who are baby-boomers with senior parents.  Baby-boomers, your parents grew up in the Great Depression, World War II and the post-war boom.    These were difficult times for families.  Times you probably heard many, many stories about but never had to really live out yourself.  

If your parents lived through the Great Depression, they had nothing and had to make do.  Everything was re-used or recycled.  If something was thrown away, it was considered wasteful.  I clearly remember my grandmother, Eula Hamilton, keeping every scrap of aluminum foil and re-using it often.  Parents of this generation may feel like they are “bad” if they get rid of anything.  

There are so many reasons that people hang on to items; sentimental attachment, fatigue, fear, history and memories, loneliness, sense of loyalty.  Understanding what the defining factor or factors are for your parents to “hang on” to things is one of keys to unlocking the door for eventual discarding.  

After unlocking some of the factors there are ways that you can help them through the process..
First be compassionate..this is a very emotional experience for them.  Many times they are overwhelmed.  A person doesn’t have to be classified as a “hoarder” to have anxiety over discarding their treasured items.  

Start slow and with the right attitude…Try not to plan too much in one day.  Experience has shown us that 3-4 hours is the maximum most senior adults can take when sorting through their cherished items and assisting in the determination to keep, sell, donate, give to family and put in the trash.  Be sure to keep reminding your parents on the benefits of this process (less chance for tripping, cleaner environment, less stuff = more peace).  Try to let them set the pace.

Listen..Critical…your parents want to feel significant and that their life has/had meaning.  Not every item has a “story” but many do.  Be prepared to listen to it.  You may surprised about some of the tidbits of history that surface.

Consider using the expertise of a third party…There are professional organizers and senior move managers who are seasoned professional.  They are a neutral third party and can bring insight, and expediency when needed, into the process.  They are compassionate and understanding.  Use of a senior move manager helps to ensure that the family relationship stays intact – less chance for argument.

Emotions..try not to let your personal feelings get in the way…Not every person has the same taste in furniture and other belongings.  What may seem like an “eye-sore” to you could be “fine art” to your parents.  Help them, compassionately, make the determination about what to keep, donate, sell.  If your parent insists that a specific “collection” is worth a fortune, be prepared to bring in an expert OR 2 to give them a professional opinion on value.

Lastly – try to put yourself in their shoes and remember you will be there someday.

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Seasons of Life Services is a transition management, home organization and de-cluttering services firm. Our specialty and certificate is in senior move management; however, we help those of every age. We provide a multitued of services focused on making the transition process smooth including but not limited to, customized floor planning, item sorting and disposal, packing, loading/unloading - move day coordination, unpacking, putting everything away, light cleaning and home organization. For those not ready to make a transition, we can assist in de-cluttering and reorganizing the home, putting everything in its proper place, making the home safe and clutter free, minimizing trip hazards.
We services the greater Middle Tennessee area but have partners nationwide.
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